James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908, in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the son of Elizabeth Ruth and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. James was the eldest of three children and was expected to continue his father’s business, which had been in the family for three generations.
James was a shy child, spending most of his after-school time in the basement working on model airplanes, mechanical drawing and chemistry—all with a dream of going into aviation. However, he abandoned visions of being a pilot when his father insisted that instead of the United States Naval Academy he attend Princeton University. He enrolled at Princeton in 1928 and excelled at studying architecture, but he gradually became attracted to the school’s drama and music clubs,