Eugene Field was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. After the death of his mother he was raised by a cousin in Amherst, Massachusetts.
He briefly attended various colleges in Massachusetts and Missouri, but did not take his studies seriously for any length of time, and became known for his jokes and pranks. He tryed acting, and studied law with little result. He then set off for a trip through Europe, then returned to the United States six months later penniless. Field then set to work as a journalist for the Gazette in Saint Joseph, Missouri in 1875. The same year he married Julia Comstock. The couple would have 8 children. For the rest of his life he arranged for all his pay to be sent to his wife, as he said he had no head for money himself.
Field soon rose to become city editor of the Gazette.
He became known for articles written in a light, humorous, gossipy style, some of which were reprinted by other newspapers out of state.
From 1876 through 1880 he lived in Saint Louis, where he was editorial writer first for that city's Morning Journal and then for the Times-Journal. He then took a job as managing editor of the Kansas City, Missouri Times, then from 1881 began two years as managing editor of the Tribune of Denver, Colorado.
He first started publishing poetry on the side in 1879, when his book Christian Treasures appeared. Over a dozen more volumes followed, and he became well known for his light-hearted poems for children; perhaps the best known is "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod".
Eugene Field died in Chicago at the age of 45.
Several of his poems were set to music with commercial success. His former home in Saint Louis is now a museum. There is a memorial to him in Lincoln Park in Chicago.