Jacob Abbott

The man responsible for writing the first fictional series for children, for introducing many of the key types and techniques of series books, for popularizing the genre virtually single-handedly, and for writing some of the earliest American juveniles deserving of the term "children's literature" was the multi-talented Jacob Abbott. Born 14 November 1803 in Hallowell, Maine, Abbot was the second of seven children (and the eldest son) of Jacob and Lydia Abbot. Abbot's parents were, according to his brother John, "the strictest class of Christians," who impressed upon their children the importance of a Christian life and who were "loved [by their children] with a fervor that could hardly be surpassed." [1] Jacob spent a happy childhood in Hallowell, where he and his brothers all attended Hallowell Academy. All five Abbot sons followed strikingly similar paths; as one biographer notes, "all five graduated from Bowdoin College, all studied theology at Andover, all became teachers and ministers; all became authors except the youngest [Samuel] who died in 1849." [2] This background is reflected in Abbott's works, which are imbued with his religious, moral, and educational beliefs, and which contain numerous scenes depicting happy, productive children.

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1. Quoted in Lysla Abbott. "Jacob Abbott: A Goodly Heritage, 1803-1879." In The Hewins Lectures 1947-1962. Ed. Siri Andrews. Horn Book, Inc., 1963.
2. Lysla Abbott. Ibid.

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Copyright 1999 by Deidre Johnson

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