[To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read”]

Peter Parley’s Story of the Little Gardener
by Samuel Goodrich (1833)

This little paper-bound book was one of eight stories published separately before being printed together in 1834 as Parley’s Short Stories for Long Nights. Its front cover shows a youngish Peter Parley, in his trademark “small clothes,” chatting with a group of children.

The frontispiece for this book was the basis for “Peter the Little Gardener,” a woodcut advertising W. N. Stevens’ “variety store” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 1837 to 1839.

The little books were listed by Allen & Ticknor as Parley’s small picture books and were sold until at least June 1, 1845, according to The Cost Books of Ticknor & Fields and Their Predecessors, 1832-1858, edited by Warren S. Tryon and William Charvat (NY: Bibliographical Society of America, 1949). The cost was $9 per gross—rather less than a collector would pay now.

Peter Parley’s Story of the Little Gardener, by Samuel Goodrich (Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 1833)

[front cover]

Peter Parley stands among children


A boy in a huge hat kneels beside a pot in which a very tall flower grows

[title page]




[copyright page]

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1833,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

p. 3


A few years since, a man came over from Ireland, and settled in Boston. He was a gardener, and his name was Murphy. He was very poor, but he was very honest. He loved to work in the garden, and nothing pleased him so much as to plant seeds in the ground, and see the plants grow when they came up.

p. 4

Now this poor Irishman had lost his wife before he came to Boston; but he had one son, whose name was Peter. This boy he brought with him. He was a good child, and loved very much to work in the garden with his father. He had a little spade, with which he dug up the ground, and a little hoe, with which he destroyed the weeds. He would lay out the ground in beds, and these he would plant with seeds. In a few days, these seeds would shoot up from the ground, and then little Peter would spend his time

p. 5

in pulling up the weeds, and in loosening the ground around his plants.

He was very fond of flowers, which he used to raise in earthen pots. He had roses, pinks, daisies, myrtles, and many other things. Some of these were very beautiful, and Peter loved them almost as much as if they had been his brothers and sisters. He spent whole days in taking care of them, and ws never so happy as among his flower-pots, and his little beds in the garden.

Peter’s father was very glad to see

p. 6

his son so industrious, and so fond of gardening. He encouraged him in these innocent pleasures, and spent much of his time in teaching his little son the art of cultivating plants and flowers.

Thus the father, though he was poor, was happy, and Peter, though his feet were bare in summer, and though he labored all day, knew no sorrow. But at length the poor Irishman was suddenly taken sick, and died. Peter, as I said before, had no mother, and now the poor boy had no father. He had indeed no friends, and the persons

p. 7

whom he knew were too poor to assist him. He was taken care of by an old woman for a few days, but she was no longer able to find him food, and he was therefore obliged to leave her.

He was very young, and now, alas! he was destitute of every thing. His little straw hat was worn out, and he had nothing to wear upon his head. His shoes were gone, and, though the weather was growing cold, his feet were bare. His clothes, too, were thin; and, as he went out in the morning to beg some one to give him food, he shivered, and his teeth chattered with cold.

p. 8

He went along in the streets for some time, and he met a great many people; but he did not dare to speak to them. He was very hungry, for he had eaten nothing the day before; but he did not know how to beg. He wandered about for several hours, till at length he came to a baker’s shop. The windows were filled with gingerbread, and every thing that was good to eat. He put his little foot upon the step, and was about to enter; but the baker looked sharply at him, and Peter, finding his heart to fail him, went away.

He proceeded in his walk through

p. 9

some of the fine streets, looking wistfully at the nice things he saw in the shop windows; but he had no money, and he felt that he had no friends.

But he was now starving with hunger, and he resolved to enter some house and ask for a piece of bread. At this moment he came to a large house belonging to some rich man. From the sidewalk he could look into the kitchen. Here he perceived a plenty of food, and as he approached the window, the steam of meat, and the flavor of pies and cakes, met his nose. Surely, thought the little boy,

p. 10

the people here have so many good things, that they will not refuse me a crust of bread.

With this idea, he ventured timidly down the steps, and entered the kitchen. He there met a woman, and gently asked her to give him something to eat. He told her his sad story, and prayed her to save him from being starved. But the woman had a hard heart, and would give him nothing. In vain did the little boy plead for a single crust of bread: this was refused, and the woman sternly commanded him to leave the room.

p. 11

Sad, and almost broken hearted, Peter left the place; and, ashamed now to be seen in the crowded streets, he retired to a remote part of the city. Here he walked about in the narrow lanes till evening.

When it was dark, he sat down upon a stone, and gave himself up to grief. He was chilled with the cold night wind; for his head and feet were bare, and his clothes were very thin.

It soon began to rain, and at length it fell in showers. Peter was wet to the skin; yet he had no home, and therefore he continued to sit upon the stone.

p. 12

With his head leaning upon his hand, he remained for a long time faint with hunger, and trembling with the wet and cold. At length he thought of his poor father, and of the happy days he had spent in attending his flowers. He thought of his mother too, whom he remembered very well, though she had been dead two years.

And now, for the first time, he began to weep. No one saw him, for it was very dark, and few people passed along the narrow street. His tears mingled with the rain that ran down his cheeks, and his sobs might have been heard

p. 13

amid the pattering of the water that fell from the houses.

But, alas! there was no one to hear, and the poor boy continued in his lonely and desolate situation till the bell had rung for nine o’clock.

About this time, a man was passing by the place where Peter sat. It was so dark that he saw nothing, but he thought he heard the voice of some one in distress. He stopped and listened. He then distinctly heard the sobbing of a child.

At this moment, some person happened to go near the place with a lantern. The light shone on a little boy

p. 14

that was sitting alone upon a stone. The kind-hearted man was touched with pity, for he saw that the child was weeping and that he was exposed to the cold night air and the drenching shower.

He approached, and asked the boy why he was there. Peter told him his story, and the good man wept in sorrow. “But come with me, my boy,” said he, “come with me. I will take you to a warm room, and I will give you food. Come with me, and if you are a good boy, I will be your father, and you shall want for nothing.”

Peter now took hold of the man’s

p. 15

hand, and trotted along the pavement with his bare feet. They soon reached the house, and Peter warmed himself by a good fire. He had then a bowl of bread and milk, and afterwards was provided with a warm bed.

As he lay down, he thanked that good Being in heaven, who had thus turned his sorrow into joy; and his heart was full of gratitude to the kind man who had brought him home to his house. After a night of sweet sleep, Peter waked up, and again offered his thanks to Heaven.

I need hardly tell you the remainder of Peter’s story. He lived with the

p. 16

man who had brought him home, and, by his good conduct, won the favor of all who knew him. When he grew up, he chose to be a gardener; and, as he was very industrious, he laid up a good deal of money, and built himself a small house. By the side of it was a neat little garden, where he raised vegetables and flowers. These he used to sell; and thus he lived very happily. And so, my little reader, all persons, however poor, may get to be happy, if, like this little Irish boy, they are good and industrious.

[back cover]

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