E. B. White & E. M. White: Any Family History????


LOVES Wooden Canoes
I recently posted an entry on my blog about E. B. (Elwyn Brooks) White,the author of the famous children’s books Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and the long popular writing textbook The Elements of Style, and the canoes in his life. Since he was from Maine....and his son & grandson are well known boat builders and designers....and in part the similarity to their respective first initials....I am curious if E. B. White might have been related to E. M. White. This would be interesting given the aspect that canoes played in E. B.'s life. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
I've been thinking along these lines, as a matter of fact... since learning our new 1890s-era canoe probably isn't a Gerrish and because it has some mysterious initials on it... and since Charlotte's Web is my very favorite book... I'd love to follow-up on the boat-builders of E.B.'s family!


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There is no know relationship between E.B. and E.M. except for the often told story by Jerry that they both are his grandfathers. I'm not sure but the guy can both write and build!
Interesting initials on Kathryn's canoe indeed.....E. B. White was given a canoe on his 11th or 12th birthday by his father....and he spent time here in Ontario at Camp Otter (and was later staff there)...so he had experience with wood canvas canoes....but not sure of the 1890s????....unless the canoe he got at 11 or 12 was from that period?????....whatever, it certainly is worth getting more info on Kathryn's canoe....and any possible connection between E. B. and E. M.????....whether through family or even just a canoe (imagine if E.B.'s canoe turned out to be a E. M. White????....with E.B.W. on it????....that would be so cool; OK too much dreaming or speculation LOL LOL)....thanks Rollin for reply; it seems unlikely as to a direct family connection....any more ideas????
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E.B. was born in Mt. Vernon, NY (Westchester County), and didn't move up to Maine until the late 1930s (google is your friend).

Joel White, E.B.'s son, was highly respected as a boat designer - among other things he is known for the Haven 12-1/2, Nutshell Pram, Shellback Dinghy, Catspaw Dinghy, and Shearwater.

It seems that if Joel were related to the Maine canoe-building Whites, it would have come out by now.
Thanks Dan....I knew that E. B.'s immediate family had lived in New York....where E. B. was born....but I'm curious if there might have been some family connection to Maine since they settled there; if perhaps E. B.'s family had relations in Maine....I know it's a reach but just curious
Although EB may not have moved to Maine until the '30's, his personal connection to the state began much earlier -- when he was 6:

"One summer, along about 1904, my father rented a camp on a lake in Maine and took us all there for the month of August. We all got ringworm from some kittens and had to rub Pond's Extract on our arms and legs night and morning, and my father rolled over in a canoe with all his clothes on; but outside of that the vacation was a success and from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine. We returned summer after summer--always on August 1st for one month."

EB's boating as an adult was primarily salt-water sailing, but he never completely lost the love of canoes he had as a youth. Scott Elledge, in his 1986 biography of EB, reports that to celebrate his eighty-first birthday, White lashed a borrowed canoe to the top of his car and drove to "the same Belgrade lake where, seventy years before, he had received a green Old Town canoe from his father, a gift for his eleventh birthday. He subsequently “drove to Old Town, Maine, and bought himself a new, green fifteen-foot wood-and-canvas canoe I anticipation of returning the following year to the Pond . . ..”

Any family connection to EM White seems unlikely, and if a connection existed, it was likely remote -- White is a fairly common name. EB was, of course, a small child when EM began building canoes. EB’s father Samuel Tilly White, who was the same generation as EM, was born in Brooklyn and became a successful piano manufacturer in New York. His grandfather was a carpenter in Brooklyn, NY. But EM’s family home was in Gilman Falls, Maine, where he is reported to have bent canoe ribs in his mother's washtub when he began building canoes.

I don’t know Elledge’s source for EB’s 11 year old birthday gift being an Old Town canoe – as we know, old canoes are often thought of generically as Old Towns.
Thanks Greg for info....that certainly answered a lot about both White families....as for the canoe that E.B. got at 11 (or 12) and other aspects of canoeing related to E.B. White here's some of what I posted in the original blog entry, http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpres...noe-and-the-outdoors-in-his-life-and-writing/, (in case any here haven't read it yet):

In E.B. White’s Drafts of “Once More to the Lake” (page two) by Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide, http://grammar.about.com/od/writersonwriting/a/ebwlakedrafts_2.htm, comes this:

Postscript (1981)

According to Scott Elledge in E.B. White: A Biography, on July 11, 1981, to celebrate his eighty-first birthday, White lashed a canoe to the top of his car and drove to “the same Belgrade lake where, seventy years before, he had received a green old town canoe from his father, a gift for his eleventh birthday.”

From http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-charlottes-web/abouttheauthor.html:

Born Elwyn Brooks White on July 11, 1899, to Jesse Hart White and Samuel T. White, E. B. White grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, a suburb of New York City. The youngest child in a large family, born at the beginning of his father’s greatest prosperity, White enjoyed a childhood of unusual privilege for those days. He had the first bicycle in the neighborhood, and at age twelve, his father presented him with a canoe.

In the NY Times obituary, http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0711.html, On This Day, October 2, 1985, E.B. White, Essayist and Stylist, Dies by Herbert Mitgang comes the following:

….after he had begun to slow down, he typed, with his usual good humor, a long letter to a friend: ”I have a first degree heart block, have lost the sight in my right eye because of a degenerated retina, can’t wind my wrist watch because my fingers have knuckled under to arthritis, can’t tie my shoelaces, am dependent on seven different pills to stay alive, can’t remember whether I took the pills or didn’t.”

”On the other hand, I am camped alone, here at Bert Mosher’s Camps on the shore of Great Pond which I first visited in 1904; I have my 15-foot green Old Town canoe with me, which I brought over on the top of my car; I sat out a New England boiled dinner this noon by anticipating it with martinis and cheese-and-crackers before walking up to the farmhouse, and after dinner (or lack of same) went fishing for bass in my canoe.

