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By Leonard S. Marcus
Published by Golden Books on 2017-02-14
BIOGRAPHY and AUTOBIOGRAPHY, REFERENCE, JUVENILE FICTION
Back in print, the fascinating history of Little Golden Books, in celebration of their 75th anniversary in 2017! With a Foreword by Eric Carle.
Eminent children’s historian Leonard Marcus’ Golden Legacy chronicles the fascinating story of the creation, marketing, and worldwide impact of Little Golden Books, the most popular children’s books of all time. Launched during the dark days of WWII, Golden Books such as The Poky Little Puppy were an instant sensation. Hallmarked by their superlative quality yet affordable to nearly all, they changed the cultural landscape and mirrored our changing postwar culture: the powerful influence of television, the post-Sputnik renaissance in American science education, and the birth of the civil rights movement. Lavishly illustrated with the iconic Golden Book covers and colorful artwork generations of children have pored over, Golden Legacy is a compelling tale of mavericks, innovators, and renowned authors and illustrators. . . a stirring celebration of the humble books in which we scrawled our names, with the cardboard cover and the shiny gold-foil spine.
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Detail from Five Little Firemen.
In memory of Greta Schreyer Loebl beautiful spirit 'L.S.M.
BY LEONARD S. MARCUS The Story of Golden Books A GOLDEN BOOK ? NEW YORK Previously published as Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way
kitty spot? Text copyright ? 2007 by Leonard S. Marcus. Foreword copyright ? 2007 by Eric Carle. All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Golden Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published by Golden Books in 2007. Jacket art: The Poky Little Puppy, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, copyright ? 1942, copyright renewed 1970 by Penguin Random House LLC. The Golden Book of Little Verses, illustrated by Mary Blair, copyright ? 1953, copyright renewed 1981 by Penguin Random House LLC. The Great Big Fire Engine Book, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, copyright ? 1950, 1959, copyright renewed 1987 by Penguin Random House LLC. Mister Dog, illustrated by Garth Williams, copyright ? 1952, copyright renewed 1980 by Penguin Random House LLC. Tootle, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, copyright ? 1945, copyright renewed 1973 by Penguin Random House LLC. Golden Books, A Golden Book, Big Little Golden Book, A Little Golden Book, the G colophon, and the distinctive gold spine are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. The Poky Little Puppy, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Scuffy the Tugboat, The Shy Little Kitten, Tawny Scrawny Lion, and Tootle are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. The book covers, magazine covers, and their related illustrations included in this title are copyrighted by Penguin Random House LLC, with the exception of the following previously published works: Bourru L'Ours Brun, copyright ? 1936 by Ernest Flammarion. Captain Kangaroo, copyright ? 1956 Keeshan-Miller Enterprises Corp. A Child's Year, copyright ? 1992 by Joan Walsh Anglund. Cowlick!, illustrations copyright ? 2007 by Rosalind Beardshaw. Dale Evans and the Lost Gold Mine, copyright ? 1954 by Dale Evans Enterprises. Dan Yaccarino's Mother Goose, copyright ? 2003 by Dan Yaccarino, Inc. Detective Higgins of the Racket Squad, copyright ? 1938 by Stephen Slesinger, Inc. Dick Tracy Returns, copyright ? 1939 by Chester Gould. Donny and Marie: The Top Secret Project, copyright ? 1977 by Osbro Productions Inc. Ellery Queen: The Spanish Cape Mystery, copyright ? 1935 by Ellery Queen. Flash Gordon and the Power Men of Mongo, copyright ? 1940, 1943 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Gene Autry and Champion, copyright ? 1956 by Gene Autry. G-Man and the Radio Bank Robberies, copyright ? 1937 by Stephen Slesinger, Inc. The Great Gatsby Armed Services edition, copyright ? 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons. How to Win Friends and Influence People, copyright ? 1936 by Dale Carnegie. Huckleberry Hound Builds a House, copyright ? 1959 by H-B Enterprises, Inc. I'm a Truck, illustrations copyright ? 2006 by Bob Staake. Inside Detective (June 1939 issue), copyright ? 1939 by Inside Detective Publishing Co. International Spy: Doctor Doom Faces Death at Dawn, copyright ? 1937 by Stephen Slesinger, Inc. Invisible Scarlet O'Neil Versus the King of the Slums, copyright ? 1945, 1946 by Chicago Times, Inc. It's Howdy Doody Time, copyright ? 1955 by Kagran Corporation. The Jetsons, copyright ? 1962 by Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. J. Fred Muggs, copyright ? 1955 by J. Fred Muggs Enterprises. Jungle Jim and the Vampire Woman, copyright ? 1934, 1937 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Kitty's New Doll, copyright ? 1984 by PENK, Inc. Koko's Kitten, copyright ? 1985 by The Gorilla Foundation. 'Les Bons et Les Mauvais G'nies du Jardin,' from Quipic Le H'risson, copyright ? 1937 by Ernest Flammarion. LIFE (September 7, 1953, issue), copyright ? 1953 by Time Inc. 'Lightning? Jim, U.S. Marshal, Brings Law to the West, copyright ? 1940 by The Beatrice Creamery Co. Lucky Rabbit, copyright ? 1955 by Frances R. Horwich. Madeline Little Golden Book edition, copyright ? 1939, 1954 by Ludwig Bemelmans. Maverick, copyright ? 1959 by Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. The Merry Shipwreck, copyright ? 1942 by Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. Modern Romances (March 1933 issue), copyright ? 1933 by Dell Publishing Company, Inc. Modern Screen (November 1943 issue), copyright ? 1943 by the Dell Publishing Company, Inc. Party in Shariland, copyright ? 1959 by California National Productions, Inc. Pierrot's ABC Garden, copyright ? 1992 by Anita Lobel. Pocketful of Nonsense, copyright ? 1992 by James Marshall. The Red Lemon, copyright ? 2006 by Bob Staake. Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever!, copyright ? 1992 by Richard Scarry. Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, copyright ? 1980 by Richard Scarry. The Road to Oz, copyright ? 1951 by Maud Gage Baum. Roy Rogers and the Indian Sign, copyright ? 1956 by Frontiers, Inc. Sold to the Ladies!, copyright ? 1940 by George W. Stewart. Steve Canyon, copyright ? 1959 by Field Enterprises, Inc. The Story of Willie the Donkey, copyright ? 1950 by James and Jonathan Company. Supercar, copyright ? 1962 by Independent Television Corporation, Inc. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, illustrations copyright ? 1993 by Cyndy Szekeres. The Tall Book of Mother Goose, copyright ? 1942 by Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. This Is My Family, copyright ? 1992 by Mercer Mayer. Tiny Tim and the Mechanical Men, copyright ? 1937 by Stanley Link. Tom and Jerry, copyright ? 1951 by Loew's, Inc. Top Cat, copyright ? 1962 by Barbera-Hanna Pictures. What Do People Do All Day', copyright ? 1968, 1979 by Richard Scarry. The Whispering Rabbit, illustrations copyright ? 1992 by Cyndy Szekeres. Winky Dink, copyright ? 1956 by Marvel Screen Enterprises, Inc. Woman's Home Companion, copyright ? 1943 by Crowell Publishing Company. Woody Woodpecker Takes a Trip, copyright ? 1961 by Walter Lantz Productions Inc. Illustration of Grover, originally published in The Monster at the End of This Book, illustrated by Michael Smollin, copyright ? 1971, renewed 1999 Sesame Workshop. Illustration of Little Critter by Mercer Mayer, copyright ? Mercer Mayer. Drugstore display containing Doctor Dan the Bandage Man and Band-Aid? Bandages: Band-Aid is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson, Inc. The author's acknowledgments can be found on page 234. Illustration, title page: Detail from The Poky Little Puppy. Illustration, page 246: From Mister Dog. Book design by Roberta Ludlow. penguinrandomhouse.com Library of Congress Control Number: 2006939312 ISBN 978-0-375-82996-3 MANUFACTURED IN CHINA 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
Contents Foreword vi Part One: 'The Boys Have Done a Pretty Good Job. . . .' 1 Part Two: Entrepreneurs and 'migr? Artists 26 Part Three: 'Books and Bread? 56 Part Four: Books for Baby Boomers 92 Part Five: Cold War and Magic Kingdom 138 Part Six: 'We Are Publishers. . . .' 176 Part Seven: Circles 208 Reflections on a Golden Egg 224 A Few Words About Richard Scarry's Working Technique 227 Amy Schwartz Remembers The Golden Book Encyclopedia 230 Who Was Mary Reed, PhD? 232 Acknowledgments 234 Notes 235 Index 243 From The Golden Bunny.
