Blogs @ Emporia State University

Illustrating the Holidays

Jan 18, 2013

Tags: may massee special collections

 The Special Collections and Archives welcomed students, faculty, staff and community members Tuesday, December 18th, for the opening reception of “Illustrating the Holidays.” The exhibit showcases a sampling of holiday greetings sent to publisher May Massee by artists featured within the May Massee Collection of children’s illustrations and literature. The exhibit includes original artwork representing various styles and media by Boris Artzybasheff, Berta and Elmer Hader, Maud and Miska Petersham, Robert Lawson, and James (Jimmie) Daugherty, among others. 

Vistors enjoying the exhibit.


May Massee was responsible for establishing two of the first three “junior books” divisions within major American publishing houses: Doubleday, Page and Co (1923) and Viking Press (1932). During her time there, she published memorable titles such as Make Way for Ducklings, Madeline and the Gypsies, Corduroy, Pippi Longstockings, and The Story of Ferdinand. In many cases, May Massee had a strong relationship with the authors and artists she worked with. A good example of this is the range of original greeting cards she received from Berta and Elmer Hader. Although the holiday cards from Berta and Elmer Hader are not dated, the sheer number of cards Massee received from this couple reveals the strength and endurance of their relationship over an extended period of time.

 May Masee (1883-1966)  Handmade holidays greetings by Berta and Elmer Hader.


As you might imagine, artists were not always able to make a living by illustrating children’s books alone.

Many of the illustrators featured in the May Massee Collection sold artwork in other areas such as greeting

cards, posters, and promotional or advertising goods. This exhibit also includes a few of these commercially printed cards. Another interesting item featured in the exhibit is a Crèche, or Nativity scene, that accompanied Maud and Miska Petersham’s book The Christ Child (1943). Drawing on artwork used in the book, this pop-up piece of art is meant to act as a centerpiece or decoration for Christmas gatherings.

Pop-up Creche that accompanied the Petersham's book, The Christ Child.


In addition to the greetings, the exhibit highlights the artwork of two holiday books from the May Massee Collection: The Christmas Anna Angel and The Long Christmas. Although both are written by Ruth Sawyer, the books are illustrated by Kate Seredy and Valenti Angelo, respectively, and it is captivating to see how each artist brings life to Sawyer’s words and the spirit of Christmas. Angelo’s illustrations are two-color and feature more straight lines and an air of realism, whereas Seredy’s illustrations are four-color and tend to be more ornamental and fanciful.


 Curator of Special Collections and Archives Ashley Todd-Diaz, Dean of Libraries and Archives John Sheridan and Dean of Teacher's College Ken Weaver, discussing the artwork.


This exhibit is available for viewing Monday-Friday 8-5, and will be up through Friday, January 25, 2013.To learn more about the May Massee Collection and to peruse the many holiday greetings and other pieces of artwork that are not currently on display, please visit the Special Collections and Archives between 11-3, Monday-Friday.



Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

About Me