E. B. White

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E. B. White
EB White and his dog Minnie.png
White on the beach with his dog Minnie
Elwyn Brooks White

July 11, 1899
DiedOctober 1, 1985(1985-10-01) (aged 86)
North Brooklin, Maine, U.S.
EducationCornell University
Katharine Sergeant
(m. 1929;died 1977)
EB White Signature.svg

Elwyn Brooks White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) [1] was an American writer. For more than fifty years, he was a contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He was also a co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote books for children, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). In a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, Charlotte's Web was voted the top children's novel. [2]

<i>The New Yorker</i> Magazine on politics, social issues, art, humor, and culture, based in New York City

The New Yorker is an American magazine featuring journalism, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. Started as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is now published 47 times annually, with five of these issues covering two-week spans. Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside New York and is read internationally. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copy editing, its journalism on politics and social issues, and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.

Style guide set of standards for the writing and design of documents

A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting and design of documents. It is often called a style sheet, although that term may have other meanings. These standards can be applied either for general use, or be required usage for an individual publication, a particular organization, or a specific field.

<i>The Elements of Style</i> style guide

The Elements of Style is a prescriptive American English writing style guide in numerous editions. The original was composed by William Strunk Jr. in 1918, and published by Harcourt in 1920, comprising eight "elementary rules of usage", ten "elementary principles of composition", "a few matters of form", a list of 49 "words and expressions commonly misused", and a list of 57 "words often misspelled". E. B. White greatly enlarged and revised the book for publication by Macmillan in 1959. That was the first edition of the so-called "Strunk & White", which Time named in 2011 as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923.



White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the youngest child of Samuel Tilly White, the president of a piano firm, and Jessie Hart White, the daughter of Scottish-American painter William Hart. [3] Elwyn's older brother Stanley Hart White, known as Stan, a professor of landscape architecture and the inventor of the Vertical Garden, taught E. B. White to read and to explore the natural world. [4] White graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1921. He got the nickname "Andy" at Cornell, where tradition confers that moniker on any male student whose surname is White, after Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White. [5] While at Cornell, he worked as editor of The Cornell Daily Sun with classmate Allison Danzig, who later became a sportswriter for The New York Times . White was also a member of the Aleph Samach [6] and Quill and Dagger societies and Phi Gamma Delta ("Fiji") fraternity.

Mount Vernon, New York City in New York, United States

Mount Vernon is a city in Westchester County, New York, United States. It is an inner suburb of New York City, immediately to the north of the borough of the Bronx. As of the 2010 census, Mount Vernon had a population of 67,292.

William Hart (painter) American painter

William Hart, was a Scottish-born American landscape and cattle painter, and Hudson River School artist. His younger brother, James McDougal Hart, and his younger sister, Julie Hart Beers, were also Hudson River School artists. He studied under Jules-Joseph Lefebvre.

Stanley Hart White was a professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois from 1922 until 1959 and the inventor of the green wall. White called his invention "Botanical Bricks" and developed prototypes in his backyard in Urbana, Illinois. Stanley's brother E.B. White documents the invention in his 1937 letter to Katherine S. White: “I guess everyone has crazy brothers and sisters. I know I have. Stan, by the way, has taken out a patent on an invention of his called ‘Botanical Bricks,’ which are simply plant units capable of being built up to any height, for quick landscape effects, the vertical surfaces covered with flowering vines, or the like. He thinks that the idea has great possibilities for such things as world fairs, city yards, indoor gardens, and many other projects. I think perhaps he has got hold of something, and have written him for more information. He certainly deserves a break.” Stanley refined the vertical garden typology with his patent for the "vegetation-Bearing Architectonic Structure and System (1938)" in which he outlines the scope for a new field of vegetation-bearing architecture. The impact of this invention has still unrealized provocations on this history of gardens and designed landscapes, establishing precedent for verdant modernism in the prewar Middle West. The wall was reconstructed in 2012-13 as part of a Graham Foundation Research Award. Stanley Hart White is also known for his innovative teaching style and his influence on the work of Richard Haag, Hideo Sasaki, Peter Walker, Stu Dawson, Philip H. Lewis Jr., and numerous others Stanley Hart White married Blanche Bigney; they had one daughter, Janice Hart White, an accomplished artist. As E. B. White's niece, Janice was an inspiration for the title character in Stuart Little, Harper and Brothers, 1945.