Foreword Among the books I remember most fondly from my childhood are a series of small, thick, toylike volumes, each filled with the brassy adventures of action heroes like Flash Gordon and Superman. As a boy, I paid no attention, of course, to who had published these 'Big Little Books? that brought me so much pleasure. How fascinating to learn now, though, from Leonard S. Marcus? Golden Legacy, that my beloved Big Littles were the handiwork of some of the very same creative mavericks who, just a few short years later, sparked the publishing revolution that was Little Golden Books. Golden Legacy is history at its best'a book brimming with unexpected and thrilling cultural connections. Who knew, for example, that so many of the same artists who teamed up on the great Hollywood animations of the 1930s came east after World War II to create the classic Golden Books that generations of children have now grown up on? Who knew that Golden Books played a role in the post'World War II Marshall Plan? And in the exciting early days of children's television? And in the building of Disneyland? And in the post'Sputnik renaissance in American science education? FOREWORD vi From Scuffy the Tugboat.
vii FOREWORD Who knew that those bright, trim twenty-five-cent books were the hard-won realization of an idealistic dream'the quintessentially American dream that good children's books could and should be affordable by all? Or that backing up that dream was some of the best and brightest sales and marketing savvy that the publishing world has ever known? As the author of Golden Legacy eloquently shows us, it was a dream eagerly shared by millions of baby boom'generation parents and their children. No wonder that by the 1960s, when my own two children were growing up, Golden Books were already everywhere'as ubiquitous a part of the American home landscape as well-worn stacks of National Geographic and Life. So many larger-than-life characters come to vivid light in these pages. There are the great Golden artists and writers'Margaret Wise Brown, Alice and Martin Provensen, Richard Scarry, Feodor Rojankovsky, and others'some already justly famous, others until now largely unsung. But then too there are the art directors, editors, booksellers, and others whose behind-the-scenes roles most of us never stop to think twice about. Golden Legacy gives readers a rare, in-the-round view of the book world as I myself have come to know it, of the many hands that have a hand in the creation of a book that lasts. I have often said about my own career that one of the things I'm proudest of is the fact that children were the first to discover my books. The critics came around eventually'but a bit later! Perhaps for that reason as well as for others, what touches me most deeply of all in the story told in Golden Legacy is the absolute determination with which those who created Golden Books set out to make children's books that really are for children. It is wonderful that Leonard S. Marcus has woven together all the threads of this many-stranded story. What a grand story it is! A big book about the 'Little Books'! Eric Carle
GOLDEN LEGACY viii Facing page: ? The New Yorker Collection 1971, Charles E. Martin, from cartoonbank.com. All rights reserved.
Part One 'The Boys Have Done a Pretty Good Job....'
olden Books began as a tale of two cities, two industries, and two largely compatible visions of the American dream. The two industries were printing and publishing;the dual visions, those of stylish East Coast urban striving and stolid heartland stick-toitiveness and common sense. As America's publishing capital, New York was bound to be one of the cities, though it was, as it happened, the second city to enter the story. The first was Racine, Wisconsin, 'Belle City of the Lakes,' a Midwestern crossroads and agricultural-turnedmanufacturing town that by the start of the twentieth century had become a powerful magnet for skilled artisans, upstart entrepreneurs, and, most notably, inventors: men with a knack for creating all manner of new machines,from better threshers and improved automotive tires to the Hamilton Beach blender and some of the world's most advanced printing technology.1 2 GOLDEN LEGACY
Located along Lake Michigan twenty miles south of Milwaukee, Racine had undergone a series of breathtaking transformations over the course of the nineteenth century, its primary economic activity shifting first from wheat to dairy farming, then to shipping and manufacturing. By 1900, the city had established itself both as one of the main ports servicing the thriving Midwestern lumber industry and as an industrial center with scores of manufacturing plants producing farm equipment, trunks, steel-bottomed workers? shoes, motorcars, patent medicines, and, as early as 1888,the elegant horse-drawn omnibuses that clattered up and down New York's Fifth Avenue. As Racine's business and civic leaders vied with Milwaukee's in a classic struggle for regional supremacy, the town's factories and shops swelled with the real-life counterparts of the up-by-their-bootstraps, Horatio Alger self-starters whose inspirational tales crowded the racks of local newsstands. Pages 1 and 2:Whitman editions of the popular Horatio Alger stories. Below: From A Name for Kitty, 1948, by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
One such ambitious young person was Edward H. Wadewitz (1878'1955), a first-generation German American from the northern Wisconsin hinterlands, who as a seventeen-year-old moved to Racine in 1895 to seek his fortune.2 Starting as a woodworker at a trunk factory owned by his cousins,Wadewitz soon distinguished himself by devising a simple assembly-line operation that greatly increased the shop's efficiency. Intent on continuing his education, he enrolled in night-school classes in accounting at the local YMCA, then gathered up his savings and headed east to further bolster his skills at a small Pennsylvania business school. On graduating from Potts Shorthand College,Wadewitz juggled a variety of odd jobs before returning to his adopted city of Racine, where, in addition to working as a full-time bookkeeper for the Langlois Company, the major ship chandler and supplier to the thriving commercial Great Lakes fleet, he took on after-hours accounting work with a local printer. As Wadewitz soon learned, the West Side Printing Company was having difficulty paying its bills, including those submitted by its bookkeeper. In 1907,as the firm sank deeper into debt,the owner offered him the chance to buy the business outright.Wadewitz, in partnership with his younger brother Al, took the leap that September, not as much because he wished to be a printer as because he wanted to be his own boss.The brothers? youngest sibling, Bill, soon joined the company, as did a respected local printer,Roy A.Spencer.3 In the months that followed,E.H.,as Edward was known, became a familiar sight bicycling around town in a determined quest for business. True to the Alger prescription,hard work and persistence paid off as an impressive array of Racine's rising manufacturing companies, S. C. Johnson & Son (makers of Johnson's Wax) and the J. I. Case Plow Company, among others, added their names to the client list. By 1910, the company had invested in a costly new lithographic offset press, expanded the range of its services, renamed itself the Western Printing and Lithographing Company,and moved into larger quarters in the basement of the ornate Shoop Building, whose owner, the great Dr. Clarendon I. Shoop'one of America's last old-time purveyors of patent medicines'threw his own considerable printing account their way. By Top: E. H.Wadewitz, 1910. Bottom: Roy A. Spencer, 1910. Facing page:The 'Dr. Shoop? Building still stands at State Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Racine,Wisconsin. Undated photograph, Golden Books archives. 4 GOLDEN LEGACY
the time the 'doctor? retired four years later,Western was big enough to take over the whole of the six-story building.4 In early 1916, as the growing business struggled to keep pace with the constant need for new capital,a crisis arose that nearly undid all of E.H. and company's hard-won success. The Hamming-Whitman Publishing Company of Chicago had contracted with Western to print and bind a large quantity of children's books. Western completed the work only to learn that the publisher, on the brink of bankruptcy, could not pay its bills. Ironically,Western had entered into the arrangement in the hope that a book publisher, with its year-round output of new titles, might prove to be an ideal client, providing the steady work needed to keep the presses rolling at maximum efficiency. Now, as HammingWhitman's chief creditor,Western could only hope to recoup its loss by assuming ownership of the carloads of books it had in its plant and then selling them off in a market about which it knew nothing. Once again, E.H.'s peculiarly dogged brand of resilience'his ability to triumph in new businesses by internalizing their mechanics, much as he had once, for the fun of it, dismantled and reassembled a typewriter'stood the At right:Western employees, around 1908. Second from left: Johanna Erickson Wiechers. Center: Ernie Boernke. W. R.Wadewitz is on the far right. Golden Books archives. Below:The basement print shop where the business began in 1907. From left: Roy A. Spencer, Catherine Bongarts Rutledge, E. H.Wadewitz, and W. R.Wadewitz. From the Commemorative Issue of The Westerner. GOLDEN LEGACY
