Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys

portrait of Maxine Maxson WaldronMaxine Maxson Waldron, a collector and researcher with an interest in art, fashion, and interior decoration, was born in 1898 in Iowa and studied art at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York. After graduating, she worked in the education department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taught art at various private schools, and specialized in ceramics at the Greenwich House Pottery Shop. One of her customers, maestro Arturo Toscanini, bought miniature figures holding musical instruments and another, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1940, purchased a Christmas crèche.

In a letter to a fellow collector, Mrs. Waldron reminisced about collecting paper dolls: “My first paper dolls were Teddy Bears …which I made when my parents could not afford to buy me a Teddy Bear. Later, the Lettie Lane paper dolls appeared in the Ladies Home Journal so I sold the magazine so I could get these … free. My interest in paper dolls lay dormant many years as I pursued my career as an artist and art teacher … [Later] I saw one of Marion Howard’s advertisements and ordered some of her dolls. She had a friend in Florida who had a paper doll collection; when this friend died, I bought her entire collection…. I often bought duplicates from other collectors; I ordered wherever I saw them advertised.”

Maxine Maxson Waldron paper toysThe Waldron collection-more than 3,000 paper artifacts and about 550 volumes of children’s books-dates from America’s colonial period into the twentieth century and includes literature, paper dolls, games, greeting cards, prints, lantern slides and their projectors, moveable and pop-up books, peep shows, and board games. Also included are the compiler’s research notes and some of her artwork. Mrs. Waldron donated the majority of the collection to Winterthur between 1973 and 1982, the year of her death.

uncle sam paper toyWriting of Maxine Waldron, author and bibliographer Margaret N. Coughlan of the Children’s Literature Center, Library of Congress, noted: “The importance of the Waldron collection for the scholar is that it constitutes primary source material for study of the mass-produced book, the history of fashion, popular taste in interior decoration and home amusements, as well as for study of printing, illustration and bookmaking.”

Specific highlights of the collection are many and varied. Perhaps the most engaging figures are the Brownies from the wonderfully imaginative mind of Palmer Cox (1840-1924), a poet, author, cartoonist, and illustrator from Quebec province. He introduced readers to his Brownies in an 1883 story, “The Brownies Ride,” in St. Nicholas magazine. Over the years the Brownies appeared in other stories, plays, books, and numerous advertisements. 

Maxine Waldron bookKate Greenaway (1846-1901) is one of the most important illustrators of Victorian era children’s books. A native of London, she attended art school, published her first illustration in 1867, and was soon designing greeting cards, calendars, and book illustrations. Greenaway’s own book, Under the Window, now considered an early landmark of her career, produced with engraver Edmund Evans, came out in 1879. In time, she illustrated the works of John Ruskin, Bret Harte, and Robert Browning. The Waldron collection contains 24 books illustrated by Kate Greenaway.

man and dogLily Gardner was not well known outside her circle of friends in Boston, but she left us colorful handmade paper cut-out dolls of her neighbors and well-to-do household. Crafted between 1890 and 1910, the dolls include Lily as a young teenager as well as servants, infants, well dressed men and women of the household, pets, a clergyman, a bride, and other family members, friends, and acquaintances. Lily often made more than one costume for her paper playmates, giving us glimpses of what Brahmin society considered to be appropriate clothing a century ago.

cover of Linen ABC BookTracing its roots back to 1819, when Scottish immigrant John McLoughlin entered the printing trade in New York City, McLoughlin Brothers became the foremost color printing firm in the United States after the Civil War. The company issued books, board games, paper dolls, pop-ups, Valentines, and other items that both amused and instructed young people. The Waldron Collection counts among its holdings over 100 McLoughlin imprints and games such as “The Round Game of Tiddledy Winks” and “Red Riding Hood & the Wolf,” “Dottie Dimple” paper dolls, Palmer Cox Brownie figures, and Tom Thumb dolls.

Many researchers have used the Waldron collection to support their work, and items from the collection have been exhibited over the years. Winterthur has incorporated items from the Waldron Collection in many Yuletide exhibitions, and in 1979, the Huntsville, Alabama, Museum of Art borrowed more than 40 pieces from the collection for its exhibit “The Night Before Christmas.”

We are indeed grateful for Maxine Waldron’s sense of history and artistry in collecting all that she did, and we are especially grateful for her generosity in donating her marvelous collection to Winterthur for others to use and enjoy.

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