The Eugene Field House was our January Jeans BeCause recipient. The Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum was the boyhood home of Eugene Field, who is beloved to this day as the “Children’s Poet” and widely known as the “Father of the Personal Newspaper Column”.
Eugene Field was born in St. Louis at 634 South Broadway, on September 2, 1850. His father, Roswell Martin Field, was a well-known attorney.
In 1853 Roswell served as the attorney for the slaves Dred and Harriet Scott and their daughters, Eliza and Lizzy, when they brought action in federal court for their freedom. The Scotts were denied their freedom on the grounds that African-Americans were not citizens and therefore could not sue in federal court. The refusal of the United States Supreme Court to treat Dred and Harriet as citizens is believed by many to be a factor that precipitated the Civil War.
In November 1856, Frances Field, Eugene’s mother, died and the next year Eugene and his brother, Roswell, were sent to Amherst, Massachusetts, to attend school and live with their paternal aunt, Mary, and their cousin, Mary Field French, until they entered college.
While a student at the University of Missouri, Eugene was co-founder and literary editor of The Missourian, the campus newspaper. In May 1873, Mr. Field joined the staff of the St. Louis Journal and the following October married Julia Sutherland Comstock in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Eugene’s first published children’s poem, “Christmas Treasures” was written in St. Louis. His career was to take him to St. Joseph, Missouri, back to St. Louis, and then to Kansas City and Denver, and finally to Chicago, where the Chicago Daily News hired him to write “exactly what I please on any subject I please.”
Eugene Field died in his sleep on November 4, 1895, 62 days after his 45th birthday, a young man at the height of his career, famous for both his poetry and his column, and the father of five surviving children. He is buried in the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth, Illinois.
To learn more about The Eugene Field House and Toy Museum and their upcoming events, click here.