Monday, August 17, 2009

Jolly Good Times Series by Mary P. Wells Smith

First Edition of Book #1

The Jolly Good Times Series was the largest and probably the most popular of the four series written by Mary P. Wells Smith. Two publishers printed the series in its entirety. First was Roberts brothers and after when it sold off the plates to Little, Brown and Company, the latter firm published the series as well.

As noted previously The books of this series were based on real environs. The first two books Jolly Good Times and Jolly Good Times at School are set at the Kendall Farm in Greenfield Meadows, Massachusetts where Mary P. Wells actually lived . The Hackmatack books were located in what was actually Warwick, Massachusetts. Daniel Strong , one of the heroes was based on Smith's husband.

The first two books were written with the pseudonym P. Thorne. All later books gave Smith as the author. Once the books were reprinted by Little, Brown, Smith was the author of note of all eight volumes.

Two ads for Roberts Brothers

Several formats of the Roberts Brothers and the Little Brown books have been seen. The Roberts' books that have Jolly Good Times in their title have a J and G from the words Jolly and Good incorporated within a decorative pattern. The first edition of book #1 has been seen with a gold gilt picture of three children. and a barrel. Other Roberts' books have various cover pictures. The Canoe Trip has a picture of boys paddling a canoe. (I have not seen all of the variants and will add pictures as I see them

Dust jacketed early Little Brown book. The first Little Brown editions were identical to the last Roberts' Brothers books.

The Little Brown books have been seen with flowers on the covers as well as pictures of adolescents sitting in chairs. The earlier Little Brown books have gold gilt lettering. The jackets match the books. Little Brown omitted the Canoe Trip and The Browns with its later printings. In 1927 Little Brown published a new edition which was larger (8.25 x 5.75) which was blue, gold gilt lettering, illustrated end papers and with a colorful dust jacket. This edition was limited to books #1 and #2.

All of the Roberts' books came with dust jackets but those jackets are really rare. The earlier Little Brown books are also quite scarce with dust jackets. This publisher has dates on the title page.

More to come on Mary Prudence Wells Smith's series later.

These are the 1927 Little Brown editions.

The Books.
1. Jolly Good Times 1875
2. Jolly Good Times at School 1877
3. The Browns 1884
4. Their Canoe Trip 1889
5. Jolly Good Times at Hackmatack 1891
6. More Good Times at Hackmatack 1892
7. Jolly Good Times To-Day 1894
8. A Jolly Good Summer 1895

Jessie Mcdermott illustrated books #5, 7.
Frank T. Merrill did book # 4.
Addie Ledyard did #1
Helen Mason Grose illustrated the end papers and books of the late 1920's
Little Brown reprints of Volumes #1 and #2.


  1. It's such a pleasure to see recognition of Mary P. Wells Smith and to learn more about her books, as I live near Greenfield and am a member of the Historical Society of Greenfield, of which she was a cofounder. She also was a founder of the town's garden club and member/honorary president of All Souls Church (Unitarian). Although her childhood home may be gone, the house where she lived as an adult when she returned to Greenfield is still there on High Street.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Mary’s childhood home in Massachusetts is still in existence, and it's still in her family's ownership. She grew up at the compound known as the Nims Farm at the fork of Colrain and Plain Roads in Greenfield... the original farmhouse (large and white on the right), and the little red house right in there in the fork, built to support the farm when Thomas Nims (Mary's uncle) was a representative to Boston in the 1840s.
    I grew up on this historic farm, as a descendent of this old family, and loved reading Jolly Good Times, Child Life on a Farm. Her characters are my ancestors, and she describes the rooms she played in (the rooms I played in), as well as the landscape of the lower lot being flooded by the Green River, the north lot where they would walk on Sundays, the hills they'd explore, the walk to church at North Parish. My favorite chapter is the Thanksgiving chapter, when she describes how they would prepare for days.... I always reread it at Thanksgiving, when I'm fortunate enough to go back home to the Farm to celebrate with my family.
    Take a drive to the Meadows and have a look at where her childhood home was, as it is indeed still there! :)
    Best wishes,
    Amanda KW Nims

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