The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale

Cover of “The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale”

This slender volume gets my vote for the gentlest, loveliest title in the Paul Elder catalog. The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale (1908) was written by Jasmine Van Dresser and illustrated by her husband William. The book contains two short bedtime stories for children: the title tale and “The Little Apple Tree Bears a Golden Harvest.”

“The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale” is the story of an ornery goose and a gentle hen; the moral is “it isn’t always those with the loudest voices that have the best things to say.” The second tale teaches how Nature is interconnected, and how good things come to those who wait. William Van Dresser’s illustrations are very nice indeed, and he also supplied a custom decorated border for each story. His frontispiece is a mystery: a woman stands in the moonlight, holding out her cupped hands; this scene does not appear in either story. There is a brief introduction by Margaret Beecher White, noting that “it is the duty of all good, useful stories to give a message to their readers,” and that “the two dainty stories contained in this little volume each carries its message of truth.”

Title page and frontispiece of “Little Brown Hen”

Jasmine Edson Stone was born in 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and was working as an actress in New York City when she met her future husband. By 1915, the Van Dressers, along with their sons Cleland and Peter, became well-known actors in New York City, most notably performing everyday dramatic scenes of an American family for soldiers at nearby military bases. Jasmine wrote the screenplays, noting there was nothing more dramatic than the life of parents dealing with the needs of children. She was a member of the Authors Guild (then called the Authors League of America) and wrote many children’s books in her career, with such titles as Jimsey, The Wonderful Hammer, The Story of Silky, The Kitty With the Black Nose, and The Little Pink Pig and the Big Road. Jasmine and William spent their final years in Boca Raton, Florida. She died in 1948, and is buried in Solebury, Pennsylvania.

Endpapers of “Little Brown Hen”

William Thatcher Van Dresser was born in 1871 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a talented athlete, and spent four years as a semi-pro baseball player, mostly in the Southern Association and Texas League. When his team folded in 1896, he headed north to pursue a career in art. By 1900, he was living in on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In 1903 he and Jasmine were married; Cleland was born in 1904, and Peter in 1908. William’s reputation as a commercial artist was growing, and he was a popular artist for magazine covers. He also began illustrating books, including today’s spotlight and the Jack London novel The Little Lady of the Big House. Later he was commissioned to paint portraits of Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt. William died in 1950, and is buried in Tampa, Florida.

Title page for the “Little Brown Hen” story

Margaret Humphrey Beecher White (1868-1948) was an author on Christian Science topics. She was granddaughter of the prominent minister Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and grand-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Thanks very much to Kris Rutherford for historical information on the Van Dressers.

William Van Dresser’s Sketchy Side,” by Kris Rutherford, 12 July 2016
Jasmine Van Dresser burial site
William Van Dresser burial site

Decorative border for “Little Brown Hen”
Page 9 of “Little Brown Hen”
Title page for “Little Apple Tree” story
Decorative border for “Little Apple Tree”
Page 23 of “Little Brown Hen”

Little Bronze Playfellows

Cover of "Little Bronze Playfellows"
Cover of “Little Bronze Playfellows”

In Little Bronze Playfellows (1915), author Stella Perry creates fanciful children’s stories based on several of the bronze statues of children scattered about the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts. It is one of a dozen books issued by Paul Elder during 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Title page of "Little Bronze Playfellows"
Title page of “Little Bronze Playfellows”

The bronze boys and girls are all gamboling about while perfectly naked. For a statue that was not unusual, as a great deal of the of Fair’s sculptures featured naked adults. But notwithstanding the anachronism of classical statuary in modern times, one senses that statues of naked children wouldn’t be so well received in our politically sensitive age.

The book was issued in gold-colored wraps, with a dozen photographic plates (not tipped-in, as in many other Elder publications). The cover illustration, as well as the plate opposite page 10, is the statue “Wild Flower, by Edward Berge. (The statue also appears on page 140 of Perry’s The Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition.) Unusually for Elder, the book does not have a colophon.

Frontispiece of "Little Bronze Playfellows"
Frontispiece of “Little Bronze Playfellows”, including a poem printed on the tissue guard

Stella George Stern Perry (1877-1956) was an American author, suffragist, and social reformer. She graduated from Barnard College, where she was one of four co-founders of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. She also wrote another children’s book for Paul Elder, The Clever Mouse (1916).

