ART BY TECHNIQUE: chromolithography


Hot off the presses: Small Equals Keepsake box with image from a chromolithographed trade card from former  Burlington manufacturer Wells, Richardson & Co. Here are children painting their eggs with Diamond Dyes.

small equals keepsake box with image from Wells Richardson & Co, children painting easter eggs with Diamond Dyes

Small Equals Keepsake Box, paint your eggs with Diamond Dyes

For a tiny eco footprint...and less money than it would cost to send a dozen roses, why not send a box filled with seedbombs? Invest in the future with one small gift.

Available at Small Equals Online Shop HERE 



Ml spoor hickory dickory three mice liza cowan collections
Mary Louise Spoor. From 1917 schoolroom poster

Two Mary Louise Spoor schoolroom posters are now available at my online store. One is a single sided triptych of Hickory Dickory Dock.


Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock. Cowan collections. Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock  

ML Spoor Bye baby bunting med.
Mary Louise Spoor, Bye Baby Bunting

Posters available HERE
More about Mary Louise Spoor on this blog HERE

Four Color Process: the inner world of dots and comic books


Comic Book, detail. Four Color Process. From a blog by Half Man Half Static

My regular readers know I've been a bit obsessed with making and or blogging about large scale reproductions of fragments from printed ephemera, particularly chromolithography, stone lithography and other early to mid 20th Century color-print processes.


Needle girl face detail. Cowan ephemera collections

Mid 20th Century Needle book. Detail. Liza Cowan ephemera collections.

I recently discovered the blog 4CP (four color process) by John Hilgart, the blogger known as   HM/HS Half Man Half-Static, A Curator of lost items. (Great name, by the way.) HM/HS writes in an early early essay In Defense Of Dots: The lost Art Of Comic Books: 

"Who is responsible for this art? At the level of a square inch of printed comic book, no one was the creative lead. 4CP highlights the work of arbitrary collectives that merged art and commerce, intent and accident, human and machine. A proper credit for each image would include the scriptwriter, the penciller, the inker, the color designer, the paper buyer, the print production supervisor, and the serial number of the press. Credit is due to all of them, to differing and unknowable degrees, for every square inch of every old comic. The hand of fate created this art, and it guides our hand as we search for 4CP images: We move a tiny Ouija board pointer across mid-Century comic books, looking for beautiful ghosts."

4cp.posterous from
Comic Book, detail. Four Color process. From

Jello, door handle, chromolithograph, recipe, dots, enlargement, liza cowan ephemera collections,

Jell-O booklet. Chromolithography. Detail. Liza Cowan ephemera collections. 

"However, in the decisive, paradoxical twist, four-color process created a form of depth even as it fought against illustrative realism. Whereas contemporary reproductions of mid-century comic art are truly closed and flat, old comic books are visually leaky and deep. Four-color dots perforate the flat surface of the universe, opening onto nowhere – some uncharted cosmos."


Comic Book, detail, enlarged 4 color process, dots,
Detail of Comic, 4 Color Process, from


snapdragon seed pack, stone ligthograph, detail, pink, flower, abstract flower, detail,, liza cowan ephemera collectiosn
Early 20th Century seed packet, stone lithograph. Liza Cowan ephemera collections


windows, comic book, 4 color process, dots,
Comic book detail, four color process, from

Read the whole essay HERE and make sure to spend some time in the 4cp archive for amazing images and really well thought out and well written articles. 


 Dr. Dorothy I Height, Polly Cowan, Dorothy I Height dies April 20, 2010, Wednesdays In Mississippi, women in civil rights, civil rights as women's work

Dr. Dorothy I Height and Polly Cowan, Co- Founders of Wednesdays In Mississippi

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height died early this morning at age 98. One of the great leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, her activism, passion, brilliance and determination changed the lives of millions. She was also my my mother's great friend and colleague. Our family loved Dr. Height, and will miss her deeply.

I direct you to my sister, Holly Shulman's, excellent website documenting the Civil Rights Organization, Wednesdays In Mississippi, founded by Dr. Height and our mother, Polly Spiegel Cowan 


 Dr. Dorothy I Height, Polly Cowan, Wednesdays In Mississippi, women in the civil rights movement, Hope Resolve Empathy Understanding

From the Wednesdays In Mississippi Website. Click image to link.

Wednesdays In Mississippi mostly worked in secret in order to protect the women who participated, whose lives could be in danger from the mission.

