Eugene Field was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 2, 1850. His father was Roswell Martin Field, an attorney who once represented Dred Scott, an African American man known for the 1857 U. S. Supreme Court case in which he sued for his freedom. Many believe the denial of Scott's bid by the court prompted the U. S. Civil War. After Field's mother, Frances, died in 1856, he and his brother, Roswell, were sent to Amherst, Massachusetts, to live with Mary Field, their aunt.
Field attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois; and the University of Missouri in Columbia, but left without graduating. In 1873 he began working at the St. Louis Journal. His humorous column "Funny Fancies" gained popularity among readers and in 1880, he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he worked as managing editor of the Denver Tribune and continued to pen a column. According to the Denver Public Library, "Eugene was known throughout Denver for his practical jokes. His office at the Denver Tribune included a chair with a false bottom. An unsuspecting person would attempt to sit in the chair and fall to the floor instead."
In 1883, Field moved to Chicago, Illinois, to write a column for the Chicago Daily News. Throughout his career, his columns would occasionally feature his light verse for children, and he became known as the "Poet of Childhood." His poems were published in collections including The Tribune Primer (Henry A. Dickerman & Son, 1900) and A Little Book of Western Verse (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903).