Bessie Pease Gutmann

Bessie Collins Pease was born on April 8, 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Horace Collins Pease and Margaretta Darrach Young. The artist showed an early interest in art and by the age of sixteen she had entered and won many prizes at amateur art competitions. Her formal art training began in 1893 when she commenced her studies at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. In 1896 Bessie decided that New York would be the best place to pursue her art career and after moving there she started two years of study at the New York School of Art.

The artist’s first paid work came from illustrating name cards and place cards, painting people’s portraits, as well as creating images for newspaper and magazine advertisers. After completing her course at the New York School of Art she enrolled at The Art Students League of New York. While studying there she met her future employer, Bernhard Gutmann, who after observing her portfolio of work invited her to work for his business. The firm Gutmann and Gutmann, formed in 1902 by Hellmuth and Bernhard Gutmann, was an art print business and Bessie was employed as a commercial artist to create fine art prints, illustrations for magazines and books, while still accepting commissions from other firms. In her first four years of employment she created at least fifty images for magazines and illustrated eight books, two of which were very popular at the time of publication and are still well known today. The first book is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1905, which was also her first book commission, additionally there is the 1907 publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1906 she married Hellmuth and changed her signature from Bessie Collins Pease to Bessie Pease Gutmann.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The First Dance Lesson (1923)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Harmony (1940)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Now I Lay Me (1912)

Between 1906 and 1920 her art adorned 22 magazine covers including Pictorial Review, McCall’s and Woman’s Home Companion, among others. The artist’s cover work brought her recognition and awards, both in the United States and Europe. Additionally, during this period she produced seventy-two postcards that became some of Gutmann and Gutmann’s most highly sought after and profitable products. The popularity of these postcards can be attributed to the fact that her illustrations avoided the social issues of the day, which in others was a common theme. The postcards had a broad range of subjects and could be purchased either singly or as a series. The groups entitled ‘The Five Senses’ (1909) and ‘Events in a Woman’s Life’ (1911) became so popular they were framed and sold in the department stores of New York City and Boston. Due to the high demand for these products at least ten different printing firms had to be used with Reinthal and Newman from America, Charles A. Hauff and The Alphasa Publishing Company of London being the principal printers. These works helped to popularise her images and therefore her sales of art prints also increased.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Pictorial Review Magazine (Cover) (1917)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The Five Senses (1909)

Bessie’s work was at its height of popularity in the 1920s. During this time the artist focused almost exclusively on producing art prints. There was no record kept on the number of copies that were printed or sold, but it has been estimated that the total number of prints, for images like A Little Bit of Heaven, The Awakening and In Shame, would number in the millions and were sold on a global scale. These huge numbers mean it is still possible to buy many of Bessie’s prints today and for less than one hundred dollars. Though famous for her images of babies and toddlers these are not the only subjects she focused on. Mothers with babies, cherubs, brides, war and religious themes as well as a small number of colonial America illustrations also appear in her portfolio.

Bessie’s popularity started to decline in the mid-1930s as America, and the rest of the world, started to take an interest in art styles that neither she nor her employer had any interest in producing. The war further hindered art production by restricting the amount of quality art paper and labourers needed to produce prints. In 1948 Hellmuth died, and thus Gutmann and Gutmann was sold, and the artist retired from commercial work.  However, she did continue to paint what she called her “relaxation art.” These images where mainly floral and fruit arrangements, still-lifes and landscapes. Bessie Pease Gutmann died on September 29, 1960, at the age of 84.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Springtime (1927)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Goldilocks (1921)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Symphony (1921)

The artist used many different forms of painting media in her works. At the beginning of her career she was using watercolor paint with ink and pen outlines while her most popular works were created with charcoal pencil and then applying a light watercolor wash. When making her images she differed from other painters as she worked from photographs rather than models. She always carried around a camera and was constantly taking pictures of nieces, nephews, her own and friends’ children in various natural and unposed situations. Bessie kept an album of these photographs which she could study for use in future paintings. Below is an example of one such photograph and the resulting painting.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The New Pet (Date Unknown)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The New Pet (1922)

There is little information about the artist on the internet, therefore people wanting information should look at the book Bessie Pease Gutmann: Her Life and Works by Victor J. W. Christie which contains the most information. Other resources of use can be found at her Wikipedia page.

