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"Ellis Parker Butler" from Twentieth Century Authors

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  • BOOK: Twentieth Century Authors (1942) "Ellis Parker Butler"   "A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature" Edited by Stanley J. Kunitz. Includes an extended autobiography written by Butler just before his death. Includes a photo of the author. New York: H. W. Wilson Company.  [HARPER]

from Twentieth Century Authors
Ellis Parker Butler

BUTLER, ELLIS PARKER (December 5, 1869 - September 13, 1937), American humorist, wrote to the editors of this volume shortly before his death:

"I was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on the Mississippi river, my father then being in Ellis Parker Butler the pork-packing business with my grandfather. The business failed and my father became a bookkeeper and as he was poor and had eight children, of which I was the eldest, I lived most of my youth with my aunt Lizzie, a cultured spinster who gave me a liking for literature and my early education.

"Because I had to go to work I had but one year in high school, and from 1886 to 1897 I worked as bill clerk and salesman in several local concerns, the last eight years in a wholesale grocery where my father was bookkeeper. All this time I was writing verses and short humor, and in 1897 on the advice of three New York editors I went to New York. Here I continued writing humor and did editorial work on two trade papers and in 1899 with Thomas A. Cawthra established the Decorative Furnisher magazine.

"In 1899 I married Ida A. Zipser, of Muscatine, and we have had five children, of whom four are living. In 1905 my best known story, Pigs is Pigs, was published in the American Magazine and as a book in 1906 and had a remarkable success. A year or so earlier I had moved to Flushing, on Long Island, and I now sold my interest in our magazine, and with my wife and daughter spent about a year in Paris and doing some sight-seeing in England and on the Continent, after which we returned to Flushing where we have lived in the same house ever since.

"While continuously writing I have taken much interest in local matters in Flushing, making that my principal recreation. I was a founder of the Dutch Treat Club, of the Authors' League, of the Authors' League Fund, etc., and am now president of the Tuscarora (fishing) Club, and so on. My other recreations have been trout fishing and stamp collecting.

"The three greatest influences in my work were my aunt Lizzie Butler and my high school English teacher, who gave me an admiration and appreciation of literature, and my father, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Mark Twain and other humorists of that day. Mark Twain was close to us, having lived in Muscatine awhile, and Bob Burdette was but sixty miles down the river.

"My writing has been voluminous but for the most part fiction stories and articles for the magazines, my books being selections from these, with but two or three exceptions. I have tried writing novels but never with much success."

Ellis Parker Butler died at Williamsville, Mass., in his sixty-eighth year [sic]. Although his name is one of the best known in the annals of American humor, he really had no significant style or metier, and his reputation rests solely on one slight but hilarious contribution, Pigs Is Pigs.

Principal Works: Pigs is Pigs, 1906; The Jack-Knife Man, 1913; Philo Gubb: Correspondence School Detective, 1918; Swatty, 1920; In Pawn, 1921; Jibby Jones, 1923; Butler Readings, 1925; The Behind Legs of the 'Orse, 1927; Dollarature, 1929.

About: Masson, T. L. Our American Humorists; Boston Evening Transcript May 1, 1926; New York Times September 13, 1937 [sic]; St. Nicholas November 1935.

Ellis Parker Butler



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