Biography Gelett Burgess

Gelett Burgess

photo of Gelett Burgess
  • Time Period1866 - 1951
  • PlaceBoston
  • CountryUnited States

Poet Biography

Frank Gelett Burgess (January 30, 1866 – September 18, 1951) was an artist, art critic, poet, author, and humorist. He was born in Boston, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in 1887.

Burgess lost his job as a technical drawing instructor at the University of California, Berkeley (1891–1894) because of unmentionable alterations to statues of Henry Cogswell, a famous Bay Area dentist (he deliberately toppled several of them that he considered an eyesore), who had donated several statues of himself to the city of San Francisco, California.

Burgess married Estelle Loomis in 1914.

He is famous for writing the poem "The Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least." The poem first appeared in volume 1, number 1 (May 1, 1895) of the 16-page monthly magazine The Lark, published in San Francisco by William Doxey. It was edited and written primarily by Burgess, who took great delight in creating pseudonyms for himself. For example, in volume 1 four of the other "authors" are Burgess writing under different names. The final issue, number 25 entitled The Epi-Lark, was published May 1, 1897.

Burgess wrote and illustrated several children's books about the habits of strange, baldheaded, idiosyncratic child-like creatures he called "The Goops". He created the syndicated comic strip Goops in 1924, and worked on it to its end in 1925.

An influential article by Burgess, "The Wild Men of Paris", was the first introduction of cubist art in the United States. The article was drawn from interviews with Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.

His books The Maxims of Methuselah and The Maxims of Noah were illustrated by Louis D. Fancher.

Burgess founded the San Francisco Boys' Club Association, now the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, in 1891. The Club was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River.