Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Army and Navy Alphabets

L. Frank Baum published The Army Alphabet and The Navy Alphabet in 1900, the same year as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. These two books bear no resemblance to the Wizard, but might almost be seen as additions to Father Goose, His Book, as they contain the same sort of doggerel rhymes. I've had an Army Alphabet for some time, but I only recently obtained a Navy...

I've never felt as much interest in these titles, since they aren't actual stories, and let's face it - some of Baum's rhymes make you wince! But the pair of books do have a lovely series of illustrations by Harry Kennedy, reminiscent in some ways of Maxfield Parrish's black & white work.

The Army illustrations are bold and a bit spare, generally set against a white background, which focuses the eye on figures. A nice element in the Army drawings is the inclusion of a small boy who appears in every illustration - a clever way to draw the reader into the book.

On the other hand, the Navy illustrations include more backgrounds and the verses tend to be longer, squeezed into a separate box at the top of the page. This division of the space makes the illustrations feel smaller, and perhaps a bit cramped. The boy is missing as well -  he does pop up once or twice in the Navy drawings, but the continuity is gone - a shame as it was a nice touch!

I'm not familiar with Kennedy's work aside from these two books. *After writing that, I took a look online and found that I do have another example - Kennedy illustrated The Airship Boys in the Great War, which was published by Reilly & Britton in 1915. Unfortunately, the 4 plates he provided for this title are very generic half-tone examples and really have none of the charm of the earlier alphabets. I'll have to keep an eye out for other examples of his work!


Paul Bienvenue said...

Hi Bill,
You'll want to look for a copy of 'Jingleman Jack (His Pictures and Rhymes of the Callings, the Crafts and the Trades of the Times' (NY: Saalfield, 1901). This book might as well be called 'The Career Alphabet'. It is illustrated by Harry Kennedy, VERY much in the Baum Alphabet book mode, and designed by Charles Costello... the designer of Baum's Alphabets. The verse is by James O'Dea, who also wrote 'Sammy' as interpolated into the Wizard stage extravaganza. I can send scans of the covers and some internals if you like.

Bill Campbell said...

Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for that. It's interesting to see how people overlap - the James O'Dea connection to Oz, etc!