Edith Ballinger Price papers, 1902-1977  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Price, Edith Ballinger, 1897-1997
Edith Ballinger Price papers
1902-1977 (inclusive)
4.75 linear feet, (12 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 214
Edith Ballinger Price (1897-1997) was a noted author and illustrator of children's books. She was a frequent contributor to St. Nicholas and a founder of the Girl Scouts' Brownie program. The collection includes a range of materials related to her publications and is noted for the series of sketchbooks, 1902-1940s that document her evolution as an artist, and the complete set of illustrations for My Lady Lee.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives.
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 541-346-3068
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.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

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

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Edith Ballinger Price was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on April 26, 1897, the daughter of Eleanor French Richards Price and William Farmer Price. Influenced by her grandfather, landscape painter William Trost Richards (1833-1905), she started drawing at an early age and filled many notebooks with lively illustrations of scenes from books she read and the world around her. In 1911, at the age of fourteen, Price studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and later at the New York Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. She continued to hone her artistic talents in sketchbooks, many of which are dedicated to her grandfather. These sketchbooks reflect the evolution of her drawing and her dedication to following in her grandfather's footsteps as an artist.

In 1918 Price submitted a series of illustrations to St. Nicholas, a magazine for children along with a story, "Blue Magic." While Price envisioned the story as proof that her drawings could fit a narrative, editors at St. Nicholas preferred her writing to her drawing. From that point on, she grudgingly accepted her role as a writer first and illustrator second. Several of her stories were illustrated by others, often to her dismay. Price referred to the success of her stories as having "sealed her doom" since "I kept vainly protesting that I was an artist, not a writer; and just to keep me quiet they used my pictures as illustrations for my books." This apparently still rankled many years later because Price mentioned it more than once in her letters to Special Collections. By 1920, "Blue Magic," originally serialized in St. Nicholas, had been published in book form, a pattern that followed many of her stories. The success of this first story encouraged the author to keep writing and many stories and eighteen books eventually followed. Price's serialized stories, poetry, and illustrations were published in such magazines as Collier's, The Portal, Youth's Companion, and St. Nicholas.

Edith Ballinger Price was interested in Girl Scouting and was instrumental in starting the Brownie Scouts program in the United States. She was the national chair, or "Great Brown Owl," of the Brownies from 1925 to 1932. She wrote the first Brownie handbook as well as stories for Girl Scout magazines, such as The American Girl, Girl's Guide Gazette, and Girls Today.

Price's stories emphasize the importance of simple pleasures and strong human relationships based on shared memory and creative adventure. Her love of the sea and its vessels is apparent in her stories, many of which either take place on ships (Blue Magic) or involve former seamen ("The Captain's Valentine"). Price said that she is "pleased with little things," and "approves of people cultivating resources within themselves which will forever prevent their being lonely or bored." She specifically addressed the impact of modern lifestyles on the need for simple pleasures by saying the "in the midst of this complicated new world...we ought to try to hold on to quiet things and simple delights." This philosophy is evident in her coming of age stories and tenderly expressed in her drawings, which often capture the emotional moods of her characters.

In the early 1920s Price adopted Burchey May Perry, a child of two who had been born without sight. This daughter was Price's companion and primary interest throughout the rest of her life. My Lady Lee, published in 1925, is a fictionalized account of their early years together.

Ms. Price lived for many years in Newport, Rhode Island, and taught artistic anatomy at the school of the Art Association of Newport, of which she was a council member for twenty-eight years. In 1962 Price moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she worked at A.R.E. Press, a publisher of the works of psychic Edgar Cayce. Her other interests included gardening, ecology, playing violin and viola, restoration of historical sites, preservation of endangered species, involvement with humane societies and with the English Folk Dance Society.

Edith Ballinger Price died in Virginia Beach on September 29, 1997, at the age of one hundred.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Edith Ballinger Price Papers documents Price's career as an author and illustrator. The collection includes her sketchbooks, stories and poems published in magazines, manuscripts of some of her stories, miscellaneous publicity and a fan letter, photographs of Price, and several series of original artwork. One of the highlights of this collection is the sketchbook series in which the researcher will find Price's earliest drawings. Because the collection contains her sketchbooks from 1902 to the 1940s, it is possible to trace her evolution and development as an artist. In addition to these unique drawings, the two series, Illustrations and Poems for Mother and Verse and Picture Books, may be of interest to those seeking her early and unpublished drawings. The collection also contains the complete illustrations for My Lady Lee, the fictive autobiographical account of Price's adoption of Burchey May Perry.

The original order of the collection has been preserved as much as possible. However, it has been divided into more series than previously in order to distinguish the various types of illustrations collected. All stories and poems, arranged in the series Stories and Poems in Magazines, and all illustrations have been organized chronologically, when possible, and include the name of the publication in which the work was originally published. Because some of the stories and poems in magazines were larger in size or encapsulated, which also increases their size, there is a subseries of Stories and Poems in Magazines in the Oversized series. The illustrations varied quite considerably in size so the researcher will need to consult the box and folder list to determine the location of various illustrations. For example, some of the illustrations from "Blue Magic" are collected in the Story Illustrations series while the larger ones are collected under Series: Oversized, Subseries: Story, Book, and Poem Illustrations. While this organization may require more sustained attention to the box and folder list, it economizes space and resources.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Brownie Girl Scouts
  • Children's literature, American--Authorship
  • Children's literature, American--Illustrations
  • Illustration of books--United States
  • Women illustrators--United States

Personal Names

  • Price, Edith Ballinger, 1897-1997
  • Price, Edith Ballinger, 1897-1997

Form or Genre Terms

  • Book illustrations
  • Manuscripts for publication