Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg, Illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham
2008.0008

Summary Information

Repository
Emporia State University Special Collections and Archives
Creator
Petersham, Maud Fuller, 1890-1971.
Creator
Petersham, Miska, 1888-1960.
Creator
Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967.
Title
Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg, Illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham
ID
2008.0008
Date
Circa 1932-1953
Extent
0.25 Linear feet
Language
English
Abstract
A single copy of the omnibus edition of the book Rootabaga Stories, which includes the contents of both  Rootabaga Stories and  Rootabaga Pigeons, inscribed by Carl Sandburg.

Preferred Citation note

Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg, Illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, Emporia State University Archives, Emporia State University.

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Biographical/Historical note

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was born on January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Illinois, to August and Clara Mathilda Anderson Sandburg. (The family name had originally been Johnson, but confusion over men with the same name caused August Johnson to change his family’s name to Sandburg.) Economic difficulties forced Carl Sandburg to quit school after the eighth grade in 1892, and he began working at a variety of different jobs. In 1897 he traveled across the country as a hobo, and he collected many folk songs during that time. In 1898 Sandburg volunteered for military service during the Spanish-American War, and he briefly served in Puerto Rico. Sandburg’s veteran status enabled him to enroll in Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1898. He received a conditional appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1899, but he failed the mathematics and grammar portions of the entrance examination and returned to Lombard College. His interest in writing and poetry increased while in college, and one of his professors was later instrumental in the publication of his early collections of poetry. In 1902 Sandburg left Lombard College without completing his degree. His first book of poetry, In Reckless Ecstasy, was published in 1904. For several years Sandburg used an anglicized version of his name, and his early publications appear under the name “Charles A. Sandburg.” In 1907 he became a political organizer for the Wisconsin Social Democratic Party, and it was through that political activity that he met Lilian Steichen. Carl Sandburg married Lilian Steichen on June 15, 1908, and they eventually had three daughters: Margaret, Janet, and Helga. Sandburg called Lilian “Paula,” and he referred to her by that name in some of his correspondence. Sandburg began working as a journalist in 1909 but also continued working in politics until 1912. In 1912 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and continued his work as a journalist. In 1914 he began to receive some literary recognition for his poetry, and his reputation was strengthened with the publications of  Chicago Poems in 1916,  Cornhuskers in 1918, and  Smoke and Steel in 1920.

In 1921 Carl Sandburg had gained some recognition for his poetry, but he had not yet established himself as a writer in other genres. One of Sandburg’s friends in the literary world of Chicago was May Massee, who at that time was the editor of the American Library Association’s Booklist, and had not yet become an editor of children’s books. In 1921 Sandburg made arrangements for Massee to act as his agent to sell magazine serializations of a group of children’s stories that he had written. In April 1922, Massee sold the serialization to  The Designer and The Woman’s Magazine and helped to popularize Sandburg’s fairy tales. In November 1922, the collection of stories was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in book form as  Rootabaga Stories. The success of  Rootabaga Stories led to more children’s stories, including  Rootabaga Pigeons in 1923 and  Potato Face in 1930.

Sandburg pursued other writing genres and became famous for his multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln which was published between 1926 and 1939, and for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1940. Sandburg moved to Michigan in 1930, then moved to Connemara Farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina, in 1945. He continued to have a successful writing career and won a second Pulitzer Prize for his Complete Poems published in 1950. Sandburg received many honorary degrees and other recognitions of his literary work, and he was also sought for many speaking engagements, which included a Lincoln Day address before a joint session of the United States Congress on February 12, 1959.

Carl Sandburg died in Flat Rock, North Carolina, on July 22, 1967, and was buried at his childhood home in Galesburg, Illinois, which had been made a museum in his honor.

