Lost Trove of Samuel Lowe Children’s Book Art Paints a Picture of a Bygone Era

Stash of collectible children’s books for sale. Hundreds of unused coloring books, puzzle books, paper doll books found in dusty warehouse. Bidding starts Sept 30, 2019 and continues across various auctions through the fall.

Original Art from Children’s Storybooks, Coloring Books and Comics Found

Items produced for the entertainment of children throughout the years have rarely been designed to be saved, let alone cherished by generations to come. That’s especially true for things like “dime store” coloring books of the 1940s-‘60s, which were intended to be quickly used on a rainy day and then tossed out. The same is true for pictorial storybooks, paper doll books, and novelty items produced with young children in mind; when they were saved, they were most often heavily worn with use, or even torn up by the time the child outgrew them. However, the artwork for these books – whimsical, innocent images of kids and pet animals – were created by talented artists who cared deeply about their craft. Case in point is the Samuel Lowe Company, a major publisher of inexpensive children’s books throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. They produced some of the most attractive art ever found on these types of books, much of it symbolic of a forgotten time in American home life.

Bid on Original Children’s Book Illustrations

Bidding for the lost trove of Samuel Lowe’s stash of vintage children’s coloring and activity books begins September 30, 2019 and continues through the fall. Bid, research values, and save a new Want List.

Around the World Activity Book Page 8 and 16 Illustrations Original Art Plus File Copy (Samuel Lowe Company, 1958)

Former social worker Samuel E. Lowe was hired around 1916 as one of the first salesmen for Whitman Publishing. This was the book division of Western Printing and Lithography, which was for many years one of the biggest producers of comic books and other children’s books in this country. Within a few years he worked his way up to President, but in 1940, Lowe resigned and began his own business, with a goal of producing the finest in low-cost, high-quality kid’s books. He sought out superb artists like Nan Pollard, Kippy (Kay Phillips), Irene Rosko, and Ruth Wood, and published books under several trade names (Abbott Publishing, John Martin’s House, Bonnie Books, and Angelus Publishing Company are a few), and distributed his books worldwide up until the late 1970s, when the company finally shuttered its doors.

For years, these tiny, fragile treasures were traded by a select group of collectors, but high-grade copies were nearly impossible to find, as was the original artwork used in their production. While a rumor of a stockpile of file copies and stored artwork circulated, no one could verify its existence, and the general consensus was that it must no longer exist. The archive was finally located in a dusty warehouse, and now that collection is being brought to market by Heritage Auctions. Hundreds of unused coloring books, puzzle books, paper doll books, and illustrated storybooks, many in near-perfect condition, were among the find as was beautiful original artwork, much of it rendered in full color.

The Little Red Hen Storybook Illustrations Group of 12 plus File Copy (Samuel Lowe Company, c. 1950)

These forgotten items are from a world that has since moved on. They present a view of a halcyon time, an idyllic era beginning with post-World War II, when American life sought a return to a peaceful existence. The artwork is charming in its innocent depiction of happy children at play, and of sweet images of dressed-up dogs and cats, with fairy tales and flights of fancy as common subject matter. Many of these cute scenes would nicely decorate the bedrooms of the younger set, and much of the original artwork can stand on its own for even the most sophisticated decors.

All of these great remnants of a bygone way of life are to coming to Heritage Auctions, offered with no reserve over the coming months. This may be the last chance to step back into the world of our grandparents, from a time when they were themselves children without the cares and pressures of today. It would do us all good to turn back the clock a little to this happy time!

Preview the Auction Items and Place Your Bids

The Samuel Lowe collection will be sold over several auctions in the fall of 2019. Preview the items, save a new want list to get notified, or value your own collectible children’s activity books.

Posted by David Tosh

David Tosh is a cataloger for the Animation Art department. He is also the author of Rise of the Superheroes: Greatest Silver Age Comic Books and Characters and editor of the Eisner Award-nominated Walt Kelly’s Fables and Funnies. His most recent book is Jumbo Mumbo.

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