Sunday, September 16, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1915

The Stories

Illustration for "Some New Year's Resolutions" (January 2, 1915)
January 1 to January 2: Peter Rabbit wishes everyone a Happy New Year and everyone makes New Year's Resolutions.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit's great discovery" (January 13, 1915)
January 3 to January 28. Everyone looks for Buster Bear's sleeping spot. Peter Rabbit knows but isn't telling.
Illustration for "Solid comfort in the Smiling Pool" (February 1, 1915)
January 28-February 1. Deep freeze hits the Green Meadows and Green Forest. Jerry Muskrat is comfortable under the ice of the Smiling Pond.
Illustration for "A foolish fight" (February 9, 1915)
February 2 to February 9. Whitey the Snowy Owl makes his debut. His presence brings him into conflict with Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl.
Illustration for "High Cockalorum! Chick-Chickadee!" (February 18, 1915)
February 10 to March 6. Later reprinted in Happy Jack. Farmer Brown's boy rescues Happy Jack Squirrel from Shadow the Weasel. Then Happy Jack and Tommy Tit visit Farmer Brown's boy while he's sick inside with the mumps. Happy Jack soon becomes bold enough to get food from inside the house. Farmer Brown's boy captures and relocates Shadow and builds a home for Happy Jack near his house.
Illustration for "Blacky the Crow calls his friends" (March 12, 1915)
March 8 to March 22. Blacky the Crow wants Hooty the Owl's eggs. After the crow shows him the nest, Farmer Brown's boy has a crisis of conscience about whether it is right to take any eggs from a nest, even those of owls. Reprinted in Blacky the Crow.
Illustration for "Buster Bear has his picture taken" (April 3, 1915)
March 23 to April 3. More humorous encounters between Farmer Brown's Boy and Buster Bear, this time involving the sugar house
Illustration for "A happy, happy Easter" (April 5, 1915)
April 5. Peter Rabbit wishes all the waking sleepers a Happy Easter.
Illustration for "The little toads start out to see the world" (April 16, 1915)
April 6 to April 22. All about Old Mr. Toad (reprinted in The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad).
Illustration for "Little Joe Otter springs a surprise" (May 10, 1915)
April 23 to May 21. Peter Rabbit creates the "Ancient and Supreme Order of Quaddies," designed to be a mutual defense society. We also learn about young otters.
Illustration for "The great world seems cold and cruel" (June 17, 1915)
May 22 to July 17. Long episode featuring Unc' Billy Possum's children, Bumpy, Grumpy and Frumpy and their adventures with Granny Fox and Farmer Brown's boy.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck help" (July 22, 1915)
July 19 to July 26. The birds pay Farmer Brown's boy back for his friendship by cleaning the Old Orchard of insects and worms.
Illustration for "Owner of the strange eggs discovered" (July 30, 1915)
July 27 to August 2. A scandal in the Old Orchard as Sally Sly the Cowbird lays eggs in other birds' nests.
Illustration for "The jumping match" (August 6, 1915)
August 3 to August 18. A jumping contest on the Green Meadows. Timmy the Flying Squirrel wins. We learn more about flying squirrels.
Illustration for "Little Mr. Garter Snake is admitted" (August 23, 1915)
August 19 to August 23. Mr. Garter Snake wants to be a Quaddy.
Illustration for "The funny toes of Sticky-Toes" (September 4, 1915)
August 24 to September 4. Where is Sticky-toes the Tree Frog? He is needed to call the rain. Does he really have that power?
Illustration for "What happened among the bee hives" (September 17, 1915)
September 6 to September 18. Buster Bear searches for honey in the Old Orchard.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy speaks his mind" (October 22, 1915)
September 20 to October 30. Most (but not all) reprinted in The Adventures of Bob White. We learn about Bob White and his family and why Farmer Brown's boy is such a fierce defender of the bird.
Illustration for "How universal fear draws all together" (November 3, 1915)
November 1 to November 6. A fire on the Old Pasture brings everyone together, at least temporarily.
Illustration for "How Flathorns the Moose got even" (November 17, 1915)
November 8 to December 3. Honker the Goose stops at Paddy the Beaver's pond and tells stories about Glutton the Wolverine and Flathorns the Moose. Meanwhile Peter Rabbit serves as a look-out for the goose flock and gets in trouble with Old Man Coyote.
Illustration for "How a tail saved a life" (December 18, 1915)
December 4 to December 24. Peter Rabbit seeks to learn about his neighbors' different approaches to winter and has a narrow escape from Shadow the Weasel.

Illustration for "A Christmas Party in the Old Orchard" (December 28, 1915)
December 26 to December 31. Farmer Brown's boy delivers gifts and folks celebrate Christmas in their own ways.


The stories of 1915 produced fewer books than previous years, but Burgess finally achieved the balance between nature study, moral instruction, and entertainment that would be a feature of his work for the next 45 years. There were no glaring examples of nature fakery or inaccuracy, and Burgess would occasionally pause narratives to present interesting nature facts, such as the way a toad's tongue is attached (at the front of its mouth) or the value of the black tip on a white weasel's tail. Even the (frankly commercial) premise of the "Quaddies" (story #1000) was based on a real-life understanding of alarms and signal eavesdropping in the animal world.

Burgess's mission of kindness (and his abhorrence of hunting) became more and more apparent in 1915, particularly in respect to the Bob White, a "useful" bird to farmers that was nevertheless slaughtered in great numbers during fall hunting season. The premise of reciprocity (part of the Bedtime Stories Club membership pitch) was dramatized via the Happy Jack story (the gray squirrel and chickadee visiting Farmer Brown's boy to cheer him up while he was sick) and the short episode in July in which the birds (and other animals) feel compelled to do something nice for him. Evil is also reciprocated, as in Honker the Goose's tales of a trapper camp wrecked by a wolverine and a hunter chased up a tree by a wounded moose.

As discussed elsewhere in some detail, 1915 was also the year that Burgess began writing "Personal Letters" to the Bedtime Stories Clubs at newspapers hosting the feature. This allowed Burgess to address more explicitly some of the themes that he could only express dramatically in the stories and gave readers (into 1916) Burgess material 7 days a week. Indeed, in many ways 1915 was a peak year for Thornton Burgess's creations. The Quaddy Playthings Manufacturing Company (based in Kansas City) had a variety of Burgess character toys ready for the Christmas season. And the musical and pantomime extravaganza "Peter Rabbit in Dreamland" had its debut.

Farmer Brown's Boy

Now thoroughly converted as a friend to the animals, Farmer Brown's boy became a model advocate for and defender of the animals living on his family's property. Even animals that might be labeled pests or vermin (such as great horned owls) are eventually treated with respect; when Farmer Brown suggests that Buster Bear might need to be killed after he discovered (and wrecked) the sugarhouse, his son vigorously objects and comes up with an alternative effective but nonlethal plan. In the Bob White episode we see that Farmer Brown's boy is an articulate spokesman for the rights of animals.

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