Elizabeth Olds papers


Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection
Call Number
Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991
Elizabeth Olds papers
Date [inclusive]
3.36 Linear feet
This collection consists of preliminary artwork, dummies, mechanicals, wood blocks, and proofs for the books Little Una (1963) and Plop, Plop, Ploppie (1962) by children's author and illustrator Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991). There is also a screen print of Three Alarm Fire, which was the basis for the book The Big Fire (1945).
Cite as
[Description and date of item], [Box and folder number], Elizabeth Olds papers, 1945-1963, Free Library of Philadelphia, Children’s Literature Research Collection.

Elizabeth Olds was born on December 10, 1896 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Art Students League of New York. She also studied painting in Europe and was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim fellowship in 1926. She was well-known as a painter and printmaker, and worked in the graphic division of the Federal Art Project in New York from 1935 to 1939. She was encouraged by a colleague to write and illustrate her first children's book, The Big Fire (1945), based on the print Three Alarm Fire. The illustrations from The Big Fire were featured in an exhibition of children’s book illustrations at The Museum of Modern Art. Several of her books were based on her travels, including Riding the Rails (1948) about the railroad and Feather Mountain (1951) about shore birds. She received a Caldecott Honor for Feather Mountain in 1952, Riding the Rails, Deep Treasure (1958) and Plop Plop Ploppie (1962) were all Junior Literary Guild selections. She died on March 4, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida.


Something About the Author, vol. 3, 66.

Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. 1st ed., s.v. “Olds, Elizabeth.”

This collection includes preliminary artwork, mechanicals, dummies, wood blocks, and proofs by Elizabeth Olds for the books Little Una (1963) and Plop, Plop, Ploppie (1962).

The collection also contains a large screen print, Three Alarm Fire, which inspired her book The Big Fire (1945).

This collection is arranged alphabetically in three series: I. Little Una; II. Plop, Plop, Ploppie; and III. Three Alarm Fire.

Within each series, items are arranged in order of probable creation.

Publication Information:

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection

Finding Aid Author:

Finding aid prepared by Lindsay Friedman


The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Access Restrictions:

This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Curator for information on access.

Use Restrictions:

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.

Some of the materials in this collection may be too fragile for use without the Curator’s supervision.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Gift of Elizabeth Olds, 1969-1970.

  • Color proofs
  • Color separations
  • Dummies (printed matter)
  • Mechanicals (camera-ready copy)
  • Proofs (printed matter)
  • Screen prints
Personal Name(s)
  • Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991
  • Children's authors--20th century
  • Children's literature--20th century
  • Illustrated children's books--20th century
  • Illustration of books--20th century
  Date Box Folder Object
Little Una 1963
Earlier dummy, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and tempera on paper and tracing paper with text pasted in, 28 pages 1
Later dummy, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and watercolor on acetate and paper with text pasted in, 32 pages 3
Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 53 sheets 2
Blueline proofs 1
Complete set of mechanicals 1
Corrected color proofs 1
Plop, Plop, Ploppie 1962
Wood blocks of sea lions 1
Preliminary art, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, and relief printing on tracing paper mounted to paper with text pasted in, 30 sheets
Complete set of preliminary artwork. Some pages include more than one version of the artwork.
Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 52 sheets 2
Lettering for book jacket, title page, and half title page, collage of cut paper and pen and ink on tracing paper mounted to board 2
Mechanicals, 5 sheets
Includes text for the book jacket and title page only.
Corrected color proofs 1
Three Alarm Fire, screen print on paper
Housed with Children's Literature Research Collection original framed artwork.
circa 1945 1

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