Brooks, Noah 1830-1903

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BROOKS, Noah 1830-1903

PERSONAL: Born October 24, 1830 in Castine, ME; died August 16, 1903 in Pasadena, CA; son of Barker (a shipbuilder) and Margaret (Perkins) Brooks; married Caroline Fellows, 1856; Education: Public and private schooling in Maine, studied art in Boston, MA, 1847-50. Hobbies and other interests: Landscape painting.

CAREER: Writer and publisher. Overland Monthly, assistant editor; Sacramento Union, special correspondent; New York Tribune, staff member, 1871; New York Times, editor, 1876; Newark Daily Advertiser, editor, 1884.


The Boy Emigrants, Scribners, Armstrong (New York, NY), 1877.

The Fairport Nine, Scribners (New York, NY), 1880.

Our Base Ball Club and How It Won the Championship, Dutton (New York, NY), 1884.

Abraham Lincoln: A Biography for Young People, Putnam's (New York, NY), 1888, published as Abraham Lincoln and the Downfall of American Slavery, 1894, published as Abraham Lincoln: His Youth and Early Manhood with a Brief Account of His Later Life, 1901, published as Abraham Lincoln: The Nation's Leader in the Great Struggle through Which Was Maintained the Existence of the United States, 1909.

The Boy Settlers, Scribners (New York, NY), 1891.

Statesmen, Scribners (New York, NY), 1893.

Tales of the Maine Coast, Scribners (New York, NY), 1894.

How the Republic Is Governed, Scribners (New York, NY), 1895.

Washington in Lincoln's Time, Century (New York), 1895.

Short Studies in Party Politics, Scribners (New York, NY), 1895.

The Mediterranean Trip, Scribners (New York, NY), 1895.

(Reviser) William Cullen Bryant and Sidney Howard Gay, Scribner's Popular History of the United States, 5 volumes, Scribners (New York, NY), 1896.

The Story of Marco Polo, Scribners (New York, NY), 1897.

The Boys of Fairport, Scribners (New York, NY), 1898.

Henry Knox: A Soldier of the Revolution, Putnam's (New York, NY), 1900.

Lem, a New England Village Boy, Scribners (New York, NY), 1901.

First across the Continent: The Story of the Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark, Scribners (New York, NY), 1901.

Contributor to periodical publications, including Scribner's Monthly, St. Nicholas, and Century.

SIDELIGHTS: Noah Brooks is remembered as a writer of juvenile historical fiction, but his capabilities were more diverse. Drawing on his upbringing in Maine, Brooks enjoyed writing tales of seafaring. His early childhood was comfortable, growing up as the son of a prosperous shipbuilder in the coastal village of Castine, Maine. When Brooks was seven, however, his parents died and his older sisters cared for him. Upon graduating from high school, Brooks trained in Boston as a landscape painter for three years, but did little with his art, and soon tried writing.

While still an art student, Brooks had begun publishing articles and short fiction pieces in local newspapers, including the satirical start-up Carpet-Bag. Encouraged by the publishing of his stories and humorous poetry, he opted for a literary career. Brooks left Boston for the Kansas Territory, and then to California, where he settled in the mid-1850s.

In California Brooks joined writer Bret Harte's new literary magazine, the Overland Monthly, as an assistant editor. He met and married Massachusetts native Caroline Fellows. But after his wife and infant daughter died around 1862, with the U.S. Civil War in progress, he took a job with the Sacramento Union as special correspondent from Washington, D.C.

This location allowed Brooks to rekindle an important acquaintance with President Abraham Lincoln, whom he had met traveling westward. "The friendship between the two blossomed and, it was said, Brooks was allowed complete access to the White House," Douglas Street wrote in Dictionary of Literary Biography. The men remained close friends up to the president's assassination. The president's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, favorably reviewed the biography Abraham Lincoln: A Biography for Young People. Although sales were initially disappointing, it gained in popularity and was republished numerous times, remaining a strong seller for more than twenty years.

Brooks moved to New York in 1871 and worked for the New York Tribune, New York Times and NewarkDaily Advertiser. Before leaving the New York area, however, he began publishing his first fiction since his Carpet-Bag days.

Brooks, returning to short fiction, sold many of his new stories to Scribner's Monthly, then an influential, New York-based literary journal, where in 1872 "The Cruise of the Balboa" and "The Waif of Nautilus Island" inaugurated a long series of sea-related tales. In 1873 Scribners invited Brooks to contribute a tale to the first issue of its newest publication, St. Nicholas, a youth-oriented monthly. Brooks submitted the semi-autobiographical "By the Sea."

Brooks's adventure stories were extremely popular. His characters were believable, his settings detailed. Most importantly, his stories simply entertained. Unlike much of the youth-market literature of the time, they were not preachy. His topics enticed his young, largely male, readership. Among his most successful subjects was baseball, upon which he based The Fairport Nine and Our Base Ball Club and How It Won the Championship. Both novels were first published in serialized form.

Brooks rarely strayed from the events of his own life. He drew from his experiences as a settler in Kansas, for example, in The Boy Emigrants and The Boy Settlers, and his knowledge of the president in the Lincoln biography. Although he took a different approach with The Story of Marco Polo ultimately the book was a success.

Brooks became ill as the nineteenth century closed, and moved to Pasadena, California, hoping to regain his health. He died there and was buried in his beloved Castine, Maine.



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 42: American Writers for Children before 1900, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985, pp. 91-96.

Downs, Robert B., and Jane B. Downs, Journalists of the United States, McFarland and Co. (Jefferson, NC), 1991.

Oxford Companion to American Literature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.*

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Brooks, Noah 1830-1903

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