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Finley Peter Dunne

Finley Peter Dunne

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) was an American journalist. He is noted for his humorous sketches in which an Irish saloonkeeper named Mr. Dooley commented on current events.

Peter Dunne was born July 10, 1867, in Chicago, the fifth of seven children of an orthodox Catholic immigrant couple from Ireland. Peter (at 19 he added Finley to his name) graduated from high school in 1884. He covered sports and police courts for several newspapers, then became city editor of the Chicago Times when he was 21. Responsible positions on other papers followed. On the staff of the Evening Post in 1892, he met Mary Ives Abbott, a cultivated book reviewer for the Post, who recognized Dunne's promise and began to guide him. She introduced him to Chicago's select society.

In 1892 Dunne published his first sketch in Irish dialect in the Post. His protagonist, modeled upon a taciturn but witty saloonkeeper named James McGarry, was called Colonel McNerry. When the real saloonkeeper complained to Dunne's editor that McNerry sounded too much like McGarry, Dunne changed his character's name to Mr. Martin Dooley. Dunne's unsigned columns satirizing politics and society made Mr. Dooley a Chicago institution, and his fame spread to other cities. In 1898 one much-reprinted column turned Mr. Dooley into a national sensation. When Commodore George Dewey took Manila, Mr. Dooley celebrated the accomplishment of his "Cousin George"— "Dewey or Dooley, 'tis all th' same." In this piece Dunne caught the jubilant mood of victorious America, but subsequently he turned to critical satire when United States imperialism, showing its true colors, began the systematic subjugation of the Philippines. To the Filipinos, Dunne's imperialist says: "We'll treat ye th' way a father shud treat his child her if we have to break ivry bone in ye'er bodies. So come to our arms."

Publication of collections of Dooley sketches in book form began in 1898 with Mr. Dooley in Peace and War and continued roughly at the rate of one volume every 2 years for 2 decades.

In 1900 Dunne moved to New York. In 1902 he married Abbott's daughter Margaret; they had four children. Dunne became associated with Lincoln Steffens and other "muckrakers" on the American Magazine, and he wrote for Collier's and several other magazines, but the articles in which he put Mr. Dooley aside and spoke in his own voice were never markedly successful. He died of cancer in New York City on April 24, 1936.

Further Reading

Elmer Ellis, Mr. Dooley's America: A Life of Finley Peter Dunne (1941), contains Dunne's unfinished memoirs. For Dunne's place in the history of American humor see Walter Blair, Horse Sense in American Humor (1942). The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens (1931) contains a contemporary sketch of Dunne.

Additional Sources

Eckley, Grace, Finley Peter Dunne, Boston: Twayne, 1981. □

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