Image of Thornton Burgess


Lifetime: 1874 - 1965 Passed: ≈ 58 years ago


Author, Conservationist


United States

Thornton Burgess

Thornton Waldo Burgess was an American conservationist and author of children's stories. Burgess loved the beauty of nature and its living creatures so much that he wrote about them for 50 years in books and his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories. He was sometimes known as the Bedtime Story-Man. By the time he retired, he had written more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.

Born January 17, 1874 in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Burgess was the son of Caroline F. Haywood and Thornton W. Burgess, Sr., a direct descendant of Thomas Burgess, one of the first Sandwich settlers in 1637. Thornton, Sr., died the same year his son was born, and the young Thornton, Jr. was brought up by his mother in Sandwich. They lived in humble circumstances. As a youth, he worked tending cows, picking trailing arbutus (mayflowers) or berries, shipping water lilies from local ponds, selling candy, and trapping muskrats. William C. Chipman, one of his employers, lived on Discovery Hill Road, a wildlife habitat of woodland and wetland. This habitat became the setting of many stories in which Burgess refers to Smiling Pool and the Old Briar Patch.

Graduating from Sandwich High School in 1891, Burgess briefly attended a business college in Boston from 1892 to 1893, living in Somerville, Massachusetts, at that time. But he disliked studying business and wanted to be an author. He relocated to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he accepted a job as an editorial assistant at the Phelps Publishing Company. His first stories were written using the pseudonym W. B. Thornton.

He died on June 5, 1965, at the age of 91. His son had died suddenly the year before.

Books by Thornton Burgess

The Adventures of Reddy Fox Cover image

The Adventures of Reddy Fox

Animal Young adult fiction Kids

These delightful stories created by the writer known famously as the Bedtime Story Man provide hours of endless enjoyment for readers both young and old. His daily newspaper column which he wrote without a break from 1912 through to 1960 featured a h...

The Adventures of Buster Bear Cover image

The Adventures of Buster Bear

Animal Forest

Known to generations of children and their parents as the Bedtime Story Man, Thornton Waldo Burgess wrote nearly two hundred much loved children's books. They were tales that recounted the doings of delightful characters who inhabited the Green Meado...

The Burgess Animal Book for Children Cover image

The Burgess Animal Book for Children

Zoology Mammals

This collection of stories has thrilled generations of readers. Not only a charming introduction to the orders of animals in North America, but also a great study in how they relate to each other.

The Burgess Bird Book for Children Cover image

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

Non-Fiction Science
Zoology Orchards

The Burgess Bird Book for Children is a zoology book written in the form of a story featuring Peter Rabbit. Peter learns from his friend Jenny Wren all about the birds of North America, and we meet many of them in the Old Orchard, the Green Meadow, a...

The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk Cover image

The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk

Animal Nature

The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk is another in the long list children's books by the conservationist, Thornton W. Burgess. In this book, Jimmy Skunk has encounters with Reddy Fox, Peter Rabbit, Unc’ Billy Possum and other acquaintances of his in the Gre...

Mrs. Peter Rabbit Cover image

Mrs. Peter Rabbit

Fiction Fairy Tale
Animal Nature Children's Literature

A wonderful book in which we meet the lucky little bunny who becomes Mrs. Peter Rabbit! This is one of many delightful animal books written by Thornton W. Burgess. I grew up reading and enjoying these tales of talking animals with fun and varied pers...

Mother West Wind 'Why' Stories Cover image

Mother West Wind 'Why' Stories

Fiction Fairy Tale
Animal Nature Children's Literature

Thornton W. Burgess was a conservationist and prolific author of children's books. His gently humorous stories about the animals of the meadows and woods teach little lessons about getting along with others; they are perfect bedtime stories for small...

Bowser the Hound Cover image

Bowser the Hound

Fiction Fairy Tale
Animal Nature Children's Literature

Old Man Coyote craftily leads Bowser the hound away from home, and Bowser gets lost. Will Bowser find his way back to Farmer Brown's? Will Reddy Fox finally catch himself a chicken, now that Bowser is no longer guarding the henhouse? This is one of m...

The Boy Scouts on Swift River Cover image

The Boy Scouts on Swift River

History Young Mystery River Nature Action Mountains

When the adventurous Walter Upton and Hal Harrison set out with the young, but expert guide Louis Woodhull on a canoe trip through the wilderness, they were disappointed to take on an excitable Tenderfoot with them as their fourth. The boys had no id...

The Boy Scouts on Lost Trail Cover image

The Boy Scouts on Lost Trail

Action Skills Development Fun

Walter Upton again sets out with a group of boys on a great adventure in the North Woods, this time on foot. They've heard of a trail that had been used in the days of the settlers, and are seeking to locate and map it all the way to Canada. Their jo...

The Boy Scouts in a Trapper's Camp Cover image

The Boy Scouts in a Trapper's Camp

Action Skills Wisdom Memory Bravery Fun

We are brought on a couple of adventures with Walter Upton and his Boy Scout friends, this time in Winter. In The Boy Scouts in a Trappers' Camp, the boys learn a whole new set of skills and have to show their greatest level of bravery yet. This is t...

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad Cover image

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad

Pride Animal Children Nature Spring Childhood Life Social Change

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad is another in the long line of children's books by conservationist Thornton W. Burgess. In this book, we follow the adventures of Old Mr. Toad as he joins the Spring Chorus at the Smiling Pool, shows off his babies, dis...

Billy Mink Cover image

Billy Mink

Adventure Fiction
hunt Animal Children Nature Robbery Fun

“The stranger and the unknown must be always looked on with distrust.” --  Billy Mink The Green Forest and the Smiling Pool are full of adventure for Billy Mink and his animal friends – Bobby Coon, Jerry Muskrat, Juniper Hare and the others. But, dan...

The Christmas Reindeer Cover image

The Christmas Reindeer

Fairy Tale
Christmas Animal Children Nature Journey Myths Childhood Legends

Tuktu and her brother, Aklak, are Eskimo children who live happily with their beloved reindeer in the Northland. When Tuktu is lost in a fog, she meets Santa Claus or the Good Spirit as she knows him. This generous little girl wants to share her rein...

The Wishing-Stone Stories Cover image

The Wishing-Stone Stories

Fantasy Fiction
Animal Transformation Nature Success Forest Dark Wild West

“Tommy scuffed his bare, brown feet in the grass … A scowl, a deep, dark, heavy scowl, had chased all merriment from his round, freckled face. It seemed as if the very freckles were trying to hide from it. Tommy didn’t care. He said so. He said so ri...

The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat Cover image

The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat

Animal River Children Nature Challenges Explore Dramatic Theory

The story follows Jerry Muskrat, a curious and adventurous creature, as he explores his habitat and faces various challenges and dangers. The book takes place in the Green Forest and along the nearby river, where Jerry Muskrat lives with his friends...