Philip van Doren Stern


USA flag (1900 - 1984)

Philip Van Doren Stern was an author and Civil War historian whose story "The Greatest Gift," published in 1943, inspired the classic film It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Stern was born in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania into a family of humble means. His Pennsylvania-born father was a traveling merchant of Bavarian descent, who came to Wyalusing from West Virginia with his New Jersey-born wife. Stern grew up in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey, and graduated from Rutgers University before becoming an author of some 40 books and editor most known for his books on the Civil War that a New York Times obituary called "authoritative" and "widely respected by scholars".