company in good stead.When Wadewitz met with unexpectedly quick success in finding buyers for the children's books, he became newly intrigued with the publishing business and decided to acquire outright Hamming-Whitman, which he renamed the Whitman Publishing Company and relocated in Racine. He also hired two salesmen, one of whom, Samuel E. Lowe, a social worker by training, was to prove a publishing visionary with a keen grasp of the emerging national market for affordable children's books. Lowe had come to Racine from New York, where he had served his apprenticeship at the Henry Street Settlement House under its founder, Lillian D.Wald.5 Hoping to extend the reach of her reformist efforts on behalf of the immigrant poor,Wald had dispatched Lowe and a small number of other prot'g's to various outposts around the nation. From 1915, as a staff member at Racine's version of Henry Street, the Central Association, Lowe continued his work with school-age boys. Regular contact with these young people inspired him to try his hand at writing stories for them.Whitman's fortuitous arrival in Racine in 1916 spurred dreams of publication.It was as an aspiring author bearing a sheaf of book proposals that Lowe first went to see E.H. In the Court of King Arthur, the first of a long list of children's books written or edited by Lowe, appeared under the Whitman imprint in 1918. But Wadewitz must have been at least as impressed by the young man's business sense as by his writing ability. Lowe went to work right A day at the Shoop Building print shop. Below:Western's 'fleet,' shown parked in front of the Shoop Building around 1915, included the company's two original vehicles: E. H.Wadewitz's bicycle and a delivery cart. Both photos from the Commemorative Issue of The Westerner. 7 PART ONE
away as a Whitman salesman. It was in this capacity'and later as Whitman's president'that he would leave an indelible mark. The Hamming-Whitman list spanned a spectrum of price categories, starting with a line of coloring books and other cheaply printed novelties that sold for a dime. Recognizing a potentially vast new market for the lower-priced books, Lowe in 1918 made Whitman's first sale to one of the nation's major five-and-ten-cent retail chains, the S. S. Kresge Company. Kresge and such rivals as Woolworth and McCrory's were changing the way American women purchased a wide variety of inexpensive household items. But it was not until Lowe came along that these stores set aside selling space for children's books next to needles, thread, ribbon, biscuit cutters, and apple corers. Lowe, who in later years liked to say that a genius was simply 'a man who doesn't know any better,' was a most compelling salesman; in one bold stroke, he had set the stage for securing Whitman's long-term financial future.6 The sudden upturn in sales that resulted from the Kresge account once again brought Western to the brink of disaster when a clerk misread the initial purchase order and, mistaking 'dozens? for 'gross,' authorized a print run of twelve times the number of books wanted.The unflappable Lowe finessed the situation by persuading Woolworth and the other chains to sell Whitman children's books as well, and to do so year-round rather than just at Christmastime, as was then the pattern with book retailers.It turned out that parents were indeed willing to buy juveniles in April and August as well as in December, provided that the price was low enough and that the books could be found in places parents frequented anyway.7 These discoveries about the juveniles market would have far-reaching consequences not only for Western but also for the publishing industry as a whole. By 1918, Western had begun to outgrow the Shoop Building, and for the princely sum of twenty-four thousand dollars,it expanded its headquarters by acquiring 'Plant 2''the name showed the unmistakable no-frills Wadewitz touch'for use as a bindery and warehouse. Good working conditions and a fluid creative culture fed the young company's growth. E.H. won the loyalty of his staff by introducing an Sam Lowe, probably around 1940. Photo by Malme. Courtesy of Richard Lowe. GOLDEN LEGACY 8
innovative profit-sharing arrangement for employees and by rewarding their creativity while downplaying his own role in the company's success.'They did it all,'Wadewitz would say of his fellow Westerners.'The boys have done a pretty good job.'8 As more and more relatives of company employees joined the staff,Western became known around Racine and beyond as a 'family of families.'9 One good idea led to another. After setting up a box department to streamline Western's shipping operation,someone suggested finding a product for the company to make and sell in boxes. It was on this basis that Western began manufacturing jigsaw puzzles and games.The company entered the playing card business in 1925, and the stationery business three years later, in both Following pages:A sampling of the Whitman Big Little Books and Better Little Books. Page 10, top: Dick Tracy Returns, 1939, by Chester Gould, based on the Republic motion picture serial. Bottom: Flash Gordon and the Power Men of Mongo, 1940, based on the newspaper strip by Alex Raymond. Page 11, top, left to right: G-Man and the Radio Bank Robberies, 1937, by Allen Dale, illustrated by Herbert Anderson; 'Lightning? Jim, U.S. Marshal, Brings Law to the West, 1940, based on the radio series, illustrated by Albert Micale; Jungle Jim and the Vampire Woman, 1934, by Alex Raymond. Middle, left to right: Tiny Tim and the Mechanical Men, 1937, based on the newspaper strip by Stanley Link; Invisible Scarlet O'Neil Versus the King of the Slums, 1945, based on the newspaper strip by Russell Stamm; Tom Beatty,Ace of the Service, Scores Again, 1937, by Russell R.Winterbotham, illustrated by Robert R.Weisman. Bottom, left to right: Gang Busters in Action, 1938, by Isaac McAnally, based on Phillips H. Lord's Gang Busters; Don O'Dare Finds War, 1940, by Gaylord DuBois, illustrated by Erwin L. Hess; International Spy: Doctor Doom Faces Death at Dawn, 1937, by Conrad Vane. 9
cases by acquiring specialty-printing concerns located elsewhere in the Midwest.The idea of printing playing cards had come from the buyers at Woolworth, who by then had been doing a brisk business in Whitman books and novelties for nearly a decade. The manufacture of cards called for the development of a new press capable of achieving an unusually high degree of precision in color alignment, or registration.As E.H. and company marshaled the specialized resources needed to overcome this technical barrier,Western began its emergence as an industry leader.The firm now measured its output in millions,with ten million books and nearly half as many decks of cards manufactured in 1928 alone. Propulsive growth continued even during the Great Depression, as Americans turned for solace and escape to the kinds of low-cost recreational materials that were the company's stockin-trade. Poignantly, jigsaw puzzles became the focus of a national craze as families struggled to put their own lives back together.10 Whitman's other great moneymaker during those years was Big Little Books, a new line of small, square, blocklike novelty books created by Sam Lowe and based on comic strip, radio, and motion picture characters.11 The series debuted in December 1932 with The Adventures of Dick Tracy, followed four months later by Little Orphan Annie. By April 1933, more than 600,000 copies of each book had been sold. The Big Little Books were a triumph of book design and marketing know-how.Their garish, action-laced full-color covers had all the clamorous appeal of movie posters. At ten cents apiece, the fully illustrated volumes, which typically measured just 3-5/8 x 4-1/2 x 1-1/2 inches and ran up to 432 pages, seemed an incomparable value. Not surprisingly, Big Little Books soon spawned imitators (including, notoriously, the Little Big series published by the Akron-based Saalfield Publishing Company).In disdainful response to the Saalfield challenge,Lowe in 1938 renamed Whitman's series Better Little Books. Lowe's novelty line was not the only new pulp format aimed at capturing young readers'pocket money.In 1935,with the release on newsstands of New Fun No.1,comic books'also priced at ten cents and issued in monthly installments'entered the fray as purveyors of up-tempo 10 GOLDEN LEGACY