Little Girl vs. Bull: Kristen Visbal

As part of an ad campaign by State Street Global Investors to shed light on gender inequality in the workplace, sculptor Kristen Visbal created a statue of a bold little girl (aptly called Fearless Girl) to face down the famous Wall Street bull in Bowling Green Park, New York, an artwork universally associated with the financial district, particularly high speed trading. Fearless Girl was installed for International Women’s Day, a commemoration of working women started in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, but it has since become a worldwide phenomenon and taken on a much greater import. In light of recent politics, a tiny but defiant ponytailed girl standing in the way of a two thousand pound raging bull seems somehow appropriate. Hopefully our little heroine can charm the savage beast!

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (1)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (2)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (3)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (4)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (5)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (6)

Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl (2017) (7)

 

Album Cover Art – Spring 2017 Edition

Time for some album art! In this batch we have some old stuff and some new stuff, with cover art from Black Sabbath, William Fitzsimmons, The Game, Tones on Tail and many others, so let’s get started.

Our first album cover is for a band we all know, Black Sabbath. This is the cover for their live Reunion album, and it is spectacular. First off, it sort of references the cover of Ozzy’s solo album No Rest for the Wicked. But beyond that, I just love these demon toddlers (probably portrayed by the same model) with their little cloven hooves and tiny wings. That, along with the fact that they’re girls, makes them anti-cherubs, I think. The cover was designed by Glen Wexler, who also did the cover for Van Halen’s Balance that I profiled several years ago (and that Wexler himself commented on). You could almost say this is a counterpart cover to Balance. It may just be my favorite Black Sabbath cover now. Well, it’s a tossup between this and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (front and back), beautifully illustrated by Drew Struzan.

Glen Wexler – Black Sabbath – Reunion (cover)

Glen Wexler Studio (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Glen Wexler

Our next cover is for Relative Ash’s Our Time with You. I really know nothing about this band other than that they formed in the mid-90s and are said to sound something like Deftones (I haven’t listened to them). They seem to have put out this one album and then broken up. If anyone has more info about the band, this album cover or its creator, you are welcome to comment on it. I like the simplicity and the Pandora’s Box symbolism here.

Photographer Unknown – Relative Ash – Our Time with You (cover)

Here are a couple of covers for albums by singer-songwriter William Fitzsimmons. The first featured album, Until When We Are Ghosts, was his debut. An interesting factoid about Fitzsimmons: both of his parents, who were also musicians, were blind.

Photographer Unknown – William Fitzsimmons – Until When We Are Ghosts (cover)

I really love this next cover though. The little equestrienne in her dressage jacket and bowler derby is certainly adorable. The album itself is actually the second of two albums that are thematically linked, with each one being about one of Fitzsimmons’s grandmothers. The sad tale of the singer’s father and his father’s mother (the subject of this album) is recounted on Fitzsimmons’s website if you want to read it. You can find it here.

Photographer Unknown – William Fitzsimmons – Charleroi: Pittsburgh Vol. 2 (cover)

Now here’s an album with a cover featuring the childhood countenances of three well-known country-pop singers, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, just in case you ever wondered what they looked like as little girls. By the way, if you aren’t aware of it, the young Dolly has been portrayed (wonderfully, I think) by Alyvia Alyn Lind in two made-for-television movies as of this post.

Artist Unknown – Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton – Trio II (cover)

Tones on Tail was a side project of Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash that only lasted a couple of years but nevertheless put out several singles, three EPs and one LP, that being this album, Pop. The cover depicts a nude toddler girl balancing upon a wall near the woods, but there is something not quite right about her face/head. It almost looks like she is wearing a mask and wig combo, or at least a wig. That hair just does not look real. If it is, it’s a really horrible haircut. That, combined with the darkness of the trees in the background, invest the image with an undeniable creepiness. The photographer of the image is listed on Wikipedia (and presumably in the album’s notes) as Mr. Atlas, which makes sense I suppose, as he probably didn’t want t be identified for taking a nude photo of a child in the woods.

