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Stan and Jan Berenstains’ Lover Boy: Transitioning from Adult to Children’s Books

By L. Abby Houston, Graduate Assistant

Stan and Jan Berenstain are famously known for their Berenstain Bears series of children’s books. SCRC’s Stan and Jan Berenstain Cartoons collection includes original artwork for some of their adult titles from 1950’s-1960’s including strips like Sister (1950’s) and All in the Family (1950’s) and book titles such as Flipsville Squaresville (1966), Call me Mrs. (1961) and several titles in the Lover Boy series.

Stan and Jan were both attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art when they met and began producing cartoons collaboratively after the Second World War. Prior to the 1962 publication of their first Berenstain Bears book for children, The Big Honey Hunt, Stan and Jan were producing cartoons that were targeted at an older audience. From illustrated manuals, such as The Berenstains’ Baby Book (1951) which gave new parent’s advice on raising a baby, to illustrated commentaries, such as Tax-Wise (1952) which presented their humorous perspective on the IRS, the Berenstains’ careers began by engaging with adults, their lives, and their problems.

The transition of their target audience from adults to kids was due to their own children, who were Dr. Seuss fans. Stan and Jan had a desire to tell them stories that were their own but more age-appropriate. Ted Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, became their editor when Random House agreed to be the publisher for their first Berenstain Bears book.

SCRC’s holdings in the Lover Boy series include the titles Lover Boy (1958), Bedside Lover Boy (1960), and Office Lover Boy (1962). These were comedic reads for adults making fun of cliché relationship behavior. For example, these particular pages below from Office Lover Boy are part of a series introducing stereotypical types of secretaries. Similar views and treatment of secretaries are familiar in recent work looking back on the time like the show Mad Men.

While completely opposite from the Lover Boy series on the surface, the Berenstain Bears stories do show remnants of these same types of behavior. The Lover Boy series joked about relationship stereotypes and parenthood. Since the Berenstain Bears features a husband and wife and their family, sometimes these themes carry over, only made suitable for a younger audience.

For example, the last page of The Big Honey Hunt (1962) shows a goofy Papa Bear purchasing honey from the store after a long, and failed journey with Brother Bear to search for it in the wild. Mama Bear stands in the doorway with her all-knowing smirk, as she had told Paper Bear to simply buy it from the store at the beginning of the book. These stereotype roles – the mother who is always, and often passively, right and the bumbling family man whose ideas and plans rarely work out – were familiar and funny.

In a section on home improvement in Lover Boy (1958), these generalizations are prevalent as well. While the wife certainly looks more annoyed than Mama Bear, she stands behind her husband, who is speaking to their friends, with a facial expression that implies she knew they should have hired a contractor from the very beginning. The husband then jokes about the work he attempted to accomplish by taking on the task himself. Both of these stories poke fun at Papa Bear and the husband for their predictable behavior. In particular, these parent/husband types have persist in examples like Marge and Homer Simpson, or Ellen and Clark Griswald.

Some of the moments within these cartoons did not age as well as others though. The gender roles for each character are clearly defined and stereotypes are certainly perpetuated that have felt more restricting than helpful as time has passed. These comics are able to give us a glimpse into the social hierarchies of marriage and office culture in the 1950s-60s as well as the Berenstains’s unique writing and artistic style. The original drawings and first edition copies of the Lover Boy series are held within our collections and can be accessed in the Reading Room should the early career of the Berenstains interest you.

The comics referenced in this post are part of our  Stan and Jan Berenstain Cartoons (Stan and Jan Berenstain Cartoons, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

Additional Sources

The Berenstain Bears Official Website and Blog. (2019). Retrieved from https://berenstainbears.wordpress.com/

“Stan and Jan Berenstain,” from Illustration History: An educational resource and archive at the Norman Rockwell Museum, (2019) https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/stan-and-jan-berenstain

“Berenstain Facts,” from The Berenstain Bears: Down a Sunny Dirt Road at the Strong National Museum of Play, https://www.museumofplay.org/exhibits/berenstain-bears/berenstain-facts


Vegetables for Victory

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

Happy Summer! We’re celebrating the arrival of the warmer weather and the beginning of planting and gardening season in Syracuse with this patriotic image.

This poster, which is titled, War Gardens Over the Top: The Seeds of Victory Insure the Fruits of Peace, was first published by the National War Garden Commission in 1919 as a means of encouraging citizens on the home front to contribute to the World War I war effort by planting their own gardens.

The poster features a charming depiction of anthropomorphic vegetables, led by a restless turnip, trooping towards the viewer. A pumpkin holds an American flag and a gardener, eyes partially covered by a wide brimmed hat, looks on, garden hoe in hand. The lighthearted depiction of cartoon vegetables in this poster might not immediately call to mind traditional war propaganda. There is a reason for this. The illustrator of the poster, Maginel Wright Enright (1881-1966), worked as an illustrator for children’s books and periodicals prior to designing several posters for the National War Garden Commission.