11 PART ONE
tales of superheroics, survival ordeals, and crime-stopping derring-do.12 The market proved more than ample to sustain both forms of unfussy, mildly sensational entertainment. For children, choosing one was like choosing between two favorite kinds of candy.In one respect,however,Big Little Books had it all over the magazine-style competition: youngsters compelled to hide their forbidden stashes of subliterary fare from disapproving parents doubtless found the highly compact Big Littles easier to keep under wraps. To publish the Big Little series,Lowe first had to secure the rights to use the popular characters whose proven mass appeal was the key to the success of his plan. Undaunted by his lack of experience, he blithely dummied up two Big Little samples, boarded a train bound for New York, and presented his handiwork at a meeting with executives of the powerful Chicago Tribune'New York News syndicate. The wee volumes Lowe had cobbled together were impossible to resist:once seen,they had to be held in hand. Once held, they were more likely than not going to be purchased.The precedent-setting agreement that Lowe reached with the syndicate called for the licensor to receive a negotiated percentage of the wholesale price of each character-based book or product sold.By the spring of 1933,with sales of well over half a million copies of each of the first two Big Littles, Lowe felt ready to make his next major foray into the brave new world of character licensing. Armed with the new line's impressive first-round sales figures, he approached the most attractive potential licensing partner of all.'We wonder,' Lowe wrote Walt Disney on April 19,'if it is possible to get the right to 'Mickey Mouse'in a book of this kind, which is different than anything already published.'13 Just five years earlier, Disney had introduced Mickey Mouse to audiences as the hero of one of the first synchronized sound cartoons ever made,SteamboatWillie. Popular response to the short film'and to the many sequels the Walt Disney Studio had followed up with, featuring the same saucy,irreverent mouse'had been nothing short of rapturous.By 1933,the Mickey Mouse franchise was already supporting a robust merchandising operation spurred by the formation of hundreds of local theater-sponsored Mickey Mouse Clubs in the United States,Canada,and Great Britain.Walt Detective Higgins of the Racket Squad, 1938, by Millard Thacksen, illustrated by Herbert Anderson. 12 GOLDEN LEGACY
13 PART ONE
Disney had learned a hard lesson in licensing in 1926 when, after signing away the rights to an earlier popular cartoon creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, he watched his distributor, Universal Pictures, reap profits from merchandising ventures from which he and his own struggling company would otherwise have benefited.14 Roy O. Disney,Walt's brother and business manager, responded positively to Lowe's proposal, and the first Big Little Mickey Mouse book, based on preexisting comic-strip material, was soon being readied for the printer.15 In early June, however, relations between the two companies abruptly turned frosty after the animation studio learned that Whitman not only had designed but also had gone so far as to print the cover of the book without first obtaining Disney's approval. Lowe's customary lightning efficiency had run afoul of the animator's unbending insistence on artistic control over all work bearing his name. A stiff letter of rebuke from Roy contained the bad news that Disney had decided not to proceed with additional Big Little Books, at least for the time being.16 Prudent Roy took care, however, to leave the door ajar for a resumption of business relations; within a month, the bad feelings had been repaired, thanks in no small part to word from Lowe that Whitman expected Mickey Mouse to reach the 600,000 mark in sales in short order. Noting that demand for the novelty books tended to flatten out at that level, Lowe pressed his eagerness to have a new Mickey Mouse title to place on store counters as soon as possible.As he put the matter to Kay Kamen, the studio's newly hired New York'based licensing agent,'We have found it extremely advisable to keep changing these books.'17 Before the year was out,Disney and Whitman not only were back on cordial terms but had greatly expanded their original plans to encompass a variety of new projects, including 'Three Little Pigs? playing cards and a 'Lullaby Land? book of paper dolls, as well as the second and third volumes in what was to become a lengthy roster of Mickey Mouse Big Little Books.18 That year, Lowe also negotiated agreements for a special edition of Mickey Mouse to be distributed by Procter & Gamble as a premium to its customers.19 It was all part of the impressive Sam Lowe whirlwind that eventually prompted Disney, who in the early days had The first Mickey Mouse Big Little Book. Courtesy of the Wellesley College Library. 14 GOLDEN LEGACY
casually granted licenses to an array of publishing houses including David McKay and Blue Ribbon Books, to sign an exclusive licensing agreement with Western covering all Disney characters in all book formats. The arrangement lasted, largely unchanged, into the 1980s, resulting in important financial consequences for both companies.20 For all the success Lowe brought Whitman's way, Western remained first and foremost a printing concern. By 1934, as the company reached the five-million-dollar mark in annual sales, the search for new customers pointed inexorably to New York, the chief center of American publishing as well as the headquarters of numerous other potential corporate clients.21 Whitman's growth and prosperity had long since confirmed E. H.Wadewitz's early hunch that book publishers could become the printing company's bread and butter.With that idea in mind,Western in 1934 ventured beyond the Midwest to open a large printing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York, eighty miles north of midtown Manhattan.22 1938. 1935. 15 PART ONE
Lowe, for one, did not think that the new 'Pokip? plant's success should have to depend solely on a combination of traditional salesmanship and proximity to the city.Applying his knack for innovative reformatting to the company itself, Lowe in 1935 set up a small Western subsidiary in Manhattan for the purpose of producing original books to be offered, ready-made, to publishers.23 Western would furnish the manuscript, illustrations, and design, as well as the printing and binding, but the book would appear under the client-publisher's name, as would any book the publisher originated. Here was a most unorthodox printingindustry business plan: the assumption, in advance, of the publisher's editorial and design roles, in the expectation of generating presswork.The new office was given a vaguely medieval-sounding name'the Artists and Writers Guild'meant to highlight the collaborative workshop aspect of the enterprise. (Lowe or one of his colleagues took the name from that of a Midwestern printing company that Western owned; the original Guild was best known for a Prohibition-era playing card pack featuring kings and queens in irreverent drunken poses.)24 Building on Whitman's backlog of licensed-character experience, the Guild soon secured the Dell Publishing Company as its first major client. Founded in 1921 by a dashing recent college graduate named George T. Delacorte, Jr., Dell first skyrocketed to profitability on the popularity of such racy, mass-appeal pulp magazines as Modern Screen, Modern Romances, and Inside Detective.25 Having established a presence on America's newsstands, Delacorte tried as early as 1929 to extend his reach into the juveniles market with The Funnies, a weekly tabloid-style compilation of newspaper strips.Although this first foray into the comics trade failed, the young print mogul remained determined, and in February 1936, his patience was rewarded when the first issue of Dell's Popular Comics, a monthly compilation in the comics magazine format that other publishers had by then made standard, proved a major success. Within two years,Western was engaged in printing Dell Comic books by the millions. Dell also sublicensed from Western various Disney and other characters whose publication rights the printer controlled.As Western continued tenaciously to pursue its two-pronged strategy, 16 GOLDEN LEGACY March 1933. June 1939.
