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Biography of Ellis Parker Butler

American Author, Humorist and Speaker
Ellis Parker Butler published in 1909

Born:   December 5, 1869;  Muscatine, Iowa.
Died:   September 13, 1937;  Williamsville, Massachusetts.

Author of more than 30 books and more than 2,000 stories and essays, Ellis Parker Butler is most famous for his short story "Pigs is Pigs" in which a bureaucratic stationmaster insists on levying the livestock rate for a shipment of two pet guinea pigs that soon start proliferating geometrically.

Working from his home in Flushing (Queens) New York, Ellis Parker Butler was -- by every measure and by many times -- the most published author of the pulp fiction era.

His career spanned more than forty years and his stories, poems and articles were published in more than 225 magazines. His work appeared along side that of his contemporaries including Mark Twain, Sax Rohmer, James B. Hendryx, Berton Braley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Don Marquis, Will Rogers and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Despite the enormous volume of his work Ellis Parker Butler was, for most of his life, only a part-time author. He worked full-time as a banker and was very active in his local community. A founding member of both the Dutch Treat Club and the Author's League of America, Butler was an always-present force in the New York City literary scene.


  • December 5, 1869
    Ellis Parker Butler is born in the house at 607 West Third Street in Muscatine, Iowa. His father was Audley Gazzam Butler; his mother the former Adela Vesey.
  • 1883
    At the age of thirteen, Butler's first story "Shorty and Frank's Adventure" is published in the Sunday School periodical "Dawn of Day."
  • 1885-1887
    Attends High School in Muscatine. Leaves at the age of 17 to work as a bill clerk at Muscatine Spice Mills.
  • 1888
    The Muscatine News publishes 43 installments of Butler's "The Mystery of the Unhandsome Cab" (a parody) under the pseudonym "Elpabu." Ellis Parker Butler is eighteen years old.
  • November, 1896
    Century Magazine publishes the story My Cyclone-proof House for which Butler was paid $80 with "the first real check" he received as an author.
  • September 1897
    Butler leaves Muscatine to live and work in New York City. He works at a salary of $15 a week as an editor of an interior decorating magazine.
  • 1898
    Ellis Parker Butler is an assistant editor for the Tailor's Review, a trade publication. Traveling for the magazine, he spends the winter in Chicago.
  • June 28, 1899
    Butler returns to Muscatine and marries Ida Anna Zipser (she was ten years younger than he), honeymooning at Niagra Falls. They remained married until his death.
  • 1900
    Ellis Parker Butler and his partner, Thomas A. Cawthra, establish Upholstery Dealer and Decorative Furnisher Magazine, a monthly.
  • August, 1902
    Ellis and Ida Butler's first child, Elsie McColm Butler (daughter), is born.
  • Late 1904
    Ellis and Ida Butler's second child, Wallace Parker Butler (son), is born. Wallace dies within the year.
  • September, 1905
    "Pigs is Pigs" first appears in print in the September issue of The American Magazine.
  • April, 1906
    First Edition of the book Pigs is Pigs is printed by Doubleday, Page and Company.
  • September, 1906
    The Incubator Baby is published by Funk and Wagnalls Company.
  • October, 1906
    Perkins of Portland; Perkins the Great is published by Herbert Turner Company.
  • May, 1907
    The Confessions of a Daddy is published by the Century Company
  • October, 1907
    Kilo: Being the Love Story of Eliph' Hewlitt Book Agent is published by the McClure Company
  • 1907
    The Great American Pie Company is published by McClure, Phillips and Company.
  • August 1907
    Ellis Parker Butler sells his interest in Decorative Furnisher magazine.
  • October 1907-June 1908
    Butler, his wife Ida and their first child, Elsie, all take an extended stay in Paris when the proceeds from Pigs is Pigs enabled the family to travel, living in Paris and sight-seeing in England and on the continent.
  • Late 1908
    The Butler family moves to 242 State Street, Flushing (Queens) New York, at first renting and then purchasing in September. They name the home "the Butler's Pantry." Flushing was a suburb when the Butlers lived there (the family even had a barn). Now, it's part of New York City.
  • August, 1908
    Good Housekeeping magazine publishes an article, The Laughing Philosophers, profiling fourteen writers and humorists, including Ellis Parker Butler, George Ade, Burges Johnson, Wallace Irwin, Thomas L. Masson and John Kendrick Bangs.
  • 1908
    That Pup is published by the McClure Company.
  • 1908
    The Cheerful Smugglers is published by the Century Company.
