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.

daugherty port

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.

daugherty state theater cleveland mural

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.

daugherty israel putnam mural

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.

daugherty wild westdaugherty lincoln







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.




Mother Goose Gets a Makeover…

Courtesy of McLoughlin Brothers…

What does the name “Mother Goose” call to mind?  For one thing, it’s pretty much synonymous with fairy tales and nursery rhymes, isn’t it?  The name Mother Goose also tends to conjure up a picture in the mind’s eye of many people a kindly old lady, telling stories to children, but very much a figure from times past–just like the tales associated with her, which are actually rooted in the (pre-printing) oral story-telling tradition in France1.

I’ll take a quick look at some aspects of the “history” of Mother Goose tales in a moment, but first I’d like to focus on how she’s pictured–both in actual illustrations and in imagination.  I’ve always seemed to imagine Mother Goose as a timeless sort of character, not changing much with passing trends, in much the same way that the tales associated with her remain relatively “stable” as texts (which isn’t to say that details in the tales don’t change in different versions–they do–but rather, that the tales themselves and their essential outlines have generally been remarkably durable and quite constant over time).


Mother Goose, as pictured on the cover of “McLoughlin Brothers 81st Annual Catalogue” (New York, 1909) Cotsen 94404

What sort of a portrayal am I talking about?  One much like the view of Mother Goose featured on the cover of a sales catalog issued in 1909 by American children’s book publisher McLoughlin Brothers, which I recently cataloged.  Take a look for yourself!  The hat, the cape, the “granny glasses” … clearly, a figure from a bygone era.  Nobody dressed like that in 1909!  McLoughlin Brothers wants to hearken back to another era, not a specific one, but one generally located in the past. And it’s worth pointing out that Mother Goose isn’t actually mentioned by name anywhere on the cover, but it’s immediately obvious who is pictured, now as it was then.  Talk about an image fixed in the public’s mind!


Upper wrapper of McLoughlin Brothers 1909 “Catalogue” (Cotsen 94404)

Since Mother Goose is featured on the the cover of McLoughlin’s catalog, it’s almost as if the firm is trying to appropriate her as their spokesperson, endorsing the products they want to sell!  And who could resist an endorsement from Mother Goose herself?


Mother Goose, as pictured on the title page of 1909 catalog (Cotsen 94404)

A similar depiction of Mother Goose appears on the title page of this McLoughlin catalog too.  Her appearance and clothing is consistent, as you can see.  She’s mounted on a goose here–a visual play on her name!–set against a circle suggesting the moon, a depiction McLoughlin Bros. frequently used, including as a series logo for their “Mother Goose Series.”

That same image of Mother Goose appears in more than ten McLoughlin catalogs, as we can see on the two title pages below, one from 1909 and one from 1913.  All McLoughlin changed on the title page was the date (and the catalog’s content, of course).


1909 catalog title page (Cotsen 32836)


1913 catalog title page (Cotsen 94154)







A timeless character, an unchanging pictorial rendition… Pretty much what we’d expect…

Mother Goose on the cover of McLoughlin Bros. 1923 "Catalogue" (Cotsen 94157)

Mother Goose on the cover of McLoughlin Bros. 1923 “Catalogue” (Cotsen 94157)

But as I worked my way through some of the other, later, McLoughlin catalogs, I noticed something  surprising!  McLoughlin modified their portrayal of the “timeless” figure of Mother Goose, more or less in sync with shifts in the overall “look” of their artwork and design.

The first catalog where I noticed a change was McLoughlin’s 1923 issue.  She’s still riding the familiar goose on the cover, but she has lost her “old-fashioned” glasses and her clothing has been slightly updated.  Her cape is billowing out behind her, and the figure is less static and little more dramatic.  Small changes perhaps but quite a different look.

The change becomes more noticeable in McLoughlin’s 1947 “Catalog,” which drops the Anglicized spelling “Catalogue” in favor of the “American” and more “modern” version of the word.