Mr. Atlas – Tones on Tail – Pop (cover)

And speaking of toddlers with things on their head, our next album cover shows a little girl wearing some kind of warrior’s helmet in addition to her pink princess dress and pink tennis shoes. The album is Take It Like a Man by the Butcher Babies, a heavy metal band fronted by two female vocalists. Obviously the masculine helmet is intended to contrast with the girlishness of the dress and, well . . . the girl herself.

Photographer Unknown – Butcher Babies – Take It Like a Man (cover)

Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf is a compilation album by rapper The Game. I don’t really know much about The Game or this album, but I really liked the cover, with its sassy little girl in red showing a big bad wolf who’s boss. Now, what ever could that be a reference to? 😉

Photographer Unknown – The Game – Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf (cover)

Our next cover is for Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s single release SB-03, the third in an ongoing series of psychedelic instrumental tracks released by the band every Christmas. The cover was created by Jenny Nielson, front man Ruban Nielson’s wife. The child in the photo may be herself when she little or someone else entirely. I really don’t know, but I like her creative flair nonetheless.

Jenny Nielson – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – SB-03 (single cover)

Anders Osborne is singer-songwriter heavily influenced by the blues. All of his output so far has been released on small labels, most of them specializing in blues and jazz music. Little kids flipping off the camera is nothing new to the internet, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen it as an official piece of art, in this case for Osborne’s album Peace.

Photographer Unknown – Anders Osborne – Peace (cover)

Our penultimate album cover is actually the first in a whole series of anthology albums collecting lesser known late sixties pop music. The album series features the exact same artwork, only each one is rendered in different colors. At a guess, I would say the original illustration came from the pen of Aubrey Beardsley, but try as I might, I was unable to confirm that. So, as with most of these, the artist will have to remain unidentified for now.

Artist Unknown – Piccadilly Sunshine, Part One (cover)

And last but certainly not least is this beautifully illustrated cover for Robin Crutchfield‘s Into the Dark Wood. Crutchfield is one of those peculiar souls who has been quietly making his own sort of art and music on the fringes for decades, influencing many but never quite becoming as well-known as those who came after. He began as a performance artist which soon transitioned into music, and then, along with his band DNA, he became one of the pioneers of the avante-garde musical movement known as No Wave. Eventually he began making music eerily similar to (but not quite) Medieval music, of which Into the Dark Wood is his latest. The cover art, I’m quite certain, is by some Victorian fairy artist, though I’ve been unable to pin down who. My hunch is Edward Robert Hughes, but again I was not able to confirm it. I would really love to know who created this piece, so if anyone out there is willing to research this more thoroughly I would be eternally grateful. I would love to feature the original image here, especially if I can get a larger one online somewhere.

Artist Unknown – Robin Crutchfield – Into the Dark Wood (cover)

Three from Mabel Rollins Harris (And One from William Fulton Soare)

Mabel Rollins Harris was a pinup/calendar artist whose most popular period was in the 1930s. She specialized in cheesecake-style women, female nudes and little girls. I confess I’m not particularly fond of her work overall. I find it generally uninspired, and I prefer strong lines and darker colors to the soft glowing look of Harris’s work. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of pastels in general. But she did produce a few notable pieces. The curly-top look of some of her little girls was clearly inspired by Shirley Temple, who was enjoying her greatest success during the same period. And the half-dressed toddlers in Look Who’s Here are fairly charming, I think.

Mabel Rollins Harris – Contemplating the Cookie Jar

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime

Mabel Rollins Harris – Bedtime (detail)

Edit: I originally had two versions of the following image posted here, neither of which I was fully satisfied with. I have now replaced them with this superior version sent to me by one of our readers. Thanks, Lester! – Pip

Mabel Rollins Harris – Look Who’s Here

Mutoworld: Mabel Rollins Harris

Compare Harris’s work against this piece  by William Fulton Soare, which, while rendered in the same style and medium, I find to be a much more interesting and accomplished piece. Soare studied under master artist Dean Cornwell, and it shows.