Interestingly, Enright’s first job as a book illustrator paired her with another heavyweight in children’s literature: L. Frank Baum. In 1906, she illustrated The Twinkle Tales, which Baum published under the pseudonym Laura Bancroft. Looking at the illustrations in this book, it is clear that Enright continued to depict some of the same subjects and themes throughout her career. The image featured here from Twinkle’s Enchantment, also set in a garden with anthropomorphic objects, bears remarkable similarity to her 1919 propaganda poster.

It makes sense that Enright’s whimsical imagery, which had already captured the attention of children in one venue, would be equally influential in another. Enright’s War Gardens poster was widely-distributed and encouraged American citizens, schoolchildren in particular, to take practical action by planting gardens, canning vegetables, and reducing unnecessary food spending during the war.

The poster in this post is part of our War Posters Collection (War Posters Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the book is part of the book collection in our L. Frank Baum Papers (L. Frank Baum Papers,  Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

Additional Source

Calvin, P. E., & Deacon, D. A. (2011). American women artists in wartime, 1776-2010. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. 78.


2019 Brodsky Workshop: Textiles in the Archives

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

When Deborah Lee Trupin pulled out a vacuum cleaner to demonstrate a common curatorial method of cleaning textiles, it became apparent that we were not in a standard conservation workshop. This demonstration was part of SCRC’s Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation, an endowed program held annually at Syracuse University, beginning in 2004. This year, the workshop and lecture series took place on Thursday, April 11, 2019 and highlighted the field of textile conservation.

Deborah Lee Trupin began the workshop with a series of slideshow images, documenting various projects she had tackled during her 35-year career in textile conservation. She discussed work she had done independently, as the principal of Trupin Conservation Services, as well as projects she had taken on for other organizations, including the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites (Peebles Island) and Waterford, NY. Later in the day, she would cover more fully some of her work in treating and restoring historic flags at the Bureau of Historic Sites during her talk, titled A Tale of Two Flags: How History of Treatment and Ownership Affected Conservation Treatment of Two Early Nineteenth-Century American Flags. 

Deborah Lee Trupin began the workshop with a series of slideshow images, documenting various projects she had tackled during her 35-year career in textile conservation. She discussed work she had done independently, as the principal of Trupin Conservation Services, as well as projects she had taken on for other organizations, including the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites (Peebles Island) and Waterford, NY. Later in the day, she would cover more fully some of her work in treating and restoring historic flags at the Bureau of Historic Sites during her talk, titled A Tale of Two Flags: How History of Treatment and Ownership Affected Conservation Treatment of Two Early Nineteenth-Century American Flags.

Deborah then divided the workshop participants into pairs and we went to work examining and describing the condition and potential treatment and storage solutions for materials in SCRC’s collections. While textiles are not a main area of focus for SCRC’s collections, it was surprising to see the breadth of examples that belonged to the collections once laid out on tables. For the workshop, a main area of focus was University Archives materials.

Workshop participants assessed Syracuse memorabilia, including baseball uniforms, pennants, and Ernie Davis’ jersey. An Otto the Orange costume even made an appearance in the room.

Trupin wrapped up the workshop by showing the group some basic conservation techniques for some of the materials we had just discussed. One of these techniques, as previously mentioned, was using a specialty conservation vacuum cleaner to gently remove dirt and other debris from textiles. Trupin also demonstrated a better storage method for a large felt Syracuse University banner. The banner had been folded in a box for years and there were visible crease lines on the object.

Trupin showed the group how to roll the banner around a large wooden dowel, which would prevent crease lines from forming. She carefully placed acid-free tissue paper in between each layer and made sure that the banner’s fringe remained flat and unfolded.

The Brodsky workshop this year helped illuminate some key differences between archival documents and textiles. In working with archival documents, context is always a key consideration: “Who wrote this letter? Why did they write it? When was it written?” For many objects in our collections, these considerations of context boil down to a specific moment in time: the key moment of creation and interaction with the creator. The same is not often true for textiles. The cheerleader’s sweater, the baseball player’s uniform, the pennant — these pieces were regularly worn and used by SU students and were part of the wearer’s daily life in a tangible, measurable way.

The Brodsky workshop this year helped set us on a clearer path to maintaining the integrity of these materials through better textile conservation practices. With any luck, our textiles will continue to maintain their integrity for years to come.

What we learned:

  1. Watch out for bugs! As with rare books and manuscript materials, make sure that garments stay protected from pests. Moths and beetles are pests to watch out for, since they feed on keratin found in wool and other textiles.
  2. Take care when washing. Be careful when washing textiles. Some fabrics do not react well to laundering, even if you are just using soap and water, and can cause more damage than good. It is best to consult with a professional before washing rare materials.
  3. Do not fold. The best way to store textiles is in a way that maintains the integrity of the original piece. There are differing schools of thought on what this practically looks like in an archive. Sometimes conservators store materials flat in boxes, hang clothing from foam-packed hangers, or roll flat materials like banners around wooden dowels.
  4. Show your age. Sometimes, it is better to retain the stains and signs of wear on a garment. In certain cases, as with our Ernie Davis jersey, it can be more valuable to preserve the evidence of historic use than to attempt to scrub it clean.

The Syracuse banner, cheerleader sweater, and baseball uniform that feature in the images in this post are part of our Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection (Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).