EVERY CHILD – OR GROWN-UP collector of childhood objects – knows that play can offer a much-sought respite from everyday stress. Especially when that play features fanciful imaginative characters of good will, merriment, and companionship. There are storybook characters such as Max and Moritz, there are Kewpies, and there are comic strip characters.
But, first of all, there were the Brownies. Designed by Palmer Cox, Canadian-born in 1840, and early-on an immigrant to America, the young man settled on a career of writing and illustrating books after a stint working on the railroad. By 1882, his work centered more precisely on illustrations for children’s fables, and that year his first stories of a merry band of elves, the Brownies, were published in the children’s magazine, St. Nicholas.