 Dorothy Height, Wednesdays In Mississippi, Polly Cowan, Secret Project in Mississippi, interracial meetings of women 1964, NY Herald Tribune 1964
"Secret Project in Mississippi- Interracial meeting of Women" NY York Herald Tribune, 1964. From The Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College. Click image to link.


New York Herald Tribune, Aug. 30, 1964  By Dick Schaap, City Editor:

They met secretly, these few white women and Negro women of Jackson Miss., in a business office on a border  street separating Negro and white residential sections, because the white women were afraid to bring Negros into their home and afraid, too, to go to Negro Homes. Their fear, of course, was of retaliation from the white community. Their interracial meetings were inspired by a project called Wednesdays in Mississippi, a secret project revealed only yesterday, that over the past two months quietly brought into Mississippi 48 Northern women, white and Negro, many of them socially prominent. The mood of these meetings, encouraged by the Northern visitors to help 'build a bridge' between Jackson Negro and white women, was expressed best, perhaps, in the frank remarks of one local white woman who attended. " My husband would kill me if he knew I were here." she said. "But he's a wonderful guy."" These (white) women are living through a frightening, schizophrenic experience," Dr. Hanna A. Levin, of Maplewood, NY, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University, said yesterday.

Mrs Levin was the leader of Team Seven, the last of the Northern teams- drawing women from New York, New Jersey, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul - to make an excursion to Mississippi. Six of the teams had seven members; one team had six members: every team had at least two Negros on it.

The Northern visitors included Mrs. Robert B. Meyner, wife of the former governor of New Jersey; Mrs. Jerome B. Weisner, wife of the Dean Of Science at Massachusetts Instititute Of Technology; Mrs. August Hecksher, wife of the director of the Twentieth Century Fund, Inc., Mrs. Robert S. Benjamin, wife of the chairman of the board of United Artists Corp.; Mrs. Dorothy I. Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women; Mrs. Edward L. Ryerson jr., daughter -in- law of the former chairmn of the board of Inland Steel Co, and the overall project coordinator, Mrs. Louis G. Cowan, wife of the director of the Communications Research Center at Brandeis University.


Each team flew into Mississippi on a Tuesday - the last group landed on Aug. 18- spent Tuesday night in Jackson, spend Wednesday visiting Freedom Schools and other facilities set up by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in such towns as Meridan, Hattiesburg, Ruleville, Canton and Vicksburg, went back to Jackson Wednesday night and returned home on Thursday.

The Negro members of the teams always stayed in private Negro homes. The white members of the fist five teams stayed in motels. Then, as the group slowly acquired contacts in the white community, the white members of the last two teams found lodging in private white homes. Wednesdays In Mississippi employed a paid staff of three women - two white and one Negro - who spent the entire two months in Mississippi.

Many of the visitors paid their own way to Mississippi but a majority were subsidized, at least in part, by such organizations as The National Council Of Negro Women, The YWCA, The National Council Of Jewish Women, The National Council of Catholic Women, The League Of Women Voters and several church groups.

Each woman was briefed by Mrs. Cowan before she left, given background reading material - including the speech by Mississippi Prof. James Silvester (Silver) which lead to his book, "Mississippi: The Closed Society" and a pamphlet called "Behind The Cotton Curtain" - then was debriefed by Mrs. Cowan when she returned. The debriefings were tape recorded.

From the Wednesdays In Mississippi Film Project:

"However, it was on Thursdays that the quiet revolution took root. This was when the “Wednesdays Women” put on their white gloves and pearls and secretly met with Black and White Mississippi women. In living rooms over tea and cookies the Southern women openly discussed their fears and suspicions about the civil rights movement.  Many, for the first time, voiced their support for change. At that time in Mississippi, mixing with outsiders had dire consequences.  Yet the women came,  they listened  and their hearts and minds began to open.  Their clandestine meetings became the catalyst for great change."

 Dr. Dorothy Height, fashion icon
Dr. Dorothy I. Height was also a fashion icon. She could really wear a hat!  Photo by H. Darr Beiser, USA Today, 2008

  President Obama, Dorothy I.Height, photo Pete Souza,
January 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)  President Obama and Dr, Dorothy I Height

  President Obama crying at Dorothy Height funeral, April 29, 2010
At Dr. Dorothy I Height's funeral, April 29, 2010, President Obama cries. I love this photo and the fact that Obama was so moved by such a great woman.

