Thursday, April 19, 2018

Early 1940s fairy-tale books found in a Little Free Library

While adding some books to a Little Free Library earlier this year, I came across a pair of miniature old fairy-tale books and decided to do a "catch and release," so to speak, so that I could share them here on Papergreat before placing them back into a Little Free Library.

These slender hardcovers measure 5¼ inches by 6¾ inches. They are labeled "The Little Color Classics" and were published by McLoughlin Brothers. Cinderella was published in 1940, while Tom Thumb was published in 1942.

According to Wikipedia, McLoughlin Bros. operated independently from 1858 through 1920 and was a "pioneer" with regard to color-printing technology for children's books, at one point employing as many as 75 artists. (Imagine the vibrant colors on these 1940s books on something printed in 1880.) In addition to books, many of which were retellings of fairy tales, the company published puzzles and board games, some of which are considered to be quite scarce and valuable today. For example, an 1886 McLoughlin "Game of Base-Ball" board game and an 1897 McLoughlin "BaseBall Game" are currently listed on eBay with Buy It Now prices around $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, and have attracted many interested watchers.

In a "Brief History of the McLoughlin Bros." on the American Antiquarian Society website, Laura Wasowicz writes: "Between 1950 and 1951 — apparently amid the threat of liquidation, the McLoughlin Bros. executive officers divided among themselves the firm's archival collection of books, drawings, company correspondence, illustration blocks, paper dolls, free standing wooden dolls, puzzles, and games. In December 1951, the McLoughlin Bros. trademark was sold to New York toy manufacturer Julius Kushner. ... [T]he McLoughlin line of children's books was sold to Grosset & Dunlap in June 1954." This PDF of the McLoughlin's 1943 price list gives you a good sense of the books that the imprint was still publishing at the time of Tom Thumb (#893) and Cinderella (#836). Many more catalogs and price lists can be found at this link.

These two books that I came across are 64 pages apiece, with a mixture of full-color and black-line illustrations. Cinderella is illustrated by Sari (just that single name) and Tom Thumb is illustrated by Anne Fleur. And here's where it gets interesting: LibraryThing states that "Anne Elizabeth Lancaster Fleur, aka Sari, wrote under several names." And the Treasury of Great Children's Books corroborates this, indicating that Anne Fleur also published works under "Sari." It further states that "Anne Fleur studied at the Art Students’ League. She started in commercial illustration, then later did children’s books as both as author and illustrator. She was active in the mid-twentieth century." Beyond that, however, her life remains a bit of a mystery.

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