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William Taylor Adams (July 30, 1822 – March 27, 1897), pseudonym Oliver Optic, was a noted academic, author, and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Adams was born in Medway, Massachusetts in 1822 to Captain Laban Adams and Catherine Johnson Adams.
Adams became a teacher in the Lower Road School in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1843, he resigned from his position as master of the school in 1846 in order to assist his father and brother in the management of their new hotel in Boston, their Adams House hotel. Adams decided that he preferred teaching so in 1848 he returned to teaching this time at the Boylston School in Boston, in 1860 Adams was promoted to the position of master of the Boylston School. When the Bowditch School was founded Adams transferred to that school as its master, a position he held until he resigned from teaching in 1865. This experience naturally brought him closely into contact with boys, and he learned much of what interested them, which had a good deal to do with his eventual success as an author. Extensive travel abroad and a deep knowledge of boats, farming, and practical mechanics were other factors that gave his works reality.
In 1846, Adams married Sarah Jenkins, with whom he had two daughters.
Adams served as a member of the School Board of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and later of the City of Boston,for 14 years.
Adams served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, for the 5th Norfolk District, from January 6, 1869 to January 5th 1870.
Adams first began to write at the age of 28, and his first book, Hatchie, the Guardian Slave (1853), was published under the pseudonym of Warren T. Ashton. It was only a modest success, but Adams was undaunted. In 1855 Adams produced his first real hit, the initial volume in the Boat Club series. Adams continued to write until he died in Dorchester, March 27, 1897. Among his best-known works were the two "Blue & Gray" series, which were set during the Civil War.
Adams wrote well over 100 books in total, most of them for a boy audience, and the majority of these in series of four to six volumes. He never wrote under his own name. Though "Oliver Optic" was the pseudonym he used most, his work also appeared under the bylines "Irving Brown," "Clingham Hunter, M.D.," and "Old Stager." Like many children's authors of his day, he was additionally an editor, and many of his works first appeared in Oliver Optic's Magazine.
Adams' writing was criticized by Louisa May Alcott, among others. Alcott used her story Eight Cousins to deplore Adams' use of slang, his cast of bootblacks and newsboys, and his stories of police courts and saloons. Adams responded in kind, pointing out Alcott's own use of slang and improbable plot twists.
(Around 1864 this series was reprinted in a uniform edition of two series, the "Riverdale Story Books" and "Flora Lee Stories", each of six volumes)
(#1, 3, 5 were later republished as the Soldier Boy Series; #2, 4, 6, as the Sailor Boy series.)
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