Welcome to www.EllisParkerButler.Info SIGN-IN
Welcome to www.EllisParkerButler.Info, the best place on the Internet to find information about the life and work of Ellis Parker Butler, American humorist and author.

Reading Room

"E. P. Butler Dead; Noted Humorist" from New York Times

printer friendly format printer friendly

  • New York Times (September 14, 1937)   "E. P. Butler Dead; Noted Humorist"   Obituary. "His 'Pigs is Pigs' Made Nation Laugh Thirty Years Ago -- Author of 32 Books. Wrote Poetry as Child. Had Served as Bank Executive in Flushing Where He Lived 30 Years -- Succumbs at 67." Includes a photo of the author.  [CHAPIN, NYTIMES]

from New York Times
E. P. Butler Dead; Noted Humorist

His 'Pigs is Pigs' Made Nation Laugh Thirty Years Ago -- Author of 32 Books


Had Served as Bank Executive in Flushing Where He Lived 30 Years -- Succumbs at 67

Special to The New York Times

Great Barrington, Mass. - Sept. 13 - Ellis Parker Butler, author of "Pigs Is Pigs" and other books, died from The New York Times today in the near-by village of Williamsville, where he had led the life of a retired country gentleman for the last two years. He was 67 years old.

Mr. Butler passed several Summers in the rural Williamsville section before he decided to make it his permanent home. He rarely appeared in public here. He had lived in Flushing, L. I. for thirty years before settling in this section.

Surviving are his widow, one son, Ellis Olmstead Butler of Flushing; three daughters, Mrs. Harold Everett Waller of Winnetka, Ill.; Mrs. Henry M. Chapin of Yonkers, N. Y.; and Miss Marjorie Butler of Flushing, a sister, Mrs. Ulysses G. Smith of Washington D. C.; two brothers, George of Barrington, Ill.; and Lawrence of Park Ridge, Ill., and four grandchildren.

Wrote "Pigs Is Pigs" in 1906

Mr. Butler's reputation as a humorist rested upon a book he did not want to write. "Pigs Is Pigs," published in 1906, was the idea of an magazine editor. Mr. Butler rewrote it twice before he was satisfied with it. For the rest of his life its popularity plagued him and he often complained that his name never appeared in print without the phrase "author of 'Pigs Is Pigs.'"

Although he wrote thirty-two books including his first, which was on the subject of interior decoration, and the next to last, which was about his hobby, stamp collecting, none ever attained the popularity of the slim volume about the freight agent who made the historic declaration that "pigs is pigs."

Hundreds of humorous articles flowed from his typewriter in his home on State Street, Flushing, but although they were in the best American humorist tradition, they never set the world laughing, as did "Pigs Is Pigs" uninterruptedly for many years.

From the very start Mr. Butler, who once appeared in Who's Who as Alice Parker Butler, was a humorist, although perhaps his first literary attempt was of the type called subconscious humor. Written when he was 6 years old at his birthplace, Muscatine, Iowa, it goes as follows:

Two little children, oh so sweet,
Went out to play in the snow and sleet.
    The little boy who has the sled,
    Oh, his name is Ted.
The little girl with the silver curl,
She is our sweetest little Pearl.
    Ted, he has froze his nose,
    And Pearl is crying with her toes.
Oh, papa calls.
He says come in and play with your dolls.

A Youthful Stamp Collector

Inasmuch as Mr. Butler was born on Dec. 5, 1869, that gem was penned in 1875. For several years thereafter his pen was still. Then a tornado swept Muscatine and he was moved to verse once more. "But," as he later put it, "the storm did no other damage to the Butler household."

Even at that early age he was a stamp collector. By some dire trick of fate he mailed 60 cents worth of stamps to the editor of The Muscatine Journal instead of the poem, which has never seen the light of printer's ink.

Young Ellis and his brother published a family newspaper whose circulation was restricted to the one copy which they pasted to the door of the woodshed. Mr. Butler once said this was the only newspaper in Iowa given to running long epic poems. Some of his early verse, with his byline, appeared in The Journal, but not much.

His first venture into prose to meet editorial acceptance was based on real life. An Iowan invented a tornado-proof house, some sort of a rig on a pivot, which whirled around with the storm but never blew away. Elaborating upon this, he "made" The Century Magazine, and as a result bought the first narrow trousers and corduroy coat, derby hat and plaid socks ever seen in Muscatine. Or at least so he used to tell latter-day interviewers.

After a year in high school, young Butler went to work in a spice mill, then he worked in a crockery store and finally in a grocery store. After eight years of clerking he had sold a few stories and saved some money. So, of course, he came to New York.

Took the Editor's Advice

He said he asked an editor he met if he should stay here.

"Are you the young man in Iowa who is sending his manuscripts to New York?" the editor asked.

"Yes, I am," he said hopefully.

"Then by all means," the editor said, "do come to New York -- and send your manuscripts to Iowa."

He accepted the challenge and went to work for The Tailor's Review. Later he switched to Wall Paper News, and then became owner and editor of Decorative Furniture [sic]. It was while in this last post that he wrote his first book, "French Decorative Styles," and for many years his last serious one. Ellery Sedgwick, then the editor of The American Magazine suggested the plot for "Pigs Is Pigs," and Mr. Butler sweated his way to fame through three writings of that book an older generation thought excessively funny.

A grand total of thirty-two books bear his name. The last one was called "Hunting the Wow," written in 1934, shortly before the beginning of his last illness. Between the opus of French furniture and the "wow" appeared such titles as "The Incubator Baby," "Great American Pie Company," "Adventures of a Suburbanite," "Thin Santa Claus," "Mike Flannery," "How It Feels to Be Fifty," "The Young Stamp Collectors' Own Book," and many others.

Mr. Butler went to live in Flushing some thirty years ago and became one of the leading citizens of that once countrified suburb. For ten years he was a vice president of the Flushing National Bank. He denied he was chosen by the directors "to help laugh things off." Until last January he was president of the Flushing Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Aided Hospital Drive

He took an active interest in Flushing Democratic political and civic affairs, and was treasurer and a member of the board of trustees of the Flushing Hospital, whose annual campaign for funds he headed for several years. He also served as a grand jury foreman and chairman of the committee on sidewalks.

Mr. Butler was formerly a president of the Authors League of America. He belonged to the Dutch Treat Club, the City Club, the Town Hall Club, the Tuscarora Club and the Authors' Club of which he was a past president. Although a native of Iowa several of his ancestors were members of the original Mayflower Company, and he was descended from John Alden. He was one of the Dutch Treat Club founders and an original member of the Authors' League of America.

During the war Mr. Butler worked as cashier in the Flushing bank because of the shortage of clerks and enjoyed the experience. He continued to write elsewhere than in the ledgers, however, and to serve on several Flushing war committees.

In 1899 he married Miss Ida Anna Zipser of Muscatine.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow at 2:30 P. M. at the Hallett Funeral Home, northern Boulevard and 147th Street, Flushing. The Rev. George Drew Egbert, pastor of the first Congregational Church of Flushing, will officiate, assisted by Dr. Thomas H. MacKenzie, minister of the Reformed Dutch Church of Flushing. Burial will be in Flushing Cemetery.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:16:52am USA Central
This web site is Copyright © 2006 by the ANDMORE Companies. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Images for viewing only. All copyrights remain with the holder. No covers or publications for sale.
www.EllisParkerButler.Info is a research project of the ANDMORE Companies, Houston TX USA.