Moving Day in Feather Town


Front wrapper, Item 6540798

To celebrate the very early end of our recent department wide collections move, we thought it would be fun to post about an item from the collection that’s all about moving.

Moving Day in Feather Town (1989) is a fun little picture book written by Ann M. Martin and illustrated by her father Henry Martin about two chickens, Fran and Emma, who decide to switch houses.

Ann’s name might sound familiar because she’s the author of the first 35 novels of the prolific “Baby-Sitters Club” series and other novels like the 2003 Newbery Medal awarded A Corner of the Universe. Henry Martin might be better known for his New Yorker illustrations and his long running comic strip “Good News/Bad News”. Perhaps less known, however, is that Ann happens to be a Princeton native and Henry a member of the Princeton University class of ’48.

This Princeton connection perhaps explains why the Illustrator kindly gifted his original artwork for the book to the Cotsen collection. So today I can not only show you some of the highlights of this story, I can showcase aspects of the production of the work as well.

Original artwork for the front wrapper

Original artwork for the front wrapper, Item 6540798, (notice the addition of a blue background to the published work)

The story Begins with a frustrated Fran and Emma waking up in their respective homes:

Page spread of [1] and [2]

Page spread of [1] and [2]

They’re both so envious of the other’s house and just sick of their boring old places!So they have they a great idea: swap houses!

And they both get excited and packed up and ready to move. But before long they both get cold feet. Unfortunately, neither has the heart to admit it to their friend. So they both decide to go through with it instead, on the day of the big parade no less:

Page [8]

And with heavy hearts, and all the items in the house packed away, each prepares her respective final act in the home:

Page [12]

Page [12]

But much to their mutual excitement, the two moving chicken friends get caught in the very parade they thought they’d miss. They even run into each other during the festivities:

Page spread of [18] and [19]

Page spread of [18] and [19]

Page spread of [18] and [19] galley (Notice how the original boarders have been clipped during production)

Page spread of [18] and [19] original artwork (Notice the absence of text and how the original boarders have been clipped during production)

Unfortunately they run into each other a little too literally and disaster strikes:

Page [19]

Page [20]

Page [19] original artwork

Page [20] original artwork

After all the commotion and confusion the pair are distraught and fear that they will never be allowed to join the parade again. Emma finally admits that she doesn’t want to move, and Fran is relieved at feeling the same. The friends part in happiness and return to their original houses:

Page [23]

Well so much for Fran and Emma’s move . . . but it all worked out in the end!

Our move to new vault space in Firestone Library, on the other hand, was much more necessary and much more efficiently handled. Not one crash!

***We’d like to thank the hard work and dedication of the CDTF team (you know who you are) and the Clancy-Cullen movers for doing such a great job.

Here’s a Ball for Baby

Cotsen 31857

Cotsen 31857

I’ve been working on processing collections material that needs to be moved out of a space that will be demolished during the renovation. Much of this material is unprocessed, otherwise under-described, or not accessioned. It’s been tedious work, but I’ve managed to blow the dust off some great items and uncover some diamonds in the rough.

One such surprisingly delightful item has been Baby’s Ball (pictured above), which I came across the other day. It’s a stuffed textile ball which includes a nursery rhyme accompanying 6 lithographed illustrations. The initial record for the item didn’t have much information. But after some careful sleuthing, Andrea and I were able to discover a lot about this Victorian baby toy.

Each illustration is accompanied by 2 descriptive lines of verse, one above and one below the image. We started our investigation when Andrea noticed that this nursery rhyme was vaguely familiar:

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“Here’s a ball for baby, nice and soft and round / here’s the baby’s hammer, hear the baby pound / here’s the baby’s soldiers, standing in a row / here’s the baby’s trumpet, hear the baby blow / don’t take the ball away, to make baby cry / here’s the baby’s cradle, to rock baby by”

At first, we found several versions of the rhyme on the web, but no attribution or history. It was most commonly referenced as a finger play, a nursery rhyme or other simple song that one also performs with hand motions. Itsy Bitsy Spider is probably the most familiar example. Frustratingly, though the song appears so well known, we couldn’t locate it in any of our reference books on early nursery rhymes.

But then we finally hit pay dirt! Andrea found that the original version of the nursery rhyme is attributed to Emilie Poulsson in her book, Finger plays for nursery and kindergarten (Boston : Lothrop Publishing Company, c1893) under the title “All For Baby”. This book, it just so happens, is in the Cotsen collection:

finger plays cover

Front cover, 86551


page 38


Page 39


Page 40

Though we were able to learn more about the ball’s verse by locating a related item from Cotsen’s own collection; this didn’t help use discover any information about the toy’s manufacture. That information came from a much less likely source: eBay.

While looking for information on our Baby’s Ball, I stumbled across an auction listing for: Antique Dated 1900 Art Fabric Mills Cloth Rag Doll BABY’S BALL Rare Uncut NR yqz. At first it didn’t look pertinent. But after scrolling down the page I realized that the item for sale was an original uncut cloth pattern sheet for the very same ball now in our collection. From this eBay listing, we were not only able to learn about the manufacturer and dates of the item, but that it was probably stitched together and stuffed at home, after the purchase of the uncut sheet.

Below, I’ve Included 2 pictures from that eBay listing for reference. But you can click on the link above to see the original listing which includes more pictures of the uncut sheet.

Uncut sheet for Baby's Ball

Uncut sheet for Baby’s Ball

Patent and manufacturer

Patent and manufacturer

We started with no information on a cute Victorian cloth ball and a vaguely familiar nursery rhyme.  We ended up with a fully described Baby’s Ball (New York : Art Fabric Mills, 1900) which borrows (liberally) from a well-known finger play originally written by Emilie Poulsson in her book Finger plays for nursery and kindergarten, just 7 years before the pattern for the ball was patented. In short, it was a fun day at Cotsen doing research on collections material.

Purely for your edification, I’ve embedded a video performance of the finger play as well:

This video comes from the YouTube channel WCCLS Birth2Six, where a few more finger plays have also been acted out.