William Fulton Soare – Mother and Child

Pulp Artists: William Fulton Soare

More Than a Fairy Artist: Margaret Tarrant

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888–1959) was born in Battersea, England, on 19th August, 1888. She was the only child of Percy Tarrant, who was a famous landscape painter, and Sarah Wyatt.

There are no detailed biographies about the artist, despite her fame and prolific output, though we do know that she started her studies at Clapham High School and after graduating in 1905, continued her education at the Clapham School of Art. She briefly studied teaching, however her father believed she was unsuited to this profession and redirected her attention towards painting. Once established as an artist she studied at Heatherley’s School of Art from 1918 till 1923, as she believed a new school would improve her technique.

Margaret Tarrant - (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant – (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant - Dream Ships (date unknown)

Margaret Tarrant – Dream Ships (date unknown)

Tarrant’s first published works were Christmas cards and in 1908 she illustrated her first book, an edition of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. The following year she created a series of paintings that were published as postcards by C.W. Faulkner. Over the next decade the artist continued to paint for various postcard publishers and also made illustrations for several books. Many of these works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Walker Royal Society of Artists and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

Margaret Tarrant - Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant – Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant - Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

During the 1920s fairies became popularised, helped by the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Do You Believe in Fairies? and Tarrant was a major part of this scene. During this decade she collaborated with Marion St. John Webb on a series of fairy books, which displayed images of fairies along with short stories and poems. The books were similar to Cecily Mary Barker’s, both artists were friends, however they differed as Tarrant’s pictures were less naturalistic, more stylised and in the Art Nouveau style. Fairy stories were not the only type of paintings that the artist produced, she also created illustrations for children’s stories, books about animals, poems and verses. Additionally, she created a series of wild flower postcards, that she considered to be her best work, and religious themes appeared often. Many examples of her religious paintings can be found in this Flickr album.

Margaret Tarrant - Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

After 1920 the artist was working almost exclusively for the Medici Society, who turned her paintings into postcards, calendars, greeting cards and prints. In 1936 the Society sent her on a holiday to Palestine where she enjoyed sketching landscapes and street scenes, two subjects that she rarely painted prior to this trip.

Margaret Tarrant - The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

During the 1940s Tarrant slowed her output, though she did donate a lot of paintings to the war effort and produced images for about six books. With her health and eyesight deteriorating she stopped working in the mid-1950s and died from Multiple Myeloma in July 1959, leaving some pictures to friends and the rest of her estate to twelve charities.

The artist worked in many media, including pen, watercolor, graphite and silhouette type drawings. Her work is still popular today and the Medici Society is still selling prints on it’s website.

Pioneering Female Photojournalism: Esther Bubley

Esther Bubley was a freelance photographer that was active from 1945 to 1965. Many of her images are highly valued as historical documents as they cover a wide array of different social subjects. Mostly she photographed people going about their everyday lives, like workers and travellers on the American interstate bus network, children at play, medical workers and their patients or family life at home. She was remarkable as photo journalism was a male-dominated field at the time. So for a woman to be have an ongoing job in this field that also gave her a secure income was rare. Most images she made were not staged, which allowed her to take some truly intimate and natural photographs. The artist said she achieved this by becoming part of the daily rhythm of the hospital and disappearing into the background with her camera.

Esther Bubley - Children watching the animals at the National Zoological Park (1943)

Esther Bubley – Children Watching the Animals at the National Zoological Park (1943)

Esther Bubley - Children playing in a fountain in Dupont Circle (1943)

Esther Bubley – Children Playing in a Fountain in Dupont Circle (1943)

Esther Bubley (1921–1998) was born in Phillips, Wisconsin, the fourth of five children to Louis and Ida Bubley. She was inspired to start photography after viewing LIFE magazine and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) images of depression-era America. After high school, Esther spent two years at Superior State Teachers College then spent her third year at the Minneapolis School of Art where she studied photography.