After graduation, White worked for the United Press (now United Press International) and the American Legion News Service in 1921 and 1922. In 1922–23, he was a cub reporter for The Seattle Times . On one occasion, when White was stuck writing a story, a Times editor said, "Just say the words." [7] He then worked for almost two years with the Frank Seaman advertising agency as a production assistant and copywriter [8] before returning to New York City in 1924. When The New Yorker was founded in 1925, White submitted manuscripts to it. Katharine Angell, the literary editor, recommended to editor-in-chief and founder Harold Ross that White be hired as a staff writer. However, it took months to convince him to come to a meeting at the office and additional weeks to convince him to work on the premises. Eventually, he agreed to work in the office on Thursdays. [9]

United Press International company

United Press International (UPI) is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations for most of the 20th century. At its peak, it had more than 6,000 media subscribers. Since the first of several sales and staff cutbacks in 1982, and the 1999 sale of its broadcast client list to its rival, the Associated Press, UPI has concentrated on smaller information-market niches.

American Legion veterans’ organization

The American Legion is a U.S. war veterans' organization headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is made up of state, U.S. territory, and overseas departments, and these are in turn made up of local posts. The legislative body of The American Legion is a national convention, held annually. The organization was founded on March 15, 1919, at the American Club near Place de la Concorde in Paris, France, by members of the American Expeditionary Forces, and it was chartered on September 16, 1919, by the U.S. Congress.

<i>The Seattle Times</i> newspaper

The Seattle Times is a daily newspaper serving Seattle, Washington, United States. It has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest region.

White was shy around women, claiming he had “too small a heart, too large a pen." [10] But in 1929, culminating an affair which led to her divorce, White and Katherine Angell were married. They had a son, Joel White, a naval architect and boat builder, who later owned Brooklin Boat Yard in Brooklin, Maine. Katharine's son from her first marriage, Roger Angell, has spent decades as a fiction editor for The New Yorker and is well known as the magazine's baseball writer.

Joel White (1930–1997), the son of author E. B. White and New Yorker Magazine editor Katharine Sergeant Angell White, was a U.S. naval architect known for his classic designs including the W-Class of boats. Two W boats were posthumously built by Rockport Marine and Brooklin Boat Yard for Donald Tofias. They were christened White Wings and Wild Horses. White's life and character were chronicled in the book A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time by Douglass Whynott and in Joel White: Boatbuilder / designer / sailor by Bill Mayher and Maynard Bray. White died at the age of 66 in 1997 in Brooklin, Maine of lung cancer. His widow, Allene White, lives in Brooklin.

Brooklin, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Brooklin is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States. The population was 824 at the 2010 census. It is home to WoodenBoat Magazine, Brooklin Boat Yard, and numerous boatbuilders, artists, writers, musicians, and potters.

Roger Angell American essayist

Roger Sergeant Angell is an American essayist known for his writing on sports, especially baseball. He has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was its chief fiction editor for many years. He has written numerous works of fiction, non-fiction, and criticism, and for many years wrote an annual Christmas poem for The New Yorker.

In her foreword to Charlotte's Web , Kate DiCamillo quotes White as saying, "All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world." [11] White also loved animals, farms and farming implements, seasons, and weather formats.

<i>Charlottes Web</i> childrens novel by American author E. B. White

Charlotte's Web is a children's novel by American author E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams; it was published on October 15, 1952, by Harper & Brothers. The novel tells the story of a livestock pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live.

