Munro Leaf papers
Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department [Contact Us]Philadelphia, PA, 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department. 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
Munro Leaf was born in Hamilton, Maryland on December 4, 1905, and grew up in Washington, D.C. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Maryland and M.A. from Harvard University, Leaf first worked as an English teacher (including a stint at the Montgomery School, which was at that time a boys prep school in Wynnewood) before moving to New York City with his wife, Margaret, in 1932. His first city job was as a manuscript reader at Bobbs-Merrill, but within the year he had moved to the F.A. Stokes Company where he remained an editor and a director until leaving to write full-time in 1939.
Leaf’s first book, Grammar Can Be Fun, was the first in a long series of “Can Be Fun” books written and illustrated by Leaf. It was published by Stokes in 1934 and included his “scratchy pencil indications of what the artist was supposed to draw.” That same year Leaf published Lo, the Poor Indian under the pseudonym Mun, but tended to leave it out when recounting his career. Leaf’s most lasting recognition was for writing The Story of Ferdinand, published in 1936 and illustrated by his friend Robert Lawson. Leaf wrote Ferdinand for Lawson, who had been disappointed with his lack of creative freedom as an illustrator. In 1938, Disney’s short-film animated adaptation “Ferdinand the Bull” was released to enormous fanfare and merchandising opportunities; Leaf was known to wryly comment that the hit movie made Leaf, Lawson, and their publisher Viking Press a grand total of $800 split three ways. Another big hit came in 1937 when Leaf collaborated with Ludwig Bemelmans, best known for writing and illustrating Madeleine (1939) and its sequels, on the book Noodle, inspired by Hendrik Van Loon’s dachshund.
Although Leaf is best remembered as an author of children’s books, much of his life was spent working for the United States government. Leaf enlisted in the Army in 1942 and collaborated with Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) on a War Department health pamphlet on malaria, “This Is Ann,” although neither Leaf nor Geisel were credited. After leaving the Army in 1946, Leaf returned to the State Department as a Specialist in 1960, traveling with his wife on Foreign Service lecture tours throughout Europe and Asia. Many of his children’s books of this period were directed towards explaining (and fighting) Communism and promoting world peace. Throughout his career, Leaf was highly regarded for his “chalk talks” to schoolchildren both in his home in Andover and around the world. Although he is perhaps most well-known for his collaborations with Lawson, Leaf was a prolific illustrator of what he called his “stick figures.” He acknowledged that “I can’t draw and I never said I could. I think I am equal to a five-year-old, if he did not go to a progressive school.” Leaf published more than fifty books, most as author and illustrator, and many remain in print and widely read today.
Children’s Literature Review, vol. 25.
Leaf, Munro. “Just for Fun.” Publishers Weekly Volume 130: 1975.
Something About the Author, vol. 20.
This collection contains the literary papers of author and illustrator Munro Leaf. Fifty-eight titles (both published and unpublished) are represented, most notably manuscript drafts and illustrations from Leaf’s long-running Can Be Fun series, the original handwritten draft of The Story of Ferdinand (1936), an early draft of Noodle (1937), and a large pastel drawing of Noodle by the book’s illustrator, Ludwig Bemelmans, inscribed to Munro and Margaret Leaf. Also of interest are Leaf’s Watchbird cartoons and related materials, serialized in the Ladies' Home Journal and published in six compilations, and materials from his time in the Army during World War II and as a specialist for the United States Information Agency and Foreign Service. The collection dates between 1918 and 1983 (bulk 1936-1976) and includes audiotapes, blueline proofs, books, correspondence, clippings, drafts, a filmstrip, galley proofs, government memoranda, illustrations (primarily in graphite and pen and ink, but also in colored pencil, gouache, marker, and pastel), typescripts, photographs, promotional materials, and a scrapbook from one of Leaf’s lecture tours. There is also a variety of unusual merchandise ephemera from the Walt Disney adaptation “Ferdinand the Bull” (1938), including a charm bracelet, decorative buttons, and quilting squares.
This collection is arranged in seven series: I. Articles, essays, and speeches; II. Book manuscripts and illustrations; III. Clippings, reprints, and scrapbook; IV. Correspondence; V. Promotional materials, photographs, and ephemera; VI. Published volumes; VII. U.S. Army and Foreign Service work.
The first series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.
The second series includes forty-four subseries, arranged alphabetically by title. Within it, "The Story of Ferdinand" includes all materials, regardless of format, related to the book and its adaptations. This arrangement most closely approximates Leaf's original order.
The third series includes three subseries: i. Clippings; ii. “Lecture Tour” scrapbook; iii. Reprints. The subseries for the scrapbook preserves Munro Leaf’s original order, while the remaining subseries are arranged chronologically.
The fourth series includes three subseries: i. Fan mail; ii. Personal correspondence; iii. Professional correspondence. The first subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title, the remaining subseries are arranged chronologically.
The fifth series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.
The sixth series is arranged alphabetically by title.