In 1941 she moved to New York City to become a professional photographer and her first paid job was at Vogue where she photographed still-life images. Disliking this job, she moved to Washington D.C. where she found employment at the National Archives and spent her days making microfilm. Soon after, in the fall of 1942, Roy Stryker hired her as a darkroom assistant at the Office of War Information (OWI). During her spare time the artist made images of the daily events occurring in the Washington area. Her employer noticed the quality of these images and thought she would be able to add to the photo archives of the OWI. He hired her as a staff photographer and sent her on a six week journey across the country to document the lives of Americans during World War II. These photographs were then added to the OWI archives, which are now housed at the Library of Congress.

Esther Bubley - Spectators at the parade to recruit civilian defence volunteers (1943)

Esther Bubley – Spectators at the Parade to Recruit Civilian Defence Volunteers (1943)

Esther Bubley - Passengers standing in the aisle of a Greyhound bus (1943)

Esther Bubley – Passengers Standing in the Aisle of a Greyhound Bus (1943)

In late 1943, when Stryker left the government to set up a public relations project for Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) (SONJ), he brought with him many OWI workers, which included Bubley. Her work at SONJ was part of a huge photo-documentary project that had the aim of promoting the business and enhancing its reputation. Two of the artists’ best known projects come from this period. The first was a portrayal of the oil town of Tomball, Texas and the second, the “Bus Story,” which showcased the role of long-distance bus travel in American life that is accomplished through the use of oil products. Some images are now at the University of Louisville.

Esther Bubley - Children playing near schoolhouse, Tomball, Texas (1947)

Esther Bubley – Children Playing Near Schoolhouse, Tomball, Texas (1945)

Waiting room at bus terminal (1947)

Esther Bubley – Waiting Room at Bus Terminal (1947)

During this period she was briefly married to Edwin Locke, but they soon divorced. By 1947 Bubley’s work had expanded and she was now freelancing for several organisations. One of these organisations was the Children’s Bureau, a Federal child welfare agency. Over several years her images appeared in their journal, The Child, including more than thirty covers.

Esther Bubley - Child Monthley (Cover) (1947)

Esther Bubley – Child Monthly (Cover) (1949)

The following year, her work made its first appearance in a group exhibition called ‘In and Out of Focus’—her first of four appearances—at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A magazine that she created a lot of images for was the Ladies’ Home Journal. There she produced a photo essay on mental illness, which was awarded a first prize in the Encyclopaedia Britannica/University of Missouri School of Journalism contest. The medically-themed photos continued when she was hired by the Pittsburgh Photographic Library to live in the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and document the activities within, a commission which took several months. Originally intended as a story in LIFE magazine, this was cancelled in favour of documenting the Queen Elizabeth II coronation. However, thirteen prints from this series were made publicly available when they were displayed in the exhibition ‘Diogenes with a Camera,’ held at MoMA. She also documented life at Blythedale Convalescent Home for Children, in New York, for the Children’s bureau. An example of this work is displayed below.

The artist’s most internationally recognised work appeared in 1953 when she was hired by UNICEF and the French government to travel to Morocco to photograph a program to treat trachoma. Over several months she travelled around Ouarzazate documenting people receiving medical treatment and the positive aspects of UNICEF’s work.

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (1)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) (1948)

Esther Bubley - African child (1953)

Esther Bubley – African Child (1953)

Bubley produced many other overseas photo projects, such as photographing the areas of Central and South America where Pepsi-Cola sold and manufactured their product. These images were then published in their corporate magazine Panorama, which was distributed to their bottlers and shareholders. Then in 1964 and ’65 Pan American World Airways sent her on a world tour to document the areas they serviced. These images were then published in their corporate magazine The Clipper, which was distributed to employees and shareholders.

Between 1950 and 1965 the photographer freelanced for many magazines; her stories focused on medicine, families and social issues. Many of her articles appeared in LIFE—two were cover stories. Additionally, she created a dozen photo stories for the Ladies’ Home Journal series ‘How America Lives,’ which ran intermittently between 1948 and 1960. The series was very popular and was expanded into two new series: ‘How Young America Lives,’ which profiled teenagers, and ‘Profiles on Youth,’ about children. Also of note during this decade was the appearance of several images in ‘The Family of Man’ exhibition.

