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Elizabeth Olds papers


This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection
Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991
Elizabeth Olds papers
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
3.36 Linear feet
This collection consists of preliminary artwork, dummies, mechanicals, wood blocks, and proofs for the books Little Una (1963) and  Plop, Plop, Ploppie (1962) by children's author and illustrator Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991). There is also a screen print of  Three Alarm Fire, which was the basis for the book  The Big Fire (1945).
Cite as:
[Description and date of item], [Box and folder number], Elizabeth Olds papers, 1945-1963, Free Library of Philadelphia, Children’s Literature Research Collection.
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Elizabeth Olds was born on December 10, 1896 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Art Students League of New York. She also studied painting in Europe and was the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim fellowship in 1926. She was well-known as a painter and printmaker, and worked in the graphic division of the Federal Art Project in New York from 1935 to 1939. She was encouraged by a colleague to write and illustrate her first children's book, The Big Fire (1945), based on the print  Three Alarm Fire. The illustrations from  The Big Fire were featured in an exhibition of children’s book illustrations at The Museum of Modern Art. Several of her books were based on her travels, including  Riding the Rails (1948) about the railroad and  Feather Mountain (1951) about shore birds. She received a Caldecott Honor for  Feather Mountain in 1952,  Riding the Rails,  Deep Treasure (1958) and  Plop Plop Ploppie (1962) were all Junior Literary Guild selections. She died on March 4, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida.


Something About the Author, vol. 3, 66.

Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. 1st ed., s.v. “Olds, Elizabeth.”

Scope and Contents

This collection includes preliminary artwork, mechanicals, dummies, wood blocks, and proofs by Elizabeth Olds for the books Little Una (1963) and  Plop, Plop, Ploppie (1962).

The collection also contains a large screen print, Three Alarm Fire, which inspired her book  The Big Fire (1945).

Arrangement note

This collection is arranged alphabetically in three series: I. Little Una; II. Plop, Plop, Ploppie; and III. Three Alarm Fire.

Within each series, items are arranged in order of probable creation.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Lindsay Friedman


The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Curator for information on access.

Use Restrictions

The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints, or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material. The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material. A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.

Some of the materials in this collection may be too fragile for use without the Curator’s supervision.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Elizabeth Olds, 1969-1970.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

University of Minnesota: Elizabeth Olds Papers, 1945-1958, CLRC-62.

University of Southern Mississippi: Elizabeth Olds Papers, 1945-1963, DG0745.

University of Texas at Austin: Emmett L. Hudspeth Collection of Elizabeth Olds, 1921-1986, undated, G2506, G10589.

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Controlled Access Headings

  • Color proofs
  • Color separations
  • Dummies (printed matter)
  • Mechanicals (camera-ready copy)
  • Proofs (printed matter)
  • Screen prints
Personal Name(s)
  • Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991
  • Children's authors--20th century
  • Children's literature--20th century
  • Illustrated children's books--20th century
  • Illustration of books--20th century

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Collection Inventory

Little Una, 1963.

Box Folder

Earlier dummy, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and tempera on paper and tracing paper with text pasted in, 28 pages.

1 1

Later dummy, graphite, pen and ink, relief printing, and watercolor on acetate and paper with text pasted in, 32 pages.


Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 53 sheets.

2 1-13

Blueline proofs.

1 2

Complete set of mechanicals.





Corrected color proofs.





Plop, Plop, Ploppie, 1962.

Box Folder

Wood blocks of sea lions.

1 11
Preliminary art, collage of cut paper, graphite, pen and ink, and relief printing on tracing paper mounted to paper with text pasted in, 30 sheets.
Scope and Contents note

Complete set of preliminary artwork. Some pages include more than one version of the artwork.

2 14-37

Complete set of color separations, graphite, pen and ink, and relief print on tracing paper, 52 sheets.

2 38-54

Lettering for book jacket, title page, and half title page, collage of cut paper and pen and ink on tracing paper mounted to board.

2 55
Mechanicals, 5 sheets.
Scope and Contents note

Includes text for the book jacket and title page only.

1 12

Corrected color proofs.

1 13

Three Alarm Fire, screen print on paper, circa 1945.

General note

Housed with Children's Literature Research Collection original framed artwork.