Page 24 of "Little Bronze Playfellows"
Page 24 of “Little Bronze Playfellows”
Page 26 of "Little Bronze Playfellows"
Page 26 of “Little Bronze Playfellows”

Slumber Sea Chanteys

Cover of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"
Cover of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”

Slumber Sea Chanteys (1910) was the only sheet music Paul Elder ever published (there are a few pages of music in Knight of the Burning Pestle). It is a selection of children’s lullabies on nautical themes. It is also the first Paul Elder I ever bought, though I only realized it five years later when I began to collect Elder in earnest.

Composer Carrie Stone Freeman was profiled in the Music section of the Los Angeles Herald on 4 Dec 1910:

Local composers were well represented at the last meeting of the Harmonia Club Thursday afternoon … Among the songs of special interest to club members were those by Mrs. John J. Abramson, president of the club and hostess for the day, and Carrie Stone Freeman. Mrs. Freeman has written successfully for the voice and her publications include not only the Slumber Sea Chanteys, which are proving so delightful for little folk to sing, but are also most beautiful for the trained singer or a real by-land song, but also “Invitation,” Twilight,” “Lullaby” and “Eastertime Psalm.”

Freeman was also profiled in the Oxnard Courier of 16 Mar 1917:

Carrie Stone Freeman in 1910.
Composer Carrie Stone Freeman in 1910.

Carrie Stone Freeman, chairman of music for Southern California Women’s club, has a new theory of learning music from nature. Mrs. Freeman is well known in this section in club work and has visited with clubs in this county many times. This is her advice: Listen to the birds and learn to sing. Try to catch and put into musical notation the clear, vibrant joyous calls of the Meadowlark and the mockingbird. Go where you will, is the big outdoors, land or water, and learn from the greatest music master in the world–Nature.

Here is the unique “teachology” of a brilliant Los Angeles woman who bids fair to catch the eye of the nation with her simple solution for developing one of the primal instincts of man–love of music. She is Carrie Stone Freeman, state chairman of music for the Los Angeles and Southern districts of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. “Trying to catch the notes of the birds,” said Mrs. Freeman, “not only gives a person the opportunity to learn some of the truest sound values, but it also trains the ear. “Spare moments can be utilized for this study, for instance, while a train stops on a siding, while you are standing waiting for a car, if at some interurban point where the fields are at hand or as you sit in your garden reading or sewing. The birds are everywhere.”

Mrs. Freeman is speaking to club women in almost every part of the state, so popular is her subject proving. Just a few days ago she received a manuscript copy of the new song written by the well known American composer, Mrs. H. H. A. Beach; words by Ina Coolbrith of San Francisco. It is dedicated to Mrs. Freeman and is called “Meadowlark.” The motif of the composition is one of the meadowlark calls which Mrs. Freeman frequently uses in announcing her arrival at the artistic Freeman home at the western terminus of Sixteenth Street. Mrs. Beach heard her using it, while a house-guest, and begged permission to build a song on it.

Asked what she thinks of “ragtime,” Mrs. Freeman said “I don’t think. It was a tidal wave for a while and naturally it is receding. I think it will soon die altogether. I never talk against it. I simply offer something better in its stead.”

Co-author Lucia Chase Bell (1848-1938) also wrote the Elder publication Obil, Keeper of Camels. Her husband, Thomas Cowan Bell (1832-1919), was one of the founders of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

I can find no information about co-author and illustrator Rita Bell James.

Title page of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"
Title page of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”
Page 3 of "Slumber Sea Chanteys"
Page 3 of “Slumber Sea Chanteys”

Baby Roland booklets

Cover of "Ascent of Man"
Cover of “Ascent of Man,” Baby Roland booklet #2

Imagine a children’s book designed to encourage a toddler to learn the thrill of accomplishment by, say, climbing up a flight of stairs. Today, that book would probably be full-color drawings. In 1902, Elder & Shepard published such a book, George Hansen’s Ascent of Man, consisting of a series of photographs of a real toddler, Hansen’s own son Roland.

Ascent of Man was just one of a series of five booklets, all featuring the young Roland:

  • Vespers
  • Ascent of Man
  • Lima Beans
  • In Company
  • His Calculations

George Hansen (1863-1908) was born in Hildesheim, Germany. His grandfather, J. G. K. Oberdieck, was a famous pomologist (the study of fruit) and was rewarded by the Prussian government with a reserved place in university for whichever of his grandchildren wanted to pursue horticulture. George was chosen, and he attended school in Potsdam. He moved to England in 1885 and worked for F. Sander & Company in their orchid house, drawing illustrations for their publication Reichenbachia. He came to San Francisco in 1887 and was named foreman of the University of California Foothill Experiment Station in Jackson, in the Amador County foothills. He spent seven years there, collecting in the surrounding Sierra Nevada. As a result, some thirty new species were named for him.