Esther Bubley - LIFE (Cover) (1951)

Esther Bubley – LIFE (Cover) (1951)

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (2)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) LIFE magazine (1961)

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (3)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) Ladies’ Home Journal (1948)

After 1965 the artist reduced her workload, as the frequent travelling became tiring. Instead, she focused on projects of personal interest and photographed the New York area, where she lived. During this time she created a book featuring macro photography of plants, two books about pets and a book documenting 159 of her child photographs entitled Esther Bubley’s World of Children. Unfortunately the book doesn’t mention titles or dates for the images contained within. She died in New York City, of cancer, on March 16, 1998.

The website about Esther Bubley’s career contains a lot of information about the work she completed, though there are only about 200 images of average quality. Another book, which contains about thirty-six images by Bubley, appears on archive.org. Entitled ‘Your Child from 6 to 12,’ it is an interesting read detailing child care in 1949.

Are You People Too?

Just something cute for you today. This painting was made by Theodor Grätz, of whom there is virtually no background data for on the web. This little toddler girl approaches what appears to be two orangutans and asks them if they too are people. It is exactly the sort of charming image that would’ve been used on a postcard in the early part of the 20th century, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out it had been at some point. The image required a small amount of clean-up when I found it, but nothing too troublesome.

Theodor Grätz - Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Theodor Grätz – Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Preserving a Sense of Wonder: Rachel Carson

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder, 1965

The power of a single image is amazing, like the following odd but charming image found on a sales site. It came with no identifying information except that the face looming in the background was Helen Hayes. Being a famous actress, I figured there should be some clue to the photo’s history. One of our guest writers, Arizona, took the initiative and offered a treasure trove of leads which are the basis of this post.

Jules Power International - The Sense of Wonder (promotional photo) (1968)

Jules Power International – The Sense of Wonder (promotional photo) (1968)

It turns out that it was a promotional shot for a special nature documentary to be aired on ABC in late 1968 called The Sense of Wonder. This film was a posthumous tribute to biologist, writer and environmental activist Rachel Carson (1907–1964).

Carson was born near Springdale, Pennsylvania. An avid reader, she also spent a lot of time exploring her family’s 65-acre farm. She started writing her own stories at eight and by age ten, was published in St. Nicholas Magazine. In her childhood, she was inspired by Beatrix Potter, Gene Stratton Porter, and in her teens, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson.

(Photogapher Unknown) -Rachel Carson reading to her dog Candy (c1913)

(Photogapher Unknown) -Rachel Carson reading to her dog Candy (c1913)

At the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University), Carson studied English then switched her major to biology in 1928, still contributing to the school’s student newspaper. She graduated in 1929 and did postgraduate work in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, earning her master’s degree in zoology in 1932. She intended to continue on to doctorate work, but the first of a series of family tragedies in 1934 forced her to find steady work to support her family.

She took a temporary position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, writing radio copy for educational broadcasts focused on aquatic life, all the while submitting articles to newspapers and magazines. In 1936, Carson became only the second woman in the Bureau of Fisheries to be hired for a full-time professional position. Due to her skill at writing, she was encouraged to expand her various research articles into a book, Under the Sea Wind (1941). Carson continued with the Bureau (by then called the Fish and Wildlife Service) through the 1940s because there were few other naturalist jobs—money in the sciences was focused on technical fields during the advent of the nuclear age. During that time, she encountered the subject of DDT, a revolutionary new synthetic pesticide, but because editors found the topic unappealing at the time, nothing was published on the subject until 1962. Carson continued to move up the ranks in the bureau with its increasing administrative demands, prompting her to make a conscious effort to transition into full-time writing. By 1950, she published The Sea Around Us. Because of the success of this book and a reprint of Under the Sea Wind, she was able to break away permanently in 1952.

Her books were made into a screen adaptation in 1953, but she was displeased with the result and lack of creative control and never sold the film rights to her work again. Her third book, The Edge of the Sea (1955), focused on her special interest in the dynamics of coastal ecosystems. She had a special connection with the coastlines of Maine and she along with her closest friend, Dorothy Freeman, purchased and set aside some land for preservation they called the “Lost Woods.”

