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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Celebrating the New Year with Babies' Books

Dorothy Warren as a baby in the arms of her nurse
Traditionally the start of a new year is symbolized by a cute baby in diapers, top hat and a sash. So, this seems to be an opportune time for a blog post about babies' books: the commercially produced scrapbooks in which happy parents can record the details of their child's birth and early months of development. These often artfully illustrated scrapbooks record information like babies' weight and length at birth, the dates of milestone events such as their first tooth, and often include mementos like locks of  hair, baby's first shoes, and of course lots of photographs.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library in New York City recently added to its collection a couple of babies' books with a special connection to the Museum. The baby featured in both books was Miss Dorothy Warren, a fifth generation New Yorker born on 29 September 1905 to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Clarke Warren of South Lexington Avenue. The Warrens lived in the vicinity of Andrew Carnegie's East Side mansion (built in 1903) which would later became the building housing the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and Dorothy attended Spence School, located next door to the mansion. Little Dorothy's baby books include some darling photographs and details about the neighborhood, as well as sentimental items like valentines, greeting cards, and a pair of her dainty silk gloves.

Illustration by Maud Humphrey for Baby's Record
Miss Dorothy Warren grew up to become an artist, photographer and author who served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II, and worked for several philanthropic organizations in New York City. She lived to the grand old age of 103, passing away on 21 January 2008. In particular, her New York Times death notice states, "She was active ... in the preservation of the Decorative Arts Collections which form the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design."

One of these scrapbooks, Baby's Record, published in New York by Frederick A. Stokes Co. and copyrighted 1898, is illustrated by Maud Humphrey (1868-1940), a highly successful commercial artist whose portraits of adorable babies and little children were sometimes modeled on her son, later known as the movie actor Humphrey Bogart.

Although the Smithsonian Libraries does not routinely collect babies' books (Miss Warren's connection with the Cooper-Hewitt making this a special case), the University of California at Los Angeles Biomedical Library’s History and Special Collections has more than 600 specimens and is still actively collecting them, since these books contain information with lots of potential interest for medical and social historians.

Humphrey, Maud. Baby's Record, with twelve illustrations in colour and thirty illustrations in black & white. New York : Frederick A. Stokes Co., publishers, c1898. With handwritten annotations, mounted photographs, and ephemera for Miss Dorothy Warren. Call number: HQ779 .H86 1898 CHMRB

Taylor, Ida Scott. Baby's Book, by Ida Scott Taylor and selections from Tennyson, George MacDonald, etc., illustrated by Frances Brundage. London : Raphael Tuck & Sons, [1902?]. With handwritten annotations and mounted photographs for Miss Dorothy Warren. Call number: HQ779 .T39 1902 CHMRB

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger
Smithsonian Libraries

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