Albany’s Dorothy Lathrop – Award Winning Author and Illutrator

What if I told you there was a woman from Albany who brought joy to thousands of children across the world for almost 100 years and will continue to do so?

Her name is Dorothy Pulis Lathrop and she was an award-winning illustrator and writer of children’s books.

Dorothy was born before the turn of the last century in 1891. Her parents, Cyrus Lathrop and Ida Pulis Lathrop, came to Albany in 1888. Cyrus was originally from Connecticut, son of a bookseller. Ida was from Troy – the school teacher daughter of a carpenter. In the early days they lived at 230 Washington Ave. (just above Henry Johnson Blvd.), where Cyrus ran a thriving business that re-supplied restroom laundry in restaurants and other businesses. There were 2 daughters (Gertrude – whom we will discuss at another time) and Dorothy.

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2.2Meanwhile, Ida painted; she was a self-taught artist of great skill. (Her paintings are in the permanent collections of a number of museums) and the last time one of her pieces came up for auction – at Christie’s’ about 25 years ago, it went for $15,000. By the early 1900s Ida had nationwide fame.

Cyrus was a man of great faith and concern for the well-being of his fellow man, especially children. He’s said to have volunteered frequently at the City Mission when he first came to Albany. In 1892 he was one of the founders of the Albany Boys Club and soon became its president and executive director. This lead to a series of appointments in NYS government, overseeing charitable organizations – from orphan asylums to hospitals – across the State. He remained in state government for the rest of his life.

In the early 1900s the Lathrops moved to one of the new villas on South Allen St. in Pine Hills. The house was designed by Ida and included two rooms for her art studio. The large backyard was filled with the apple trees and the family’s petting zoo: porcupines, sheep, turtles, raccoons, goats, chipmunks and squirrels. While Cyrus traveled for work Ida and the girls stayed at home, painting and playing with the animals.

Dorothy graduated from Albany High School and went on to study art at Columbia in NYC. She returned to Albany and taught art for a couple of years at Albany High School, getting some free-lance magazine work, but she was determined to have a career as an illustrator. She returned to art school in Philadelphia and New York and then started pounding the pavements in New York City, portfolio in hand. One of her stops was at the new and tiny publishing firm, Alfred Knopf. Knopf was a year younger than Dorothy, eager to try new talent and snapping up European authors to publish in America.

3.jpgKnopf paired her with Walter de la Mare, an English poet and writer best known for his children’s books these days. Their first partnership was “The Three Mulla Muggars (a/k/a – “The Three Royal Monkeys”. He believed fervently in children’s natural inclination to live in a world of fantasy. Lathrop’s illustrations lead the reader into that realm and let them run wild. (Dorothy developed a close relationship with de la Mare; they collaborated on another 5 books.)

4She was off and running – at the beginning of prolific award-winning career. She illustrated almost 50 children’s books (and wrote of many of them herself) that drew on her love of animals and nature. In 1929 she was the co-winner of the Newbery Medal (the Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” ) with writer Rachel Field for “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years”. It’s a wonderful story of a doll who travels the world for a century and writes her memoirs. (Hitty – the actual doll, owned by Rachel Fields and inspiration for the book, spent time on display in Harmanus Bleecker Library in Albany in 1930.)

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Two years later Dorothy was a Newbery runner-up for “The Fairy Circus”, which she wrote and illustrated. (I inherited all the Lathrop books from my mother and uncles. This may be my favorite; a group of fairies who put together a circus with all the little woodland creatures in their world, but I’m positively mad for all Lathrop’s books.)

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9In 1938 she was the first winner of the Caldecott Medal (awarded by the American Library Association) for the “most distinguished American picture book for children” for ”Animals in the Bible”. She said in her acceptance speech, “I can’t help wishing that just now all of you were animals. Of course technically you are, but if only I could look down into a sea of furry faces, I would know better what to say.”

