ARTIST: Mary Louise Spoor



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

Children's reading primers

I've been collecting early childhood readers and primers for ages. I love them for the typography, the illustrations and for the peek into the social life and pedagogy of the early 20th Century.

Here are a few lovely examples:

 Easy Road To Readin, reading primer, 1919, Lyons & Carnahan, mary louise spoor,  

The Easy Road To Reading, Lyons & Carnihan 1919-25, illustrated by Mary Louise Spoor and Gertrude Spaller.

 Easy Road To Reading, children's reader, primer, north wind, children play in leaves, leaves blowing, mary louise spoor 

The Easy Road To Reading First Reader. Illustrated by Mary Louise Spoor. For more on ML Spoor

 Champion arithmetic, 1937, math book, dog through hoop,
Champion Arithmetics, children's math primer, 1937, Evanston IL

 Champion arithmetic, 1937 math book, canning fruit, vintage math book, vintage primer
Champion Arithmetics. Illustration by Nell Hulke Compton. 1937

 Happy days, children's reader, boys with monkey, monkey on leash  

Happy Days, Quinlan Readers. 1949 Allen and Bacon Publishers

 Happy days, children's reader, mother knits, father reads, children reading, monkey with books, cat on pillow, mid 20th century home
Happy Days Children's primer. Quinlan readers. 1949. Illustration Constance Heffron

 Down our street, children's reader, kids on bikes,  

Down Our Street. McMillan 1939.

 Down our street, children's reader, grocery store, old fashioned grocery, grocer, man with package, baby buggy, fancy groceries
Down Our Street. Children's reader. 1939

 Health stories and practice,1931, children's health mid 20th century,  

Health Stories and Practice, 1931, Lyons & Carnahan publisher, illustrations by Vera Stone Norman and Irene Dorcy

 Health stories, irene dorcy, vera stone norman, children's health mid 20th century, mother at window, orange juice, boy in bed, eat nourishing food, children's health primer
Health Stories and Practice. 1931. Illustrated by Vera Store Norman or Irene Dorcy

 Health stories and practice, children playing, leapfrog, hopscotch, girl on swing
Health Stories and Practice. 1931. Illustrated by Vera Store Norman or Irene Dorcy

 Journey to health land, ginn and company, Blanche Fisher Tate, children's health 20th century, 1924
Journey to Health Land. Ginn & Co. 1924, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Laite

 Journey to health , Blanch Fisher Taite, children's health, finest vegetables in the garden, children gardening, spotted dress, watering can, boy in shorts, elf in garden, children garden tools
A Journey To Health Land. Illustration Blanche Fisher Laite 1924

 City and country, first reader, boys feet in water, childhood readers, florence margaret hoopes, margaret freeman 

Childhood Readers, City and Country, Scribners,1932, illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes and Margaret Freeman.

 Childhood readers, children build toy city, play city, children paint toy city, children in school, 1932
Childhood Readers, City and Country. Illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes and Margaret Freeman. 1932

 City country reader, Florence Hoopes, Margeret Hoopes, Margaret Freeman, seaside illustration, children at beach, at the seaside
Childhood Readers, City and Country. Illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes & Margaret Freeman, 1932

 City country reader, margaret hoopes, florence hoopes, margaret freeman, family travelling, dad holding sleeping child, girl holding dog, family with luggage
Childhood Readers, City and Country. Illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes & Margaret Freeman, 1932

 Meet our friends, reading for living, children's reader, Bobbs merrill, 1950, janet ross, raymon naylor
Meet Our Friends, Bobbs Merrill 19500. Illustrated by Janet Ross and Raymon Naylor

 Meet our friends, children's reader, 1950, janet ross, ramon naylor, mother peels carrot, old fashioned telephone, mother and daughter cook 1950, beige apron, girl in pigtail,
Meet Our Friends. 1950. Illustrated by Janet Ross and Raymon Naylor


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