Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 1 - Page 4, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, July 2, 2012

High Acclaim Given Native Sons
Ellis Parker Butler, Humorist, Started Writing Career in City

Nation-wide fame as an author and humorist came to Ellis Parker Butler, author of “Pigs Is Pigs,” who was born here Dec. 8, 1869. Mr. Butler died Sept. 13, 1937, at his summer home in Ousatonic, Mass., at the age of 67.

He received his elementary education here and attended Muscatine high school for one year. It is recalled that during the years from 1886 to 1897 he served as a bill-clerk and salesman for several local concerns, the last eight year in a wholesale grocery where his father was bookkeeper. Throughout this period Mr. Butler was writing verses and short humor. In 1897, on the advice of three New York editors, he went to New York where he continued writing humor and did editorial work on trade papers.

The story which won for him national acclaim, “Pigs Is Pigs,” was published in 1905 and the following year it appeared in book form. The book proved unusually popular. With the exception of “The French Decorative Styles,” made up from articles written for magazines, “Pigs Is Pigs,” was his first published book.

Mr. Butler established the “Decorative Furnisher” magazine with Thomas A. Cawthra in 1899 but sold his interests shortly after he moved to Flushing, N. Y. where he resided for many years. The writings of the Muscatine native were voluminous, and for the most part were fiction stories and articles for magazines. His books were selections from these, with but two or three exceptions. In 1917, with Joyce Kilmer, the poet, Mr. Butler undertook a public reading tour, with the intention of creating a reputation similar to the Bill Nye-James Whitcomb Riley combination. But the World war halted his plan. Joyce Kilmer enlisted in the service and Mr. Butler abandoned the work after two years of successful effort.

Mr. Butler married Ida A. Zipser of Muscatine in Muscatine in 1899. Surviving at the time of his death in 1937 were the widow and four children, Mrs. Elsie Walker of Chicago; Mrs. Jean Chapin of Yonkers, N. Y.; Miss Marjorie Butler and Ellis Olmsted, both of New York City. While making his home for years in the east, Mr. Butler maintained contacts with Muscatine friends. This area provided the locale for some of his writings and he returned here a number of years ago to spend several weeks during the summer in a cottage on Geneva island, devoting his time to writing.

An article by Mr. Butler appeared in an issue of the annual Auroran, Muscatine high school publication, and another article by the celebrated author appeared in The Muscatine Journal on the occasion of the centennial celebration of Muscatine. When he lived here, the Butler home was in the 600 block on West Third street. He was a cousin of the late Edwin L. McColm of Muscatine.

During his years in Flushing, N. Y., Mr. Butler was a leader in civic affairs, serving as treasurer of the hospital, vice-president of a bank and president of a savings and loan association. He was a founder of the Dutch Treat club, of the Author’s league, and of the Author’s League fund and many other prizes.

His writings, which were first published in 1904, included among others, “Pigs Is Pigs,” “Perkins of Portland,” “The Incubator Baby,” “Confessions of a Daddy,” “Great American Pie Co.,” “Cheerful Smugglers,” “The Pup,” “Mike Flannery on Duty and Off,” “The Thin Santa Claus,” “Water Goats and Other Troubles,” “The Adventures of a Suburbanite,” “The Jack-Knife Man,” “Red Head and Whistle Breeches,” “Dominie Dean,” “Phila Gubb, Correspondence School Detective,” “Goat Feathers,” “Swatty,” “How It Feels to Be Fifty,” “In Pawn,” “Jibby Jones,” “Jibby Jones and the Alligator,” “Many Happy Returns,” “The Behind Legs of the ‘Orse,” “Pups and Pies,” “Dorna,” “Dollarature,” “Jo Ann, Tomboy,” (with L. A. Kent) and “The Young Stamp Collector’s Own Book.”

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George Meason Whicher. Honored as Poet, Teacher

A native of Muscatine who achieved fame as a teacher and poet was Dr. George Mason Whicher, widely known in the literary world, who died Nov. 2, 1937, at his home in Amherst, Mass. Death followed injuries suffered in a fall a month previous.

Mr. Whicher was born in Muscatine July 29, 1860, the son of Stephen E. and Anna H. Whicher. He moved from this city at the age of 16 years, spending the greater part of his life in New York City where he served as professor of Greek and Latin in Hunter college. He also taught for a time in Muscatine high school, at Hastings, Neb., and in other eastern colleges. He was graduated from Grinnell college in the year of 1882 in the class designated as the “Cyclone Class.”

Dr. Whicher distinguished himself in the literary world through the writing of several books of poems. He was the author of “From Muscatine” (verse) in 1912; “Roman Pearls and Other Verses” in 1926; “Sonnet Singing” in 1928; “Vergiliana” (verse), in 1931; “Amity Street” (verse) in 1935; and was the joint author of “On the Tiber Road,” in 1911, and “Roba d’Italia,” in 1930. He edited “Anthology of Hunter College,” in verse, in 1924.

He was president of the New York Archaelogical society from 1918 to 1921; general secretary of the Archaelogical Institute of America from 1919 to 1921; president of the New York Classical club from 1915 to 1917; president of the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni in New York from 1917 to 1918; an officer in the Order of the Holy Redeemer, organization having headquarters in Greece, a professor in charge of the classical school of the American Academy in Rome in 1921, and belonged to the Century club in New York and the University club in Winter Park, Fla.

Following his retirement from the faculty of Hunter college, he served as head of the American Academy in Rome, Italy, for one year. His wife was the former Lillian Frisbee, daughter of the late Dr. Frisbee, who was a Congregational minister in Des Moines. They were married Sept. 1, 1887. She still resides at Amherst, Mass., and their only son, Prof. G. F. Whicher, holds the chair of English at Amherst college. Two grandsons also reside at Amherst. A sister and a brother, Miss Mary Whicher and Frank P. Whicher, live at 706 West Third street in Muscatine.

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Hundreds Were Given Work at Big Breweries

Old timers in Muscatine can recall vividly the days when several large breweries were playing a major part in the civic life of the community and were providing daily employment for hundreds of residents of the community.

The beer brewing business was at its peak, according to their recollections, during the period immediately preceding the adoption of the prohibition law. Enactment of the latter law sounded the death knell for the industry, but some traces may still be seen of the large establishments which at one time quenched the thirst of thousands in this vicinity.

On Isett avenue, near the spot now occupied by the Continental Serum Laboratory Co., there is still standing a portion of the wall of a building which at one time housed the Doran Brewery. Other old brewery buildings have been destroyed.

One of the oldest and also one of the largest brewery concerns in the city was operated by John Schaefer on Eighth street. Mr. Schaefer opened the business during the 1860s and operated successfully for many years.

Another successful brewery was operated by Henry Eitman on the corner of Seventh street and Mulberry, and it was in this building that boxing fans of Muscatine received high class entertainment during the pre-prohibition era. Many nationally known boxers performed before Muscatine crowds in a large room in the rear of the Eitman brewery.

Old Timers also have recollections of the Dold brewery, which operated on Hershey avenue directly across from the site now occupied by the Beach Lumber Company. This establishment was also used as a warehouse by the Rock Island railroad lines.

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