For a comprehensive look at WIMS please go to: Wednesdays In Missisippi website

and The WIMS Film Project

And this, From Laura Flanders, GritTV

More GRITtv

Jello Desserts From Around The World.

In this week's mail: the great Jello book I blogged about recently.

This booklet, Desserts From Around the World, is from 1909, almost a hundred years old! It features very Eurocentric versions of people from around the globe and the Jell-0 recipes they've inspired. Here's the centerfold.

 jello desserts of the world centerfold. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

so you can see the details better:

Jello deserts from around the world centerfold, detail. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Jello. The model is Elizabeth King. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. Li


This one is the Paris Jello eaters. The Eurocentric version of Parisians is, of course, pretty accurate, Paris being a fairly European city.

Jello Desserts, Paris. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

The view of Eve in the Garden Of Eden- eating apple snow Jello - is a riot. I love her garment made of fig leaves. And the text - check out the embedded assumptions:  "Whether woman has always been privileged to prepare man's food for him or not, and to persuade him to eat, is a point on which history furnished unsatisfactory information." But hey, in 1909 women in the United States couldn't even vote.

Jello Desserts. Eve in the Garden Of Eden. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

There are additional pages for the Indians (i.e. Native Americans), "now a vanishing race," as well as natives of India, Hawaii,  Japanese, Russia, "oriental countries," and Holland. With enough encouragement, I will post some of these pictures.



Wells:richardson building blog

The Wells Richardson Building on College Street is a Burlington, Vermont landmark. These days it houses Bennington Potters, but in it's heyday at the end of the 19th Century, Wells Richardson & Company patented, manufactured and distributed analyne dyes under the name of Diamond Dyes, as well as butter dye, baby food and proprietary medicines like Celery Compound.

Wells richardson butter color adPrint Advertising was a part of their marketing strategy. Before the advent of color ads in newspapers and magazines manufacturers and distributors relied on trade cards and medical pamphlets -featuring their own cures - to sell their products. These they made by the gajillion, and distributed nationwide. They would be distributed for free in retail stores or any public venue where they might drum up  business.  Trade cards were hugely collectible, even in those days, and would often end up in scrapbooks, which were also the rage. The trade cards and pamphletss were printed by chromolithography, and retain their brilliant colors to this day.

Two links in the above text are from The Library Collection of Philadelphia, which has great collections. Check out their website.


Images below are from the Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Diamond dye kitchen stove
Diamond Dyes, Wells Richardson trade card. 1890's Vermont. Cowan ephemera collections.


Diamond dye kettle detail blog
Diamond Dyes Trade Card. Detail.


Diamond dyes cousin john's wife blog
Diamond Dyes booklet. Cousin John's Extravagant Wife, A Story. 1890'st. Cowan ephemera collections.

Diamond dye cousin john detail 2 blog

Diamond dye cousin john detail blog
Diamond Dyes booklet, detail.

Diamond dyes boys blog
Diamond Dyes. Unequaled for making Ink, or for color
ing any articles any color. Cowan ephemera Collections.

Diamond dyes boys detail blog

Diamond Dyes, detail.

Diamond dyes class tryptich blog
Diamond Dyes booklet, front and back covers. Cowan ephemera collections.

Diamond dyes egg color blog
Diamond Dyes, back cover detail. Dying Easter eggs.


Diamond dyes egg detail girl blog

Diamond Dyes, back cover detail. Easter eggs.



Diamond dyes class blog
Diamond Dyes booklet, front cover

Diamond dyes color your children's clothes detail blog
Diamond Dyes, back cover detail. Color your childrens clothes with  Diamond Dyes.

Diamond dyes detail girl with doll stroller log 

Diamond Dyes booklet, detail. She's sad because her clothes haven't been dyed with Diamond Dyes.


Lactated -girl in can blog
Wells, Richardson & Co. Lactated  Food.


Lactated food babies blue back 2 blog 

Wells Richardson & Co. Lactated Foods, What Are These Babies after. Die cut trade Card. Cowan ephemera collections.


Lactated food babies blue back 1 blog  

Wells Richardson & Co. Lactated food. Die  cut trade card. Cowan ephemera collections. The background here is blue because I scanned it on  a piece of blue paper. 


Lactated orange baby blog 

Wells  Richardson & Co Lactated food trade card. Cowan ephemera collections.

Paynes Celery Compound probably contained opiates or other drugs, which were perfectly legal. Before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, manufacturers didn't have to list ingredients or prove their effectiveness. This Wells Richardson & Company ad from the 1889 book from Burlington Business Association.

