Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Palmer Cox and the Brownies


In the 1890's and early 1900's no characters were more popular than the Brownies of Palmer Cox.

There were nine Brownie books published between 1887-1913. The books which
highlighted the adventures of a bizarre group of miniature creatures- "funny little men" . The first editions of the books were published by The Century Company. Some of the material for the books came from the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine where Cox had written Brownie's stories. Other book material came from the Ladies Home Journal. There are reprints of some the original books done by Saalfield.





The Brownies were much more than books. Trade cards and advertising pamphlets and books featuring the Brownies are found commonly. Kodak named their extremely popular camera "The Brownie Box Camera" after these Brownies. Early ads showed Brownies scrambling over the camera. The girl scouts named their organization for younger girls "The Brownies" after these little creatures. There was a Broadway musical in 1894. Brownies ephemera is seemingly ubiquitous with non paper items being very collectible and costly.

Other books involving his "Queer People" characters and miscellaneous other books written in the 1870's and 1880's number in the 20-30 volume range. Cox also did the illustrations for the numerous books written by E. Veale in the late 1890's and published by the Hubbard Publishing Company from Philadelphia. Later they were reprinted by Hurst and Company.

Between 1898 and 1907 the Brownies were occasionally also found in the Sunday comics in such newspapers as the New York Herald and the Los Angeles Herald.

Who was Palmer Cox (1840-1924)? He was born in Quebec. After an uneventful childhood he moved to San Francisco in 1863 and while working at numerous jobs he wrote his first book, Squibs of California. He moved to New York in 1876 and worked as an illustrator for a number of periodicals including St. Nicholas. His illustrating days blossomed into his eventual invention of the Brownies and a flourishing career.

More about the books tomorrow.

2 comments:

  1. does your collection have any of these early Brownie books with dust jackets?...by chance from old libraries I've acquired, I've owned a couple 4to format ones in dj in the past and seen a few offered for sale (say, under 10) over the years...perhaps they surface more regularly now on the internet if you are looking for them?...

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  2. Hi Brian,
    I have one Century Brownie book with a dust jacket. It will be in tomorrow's blog. I think , as with any early jacket, especially on a larger book, they are fairly scarce.

    Cary

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