In 1889, George married Linda Frances Rinehart (1869-1948), a native of Amador County. But in 1896 Hansen suffered a debilitating spinal injury, forcing him to leave his position at Foothill Station and move to Berkeley. He spent the last dozen years of his life largely confined to his house and garden, and died there on 31 March 1908. The photographs for Baby Roland were taken by Hansen at the family home at 2705 Hearst Ave. in Berkeley. The house no longer exists. Roland’s life too was short: born in April 1900, he died 4 March 1920 at the age of nineteen.

Title page of "Ascent of Man", with unusual tree bark endpapers
Title page of “Ascent of Man”, with unusual tree bark endpapers

There is no typesetting in any of the booklets; all the text and decorations are drawn by hand, almost certainly by Morgan Shepard. The cover and title pages also feature photographs of Roland. To best display the photographs, the paper is coated stock, instead of the laid paper usually favored by Elder. The endpapers are impregnated with thin strips of tree bark, a style used by Elder in several other titles.

Morgan Shepard, who spent most of his adult life writing and publishing books for children, probably coordinated the whole project, as perhaps he also did with Hansen’s book What is a Kindergarten?, published the previous year.

The Baby Roland booklets are now quite scarce.

Page 3 of "Ascent of Man"
Page 3 of “Ascent of Man”
Page 7 of "Ascent of Man"
Page 7 of “Ascent of Man”
Page 19 of "Ascent of Man"
Page 19 of “Ascent of Man”
Page 23 of "Ascent of Man"
Page 23 of “Ascent of Man”
Cover of “Lima Beans,” Baby Roland booklet #3
Cover of "In Company"
Cover of “In Company,” Baby Roland booklet #4
Cover of “His Calculations,” Baby Roland booklet #5


Cover of "Blottentots"
Cover of Paul Elder & Co’s “Blottentots”

The craft of making art from inkblots is called klecksography (from klecks, the German word for “stain” or “blotch”). The modern reader might call to mind the Rorschach Test, but klecksography has a much longer history.

The first person to publish a book using inkblots was Justinius Kerner (1786-1862), a German poet and medical writer. Due to failing eyesight, he would often accidentally drip ink onto his paper. Rather than throw away the resulting inkblots he decided to keep them as artwork, and wrote poems to accompany them. He finished the book Klecksographien in 1857 but it wasn’t published until 1890, twenty-eight years after his death.

Page 7 of
Page 7 of Justinius Kerner’s “Klecksographien”

In 1896, Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937) and Ruth McEnery Stuart (1849-1917) published “Gobolinks,” (a play on the words “goblin” and “ink”). Paine and Stuart envisioned Gobolinks as a game, where the players have five minutes to create an inkblot and then a poem to accompany it. Judges are chosen amongst the group, and they choose the best submissions;  players whose works are chosen then become judges for the next round, and the previous judges become players. After the proscribed number of rounds, the final judging is conducted.

Enter Paul Elder & Company in 1907, with Blottentots, and How To Make Them. The book is certainly derivative, but the inkblots are creative and the verses delightful for youngsters’ ears. The author is John Prosper Carmel with calligraphy by Raymond Carter, but the former is believed to be a pseudonym of the latter. I have been unable to find any information about Mr. Carter.

Cover of Stuart and Paine’s “Gobolinks”

In 1921, fifteen years after the publication of Blottentots, Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) wrote his book Psychodiagnostik, which was to form the basis of the test which bears his name. Some have suggested that Rorschach based his inkblots on Kerner’s, but there appears to be no conclusive evidence of this.

The rules of Gobolinks
The rules of Gobolinks
Page 3 of Gobolinks
Page 3 of Gobolinks
Frontispiece and title page of "Blottentots"
Frontispiece and title page of “Blottentots”
Pages 2-3 of "Blottentots"
Pages 2-3 of “Blottentots”
Pages 22-23 of "Blottentots"
Pages 22-23 of “Blottentots”
The first of the ten cards in the Rorschach test
The first of the ten cards in the Rorschach test