Thursday, September 14, 2023

Eugene Field ~ The Poet of Childhood

Do you remember this poem from your childhood? It was one of my favorites. I found the rhythmic words as delightful as the story. In my imagination, my own toys had their parties and adventures as I slept through the night. I truly believed the gingham dog and calico cat came to life during the wee morning hours of a new day.

The author of this whimsical poem is Eugene Field who is known as the “Poet of Childhood.” He was born in St. Louis on September 2, 1850—173 years ago this month!


Eugene Field
Sadly, his mother died when he was only six years old. After her death, he was raised by an aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

He began his less-than-stellar college career at Williams College (Massachusetts), but he also attended Knox College (Illinois) and the University of Missouri in Columbia. Playing pranks was more fun than studying—and Eugene enjoyed his pranks!

While at UMC, “he seems to have spent more times leading raids on the president's wine cellar, painting the president's house the school colors, and firing the school's landmark cannons at midnight than he did on acquiring scholastic credits” (Literary). 


In 1875, Field gained employment as a journalist for the St. Joseph Gazette (Missouri) and married Julia Comstock. They had eight children!


Over the next few years, Field worked for other newspapers in Kansas City and Denver before becoming a popular columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His column, “Sharps and Flats,” was a humorous peek into the “issues and personalities of the day, especially in the arts and literature” (Field).

“Christmas Treasures,” Field’s first published poem, appeared in A Little Book of Western Verse in 1879 (Below). Perhaps his most famous poems are “The Duel,” “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” (originally titled “Dutch Lullaby”), and the heartrending “Little Boy Blue.” 


Field died of a heart attack on November 4, 1895—he was only 45 years old—and buried at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth, Illinois.

However, his legacy lives on:

·      His boyhood home in St. Louis is now the Field House Museum;

·      He has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame;

·      Many elementary schools are named for him, including ones in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.


One more historical note ~ Field's father, Roswell Martin Field, represented Dred Scott in the landmark Dred Scott v. Landsford case (1857), a case "sometimes referred to as the lawsuit that started the Civil War" (Field).

Johnnie writes award-winning stories in multiple genres. A fan of classic movies, stacks of books, and road trips, she shares a life of quiet adventure with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Visit her at


Eugene Field ~ public domain.

Eugene Field House, Denver, CO; Jeffrey Beall; used under license CC BY-SA 3.0.


Below, Ida Comstock (1898). Eugene Field in His Home. E.P. Dutton & Co., p. 58.

The Duel” (aka “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat,”), public domain, (accessed 8/28/2023).

Literary St. Louis. Associates of St. Louis University Libraries, Inc. and Landmarks Association of St. Louis, Inc. 1969, p. 11 (accessed 8/28/2023).

Field, Eugene, Wikipedia (accessed 8/28/2023).



  1. Thank you for this post today. I don't know how I have never heard of this poem before! It was interesting to hear about its' author.

  2. What a fun story, Johnnie. Thanks for sharing!