Children’s Literature and Culture

Explore the golden age of children’s literature and chart the evolution from chapbooks to the ‘book beautifuls’ of the early twentieth century.

This digital resource showcases a broad range of richly illustrated primary source material which reveals the history and literature of childhood between the 1820s and 1920s. Rare books and unique works of art trace the development of children’s publishing from early mass-produced items through to the flourishing print culture that followed.

These documents chart how society evolved and how the perception of children within it changed over time.

Alongside the focus on America, this resource includes international publications and content from European publishers, enabling research across the globe. The diverse documents in the collection highlight how children’s literature crossed the Atlantic, taking renowned international writers and illustrators to an American audience.

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1820s - 1920s


  • Key titles from the McLoughlin Brothers Collection and from competing publishers
  • First and early editions of classic titles from authors such as Daniel Defoe, Lewis Carroll, Louisa May Alcott, and Hannah More
  • Original correspondence, drawings, sketches, and watercolours from the McLoughlin Art Archive
  • Lithographic images and proofs from the Louis Prang Chromolithography Collection
  • Toys and games, including board games, card games and booklets, paper dolls, and pop-up books
  • Accompanying images from the Winterthur Museum & Library’s Grossman Ephemera Collection, featuring advertisements, books, toys, and paper dolls

Source Archives

  • American Antiquarian Society
  • Winterthur Museum & Library

Material Types

  • Alphabet and object books
  • Pamphlets
  • Pop-up books
  • Printed books and chapbooks
  • Sheet music
  • Sketches, drawings, and paintings
  • Stereo photographs
  • Toys and games

Editorial Board

  • Laura Wasowicz, American Antiquarian Society
  • Robin Bernstein, Harvard University
  • Victoria Ford Smith, University of Connecticut
  • Matthew Grenby, Newcastle University
  • Lauren B. Hewes, American Antiquarian Society
  • Zoe Jaques, University of Cambridge


  • Animals
  • Death and illness
  • Ethnicity and race
  • Family life
  • Gender roles
  • Morality
  • Place
  • Play
  • Religion