  • May, 1909
    Mike Flannery, On Duty and Off is published by Doubleday, Page and Company.
  • November, 1909
    The Thin Santa Claus is published by Doubleday, Page and Company.
  • December 24, 1909
    Ellis and Ida Butler's twin daughters, Jean and Marjorie, are born.
  • May, 1909
    The Water Goats and Other Troubles is published by Doubleday, Page and Company.
  • 1912
    Ellis Parker Butler helps start the Authors' League of America (still in existence today). The League represents the interests of authors and playwrights regarding copyright, freedom of expression, taxation and other issues.
  • 1913
    Ellis Parker Butler is Vice President of Flushing National Bank.
  • 1913
    The Jack-Knife Man is published by the Century Company.
  • 1913-1917
    Red Book Magazine publishes 35 of Butler's Philo Gubb stories.
  • 1914
    Ellis and Ida Butler's fifth and last child, Ellis Olmsted Butler (son), is born.
  • 1915
    Red Head and Whistle Breeches is published by Bancroft Company.
  • 1917
    Dominie Dean is published by Fleming H. Revell Company.
  • 1917
    Ellis Parker Butler writes "Why I Live in Flushing" for Illustrated Flushing and Vicinity, a promotional booklet that boosts the town. Flushing National Bank also runs an ad there listing Ellis Parker Butler as Vice President and one of its directors.
  • December 29, 1917
    The Saturday Evening Post publishes "Ellis Parker Butler: An Autobiography."
  • 1918
    Philo Gubb Correspondence School Detective is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1919
    Goat-Feathers is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • Fall 1919 to Spring 1920
    The Butler family takes an extended stay in California in conjunction with the filming of Butler's The Jack-Knife Man by King Vidor. Butler's share of the motion picture rights sold to First National Pictures was $7,500.
  • 1920
    How It Feels to be Fifty is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1920
    Swatty, a Story of Real Boys is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1920
    In Pawn is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1922
    Thomas L. Masson publishes Our American Humorists. Chapter 6 is, in significant part, about Ellis Parker Butler.
  • 1923
    Ellis Parker Butler is Vice President of the Flushing Cooperative Savings and Loan Association.
  • 1923
    Ghosts What Ain't is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1923
    The first Jibby Jones book ("The Story of the Young Alligator-Hunters of the Upper Mississippi Valley") is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1923, 1924
    Radio News Magazine (published by Hugo Gernsback) publishes 16 stories by Butler including Solander's Radio Tomb.
  • 1924
    Jibby Jones and the Alligator, the second Jibby Jones book, is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1925
    Many Happy Returns of the Day! is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1925
    The Strack Platform Readings, a collection of twenty-four Butler stories arranged by Lilian Holmes Strack, is published by Walter H. Baker Company.
  • May 1, 1926
    The Boston Evening Transcript publishes Ellis Parker Butler Emerges from the West, a biographical article.
  • 1927
    Pups and Pies, a collection of five previously published books by Butler, is published by Doubleday, Page and Company.
  • 1927
    The Behind Legs of the 'Orse is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1930
    Ellis Parker Butler is Director of the Flushing National Bank.
  • 1930
    Dorna or The Hilldale Affair is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • 1930
    Dollarature or, The Drug Store Book is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • August 8, 1931
    Argosy magazine publishes a one-page biography of Ellis Parker Butler, as part of a series titled Men Who Make the Argosy.
  • 1933
    A Young Stamp Collector's Own Book is published by Bobbs-Merrill.
  • 1933
    Jo Ann Tomboy is published by Houghton Mifflin.
  • February 14, 1935
    Ellis Parker Butler finishes his last term as President of the Authors Club.
  • 1935
    Ellis Parker Butler's last book Hunting the Wow, a collection of previously-published articles and stories, is published.
  • 1936
    Ellis Parker Butler is president of the Flushing Federal Savings and Loan Association.
  • Fall, 1936
    Butler and his wife Ida move to Williamsville, a tiny settlement in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.
  • September 13, 1937
    Ellis Parker Butler dies of cancer complicated by diabetes. The next day, the New York Times publishes this obituary. The Times also reports that more than 200 people attend his funeral two days later.


Saturday, October 07 at 1:04:09am USA Central
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