Another family tragedy gave Carson the responsibility of raising her orphaned 5-year-old nephew and she moved to Silver Spring, Maryland. For the rest of her life, she would focus on the overuse of pesticides, particularly chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates. The result of her careful research in the subject led to her most well-known book, Silent Spring (1962). It was a pioneering piece and is credited with being to first to give public attention to environmental degradation caused by pesticides and industrial activities generally. To accomplish credible research, Carson took advantage of her personal connections with government scientists, who willingly shared confidential information. She attended FDA hearings on revising pesticide regulations, coming away discouraged by the aggressive tactics of the chemical industry and the insidious implications of financial manipulation. She also developed good working relationships with medical researchers investigating the carcinogenic effects of these compounds. The completion of Silent Spring was delayed because of Carson’s poor health and subsequent diagnosis with breast cancer in the early 1960s. After her dire prognosis, she arranged for her manuscripts and papers to be bequeathed to the new state-of-the-art Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

In 1965, Marie Rodell, Carson’s long time agent and literary executor arranged for the publication of an essay intended for expansion into a book: A Sense of Wonder. The essay exhorts parents to help their children experience the pleasures of contact with the natural world. Carson early recognized the importance of exposing children to nature and even wrote an article dedicated to the subject, Help Your Child to Wonder (1956). But it was only during the raising of her nephew that this idea came to the fore. After the publication of A Sense of Wonder, Jules Power, an executive producer of nature films for ABC took an interest in making a news special based on Carson’s work. The script, written by Joseph Hurley, was based on that essay and was supplemented with information from The Edge of the Sea. It was narrated by Helen Hayes and its two-year production brought cameramen to several locations in the United States, with special emphasis on the Maine and Florida coastlines. The film, The Sense of Wonder, was produced by Daniel Wilson, directed by Alan Seeger and aired in November 1968. The film also gave some coverage to nature photographer Ansel Adams, offering a west coast perspective.

Jules Power et al - The Sense of Wonder (1968)

Jules Power et al – The Sense of Wonder (1968)

Carson understood the challenge of parents who have inquisitive children; they would never be confident about answering all their questions which might range from the microscopic world to the mystery of the skies. Her answer to such concerns was that attitude is much more important than knowledge.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder, 1965

I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder, 1965

Carson was also aware of the realities of city life for many children and encouraged them nonetheless to explore what nature existed there and to listen to the songs of birds and insects.

Although the film was innovative for its time, it is hard to recognize this with today’s highly-polished, big-budget nature documentaries. As a result, there are only a handful of neglected copies in university libraries in the midwest. You will notice how red the film still is—a consequence of celluloid that was not stored properly. It is ironic that a little girl was used to promote the film, because most of the scenes with children in the documentary showed boys. This may have been an unconscious bias of the producers, but I think Carson would agree that it is just as important to expose little girls to nature and science as boys.

Historical Photographic Archives of Children

In Christian’s research, he is always looking for archival images of children and so comes across some good collections that should be shared.  The first image is from an unknown photographer.  The photo gives the impression of a poor girl in a dilapidated neighborhood but anyone with a knowledge of history knows the girl is sitting among the rubble of World War II.

(ARtist Unknown) - London (1940)

(Artist Unknown) – London (1940)

Vintage Children: And The Stories That Go With Them is an excellent site that has both documentary photographs and artistic portraiture from about the US Civil War up to the Great Depression.  The thing about this site is that each image comes with a little background information.  One of the interesting stories here is about discovering the identity of one of the most popular postcard models, Grete Reinwald.  I never had the time to get the whole backstory, so I never got around to sharing it with the readers.  If you are a purveyor of vintage postcards, you have almost certain seen this little German girl.
Postcard Featuring Grete Reinwald (c1905)

Postcard Featuring Grete Reinwald (c1905)

Another site called Vintage Images has almost 1500 images of children appearing on postcards, both photographs and illustrations.  Some of the artists are slated to be covered on Pigtails.