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Friday, June 12, 2015

Readers Write and a Home Is Found for HCH’s Art

It’s nice to hear that we’re adding just a bit more to the body of work attributed to Mr. Holling.  Deb, a reader, reports that she discovered our blog “while searching for information about the Kitchen Klenzer Circus items I had purchased at an estate sale.”  She had planned to sell them on eBay

 First sold in 1908, Kitchen Klenzer is an example of an early packaged product whose illustrated label, in attempting to depict the product “in use,” wound up creating a recursive “Droste Effect.” (Named after  Droste cocoa, which was packaged in a similarly recursive illustrated container.)  It was sold largely through newspaper advertising, and here is where Holling’s Circus promoted the product.

Deb got in touch with the inimitable research and museum curator Joan Hoffman.  She read the August 2011 post, she says, “That [Joan] had the elephant but not his blanket, and I had two blankets but no elephant, I started researching your museum and found you had a Facebook page and sent a message asking if you still needed that blanket and offered to donate it.”  Then, charitably, she says, “I had many more pieces than you did I decided not to list it on eBay but donate it all to you.  Until I found the circus at that sale I knew nothing of Mr. Holling.  I only bought it because I was charmed by the colors and the detail of the illustration — and I thought it would sell.

 Joan sent me a note recently, saying, “Thanks for steering this lady to us.  I put together the Kitchen Klenzer Circus elephant and camel this week and they now reside in the museum.  She had the camel, zebra, and lion cutouts.  Although she didn't have the elephant, for some reason there were two elephant blankets in the estate package she bought.  She also had the display box.  She walked in to the museum a week ago Thursday and gave it all to us.  It was unbelievable.”

 Little stories like this, where pieces of paper and advertising ephemera find a permanent home, make me happy.  Small events can make a difference.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Who Was That Writer with the Odd Name?

A note from Joan Hoffman at the museum in Lisle, Mich., intrigued me regarding Watty Piper and the publisher, Platt & Munk. Who was this prolific writer and where did Holling Clancy Holling fit into the publishing scheme?

Joan wrote, “I want to clarify about the text and illustrations in Children of Other Lands. The Hollings (Holling and Lucille) painted those full-page colored illustrations and drew all the marginal drawings. The plates for those were full-page illustrations originally used for the covers of Junior Home Magazine. Holling had a short story to go with each of those covers that appeared on one of the first pages of the magazine.”

She continues, “During the Depression, Junior Home Magazine went out of business. Platt and Munk bought those beautiful plates and used them in Little Folks of Other Lands (1929) and Children of Other Lands (1933). Holling's short stories were rewritten and made longer. Watty Piper was the writer. That was a pseudonym.” And, she added, “I have heard the pseudo writer could be one of a couple possibilities so I can't give you a definitive answer on that.”

A quick search of the Internet reveals “Watty Piper” was actually Arnold Munk, a Hungarian immigrant who co-counded Platt & Munk, the publishing house in Chicago, and served as in-house editor. He was best known for retelling the story of The Little Engine That Could in 1930 and selling millions of copies. Platt & Munk today is a subsidiary of Penguin Books.

Now the story becomes interesting, but confusing:

Enter Eulalie (pron. Ú-la-lee) Page. She was born Eulalie Banks on June 12, 1895, to Marie Minfied and Frederick Francis Banks, the youngest of nine children; in Southeast London, England. “All sources indicate that she had a real love and talent for illustrating from a very early age,” reported Kay Vandergrift of Rutgers University ( At age 15, Eulalie “landed her first job as an illustrator for a children's page in a woman's magazine,” Vandergrift wrote. “At age 18, the book titled, Bobby in Bubbleland, became her first published work. She was both author and illustrator.” (Ms. Vandergrift, professor emerita at Rutgers, died July 1, 2014.)

Platt & Munk commissioned her in 1925 to illustrate the book, The Cock, The Mouse, and The Little Red Hen, edited by Watty Piper (presumably Arnold Munk). It was her first book published in the United states and the first of many published by Platt & Munk. In all, Eulalie illustrated some 53 mostly inexpensive children’s books, a good share published by Platt & Munk.

Among the works listed by Vandergrift under her résumé, however, is Children of Other Lands, written by Watty Piper and published by Platt & Munk in 1933. This may be in error, however, because both Holling and his wife, Lucille, are listed as the illustrators of the book now in print and available on Amazon.

A follow-up conversation with Joan reveals the original book, Little Folks of Other Lands (1929) published by Platt & Munk, became Children of Other Lands (1933) with six fewer full-colored illustrations and lacking the Hemisphere maps on the front and back inside covers.

