Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Highlights from "Who's Afraid" (1890-1900-ish)

Who's Afraid is a typical collection of its type--a children's book composed of reprints from any number of sources (typically, from various magazines).  These things came out in droves in the late 1800s and early 1900s, usually printed on cheap paper even more cheaply bound, and with few or no color illustrations on the inside.  They're fun and charming, and I've become addicted to them, but they do quickly acquire a seen-one-seem-'em-all character, due in no small part to the lack of care taken in the editing, as well as the lousy printing quality.  Clearly, these were low-rent efforts for low-income parents and/or parents with dough who didn't feel like spending much of it.  Whatever the 19th century equivalent of Woolworth's, drug store, and five and dime racks happened to be, that's where these things were stuck, I'm guessing.  The check-out-line, grab-it-on-the-way-out purchases of their day, with "Oh, wait, I forgot to buy something for the kids" written all over them.

More than anything else in the realm of cheapdom, the budget label record labels that dominated dime store, drug store, and grocery store racks in the 1950s and early 1960s are what these remind me of.  (I'm not sure about that last sentence, but we'll continue.)  Like the LPs and singles carelessly churned out by Royale, Waldorf, and Prom, these cheap kiddie books (put out by Lothrop Publ. Co., Charles E. Graham, M.A. Donohue, and others)  recycled titles, cover art, and you-name-it without a second thought.  Recently, I checked eBay in the hopes of replacing a rapidly crumbling cheap-volume gem of this type, and I found the right cover art and title--but the contents didn't match at all.  (Thank goodness for eBay ad scans.)  "How weird," I said to myself.  Out loud.  In my Media Room, so it was okay.  Were these late 1800s/early 1900s publishers tossing things together as haphazardly and illogically as the cheapo record labels of yore?  Looks like it.

So... two comic book-style pages, the front and back covers, the title page, and two Palmer Cox illustrations, including a Brownies panel (Cox is best-known for said cartoon characters).  I can't get over the horrifying baby-holding-a-firecracker illustration on the back cover, but there it is.  Just how genteel were the folks of Victorian and Edwardian days?  Do genteel sorts hand lit firecrackers to their babies?  Just saying.

Hint for viewing the larger pages: Keep this page view (as opposed to clicking each image) and enlarge the entire screen--for example, use the Zoom function of Google Chrome.  These are high resolution images, so no detail loss will occur.  Clicking on them will only get them as large as Google wants you to get them, at least on my browser.



  1. Lee - I'm enjoying going through your blog, which includes so much obscure and fascinating material. I'm getting quite an education!

  2. Cool! These old children's books are teaching me tons, for sure. This one was my initial find, in fact--at a candy store, of all places. The candy store is in our local, New England style village (New England in Central Ohio!), and it has a small antique mall in back. I looked at this and wondered, "What the heck?" I looked through it and decided I needed it. I found the Grace Gay Betts-illustrated book at the same mini-mall, the one with the Molno-esque artwork. Also, a bound children's periodical. This blog was going to focus exclusively on Charlton, Dell, and Gold Key, but my candy store stops changed all that. Fate works in weird ways, and you don't need pre-Code horror comics to tell you that....