Palmer Cox Brownie Collection


Palmer Cox Collection

Palmer Cox is famous the world over for his delightful children's books on the fictional creatures known as the "Brownies." His inspiration for the Brownies came from the Scottish folklore that still survived in and around Granby, Quebec, where he was born in 1840. Cox learned these folktales from his mother which featured the Brownies, or little members of the fairie or goblin world: "imaginary sprites who delight in harmless pranks and helpful deeds. They work and sport while weary households sleep, and never allow themselves to be seen by mortal eyes."

Considered a pioneering artist of the Platinum Age of Comic Art, Palmer Cox moved to the United States in 1876 and in 1883, he debuted his pixiesque characters in St. Nicholas, a prominent children's magazine of the time. Cox brought the Brownies of childhood myth to life with his painstakingly detailed illustrations and classic four-beat iambic verse story-poems. In the process, he revealed a commitment to bringing elements of the wildly imaginative and slightly absurd into the lives of 19th century children. To reflect the country's burgeoning immigrant population, several nationalities were represented as Brownies including the Native American Indian, Irishman, Chinaman, Scotchman and others. Occupations were also depicted in the form of the Jockey, Policeman, Sailor, and Dude. It became a national pastime to choose one's favorite Brownie character. The first collection of Brownie stories was published in 1887 as The Brownies, Their Book, which sold over a million copies - an unheard of number for that time. Cox would go on to publish 15 more Brownie books, and the stage play Palmer Cox's Brownies (1895) would run for nearly five years.

Palmer Cox is also recognized as a pioneer in the area of licensed merchandise. He allowed his wildly popular Brownies to be marketed by numerous companies selling a wide range of products and advertising promotions which included dolls, figurines, puzzles, games, toys, chinaware, soap, smoking paraphernalia, and countless other items now highly sought after by collectors. Perhaps the best known use of the Brownies in marketing was in the naming of a revolutionary new camera from the Eastman Kodak company which first appeared in 1900. The Brownie Camera, as it was called, was a simple and inexpensive handheld camera which popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot to the world. With his merchandising of the Brownies, Cox predated by decades the Disney company's employment of their characters to market spin-off merchandise.

Palmer Cox died on July 24, 1924 and left behind a legacy of delight for children and the young-at-heart. It gives us great pleasure to introduce his beloved Brownies for the very first time in the medium of molded felt. In addition to the Brownie Band members, there are ten individual character Brownies planned in the collection: Uncle Sam; Chinaman; Indian; Dude; Irishman; Sailor; Canadian; Policeman; Scotchman; and Jockey.

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