 

 

1Dorothy continued to work in the realm of children’s lit into her 60s, but in the early 1950s she turned to non-fiction as well. In “Let them live” (1951) she was one the first to warn against the destruction of the natural habitats and eco-systems that support wildlife.

Dorothy called Albany home until the mid-1950s She was a founding member of the Albany Print Club (her specialty was wood block prints, although she was proficient in all media); her papers are in its permanent collection. Sometimes, she could be found reading her books at story hour in some of the local library branches. In 1954, Dorothy and Gertrude moved to the Falls Village, Ct., but still spent considerable time in Albany. Her work, and that of Gertrude, a sculptor, was displayed at the Institute and other venues. (The Institute has the work of Ida, Dorothy and Gertrude in their collection.)

12I have a dim recollection of seeing Dorothy at the John Mistletoe book store (originally on Lark St. – subsequently it moved around the corner to Washington Ave.). The Mistletoe was first owned by her good friends Eleanor Foote and then Mary and Ed French. It had a great children’s section and from time to time Dorothy would appear at events. She was a tall, kind and soft-spoken woman who seemed more a home with kids than adults.

Dorothy died in 1980 at the age of 89 in Falls Village. She’s buried with her sister and parents in Section 27, Lot 46 of the Albany Rural Cemetery.

She once wrote: “How I came to write and draw for children I do not know. Perhaps it is simply that I am interested most of all in the things many of them like best–creatures of all kinds, whether they run, fly, hop, or crawl, and in fairies and all their kin, and in all the adventures that might happily befall one in a world which is so constantly surprising and wonderful.”

Here’s a list of the books Dorothy Lathrop illustrated:

  • A Little Boy Lost. Hudson, W. H. (author), Knopf, 1929.
  • An Angel in the Woods. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1947.
  • Animals of the Bible. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), Lippincott, 1937.
  • Balloon Moon. Cabot, Elsie (author), Henry Holt, 1927.
  • Bells and Grass. De La Mare, Walter (author), Viking, 1965.
  • Bouncing Betsy. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1936.
  • Branches Green. Field, Rachel (author), Macmillan, 1934.
  • Childcraft in 15 Volumes. Lathrop, Dorothy P. et al. (author), Field Educational Pub., 1954.
  • Crossings: A Fairy Play. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1923.
    Devonshire Cream. Dean, Agnes L. (author), Unity Press, 1950.
  • Down-Adown-Derry: A Book of Fairy Poems. De La Mare, Walter (author), Henry Holt, 1922.
  • Fierce-Face: The Story of a Tiger. Mukerji, Dhan Gopal (author), Dutton, 1938.
  • Follow the Brook. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1960.
  • Grateful Elephant. Burlingame, Eugene W. (author), Yale University Press, 1923.
  • Grim: The Story of a Pike. Fleuron, Svend (author), Knopf, 1921.
  • Hide and Go Seek. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), E.M. Hale, 1931
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Field, Rachel (author), Macmillan, 1947.
  • Kaleidoscope. Farjeon, Eleanor (author), Stokes, 1929.
  • Japanese Prints. Fletcher (author), Four Seas Press, Boston, 1918.
  • Let Them Live. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1961.
  • Made-To-Order Stories. Canfield, Dorothy (author), Harcourt Brace, 1953.
  • Mopsa the Fairy. Jean, Ingelow (author), Harper & Brothers, 1927.
  • Mr. Bumps and His Monkey. De La Mare, Walter (author), Winston, 1942.
  • Presents for Lupe. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1940.
  • Puffy and the Seven Leaf Clover. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1954.
  • Puppies for Keeps. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), Macmillan, 1944.
  • Silverhorn: The Hilda Conkling Book For Other Children. Conkling, Hilda (author), Stokes, 1924.
  • Snow Image. Hawthorne, Nathaniel (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • Stars To-Night: Verses New and Old for Boys and Girls. Teasdale, Sara (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • Sung under the Silver Umbrella. Education Association For Childhood (author), Macmillan, 1935.
  • Tales From The Enchanted Isles. Gate, Ethel May (author), Yale University Press, 1926.
  • The Colt from Moon Mountain. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1941.
  • The Dog in the Tapestry Garden. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1962.
  • The Dutch Cheese. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1931.
  • The Fair of St. James. Farjeon, Eleanor (author), Stokes, 1932.
  • The Fairy Circus. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1931.
  • The Forgotten Daughter. Snedeker, Caroline Dale (author), Doubleday, 1933.
  • The Happy Flute. Mandal, Sant Ram (author), Stokes, 1939.
  • The Light Princess. Macdonald, George (author), Macmillan, 1952.
  • The Little Mermaid. Andersen, Hans (author), Macmillan, 1939.
  • The Little White Goat. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1935.
  • The Littlest Mouse. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1955.
  • The Long Bright Land. Howes, Edith (author), Little Brown, 1929.
  • The Lost Merry-Go-Round. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1938.
  • The Princess and Curdie. MacDonald, George (author), Macmillan, 1927.
  • The Skittle Skattle Monkey. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1945.
  • The Snail Who Ran. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Stokes, 1934.
  • The Snow Image. Hawthorne, Nathaniel (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • The Three Mulla-Mulgars. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1919.
  • The Treasure of Carcassonne. Robida, A. (author), E.M. Hale, 1926.
  • Who Goes There? Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1935
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The Most Prolific Albany Artists You May Never have Heard of – Meet the Van Zandts – Father and Son

