Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Thornton Burgess and the Yankee Rabbit

5 August 2003 Thornton Burgess and the Yankee Rabbit

Thornton Burgess (1874-1965) wrote more than 15,000 bedtime stories and contributed more than 170 books to children's literature and summertime reading, centered around the unforgettable animals of Smiling Pool with Old Mother West Wind and her children, the Merry Little Breezes chasing after Farmer Brown's Boy and playing catch-me-if-you-can with his hat across the Green Meadows. Who can ever forget the inimitable George Kerr and his Freddy Fox or Harrison Cady with his brilliant cartoons of Peter and his friends exploring the environs of Laughing Brook and getting the inside story of Jimmy Skunk's doings and Billy Mink?

Although, Thornton Burgess first book, The Bride's Primer (1905) landed in obscurity. His second, Old Mother West Wind (1910) began a successful series that not only outlasted publishers and illustrators, but also spanned decades with the collaboration of Harrison Cody. Today, with publishers, agents and children's writing sites strongly discouraging talking animals, Thornton Burgess and Harrison Cady are enjoying a strong revival as a result of the Gutenberg Project making people aware of valuable old books discarded years ago. With an upsurge of academic interest in fairytales, Victorian and Edwardian children's books are in demand with a large growth in the reprint and ebook industry. Scarcely on the internet a year ago, Thornton Burgess brought up over 4000hits with large collections of titles now available.

The majority of his titles were printed with Little, Brown & Co (LB &co), beginning in 1910 and running until 1950,publishing his autobiography in 1960, Now I remember, Autobiography of an Amateur Naturalist. With such a prodigious publishing record, Burgess outran illustrators and publishers while maintaining a close collaboration with Harrison Cody throughout his life with titles appearing in LB & Co (1912-1950); Eggers (1912-1928); Whitman (1927-1930, having many undated titles); and Platt & Munk (1940-1942) and Grosset & Dunlap.Obviously in turning out 18 books in 1914, Harrison Cady was swamped with work and Eggers obliged their anonymous illustrator to do the overflow. And although, Cady is immediately recognized for his collaboration with Burgess, the source title, Old Mother West Wind was illustrated by George Kerr.

Old Mother West Wind
full text with illustrations by George Kerr

George Kerr illustrated four titles of the Mother West Wind series—Old Mother West Wind (1910); Mother West Wind's Children (1911); Mother West Wind's Animal Friends (1912) and Mother West Wind's Neighbor's (1913).

In 1912, Harrison Cody began his collaboration with Burgess, presenting Baby Possum Has a Scare and Baby Possum's Queer Voyage, and introduced Grandfather Frog in Grandfather Frog Gets a Ride. In 1913, Burgess brought out a handful of titles, including the Boy Scout titles with C.C.Corson as illustrator, and Leon Wolf with Little Animal Stories for little Children issued from John Martin's House, but by 1914 Harrison Cady was the chief illustrator with the shadowy ghosts taking up the overflow titles at Eggers and LB & co.

The W. Harrison Cady Papers in the American Archives of Art
Exhibition of W Harrison Cady who illustrated the majority of Thronton Burgess' books

AlephBet: Harrison Cady Showcase

At first, the long list of titles seems chaotic to the reader's eye, but with close scrutiny, an organized system appears as Eggers apparently brought out the small pocket series of 12-20pp with LB & co printing the collections of a hundred pages. Today, such publishing techniques and fielding works to multiple publishers would undoubtedly be eyed suspiciously as the publishing industry would scream "Foul" and get embroiled in nasty politics similar to the SCO – IBM – Linux et al. For the children's nature book series, Louis A Fuertes was retained for the illustrations for both the Animal and Bird Book titles. In the 1940-50's, Samuel Lowe published a handful of titles with Nino Carbe as illustrator and in 1946, the memorable, Why Peter Rabbit's Ears Are Long, came out from American Crayon Company with M W Stover imitating the style of George Kerr, possibly one-upping the remarkable Kipling, Just So stories. Whitman employed Nina Jordan; Penn Publishers—F A Anderson and C C Corson; Grosset & Dunlap – Phoebe Erickson and Elizatbeth Monath while Burgess supplied Carl and Mary Hauge and Harrison Cady for the ride; Rand-McNally, the atlas folks, brought out the nature books with Louis A Fuertes as illustrator.

Outside of these publishers and illustrators, there were a few others in scattered incidental publications or specials as Burgess seemed to be tireless in his prolific production of new stories for kids. Surprisingly, few reprints are listed among the titles with the exception his 1914 works between Eggers and LB & co. Six of the thirteen titles published by Eggers were reprinted in 1922.

Below is a short list of noteworthy sites for full text downloads and relevant information regarding the Yankee Peter Rabbit and his friends at Smiling Pool in the Green Meadows where the Merry Little Breezes play tag with Farmer Brown's boy.

Links for Thornton Burgess

A Collection of Free eBooks

Adventures of Freddy Foc
Adventures of Jerry Muskrat
Adventures of Paddy the Beaver
Blacky the Crow
Burgess Animal Book
Burgess Bird Book for Children
Kightfoot the Deer
Old Granny Fox
Old Mother West Wind
Whitefoot the Mouse

carries books in these formats: MS Reader, Acrobat, Rocket reader, .zip, iSilo, MobiPocket and EasyReader

Adventures of Freddy Fox
Advantures of Jerry Muskrat
Adventures of Paddy teh Beaver
Adventures Of Porr Mrs Quack
Blacky the Crow
Burgess Animal Book for Children
Burgess Bird Book for Children
Mrs Peter Rabbit
Old Granny Fox
Old Mother West Wind
Whitefoot the Woodmouse

note: test drove the MS Reader and Acrobat. Bad news: no pics

Gutenberg Project: Thornton Burgess

14 books, text only

Thornton Burgess Titles
pay 1-14 USD for Canada homeschool

Thornton Burgess bio
with a list of books

Laughing Brook
home of Thornton W Burgess
pics and text

Burgess Bio

EPA :WetLands
a reading list for preschool-elementary for anture awareness
many an honored title here
lesson plans and additional material suggestions

Department of Special Collection U Wisconsin Madison


Blogger kelinci said...

great post & useful info.

12:25 AM  

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