Children’s illustrator Carolyn Haywood was a lifelong Philadelphian who generously donated her extensive collection of book manuscripts, illustrations, and personal papers to the Free Library of Philadelphia. We recently completed processing this collection, and some of our most interesting finds are now on display in the exhibit cases on the ground floor outside of the Montgomery Auditorium at Parkway Central. Come and see her early illustrations – influenced by the group of artists known as the Red Rose Girls, who were her friends and mentors – as well as rare unpublished book illustrations, photographs, awards, and typescripts.
Born in Philadelphia on January 3, 1898, Haywood attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and taught briefly at Friends Central School. The editor Elizabeth Hamilton saw some of her illustrations and suggested that Haywood write a story “about little American children, doing the things that little American children like to do.” The resulting book, B is for Betsy, was published in 1939. Betsy and Haywood’s other popular series character, Eddie Wilson, would go on to star in many of Haywood’s books. Haywood based her child characters on children she knew, and they served as models not just for the children’s adventures and preoccupations but also for the illustrations. Several of these model photographs appear in the exhibition, along with the illustrations they inspired. Also on display are scarce photographs of Haywood working on large-scale murals with Violet Oakley, a less well-known aspect of her work that demonstrates her range as an artist.
Still, Haywood was best known for her children’s books, and she wrote or illustrated over fifty before she passed away in 1990. She left an admirable legacy in the collection bequeathed to the Free Library, and we’re very pleased to share it with you. Stop by and take a look!