COLLECTING: children's books Feed

Ladies Are Tamed Women. Be Feral. New cup at small equals

Ladies are tamed women

Ladies are tamed women. Be Feral.  Cup from

Take a clue from Nancy Drew. Get out there and be adventurous, follow leads, solve crime, help people, be best friends with a girl named George, drive a roadster, be smarter than your lawyer father, don't let anyone stop you, and every once in a while, stop for a nice luncheon.


In the ten years I've been doing this blog, you've seen me introduce a host of new products. Some sold well. Others didn't. Running a business is always a process. Or, as the trendies say now, a "journey."

Now I'm introducing mugs. I found a wonderful printer in the US that manufactures and drop ships. That's great for me, because the last thing I want is shelves full of inventory and trips to the post office. That was fine when I was younger, but thanks. But with all the advances in print technologies and online servicing, it's now relatively easy to do make a great product AND have it delivered to the customer's home in a pretty package, safe and sound. 

Phew! Here's where to shop



cup, when women rule everyone will be free, 11 oz mug from small equals
When Women rule, everyone will be free. 11 oz mug from Small Equals


When Women rule, everyone will be free. This is a variation on a print I designed, first as a silkscreen and then as a digital collage. Now available in mug form. The girls are a highly altered version of a mid 20th century matchbox label. I just adore them, and use them over and over.


Mug, Lead your own parade,
Lead Your Own Parade. 11 oz mug from


Lead Your Own Parade. This little saying popped into my mind a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a cheerful idea to ponder with morning coffee or tea. I went on an image hunt,  I found this illustration at a library digital collection, from a 1902 children's book illustrated by Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars. It suited perfectly. 

Children of our town  carolyn wells  illustrations by E. Mars and MH Squire 1902  copy
The Children Of Our Town. Carolyn Wells. Illustrations by E. Mars and MH Squire. 1902


I went ahead and cleaned it up in Photoshop, designed the template for the cup manufacturer, and then set about researching the artists. I found Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire.

Lo and behold the Misses Squire and Mars were American artists who met in art school in Ohio in the 1890's, then moved to Paris where they became pals with Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, and of course they worked and exhibited with many of the artists there. 

During world war one they moved back to the US and lived in Provincetown, MA, then back to France, where they lived in Vence. During Ww2 they hid out in Grenoble, then went back to France until they died in 1955 and 1956. 

The Gertrude Stein's word portrait "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene was based on them. .

And now they've landed on my cup. I'm delighted but no longer shocked by these everyday moments of serendipity. 


Love Your Mother Earth. 11 oz mug from


Love Your Mother Earth. Yes, I use this phrase often in my art and products. Because it's so important! This design is based on another print I made as a silkscreen. The silkscreen design was based on a photo I took of a package of Easter Jelly Beans. I'm not a Christian, but Easter packaging always makes me happy. The colors!! 

This digital version, quite different from the original, is now gracing a mug. My goal is to give you something happy and positive to absorb with your hot beverage of choice. I think it's so important to start the day with happy thoughts to set the tone for the rest of the day. 

Here's what it looked like as a silkscreen. I made this and all my silkscreens at Iskra Print Collective in Burlington, VT.


silkscreen, liza cowan, jelly beans
Jelly Beans silkscreen by Liza Cowan 2017 

 Find the cups here


Tibor gergely self portrait oil painting 1935
Tibor Gergely, self portait, 1935

Tibor Gergely is best known in the US as the glorious illustrator of Scuffy The Tugboat and The Five Firemen, and 70+ other well loved childrens books, most published by Golden Books. If that were his only work, it would have been enough. But that is far from the whole story.

Tibor gergely, Gossip. #FC40 from
Tibor Gergely, Gossip, from part of a large series of drawings he made in the 1920's and 30's in and around the village of Kortvelyes, Hungary.

Gergely, an Austrian Jew, had a full, rich, life as an artist and intellectual in Budapest and Vienna before he emigrated to the US in 1939. You can find his story and more images at

Tibor Gergely sketch of Paul Robeson '29 Vienna
Tibor Gergely portrait of Paul Robeson, signed by Paul Robeson

While Gergely was in exile in Vienna in the 1920's he worked for the newspaper Der Tag. This portrait of Paul Robeson is one of many he made for the paper.