The seventh series includes six subseries: i. Articles and speeches; ii. Correspondence and memoranda; iii. Foreign Service clippings; iv. Itineraries; v. Manuscripts and illustrations; vi. Photographs. The third and fourth subseries are arranged chronologically, with all other subseries arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Gift of Margaret Leaf, 1977-1983.
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.
- Baruch, Bernard M. (Bernard Mannes), 1870-1965
- Bemelmans, Ludwig, 1898-1962
- Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
- Hunter, Frances Tipton
- Lawson, Robert, 1892-1957
- Leaf, Margaret
- Leaf, Munro, 1905-1976
- Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
- Seuss, Dr.
- Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, 1882-1944
- North American Treaty Organization.
- United States Information Agency.
- United States. Army.
- United States. Foreign Service.
- United States. National Park Service.
- Walt Disney Productions.
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Caitlin Goodman
- 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 for research use.
- 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.
"Ferdinand's Fables" was a series of short stories written and illustrated by Munro Leaf. They were serialized in Woman's Day between 1963 and 1965.
Includes a signed note from Munro Leaf identifying them as original drawings.
This subseries includes seven subgroups: Adaptations, Clippings and reprints, Correspondence, Ephemera, Manuscript drafts, Photographs, and Promotional materials. This arrangement preserves Leaf's original order.
This series combines all of Munro Leaf's Watchbirds materials. Beginning in 1938, Munro Leaf's Watchbirds cartoons were a recurring column in the Ladies' Home Journal, and were eventually compiled and published in six books: The Watchbirds (1938), More Watchbirds (1940), Fly Away, Watchbird (1941), 3 and 30 Watchbirds (1944), Flock of Watchbirds (1946), and Four and Twenty Watchbirds (1990).
Original scrapbook (Box 17) is in poor condition, and a preservation copy has been made for research use (Box 9, folder 10).
This series is primarily fan mail, mostly by children writing as part of a class assignment. It also includes some business correspondence from Leaf's publishers and literary agents and a folder of personal letters. Of particular interest is an affectionate note from Ludwig Bemelmans that includes a watercolor sketch of Noodle (from their 1937 collaboration of the same name).
This folder includes material designed by Leaf for organizations he supported, such as Grace-New Haven Community Hospital, Andover Alumni Fund, Memorial Hall Library, etc., as well as material Leaf produced for hire.
Includes publisher's report of publication from Franklin Publications, Inc.
Includes note from Curtis Brown Ltd.
RBD copy 2: Variant edition, published by the International News Company, New York, with different numbering: vol. 127, no. 3316A.
Contains article on Munro Leaf, "Munro Leaf a revolutionne la litterature enfantine," on p. 20-21.
Article on the animated film adaptation of Munro Leaf's "The Story of Ferdinand" on p. 34-36.
Article on the animated film adaption of Munro Leaf's "The Story of Ferdinand" on p.40-41.
Includes letter dated January 27, 1953, from Martha E. Robison of the Children's Fresh Air Farm to Frederick A. Stokes & Co.
Publication information and publisher's inspection stamp pasted on back cover.
Includes an empty 10 cent defense stamp album in back cover.
Includes printed advertisements for children's books.
Article by Munro Leaf, "Les petits 'vive-la-joie' polonais," regarding The Story of Ferdinand and Polish children, on p. 12-15.
Advertisement for The Story of Ferdinand, p. 23. Article on The Story of Ferdinand, p. 54-55.
Mention of an advertising campaign for The Story of Ferdinand on p. 54.
Mention and facsimile of an annotated copy of The Story of Ferdinand on p. 238-239.
Inscribed on endpaper by Munro Leaf: "For Florence, with all of the best wishes of R.F. Weatherbee and Ferdinand and Munro Leaf. Ft. Prince, 1944." Inscription illustrated by Leaf with a drawing of a girl (Florence), R.F. Weatherbee, Ferdinand, and Munro Leaf.
Contains annotations in pencil by an unknown author.
Sixth printing, with a dust jacket from the seventh printing.
Illustrations by Munro Leaf and article parodying the "Can Be Fun" series on p. 8-9.
"Return to M. Leaf" in pencil on front board.
Japan Publishers Association inspection stamp on p. 79.
With a handmade cover featuring a bull on green construction paper, made by the Junior Red Cross in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Signed on half-title by Munro Leaf and Ella Griffin. Also signed on front board by Ella Griffin.
Inscribed on front paste-down by Munro Leaf: "For Bobby Kenaston, with all the best wishes of The Watchbird and Munro Leaf." Inscription includes a sketch of a boy. "Second Printing, April 17, 1939."--T.p. verso.
Pages are unopened.
Article on Munro Leaf, "Nickle Words for a Golden Mission," on p. 45-47.
Article by Munro Leaf, "Walt Disney says 'Long Live Santa Claus!'", on p. 4-5, 50.
Title from cover. At head of title: Highlights Handbook. Series of tear-out posters featuring ill-behaved children illustrated by Munro Leaf, intended to improve manners.
Folder also includes two letters from the War Department related to Munro Leaf's visit and speech.
This subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title but preserves Munro Leaf's original order of filing by subject.
This draft uses the working title "The Big Question About Sex."