At left: George T. Delacorte. From the May 1949 issue of The Westerner. simultaneously acquiring more character licenses and more clientpublishers, the company increasingly found itself in the extraordinary position of profiting regardless of whether a consumer purchased a Whitman publication or one published by a Whitman competitor. Over the next few years, the Artists and Writers Guild created children's books for Grosset and Dunlap, Random House, Simon and Schuster,and Harper and Brothers,among other New York firms.Of the four publishers on this partial client roster, Harper stands out as the one seemingly least in need of such services, being much older and more upmarket than the others. That Artists and Writers did indeed have something definite to offer venerable Harper and Brothers''established in 1817,' with a juveniles backlist that included books by Mark Twain, Howard Pyle, and Peter Newell'suggests that Western's New York outpost had quickly achieved a reputation for high-quality work as well as for commercial nimbleness. 17 PART ONE November 1943.
Among the small group hired to staff the New York office was Georges Duplaix, an urbane European polymath''every American's idea of a Frenchman,' as his son Michel would later remark'who had come to New York from Paris with a knowledge of literature, art, and color printing technology, and with numerous contacts in the publishing and illustration worlds.26 After training in France and the United States for a medical career, Duplaix had thought better of becoming a doctor and shifted into the business side of the profession, where he'd made a fortune by selling medical equipment. Then the Great Depression ruined his business and with it his plans for early retirement and a cultured life of leisure. Forced to start over, Duplaix turned to writing and illustrating children's books as a source of income,for a time leading a frenetic seminomadic existence, with his wife and two small children in tow, as he created books for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic while also scouting fresh business opportunities on two continents. No wonder he thought to call one of the stories he wrote at this time The Merry Shipwreck. A soft-spoken but fiercely competitive man, Duplaix engineered the transfer of a fellow staffer to another Western division just in time to secure for himself the top spot as director of the Artists and Writers Guild.27 In most respects, the job suited him perfectly. He was soon happily absorbed in translating French picture books for American publication by Guild client-publishers, writing (and in some cases also illustrating) picture books for Whitman and other houses, and even arranging to introduce to the American market examples of France's fabled Albums du P're Castor under the Artists and Writers Guild's own imprint. He also experimented with refinements to the Benday color printing process, a screen method traditionally associated with comic-book production, making the process more suitable for use with illustrated books,at a great savings to Western.28 One type of work Duplaix had no taste for was the day-to-day management of an office. He was the first to admit as much, and underscored the point by keeping an easel set up near his office window. Visitors might arrive for a business meeting to find the spry, intense, 18 GOLDEN LEGACY
goateed pipe-smoker dreamily wielding a palette and brush while those around him typed or answered the telephone. Duplaix compensated for this shortcoming with his canny choice of surrogates.In the fall of 1936,he set the Guild on a firm course by hiring Lucille Ogle as the Artists and Writers Guild's second-in-command.29 Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1904, Ogle was a talented amateur concert pianist who had considered pursuing a career in music before deciding,while still in her early twenties,and after a brief stint as a schoolteacher, to accept the position of editor in chief at the Harter School Supply Company,a Cleveland publisher of children's books for the school market.30 A Harter picture book offered the young reader useful knowledge leavened with touches of gaiety.Titles published during Ogle's years there included The Alphabet That Was Good to Eat (by Louise Price Bell, illustrated by Dorothy Whidden, 1932) and The Daily Dozen: A Good Health Picture Book with Jolly Rhyme (by Mildred Plew Merryman, 1933). Facing page, top: Georges Duplaix (left) with colleague H. M. Benstead in an undated photograph. Golden Books archives. Bottom: Duplaix as sketched by Feodor Rojankovsky for the jacket of Animal Stories. This page: Examples of Rojankovsky's work for the P're Castor series of books. Courtesy of Tatiana R. Koly. 19 PART ONE
The children depicted in the books were uniformly well dressed, rosy cheeked, and adorable. It goes without saying that they were white. Eager to advance herself professionally, Ogle enrolled in Western Reserve University (later Case Western Reserve), from which she graduated in 1936 with a bachelor's degree in education. Later that year, she moved to New York City, where she worked on the Artists and Writers Guild staff while earning a master's degree in merchandising from New York University.Whether Ogle went to New York to take a job that had already been offered to her, or moved originally only to pursue her education, or did so with both plans in mind, is unclear.A woman of extraordinary energy and focus, she seems in any case to have immediately hit her stride,thereby epitomizing the segment of the city's populace who,as E.B.White later wrote,had come there 'in quest of something'and who gave New York its 'passion.' Such 'settlers,'White went on to suggest, Lucille Ogle and Walt Disney in an undated photograph. Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. 20 GOLDEN LEGACY
accounted for New York's 'high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements.'31 High-strung indeed. A short, stocky woman with a booming stage voice, a helmet of prematurely white hair, and a gregarious, welcoming manner, Ogle had learned early how to hold her own in a man's profession.32 Decisive in business matters and firm in her editorial judgments, she was as quick to fly into a rage as she was to laugh, swore easily, and, when necessary, could put up a fearsome front at a meeting. She once hurled a heavy tape dispenser across her office to punctuate her impatience with a junior editor.33 Ogle got along splendidly with artists, who regarded her as a peer. Her keen understanding of design and especially of color eventually earned her a coveted place on the board of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.Ogle discovered that around the office,color could even be used as a tool for reinforcing her authority.To maximize the impact of her best feature'her piercing aquamarine eyes'during business meetings, Ogle often dressed for work in royal blue. When the Guild moved to elegant new offices in Rockefeller Center, she installed a rug of vibrant blue in her corner office to further heighten the effect.34 Decades later, Ogle's penetrating gaze was the first thing that nearly everyone recalled of their encounters with her. As tough as she made herself out to be, those who came to know Ogle regarded her as a warmhearted, generous woman and a natural teacher with a great store of worldly wisdom at her disposal. Once, when the author Margaret Wise Brown showed her a large diamond-encrusted pin she had just inherited, and remarked on the difficulty of safeguarding such a treasure, Ogle advised the author simply to wear the showpiece whenever and wherever she wished:'No one,' the editor reasoned,'will ever believe it is real.'35 Having struggled since childhood with dyslexia, Ogle was also known for the colorful malapropisms with which she sometimes rendered her sage advice.'Let's face it, Frank,' she once told a Disney official who she thought was going overboard in his efforts to exploit one of the studio's licensed properties.'You can't milk an apple twice.' On another occasion, counseling calm to an irate colleague, 21 PART ONE
