James Daugherty, “Advance-Guard Wolf in Square Sheep’s Clothing,” Roars into Cotsen

Thanks to the generosity of John Solum, ’57 and the Friends of James Daugherty Foundation, Cotsen has received a major gift of books and artwork by the prolific and versatile James Daugherty (1887-1974), modernist painter, WPA muralist, and children’s book illustrator.

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In American Picturebooks from Noah’s Ark to The Beast Within (1976), Barbara Bader has this to say about him:

When James Daugherty came to the attention of the book world, juvenile and adult, as the illustrator of Stewart Edward White’s Daniel Boone (1926), he was known elsewhere as a painter of “synchronist” abstractions derived from Delaunay, Matisse,  Cezanne– a reminder that  “James Daugherty, Buckskin Illustrator,” “as thoroughly American as Fanueil Hall,” had drunk at other waters besides the Wabash. (“An advance-guard wolf in square sheep’s clothing,” Hilton Kramer called him years later.”)


James Daugherty, “3 Base Hit” (1914)

For Daugherty, the frontier of Boone and Davy Crockett was a childhood legacy.  As a young man he absorbed Europe and especially its Baroque art. World War I found him working for the Navy, camouflaging ships (in cubist shapes) and designing posters.  The Twenties brought exhibitions at the Societe Anonyme… and commissions for murals at those “palaces of the people,” Loew’s movie theaters.

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Three of the four murals James Daugherty painted in 1920 for Loew’s State Theater in Cleveland.

Out of all this came, somehow, the massive figures, the swirling forms and fluid rhythms that are Daugherty’s signature, and a long and immensely busy career as a book illustrator.


Like many mid-century American children’s book creators, Daugherty’s reputation has fallen off.   In the early twenty-first century, his writing style can seem overly grandiose for a young audience and his portrayal of  Native Americans in the sweep of America’s manifest destiny is distasteful to many: the majority of reviewers on GoodReads agreed that they would not read  to their children Daugherty’s Daniel Boone, the winner of the 1939 Newbery medal, although a good number admired the illustrations in spite of reservations.  Blogger Peter D. Sieruta showed the similarities between the images of Native Americans in Daugherty’s mural “The Life and Times of General Israel Putnam of Connecticut” and the ones in his Newbery award-winning biography.  Certainly the depiction of the relationship between the English colonists and  Native Americans in Edgar and Ingri d’Aulaire’s once classic picture book biography of Pocahantas looks very different in 2015 than it did in 1946.

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Daugherty’s controversial “Israel Putnam” mural at the Greenwich Public Library in Connecticut.

The history of children’s books is hardly free from controversy, as anyone knows who has been following the online discussion over the last two weeks about the picture book A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall. The rare books stacks in the Cotsen Children’s Library contain a great deal of material that few librarians, teachers, or parents would feel comfortable showing to little children now. But once that material was thought appropriate (rightly or wrongly) and helping researchers document and understand the whys behind the shifts in values is part of Cotsen’s mission as a special collection of historical illustrated children’s books.

The gift of the Daugherty archive could be of potential interest to a researcher interested in tracing how American history has been retold in children’s books so that includes the stories of racial and ethnic minorities.  Another person might want to explore the issues underlying  the desire to present a heroic view of our nation’s past in spite of the legacies of slavery and government policies that forcibly removed tribes from traditional homelands.  A third might wonder about the influence of primitivism upon children’s book illustrators drawing Native Americans or African-Americans.

Cotsen now owns a copy of every children’s book Daugherty illustrated and  a gap has been filled in its collection of American children’s books 1920-1970.  Sixty of those children’s books came with a file of the original drawings and nine include maquettes as well: Daniel Boone, The Gettysburg Address, Of Courage Undaunted, The Sound of Trumpets, Thoreau, West of Boston, The Wild Wild West, and The Wisher.  The gift of 427 drawings also comprises designs for twenty dust jackets and materials from projects Daugherty never completed such as The Terrific Rabbit, or Nothing to Fear, A Book of Rogues and Rascals and Other Merry Men, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  In spite of the size, the collection should be straightforward to process, thanks to donor John Solum, who took the time to organize all the drawings by the book they were made for and, as the icing on the cake, to identify the pages on which they appeared.

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A Coda

Daugherty had a lighter side, as this cover he designed for The New Yorker in the 1920s shows.  Sharp-eyed readers will notice that he signed it with his pseudonym”Jimmie the Ink” near the figure’s right calf.


The Daugherty gift includes some wonderful artwork from Jimmie the Ink’s first and most famous picture book, Andy and the Lion (1938), an all-American retelling of “Androcles and the Lion.”  The manuscript was on display in “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” curated by Leonard Marcus for the New York Public Library. But Daugherty didn’t give NYPL everything for Andy! The Friends of James Daugherty Foundation presented Cotsen with a trial design for the title page signed “Jimmie the Ink” along with the splendid design for the endpapers.




Thank You for Drawing Our Happy Soviet Childhood!

Over the years, the Friends of the Princeton University Library have underwritten major purchases for the Cotsen research collection–Musical Games, an elaborate early 19th-century educational toy invented, designed and marketed by Ann Gunn Young, several Beatrix Potter drawings, Natalie Parain’s maquette for her picture book Baba Yaga, a collection of writing blanks filled in for presentation to parents in several generations of one American family, and more.

