Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1913 Letters to the Kansas City Star

 One way to gauge the reception of "Little Stories for Bedtime" in 1913 is to look at letters readers wrote to newspapers carrying the feature. The Kansas City Star offers a nice sample of reader responses showing high levels of engagement and a wide range of age of readership.

May 8
To The Star: I like to read the Bedtime Stories. I want to know where Farmer Brown lives, so I can go and see "Uncle Billy" Possum and Johnny Chuck's lost baby. I believe they must be cute. Aunt Alice says she will take me to see them, if it's not too far away. Please let me know soon for I am fond of all kinds of pets.
MINNIE L. THOMAS, Garnett, Kas. 

May 17
To The Star: I am a little boy 7 years old. I have been reading the Bedtime Stories for a long time, but I can't see why Farmer Brown's boy gathers his eggs in the morning. If he would gather his eggs in the evening, as most people do, I think Uncle Billy Possum and the rest of the little meadow people would not have such a feast. ROLLIE BORGSTADT, ALMA, MO.

May 24
Thornton Burgess, care The Star:
You may be interested to know that one of the delighted, wide-eyed hearers of your "Bedtime Stories" has offered a novel explanation of the trouble with the "Smiling Pool." Its value lies in the fact that it came from a boy who is only 2 1/2 years old, and who apparently misses many of the best points in your stories.

Last night he asked me what was the matter at the "Smiling Pool," and I replied that I thought the water had run out of it. In a minute he said: "Tork tame out of it." (The cork came out of it.) A little later when I repeated his remark to his mother he made this assertion: "I fink Peter Wabbit took da tork out and wun 'way wif it."

Being the father of this small boy and having to read these stories to him every day immediately upon the arrival of the paper, I believe he is right in pointing the finger of suspicion at "Peter Rabbit." Yours very truly, PROUD FATHER

May 27
Dear Star: I have been for some time very much interested in the doings of the little wood-folk in the Green Forest and around the Smiling Pool. Forty or more years ago I could have seen Farmer Brown's boy any day, by looking in a looking glass.

My three boys are grown up and gone, but the little stories come before Europe's war news, or even the Bull Moose happenings, so dear to us. Yes, I might even say they compete in interest with the narrative of the standpatters coming to the mourning bench.

October 8
To The Star: I am a little girl 8 years old with big blue eyes and long flaxen hair. I have three brothers and one sister and we just race to get The Star to read the Bedtime Stories. I send ...Mr. Burgess ... a great big hug and kiss....

Even the header used above the daily story was the subject of discussion. Apparently it was modified at some point in late April or early May [I've not been able to find the modified version]

May 7
To The Star: I see we have a new little girl to head, "The Bed Time Stories." I wonder why? Surely they did not think, down at The Star office that we were tired of our little girl. Why, we had grown to be such friends, over our nightly reading of the adventures of Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck and all the rest of the little folk of the Green Forest and Green Meadows, that I miss her more than I can say. Please Mr. Editor, or Mr. Burgess (if you have taken our little girl away), can't we have her back? 

The Editor replies:

The appeal of "48-Years-Young," seconded as it was by many others, already has been complied with. The little girl who so long presided over the Bed Time Stories has been restored to her place.

Indeed for some the header image was a clear model to be emulated
Here is the caption to this image

If you have passed the Shukert Building, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets on Grand Avenue recently and seen this picture in the display window of Cornish & Baker, photographers, you probably have said: "There is the original of the picture at the head of The Star's 'Bedtime Story.' " The resemblance is so marked that it is impossible not to see they are companion pictures. However, the sequence is the other way around, the cut head of the "Bedtime Story" having been the model for the photograph. The portrait reproduced here is that of Mrs. E.C. Hersh of 236 Linwood Avenue and her daughter, Hortense. Little Hortense is a great admirer of Mr. Burgess's stories and when she and her mother went recently to have their picture taken she was enthusiastic about the suggestion of Mr. Baker that she and her mother pose as the now familiar little girl and her mother readers of The Star know so well because of "Lambdin's" drawing.

Next: Thornton Burgess responds to his readers

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