Frank R. Stockton

Frank R. Stockton

Frank R. Stockton
Born Frank Richard Stockton
(1834-04-05)April 5, 1834
Died April 20, 1902(1902-04-20) (aged 68)
The Woodlands, Philadelphia
Occupation Humorist, writer
Nationality American
Genre Children's literature


Frank Richard Stockton (April 5, 1834 – April 20, 1902) was an American writer and humorist, best known today for a series of innovative children's fairy tales that were widely popular during the last decades of the 19th century.


Born in Philadelphia in the year 1834, Stockton was the son of a prominent Methodist minister who discouraged him from a writing career. After he married Mary Ann Edwards Tuttle, they moved to Burlington, New Jersey.[1] where he produced some of his first literary work. The couple then moved to Nutley, New Jersey.[2]

For years he supported himself as a wood engraver until his father's death in 1860; in 1867, he moved back to Philadelphia to write for a newspaper founded by his brother. His first fairy tale, "Ting-a-ling," was published that year in The Riverside Magazine; his first book collection appeared in 1870. He was also an editor for Hearth and Home magazine in the early 1870s.[3]

He died in 1902 of cerebral hemorrhage[4] and is buried at The Woodlands in Philadelphia.


Stockton avoided the didactic moralizing common to children's stories of the time, instead using clever humor to poke at greed, violence, abuse of power and other human foibles, describing his fantastic characters' adventures in a charming, matter-of-fact way in stories like "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" (1885) and "The Bee-Man of Orn" (1887), which were republished in 1963 and 1964, respectively, in editions illustrated by Maurice Sendak. "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1963.

His most famous fable is "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (1882), about a man sentenced to an unusual punishment for having a romance with a king's beloved daughter. Taken to the public arena, he is faced with two doors, behind one of which is a hungry tiger that will devour him. Behind the other is a beautiful lady-in-waiting, whom he will have to marry, if he finds her. While the crowd waits anxiously for his decision, he sees the princess among the spectators, who points him to the door on the right. The lover starts to open the door and ... the story ends abruptly there. Did the princess save her love by pointing to the door leading to the lady-in-waiting, or did she prefer to see her lover die rather than see him marry someone else? That discussion hook has made the story a staple in English classes in American schools, especially since Stockton was careful never to hint at what he thought the ending would be (according to Hiram Collins Haydn in The Thesaurus of Book Digests, ISBN 0-517-00122-5). He also wrote a sequel to the story, "The Discourager of Hesitancy."

His 1895 adventure novel The Adventures of Captain Horn was the third-best selling book in the United States in 1895.[5][6]

The Bee Man and several other tales were incorporated in a book published in 1887 by Charles Scribner's Sons entitled The Queen's Museum and Other Fanciful Tales, illustrated by Frederick Richardson. Stories included "The Queen's Museum", "The Christmas Truants", "The Griffin and the Minor Canon", "Old Pipes and The Dryad", "The Bee-man of Orn", "The Clocks of Rondaine", "Christmas Before Last", "Prince Hassak's March", "The Philopena", and "Accommodating Circumstance".


The House of Martha, 1891

Further reading


  1. Theodore F. Wolfe, M.D. “A Bookish Corner of New Jersey”, Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, Volume 65 ( J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1900) 103.
  2. 2003 Hall of Fame Inductee Frank R. Stockton, 1834–1902 – Author, Nutley, New Jersey Hall of Fame. Accessed February 9, 2011.
  3. Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazine, 1865-1885, p. 99 (1938)
  4. "Death of Frank R. Stockton," The Literary Digest, May 3, 1902.
  5. Hackett, Alice Payne. Seventy Years of Best Sellers 1895–1965, p. 91 (1967)
  6. Zipes, Jack. When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition, Second Edition, p. 192 (2007)
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