Mother Goose on the title page of McLoughlin’s 1947 “Catalog” (Cotsen 94156)

Mother Goose’s “look” has really been made over by McLoughlin’s artists this time, in terms of both her clothing and her determined facial expression.  No granny glasses.  She seems to be a woman who knows exactly where she wants to go and who is getting there fast, as her flapping cape suggests.  After all, she’s flying, much like the planes that had become increasingly familiar objects to readers in the 1940s.  (Her goose also seems to have gotten progressively happier too.)

To me, the overall impression of the 1947 illustration is consistent with the artwork we see in McLouglin’s actual children’s books of this period–also generally more schematic, less fussy in the detailing of feathers and clothing folds, and just more “modern” in feeling than the previous versions.


Cover of McLoughlin Bros. “1947 Catalog” (Cotsen 94156)

The change in the cover design of the cover of the 1947 catalog is really striking–that’s really what keyed me to the changes in Mother Goose’s appearance on the title page.  The colors are vivid and bright, the text pared down, and a more stylized font used. The actual cover illustration is populated with characters from the “Little Lulu” books that this catalog itself touts as a new McLoughlin offering in children’s books.


New look–traditional title: Little Lulu reads “Fairy Tales”

But, despite the new look and new characters, what is Lulu herself reading to the children?  Why, it’s “Fairy Tales,” the familiar old favorites associated with Mother Goose!  Some things really are timeless!



Fairy tales themselves are essentially timeless.  Tales and stories get told and retold over and over again. Part of their attraction lies in their very familiarity, the same way that part of Mother Goose’s attraction is how familiar a figure she seems to be.  McLoughlin Bros. repeatedly uses illustrations of her in their advertising, apparently in hopes invoking this comfortable familiarity to appeal to child-readers and their book-buying parents.  But in terms of both how Mother Goose is depicted and the overall look of McLoughlin’s catalogs, things come a long way in 40 years, as we can see in the grouping below of the catalog covers I’ve been talking about:


1909 “Catalogue” (Cotsen 94404)


1923 “Catalogue” (Cotsen 94157)

1947 Catalog" (Cotsen 94156)

1947 “Catalog” (Cotsen 94156)








McLoughlin Brothers–always attuned to ways they could update children’s classics with an eye to sales and marketing–does much the same thing with the “timeless” figure of Mother Goose in other places too.  In addition to recycling old favorites in many  cases, the firm also seemed to be endlessly trying out “new takes” of them–just to see if these might catch on with customers. Sometimes “old” and “new” coexist side-by-side, as we see in the catalog entry below for two “Mother Goose Editions”:

Mother Goose

Two “Mother Goose Editions” advertised in McLoughlin’s 1909 catalog (Cotsen 32836)

Next to the cover of one book featuring the familiar “old” version of Mother Goose is another cover depicting Mother Goose as a little girl on the cover of “Little Mother Goose.”  A very different character, one presumably seeking to capitalize on how much children are attracted to illustrations of other children. But apart from her trip to the Fountain of Youth, Little Mother Goose’s paraphanlia is very much in the traditional mode–and instantly recognizable to a child-reader or adult book-shopper as “Mother Goose.”

Another version of Little Mother Goose appears on the cover of McLoughlin Brothers’ 1906 catalog, one of those featuring the same traditional view of Mother Goose on the title page that we saw above (in the 1909 and 1913 catalogs).  Traditional and updated views of Mother Goose are thus juxtaposed, quite different depictions but both immediately recognizable.  (Note how the hint of a moon in the “logo version” has been turned into a smiling Man in the Moon here.)


Mother Goose on the upper wrapper of McLoughlin Bros 1906 catalog (Cotsen 94406, v. 57)

McLoughlin Bros. invokes the “timeless” aspect of Mother Goose, while feeling free to innovate and update, just as they did time and time again with virtually all children’s literature they published.


  1. Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose,” Robert Darton (The Great Cat Massacre, (Basic Books, 1984)