Maud Fuller Petersham

Maud Sylvia Fuller was born August 5, 1890, in Kingston, New York. She was the daughter of a Baptist minister, and her father’s work caused the family to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, then to Newburg, New York, and eventually to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Maud graduated from Vassar College in 1912, and then studied for a year at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. Her first job was in the art department at the International Art Service, which was an advertising firm. It was there that she met Miska Petersham, who became something of an art tutor to Maud. After Maud and Miska married in 1917, they left commercial art and began freelance work collaborating on illustrating children’s books.

The first book they illustrated together was The Enchanted Forest, by William Bowen, in 1920. In 1924 May Massee, the editor of children’s books at Doubleday, selected the Petershams to illustrate  Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark. That work was considered a milestone for the Petershams and for children’s book illustration due to the colorful Old World setting and the decorative borders and endpapers that came to be recognized as the Petershams’ style.

In 1929 Maud and Miska made their first attempt at both writing and illustrating a children’s book. They laid out a dummy for Miki, setting up the pictures first, and then preparing the text. They had expected that the text would have to be re-written by an author of children’s books, but when they sent the dummy to May Massee, who had encouraged the project, they were surprised that she wanted the book just as they had written it.  Miki was also a landmark book, being the first large, colored picture book printed in the United States, and a book that led the way for many other picture books set in foreign lands. The Petershams wrote  Miki for their six year old son, setting the story in Miska’s native Hungary. Before writing  Miki the Petershams visited Hungary in order to be able to depict the story with authentic detail.

Two features which became characteristic of the Petersham’s work arose out of their work on Miki. The first was their tendency to incorporate details that they had actually observed while visiting the places depicted in their stories. They spent three months in Palestine in preparation for illustrating  The Christ Child (1931), a trip to Sarasota, Florida, to see the winter headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus, inspired  Circus Baby (1950), and a hunting lodge where the Petershams spent a summer provided the idea for  The Peppernuts (1958). The second feature was their tendency to write stories which were respectful of other cultures and included characters from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds.

Maud and Miska Petersham wrote and illustrated other groups of books with related themes. Between 1933 and 1939 they created a series of children’s nonfiction books explaining things such as clothes, food, houses, gold, iron and steel, oil, ships, and trains. Throughout the 1930s they produced several books of children’s Bible stories. During the time of World War II and the especially patriotic period following it in the 1950s, the Petershams focused on American themes. Works from that period include An American ABC (1941), which received a Caldecott Honor,   The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles (1945), which won the Caldecott Medal in 1946,  America’s Stamps (1947), and  Story of the Presidents of the United States of America (1953). Over the course of their careers they wrote and illustrated more than 60 books, and illustrated more than 100 books written by other authors.

The Petershams were known for their lithographic artwork, although they also did tempera drawings and some watercolors, and sometimes prepared their own color separations on glass or acetate to cut down on printing costs.

Maud and Miska Petersham had one child, Miska Fuller Petersham, born in 1923, who became an artist working in ceramics and teaching art at Kent State University in Ohio. Miska Petersham died on May 15, 1960. Maud published a few more books after his death, and died on November 29, 1971.

Miska Petersham

Petrezselyem Mikaly was born on September 20, 1888, in Törökszentmiklos, Hungary. He was a graduate of the Budapest Academy of Art. After seeking work in England in 1911, he emigrated to the United States in 1912. He anglicized his name to Miska Petersham, and began working in New York as a commercial artist with the advertising agency International Art Service. It was there that he met Maud Fuller, another artist at the agency, whom he tutored in art. Miska and Maud married in 1917, then left commercial art and began freelance work collaborating on illustrating children’s books.

The first book they illustrated together was The Enchanted Forest, by William Bowen, in 1920. In 1924 May Massee, the editor of children’s books at Doubleday, selected the Petershams to illustrate  Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark. That work was considered a milestone for the Petershams and for children’s book illustration due to the colorful Old World setting and the decorative borders and endpapers that came to be recognized as the Petershams’ style.