Wells:richarson celery blog

In this ad it is touted as a cure for Nervousness, one of the most "popular" diseases of the 19th Century middle class. Here is a link to a good post about 19th Century Nervousness from  the blog (what is this).

I did my Master's Thesis in Anthropology on 19th Century American Uterine diseases, in which I write a lot about middle class women and nervousness or neuresthenia. Someday I'll write more here about it.

Diamond dyes trade cards seen on SeeSaw a blog by liza cowan





mary louise spoor, bye baby bunting, chromolithograph, mother and baby, baby in cradle, blue dress stars
Mary Louise Spoor, Baby Bunting, chromolithograph 1917. Liza Cowan Collections

Collecting is an adventure. The civilized version of big game hunting. You never know where the chase will  will lead, what roads you will follow. Here, we go from nursery illustrations to the early history of cinema.

A couple of years ago I was hunting at an antiques show. I was fast- walking the aisles, which is how I always do my first scan. I stopped abruptly at  a huge chromolithograph schoolroom poster published in 1917 by Congdon Publishers in Chicago. I immediately fell in love with the Japanese - or Japonism - inspired design. The dealer knew the name of the illustrator, Mary Louise Spoor, but not much about her. 

I immediately began searching for more of her work. I have subsequently found three of the school room posters. Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Bo Peep  and Baby Bunting Went A Hunting.

mary louise spoor

Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock, 1917 Chromolithograph. Liza Cowan collections. Available here

Internet searches revealed scant information on Spoor.  An interesting conversation among collectors and descendants reveals that Spoor (1887-1985) worked for a brief shining moment from Chicago, publishing illustrations for Rand McNally and Lyons & Carnihan.

Mary Louise Spoor, 1917, chromolithograph, children's illustration, hickory dickory dock, mice, doll
Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock, 1917 Chromolithograph. Liza Cowan

By 1917 she was married and pregnant with her first child. She moved to Massachussets to raise her family. And that, as far as I can tell, ended her professional career. She continued painting and drawing private works that would end up in family collections but those works have not yet entered into public circulation. Nor may they ever. What a shame to have access to so small a piece of a life's work


Mary Louise Spoor, 1917, nursery school poster, chromolith, little bo peep, sheep
ML Spoor from schoolroom poster triptychs, 1917, Liza Cowan Collections. Each image is 15'" square.

Before she left Chicago, Mollie, as she was called, went to The Art Institute  and shared a studio with Gertrude Spaller, another young illustrator. Together they illustrated at least two children's readers. The Easy Road To Reading Primer editions one and two.


Mary Louise Spoor, Easy Road To Reading, Children pushing doll carriage
ML Spoor illustrations, The Easy Road To Reading- Cowan Ephemera Collections

Here's where the road forks:

Mollie's brother was George K Spoor. In 1907 George founded Essany Studios in Chicago. Essanay was one of the first movie production studios in the US during the blink of an eye when Chicago was the center of US movie production. A couple of years later Essanay built studios in Niles, CA, but kept offices in Chicago.  George Spoor's partner in Essanay (S&A) was Max Aronson, aka Gilbert Anderson, aka  Broncho Billy, the very first film cowboy star .

Broncho Billy, Essanay Film Company, early cowboy, jewish cowboy

Broncho Billy And The Essanay Film Company by David Kiehn. Farwell Books 2003

That's right. The first cowboy star was Jewish. Aronson/Anderson appeared in the first great narrative film ever, The Great Train Robbery, then went on to direct and star in hundreds of films for Essanay.

When it began, Essanay depended on, and discovered, local Chicago talent, many of whom went on to become some of the biggest stars and directors in the industry, including Ben Turpin, Alan Dwan, Louella Parsons, Francis X Bushman, Gloria Swanson.

They made 2,000 movies in their ten year span, out of which only about 200 survive.


Charlie Chaplin in drag in Essanay's The Woman  from 1915

Charlie Chaplin was an Essanay star too, one of the first to be hired from outside the neighborhood. He had a contentious relationship with the studio, and left after a few years. His first version of The Tramp was an Essanay production.

It seems not unlikely  that the George Spoor would have asked his illustrator sister to design movie posters for his studio. She did design the Indian Chief logo for them. So far, I haven't discovered any but the hunt is on.


conversation amongst relatives and collectors at Antiques and The Arts

essay on essanay from Chicago Magazine May 2007

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Niles CA



Mary louise spoor seen on see saw