Remembered best for his 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winning historical work The Founding of New England, Adams also penned the two-volume work The March of Democracy; the bestselling book Epic of America; and the 1927 work Provincial Society.
After earning a bachelor's degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, he enrolled in a master's program at Yale University. He went on to work for the New York Stock Exchange and later served in the United States Army's Military Intelligence division.
The phrase "American Dream" first appeared in his early 1930s work The Epic of America.
He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, as the child of William Newton Adams, Jr. and Elizabeth Truslow Harper. He later settled in Southport, Connecticut.
He published a 1930 biography of President John Adams and other members of the politically prominent Adams family.