Katherine Milhous was born in Philadelphia on November 27, 1894, to Oscar Thomas Milhous, a printer, and Katie Arey Daly Milhous, a seamstress. She grew up in Pitman, New Jersey, a small camp meeting town lacking even a library. The town’s lack of culture was frustrating for an artistically inclined child. She later said of her family’s heritage, which influenced many of her later works, “My background is Quaker and Irish, Methodist and Catholic, with a dash of Pennsylvania Dutch . . . That is where the love of design comes in. I began to draw as soon as I could hold a pencil.” She returned to Philadelphia to attend the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, from which she won a Cresson Traveling Scholarship in 1934. She supported herself as a newspaper illustrator while in school. From 1935-1940, she was a supervisor for the Federal Art Project (FAP), for which she also made model houses and many striking posters celebrating rural life in Pennsylvania.
Her poster art for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) caught the eye of Scribner’s juvenile editor, Alice Dalgliesh, who encouraged her to illustrate for children. Once on a Time (1938) and Happily Ever After (1939) by Dalgliesh featured Milhous’s first illustrations. She soon moved on to writing her own text, and in 1940 Milhous published Lovina: a Story of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. She would also draw on her Pennsylvania Dutch background for her books Herodia, the Lovely Puppet (1942) and the Caldecott Medal-winning The Egg Tree (1951). Her hometown Philadelphia inspired Patrick and the Golden Slippers (1951), about the Mummers’ Parade, and Through These Arches: The Story of Independence Hall (1964). Milhous considered Through These Arches her most important book, embodying her love for Philadelphia and its history. Her illustrations retain many characteristics of both Pennsylvania Dutch art and her poster designs: bright color, simple lines, and bold forms that evince a love of nature and plain living. Milhous illustrated many books, both of her own and of others, and worked as staff designer at Scribner’s from 1944-1946. The Silver Pencil, which she illustrated for Alice Dalgliesh, was a Newbery Honor book in 1945. She died in Philadelphia on December 5, 1977.
Frances Lichten was an artist, illustrator, and specialist on Pennsylvanian folk art who met Milhous in art school and became her lifelong friend. Born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, in 1889, Lichten evinced an interest in art as a child, and like Milhous studied at Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She worked as a commercial artist for many years before becoming the State Supervisor for the Index of American Design from 1936-1941. This project was a WPA initiative that hired artists to document American folk arts and crafts. As an expert on Pennsylvania folk art, Lichten also published The Folk Art of Rural Pennsylvania (1941), Folk Art Motifs of Pennsylvania (1954), and Fraktur: The Illuminated Manuscripts of the Pennsylvania Dutch (1958). From 1955 until her death in 1961, she was a Research Associate in the Decorative Arts Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She and Milhous shared a studio for nearly forty years and collaborated on the illustrations for They Live in South America (1942) by Alice Dalgliesh.
Historical Note, Frances Lichten Research Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives, accessed January 5, 2012, http://www.philamuseum.org/pma_archives/search.php?c=LIC
"Katherine Milhous," Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania, accessed January 5, 2012, http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Milhous__Katherine.html
Kingman, Lee, ed. Illustrators of Children's Books: 1957-1966. Boston: Horn Book, 1968.
Lichten, Frances. "Katherine Milhous." Horn Book Magazine, July 1951, 229-235.
Posters for the People: WPA Poster History, accessed January 5, 2012, http://postersforthepeople.com/wpaposterhistory
Something About the Author Autobiography Series, vol. 15.
This is a collection of the manuscripts, illustrations, and papers of Katherine Milhous, and the papers of Frances Lichten. Katherine Milhous manuscript materials include: drafts, dummies, proofs, notes, finished art, color separations, and other production materials for Through These Arches; chalk drawings and notes related to The Egg Tree; art and separations for Appolonia's Valentine, Billy Button's Butter'd Biscuit, Once Upon a Time, and Peter Piper's Pickled Peppers; and drafts and notes on book ideas for other stories. Adult artwork by Milhous includes woodcut prints, watercolors, ink illustrations and cartoons, photographs of sculpture, a scrapbook of pencil sketches from Milhous's trip to South America, a painted placard for the WPA Federal Art Project, and works in various other media.
Milhous papers include: correspondence with editors, readers, family, and friends (including Alice Dalgleish and Ruth Gagliardo); itineraries, correspondence, lecture notes, and publicity material related to visits and appearances; scrapbooks containing publicity, correspondence, and other items related to the writing and publication of The Egg Tree; a scrapbook of book reviews; a scrapbook on poetry; a brief typed autobiography and other biographical material; diaries and journals kept between 1944-1977 (noting work, expenses, memoranda, lists of gifts and cards sent); 15 books inscribed by Katherine to her sister Dorothy; several photographs of Milhous, including one from the 1951 Newbery-Caldecott Dinner; a collection of postcards; book announcements and brochures on exhibitions and other events, mostly related to friends and associates of Milhous; various subject files; original art in the form of cards, invitations, and small studies given to Milhous by several other artists; a set of Currier and Ives reproduction prints; a copy of the 1969 University of Southern Mississippi children's collection medal awarded to Lois Lenski; and a photograph album from a trip to South America (probably in the early 1950s). There are also 18 model houses Milhous made for the Work Progress Administration.
Frances Lichten materials include: correspondence with editors, publishers, friends, and family; a small amount of family history material on the Lichtens; two albums of photographs and letters from Milhous and Lichten's 1925-1926 trip to Europe; a duplicate set of the letters written during the Europe trip (mostly written by Lichten); and copies of brochures and small volumes illustrated by Lichten.
This collection is arranged in two series: I. Katherine Milhous; II. Frances Lichten.
Series I. Katherine Milhous includes thirteen subseries: i. Awards and citations; ii. Biographical materials; iii. Book manuscripts and illustrations; iv. Correspondence; v. Events and appearances; vi. Financial records and notes; vii. Personal artwork; viii. Personal records and scrapbooks; ix. Photographs; x. Published volumes; xi. Research and subject files; xii. Travel; xiii. WPA artwork. Within each subseries, materials are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically.
Series II. Frances Lichten includes three subseries: i. Artwork; ii. Correspondence; iii. Subject and research files. Within each subseries, materials are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically.
This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Curator for information on access.
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.
Gift of Katherine Milhous and her estate, 1968-1979. Additional materials donated by Harriet Holsman, 1958, G. Martin Dudley, 1978, Carolyn Field, 1979, Ruthe A. Rutherforde, 1982, Mary H. Sharp, 2011, and Jessica Raymond, 2014.
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