Edwin Way Teale: A Quiet Voice With a Profound Influence

Thoreau Society President Tom Potter will give a noon lecture at the Old Manse on Friday, Oct. 21, on Edwin W. Teale, the "20th Century Thoreau."

The following was provided by Tom Beardsley for the Thoreau Society.

Following the war years, Edwin Way Teale's writings created vicarious travel adventures for the nation, his words quietly creating an enlarged awareness of the natural world both close to home and afar. And although his work was not notably confrontational, his words made people aware of the wonders of their world and in turn the need for preservation and protection. As the fourth president of the Thoreau Society, Teale employed that platform in continuing guiding others to a broader appreciation of the infinite mysteries of their world. Coming to Concord each year, he met with and influenced many of the leaders in the growing conservation movement.

There are only around 35 seats available, so book your place right now. If it is a nice day, Tom will hold his lecture outside under the Old Manse’s large green tent.

Here’s some wider context for those who have yet to discover Teale and his outstanding work:

As a naturalist, Teale (1899-1980) has been ranked with Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Burroughs. He was also an accomplished photographer who pioneered new techniques for creating close-up images of insects and other living things.

He was born in Joliet, Illinois, and spent his boyhood summers at his grandparents’ farm in Indiana — a period recollected in his memoir "Dune Boy," (1943). In 1959, Teale and his wife Nellie left the increasing suburbanization of their Long Island home for a 130-acre wooded estate in Hampton, Connecticut, which they named “Trailwood.” This became the subject of one of Teale’s most popular books, "A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm," (1974). Among Teale’s many other books are "The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre" (1949), "North with the Spring" (1951), "Circle of the Seasons" (1953), and "Wandering Through Winter" (1965), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Teale was the recipient of numerous other awards, including the John Burroughs Medal in 1943 and the Ecology Award of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1975. He was an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Sciences, and an associate of the Royal Photographic Society.

Teale kept an unusually detailed record of his life and work, carefully preserving his diaries, field notes, correspondence, and rough drafts. Shortly before his death, he donated his literary manuscripts to the University of Connecticut Libraries. His widow Nellie later donated additional papers and a large part of their personal library. These materials are an important primary source for understanding America’s growing interest in natural history and the environment during a period of rapid urbanization.

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