Optic, Oliver, 1822-1897

Titles by this author
The birthday party : a story for little folks

"Oliver Optic" was the pen name of William Taylor Adams, a Massachusetts schoolteacher whose magazines and stories for children reached a very wide audience from the 1850s through the turn of the twentieth century. Born in Medway, Massachusetts, he taught in the Boston public schools. In the 1850s he began publishing stories and editing newspapers directed at children, most notably, Oliver Optic's Magazine for Boys and Girls, Student and Schoolmate, and Our Little Ones. In 1853, he published the first of approximately one hundred volumes: Hatchie, the Guardian Slave, or the Heir of Bellevue, and began developing series directed at boys and girls. The Riverdale, Boat Club, Army and Navy, Onward and Upward, Yacht Club, and Woodville Series were some of the most popular works since Jacob Abbott's Rollo Series of the 1830s.

In his fiction, Optic tended to spice his moral messages with adventure stories and he specialized in tales of the sea. He endeavored to provide "correct views of moral and social duties" in "stories full of dash and vigor." "At once instructive and entertaining," as one reviewer put it, Optic maintained a wide and loyal following throughout his career. He is also remembered for promoting the career of Horatio Alger, Jr. whose tales of Ragged Dick first appeared in Student and Schoolmate in the 1860s.

The Birthday Party, A Story for Little Folks, a story of a little girl's birthday party, is characteristic of Optic's magazine work.

Written by Stephen Rachman