The Searles Readersfeatured

One of the remarkable things I found this weekend (and I know it’s remarkable because I am currently remarking on it) was this set of watercolor and pen artwork:

I am a sucker for any artwork that displays notes or registration marks, like this old Sascha Brastoff plate artwork:

so I couldn’t resist buying these for $40. What most intrigued me about these was the Allyn & Bacon notation, although this later turned out to be something of a red herring. You know how you have that thing that you had the chance to buy, but passed it up for whatever reason like maybe a boyfriend who told you not to buy it and then years later you totally regretted the fact that you didn’t buy it because it turned out to be way more hard to find than he thought? Yeah, I passed up a Peggy Bacon drawing once, for a really reasonable price. She’s a topic for another discussion, but the Reader’s Digest version is that she was an artist and illustrator in the 20s and 30s whose style I absolutely love. So I saw Allyn and Bacon and thought maybe it was at least partly hers.

Even though that turned out to be not the case, I still like these little paintings. Turns out that Allyn & Bacon is a textbook publishing company in business since 1868, and these are from a series of textbooks called The Searles Readers by Anna Hawley Searles. I’ve found three – presumably for grades 4, 5, and 6 – called “Fun to be Alive,” “Time to Live”, and “Living All Your Life,” respectively. They were published in the early 1950’s by Allyn & Bacon, and I believe my artwork came from “Time to Live.” Anna Hawley Searles worked at the University of Southern California, where her husband Herbert Leon Searles was a professor of philosophy at USC from 1930 to 1957, and was associate director of the Institute of Character Education and Research. That’s about as much as I could find about her, but I am really curious to know what inspired her to write these books. I love how totally positive and zen they seem, encouraging kids to live their lives to the fullest.

The series was illustrated by Constance and Walter Heffron, and I couldn’t find out a great deal about them either. The covers and illustrations are really wonderful:

There’s another spread for sale on ebay right now for $50 here; a revolutionary-era scene.

About the author

Jessica Parker

I'm Jessica, and I really like old things. I believe that objects have memories, and histories, and part of the magic of using them in our everyday lives is knowing or imagining what those memories might be and imparting a bit of ourselves to each thing we wear or use. Here, I write about old things, and style, and people I never met.

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