she said,'That's just washing your hands to spite your face.'36 Ogle, who never married, often visited her far-flung artists and authors at home, attended their weddings and holiday celebrations, guided them through rough patches in their private lives, sent them beautifully wrapped, memorable gifts, and loaned or simply gave them money. It was as though when not caught up in 'making grown men cry,' as one junior editor, who grew quite fond of Ogle, recalled, she became everybody's favorite aunt.37 And it was this warm and committed approach to her working relationships that allowed her to speak her mind with candor, as when she instructed a newly hired staff member, 'You've got a lot to learn, but around here you can learn it. Stick by me, and if any of these goddamn people give you any problems, just remember that they don't know half as much as they think they know. But also remember:they're all a lot smarter than you are.So just keep learning!'38 On other occasions, she relied upon charm, as when she wrote a letter to Ruth Adler, a longtime author whose manuscript needed further revision, reminding her that however motivated a piece of writing might be by good intentions, it still needed an appealing 'twist? to make children care for it. 'Have you heard the story,' Ogle slyly inquired, 'about a mother mouse who tried to impress her mouselet with the virtues of education and learning? She was constantly teaching, and every question her baby asked was answered fully.The day came when they went out on the baby's first food-foraging expedition.The mother was proud, for her little pupil found some seeds and tasty morsels all by herself.They then proceeded together,and at a turn in the road,came face to face with an ENORMOUS cat. Without hesitating for a moment, the mother looked steadily at kitty, and loudly said,'BOW-WOW-WOW!'The cat's fur rose,and she streaked away. Mama mouse turned to her offspring and said,'See how it pays to have a second language'? 'The moral in my telling this story is this: George [sic] Duplaix and many authors of juvenile books use a good, funny story as the base for their plots.They change the characters and situations and embroider a bit'but they work with the view of delighting the children.'39 Facing page:This 1951 illustrated letter from Feodor Rojankovsky was one of many such letters that Lucille Ogle received from her artists. Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. 22 GOLDEN LEGACY
23 PART ONE
Q: Tell me about The Kitten's Surprise. A:Well, it was published when I was just three years old, so I don't remember my father illustrating it. Nina, the author, was my mother, but I don't remember her writing it, either. And I don't know whether it's a real story or if it is fictional. What I do know is that the girl on the cover is me as a child and that a lot of the toys that are pictured were mine then: the monkey, the red horse, and the little tiger cub. And the jumper the little girl is wearing was an actual piece of clothing of mine, which my daughter wore too. I still have it! The carriage that the poor cat is tortured in was my doll carriage.We always had cats at home and I'm sure that like all children, I must have tried at some point to make a doll or a child out of a kitten. Q: Would your father have you pose for him? A: No. But there are lots of drawings of me in his sketchbooks. Q: Did you watch him work? A: Oh, yes. In our first Bronxville [New York] house, where we lived when I was ages five to eleven, he transformed the garage into an incredible studio. I would go there just for the atmosphere. He would stand at his table when he drew. Q: People say he had great energy. A: He was a firecracker'very quick and agile. He played the balalaika and loved to dance and give parties. He was fifty-eight when I was born and even when I was in my teens he would start jumping up on tables, imitating a monkey! Normally, my father was a very cheerful individual. He would talk about World War I, which was such a horrendous experience. But as my mother said, the way the stories came out made it sound almost 'like a joyride.' If he wasn't pleased with something, however'whether it was the story he was illustrating, or his artwork, or the restrictions under which he had been placed'he would get into a very bad humor. My mother referred to these moods as 'the throes of creation.' He often worked with watercolor, and I remember watching as he washed something out and started again, then washed it out again'starting over and over. Q: Did he do much research? A: Whenever we traveled he always had a sketchbook with him. We often went to the zoo. He also clipped reams and reams of animal photos from magazines.And he kept a lot of my childhood drawings, as well as fans? drawings, and had books on the subject of children's art. He said that what he especially loved about children's art was the na've, uninhibited, brilliant use of color. Q: How did he organize his day? A: He was very disciplined when he was on a project. He would get up early and begin work. Later in the day he would take a break and go for a walk or work in the garden. Evenings, he read. He was an avid, avid reader. My father also loved woodworking. He made lots of furniture, most of it very modern in design. My mother called these projects his 'furniture sketches.'They were always very beautiful but not always practical.You'd have to be careful about sitting on some of his chairs! Tatiana R. Koly Remembers Her Father, Feodor Rojankovsky 24 GOLDEN LEGACY
25 Feodor Rojankovsky with his daughter,Tatiana, in 1956, in his Bronxville, New York, studio. Photo by Robert Browning Baker. Courtesy of Tatiana R. Koly.
Part Two Entrepreneurs and 'migr? Artists From Scuffy the Tugboat, 1946, by Gertrude Crampton, illustrated by Tibor Gergely.
he most consequential publishing relationship forged by the Artists and Writers Guild in its first years started rather tentatively, in 1937, with the production for Simon and Schuster of a lavish, higher-priced book for older children called A Child's Story of the World:From the Earliest Days to Our Own Time, by Donald Culross Peattie, with illustrations by Naomi Averill.1 In 1937, Simon and Schuster was a midsized thirteen-year-old New York house with a reputation for marketing brashness and editorial daring,and with no experience whatsoever in the juveniles field.The two founding partners, Max Schuster and Richard Simon, had met when the latter, a recent Columbia graduate who had taken a sales job with the Aeolian Company, called on Schuster one afternoon to try to sell him a piano.Simon's prospect was a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and was working as a magazine editor. The conversation soon turned from pianos to books, and a close friendship was born. Not long 27 PART TWO Both images from Daddies, 1953, by Janet Frank, illustrated by Tibor Gergely.