Tibor gergely charcoal sketch of woman in hat
Tibor Gergely, charcoal sketch of woman in hat.

“It often happens that the essence of a whole lies concealed in some minor, insignificant detail. To find that detail and to express with it the whole - this is the joy of discovery, and the painterly gratification of the artist.”  Tibor Gergely

Fleeing the Nazi regime, Gergely and his wife, the painter Anna Lesznai, landed in New York City, and immediately fell in love with the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

Tibor gergely %22the battery%22
Tibor Gergely, The Battery, guache, painted from atop the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Shortly after he came to the US, Gergely met Georges Duplaix, who was head of production at Artists and Writers Guild and they collaborated on Topsy Turvy Circus. In 1942 Duplaix  became head of the Graphics Department at Simon and Shuster where he introduced Gergely to Lucille Ogle. They, along with Albert Leventhal, created Golden Books. Here Gergely found the home that would bring him millions of delighted readers. He created illustrations for over seventy Little Golden Books.

  Tibor gergely a year in the city 1948

Tibor Gergely, A Year In The City, Simon & Shuster, 1948


Tibor gergely fireman illustration with color samples
Tibor Gergely,  the right half of an original illustration for "Five Little Firemen" 1942 

tibor gergely the taxi that hurried

Tibor Gergely, The Taxi That Hurried

Tibor gergely five little firemen
Tibor Gergely, Five Little Firemen

tibor gergely, scuffy the tugboat

Tibor Gergely, Scuffy The Tugboat


Körtvélyesi kert | Artportal
Painting by Anna Lesznai found here


You might be interested in this book about Golden Books.

  Golden Legacy; How Golden books won children's hearts

Golden Legacy, How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, And Became an American Icon Along The Way.

Interveiw with author Leonard S. Marcus HERE

And here is a wonderful little documentary about Gergely by his step great granddaughter, Sabrina Jaszi, including a telephone interview with her very knowlegable father, Peter Jaszi. 


YouTube video about Gergely

And it give me great pleasure to be able to make some Small Equals Keepsake Boxes with Gergely images. I only use pages from books - mostly Goldens - that are too beat up to salvage. I sometimes have them in stock, sometimes not, depending on what old books I can find. Look for them at my ONLINE STORE


  Small equals keepsake box tibor gergely the chief is on his way

Small Equals Keepsake Box with Tibor Gergely illustration on lid.

If you are interested in seeing more Gergely images I have a lot of them collected at Pinterest.


Objects to paint, coloring book, 1910, cover, cowan ephemera

Objects To Paint, 1910 Coloring Book, The Saalfield Publishing Co. NY, Chicago

From the vaults at the Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections (formerly known as Pine Street Ephemera Collections.) A coloring book from 1910. Enjoy.

Objects To Color, detail, girls face, cover.


Fire engine, 1910, COWAN EPHEMERA,  400
Fire Engine



Fire engine, 1910, steam engine, coloring book, detail firemen, yellow red, smoke 

Fire Engine, detail


Ring round rosy, 1910 coloring book, cowan ephemera, 400
Ring-Round-A Rosy. 1910, Coloring Book


Ring round rosy, 1910, detail, girl, cowan ephemera
Ring Round A Rosy, girl, detail, 1910

Little Lulu, the early years

Shout out to  Ximena and Alix: the two X's who love Lulu as much or more than I do.

