Showing posts with label 1880. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1880. Show all posts

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sad Story of a Little Boy That Cried

Today is the 149th birthday of Katharine Pyle, Howard Pyle’s sister.

These two siblings seem to have had a conflicted relationship over the years: Howard (who was ten years older) often tried to encourage or push Katharine into a more “practical” career path, but she was too much of an independent spirit, who did things when and where and how she wanted to. At least that’s the sense one might get from reading her unpublished recollections. Katharine may even have gotten a certain glee out of exasperating her much more “controlled” brother.

Yet, for all the focus on his career, Howard Pyle couldn’t recall when his work first appeared in print. He said - more than once - that it was “The Magic Pill” in Scribner’s Monthly for July 1876. But a drawing he made for his mother’s poem “The Reformer” had appeared eight months earlier - and five years before that he made the masthead drawing for the Wilmington newspaper Every Evening. Maybe, however, Pyle was only concerned with his first published words, not his pictures. At any rate, although he may not have remembered his first time in print, his sister remembered hers:
My first finished attempt at verse was one that was taken by the St. Nicholas, and published in the department of children’s writings. Howard made a picture to go with it, and was paid for it but I, of course, was not paid for the verses as they were just a child’s contribution and I was very much disappointed that I wasn’t. They were about a child who was always crying until in the end his mouth had stretched till -
One Morning no Jackie was anywheres found,
But only a great mouth that lay on the ground;

And so that was all that was left, alack!
A great big mouth with a border of Jack.
Katharine neglected to provide a date, but searching through the pages of St. Nicholas - and page 78 of “The Letter-Box” of the November 1880 issue, in particular - one will find:

Once, a little boy, Jack, was, oh! ever so good,
Till he took a strange notion to cry all he could.

So he cried all the day, and he cried all the night,
He cried in the morning and in the twilight;

He cried till his voice was as hoarse as a crow,
And his mouth grew so large it looked like a great O.

It grew at the bottom, and grew at the top;
It grew till they thought that it never would stop.

Each day his great mouth grew taller and taller,
And his dear little self grew smaller and smaller.

At last, that same mouth grew so big that - alack! -
It was only a mouth with a border of Jack.

And so this was all that was left of poor Jack:
The great gaping mouth, like a wide-open sack!

P.K. [sic]
It should be noted, however, that no picture by Katharine’s brother - or anyone - accompanies the verse. Maybe Howard made one (and got paid, unlike his sister), or maybe he didn’t; it’s still a mystery.

But the real injury to Katharine was that somebody - the publisher, the typesetter, or the editors (who included Mary Mapes Dodge and Frank Stockton at the time) - reversed her initials from “K.P.” to “P.K.”, so she didn’t even get proper credit at the time - or maybe ever. That must have hurt. (Howard, by the way, suffered a similar indignity when his fable “The Fox and the Tablet” in St. Nicholas for April 1877 was credited to “P. Howard”.) So as a 149th birthday present I thought I’d finally give Katharine the credit she deserves.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New-Year’s Hymn to St. Nicholas

My blogging slowed drastically due to a book project that proved more time consuming than I expected. But maybe I can balance or juggle more in 2012. Until then, take a look at Howard Pyle’s “New-Year’s Hymn to St. Nicholas” which he painted in May 1880 for “A Glimpse of an Old Dutch Town” by Mrs. M. P. Ferris (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, March 1881).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Howard Pyle and A Peculiar People

“The Kloster” by Howard Pyle, 1880

The following is part of a letter Howard Pyle, then in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, wrote to Anne Poole, his fiancée, on November 19, 1880:

Bur-r-r-ruh! but it was cold today. I managed to potter along tolerably well in the morning, sitting in the sun and sketching the old buildings of the Cloister. But when I undertook in the afternoon to go around and get another view, sitting in the shade, I had to resign. I worked along for some time with stiff fingers and chilled bones, but when I got to painting and the water I was using froze in little cakes all over the picture, I absolutely could not go on. I would have stuck at it in spite of chilled fingers if it had not been for that.

