Monday, September 3, 2012

Eugene Field

Eugene Field was a newspaper writer, humorist, and children's poet. He was a resident of Denver from 1881 to 1883.

Eugene Field was a prominent writer and newspaper man in his day, with his gossipy, humorous articles appearing in newspapers around the country. Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, he worked as an editor and writer at a number of papers in that state before moving to Denver in 1881. For the next two years he wrote for the Denver Tribune, finally leaving the state in 1883 to pursue a position at the Chicago Morning News where he wrote an extraordinarily popular column called "Sharps and Flats".

Though he was only resident in the city for a couple of years Eugene Field had a firm hold on the people of Denver. His satiric style and sarcastic sense of humor found much to poke fun at in what was then a booming and bustling frontier town. He found particular enjoyment in the aspects of Denver life that he thought to be hypocritical, especially the juxtaposition between the frontier language and muddy streets of his adopted home town, and the resident's claims towards gentility and civility. While in Colorado he traveled to Gold Hill, one of the first major mining boom towns, to see the Pikes Peak Gold Rush for himself and captured the spirit of the town in verse while staying at the Gold Hill Inn.

Field is best remembered for hi poetry, especially his work for children. Hailed as "the children's poet", or "the poet of childhood", Field wrote several collections of verse, nursery rhymes, and folk songs for younger audiences. Some of his more popular poems include "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod", "Little Boy Blue", and "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat".

By the end of his life Field was known coast to coast for his humor and his children's poetry. It's odd to think that he could have been so unbelievably popular and that today there are few who could reference him and his work. After his death in 1895 there was an impressive bout of posthumous place-naming, especially in the Midwest, where there are approximately 25 of elementary schools that bear his name. Following his departure from Denver another resident, the Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame, purchased Field's former home and moved it to Washington Park where it served as the Eugene Field's branch of the Denver Public Library. Standing near his old home is a marble statue of the characters from one of his most enduring children's poems, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod".

Getting There By Bike...
Eugene Field's former home and the statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod are both located on the eastern edge of Washington Park in southern Denver, on the corner of Franklin and Exposition. The current Eugene Field branch of the Denver Public Library was opened in 1979 and stands at the intersection of University and Ohio. 

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