In 1929 Maud and Miska made their first attempt at both writing and illustrating a children’s book. They laid out a dummy for Miki, setting up the pictures first, and then preparing the text. They had expected that the text would have to be re-written by an author of children’s books, but when they sent the dummy to May Massee, who had encouraged the project, they were surprised that she wanted the book just as they had written it.  Miki was also a landmark book, being the first large, colored picture book printed in the United States, and a book that led the way for many other picture books set in foreign lands. The Petershams wrote  Miki for their six year old son, setting the story in Miska’s native Hungary. Before writing  Miki the Petershams visited Hungary in order to be able to depict the story with authentic detail.

Two features which became characteristic of the Petersham’s work arose out of their work on Miki. The first was their tendency to incorporate details that they had actually observed while visiting the places depicted in their stories. They spent three months in Palestine in preparation for illustrating  The Christ Child (1931), a trip to Sarasota, Florida, to see the winter headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus, inspired Circus Baby (1950), and a hunting lodge where the Petershams spent a summer provided the idea for  The Peppernuts (1958). The second feature was their tendency to write stories which were respectful of other cultures and included characters from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds.

Maud and Miska Petersham wrote and illustrated other groups of books with related themes. Between 1933 and 1939 they created a series of children’s nonfiction books explaining things such as clothes, food, houses, gold, iron and steel, oil, ships, and trains. Throughout the 1930s they produced several books of children’s Bible stories. During the time of World War II and the especially patriotic period following it in the 1950s, the Petershams focused on American themes. Works from that period include An American ABC (1941), which received a Caldecott Honor,  The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles (1945), which won the Caldecott Medal in 1946,  America’s Stamps (1947), and  Story of the Presidents of the United States of America (1953). Over the course of their careers they wrote and illustrated more than 60 books, and illustrated more than 100 books written by other authors.

The Petershams were known for their lithographic artwork, although they also worked in other media, including tempera drawings and some watercolors, and sometimes they prepared their own color separations on glass or acetate to cut down on printing costs.

Maud and Miska Petersham had one child, Miska Fuller Petersham, born in 1923, who became an artist working in ceramics and teaching art at Kent State University in Ohio. Miska Petersham died on May 15, 1960. Maud published a few more books after his death, and died on November 29, 1971.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection consists of a single hardcover copy with its dust jacket of the omnibus edition of Rootabaga Stories, which includes both the 25 stories of  Rootabaga Stories (1922) and the 24 stories of  Rootabaga Pigeons (1923). The reference to Frank Lloyd Wright’s   An Autobiography on the back of the dust jacket dates this book to at least 1932. A lack of reference to the 1951 copyright renewal for  Rootabaga Pigeons suggests that this book is an edition printed earlier than September, 1951. The book is inscribed on the front endpaper with “For Grandma Watts / 1953 / Carl Sandburg.” The pagination runs up to page x, then from pages 3 to 230, then from 3 to 218. The book is illustrated with black and white artwork. Some of the illustrations are full-page and some are smaller illustrations. Features of the book include a table of contents and a list of full-page illustrations.

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Arrangement note

Single item.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Emporia State University Special Collections and Archives March 2009

1200 Commercial St
Campus Box 4051
Emporia, KS, 66801
(620) 341-6431
archives@emporia.edu

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Correspondence related to Carl Sandburg, May Massee, and the magazine serialization of Rootabaga Stories is in the May Massee Collection. Two pieces of artwork by Robert Lawson for the serialization of  Rootabaga Stories in  The Designer and The Woman’s Magazine are in the May Massee Collection. Other materials related to Carl Sandburg are in the May Massee Collection. Other books by Carl Sandburg are in the Ruth Gagliardo Collection and in the circulating collections of Emporia State University’s William Allen White Library. Other books illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham are in the May Massee Collection, the Ruth Gagliardo Collection, and the circulating collections of the William Allen White Library.

Separated Materials note

None.

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Controlled Access Headings

Subject(s)

  • Children’s stories, American.
  • Fairy tales -- United States.

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