Kate DiCamillo American childrens writer

Katrina Elizabeth DiCamillo is an American writer of children's fiction for all reading levels, usually featuring animals. She is one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, recognizing her novels The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and Flora & Ulysses (2013). Her best-known books for young children are the Mercy Watson series, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

James Thurber described White as a quiet man who disliked publicity and who, during his time at The New Yorker, would slip out of his office via the fire escape to a nearby branch of Schrafft's to avoid visitors whom he didn't know.

James Thurber American cartoonist, author, journalist, playwright

James Grover Thurber was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He was best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker magazine, such as "The Catbird Seat", and collected in his numerous books. He was one of the most popular humorists of his time, as he celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people. He wrote the Broadway comedy The Male Animal in collaboration with his college friend Elliott Nugent; it was later adapted into a film starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. His short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" has been adapted for film twice, once in 1947 and again in 2013.

Schraffts (restaurant chain)

Schrafft's was a chain of high-volume moderately priced New York restaurants connected to the Schrafft's food and candy business of Boston. The dining rooms, which had tablecloths at dinner time, and later had separate standing bar areas, were supplemented by fountain service lunch counters, separate rooms in which were displayed for sale Schrafft's branded candy and ice cream, and various items such as wrapped gift baskets of fruit, candy and stuffed toys.

Most of us, out of a politeness made up of faint curiosity and profound resignation, go out to meet the smiling stranger with a gesture of surrender and a fixed grin, but White has always taken to the fire escape. He has avoided the Man in the Reception Room as he has avoided the interviewer, the photographer, the microphone, the rostrum, the literary tea, and the Stork Club. His life is his own. He is the only writer of prominence I know of who could walk through the Algonquin lobby or between the tables at Jack and Charlie's and be recognized only by his friends.

James Thurber, E. B. W., "Credos and Curios"

White had Alzheimer's disease and died on October 1, 1985, at his farm home in North Brooklin, Maine. [1] He is buried in the Brooklin Cemetery beside Katharine, who died in 1977. [12]


White in his twenties E B White.jpg
White in his twenties

E. B. White published his first article in The New Yorker in 1925, then joined the staff in 1927 and continued to contribute for almost six decades. Best recognized for his essays and unsigned "Notes and Comment" pieces, he gradually became the magazine's most important contributor. From the beginning to the end of his career at The New Yorker, he frequently provided what the magazine calls "Newsbreaks" (short, witty comments on oddly worded printed items from many sources) under various categories such as "Block That Metaphor." He also was a columnist for Harper's Magazine from 1938 to 1943.

In 1949, White published Here Is New York, a short book based on an article he had been commissioned to write for Holiday . Editor Ted Patrick approached White about writing the essay telling him it would be fun. "Writing is never 'fun,'" replied White. [13] That article reflects the writer's appreciation of a city that provides its residents with both "the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy." It concludes with a dark note touching on the forces that could destroy the city that he loved. This prescient "love letter" to the city was re-published in 1999 on his centennial with an introduction by his stepson, Roger Angell.

In 1959, White edited and updated The Elements of Style . This handbook of grammatical and stylistic guidance for writers of American English was first written and published in 1918 by William Strunk Jr., one of White's professors at Cornell. White's reworking of the book was extremely well received, and later editions followed in 1972, 1979, and 1999. Maira Kalman illustrated an edition in 2005. That same year, a New York composer named Nico Muhly premiered a short opera based on the book. The volume is a standard tool for students and writers and remains required reading in many composition classes. The complete history of The Elements of Style is detailed in Mark Garvey's Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.

In 1978, White won a special Pulitzer Prize citing "his letters, essays and the full body of his work". [14] He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and honorary memberships in a variety of literary societies throughout the United States. The 1973 Oscar-nominated Canadian animated short The Family That Dwelt Apart is narrated by White and is based on his short story of the same name. [15]

Children's books

In the late 1930s, White turned his hand to children's fiction on behalf of a niece, Janice Hart White. His first children's book, Stuart Little , was published in 1945, and Charlotte's Web appeared in 1952. Stuart Little initially received a lukewarm welcome from the literary community. However, both books went on to receive high acclaim, and Charlotte's Web won the Newbery Medal from the American Library Association.

