Summary Information

Emporia State University Special Collections and Archives
William Allen White Memorial Library.
Beatrix Potter Beswick Figurines
2.0 Linear feet
28 china character figurines from Beatrix Potter children’s books manufactured by Beswick Pottery.

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Beatrix Potter

Helen Beatrix Potter, commonly known by her middle name, was born on July 28, 1866, in Kensington, London, and grew up in a wealthy family. She was educated by a governess at home and spent most of her childhood with numerous animals instead of playing with other children because her parents did not allow her to mix with them. From her youth Beatrix had interests in drawing and illustrating. She observed animals’ behaviors and habits closely, drew their particular characteristics in detail, and gradually developed her drawing skills. During holidays and the summer season her family went to Scotland and the Lake District; these places are described in her book Tale of Timmy Tiptoes and  The Tale of Pigling Bland. She loved places with beautiful landscapes and environments such as magnificent mountains and dark lakes. In 1882 Beatrix met Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust which in 1895 was purposed to protect the countryside environments. She was deeply affected by Hardwicke about the importance of conserving the natural environment, and she became a conservationist because she fell in love with the beauty of nature. When Beatrix came of age her parents discouraged more education and they asked her to work for them as a housekeeper. Between ages 15 to 30, however, she studied about microscopic organisms like lichens, fungi and algae, and plants by herself. She recorded images related to their life cycles by drawing, which was the only way to record microscopic organisms at that time, and she was respected as a mycologist across the country.

When Beatrix was 27 years old she wrote a letter for one of her governess’ son which featured pictures she’d created and a story about animals. The governess encouraged her to publish the story and illustrations as a children’s book. Finally, Beatrix edited the story and pictures and made a book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden in 1901. She sent the book to several publishers but it was rejected because her pictures were not colorful enough. In September 1901, she published 250 copies by herself and renamed the book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. In 1902, Frederick Warne & Co. published 28,000 copies of the book. It was successful and brought her enough income to be independent from her parents.

In 1905, at the age of 39, Beatrix became engaged to Norman Warne, who was her publisher, but he died a month before their wedding. She was deeply discouraged by his death, but this ultimately made her focus on writing books full time. Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm in the Lake District and visited the farm to spend time there writing and illustrating books. By dint of many years’ effort she published 13 children’s books during 8 years. In 1913, Beatrix married William Heelis, who was a local solicitor, and they moved to Hill Top Farm. After moving to Hill Top Farm she gradually decreased writing books and focused on farm work such as breeding sheep and raising pigs and dogs. She spent the rest of her life in Hill Top Farm breeding farm animals. Beatrix died on December 22, 1943, at age 77. When she died, she left all bequests to the National Trust. Beatrix created 28 animal characters that were incorporated into 23 children’s books, including 21 tales and 2 rhymes. In addition she published 3 painting books from 1911 to 1925, and wrote several other books such as Fairy Caravan, Sister Ann, Wag-Wall and  The Tale of the Faithful Dove. Wag-Wall and  The Tale of the Faithful Dove were published after her death.

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Beswick Pottery

Beswick Pottery was founded by James Wright Beswick in 1892 as a pottery manufacturer. The company produced Staffordshire pottery first at Loughton, England. His son John, who studied pottery at Tunstall, joined his father’s business as a partner in 1894. After three years, the company merged with Gold Street Works in 1897 and was renamed J. W. Beswick. The factory produced ceramic tablewares, dinnerwares, toiletwares, some ornaments such as vases, pots and Staffordshire figurines, and gradually expanded their manufactures until around 1918. James Wright died in 1921 and John and Gilbert, James’s youngest son, ran the company. In 1936 John died and his son, John Ewart, continued the company as the third generation in the family. John Ewart and his uncle Gilbert Beswick changed the firm to a limited company named John Beswick Ltd. in 1938 which became a turning point of the firm. The 1930s was a period of modernization and methods to produce the pottery products were highly developed. John Ewart and Gilbert composed a professional modeling team and changed the policy of production from tablewares towards ornaments. The chief modeler, Arthur Gredington, designed very realistic and meticulous animal figurines in 1939 and they produced varied animal figurines such as racehorses, champion dogs, farm animals, birds, fish, etc. Beswick Pottery began to produce many types of lifelike animal figurines, especially farm animals, and they had the attention of collectors because of their quality. The 1940s was a reconstruction period after the World War II and Beswick Pottery had a chance to export their items to North America, Australia and New Zealand. This helped the company get over the recessionary periods and continue to be successful. Lucy Beswick, who was John Ewart’s wife, suggested making character figurines from Beatrix Potter books in 1947. In 1948 Beswick Pottery had the sole rights to produce animal characters in the Beatrix Potter’s books and they recreated the characters from the books. Arthur Gredington designed Jemima Puddle-Duck as the first figurine among Beatrix’s book series in 1948 and nine other characters including Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, and Timmy Tiptoes were soon designed. It was very successful and the company attained a reputation for the Beatrix Potter character figurines. Because of this reputation other companies wanted to work with them. In 1952 Beswick and Walt Disney worked together and produced characterized figurines including Mickey Mouse, Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh. In 1969 John Beswick Ltd. was sold to Royal Doulton but the company kept producing Beatrix Potter figurines until 2002.

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The Mary White Room

The Mary White Room was dedicated under the Children’s Literature Division of the William Allen White Library on October 16, 1958, on the campus of Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia. The room was named in honor of Mary White, who was the daughter of William Allen White, and established as a library of children’s books for a central academic collection purpose.

