Hutchins Hapgood was born of New England and New York parents in the city of Chicago on May 21, 1869. He also taught at the University of Chicago, but felt himself strongly drawn toward a more active journalistic life and joined the staff of the reorganized New York Commercial Advertiser under the editorship of Lincoln Steffens in 1897. In addition to the Commercial Advertiser, he also worked for the New York Evening Post, the New York Telegraph, the Chicago Evening Post, and the New York Globe, where he did his most important signed and unsigned newspaper articles. He wrote for magazines, too, and delivered public lectures. His interest in the underdog, and belief that unappreciated values lie hidden in the outcast, first animated his study of criminal life; and his Autobiography of a Thief was the product of a long and intimate connection with the hero.