…I went in to warm my hands and the strict head sister took them into her own puffy palms in the most motherly way, saying with a surprised air “dey is golt,” just as if it were a land of Egypt out in the shadow of the woodshed. I thought it a good time to bone her again about having her picture taken, but she still firmly declined in Pennsylvania Dutch.…

As I could do no more at the buildings I went over to see my ancient friend Pfautz. I showed him the sketch I had made and he was interested. Then I asked him to sit for his picture. Here his daughter put in her word, objecting most strongly. I think the old man rather liked the idea. He had the queerest old trousers that might have been worn by Noah anterior to his cruise - yellow with age and patched with parti-colored remnants - oh! so picturesque! His daughter thought it would be ungodly to have his picture taken. I thought she meant ungodly for me to draw it. “I’ll take the responsibility,” I said. “You better be responsible for yourself,” said she, “one soul ought to be enough for you.” Then I quoted Scripture and she answered with twice as much. Then I appealed to the old man. “She will scoldt me,” said he, “and make it onpleasant.” To make a long story short I finally prevailed, provided I would not sketch more than his head.

This was not exactly what I wanted, but half a loaf is better than no bread, so I acceded to this stipulation.

The old man followed me out of the house when I was done. “Vas you going to publish that in Harper’s Weekly?” said he.

Harper’s Monthly, if you will let me. I hope you won’t object.”

“Ho-no-no,” said he - then after a pause, “but don’t tell my daughter.”

“Oh no.”

Again he hesitated. “You’ll put my name, won’t you?”

“Why I don’t know.”

“I t’inks you petter - ain’t my name’s John B. Pfautz. John Bauer Pfautz - aigh? (with a rising inflection). And you might send me one of the papers - aigh?”…

“My Cicerone” (portrait of John Bauer Pfautz) by Howard Pyle, 1880

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Howard Pyle Didn’t Sleep Here

But Howard Pyle did eat a meal and write a letter here. Where? Why, the Mount Vernon House, run by Zephaniah Undercuffler in Ephrata, Pennsylvania - 130 years ago today. As he complained to his fiancée, Anne Poole, who was back home in Wilmington:
...You see where I am (Ephrata) - and the name spelled right thanks to being printed. But I am not going to stay here - oh no! I am going back to Lancaster tonight. And I am going to stay in Lancaster and am going to get one meal at least in Lancaster. The unpronounceable proprietor of this Mount Vernon House told me today that this was a Dutch house, kept in Dutch style, and that I must help myself accordingly, which I did, to fat pork, turnips, diminutive sweet potatoes, dried peaches, and an indescribable pie, but oh my! - never mind, I won’t say anything about my poor stomach just here.… I am going back to Lancaster tonight, as I said, for dear only knows what the German bed may be....
A day or so earlier, Pyle had arrived in the area to begin gathering data on the religious community of “Dunkers” for a Harper’s Monthly article. A few months later, Scribner’s Monthly (soon to be re-christened The Century) perhaps unwittingly dispatched two artists to Ephrata to illustrate a similar piece for that magazine. Joseph Pennell, one of the two artists, later recalled:
We went at the drawings with fury, but, to our horror, we found that Howard Pyle had been there, for he had left behind an unfinished drawing which was preserved in the hotel. We said nothing, but worked harder and faster, fearing that any month Pyle’s article might appear in Harper's and ours never be printed... and, though we trembled every month when Harper’s was announced, we came out in The Century years before he did in Harper’s.
Indeed, “A Colonial Monastery” by Oswald W. Seidensticker, illustrated by Pennell and Henry Rankin Poore, came out in December 1881. But Pyle’s “A Peculiar People” only appeared in October 1889.

Now, here is one of the pictures that Pyle didn’t leave behind (at the Mount Vernon House, I mean). And rightly so. It’s called “The Kiss of Peace” and again shows the sort of “transitional” drawing style that Pyle employed in the early 1880s and which I’ve pointed out here and here and here. It could almost pass as a drypoint.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Bit of Politics in the Olden Times, 1880

Howard Pyle’s “Politics in the Olden Times - General Jackson, President-elect, on His Way to Washington” (13.3 x 9.1") was engraved on wood by Smithwick & French and accompanied a short text titled “A Presidential Progress” in Harper’s Weekly for March 12, 1881. Pyle painted it in 1880 (apparently in April) and the scene takes place somewhere along the Old National Pike, which he had traversed from Frederick, Maryland, to West Virginia in 1879 with William Henry Rideing, an English-born journalist, in preparation for a long, illustrated article for Harper's Monthly. Now let me catch my breath...

Here is a small portion of the original painting (17 x 11.5") which will be sold tomorrow. The lot listing says it is “grisaille on paperboard” and I assume Pyle used gouache as it was his medium of choice at the time for what he exasperatingly called his “wash drawings.” I detect a distinct proto-Norman Rockwellian quality to this detail and to the picture as a whole, but it is typical of Pyle’s work for Harper's Weekly from the early 1880s.