Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Eugene Field grew up under the care of relatives in Amherst, Massachusetts after his mother died when he was six. Field's father was a famous lawyer, the first one to represent Dred Scott in his famous trial before it reached the Supreme Court. Field was intensely witty, but no stellar student and dropped out of three different colleges. After leaving school for the last time, Field traveled for six months in Europe and returned completely penniless. He got his first job as a newspaperman for the St. Joseph Gazette in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
While in Missouri, he married Julia Sutherland Comstock, with whom he had eight children. He wrote for four different newspapers in Missouri before moving first to Denver for two years (to write for the Denver Tribune) and then to Chicago and writing his famous column "Sharps and Flats." Throughout this time, while he was writing satiric essays, Field was also composing light verse for children. First published in a newpaper, Field gained fame as a poet in 1888 for his poem "Little Boy Blue," and his first book of verse, A Little Book of Western Verse was published the following year.