Richard Stockton of New Jersey signed the Declaration of Independence, and suffered at the hands of the British as a result. His family remained prominent in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His descendent, Frank R. Stockton became a best-selling author of novels and short stories.
Frank Stockton was born in 1834 near Philadelphia. At the age of five, a leg injury made him partially lame. He showed writing ability early. While in high school he won a writing prize in a contest. His father advised against a writing career, so he became a wood engraver. His younger brother John became a steel engraver. Together they opened a shop in New York City
Frank was highly skilled, as shown by a remarkable copy of a Turner painting in which he rendered the misty indistinctness of Turner's work in the hard texture of a wood engraving.
In 1860, Frank married Mary Ann Edwards Tuttle, a teacher at the West Philadelphia School for Young Ladies founded by his mother. For their first home they made an excellent choice: 203 Walnut Street, Nutley, New Jersey. The Stockton Room here in our library commemorates their selection.
A serious eye infection made Frank temporarily blind and left him with permanently impaired vision. Because of this misfortune, he gave up his job and became a freelance writer. At first Marian took dictation. The perceived misfortune soon turned to good fortune when, in 1879, his novel Rudder Grange was published and became a best seller. He went on to become a prominent man of letters.
In 1882, he sold a short story to the Century Magazine titled "In the King's Arena," later changed to "The Lady, or the Tiger?" The rest is history. Everybody started talking about the unanswered question at the end of the story. Stockton received thousands of letters asking for the answer. He said that it was to be determined by the reader.
The Stocktons traveled extensively giving Frank many plot ideas for his stories. He and Marian bought a prestigious home in Morristown, New Jersey in 1890 and, later, another even more prestigious home in Charles Town, West Virginia.
In contrast to the grandiloquent
Victorian style of the era, Frank Stockton wrote clearly and succinctly, as
do modern authors. His works included children's fiction, adult fiction, ghost
stories, humor, fantasy and, amazingly, science fiction.
Source: Jack Huff, Nutley resident and collector of Stockton rare editions