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Ernest Thompson Seton Edit Profile

also known as Ernest Evan Thompson

artist , writer , author

Ernest Thompson Seton was best known as the author of Wild Animals I Have Known and as co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America.


Ernest Thompson Seton was born on August 14, 1860 in South Shields, England. Seton's family emigrated to Canada in 1866. Most of his childhood was spent in Toronto, Ontario. As a youth, he retreated to the woods to draw and study animals as a way of avoiding his abusive father. On his twenty-first birthday, Seton's father presented him with an invoice for all the expenses connected with his childhood and youth, including the fee charged by the doctor who delivered him. He paid the bill, but never spoke to his father again.

At the age of 21 he took the surname Seton in the belief that his father was the true heir to the lands and titles of Lord Seton, Earl of Winton.

After an appeal from his mother in 1887, he resumed the Thompson surname and began using the nom de plume Ernest Seton-Thompson on his published works; in 1901 he changed his name legally to Ernest Thompson Seton.


Although Seton won a seven year scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Arts in January 1881, he abandoned his studies after only seven months and returned to Canada, this time to settle on his brother Arthur's Manitoba homestead.


In 1876 Seton was apprenticed to the Toronto portrait painter John Colin Forbes and began night classes at the Ontario School of Art and Design.

Seton completed his art training between 1890 and 1896 at the Académie Julian in Paris.

In 1898 Seton published his first book of animal stories, Wild Animals I Have Known, telling the stories of Lobo, King of Currumpaw; Silverspot, the crow; and Raggylug, the cottontail rabbit, from the animals' points of view.

For the next ten years he turned out at least one book of stories annually, including The Biography of a Grizzly; Lives of the Hunted; Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac; Woodmyth and Fable; and Animal Heroes. The popularity of his stories was temporarily halted in 1903 when the naturalist/philosopher John Burroughs accused him in an article in the Atlantic Monthly of "faking" his animal tales.

Seton responded to this attack by investing the next five years in the research and writing of the two-volume Life Histories of Northern Animals which earned him the Camp Fire Gold Medal for 1909 and the renewed popularity of his books.

Seton met Scouting's founder, Lord Baden-Powell, in 1906. Baden-Powell had read Seton's book, The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, and was greatly intrigued by it. The pair met and shared ideas. In 1908, Baden-Powell introduced his own organization - the Boy Scouts - into England, incorporating most of the games and activities Seton had included in the Birchbark Roll. However, five years later he was forced out of the Boy Scouts because he was a pacifist. In 1930 Seton settled on a 2, 300-acre tract of land near Santa Fe, New Mexico. He published his autobiography in 1940 and his last animal story book, Santana, the Hero Dog of France, in 1945.


  • Founder of the Woodcraft Indians and founding pioneer of the Boy Scouts of America



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