Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980) was one of the best-loved naturalists of his generation. As a writer, he has been ranked with Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Burroughs. He was also an accomplished photographer who pioneered new techniques for creating close-up images of insects and other living things.
Teale was born in Joliet, Illinois, and spent his boyhood summers at his grandparents’ farm in Indiana--a period recollected in his memoir Dune Boy (1943). In 1959, he and his wife Nellie left the increasing suburbanization of their Long Island home for a 130-acre wooded estate in Hampton, Connecticut, which they named “Trailwood.” This became the subject of one of Teale’s most popular books, A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm (1974). Among Teale’s many other books are The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre (1949), North with the Spring (1951), Circle of the Seasons (1953), and Wandering Through Winter (1965), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.
Teale was the recipient of numerous other awards, including the John Burroughs Medal in 1943 and the Ecology Award of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1975. He was an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Sciences, and an associate of the Royal Photographic Society.
Teale kept an unusually detailed record of his life and work, carefully preserving his diaries, field notes, correspondence, and rough drafts. Shortly before his death, he donated his literary manuscripts to the University of Connecticut Libraries. His widow Nellie later donated additional papers and a large part of their personal library. These materials are an important primary source for understanding America’s growing interest in natural history and the environment during a period of rapid urbanization.
After Nellie Teale’s death in 1993, Trailwood passed to the Connecticut Audubon Society which maintains it as a public sanctuary and a memorial to two remarkable individuals and their appreciation for the natural world.