 Little lulu, Marge, 192-1936, cartoon, early little lulu
Little Lulu, by Marge, Rand McNally & Co copyright 1925-1936. 1939 edition. PSAW ephemera collections

Little Lulu Goes To College

 "The papers of Marjorie Henderson Buell—known as “Marge” to Little Lulu’s millions of fans—now live at the Schlesinger Library (at Radcliffe College) thanks to the generosity of her sons, Lawrence Buell, the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard, and Frederick Buell, professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York."  source

 Little lulu book frontespiece, by marge, 1939 edition
Little Lulu, PSAW ephemera collections

"Buell, who was born in 1904 and grew up in Philadelphia, was the first woman cartoonist to achieve worldwide fame as well as commercial success. Moreover, she kept the rights to the Little Lulu character from its inception in 1935 until 1972 when she retired with her husband, Clarence Buell. Meanwhile, Buell presided over a merchandising empire that included Little Lulu dolls, lunch boxes, clothing, toys, puzzles, and candy, some of which are included in the exhibit."

 Little lulu, marge, little lulu on statue, lulu 1939, black and white comic
Little Lulu, PSAW ephemera collections

 Little lulu, marge, 1939, little lulu on subway, little lulu gymnastics
Little Lulu, PSAW ephemera collections


 Little lulu, marge, 1939, men only, little lulu in moustache, little lulu in drag,
Little Lulu, PSAW ephemera collections

If you are a comics fan, you'll love this vintage original Helen Hokinson ad, framed, ready to hang.

Helen Hokinson ad for Maxwell House

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

William Steig: Poor Pitiful Pearl

Poor Pitiful Pearl doll, william steig. photo ©Liza Cowan

Poor Pitiful Pearl. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2008. Print of this photo is available at my online store

William Steig, author, cartoonist, illustrator, famous for Shrek, Dr. DeSoto, Sylvester and The Magic Pebble, zillions of New Yorker Covers, and a reluctant advertising illustrator, was also the creator of my favorite doll: Poor Pitiful Pearl. Pearl was my first and my only true doll love. She was made in 1958, and stayed in production in various incarnations throughout the sixties.

A couple of years ago I was putting together an exhibit of 20th Century Works on Paper,  and had just purchased this poster:


william steig, we clean 'em, shell oil, advertising poster, 1944, Liza Cowan Collections

Wm Steig, We Clean 'Em. Shell Oil, 1944. Collection of Pine Street Art Works.

This gorgeous, huge lithograph was made for Shell Oil in 1944. As I was researching the poster and Steig I came across the fact that Poor Pitiful Pearl was a Steig creation. Of course! But I hadn't realized it as a kid, even though our family subscription to The New Yorker was a favorite of mine, and I poured through it weekly looking at the cartoons.


william steig, the new yorker, 1935, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

William Steig, The New Yorker, 1935. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections,

We had enough New Yorker magazines and New Yorker cartoon collections around the house that I could have been, should have been familiar enough with the Steig canon to have been able recognize his style on my darling doll. But I didn't. The New Yorker...dolls? Nuh uh.




william steig, poor pitiful pearl, we clean 'em, shell oil, Liza Cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl and We Clean 'Em. Not to scale. I made this collage in Photoshop. Pearl is much smaller than the man in the poster.

But check this out. How much more alike could they be? Even the clothing matches.

Pearl even came with her own little Steig book:

Click the smaller images and they will pop up.


  • Blog pearl cover
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • Blog pearl 4
  • Blog pearl 5
  • Blog pearl 6
  • Blog pearl 7
  • Blog pearl 8
  • Blog pearl 9
Poor Pitiful Pearl William Steig  booket cover. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Poor Pitiful Pearl booklet by William Steig. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


poor pitiful pearl doll magnet from small equals photo ©liza cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl magnet from small equals.

Order magnet at my Etsy shop here  


The human body cover small
Copyright 1955. The Human Body by Cyril Bibby and Ian. T. Morison, illustrations. Puffin Books.

Closeups of cells and nerves and skeletal structures make up the body of this illustrated human anatomy book for children, although not every one of the fine drawings by Ian T. Morison is at a microscopic level. For your enjoyment I present some of the illustrations full page size, and then at a microscopic level, details of the pages themselves. That is, through the amazing technology of scanner and photo crop tool, we can delve into the smallest detail of the ink color, line and typography of the page itself.

The human body cover009_2
The Human Body. Bibby & Morrison 1955. Puffin Picture Book. Cover detail.