White received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the U.S. professional children's librarians in 1970. It recognized his "substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature." [16] That year he was also the U.S. nominee and eventual runner-up for the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award, as he was again in 1976. [17] [18] Also in 1970, White's third children's novel was published, The Trumpet of the Swan . In 1973 it won the Sequoyah Award from Oklahoma and the William Allen White Award from Kansas, both selected by students voting for their favorite book of the year. In 2012, School Library Journal sponsored a survey of readers which identified Charlotte's Web as the best children's novel ("fictional title for readers 9–12" years old). The librarian who conducted it said, "It is impossible to conduct a poll of this sort and expect [White's novel] to be anywhere but #1." [2] [19]

Awards and honors


The E.B. White Read Aloud Award is given by The Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) to honor books that its membership feel embodies the universal read-aloud standards that E. B. White's works created.



Essays and reporting

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Garth Montgomery Williams is a well known American illustrator for children's book/literature from the 20th century. Williams is most notable for his illustrations in classic American children's books such as "Charlotte's Web". William's was inspired by his parents who were both artists of some kind as well. William's attended the Westminster School of Art and the Royal Academy in London where he received his training for articular crafts and drawing. He later had received the Prix de Rome which is a high-honor French scholarship for art students, and will allow those to live and study in the Italian capital of Rome free of expenses. He eventually moved back to his birth city in New York in October 1941 to continue his works and partnering with E.B. White. Many of the books he illustrated have become classics of American children's literature. A notable exception are the illustrations he created for an adult audience in 'A Room for the Night' by Pauline Leader, Vanguard Press, 1946.

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E. B. White House

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  1. 1 2 Mitgang, Herbert (October 2, 1985). "E. B. White, Essayist and Stylist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  2. 1 2 "SLJ's Top 100 Children's Novels" Archived January 5, 2014, at the Wayback Machine (poster presentation of reader poll results). A Fuse #8 Production. School Library Journal. 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  3. Root, Robert L. (1999). E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist. University of Iowa Press. p. 23. ISBN   978-0-87745-667-4.
  4. Hindle, Richard L. (2013). "Stanley Hart White and the question of 'What is Modern?'". Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes. 33 (3): 170–177. doi:10.1080/14601176.2013.807653.
  5. "Building Cornell University Library's Collections: E. B. White '21". Cornell University Library. Retrieved July 11, 2019. His nickname, “Andy,” dates from his years at Cornell. According to Cornell tradition, all male students named White were nicknamed after Cornell’s first president, Andrew Dickson White.
  6. White, Elwyn Brooks; Guth, Dorothy Lobrano; White, Martha (2006). "Cornell and the Open Road". Letters of E. B. White, Revised Edition. New York City: HarperCollins. pp. 17–19. ISBN   978-0-06-075708-3.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. "Week 20 – Writing Quotations". www.joesutt.com. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  8. "E. B. White Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  9. Thurber, James (1969). "E. B. W.". Credos and Curios. Penguin Books. p. 124. ISBN   978-0-14-003044-0.
  10. "Is Sex Necessary?". The Attic. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  11. White, E. B. (1952). Charlotte's Web. Harper. p. ii. ISBN   978-0-06-440055-8.
  12. Elledge, Scott (1984). E. B. White: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN   978-0-393-01771-7.
  13. Callahan, Michael. "The Visual and Writerly Genius of Holiday Magazine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  14. 1 2 "Special Awards and Citations". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  15. "The Family That Dwelt Apart". National Film Board of Canada. October 11, 2012. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  16. 1 2 "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". ALSC. ALA.
      "About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  17. Weales, Gerald (May 24, 1970). "The Designs of E. B. White". The New York Times. Page BR22.
  18. "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  19. Bird, Elizabeth (July 2, 2012). "Top 100 Children's Novels #1: Charlotte's Web by E. B. White". A Fuse #8 Production. School Library Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  20. Elledge, Scott (1986). E.B. White: a Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 383. ISBN   978-0-393-30305-6.