The Mary White Room was located on the ground floor of the William Allen White Library and had a story room, reading room, classroom and some open space for other uses. One professional librarian, one Civil Service employee, and student assistants were organized as a team to provide services. Ruth Hanson, the professional librarian, was in charge of the room and she arranged many services and projects such as specific undergraduate and graduate courses, storytelling hours, audio-visual service and a large number of exhibitions; the main service was checking in and out of the books to students and school faculties.

This room also held special collections including winners and master lists of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, Historical Collection of Children’s Books for children’s literature classes, the Lois Lenski Collection, original illustrations from children’s books, the original casts of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, personal items and books of Mary White’s, children’s books by English authors such as Beatrix Potter, children’s book series, special letters from Sallie White to Mrs. Juengling about Peter Pan Park related to Mary White, 28 china characters from the children’s books of Beatrix Potter, and other china and wood figures. These special collections were valuable and loaned for many different exhibitions.

Mary White Room played a role as a library that held books for children, professional books about children’s books, some special books and exhibits, etc. This unit not only administered the annual William Allen White Children’s Book Award, but also supervised all special collections. It was the center of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award and the instructional place for children to learn library citizenship for participation, knowledge of various different fields such as education, science, art or music, skills and techniques to search for books, pictures and realia for their subjects. It was also a resource center for researchers, school faculty, librarians, graduate students, and teachers who studied the children’s literature. The Mary White Room had 27,400 circulation books in 1974.

Around 1970,the Mary White Room and the William Allen White Library were combined administratively and physically because their services overlapped in some areas. The positions of Library Science Librarian and Mary White Room Librarian in the Department of Librarianship and the Department of Library Services were combined first and the closely related collections followed. Some materials from the Mary White Room were relocated to the third floor of the William Allen White Library around 1980, but circulation books and special collections were still in the Mary White Room until 2005. The room was used as storage for archival records after circulating books were moved to the third floor of William Allen White Library in 2005. The Mary White Room was demolished in 2007 and the space was remodeled for Emporia State University Archives’ offices and processing room.

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Arrangement note

The figurines are arranged alphabetically by character name into two boxes, each box holds14 figurines:

Box 1: Benjamin Bunny; Duchess; Foxy Whiskered Gentlemen; Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail; Goody Tiptoes; Hunca Munca; Jemima Puddle-Duck; Johnny Town-Mouse; Lady Mouse; Little Pig Robinson; Miss Moppet; Mr. Jeremy Fisher; Mrs. Rabbit; Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.

Box 2: Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle; Mrs. Tittlemouse; Old Mr. Brown; Peter Rabbit; Pigling Bland; Ribby; Samuel Whiskers; Squirrel Nutkin; Tailor of Gloucester; The old woman who lived in a shoe; Timmy Tiptoes; Timmy Willie; Tom Kitten; Tommy Brock.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Emporia State University Special Collections and Archives March-October, 2010

1200 Commercial St
Campus Box 4051
Emporia, KS, 66801
(620) 341-6431

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Books by Beatrix Potter are located in the Ruth Garver Gagliardo Collection as well as the circulating collections of the William Allen White Library. Information about the Mary White Room can be found in the University Libraries and Archives record group (ESU003.006). British Potters and Pottery Today by Cyril G. E. Bunt contains information about Beswick Pottery; it is available from the William Allen White Library.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Beswick (Firm).
  • Frederick Warne and Co.
  • John Beswick Limited.

Personal Name(s)

  • Potter, Beatrix, 1866-1943., -- Characters -- Animals.
  • Potter, Beatrix, 1866-1943.


  • Animals in literature
  • Badgers -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Benjamin Bunny (Fictitious character).
  • Cats -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Cotton-tail (Fictitious character)
  • Duchess (Fictitious character).
  • Ducks -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Figurines.
  • Flopsy (Fictitious character)
  • Foxes -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Foxy Whiskered Gentlemen (Fictitious character).
  • Frogs -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Goody Tiptoes (Fictitious character).
  • Hedgehogs -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Hunca Munca (Fictitious character)
  • Jemima Puddle-Duck (Fictitious character).
  • Johnny Town-Mouse (Fictitious character).
  • Lady Mouse (Fictitious character).
  • Little Pig Robinson (Fictitious character).
  • Mice -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Miss Moppett (Fictitious character).
  • Mr. Jeremy Fisher (Fictitious character).
  • Mrs. Rabbit (Fictitious character).
  • Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit (Fictitious character).
  • Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Fictitious character).
  • Mrs. Tittlemouse (Fictitious character).
  • Old Mr. Brown (Fictitious character).
  • Peter Rabbit (Fictitious character).
  • Pigling Bland (Fictitious character).
  • Potters -- England.
  • Pottery -- 20th century.
  • Pottery animals.
  • Pottery, English -- 20th century.
  • Rabbits -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Ribby (Fictitious character).
  • Samuel Whiskers (Fictitious character).
  • Squirrel Nutkin (Fictitious character).
  • Squirrels -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Swine -- Juvenile fiction.
  • Tailor of Gloucester (Fictitious character).
  • Tailors -- Juvenile fiction.
  • The old woman who lived in a shoe (Fictitious character).
  • Timmy Tiptoes (Fictitious character).
  • Timmy Willie (Fictitious character).
  • Tom Kitten (Fictitious character)
  • Tommy Brock (Fictitious character).
  • William Allen White Memorial Library. Mary White Room.

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