The human body p 4
The Human Body p. 4


The human body detail other ways
Abstracted detail of a cell. The Human Body p. 6


The Human Body, p. 6, detail. This one could easily be a wallpaper design.


The human body p
The Human Body, page 9


The human body p.9011_2
Detail, The Human Body, p. 9

The Human Body, p. 17


The Human Body, detail p. 17

The human body p.17013_2

The Human Body, detail p. 17

Thehumanbodyp21 small
The Human Body p. 21


The human body p.21016_2

The Human Body. Page 21. Detail of blood cell.

For more on the Puffin Picture Books including more images and a wonderful essay see this post on the blog Quad Royal 


I was browsing around the website COLORlovers, looking at how they analyze color trends in magazine covers and blogs and I was inspired to take a look at the color trends in some of the art I've been looking at and posting lately.

Coloraid The last time I did something like this was when home computers were a gleam in their inventor's eye, during my first (and only) year at The School Of Visual arts in New York City in 1968. We used Color-aid paper. Yumm.

Now I use a design software that I love but almost nobody I work with has heard of. It's called Swift Publisher, and although it has only a fraction of the horsepower of Adobe Illustrator, which everyone recommends, I find it flexible and, best of all, I actually know how to use it.

Like most design software, it has a way to copy color from one place and put it in a designated location. Nifty. I depend on this feature for most of my digital color choices.

I did this mainly as a color exercise, but it turns out they're fun to do and quite nice to look at. I hope you enjoy them.

Colors of Jell-o for dessert
colors in Jello recipe booklet.

This Jell-o booklet was printed by chromolithography, which separates (and combines) colors in many many layers of printing plates, often dozens of layers. The way they combine, and the way the light hits the colors and the eye decodes the message is both subtle and tricky - think of a pointillist painting. So in this Jell-0 cover, it looks like there's lavender, but there isn't an actual lavender ink. These are the colors that separate and combine to make the final impression.

Colors of diamond dyes egg detail blog

Diamond Dyes booklet. Circa 1890's. Wells Richardson & Co. Burlington, VT

This is a detail from a Diamond Dyes chromolithographed booklet, circa 1890. The colors I've defined don't necessarily reflect the colors of ink that were used to make this chromo. I'm sure there's a way to figure that out, but darned if I know it. The colors I've extracted are from a digital scan, as all of these images are. The colors, at least on my screen, are faithful to the original, but they are still digitized. So if two layers of ink are superimposed - layered on on the other, they will read as a third color. Even to the scanner. Still, its quite interesting, I think.

Colors of kitchen american gas blog
Ad for American Gas Association, Saturday Evening Post 1940

This 1949 ad uses different printing technology. Using a four color printing process, the inks combine to create colors from only four colors: cyan, yellow, magenta and black. The finished print, of course, is defined by the original work, in this case a painting, probably guache.The colors of the kitchen are a simple yellow, blue and white palette. The greens are only in the out doors. I've written about this ad before in this blog. It's one of my favorites and I keep coming back to it. Also, the American Gas Association has a google notifier, and last time I posted this ad I got a really nice note from them, so if you are reading this from AGA, hello!

Color fields for liza leger

Liza Cowan aka Liza Leger from FAKE!Paintings by Liza Leger et. al.

This is a digital photo (by Dok Wright) of a painting by me, Liza. The colors are paint in the original, and they look pretty faithful to me. I paint using mixtures of only five colors: Cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, cobalt blue, titanium white and black. I get my neutral grayish greens and etc. by mixing all three colors plus white.

I was having so much fun with my color game that I introduced it to my children. I showed them how to do it and they each came up with one.

Color fields wg

Photo by Liza Cowan 2002

Older daughter, WG, decided to do this photo I took of her many years ago. It was a digital capture, so the image was pixilated in it's inception. She chose to design her page with the colors right up against one another in different sizes.

Color M gw blog

detail from Alphabet Of Country Scenes. 1875, McLaughlin Bros. NY.

Younger daughter GW did this one, another chromo, and I love how she made the colors different sizes. Lively composition. I didn't discuss options of box sizes with the children, nor did we explore using different shapes or placement. We'll save that for another time.


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