Stephen W. Meader
From the dust jacket of The Long Trains Roll

Stephen W. Meader

1892 - 1977

Born on May 2, 1892 to Walter Meader, a Quaker educator, and his homemaker wife, Lucy, Stephen Warren Meader grew up during the era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, the first modern Olympic games, the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska, the invention of Kodak cameras, the first World Series Major League Baseball game, the release of the first silent movie “The Great Train Robbery” and the first powered flight by the Wright brothers. Given the whirlwind excitement of the early 1900s and the arrival of the roaring 20s is it any wonder that Meader was inspired to immortalize the ideal boy when he looked to provide for his growing family by writing novels?

At an early age Meader needed to shoulder adult responsibilities when his father left home to take a job as a lumberjack. Like his educator father, Meader was of the academic bent, graduating high school at just 16 years of age. Whether it was while his father was away from home or later as a young father himself, Meader portrayed and valued a strong work ethic. After graduating and before marrying, Meader’s first job was to work for the Essex County Children’s Aid Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and later for the Big Brother Movement. His work with children, often in heart-breaking and dire situations, inspired him to write, although the time didn’t present itself until later.

Following on the heels of the wildly popular Horatio Alger and his rags to riches tales for boys (read our article about why we don't recommend his books), Meader’s books for boys provided a marked difference from the Alger hero, who was always dependent on older male mentors and lucky breaks, never breaking away and achieving independent success. Meader’s heroes often did face abject poverty, moral dilemmas, or challenging adventures and while it’s true that like Alger, Meader often used the element of a “lucky break” in his writing, it was always just the catalyst for the hero to begin his hard and industrious work that provided for his “ideal” outcome.

According to Chesley Howard Looney in her dissertation Stephen W. Meader: His contributions to American Children’s Literature:

Values that Meader expressed in his books, such as self-reliance, patriotism, courage, doing the right thing, working diligently, loyalty, community, free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, and taking care of oneself and one’s family, are important in American society.

Meader himself expressed a wish to write books that covered a variety of historical times and geographical areas focusing on the romance of adventure. Never formally trained as a writer, Meader initially wrote without the structure of an outline or plan but just long hand as the story came to him. His over forty books cover genres of adventure, biographical fiction, nautical historical fiction, entrepreneurial or occupational fiction, environmental fiction, sports, mystery and war. His books were meant to educate the mind and cultivate the character as well as entertain which make them books we highly recommend. 

—Lara Lleverino

In the Author's Own Words

I think I developed the idea, after publishing about 20 books, that I had a mission and that mission was to cover all of America, all of the periods that were adventurous and romantic and hadn't been written about and all the, to me, fascinating places.

If you look over that list (of books), they cover the United States from Maine to Hawaii, Puget Sound to Florida. The bulk of the concept I have never fulfilled quite, but it's there. What I wanted to do is give children from sixth grade on a chance to open their minds to the bigness of the country and the richness of its history and that has been my aim. I think a lot of kids have developed some of that feel. They have enlarged their horizons. If I have done anything that is worthwhile in this life, that is it.

Who Rides in the Dark?
T-Model Tommy
Boy with a Pack
Clear for Action!
Blueberry Mountain
Shadow in the Pines
The Sea Snake
Jonathan Goes West
Behind the Ranges
River of the Wolves
Whaler 'Round the Horn
The Black Buccaneer
Away to Sea
Guns for the Saratoga
Sparkplug of the Hornets
The Buckboard Stranger
Sabre Pilot
Trap-Lines North: A True Story of the Canadian Woods
Everglades Adventure
The Commodore's Cup
The Voyage of the Javelin
Buffalo and Beaver
Phantom of the Blockade
Stranger on Big Hickory
A Blow for Liberty
Down the Big River
Keep 'Em Rolling
King of the Hills
Skippy's Family
The Cape May Packet
The Will to Win and Other Stories
Topsail Island Treasure
The Fish Hawk's Nest
Bat: The Story of a Bull Terrier
Red Horse Hill
The Muddy Road to Glory
Lonesome End
Wild Pony Island
Snow on Blueberry Mountain
Cedar's Boy
The Long Trains Roll