John Newbery and the Story of the Newbery Medal

The Early History of Children’s Books in New England

The Early History of Children’s Books
in New England

Charles Welsh
originally published in 1899, New England Magazine

IN the few hours of leisure snatched from an active business life in London, during fifteen years, it was a pleasant recreation to collect information concerning the history of literature for the young. This material was published in the Newbery House Magazine during the year 1889. The new era in book publishing for the young, inaugurated about the middle of the eighteenth century by John Newbery, ‘the philanthropic publisher of St. Paul’s Churchyard,” as Goldsmith has immortalized him in “The Vicar of Wakefield,” was a fruitful and interesting period; and in my biography of the worthy friend of the ante-deuterogamist, entitled “A Bookseller of the Last Century,” considerable space was devoted to the discussion of his labors in that direction — labors which have been worthily continued by his successors for over a hundred years. Transplanted to Boston, the cradle of American literature as well as of its liberty, the spirit of inquiry into the old subject has not unnaturally led me to a desire to find out what part New England has played in the work of providing literature for the young people of this country. New England has certainly, in the children’s department of the noble Boston public library, set an example of which she may well be proud. To the happy children of Boston the whole domain of juvenile literature is as free as the air they breathe; they can enter into it and profit by it without let or hindrance. Henceforth no city can claim to be equipped with proper civilizing influence until it has done likewise.

And it is the proud distinction of New England that well-nigh all that is best and most popular in American literature for children has been produced by her sons and daughters. It will he sufficient to cite such names as T. B. Aldrich, Louisa Alcott, John S. C. Abbott, W. T. Adams (Oliver Optic), Jane Andrews, Hezekiah Butterworth, Lydia Maria Child, C. C. Coffin, James Abbott Goodrich, E. E. Hale, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, Elijah Kellogg, H. W. Longfellow, Kirk Munroe, Laura E. (Howe) Richards, Horace E. Scudder, J. T. Trowbridge, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Eliza Orne White, Mary E. Wilkins and Charles Dudley Warner, to say nothing of a host of others.

Transcribed by Laurel O’Donnell. These pages are © Laurel O’Donnell, 2006, all rights reserved
Copying these pages without written permission for the purpose of republishing
in print or electronic format is strictly forbidden
This page was last updated on 20 Feb 2006