The original Road in Story Land (1932) has a red & blue edition (arranged in different order). It became Folk Tales Children Love (1934) and Magic Story Tree (1964). The latter two books are the same except the stories are arranged in different order and have five fewer stories than the original Road in Story Land.

“So,” she writes, “one might think there are six different books while all the material comes from the two originals.” Confusing, or simply good marketing?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I Was Wrong: Holling Art Does “Just Turn Up”

One of the satisfying elements of writing the Holling blog is that mysteries present themselves and, often, they’re solved.  I received a letter this month asking about an 11 x 14” picture — originally rendered in ink and colored charcoal or pastels — in an old frame that was discarded in Florida.  The only identification was the imprint “Mountain View” and the publisher “Platt & Munk.” 


“Possibly,” the writer suggested, “it might be an unused scene from [Holling’s 1936] Book of Cowboys … because the art style is strikingly similar and fits the storyline.  Or, it might have been an original background mockup.”

 The resident expert in this case, Joan Hoffman of the Leslie, Mich., museum, came to the rescue.  She noted that the museum has a package of 12 illustrations about Children of Other Lands.”   The publisher’s name appears in the bottom left, she adds, but only on the envelope is it noted that the illustrations are by Holling C. Holling.

Also in the museum’s collection is a box of six Indian jigsaw puzzles and a box of six Cowboy puzzles.  Same identification of publisher and illustrator on the box.  If the mystery art is not from the puzzles or the book, perhaps this is an outtake — a piece Holling produced but was sold singly by P&M.  Joan Hoffman states, “The publisher was within its right [to publish the art], but profited more than the Hollings did…in these examples and their other work.”

So, art detectives, keep your eyes peeled!  Someday we may have a definitive catalogue raisonné of all the commercial art that Holling and his wife, Lucille, produced.
A comparison of the mystery art (right) with similar Holling
technique in rendering landscape and trees.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Roughing It, Returning Alive, and Writing – part 2

Along with camping and boating, the Hollings became adept at recognizing edible wild foods and cooking under primitive conditions.  Not to be outdone when Holling was away from camp, Lucille became motivated to study wild foods, including mushrooms, and create her own recipes.  At times, the Hollings did live off the land, killing animals for food — never for sport.  This is why they also lived for a while with Native Americans to learn how they interacted with the environment.

In 1922, they lived with the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and wrote:

“Recently we ate with a pueblo family.  We sat on the black adobe floor worn almost to a glaze by moccasin-soles.  Among us, in the center, a shallow basket of delightful design cradled a cascade of breads.  Flat round breads of corn meal baked on hot rocks.  Tortilla, these were.  Then there were the huge puffballish loaves of a whiteness which had been baked in the Eskimo-igloo affairs out front.  And we had goat’s milk in painted mugs.  And bowls of chili.  And green peppers and thin plates of venison haunch, squash and beans.  And now I ask you.  If you had gone most of a sun-scorched day over desert with no water – would you elevate your nose at this menu?  Yet some speak of “Poor, Starving Lo.”

In similar auto-didactic fashion, Holling learned to paddle a canoe like a Native American, portage, craft bow and arrows, chip arrowheads, twist fish lines from the inner bark of basswood saplings, make bone fish hooks, tan leather sew it with sinew, and make makaks from birch bark in which to cook and store food.  Lucille learned the art of porcupine quill embroidery and making r4obes from rabbit skins and turkey feathers.  A good deal of this information can be found in the Hollings’ Book of Indians.

 It also proved their generosity when they taught these skills to Native Americans who had forgotten their own heritages.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roughing It, Returning Alive, and Writing – part 1

Holling’s art and writing was closely intertwined with his naturalism.  He — and in fairness, his wife, Lucille — were people of the outdoors beginning with his early jaunts camping in New Mexico and exploring places like the Mississippi River. 

 We’re lucky to have the Master’s thesis written by Hazel Gibb Hinman in 1958 at the University of Redlands, California, to chronicle some of the Hollings’ activities.  Through her interviews we learn that in August 1927, Holling and Lucille took a three-week canoe trip into the Canadian wilderness north of Missinabie, Ontario.  They were joined by Tom Brown, a reporter for the New York Sun, whom they had met on their world cruise.

 Camping and canoeing over the next decade contributed to the Hollings’ graphic work for Cunard lines, the Saturday Evening Post, advertising, newspaper features and illustration for Bookhouse and Book Trails.