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We’re pretty sure you’ve seen at least one of these pictures before. We love them; they’re cheerful and take us back to a time in our history. They were all painted by a father or son from Albany NY – Thomas Kirby Van Zandt (known as Kirby Van Zandt) or his son, William Garrett Van Zandt.

The Van Zandt family had roots in Albany going back to the 1600s; they were among the earliest of the Dutch Settlers. It appears the family lived in the city until about 1780 or so, and then purchased a farm near the New Scotland Plank Road in the town of Bethlehem. (The Van Zandt farm was probably close to what is now the intersection of Whitehall Rd. and New Scotland Ave.) Kirby married, Frances McCormick from the same vicinity. Archibald McCormick came from Scotland in 1787 and operated a farm about where the Academy of Holy Names is today, across from what is now McCormick Rd.

Thomas Van zandtKirby was born in 1814 and by time he was 30, in 1844, identified himself as a painter in the city directory. At that time he was living on State St. between Lark and Dove. He sounds like a young man who was fairly confident in his talent and his ability to make a living through his art. The confidence was not misplaced; he was very successful over 40 years. He specialized in horses and farm animals. The area outside Albany was still rural and scattered with hundreds of farm in the surrounding counties,. If you were a fairly well-to-do farmer, you would have the well-known painter Kirby Van Zandt paint your prize winning chicken or bull. Kirby also established himself as a horse-and-carriage painter catering to Albany’s wealthier citizens, like Erastus Corning and Kirby’s brother-in-law, Judge Van Aernum (the painting of the Judge and his sleigh is in the permanent collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art). In later years he specialized in horses and spent time in Saratoga at the horse tracks.

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A fast trotterThe Van Zandt paintings are referred to as “folk art”, but that isn’t meant to diminish the quality of the paintings. It’s a term that just describes their style. The Metropolitan Museum says these 19th century “ (folk)artists worked principally in the Northeast… Almost all of them favored strong colors, broad and direct application of paint, patterned surfaces, generalized light, skewed scale and proportion, and conspicuous modeling. Most developed compositional formulas that allowed them to work quickly, with limited materials and in makeshift studios.” This describes Van Zandt, moving from farm to farm and painting livestock and chickens in barns. In an era when photography was still a new thing, Van Zandt paintings were widely known in this area as way to preserve the image of your favorite animal.

