American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

LINCOLN, JOSEPH C[ROSBY]. (1870-1944). Joseph C. Lincoln, the descendant of a long line of a seafarers, was a prolific author of best-selling verses, stories, and novels that portrayed life along the shore of Cape Cod* with nostalgia and humor. The son of Captain Joseph and Emily (Crosby) Lincoln, the author was born in Brewster, a small village that was home port for sea captains, fishermen, innkeepers, shop merchants, and saltworks owners.

After leaving Cape Cod, Lincoln worked for several years as a bookkeeper in Boston before becoming a commercial artist for The League of American Wheelmen Bulletin (LAW), in which his first poems were published. These early verses (1896-1898), such as “The Ballade of Miss Polly’s Hat” and “Waiting for the Mail,” were often brief, rhymed stories reminiscent of his boyhood experiences on Cape Cod. In 1897 Lincoln and his wife, Florence Ely Sargent, moved to New York, where he continued to submit his stories and poems to Harper’s Weekly, Ainslee’s, and The Saturday Evening Post while working as editor for a banking magazine. His first critical recognition came with the publication of “The Cod-Fisher” in Harper’s Weekly (7 July 1900). A lengthy poem evoking spray-soaked fishermen aboard a battered schooner in stormy seas, it was included in Lincoln’s first book, Cape Cod Ballads and Other Verses (1902). His first novel, Cap’n Eri (1904), a story of three Cape Cod sea captains, became an overnight success.

Thereafter, Lincoln devoted himself to writing. Dubbed the “Literary Dean of Cape Cod” by William Dana Orcutt, Lincoln wrote hundreds of short stories, poems, yarns, and more than forty novels about the people and villages of his native coast. Cape Cod Yesterdays (1935) contains his personal observations on a vanishing way of life. A bibliography of his work appears in A Prolific Pencil: A Biography of Joseph Crosby Lincoln, Litt. D. by Percy Fielitz Rex (1980).

Susan Raidy Klein