Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Perry Pictures: Robert E. Lee

This photo card of Robert Edward Lee measures just 3 inches by 3½ inches. The tiny text across the bottom states:


For information about The Perry Pictures and Eugene Ashton Perry, my best source turned out to be a message-board thread started in 2004 on Information Navigation. According to one poster:
"Perry Pictures Company was located in Malden, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. It produced rotogravure pictures on good quality stock paper useful for children illustrating school projects and reports in art, history, geography, etc.1 It was founded in 1897 and lasted probably to the mid-fifties. Its business was mostly mail order from a catalog. I grew up in Malden and used to visit the company in person. It was located in a old building in a side street. You climbed a flight of rickety stairs to visit the office, peruse the catalog, and make purchases. I still have a few 5x7 pictures (Roman antiquity) in my possession."
The message-board thread also contains great stories about how some people came into possession of their Perry Pictures. A sampling:
  • "I am putting my father's teenage diaries on-line at For June 2, 1938 he writes: 'Received some Perry Pictures which I ordered with Laura [his sister] last week. Got "The Dying Gaul," "Victory of Samothrace," and others.'"
  • "I have a whole book of them. They are pasted into a black book that is the size of a stenography book. I got them years ago at an antique shop."
  • "I found 5 Perry Pictures stashed in an old Longfellow poetry book and wondered about their creation and intended usage. If someone is looking to start the fascinating hobby of collecting, Perry Pictures would be a great way of starting, with out sacrificing an arm and a leg."
  • "I have a full collection intended for educational purposes. The prints are well kept and clear. I don't know if they are of any value other than the pleasure of having them. I have framed some of them and the prints make attractive and interesting home decor."
  • "I have a whole book of these pictures. It belonged to my grandparents and it was a gift from someone on their wedding day!"
So many great stories about these pictures!

1. The 1898 book "The Use of Pictures in the Schoolroom (Illustrated)" was written by Sarah Louise Arnold and published by none other than E.A. Perry of Malden, Massachusetts, to build demand for his photo cards. Here's one passage by Arnold, who was the "Supervisor of Schools" in Boston:
"But aside from the influence of the pictures upon the walls, much has been accomplished by the use of smaller reproductions, which fortunately have been placed within the reach of the lightest purse. No one can observe the common use of such pictures without rejoicing, — for these not only make their influence felt in the schoolroom, but they go out with the children into their homes, where they brighten the walls and multiply their teaching. I have visited schools where the Perry Pictures had been bought by the children, with money which otherwise would have been appropriated to pickles, gum, or candy.1 The teacher had placed some of the pictures about the walls of the room, and had allowed the children to choose 'one apiece' to remain upon their desks during the day. She said the pupils hung over the pictures with delight, slowly making their choices, loth to leave any, when all seemed to them so attractive. After keeping their pictures all day upon their desks, they wrote about them. The proposition to buy them was their own. 'We can save our own money,' they said. And so their books were made, picture and composition alternating upon the pages. The children showed them with pride, and described their pictures with affection and discernment as well."
Secondary footnote
1. Children saving their pennies for pickles! That's awesome.


  1. I think that Perry Pictures was still in business in 1958 when I moved from Malden. The side street was near Malden Square and I went there frequently to get pictures for various school papers. It was fun and an experience going through the catalog.
    Ed S.

  2. I have a lot of Perry pictures extra size, of president s and others, trying to find what there worth

  3. I have perry prints three of them extra size, ie On the alert, The Herd, Sheep, autumn. Is there value hereƉ prints aRE DATED 1836-88, 1901, 1822-88. I can be reached in Canada by cell at 705-279-0051 if there are interests.