Who was Uncle Wiggily? A look back at this children’s storybook star of long ago

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Uncle Wiggly and His Friends book

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Starting in 1910, and for more than three decades, Howard R Garis wrote “Uncle Wiggily” stories six days a week for The Newark News in New Jersey.

He lived to see near 80 books based on his characters published in his lifetime.

The original “Uncle Wiggily and His Friends” book came out in 1939, and the edition of this popular children’s book featured below was published in 1955. Below you will find a sampling of pages with illustrations from the book, along with more information to help answer the question: Who was Uncle Wiggily?

Uncle Wiggily, star of Christmases past

By Dolores Quinlisk – The Wichita Beacon (Kansas) December 25, 1974

Wichita likes to think of itself as a modern, sophisticated city. But how can it claim to be so, when you can’t even find a single Uncle Wiggily game within its entire confines?
More than a dozen stores visited — no luck.

Don’t local merchants know that generations of Americans had their first contact with competition, the laws of chance and probability, the excitement of the chase by playing Uncle Wiggily?

Imagine learning to cope with the world if you’ve never had the experience of taking five steps and falling into the alligator’s pond. Or the joy of landing at the candy store?

Not to mention the character-building experience of learning how to cope with the threat of ending up in the Pisgah’s den. Or finding yourself in the hen house with the fox (or something like that —  memory begins to fade a hit on some of the more explicit details).

Vintage Uncle Wiggily game board

Where’s Uncle Wiggily now?

But, the one-time importance of Uncle Wiggily in one’s life does not fade — the memory of its position of central prominence in one’s growing-up period is still clear and unmistakable.

How can the toymakers of America expect that anyone’s 2-1/2-year-old granddaughter can ever make it to adulthood with the proper attitude unless she has Uncle Wiggily to guide her?

What is particularly disturbing — and a clear sign of the state of our decline — is when a young voice answers our eleventy-third inquiry to a local store with: “Uncle Wiggily — what’s Uncle Wiggily? I don’t think we’ve ever had that.”

Vintage Uncle Wiggily game from Parker Brothers

Horrors! What’s happened to the new generation? I know it was just a few months ago that I saw Uncle Wiggily alive and well on the toy department shelves. There just was no occasion to buy one then.

Now, with Christmas here, it is of the utmost urgency and there is not one to be found. If that wasn’t enough to spoil one’s shopping for a granddaughter, it’s also impossible to find any Thornton Burgess books on the shelves.

The world of childhood cannot be complete unless one numbers among one’s friends, Danny Meadow Mouse, Reddy Fox, Buster Bear, Grandfather Frog and Peter Cottontail. It’s a rare day even when one encounters a book about snow ice cream and bobsledding on Blueberry Island.

The only realities that seem to have survived the ravages of time and skepticism are Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger.

They seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance, in fact, in this blase, pragmatic and technocratic society of 1974.

Instead of electric football, ballistic missiles, stockbroker games with their bull-and-bear markets, one gets rather nostalgic at Christmas time for the old world of childhood that was filled with magic and mystery.

Antique Uncle Wiggily paper doll hat gameAntique Uncle Wiggily paper doll hat toy game

Antique book - Uncle Wiggily in Wonderland

Vintage Uncle Wiggily book illustration

Uncle Wiggily Little Golden Book title page

Uncle Wiggily & His Friends vintage book (1955)

Vintage Uncle Wiggily and His Friends book cover (2)

Vintage Uncle Wiggily and His Friends book cover (1)

uncle-wiggly-friends-book-1950s (4)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggily and His Friends book (4)

Uncle Wiggily and the Barber

One day Uncle Wiggily Longears started out for a ride in his automobile. It had a turnip steering wheel that he could nibble on when he was hungry.

Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy, the muskrat lady housekeeper asked: “Why are you taking your rheumatism crutch along, Uncle Wiggily? You won’t need it when you are in the automobile.”

“Oh, you never can tell,” answered the rabbit gentleman. “I might want to get out and walk for a while.”

So away went Uncle Wiggily in his auto, with the red, white and blue striped crutch, like a barber’s pole, on the seat beside him.

The rabbit gentleman rode on and on, and pretty soon he came to a place where there was a little shop, made from corn-cobs. In front of the corn-cob shop was a nice monkey barber gentleman, and a little poodle dog.

The little poodle dog was singing this happy song:

“Barber, barber, shave a pig, I low many hairs will make a wig? Four and twenty — that’s enough, Give the barber a pinch of snuff.”

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggily and His Friends book (2)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggilyand His Friends book (3)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggilyand His Friends book (9)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggly and His Friends book (1)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggilyand His Friends book (7)

Pages from vintage Uncle Wiggilyand His Friends book (8)

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