28 GOLDEN LEGACY afterward, Simon became a publisher's sales representative. In the months that followed, the friends began discussing a possible future for themselves in publishing. Both men were cultured, ambitious American-born German Jews who, much like their contemporaries Bennett Cerf and Alfred A. Knopf, had been quick to realize that the future was barred to them as Jews at the clubby, old-guard New York firms. Going into business for themselves was their only option. Both were still in their early twenties when,in 1924,they pooled their resources and set up shop in a one-room midtown office without a single author committed to working with them. As it turned out, the first book to which Simon and Schuster put their names needed no author in the usual sense and hardly qualified as a book from the standpoint of their publishing betters.The Cross Word Puzzle Book was the first American compilation of its kind. As an incentive to browsers,each copy came with a free pencil.The new publishers need not have worried about the public's response: The Cross Word Puzzle Book
sparked a national craze and was later credited with having popularized in the United States what until then had been a British pastime.Much to the partners? astonishment, a project concocted as a stopgap had mushroomed into the kind of lopsided success that could easily spell financial ruin for a small firm unprepared for an unforeseen surge in business.That the novice publishers not only survived their first bestseller but also were able to channel the profits into building a list varied enough to accommodate Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy and Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People spoke admirably for their business acumen and their feel for American popular taste and cultural aspirations, whatever the Maxwell Perkinses and Alfred A. Knopfs of New York's publishing firmament might murmur to the contrary.2 The maverick Simon and Schuster tweaked their old-guard rivals by declaring at every public opportunity that publishing was 'fun.' To underscore the point,they made an amusing show of the Ping-Pong table they kept in their office.3 Hugely energetic young men, they recognized kindred spirits in Duplaix and Ogle.By 1938,the foursome,joined by the publisher's sales manager Albert R.Leventhal and treasurer Leon Shimkin, were engaged in ongoing conversations about long-term projects that the Guild and 'Essandess'might undertake together.'We will gladly do some juvenile books with you,' Simon told Duplaix one day,'but we will not do anything anybody else is doing.We want something absolutely different.'4 With small children at home, Simon and Leventhal (who shared a taste for elegant suits and fine dining) and Shimkin (a brilliant numbers man and more of a nail-biter) had all grown deeply curious about the market for juveniles.Leventhal would later recall,as a turning point in his interest,an evening at home when his three-year-old daughter had unceremoniously tossed a picture book into her bath,reducing the slim volume to a soggy ruin.This experience,he later wrote,as much as any,had shown him that, given the wear and tear to which children naturally subjected all their belongings, lower-priced books might be greatly appreciated by parents.5 Born in New York City and trained as a journalist at the University of Michigan, Albert Rice Leventhal worked as a police reporter, rewrite Facing page, top: Max Schuster (left) and Richard Simon (right) at a 1931 party they gave for Robert L. Ripley (center), creator of 'Believe It or Not.'Wide World Photo. From the March 1951 issue of The Westerner. Bottom: From Daddies. 29 PART TWO
man, and Sunday editor at the Brooklyn Times Union before landing a job as Simon and Schuster's promotion manager.6 Leventhal scheduled his interview with the publisher for the afternoon of the Vanderbilt Cup Bridge Tournament, in which he planned to compete that evening. His bridge partner (and devoted boyhood friend), Jack Goodman, already worked at Essandess and was standing by to share a cab uptown.7 Max Schuster, the more formal of the two publishers, began the interview.Then Dick Simon breezed by to size up the candidate.When Simon, who, like Schuster, was a bridge enthusiast, learned of Leventhal's after-hours plans, his interest was piqued, and he asked the applicant, 'May we join you guys''After Goodman and his partner scored an easy victory in the duplicate competition, Simon turned to Leventhal and told him he was hired. Leventhal proved to be a publishing natural. He had wideranging curiosity, a keen grasp of the market, a ready command of the language of persuasion, and a gift for inspiring and mentoring those around him.8 Colleagues were put at ease by his straightforward and eminently reasonable manner.They admired him for his generosity of spirit and enjoyed his quick sense of fun. Once, in response to a hostile question about his devotion to the mass market, Leventhal blithely skewered a highbrow interviewer with the cryptic rejoinder,'As we say in publishing: Rumpelstiltskin!'9 No day at the office was complete without a convivial round of late-afternoon drinks at Rockefeller Center's Mayan Room or another of Leventhal's favorite watering holes. By 1938, with the worst of the Depression over for most Americans, there was a growing sense among publishers that the market for children's books was ripe for expansion. Bolstering publishers? expectations, the American Library Association that year presented the first Caldecott Medal for distinguished work by an American children's book artist.The new award lent added prestige to the picture book as an art form just as a growing number of American illustrators were turning to the genre as an outlet for their talents and an influx of European 'migr? artists was further enriching the scene.A possibility-laden time clearly lay just ahead.As the Essandess and Guild group considered their place in this Albert R. Leventhal as vice president and director of sales for Simon & Schuster. From the March 1951 issue of The Westerner. Facing page: A 1942 Pocket Book. 30 GOLDEN LEGACY
promising future, their weekend discussions at Georges Duplaix's Sands Point, Long Island, home began to focus on the creation of a new line of picture books higher in quality than those Whitman was known for, yet priced well below the picture books then currently sold in stores.10 Underlying this idea was the populist conviction, far from universally shared by publishers, that the known book-buying market represented only a fraction of the market's potential,and that a large unserved portion of the public'consisting of Americans who,though less educated and less prosperous than traditional book buyers, were eager to better themselves and their children'could be reached only if good books were manufactured and sold far more cheaply than in the past. Simon had already summed up this publishing philosophy in the five words engraved on the plaque he kept on his desk:'Give the reader a break!'11 Richard Simon and Max Schuster were ideal partners in the venture, having given considerable thought to the question of how best to reach untapped markets for books. On the adult side of their publishing business, they were already engaged in just such a mass-market experiment. Only recently, Leon Shimkin, the company treasurer later to become known as the third S of the Simon and Schuster operation, had guided Essandess into a joint venture with Robert de Graff, a publisherentrepreneur who had made it his mission to overcome the book industry's long-standing resistance to paperbacks.12 De Graff was eager to trump publishing snobbery and supply the nation with a broad array of worthwhile paperbacks at a mere twenty-five cents a copy'a revolutionary plan for expanding the possibilities of book ownership. De Graff's scheme depended on a variety of cost-cutting measures and an ingenious approach to distribution: Pocket Books, as the new line was named, would be primarily sold not at bookstores but rather from specially designed wire racks strategically placed in drugstores, train stations, and other heavily trafficked nontraditional locales. The key to accomplishing this lay in the forging of new alliances with the nation's independent news wholesalers, with their armies of cigar-chomping men with trucks who delivered magazines and newspapers to the country's retailers.13 By harnessing this powerful distribution channel,Pocket Books 31 PART TWO
rapidly thrust itself into the very mainstream of American life. Racks of Pocket Books soon seemed to be everywhere. In the late 1930s,the average price of a hardbound children's picture book'the kind of elaborately illustrated,often oversized story-hour book, such as Jean de Brunhoff's The Story of Babar or Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, that libraries purchased for their collections each year and that a parent or a grandparent might buy for a child as a special gift'was between $1.50 and $2.00.The most elegant of these books approached the quality of fine press editions and were meant to offer children an aesthetically uplifting experience: their first exposure to the twin realms of timeless literature and art. Such handsome books, which seemed to demand gentle treatment by wellscrubbed little hands, made suitable holiday gifts and appeared destined for awards-committee recognition.There was no disputing the idealistic impulse behind this tendency in children's publishing, yet it was fair to ask whether such books met the real needs of small children and their At left:The current edition of The Story of Babar. At right:The 1954 Little Golden Book edition of Madeline. 32 GOLDEN LEGACY
parents. As a first experiment, Lucille Ogle was assigned the daunting task of preparing samples for a line of less high-toned yet still somewhat comparable picture books, to be sold in stores for fifty cents.The chosen target price indicated a swing toward caution. Other fifty-cent picture books, notably those in Grosset and Dunlap's Story Parade series, were already on the market and proving their worth.14 Had not Richard Simon insisted that the group come up with something unprecedented? Finally, someone'by various accounts it was Duplaix or Leventhal? proposed raising the stakes by publishing a line of high-quality picture books priced at a quarter.To do so would put the books within the price range of merchandise stocked in vast quantities by Woolworth, Kresge, McCrory's, and the other national chains. (The aim would be to outWhitman Whitman.) At that price, the independent news wholesalers, who had helped make a resounding success of Pocket Books from the time of their launch in May 1939, might be enlisted once again.As had been the case with Pocket Books, making the new scheme work would require risking dauntingly large print runs'50,000 copies of a book instead of the standard 5,000 to 10,000'to be matched, of course, by correspondingly large sales.Once again,Ogle was given the job of creating sample books. Simon and Schuster, meanwhile, was considering its options, hiring away Viking production managers Tom and Margaret Bevans with a view to setting up a full-fledged children's book department of its own.15 Not by chance, one of the first books the Bevanses worked on in their new posts was by Ludwig Bemelmans, an artist who until then had been exclusively associated with Viking.May Massee,Viking's legendary juniorbooks editor, had been shown the manuscript first but had thought the mischievous tale, called Madeline, 'too sophisticated? for young children. (Massee regretted the decision later, published each of the Madeline sequels, and eventually acquired the rights to the original book.)16 Another early Simon and Schuster juvenile was an unconventional square 'tactile? book for preschoolers that called for bits of real cloth, sandpaper, and other embellishments to be affixed to its pages, the better for youngsters to have the kind of firsthand sensory experiences 33 PART TWO
then being touted by progressive educators. Not surprisingly, given the novelty book's many special manufacturing requirements,Harcourt Brace, the first publisher to be shown Dorothy Kunhardt's prototype for Pat the Bunny, turned the project down, albeit reluctantly.17 True to their devilmay-care reputation, Simon and Schuster, however, opted to rise to the occasion. With some effort, the Bevanses found the eleven suppliers needed for the book's special effects and managed to get Pat the Bunny into stores in time for the 1940 holiday season.When it came time to advertise Kunhardt's fanciful creation,the witty young men and women at Essandess had a field day preparing a widely circulated ad in which they favorably compared the new book for preschoolers with two current adult bestsellers:'Oliver Wiswell (an historical novel of the American Revolution by Kenneth Roberts) is a wonderful book'but it won't squeak if you press it. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway's latest) is magnificent'but it hasn't any bunny in it.'18 In the five weeks before Christmas 1940, Pat the Bunny became the year's bestselling children's book. 34 GOLDEN LEGACY Top: Dorothy Kunhardt with her husband, Phil, and their youngest child, Edith, 1937. Facing page: Dorothy Kunhardt's daughter Nancy in 1928, holding the toy rabbit that would inspire Pat the Bunny (current edition, below), to be created ten years later for Edith. Both photos courtesy of Edith Kunhardt Davis.