Unfortunately it appears that the canoe may have also led to E. B. White’s demise as stated in the recollections of Roger Angell of the personal history of his stepfather in Andy: For E. B. White’s readers and family, a sense of trust came easily, as published in The New Yorker, Febuary 14, 2005, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact?currentPage=all:

….one evening in August, 1984, when he came for dinner he complained that he’d knocked his head the day before while unloading a canoe from the roof rack of his car, over at Walker Pond; now he was having trouble knowing exactly where he was or what was happening around him. Carol and I smiled at him. “Yes, that happens sometimes, doesn’t it?” we assured him.

But he knew better. A couple of months later, after we’d left, he took to his bed and never again knew exactly where he was. It looked like a rapid onset of Alzheimer’s, but more likely, the doctors thought, was a senile dementia brought on by the blow to his head that day. He was eighty-five now. Nurses and practical nurses and other local ladies were hired, round the clock, who took extraordinary care of him. My brother managed it all, and somehow managed his own life as well. When I came up for a visit, early in the winter, Joe said that Andy would know me but that our conversation would be interesting. “How do you mean?” I said. “You’ll see,” he said.

I walked in and found him restless in his bed and amazingly frail. His eyes lit up and he said my name in the old way: “Rog!” He wanted to know how I’d come from New York and I said that Henry Allen had picked me up at the Bangor airport. “Did you fly over Seattle on the way?” he asked. He didn’t seem troubled when I said no, and after a moment murmured, “Lost in the clouds.”

He died the next October, still at home and able to recognize the people around him. Joe told me that in that long year he’d read aloud to his father often, and discovered that he enjoyed listening to his own writings, though he wasn’t always clear about who the author was. Sometimes he’d raise a hand and impatiently wave a passage away: not good enough. Other evenings, he’d listen to the end, almost at rest, and then ask again who’d written these words.

“You did, Dad,” Joe said.

There was a pause, and Andy said, “Well, not bad.”

(Note: E. B. picked up the nickname “Andy” at Cornell, where tradition confers that moniker on any male student surnamed White, after Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White.)

Let me end with a quote by E. B. White that I love….from the review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06365/749712-148.stm, Sunday, December 31, 2006, ‘Letters OF E.B. White: Revised Edition’, Letters collection affirms wit, charm of E.B. White, by James A. Butler comes this priceless observation:

On age: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.”

As somebody who sometimes feels his age (even if I don’t always act it LOL LOL), I like the idea that the canoe is ideal for even just an older man….and that all it requires is for him to sit and move his arms….even I can do that much LOL LOL. But then E. B. White was still picking up his canoe on his own late in life, so I guess I don’t have many excuses for not portaging LOL LOL.

Obviously, the question regarding any possible family connection between E.B. and E.M. has been resolved....there was little or no family connection, certainly no direct connection....about all that both likely had was the state of Maine....however I'm still interested in those initials on Kathryn's canoe....and think how cool it might be if it was.....?????
Stu's Canoe

Posting for those who may have forgotten what Stuart paddled...


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Posting for those who may have forgotten what Stuart paddled...

Regarding E. B. White's Stuart Little, here's some further info:

From Walking Off The Big Apple (A Strolling Guide To New York City) comes this article E. B. White And The New York Of Stuart Little, http://www.walkingoffthebigapple.com/2009/08/e-b-white-and-new-york-of-stuart-little.html:

Scott Elledge, the foremost biographer of E. B. White, points out many parallels between Stuart and the author, as well as some similarities between the mouse and White’s father. His list includes “Stuart’s love of boats, cars, canoes, skating, and travel; the call of the north and the love of morning and summertime.” (Scott Elledge, E. B. White: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1985, p. 262)

In Ames’ Crossing, Stuart meets a tiny girl, Harriet Ames, and after fantasizing about the great perfect date with her on the river in his little gift shop souvenir canoe, the eventual meeting turns into a disaster. In retrieving the canoe, Stuart finds the boat displaced and wrecked, presumably by children, and while normally a mannerly young mouse, he loses emotional control. The girl is willing to make the best of the situation, but Stuart can’t wrestle away his disappointment. She walks away, also dispirited. He’s learned a lesson, however, and he presses on with his journey.

From http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/08/03/lifetimes/white-designs.html?_r=1, May 24, 1970, The Designs of E. B. White by Gerald Weales:

In emphasizing the separate units in “Stuart Little,” I do not intend to deny the design, for the quest requires a continuing hero and it usually resorts to recurring figures and verbal or thematic echoes. Stuart’s bravery is established when he goes down the drain to get his mother’s ring. His sense of adventure, his resourcefulness, even that touch of dandified pompousness which recalls Lancelot, are all dramatized before beauty–in the person of Margalo, the fugitive birds, flies in and out of his life. There is a nice thematic line from Katharine’s souvenir pillow in the schoolroom chapter to the canoe with which Stuart hopes to impress Harriet. The pillow was the gift of a boy Katharine met at summer camp and the canoe, also a souvenir, is labeled “Summer Memories.” But the little girl will not let Stuart have the pillow and the canoe is smashed before he can use it–and rightly so. They represent the comfort of settling for less and are not for Stuart; after all, he, like Cuchulain, is a hero. But, despite these thematic lines, the book has no real ending. The quest for beauty is necessarily open-ended; we can always cheerfully pick up our hero at any point on his journey.
How interesting.....what a cool notion to know those initials could be EB Whites. Either way, a really cool story. Part of the reason we love these old canoes is the era they were made and the stories that are attached to them. There is just something about it.