Anna Alice Chapin Biography

Anna Alice Chapin was born on 16th December 1880, in New York City, America.

She was the daughter of Dr. Frederick Windle Chapin and Anna J. Hoppin. Her father, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, attended Trinity College, Hartford and received his medical degree from New York University. Her mother was most likely a close relative of the architect Howard Hoppin (1854 – 1940), who designed several buildings in the Pomfret Street Historic District, including the Chapin family home.


Anna Alice Chapin received a private education and studied music under Harry Rowe Shelley (1858 – 1947; an American composer and organist). She published her first book, The Story of the Rhinegold, when she was just seventeen years old. Some of her other works include: Wonder Tales from Wagner (1898); Wotan, Siegfried, and Brunhilde, (1898); Masters of Music (1901); The True Story of Humpty Dumpty (1905); The Now-a-days Fairy Book  – illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith (1911), The Spirit of the Sea (1912); The Topsy Turvy Fairy (1913); The Every Day Fairy Book (1915); Mountain Madness (1917); and Jane (1920).


Anna Alice Chapin is best known for her 1904 collaboration with Glen MacDonough (1870 – 1924) on the operetta, Babes in Toyland. This complicated story weaves together various characters from Mother Goose nursery rhymes into a Christmas-themed musical extravaganza. Following the extraordinary success of their stage musical The Wizard of Oz, which was produced in New York beginning in January 1903, producer Fred R. Hamlin and director Julian P. Mitchell hoped to create more family musicals.

Consequently, MacDonough and Chapin (MacDonough had helped Mitchell with revisions to the Oz libretto by L. Frank Baum) – were asked to help. The original production opened at the Chicago Grand Opera house in June 1903, and toured several East Coast cities before opening in New York in October 1903. It ran for 192 performances. This was followed by many successful tours and revivals. The piece was so popular in fact, that it spawned other ‘fairy-tale’ shows over the next decade.

Aside from her novels and Toyland, Anna Alice Chapin also wrote many short stories for magazines and newspaper syndication, and a play produced in New York City in 1910 entitled The Deserters, written with her husband, Robert Peyton Carter.

For such a talented and prolific author, Anna Alice Chapin had a tragically short life. After a short illness at her residence on West Thirteenth Street, New York City, she passed-away on 26th Febuary 1920 – at the age of thirty-nine. Chapin was sadly preceded in death by her husband, who had appeared on stage as recently as March, 1918, supporting Maude Adams in A Kiss for Cinderella.

Several of Anna Alice Chapin’s works have since been adapted for film. In 1919 The Deserters was released as Sacred Silence with William Russell and Agnes Ayres, and in 1920 Mountain Madness came out with a cast led by Mignon Anderson, Harold Miller (1894-1972) and Ora Carew. The libretto Babes in Toyland was first seen on film in 1934, as a vehicle for Laurel and Hardy – and again in 1961 with Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello.