Gelett Burgess

1866 –

Frank Gelett Burgess, born on January 30, 1866, in Boston, was an American artist, author, and humorist. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he worked briefly for the Southern Pacific Railroad before setting out on a sketching trip through France and Spain. 

Upon his return to the United States, Burgess was hired by the University of California, Berkeley, as an instructor in topographical drawing. In 1895, shortly after his departure from the university, he founded the humor magazine The Lark, which ran for two years and featured his best-known quatrain “The Purple Cow.” Despite The Lark’s success, Burgess chose to end its publication, moving to New York and turning his attention to writing prose and verse. 

Burgess proceeded to publish numerous self-illustrated books for both children and adults. In 1900, he released the first installation of his Goops series, Goops and How to Be Them (Applewood Books). His many other works include Are You a Bromide? (B. W. Huebsch, 1906), from which Burgess is credited with coining the word ‘blurb’; The Master of Mysteries (The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1912); and Why Men Hate Women (Payson & Clarke, 1927). 

Burgess, who had returned to the West Coast at the end of his life, died on September 18, 1951, of a heart attack in Carmel, California.