After the success of the May 2015 conference, “The Pedagogy of Images,” which featured Cotsen’s important holdings of Soviet-era children’s books to a new group of scholars, I wanted to make a major addition to that collection.  Instead of adding a few titles at a time, I submitted to the Friends a proposal to purchase nearly forty titles that were being offered for sale by four different antiquarian booksellers.  Thanks to the Friends’ enthusiastic support, this will be the first of several posts highlighting this windfall.

What do we in the West see when we think about Soviet childhood?  Probably images like the one below, where healthy, attractive little citizens of the Soviet Union bask in the love of their leader, Stalin.


Detail from Viktor Govorkov’s poster, “Thank You, Beloved Stalin, for a Happy Childhood” (1936).

It would be easy to show that the picture is not especially truthful, compared to photographs documenting the actual living conditions of Soviet children between 1932 and 1953.  Invaluable as archival photos can be to a historian like Catriona Kelly, author of Children’s World: Growing up in Russia 1890-1991 (2007), they may not project a society’s aspirations for children as clearly as that poster does.  Some illustrations and paintings are better than workmanlike shots at revealing ideals for the treatment of children or the discrepancies that emerge in the process of trying to prioritize and reconcile social values.  This seemed to be the case with the illustrations of children this group of books I randomly assembled from the offerings on the antiquarian book market at one point in time.

This skillfully composed cover design that balances blocks of colors like Tatiana Chevchenko’s cover for Letom kartinki [Summer Pictures] is a good example of what I’m talking about.  Its bucolic representation of children playing at farming, a popular subject  in Western European children’s books of this period, is surprising in a Soviet book.  Notice the boy in the lower right filling a toy wagon with hay, an innocent activity which somehow looks out of place in a book produced by a society racing to industrialize its economy.


Tatiana Chevchenko, Letom kartinki (Moscow, Leningrad: GIZ, 1929) Cotsen in process 7208276.

Children at play are the subject of the great Avant-garde poet Aleksandr Vvedenski’s Begat, prygat [Run, Jump].  “Play” is perhaps the wrong word, because it is obvious that the children are exercising.  As charming as the illustrations by Vera Ermolaeva are, all the boys and girls exude a strong sense of purpose, as if good Soviet children are so determined to build strong bodies that no prodding from adults is necessary.


Aleksandr Vvedenski, Begat, prygat [Run, Jump] illustrated by Vera Ermolaeva. (Leningrad: GIZ, 1930) Cotsen in process 7208293.

Andrei Brei’s cover design for Vetep na rechke, a tribute to the benefits of attending summer camp, on the other hand, expresses a more hedonistic sense of joy in a healthy body.


Ye. Aleksandrov, Veter na rechke. Illustrated by Andrei Brei (Moskva: Vetizdat tsk VLKSM, 1936) Cotsen in process 7203345.

Likewise, this double-page spread seems less intent on inculcating an internal sense of discipline in children.  On the left, a boy is concentrating on turning a sheet of paper into a ball, while on the right, his comrades happily toss a paper ball around.  But perhaps the purpose is to inculcate a sense of cooperation in whatever children do, just as the previous picture.


A. Abramov, Konveier. Illustrated by A. Laptev (Moskva: OGIZ/Molodaya Gvardia, 1931) Cotsen in process 7208480.

It was even possible to find in one of these books a tribute to the socially unacceptable activity of making way too much noise for the fun of it.


Mikhail Ortsev, Baraban [The Drum] Illustrated by M. Purgold (Leningrad, Moskva: Raduga, ca. 1925) Cotsen in process 7208584/

Which is not to say that if things get out of control, that someone in the household will take matters into his own hands.


Cotsen in process 7208584.

 This next double-page spread is one of my favorites for its capture of a sense of stillness and of energy. Like many little boys, Eremka draws pictures of complex machines like trolley cars.  But Nas mnogo [We Are Many] is not a picture book about a dreamy, artistic child.  It’s about Eremka’s discovery of belonging on the city’s busy streets–of being pressed by a crowd of passerbys, of dodging cars and horse-drawn wagons, of watching, then joining in a parade of Soviet youth.


M. Ivensen, Nas mnogo [We Are Many] Illustrated by Andrei Brei (Moskva: OGIZ/Molodaya Gvardia, 1932) Cotsen in process 7208265.

Creating a  wider sense of unity with workers around the world was  Agnaia Barto’s goal in her famous Bratishki [Little Brothers].  Its cover design by Georgi Echeistov shows children of the white, yellow, brown, and black races united in brotherhood.  Yet some of the most striking images Echeistov drew were of  mothers with their babies.  These two illustrations come from the Tatar-language translation published by OGIZ/Molodaya Gvardia in 1933.


Sometimes there are unexpected spaces in Soviet picture books where boys can stop and smell the flowers….


Ye. Aleksandrov, Beter na rechke. Illustrated by Andrei Brei. (Moskva: Detizdat tsk vlksm, 1936) Cotsen in process 7203345


V. Glinka, Poleviye tsvetii [Field Flowers] Illustrated by M. Stepanova (Moskva: G. F. Miramanov, 1927) Cotsen in process 7208315.

 Next time, I’ll feature the publisher Raduga, one of the twentieth century’s great children’s book publishers.