Move over, Smurfs! Take a hike, Keebler Elves! Hit the road, California Raisins! The Brownies created by Palmer Cox are much higher on the cuteness scale, at least in my opinion. Created by Canadian artist Palmer Cox around the 1880's, the Brownies were a comical group of little elfin characters, all male, that depicted ethnic types such as a Chinese fellow or an Indian; various occupations such as a policeman, sailor, or jockey; and other little characters such as band-members and their instruments.
Here's Palmer Cox, looking like so many other gentlemen you find on cabinet cards of the era:
The story goes that Palmer Cox was inspired by his mother's Scottish fairy tales she told him as a child, full of fairies, goblins and other magical creatures. He began writing about his own little band of merry mischief makers, who would spring into action while mortals slept, often doing good deeds but sometimes getting themselves into trouble along the way.
One of many Brownie books:
Unbelievably cute! A lineup of Brownie figures:
Palmer Cox's Brownies appeared in humorous books with titles such as "The Brownies Abroad", "The Brownies in Fairyland" and even "The Brownies in the Philippines". They also appeared in comic strip form in magazines, most notably in the Ladies' Home Journal beginning in the 1880's, when their popularity grew and grew.
This Brownie, named the Volunteer, was made into a wooden toy:
Now you know how the Kodak Brownie Camera got its name:
Brownies were used for advertising purposes besides the popular Brownie Cameras. Palmer Cox was considered a pioneer in the area of licensed merchandise. The Brownies endorsed many products, and made Mr. Cox a fortune.
Hand painted Brownie salt and pepper shakers:
From my collection, a small plate:
Also from my collection, a cute little creamer:
And the back of the creamer, a charming Brownie motto:
The Brownies were so popular that one of their books sold over a million copies, which was unheard of at the time. There was even a stage play about the Brownies that ran for five years!
Although Palmer Cox moved to the United States for some time, living in both San Fransisco and New York, he built a 17 room mansion he named "Brownie Castle" in Grandby, Quebec, with the fortune he made from his illustrations. He lived till the ripe old age of 84, and even had a Brownie on his tombstone!
Keep your eyes open for Palmer Cox's Brownies. They pop up in the strangest places. Wouldn't you like to have a little Brownie or two in your life?