Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were published in two different editions with two sets of illustrations? The earliest editions were illustrated by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle. Later, in 1947, Garth Williams was commissioned to create new illustrations for all eight books. When I first read the books as a kid in the 1970s, it was the “Uniform Edition” of 1953 with the Garth Williams illustrations that I owned and loved. His simple pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings brought the stories to life and are still the images that come to my mind when I try to envision Laura Ingalls and her family and their life on the prairie. Laura herself remarked upon seeing the illustrations for the first time, “Mary, Laura and the folks live again in these illustrations.” Indeed, it is hard for me to separate the illustrations from the stories, so engraved are they upon my mind.
When I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet, South Dakota on our family’s drive across seven states back in 2008, I wrote this:
From what I observed, neither the LIWMS nor the Ingalls Homestead has on display any first edition books or letters written by Laura. The antiquarian bookseller in me thinks that is a shame, because a display of something written in Wilder’s own hand would make a lovely addition to the exhibits. So would a display of Helen Sewell’s or Garth Williams’ illustrations.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks that the Society would serve Laura fans and scholars well if it had some of these primary source materials. Last week, I received an exciting email from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. They have learned that many Garth Williams illustrations of Wilder’s books are going to be offered at auction and would like to acquire some of the illustrations from each book. You can read a little about the Society and their goal here. Here’s the email I received:
Dear Friends of the Society,
It’s no secret that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books captured a part of our country’s history and earned fans from around the world.
As a friend of the Society, I hope you’ll be as excited as I am to learn the original illustrations used in the Little House books are coming up for auction. Until 2010 all of the original illustrations had been in the hands of Garth Williams family and his estate.
At this time the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has the unique opportunity to purchase the original illustrations by Garth Williams. It is the goal of the Society to purchase at least one illustration from each book, especially about her life spent in De Smet.
Our goal is to raise $30,000. We know you are as proud of De Smet as we are and would like the opportunity to be a part of purchasing the illustrations. We must count on you to make this possible!
I hope you’ll take a moment right now to consider joining us in bringing the illustrations home to De Smet. Click here to donate online.
In return, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in preserving the heritage of the Little Town on the Prairie, De Smet, South Dakota.
I can’t stress enough how much your support will mean to us!
P.S. Please make a donation today, we are counting on you and remember, your gift is tax deductible.
For more information about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society and this fundraising campaign click here.
“Bringing the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy to life today while preserving it for the future”
If you’d like to help the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in raising the funds needed to make a good bid for some of Williams’s illustrations, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.