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Over the Garden Wall and the McLoughlin Brothers

Episode two: “Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee,” Cartoon Network, original air date November 3, 2014.

Fall, with all its gloomy skies yet cozy days, is known as time for a rewatch for fans of the cartoon, Over the Garden Wall. Since 2014 and with each passing year the cartoon has garnered new fans of all ages. The richness in storytelling interweaving childhood hurt, fear, insecurity, and sense of adventure against the backdrop of the unknown. The story draws on folk and fairy tale conventions and forms a story where the tone seems familiar yet unrecognizable at the same time that seems to keep audiences captivated. Adventure Time storyboard artist, Patrick McHale, created the ten-part Cartoon Network miniseries which draws inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, nineteenth to early-twentieth century Halloween cards, lithography, 1930s animation linework, the illustrations of John Tenniel, a 1890 board game called Game of Frog Pondfolk art, early twentieth century American music, and, for those in the know, McLoughlin Brothers children’s books.

Distinctive Collections has a small collection of McLoughlin Brothers Inc. children’s books in our Dime Novel and Popular Literature collections. McLoughlin Brothers Inc. produced children books, board games, puzzles, and paper toys between 1858 and 1920. The artwork was considered vibrant for the time as the company pioneered color printing technologies for children’s books with chromolithographs and photo engravings. The company specialized in retelling of classic stories for children. Their success and influence went hand in hand with the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries growth of children’s literature, also known as the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Even many of the earliest board games in America were produced by McLoughlin Brothers, though, in 1920, the company’s board games were sold to Milton Bradley & Company. Today, the American Antiquarian Society holds one of the largest collections of McLoughlin Brothers archives including over 1,700 toy books, games, paper toys, publishers’ catalogs, and original art work. But you can view Distinctive Collections’ small collection in the Digital Library and/or in person in our reading room.

 

The cartoon pays homage to the McLoughlin Brothers in subtle ways as many believe in the opening credits the two boys playing with the steamboat in the creek to be the McLoughlin brothers. In the episode, “Lullaby in Frogland,” the steamboat Wirt, Greg, and Beatrice sneak on board is called the “McLoughlin Bros” steamboat. Throughout the episodes it’s easy to see the influence from color palette and style to characters.

         Two boys playing at a stream with a toy steamboat.       The back of a steamboat with the McLoughlin Bros name

Episode six: “Lullaby in Frogland,” Cartoon Network, original air date November 6, 2014

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The Printed Image: The Golden Legend

For this installment of The Printed Image, I’m returning to a book format to highlight the illustrations of Sidney H. Meteyard for The Golden Legend, a narrative poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This particular edition was published by Hodder & Stoughton in New York, around 1910.

Taking place in medieval Italy, the poem recounts the struggles of Prince Henry of Hoheneck, who is stricken with a malady that can only be cured by the blood of a maiden who consents to die for his sake. Through the machinations and deceptions of Lucifer himself, Henry loses his princely seat and becomes an outcast, finding solace only with Elsie, the daughter of a former vassal. Elsie is so moved by his plight that she decides to sacrifice her life for his, so as to become closer to Christ. Eventually, Elise is kidnapped by Lucifer and rescued by Henry, who is miraculously healed during the rescue effort. The two lovers are happily married, and Henry is restored to his princely seat.

Title page for The Golden Legend, printed with gold ink.

Meteyard’s illustrations capture Longfellow’s story with precise, detailed paintings, filled with rich costuming and environments. Working in a late Pre-Raphaelite style, his illustrations bear similarities to the paintings of Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Upon first seeing them, I was also reminded of the works of illustrators Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, who would work with similar medieval subjects and compositions in their own works. While Meteyard’s illustrations are rooted in realistic environments and subjects, he also finds ways to refer to the fantastic, romantic, and macabre elements of the story.

‘It was a dream, and would not stay;
A dream that in a single night
Faded…’ (page 108)

‘A poor old woman with a rosary,
Follows the sound, and seems to wish her feet
Were swifter…’ (page 116)

‘It seems to me
The body of St. Catherine, borne by angels!’
(page 119)

In the book itself, each illustration is protected by a thin sheet of transparent paper which includes a quote from the poem, acting in a way as a title for the illustration itself. Additionally, you may detect from these photos that the illustrations are are not entirely affixed to the pages, as they almost float above the page with just a bit of adhesive on the top portion.

Technically, these printed images would be referred to as tipped-in plates, where they are printed separately from the text of the book using a different printing process and then added later. This could be done for a variety of reasons; in this case, it allows the images to be printed through a lithographic process, thus reproducing as closely as possible Meteyard’s paintings, while the text of the book could be printed on letterpress. By using multiple printing methods, this creates a way to include color illustrations in a way that may not have been achievable through simply one printing method at the time.

‘I saw her standing on the deck
Beneath an awning cool and shady’ (page 146)

The Golden Legend may be viewed in Falvey Library’s Rare Book Room by appointment. A similar edition of this book is also available digitally through Open Library.


Mike Sgier is a Distinctive Collections Coordinator at Falvey Library.


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Last Modified: June 27, 2023

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