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Dorchester Illustration of the Day, October 5, 2010
Oliver Optic - William T. Adams
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 Dorchester Illustration of the Day no. 1400

Portrait of William T. Adams (Oliver Optic) in Oliver Optic's Books. Boston: Lee and Shepard, ca. 1880. Adams was the author of hundreds of books for young boys and girls in which the heroes were always of good character and plenty of spirit, overcoming adversity through their own will power and in the end often finding a long lost relative who left them a fortune. The books included titles such Now or Never, Try Again, Poor and Proud, Little by Little, etc. Mr. Adams lived in a house at Field’s Corner.

The following is from: One of a Thousand. A Series of Biographical Sketches of One Thousand Representative Men Resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A.D. 1888-89. Compiled under the editorial supervision of John C. Rand. Boston: First National Publishing Company, 1890.

Adams, William T., son of Laban and Catharine (Johnson) Adams, was born in Medway, Norfolk County, July 30, 1822.

He was educated in the public and private schools of Boston and vicinity, and when a mere lad displayed a talent for writing, his first article being published in the “Social Monitor.”

For three years Mr. Adams was the master of the “Lower Road” school in Dorchester (located on Adams Street). In 1846 he resigned his position to assist his father and brother in the management of the Adams House, Boston. Mr. Adams resumed teaching in 1848, in the Boylston School, Boston, becoming the master in 1860, and on the establishment of the Bowditch School, he was transferred and held the post of master of that school till he resigned in 1865. He then went abroad and traveled throughout Europe, dating his career as an author from this period.

Mr. Adams’s nom de plume, “Oliver Optic,” originated from his having written a poem in 1851 which was published under the heading of “A Poem Delivered Before the Mutual Admiration Society, by Oliver Optic, M.D.” The name “Optic” was suggested by a character in a drama at the Boston Museum, called “Dr. Optic.” To this Mr. Adams prefixed “Oliver,” with no thought of ever using it again. But soon after two essays appeared in the “Waverly Magazine,” “by Oliver Optic,” which were so well received that he continued to write under this pseudonym until it became impracticable to abandon it. His books, numbering over a hundred volumes, are widely and deservedly known.

Mr. Adams was married October 7, 1846, to Sarah, daughter of Edward and Martha (Reed) Jenkins. Mrs. Adams died in 1885. Their children are: Alice Marie, wife of Sol. Smith Russell, and Emma Louise, wife of George W. White, a member of the Suffolk bar. Mrs. White died in 1884.

In 1867, Mr. Adams was unanimously elected a member of the school committee of Dorchester. He served until the town was annexed to Boston, and was elected a member of the Boston school committee and served for ten years. In 1869 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives and served one year, and declined a re-nomination.

In 1870, he went to Europe a second time, and three times recently, traveling through the countries not previously visited, and the books which he has since published show the result of his observations.


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Created: October 5, 2010   Modified: October 5, 2010