Today in History: E.B. White’s Birthday
Today is E.B. White’s 117th birthday, for he is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of his readers, children through adults. Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899 in Mount Vernon, New York; graduated from Cornell University in 1921; worked for The New Yorker magazine; and lived on a farm in Maine where he kept animals — the inspiration we can see for his beloved children’s classics, Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and Trumpet of the Swan (1970). He died at the age of 86 in North Brooklin, Maine, and his work to this day continues to be read, adapted, and enjoyed in homes, schools, theaters, and other places throughout the world.
We fondly recall a mouse, Stuart; spider, Charlotte; pig, Wilbur; and swan, Louis, depicted with human qualities in imaginary, memorable tales. But it is this story, the first E.B. White given to me as a girl, and set amongst my favorites in an antiqued, orange and yellow bookcase, that stays with me the longest: A trumpeter swan, born speechless, goes to school with the help of 11 year old Sam Weaver. Later, he finds his voice, thanks to a brass trumpet stolen by his father from a music shop. Knowing how to read, Louis, aptly named, plays taps, a reveille, mess call, and even composes a love song for the beautiful Serena, another trumpeter swan. He not only saves her from the fate of the zoo, but flies out west to start together anew — years later to be overheard by the grown up Sam. Though perhaps less read than the other two classics, Trumpet of the Swan is a symbolic gem — spaciously and serenely full of life lessons: beauty and grace in learning and listening; strength in overcoming difficulty and disability; peacefulness through forgiveness and friendship. Happy Birthday, E.B. White!
The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers which serves to inspire research, as well as classroom learning and teaching.
- Gannett, L. (1941, Nov 10). Books and Things. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962)
- Prescott, Orville. (1954, Jan 18). Books of The Times. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Mitgang, H. (1976, Nov 25). E. B. White, Custodian of the Word Arsenal. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File)
- Kirsch, R. (1976, Dec 09). Through E.B. White, Clearly. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Jay, P. A. (1985, Oct 13). Writers Writer. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Young, K. (1987, Dec 11). Young Cast Weaves a Fine ‘Web’. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Seibold, D. (1990, Nov 02). A Feast of Tidbits from E.B. White. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File)
- Metcalf, S. (1990, Dec 02). Enjoy Again White’s Works for New Yorker. The Hartford Courant (1923-1990)
- Welty, Eudora. (1996, Oct 06). Along Came a Spider. New York Times (1923-Current File)
Tip: Check Educat, the catalog of the Gottesman Libraries, for holdings of works, including children’s books, letters, and essays written by E.B. White.
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