Saturday, August 18, 2012

Burgess's earliest newspaper stories

The first Thornton W. Burgess newspaper stories ran as part of a short-lived but widely syndicated children's page, "The Children's Corner."

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, one of its subscribers, introduced the page on November 6, 1910 with the following headline:
"$50,000 for the children to be spent in one year. Cleanest Children's Page in America." The impressive cost would be used to procure the best authors of children's stories. The editorial vision of Herbert Myrick (President of the Phelps Publishing Company, TWB's employer) would assure parents that their children would be exposed to material of the best taste.
There will be no "slapstick," alleged comedy. There will be no drawings that teach young people that it is an exquisitely amusing thing to stick pins into the Fat Man; or to set a "booby trap" for your uncle and chuck him into the water; or to make slides with the tapioca pudding on the hardwood floor to the end that Jane may fall down and empty the soup tureen all over Mother's new dress.
No Katzenjammer Kids allowed.

Among the authors promised were: Carolyn Wells, Ellis Parker Butler, Jerome K. Jerome, Charles Battell Loomis, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, as well as Holman Day, Porter Emerson Browne, Cynthia Westover Alden, Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon, and Edward Lear, plus "Onoto Watanna" [Winnifred Eaton] and "Sui Sin Far" [Edith Maude Eaton] for exotic appeal.

And, of course, Thornton W. Burgess, whose 1909 Good Housekeeping serial nursery rhyme, "Captain Toodles," would appear on the very first Children's Corner page.
In addition to "Captain Toodles" (I am deliberately omitting Captain Toodles's unfortunate [racist] adventure among the cannibals here), The Children's Corner would also draw from Good Housekeeping the 1907 poem, "Christmas Toys," the 1911 poem, "Chickens on Parade," and the 1911 story, "The million little raindrops and what happened to them."
More significantly, for our purposes, The Children's Corner would also run some of the earliest bedtime character stories, originally published in Good Housekeeping and then in Old Mother West Wind. These would include "Little Johnny Chuck" (AKA "Peter Rabbit plays a joke"), "How Reddy Fox was surprised," "What Johnny Chuck found"(AKA "Johnny Chuck finds the best thing in the world"), and "Reddy Fox barks at the moon" (AKA "Reddy Fox disobeys") complete with George Kerr illustrations.
As far as I can tell, The Children's Corner was gone before the year was up, but by that time TWB, newly unemployed, was vigorously pursuing his own newspaper bedtime story project.

Next: The bedtime story characters

No comments:

Post a Comment