Oliver Optic (William Taylor Adams)
The Blue and the Gray Series--
Taken by the Enemy
Within the Enemy's Lines
On the Blockade
Stand by the Union
Fighting for the Right
A Victorious Union
In 1838 his family moved to a farm in West Roxbury. There the boy found it hard to keep up with his education and do the farm work which was so necessary to his father. On winter nights he would study late, in a room so cold he had to wear mittens. In spite of these obstacles he remained at the head of almost every class--especially excelling in composition. His parents hired a private tutor for two years after he left school because he was so talented and wanted to further his education and develop his natural talents.
After he completed his education, William traveled extensively through both the Northern and Southern states, taking enormous amounts of notes which later proved to be of great value when he began his writing career. In 1846 he married Sarah Jenkins with whom he had two daughters.
William's father, Captain Laban Adams, a former proprietor of the Lamb Tavern in Boston, needed William's help in managing the first Adam's House which was located on the site of the old Lamb Tavern; consequently, he assisted his father for a short time in this endeavor. He then turned to teaching, where for twenty years he taught in the Public Schools of Boston. There he came in close contact with boys' life and he learned how to reach the boys' interest and heart. When he was twenty-eight years old he began to write stories and published his first book in 1853; in 1865 William began writing full time, and throughout his lifetime published about 126 books and more than 1000 stories (always using a pseudonym). His stories often led his heroes through great and sometimes improbable, yet educational, adventures. During these busy writing years he made time to serve on a school committee and, for one year (1869), served as a state legislator (he declined a renomination for a second term). William also wrote numerous articles for periodicals during his many years of writing, mostly without pay. His biggest success in article writing was through the magazine which used his pseudonym Oliver Optic. This, however, was not his only pen name. To name just a few: "Doctor Optic", "Irving Brown", "Clingham Hunter, M.D.", and at times "Old Stager". He never wrote using his own name.
After his first book Hatchie, the Guardian Slave brought only modest success, his next attempt, which was a collection of stories, was more successful. He then completed a book in 1855 for boys called The Boat Club. This book was so well received he followed it with five more in the Boat Club Series, after which many other series quickly followed.
Extensive travel abroad and the events of the Civil War, along with his personal knowledge and experience with boats, farming and practical mechanics, provided William massive quantities of material for his works, and nothing could stop his writing. Over a million copies of his books, alone, were sold. His motto in writing was "First God, then Country, then Friends."
Mr. Adams writing ceased only when death came quietly in his home in Dorchester (Boston) on March 27, 1897 at the age of seventy-five. His works, however, live on throughout time, with many continuing to be republished even to this day.