Louis Slobodkin Papers Addendum , 1929-1974

Overview of the Collection

Slobodkin, Louis, 1903-1975
Louis Slobodkin Papers Addendum
1929-1974 (inclusive)
10.5 linear feet, (20 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 178
Louis Slobodkin (1903-1975) was an artist and illustrator and writer of books for children. He won the Caldecott Medal in 1943 for Many Moons. This collection is an addendum to the Slobodkin Papers (call number Ax 733) and contains literary manuscripts and sketchbooks, correspondence with publishers, general correspondence, subject files, art exhibition catalogs, book reviews, and royalty statements.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Louis Slobodkin, sculptor, illustrator, and author, was born in Albany, New York on February 19, 1903, son of Nathan and Dora (nee Lubin) Slobodkin. He attended the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York City from 1918 to 1923. Slobodkin married Florence Gersh on September 27, 1927, and they raised two sons, Lawrence and Michael.

Louis Slobodkin was a noted sculptor. He won twenty-two medals from the Beaux Arts Institute of Design during the period 1918 to 1922, a Louis Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1932, Honorable Mention in competition for the Chicago War Memorial, 1932, and various commissions in federal competitions. He frequently served on art juries throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Slobodkin first achieved fame in 1938 when his "Young Lincoln" statue, which had won a place in the Federal Building at the 1940 World's Fair, was summarily removed and destroyed by an official of the Fair. Slobodkin's many friends in the art world rallied to his cause, and eventually a bronze version of the plaster original was permanently placed in the Headquarters Building of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D. C.

In 1941, his sketching drew the attention of a friend, Eleanor Estes, who asked him to illustrate her book, The Moffats (Harcourt Brace, 1941). The book was well received, and a new career for Slobodkin was launched. In 1943, he illustrated James Thurber's Many Moons (Harcourt Brace, 1943), and this book won the Caldecott Medal. Between 1941 and 1972 Slobodkin illustrated, or collaborated on, or wrote and illustrated at least eighty-two titles. Notable among these are the Moffat books with Eleanor Estes, Many Moons with Thurber, and his own Magic Michael (MacMillan, 1944), Fo'castle Waltz (Vanguard, 1945), Sculpture: Principles and Practice (World, 1949), The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree (MacMillan, 1952), One Is Good but Two Are Better (Vanguard, 1956), Yasu and the Strangers (MacMillan, 1965), and the Read-About series (Frankin Watts 1966, 1967). Two of these books are for adult readers-- Fo'castle Waltz and Sculpture: Principles and Practice--while the rest are for children.

Louis Slobodkin's books have been translated into many foreign languages, including French, Norwegian, German, Italian, and Japanese. They have shown considerable staying power, some remaining in print for over thirty years, and often excerpted for anthologies and curriculum materials.

As Slobodkin's reputation as an author and illustrator grew, he came to be much in demand as a speaker at library association conventions and book fairs. His "chalk talks", given to large audiences of children, were always well received. Slobodkin's gently humorous books generated a steady stream of fan mail, which he carefully answered, addressing the children as equals and encouraging them to place their creativity on a foundation of hard work, as he himself had done.

Louis Slobodkin died in 1975.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This addendum to the Louis Slobodkin Papers consists of manuscripts and sketchbooks, correspondence with publishers, general correspondence, subject files, art exhibition catalogs, book reviews, and royalty statements. The manuscripts, for the most part, are contained in a series of notebooks which also include Slobodkin's sketches. Of special interest is the original copy-edited typesetter's copy of James Thurber's Many Moons which Slobodkin illustrated and which won him the Caldecott Medal in 1944. Another manuscript, Mystery of Twin Moon Mountain, was never published but offers unique insights about Slobodkin's world view. Miscellaneous artwork, sketches and book reviews done by Slobodkin complete this series

Correspondence is divided into two segments: that with publishers and general, both of which are arranged alphabetically. The correspondence with publishers tells the story of Slobodkin's relationship with major New York publishing firms, one that was often strained by his struggle for improved reproduction of artwork. It also documents the unwillingness of some publishers to stock a backlisted book even if it sold well. Of note in the general correspondence are letters from novelist Anne Parrish and Slobodkin's replies to fan mail from children, which throw an interesting light on his character.

The subject files contain a wide range of materials. Among these files are many clippings and tearsheets useful to the biographer, especially in tracing Louis Slobodkin's earlier career as a noted sculptor.

Of special interest is the file on the famous "Lincoln Statue incident" at the 1940 New York World's Fair. (box 12, folder 2)

Art exhibition catalogs trace Slobodkin's career in sculpture, and place his work in the context of his friends and associates in both the Sculptor's Guild and An American Group, organizations in which he was very active. Although he considered monumental sculpture his specialty, Louis Slobodkin nevertheless created a number of successful "floating" pieces, and some of those are documented here. Slobodkin sculptures can be found in museums throughout the United States and elsewhere, including Israel.

The book reviews are indicative of the generally favorable opinion which reviewers held of Slobodkin's efforts. Typically they found his books slight, not very deep, but humorous and entertaining and occasionally moving, all of which accorded well with his own opinion.

The royalty statements trace the career of each book. Though they were not runaway best sellers, Louis Slobodkin's books had an appreciative audience that bought steadily; some books, such as Magic Michael, were in print for over thirty years. Some were translated into French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Norwegian, and especially Japanese, a country where they found a strong readership

A folder of photographic prints and negatives are stored separately under the call number PH156. Most of these are publicity shots relating to book fair appearances, or portraits used on book jackets, bearing no date or other indication of their place in the collection.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Children's literature, American--Authorship
  • Children's literature, American--Illustrations
  • Illustrators--United States
  • Sculptors--United States

Personal Names

  • Thurber, James, 1894-1961

Form or Genre Terms

  • Exhibition catalogs