Stephen Crane was born in a red brick house on Mulberry Place in Newark, New Jersey, on November 1, 1871. Stephen's father was the presiding elder of the Methodist Conference, and, because of this job, the family moved from city to city in New Jersey while Stephen was a child and young boy. Because his parents were aging (his mother was forty-five years old when he was born, and he was their youngest child), he was essentially raised by his sister, Agnes, who was fifteen years older than Crane.
After Crane's father died in 1880, the family continued to move to various places in New Jersey. At one point, Stephen contracted scarlet fever, and the family moved to Port Jervis, New York, a place where Stephen had previously recovered from severe colds. Eventually the Cranes moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Stephen grew into his teen-age years.
Stephen's formal education was the responsibility of his sister Agnes for the first seven years of his life. He spent much time studying science and literature. He didn't attend school until he was eight years old; however, when he did, he did two years' worth of schoolwork in just six weeks.
Stephen's formal education continued at schools in Port Jervis, New York, and in Asbury Park, New Jersey. While attending school in Asbury Park, Stephen developed into a very good baseball player and writer, and he enjoyed making up words and writing essays. When he was sixteen, he wrote articles with the help of his brother, and he collected information for his mother, who wrote journals for the Methodist Church.
At seventeen, Crane's mother sent him to Claverack College, a military school. Stephen enjoyed his time at Claverack, and the military discipline at the college had no effect on him. Crane didn't complete his studies at Claverack; instead he transferred to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. However, at Lafayette, he ultimately flunked out. Finally, Crane enrolled at Syracuse University, but there were far too many distractions at school and in town for him to concentrate on his studies, so in 1891, at the age of twenty, he left the university without completing a degree.
In the summer of 1891 in Asbury Park, Crane worked as a reporter for his brother's news business. He also wrote sketches and tales in his spare time. After his mother died, Crane worked briefly in a commercial business and did some freelance writing while living in New York. In 1893, Crane spent his inheritance on publishing Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
After The Red Badge of Courage was published in 1895, Crane's reputation as a writer was established. Crane, however, was not content to write without a new challenge, so he accepted a position with the Bacheller-Johnson Syndicate working as a war correspondent. Crane was sent to Cuba to cover a developing conflict between Cuba and Spain. The ship, Commodore, on which he set out for Cuba, sustained serious structural damage after running aground and sank. Crane's escape from the sinking ship by rowboat took a great physical toll on him. On the positive side, the experience provided him with the basis for the short story, "The Open Boat
Crane continued to work as a war correspondent, accepting an assignment from the New York Journal to cover a conflict developing between Greece and Turkey in 1897. Following his coverage of the Greco–Turkish conflict, Crane went to England, along with Cora Stewart (also known as Cora Taylor), who became his constant companion.
Crane and Cora resided at Ravensbrook in Oxted, Surrey, located near London. At Ravensbrook, Crane and Cora associated with many literary figures of the day, including Joseph Conrad, Henry James, and H.G. Wells; however, Crane ran into financial difficulties while living there, and, as a result, he again became a war correspondent — this time working for World, a Pulitzer publication. He was sent to Florida and then to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American War in 1898. Crane also reported on a conflict with Puerto Rico, but during this time, his health declined, and he made little money.
At the same time, Cora was not doing well in England. Ultimately, Crane returned to England, but he could no longer afford to live at Ravensbrook, so Cora and he moved to Brede Place in Sussex, near Hastings. Their household was still far too large, and their financial difficulties continued. While at Brede, Crane wrote in an attempt to get on sound financial ground, but his health deteriorated, and, on June 5, 1900, he died at Badenweiler, Germany.
Crane produced many novels, short stories, poems, sketches, and letters during his twenty-nine years of life.
1893. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York) (by Johnston Smith, a pseudonym used by Crane; republished in 1896 under Crane's name) focuses on social problems and environmental factors which ultimately ruin the life of the main character, Maggie Johnson.
1895. The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War deals with the emotional growth of Henry Fleming from youth to soldier.
1896. George's Mother concerns the interrelationships of several characters, including George Kelcey, who aligns himself with a group of losers who engage in a series of questionable behaviors.
1897. The Third Violet is the story of the romantic relationship between Billie Hawker and Miss Grace Fanhall and the recognition by Hawker that love can develop if it is given time.
1899. Active Service: A Novel, written by Crane primarily to make money, outlines the character of Rufus Coleman, a war correspondent, who saves a professor and his family embroiled in a war, falls in love with the daughter of the professor, rejects the advances of another woman, and brings the family home from the war.
1903. The O'Ruddy: A Romance (completed by Robert Barr after Crane's death), observes the behaviors of a main character, O'Ruddy, a man who has little respect for the customs of British culture.
1896. "The Little Regiment and Other Episodes of the American Civil War" looks at the apprehensions and other behaviors of characters in war (Colvert 94).
1898. The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure. "The Open Boat" is a short story that deals with four characters who escape in a lifeboat from their sinking ship. The story addresses the theme of survival and is based on Crane's real-life experience with the sinking of the ship Commodore.
1899. The Monster and Other Stories. "The Monster" addresses themes of compassion and fear.
1900. Whilomville Stories (published after Crane's death) is a collection of short stories associated with Crane's life while he was living in several New Jersey cities and in Port Jervis, New York.
1900. Wounds in the Rain: War Stories: is a collection of short stories that focuses on Crane's Cuban war experiences.
1895. The Black Riders and Other Lines is a collection of poems that follow a free verse form and address various content issues, including separation and customs.
1899. War Is Kind includes poems with a form and content similar to those in The Black Riders.
1901. Great Battles of the World, which was published after Crane's death, focuses on significant worldwide battles.
1902. Last Words, also published after Crane's death, looks at some of Crane's earlier writings.