Frank R. Stockton was born in Philadelphia in 1834. He was
one of nineteen children. His mother, who was his father's second wife,
brought to the old New Jersey stock a mixture of French and Irish blood,
which may partly account for the capricious charm of Stockton's fancies.
His father was a fierce controversialist, writing stinging pamphlets
against the Jesuits, slavery, intemperance, and having a special
abhorrence of novels.
When Frank emerged from a mischievous boyhood, he began to study engraving
on wood. Even then he wrote fairy stories, and contributed to some of the
New York papers.
In 1860, he married Miss Marion Tuttle of Virginia and soon after came to
Nutley to live.
About this time he took a position on Hearth and Home, and in 1873 became
associate editor of St. Nicholas.
"Rudder Grange" was at first a story which he wrote for Scribner's. Its
cordial reception let him to enlarge it to the present delightful volume.
This was the first book he wrote for "grown-ups," although the elders had
long been reading his children's tales with delight.
Then followed years of giving out his unique stories, quaint, impossible
fancies told in a straight-forward matter-of-fact manner which made any
questioning of their probability seem quite preposterous. Eggleston said
there was one chamber of Stockton's mind denied to other brains.
"The Lady and the Tiger," written, so it has been said, for an evening
party at Mr. Boardman's in Nutley, has been translated into many
languages, and one day in India a group of Hindus were heard gravely
discussing the probable fate of the hero.
Stockton came to Nutley because of his friendship for Mr. William H.
Boardman, who is the boarder in "Rudder Grange."
The Stocktons lived in the house on Walnut Street near Nutley Avenue,
lately occupied by Mr. Fenton.
The following is a description by Mrs. Stockton, the delightful Euphemia
of his tales. "The first place in which we set up our household goods was
at Nutley, N.J. Our dwelling there was a pretty little cottage where we
had a garden, some chickens and a cow. This was our home during his
editorial days, and here 'Rudder Grange' was written."
Here also he wrote a number of his other stories. One called "Our Archery
Club" was written from experiences in the Nutley Archery Club. Stockton's
archery equipment cost something like $103.10. When he took this story to
the publishers he asked to a penny what his outfit had cost him, no more,
In the same way he dug a well at his next house at Convent, N.J., which
cost him, perhaps $320.23. He wrote a story about it, asking and receiving
exactly that amount in payment.
Mr. Boardman recalled how on a certain Sunday morning he was awakened by
hearing his name called. Looking out he saw Mr. Stockton crossing the
street from his home carrying under his arm a black hen.
He proceeded to tell Mr. Boardman how they had broken the spare room
washbowl and not caring to spend money for a new one, he offered this
guaranteed setting-hen for a washbowl. A long dickering and discussion of
terms followed resulting eventually in the transfer of the articles.
Euphemia's elaborate chicken-raising may be remembered.
To the account in "Rudder Grange," it should be added that the Stocktons
named their chickens after writers, and still called them by their names
when they reached the table.
Later, Stockton lived at Convent and at Madison, N.J.,
where he could have a more complete country life.
A few years before his death he became the possessor of a beautiful estate
in West Virginia, Claymont. The land had been owned and the house designed
by Washington, and for that reason it was twice spared from destruction in
the Civil War.
Stockton died in 1902 in the full maturity of his powers, with the
popularity of his works and personality at its height.
"There was no bitterness in his humor; he was neither a satirist nor a
preacher nor a teacher." His writings had absolutely no motive but to
beguile wearied hearts and brains away for a little into summer lands of
unreality. There everything speaks of simplicity, sweetness and humor, and
every perplexity has a happy ending.
Mrs. Stockton, the bright Euphemia, died in November, 1906, at her home in
The principal works of Stockton are Rudder Grange, The Rudder Granges
Abroad, The Lady or the Tiger, The Late Mrs. Null, The Casting Away of
Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, The Dusantes, The Hundredth Man, Personally
Conducted, The Merry Changer, The Squirrel Inn, The Watchman's Wife,
Source: History of Nutley by Elizabeth Stow Brown, The Woman's Public School Auxiliary, 1907
The Lady or the Tiger and Other Stories
The Stockton Room
Stockton Place, Nutley, N.J.