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Ernest Thompson Seton
Nature Bulletin No. 444-A    February 12, 1972
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

ERNEST THOMPSON SETON
When we old codgers were boys there was a book for youngsters, titled "Lobo, Rag and Vixen", written and illustrated by Ernest Seton Thompson about a wolf, a rabbit and a fox. In the Youth's Companion, St. Nicholas and other magazines there were stories about animals, Indians and Woodcraft by the same author. In 1898 his "Wild Animals I have Known" was published, followed by "Lives of the Hunted" in 1901, and "Animal Heroes" in 1905. We read these fascinating books again and again.

That was the pen name used by Ernest Thompson Seton until after the death of his mother, although one of his early writings was signed Ernest E. T. Seton and some of his drawings as Ernest E. Thompson. His great-grandfather Lord Seton, was Earl of Winton but his father never assumed the title and took the name of Thompson, another ancestor. Ernest, tenth son of these Scottish parents, was born in South Fields, England, in 1860. He was christened with a middle name, Evan, in honor of a wolf-hunting ancestor and always used the imprint of a wolf track as his insignia. He died at Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1946.

In 1866 his family emigrated to Canada and settled in the forested wilderness of Ontario. After four years of hardships they moved to Toronto and there, when 18 years old, Ernest won a gold medal in the Ontario Art School. He then persuaded his father to let him go to London where he succeeded in entering the art school of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences and won a scholarship. At the same time he studied in the library of the British Museum, became inspired by the writings of the great American naturalists, and decided to become one.

Subsequently, Seton spent many years of travel over the prairies, mountains and wilderness areas of Canada and the United States. Every day he made scientific records, measurements, sketches and notes. From these journals he produced forty-odd books, most of them out of print now, and a great number of magazine articles. Some of these books -- all superbly illustrated by himself -- are classics treasured in every natural history library. His "Lives of North American Game Animals" and "Lives of Game Animals" are standard reference books in every university, museum and zoo.

Seton was chairman of the committee which brought the Boy Scout movement to the United States, served as Chief Scout for five years, and wrote their first outdoor manual. He also founded the Woodcraft League and, at his home near Greenwich, Connecticut, conducted training courses for leaders of children's groups. He was a great teacher.

Ernest Thompson Seton's America -- a recent volume edited and with an introduction by Miss Farida A. Wiley -- contains choice selections from his books and articles, also some fine examples of his thousands of illustrations. He was unsurpassed as an illustrator -- either in a sketch which captured the action of people or animals with just a few lines, or in a finished drawing. He was a marvelous story teller and imitator of animal calls who gave over 300 lectures during his lifetime. He was a top-notch scientist whose reputation grows greater as the years go by. His writings are just as authoritative today as when first published. They are just as fresh and enjoyable by both young and old .

He lived with nature. He recorded it as it was and is.


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