Elizabeth Orton Jones papers , 1913-1980

Overview of the Collection

Jones, Elizabeth Orton, 1910-2005
Elizabeth Orton Jones papers
1913-1980 (inclusive)
19.5 linear feet, (38 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 200
Elizabeth Orton Jones (June 25, 1910-May 10, 2005) was an illustrator and writer of children's books, and won the Caldecott Medal for the illustrations in Prayer for a Child in 1945. The collection includes original illustrations, literary manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, audio recordings, newspaper clippings and artifacts.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
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Historical NoteReturn to Top

Born June 25, 1910 ("half past Christmas," as she liked to say) in Highland Park, Illinois, Elizabeth Orton Jones was the daughter of George Roberts and Jessie Mae Orton Jones. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1932 and continued her education a the Ecole de beaux Arts, Fontainebleau, France, and the Art Institute of chicago.

During the 1930s, Jones achieved a substantial reputation as the creator fo excellelnt dry-point etchings of children. At the same time, she began two long and successful careers in the design of greeting-cards and the production of painted woodenware.

In 1938, Oxford University Press brought out Jones' first book Ragman of Paris. Author of eight books and illustrator of fourteen others, she was runner-up for the Caldecott Medal (awarded each year by the American Library Association to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children)in 1943 for Small Rain: Verses from the Bible, edited by her mother, Jessie Orton Jones. She won the Caldecott Medal in 1945 for Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field. In her acceptance speech, she said: "Drawing is very like a prayer. Drawing is a reaching fro something away beyond you. As you sit down to work in the morning, you feel as if you were on top of a hill. And it is as if you were seeing for the first time."

The success of her work during the 1930s and the 1940s enabled Jones to buy a house in Mason, New Hampshire. She then devoted her energy and talents to whatever interested her without concern for financial rewards. Jones painted a large mural at Crotched Mountain center, in Greenfield, New Hampshire, and another for the University of New Hampshire Library. Her interest in the Mason City Library and her work in redecorating and in furshing it's Children's Room led to the Library's award of a grant in recognition of its originality. She also taught classes at the local school for a number of years.

Early in the 1060s, she was one of a local group of creative and energetic teachers who started Andy's Summer Theater, an enterprise run by and for children. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Elizabeth Orton Jones was busy writing children's plays which have proven to be highly successful. She also designed and made costumes and scenery for those plays.

Elizabeth Orton Jones and her mother worked together on the book This is the Way, about different religions and the common ground they share. Jones' famous work, Twig, was inspired by a girl she caught sight of while riding on the El train in Chicago.

Although she had no children of her own, she was a lively member of her Mason community and did numerous readings and book signings. Jones almost single-handedly set up the library for children in Mason in 1960, at a time when children's literature was not taken seriously.

Her collaborators include: Gladys Adshead (Brownies—Hush!, What Miranda Knew); Betty Bridgeman (Lullaby for Eggs); and Rachel Field (Prayer for a Child).

Jones was also an accomplished classical artist; she studied with Camille Liausu in Paris, and took classes in abstract art and painting in New Hampshire.

Jones illustrated Little Red Riding Hood for the Little Golden Books series. In the story the grandmother's house was modeled after Jones' own house in Mason, and the wolf's house was modeled after another local house, now a restaurant called Pickity Place. Jones had two houses in Mason, one named Misty Meadow and the other named Rock-A-Bye.

In her acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal Jones defined her idea of an artist: "I think of being an artist as an achievement I may work toward my whole life and even then not arrive. Though, I would like to be able to say, right out loud to myself on the morning of my 99th birthday, 'Old girl, you are an artist.'"

Elizabeth Orton Jones died at the age of 94, on May 13, 2005, at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Elizabeth Orton Jones Papers are arranged in the following series: correspondence, literary works, original illustrations, other illustrations, miscellaneous files, audio recordings, scrapbooks, artifacts, photographs, and oversize materials.

The correspondence includes public and private aspects of Jones' life: her relationship with her mother, Jessie Mae Jones, with whom she collaborated on the texts Small Rain, A Little Child, and This is the Way, her response to the Caldecott Medal, the nature of working with the lithographers Lillian and William Glaser, and her thoughts about children's literature generally.

Literary works by both Elizabeth Orton Jones and Jessie Mae Jones are represented in the collection. These include book manuscripts, plays, articles, film scripts, and obituaries about Elizabeth Orton Jones.

The collection also includes original illustrations for books, greeting cards, and sketches, using various media: pencil, water colour, ink, and paint. Many original illustrations are in the oversize category.

Other reprinted illustrations include illustrations in books, periodicals, tear sheets, and greeting cards. Illustrations used in various stages of the printing and publishing process are also included.

Miscellaneous files include newspaper clippings, mail, and book catalogues, notably The Horn Book, which was started by Jones' friend, Bertha Mahony Miller.

Elizabeth Orton Jones' acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal is among the audio recordings.

The scrapbooks include Elizabeth Jones' baby book, with pictures of her as a child, put together by Jessie Mae Jones. Elizabeth Jones also kept what seems to be a notebook or writer's journal, with quotes, books, and daily entries. There is an unbound copy of Maminka's Children, and a copy of How Far is it To Bethlehem in Braille. Elizabeth Jones also kept two scrapbooks, filled with letters, newspaper clippings, and notes, of the publishing history and public reception of Big Susan and Prayer for a Child, respectively.

Among the artifacts is a plaster cast of Elizabeth Jones' head and a hand-sewn pillow.

The photographs range from family or personal photographs (some of which date from 1910) to photos of Jones at work painting or drawing in the 1940s and 1960s. There are also later photographs from the 1990s of Jones at Crotched Mountain, and at various children's book celebrations.

Many of Elizabeth Jones' original illustrations for books and for greeting cards are classified as oversize.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top