But In several instances Kirby went out of his comfort zone; they involve Leland Stanford (Stanford University). Stanford and his wife Jane Lathrop were born in Albany. Although younger than Van Zandt, Stanford clearly respected Van Zandt’s talent and commissioned his work a number of times. In 1878 Stanford invited the noted photographer Eadweard Muybridge to his estate to settle an argument. Muybridge is a photographer important for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion and early work in motion-picture projection.

05952rStanford, who loved horse and horse racing (the shared passion with Van Zandt) believed that at a horse ran all four legs left the ground and at some point it was suspended in the air. Stanford wanted Muybridge to capture this moment in the horse’s stride, an instance imperceptible to the naked eye. Muybridge took a series of photos. The plate itself was fuzzy and unsuitable for publication, so it was left to Van Zandt to strengthen the image. He reproduced the image twice, first as drawing of “crayon and ink wash” dated September 16, 1876, and again as the finished canvas in 1878.

Van Zandt also painted one of the few pictures of Leland Stanford, Jr., (when he was about 12 in 1881), 3 years before his too young death from typhoid when he was 15. It’s a picture of a bundled up boy and his dog near a frozen lake where people are skating, so it was probably painted in Albany on a Stanford family trip back East. It may be set in Washington Park.leland stanford

 

The Cantor Museum at Stanford University includes six paintings by Kirby Van Zandt and one by his son William. They include the Leland, Jr painting and Jane’s childhood home – somewhere on Washington Ave. between Dove and S. Hawk. (There are several addresses for their homes in the 1840s city directories so we’ve been unable to establish the exact location.) He also painted Jane’s father, Dyer Lathrop and Leland Sr,’s childhood home on Central Ave. just beyond the Albany city line. Of course he did several pictures of Stanford’s favorite horse, “Abe Edgington”.

Lathbrop house

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abe edgington with dog bill

As Kirby’s success grew, and he married and had a family, he moved to Knox St. near Madison, where he ultimately had his home and a studio in the building next door. But as Washington Park grew the Van Zandt properties were acquired for Park expansion. The family located to the farm on New Scotland where Kirby spent his final years before his death in 1886. The area was then known as Hurstville, and it must have been quite agreeable, since there was a horse racing track located about where Mater Christi church and school are today (the Pleasure Park trotting track existed from the 1860s to the early 1900s).

WilliamThis brings us to his son, William who followed in his father’s footsteps. William was born in 1867 while the family lived in Albany. He had his father’s talent and his love of horse and horse racing. William was actually a “starter” for the Saratoga races and a member of Albany Driving Club. (The Driving Club met at Woodlawn Park – where Albany Academy for Boys is currently located and held trotting horse races.) In addition to painting, William held several jobs, including Albany City vital statistic registrar and then assistant superintendent for art in the Albany public schools. He lived at the family farm in New Scotland, then in the city at several uptown locations and then spent the last 20 or so years in Guilderland. He passed away in 1942.

Portarit of a cow

sulky and driver 1909

Both Van Zandts were prolific artists and their painting styles are similar (we read somewhere that William always include 3  birds somewhere his paintings – we can find in some and not others). It’s probable the Van Zandts painted hundreds of paintings in their lifetimes. They’re in the collections of the Bennington Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum; many are in private collections and other smaller galleries. Sometimes you can find a show at a local museum, but folk art has never really caught on in a big way, which we think is a shame. It can tell us a lot about the lives of the people and objects who were its subjects and the people who made the art.

A gentleman's ride

A trotter

afternoon sleighride

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horse Portait

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the leoipard

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Erastus Dow Palmer

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Erastus Palmer’s “Angel At The Sepulchre.”

Sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer died on March 9, 1904.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzPalmer’s name is quite closely linked with the Albany Rural Cemetery. He created a number of notable monuments, including “Remembrance” for the grave of Lucretia M. Olcott (wife of the Cemetery’s first treasurer, Thomas Olcott), several marble portraits, and one of the Cemetery’s most famous statues, the heroic “Angel At The Sepulchre.” Palmer also served as a trustee of the Cemetery.

