Paul T. Gilbert

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Paul Gilbert at age 11

"Oh, my poor little sister, Bab,
You're paler than a ghost!
A great, cold-blooded, soft-shell crab
Is sprawling on your 'toast' "
    —a toast at Yale, 1901


Paul T. Gilbert was born in Lansing, Minnesota, May 15, 1876, the son of Anna and the Rev. Eli Gilbert, a Methodist minister and author of several books. He attended Yale University, where he was the class poet (also responsible for the lines above) and an editor of the Yale Courant, and graduated in 1901. After Yale, he boarded a ship to the Philippines, where he taught for two years, living in Mindanao and travelling to China and Japan. He wrote about his experiences in his first book, The Great White Tribe of Filipinia, which is available to read online.

Pioneering Newspaper Columnist

One of the country's early newspaper columnists, he joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune in 1904 and went on to become a feature writer for the Chicago Evening Post. He married Louise Dainty—an angelic looking young woman true to her name, and the daughter of an actress, Laura Dainty, who was head of the Dramatic Association at Chicago's Hull House—in 1905. They moved to Cincinnati, where he worked as an editorial writer for the Cincinnati Times-Star, and, in 1910, became dramatic editor for the Cincinnati Post. Moving back to Chicago after the untimely death of his wife in 1912, he was a columnist for the Chicago Inter-Ocean and then managing editor of Cartoons Magazine. He was also providing a weekly column of verse, Picture Poems, for a syndicate of several hundred newspapers.

In 1913 he remarried. The daughter of German immigrants who had met in the frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona, Ilse Forster was a concert violinist and mezzo-contralto, performing art songs and children's songs. During the 20's she had a radio show singing lullabyes to "100,000 children." They had two sons, Paul, Jr., and Peter.

Interviewing Celebrities

From 1918 to 1931 he was an adventurous feature writer for the Chicago Evening Post, interviewing many celebrities (read his comments about these interviews) including Rudolf Valentino, Albert Einstein, and Eleanor Roosevelt, and performing spectacular stunts for the benefit of the paper's readers—working as a bartender or museum guard or mounted police for a day, and apprenticing numerous times with the circus as an acrobat, animal trainer and clown.

During the Depression, after losing his job with the Post, Gilbert began writing the Bertram stories, which enjoyed immense popularity through the 1930's and into the 40's, and were published in Child Life Magazine and compiled in several books. In 1940, because of his failing health, he and his wife moved to Mexico and lived in Mexico City, where he enjoyed and wrote about the culture. A few years later they bought a house in Altadena, California, near their son, Paul, Jr., where they lived until Gilbert's death in August 1953.