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Elizabeth Olds papers


Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection [Contact Us]1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Elizabeth Olds was born on December 10, 1896 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Art Students League of New York. She also studied painting in Europe and was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim fellowship in 1926. She was well-known as a painter and printmaker, and worked in the graphic division of the Federal Art Project in New York from 1935 to 1939. She was encouraged by a colleague to write and illustrate her first children's book, The Big Fire (1945), based on the print Three Alarm Fire. The illustrations from The Big Fire were featured in an exhibition of children’s book illustrations at The Museum of Modern Art. Several of her books were based on her travels, including Riding the Rails (1948) about the railroad and Feather Mountain (1951) about shore birds. She received a Caldecott Honor for Feather Mountain in 1952, Riding the Rails, Deep Treasure (1958) and Plop Plop Ploppie (1962) were all Junior Literary Guild selections. She died on March 4, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida.


Something About the Author, vol. 3, 66.

Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. 1st ed., s.v. “Olds, Elizabeth.”

This collection includes preliminary artwork, mechanicals, dummies, wood blocks, and proofs by Elizabeth Olds for the books Little Una (1963) and Plop, Plop, Ploppie (1962).

The collection also contains a large screen print, Three Alarm Fire, which inspired her book The Big Fire (1945).

This collection is arranged alphabetically in three series: I. Little Una; II. Plop, Plop, Ploppie; and III. Three Alarm Fire.

Within each series, items are arranged in order of probable creation.

Gift of Elizabeth Olds, 1969-1970.

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Lindsay Friedman
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Curator for information on access.

Use Restrictions

The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints, or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material. The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material. A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.

Some of the materials in this collection may be too fragile for use without the Curator’s supervision.

Collection Inventory

Earlier dummy, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and tempera on paper and tracing paper with text pasted in, 28 pages.
Box 1 Folder 1
Later dummy, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and watercolor on acetate and paper with text pasted in, 32 pages.
Box 3
Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 53 sheets.
Box 2 Folder 1-13
Blueline proofs.
Box 1 Folder 2
Complete set of mechanicals.
Box 2 Folder 56 Box 1 Folder 3-8
Corrected color proofs.
Box 2 Folder 57 Box 1 Folder 9-10

Wood blocks of sea lions.
Box 1 Folder 11
Preliminary art, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, and relief printing on tracing paper mounted to paper with text pasted in, 30 sheets.
Box 2 Folder 14-37
Scope and Contents note

Complete set of preliminary artwork. Some pages include more than one version of the artwork.

Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 52 sheets.
Box 2 Folder 38-54
Lettering for book jacket, title page, and half title page, collage of cut paper and pen and ink on tracing paper mounted to board.
Box 2 Folder 55
Mechanicals, 5 sheets.
Box 1 Folder 12
Scope and Contents note

Includes text for the book jacket and title page only.

Corrected color proofs.
Box 1 Folder 13
Three Alarm Fire, screen print on paper, circa 1945.
Object 1
General note

Housed with Children's Literature Research Collection original framed artwork.

Print, Suggest