He is buried in Lot 15, Section 34. His monument, a Roman-inspired sarcophagus, was designed by Marcus T. Reynolds. It is decorated with palm fronds as a play on the sculptor’s name.

More on Palmer can be read here: http://albanynyhistory.blogspot.com/…/erastus-dow-palmer.ht…

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Grave of Erastus Dow Palmer
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“Grief” by Erastus Dow Palmer on the reverse of the Daniel Campbell monument.
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Marble portrait of Lewis Benedict
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Portrait of Thomas Olcott
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Grave of Lucia M. Olcott with statue and relief by Erastus Dow Palmer. Statue is called “Remembrance.”

Edmonia Lewis

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Edmonia was born in Greenbush and even though she left the Albany area, moving to an area outside Buffalo  at a young age, when she was orphaned, she maintained close ties to the City.

In 1875 there was a large reception/testimonial for William H. Johnson, the most prominent Albany Afro- American abolitionist and diligent worker for the rights of Afro-Americans after the Civil War.

The gathering was held at the AME Church on Hamilton St. (still there today, just below Lark). During the reception, Mr. Johnson was presented with a bust of Senator Charles Sumner by Ms. Lewis. (Sumner had been a leading proponent of rights for the freed Afrro-Americans in the post Civil War era during Reconstruction.)

Mr. Johnson was so very pleased with the bust and admiring of the skill and talent of the Ms. Lewis, the bust was exhibited at the Atlanta World’s Fair in 1895. He subsequently donated it to the Frederick Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia, shortly after it opened in 1897.

Here’s  more about Lewis from a February 1, 2017 Smithsonian.com article by Brigit Katz:

After being orphaned, Lewis lived with a tribe of  Chippewas (Ojibwa), her mother’s family. When Lewis was just 15 years old, she enrolled in Oberlin College, a private liberal arts school in Ohio. Slavery would still be legal in the United States for another six years when Lewis started Oberlin, and Al Jazeera reports that at the time, the college was one of few institutions that would enroll African American students.

But Lewis’ education came to an abrupt and violent end in 1863 when she was accused of poisoning two of her white roommates. Lewis was forced to stand trial, and though she was ultimately acquitted, she was attacked by a mob of white vigilantes, and ultimately left Oberlin before graduating, “in part, due to harassment,” the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People at Oberlin writes, as Talia Lavin noted in The Toast.

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Robert Gould Shaw

Undefeated by this devastating incident, Lewis moved to Boston and went on to secure an apprenticeship with Edward A. Brackett, a well-connected Boston sculptor. There, Hill writes, Lewis crafted sculptures of well-known abolitionists, like Charles Sumner, Wendell Phillips and Robert Gould Shaw, who lead the 54th Massachusetts, the Afro-American regiment memorialized in the movie Glory. These works proved quite popular, and Lewis was able to use the profits from her sales to travel to Europe. She visited London, Paris, and Florence, before ultimately settling in Rome.

tumblr_inline_mxvjknosRH1rdmtifIn Italy, Lewis fell in with a group of American women sculptors, who were drawn to the country’s abundance of fine, white marble. Lewis’ sculptures stood out from that of her contemporaries, in part because her work often nodded to Native American and African American culture.  The Old Arrow Maker, for example, shows a Dakota woman plaiting a mat, while her father carves an arrowhead from jasper. The sculpture references a scene from “The Song of Hiawatha,” a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Lewis’ life across the Atlantic has obscured many details from her autobiography, but Lavin notes that she was buried in London in 1907. Though the majority of her work did not survive to the present-day, much of what remains can be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

http-americanartsiedu-images-1994-199417_1ajpgOne of Lewis’ most famous sculptures ), The Death of Cleopatra, is among the sculptures on display there. Rediscovered in the 1970s after it went missing for almost a century, the work depicts the Egyptian queen draped over her throne, moments after her death. When the sculpture was first featured at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, some critics were shocked by its realism. Others, Google’s Arts & Culture Institute reports, regarded it as the most impressive American sculpture at the exhibition