35 PART TWO
In 1940,Sam Lowe,who by then had been president of Whitman for more than twenty years and was a major Western stockholder, resigned to start his own publishing house, the Samuel Lowe Company, in Kenosha,Wisconsin, ten miles from Racine. (Bonnie Books, Abbott Publishing, and England's John Martin's House all became Lowe imprints.) Whether his decision was sudden or a long time in coming is not altogether clear, but there is no doubt that the parting was bitter. In an article published a few years after Lowe's death in 1950, the Kenosha Evening News reported that he had 'severed his connections with another large publishing firm? to 'gain greater liberty for his ideas and methods of producing high quality and low cost books for children.'19 Evidently, the relentless innovator had concluded that Western had become too big to act constructively on his ideas and that, as a publisher with essentially a printer's mentality, it set its editorial ambitions too rigidly in terms of what its presses were capable of producing.20 As Lowe told the New York Times not long after making his new start,'If you have partners you must spend a lot of your time convincing them, persuading them, thinking up answers to objections.'21 Was Lowe also disappointed not to have been included in the discussions that culminated in the launch of Little Golden Books? Once on his own, he methodically set about reprising his earlier triumphs, inaugurating his list with a ten-cent Three Little Kittens that in its first six months sold one and a half million copies in five-and-dime stores. The Times had sought him out after the Publishers? Weekly, a book industry trade journal, reported that the top-selling novel of 1940 was not, as everyone supposed, Oliver Wiswell or For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was a maudlin antebellum-era page-turner by Mary Jane Holmes called Lena Rivers, an 1897 publication that Lowe had reissued and sold by the million (also for a dime) through the chain stores. Pointedly opening a New York office in the same building as Western, at 200 Fifth Avenue, as well as establishing a third office in London, Lowe spent much of the last ten years of his life shuttling between cities and continents. With Bonnie Books,the line of twenty-five-cent picture books he introduced in 1946, Lowe even made a direct run at Little Golden Books.22 But the A 1950 Bonnie Book. Facing page, top:Tibor Gergely, at work on the poster for the 1949 New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival. Courtesy of Greta Schreyer Loebl. Bottom: Gergely's 1928 drawing of Josephine Baker, drawn for the Viennese newspaper Der Tag and signed by Baker. Courtesy of Linda Schreyer. Following pages: From Scuffy the Tugboat. 36 GOLDEN LEGACY
momentum belonged to the older, larger, better-financed firm, and though he met with considerable success as a supplier to the chain stores, Lowe in the larger scheme of things remained one of Western's shadow competitors, and by no means the greatest among them when all was said and done. Hardly a day passed at Western's New York offices without a telephone call from some lonely author or painter wishing to know how one went about joining the Guild. With a practiced air of sympathy, the receptionist would respond by saying that she was sorry but it was not that kind of guild.23 Duplaix and his staff were, however, always on the alert for talented freelancers. Ogle, for example, arranged a meeting with Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the founder of New York's Bank Street School, and attended sessions of Mitchell's Writers Laboratory, an advanced workshop in children's writing that convened weekly over a bottle of sherry at the school's tumbledown Greenwich Village headquarters.24 Among the regulars at the gatherings, where manuscripts were read and critiqued, were Margaret Wise Brown, Edith Thacher Hurd, Louise Woodcock, Jessie Stanton,Irma Simonton Black,and (a few years later than the others) Ruth Krauss, all of whom Ogle eventually published. During the late 1930s, as the European political situation worsened, a great many artists, writers, and intellectuals under threat from Hitler fled their homelands and took up life in exile in New York City. Among the new arrivals in the spring of 1939 was an accomplished Hungarian-born Jewish artist named Tibor Gergely.Gergely and his wife disembarked with 'a few suitcases and about two dozen rolled canvases and some of his drawings'all that was left of his former life.'25 Making the rounds with his portfolio, the artist soon met Georges Duplaix, who was happy to secure his services for the Guild. Ogle did her part by helping arrange a part-time teaching job for Gergely at New York University.26 With the publication of Topsy Turvy Circus (1940) and The Merry Shipwreck (1941), both written by Duplaix himself and packaged by the Guild for Harper and Brothers, American readers were introduced to the lighter side of a keenly observant self37 PART TWO
taught artist who had made his reputation in Europe between the wars as a stage designer, political caricaturist, and painter of brooding expressionist landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. A physically slight, soft-spoken man with a wild gaze and an explosive grin that called to mind Harpo Marx,Gergely had come of age in Budapest during the 1910s as the youngest member of a brilliant group of progressive intellectuals known as the Sunday Circle. Other Circle members included the Marxist critic Georg Luk'cs, the film theoretician B'la Bal'zs, composers B'la Bart'k and Zolt'n Kod'ly, and the painter
Anna Lesznai, whom Gergely later married. In 1921, after a reactionary government came to power in Hungary, members of the group fled Budapest for neighboringVienna, where Gergely won renown as a newspaper cartoonist and the cofounder of the avant-garde puppet theater Gong.A decade later,he returned with Anna Lesznai to Hungary,where,as one chronicler of his career has remarked,he 'displayed [through his varied work] an intense curiosity toward people and their environment . . . and . . . a sharp eye for . . . what lies under the surface . . .Armed with a sketchbook and pencil, he roamed the countryside and recorded village 39