Holling became an “expert,” Gibb says, joining a boat club, racing canoes and shells, and learning survival techniques if the worst happened.  Holling insisted Lucille become a good swimmer, and they kept a canoe at Chicago’s Lincoln Park on Lake Michigan.  Perversely, Holling liked to go out on the lake during a “blow” when bad weather hit.  Gibb surmises that Holling felt he needed to battle the elements in order to portray them vividly and accurately in his writing and art.  Lucille said she could look at the whitecaps on the lake from their window in the Palmolive Building, and one wonders how she felt at those times. 

Holling recalled one such instance when he paddled about two miles out on the lake in rotten weather.  Returning, he noticed a crowd on shore.  Getting closer he saw an angry police officer.  Gibb says of Holling, “Still panting from exertion, the [Irish] policeman gestured wildly and commanded him to come in immediately.  ‘Don’t you know that you might have been drowned!’” 

Holling said he didn’t know quite what to do, so to gain time to think, he yelled back, “Let me rest a minute.  I’m fagged!” 

Shortly thereafter, the policeman had cooled off and Holling could explain the situation.  He told Gibb he still thought long afterwards that the cop might have arrested him if he had gone ashore immediately.

 What might have proven embarrassing in the 1920s would today would become the source of publicity, promotion, and Twitter bragging rights.

Hazel Gibb Hinman’s [1910-2004] thesis dissertation became a book, published by the University of Redlands in 1958 and titled The Lives and Works of Holling Clancy Holling.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where Has All the Hollings’ Art Gone?

Viewers regularly see magazine and book illustrations appraised on Antiques Roadshow, which make s one wonder where Holling and Lucille’s original art can be seen. I was ready to search a number of universities and museums for leads when Joan Hoffman answered my question. Joan is the curator behind the Leslie Area Historical Museum in Leslie, MI.

She writes that the museum has seven original paintings and many copies. Pictured here are photos of two of Holling’s watercolors. Two other originals are unique in that they are murals cut from the wall where they were painted and donated to the museum by the owner of the house originally owned by Holling’s grandparents.

Two came from a Leslie resident who is the granddaughter of Holling’s grandfather’s sister. Three other pieces, she says, were donated by Holling’s niece, Linda. Linda is a Michigan resident, Joan explains, and her family may have about 15 framed originals plus other unframed pieces of art.

Another niece, living in California, has several originals.

If you were on the road before the 1950s, you might have stopped in Chicago to see the Holling murals that were in Bob Drake's Ranch Restaurant on Michigan Ave.. There were eight murals by Holling and Lucille in the dining room on the subject of Indians and food. (Indian hunting and fishing, cultivating, gathering and preparing food, and then the feast.) There were murals over the bar. One, a stage coach mural by Holling. Joan says, “Bob’s [grandson] lives in Colorado. and made copies of what he has, which included everything from the menu, match covers, and the outside of the building and sign, all designed by the Hollings!”

At the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana (5000 Taylor Fork Rd., Gallatin Gateway, MT), some of Holling's decorative iron work still adorns walls, door hinges and door handles shaped like animals. This dude ranch is owned by the Kelsey family.

Holling’s rendition of the Lincoln Memorial, with Lincoln standing.  Signed Holling Holling.  Date unknown.

But the vast amount of Holling-related material is archived at the University of California-Los Angeles. Their collection includes book proofs, correspondence, news clippings, research materials, models (two, of Paddle-to-the-Sea that Holling built), drafts, illustrations, dust jackets, two sound recordings of books , sketches, drawings and working illustrations, stencils, watercolors, and cartoons. But, UCLA’s archives do not appear to have the magnificent artwork published in the Houghton-Mifflin books. The archive’s contents can be reviewed at

Other ephemera — dust jackets and possibly some art from Houghton-Mifflin publishers — are archived at the University of Oregon and the University of Minnesota.

So the Hollings’ artwork still lives on outside of the books. You just have to look hard for it.

Monkey on a carousel, probably painted ca. 1929 when Holling was designing covers for Junior Home magazine.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kids Putting Museums in Their Bedrooms (continued)

I’m enchanted in discovering small bits of output from long-ago artists. Thus, I was so happy to learn Mary Mosier, a follower of this blog, has ventured back in time to track down Holling newspaper dioramas. As described in the last post here, these World Museum dioramas encouraged kids to back up the artwork on sturdy paper, cut them out, and assemble them into small dioramas of the sort they hopefully had seen in museums.

