Choosing a subject for my first blog post from among the holdings of the Toronto Public Library’s Osborne Collection has not been easy. By choosing Chatterbox, one of the earliest and longest running weekly-magazines for children, published from 1866-1948, I didn’t do a great job of selecting a single subject. Yet, it seemed appropriate because Mufei and I will also be publishing our posts weekly. We can only hope this blog will become as popular and be as long-lived as Chatterbox.
I did limit myself (out of necessity) to three years within the collection, chosen at random, from the Osborne Collection’s Chatterbox holdings: 1883, 1890, and 1899. Below is the title page that can be found at the beginning of each bound annual edition and an illustration from each of the three years. Each illustration relates to a story or information included in the issue and every one was beautifully full of detail.
Chatterbox was the second children’s magazine established by Rev. J. Erskine Clarke, a clergyman and author in England in the 19th century. The Children’s Prize (also available to view at the Osborne Collection) was his first publication which, like Chatterbox, was a response to the popularity of the penny dreadful—produced cheaply and regularly consumed by the growing working-class population in England at the time.
With the help of a wood engraver named Johnson and William Macintosh, a publisher in London, the first Chatterbox magazine was available to the public for a halfpenny on the 1st of December, 1866. Seventy years later it was being sold in bound annuals and on December 7th, 1936, Time Magazine wrote: “Most famed of British annuals is probably the children’s Chatterbox, which for well-brought-up English and American moppets has long been a Christmas staple.”
Clarke put an emphasis on illustrations and adventure stories, while providing interesting facts, puzzles, and, to a lesser extent, but nevertheless an important presence, moral instruction. Chatterbox was written to appeal to boys and girls at a time when most children’s magazines targeted schoolboys as their primary readers.
Chatterbox can be studied today for many reasons: historical ideas of masculinity, femininity, race and class identity, manners, morals, imperialism, heritage, etc., but I found the most difficult task for this post was choosing what I would share from the variety of illustrations and stories in each volume. The photos I have taken are not nearly as interesting as viewing the originals and I could only include a fraction of the number of illustrations that can be found at the Toronto Public Library’s Osborne Collection.
Photos from Chatterbox 1883, 1890, and 1899 at The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, Toronto Public Library:
1. The Chatterbox cover for many years. This photo was taken from the 1883 annual collection.
2. “We love the old steeple…” 1899, Issue # 8.
3. “The soldier’s little daughter” 1883, Issue # 21.
4. “Travellers on the Tigris” 1890, Issue # 6.
5. “The Stage Man” 1899, Issue # 5.
6. “The Accident” 1983, Issue # 47.
7. “A flight of arrows from their whalebone bows pierced her” 1883, Issue # 25.
8. “Sam Brown” 1883, Issue # 33.
9. “A day’s run after wild horses” 1890, Issue # 4.