I Never Saw a Purple Cow … Wait, That’s Not Quite True.

Happy Birthday, Gelett Burgess

Gelett Burgess should be remembered for far more than a simple little rhyme about an oddly colored bovine.

Gelett Burgess PDBurgess was a prolific humorist, writer, and poet.   He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records world record for collecting synonyms for the word “drunken

In 1891, Burgess founded and served as the first president of what is now the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco, which were the first of their kind in the United States west of the Mississippi.

For God’s sake, the man coined the term “blurb” , which we still use to this day …

Sigh … but here’s what we remember:

The original, which appeared in The Lark in 1895:

The Lark - 1895 - Purple Cow

I never saw a Purple Cow,

I never hope to see one;

But I can tell you, anyhow,

I’d rather see than be one.[1]

Burgess was less than happy about the immediate popularity of what he considered a rather silly and inconsequential poem.  

A few years afterward, he created “Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue”, which appeared in The Lark interestingly on April 1st. 1897.  I repeat it below, apparently at some risk to my well-being:

Purple Cow 2

Ah, yes, I wrote the “Purple Cow”

 -I’m sorry, now, I wrote it; 

But I can tell you anyhow 

I’ll kill you if you quote it!


I  will probably have nightmares about angry purple cows tonight in the Heartland ….


All information in this post is from the Wikipedia entries for “Gelett Burgess” and “Purple Cow”