Ms. Mosier wrote and shared this enthusiasm through a news feature in the San Antonio Light published on May 23, 1932:


Seven-year-old Sam Hunter Jr., 439 McKinley avenue, admires one of the dioramas from the Sunday Light comic section which show three-dimension scenes of historic interest. This week the subject is Spain. Youthful readers of The Light are taking trips to foreign lands, living a while in the days of long ago. Arid all without leaving their living rooms or wherever it is they choose to spread out the Sunday paper to read the comics. In the big comic section of The Light finding a new way to learn all about the story and habits of people who lived when the world was young and when history was in the making. By means of dioramas, which show scenes in three dimensions, they can see just what the lands look like of which they read in school. By clipping out the weekly installment of “The World Museum” and cutting and pasting according to directions, scenes of foreign lands can be duplicated. This Sunday's natural history group by Holling Clancy Holling presents Spain with its brightly colored roof tops and snow capped mountain ranges. The accompanying printed matter gives succinctly the ebb and flow of different races across the Hispanic scene, tells of Columbus setting out for his new world. Each week a different land, different people will be presented in "The World Museum" in The Light's big colored comic section.

Ms. Mosier said it was “a bit of a fluke” that she found a lot of constructed dioramas from the Cleveland Plain Dealer for sale. The 13 samples were put together so well that they could be taken apart and reassembled.

Certain of the dioramas “are quite interesting,” she says. “The ones of nature subjects (pandas, emperor penguins, mountain goats) appear to be miniature replicas of Field Museum life size versions of the same scene, complete with text describing how the animal specimens were collected, and the artists and technicians who prepared the scene/”

She has been comparing information with Joan Hoffman at the Holling Museum in Leslie, Michigan, and sharing scanned copies. Ms. Mosier says of the covered wagon topic, “Hers were the Platt and Munk [publisher of Holling books] reprints, mine being the newspaper publication. This revealed that the reprints were to the same size as full page newspaper, and had (apparently) the same level of detail. However, the newsprint color selection is printed in more subdued…and a greater variety of colors. The reprints are very bright and with a limited color selection. I am in the process of scanning these examples to a digital format in order to preserve the originals.”

It’s wonderful that this material is being archived since, by their very nature, newspapers were not meant to vbe saved. Ms. Mosier explains her dedication to this labor:

“I enjoyed Holling's books when I was a child — Paddle-to-the Sea, Minn of the Mississippi and similar titles that he is most remembered for. As one of my current interests is American pre-history, I remembered some sections of Minn that touched on this and reacquainted myself with that book. One thing led to another and I discovered your blog, Mrs. Hoffman's work, and many other Holling's works that I had never known about.

“I am interested in paper crafting and also museum displays, and from that I became extremely interested in the World Museum features. An additional interest was that there appeared to be so few examples of them in a format similar to the original publication.

“The concept of capturing these features in a digital copy, in the original colors, is very exciting to me.” Fate, she says, brought her the collection of 13 examples on eBay. They were sold by someone with little understanding of what they were. Because they had already been cut out of the newspaper, they may have had little appeal to the typical collector of ephemera.

“I'm making digital records for my own use, and plan to build several of the dioramas for fun, but from ‘new’ printed copies,” she says. It’s not clear who owns the copyright to the World Museum artwork, but Ms. Mosier guesses it may be Platt and Munk. “It seems a shame that this and the other Holling papercraft items (the American frontiers series, the Forty-Niners, and the astonishingly beautiful eskimo village playset) are not available in print.”

“I am slowly making a listing of World Museum dioramas, dates, newspapers, where they were published, and the text on the features. This is based in the examples I have, and black and white newspaper archives I am slowly finding on line. When I exhaust this, I suppose I will start trying to find examples in hard-copy newspaper archives, starting with the ones in my state library (if any of those include the World Museum.)”

And her quest continues. She recently found a seller of single sheets of vintage comic sections, dating from 1937 and ‘38. “He had items for sale that I recognized as having appeared in newspapers that also ran World Museum. He responded to my query, writing that examples of the World Museum are pretty rare and that he himself collected them, and that he would put any ‘duplicates’ to his own collection up for sale.”

Add another credit to Ms. Mosier. She recently discovered that “the Hollings created some of the beautiful full color illustrations that appear in the first two volumes of the My Book House series, created by Olive Beaupre Miller in 1937. (Although many of the individual selections in those date back to the 1920s, I'm unsure whether the Holling's work dates to around 1937.) The first two volumes are nursery rhymes and poetry; some being English translations: In the Nursery is volume 1 or the series; Storytime is volume 2. Dover has reprinted both of these in 2013.”