Palmer Cox was born in Quebec, Canada, but his career is primarily associated with the United States. He began life working for the railroad, but then decided to become an illustrator and studied drawing in San Francisco. He is best known as a children's writer and illustrator, creating the famous Brownie characters. The Cox Brownie stories appeared in the famous St. Nicholas Magazine and the Ladies Home Journal. His his series of funny verse cartoons about the mischievous, but kind-hearted Brownies proved enormously popular. The Brownie stories are meant for younger children to introduce nooks to them. They are meant to be read aloud. Thus they are great for both teachers as well as parents reading stories at bed time. Many American children webt to sleep with these warmheated, but fun creatures in their heads. There are many characters in each Cox Brownie picture. The children have fun follow the adventures of their favorite Brownies. The Brownies are today virtually unknown to modern children and their parents. They were, however enormously important to earlier generations grom the 1880s into the 1930s. Cox's importance is more related to his genius in advertising and marketing.
Palmer Cox's parents were Michael Cox and Sarah Miller. His father Michael came from the County of Letrim in Ireland. His mother was Scottish. [Cox]
Palmer was born in Granby, Quebec, a Scottish settlement (1840). His career is primarily associated with the United States. His mother recounted many traditional highland Scottish stories which enchanted him as a little boy. They would prove to be the foundation of his famous Brownie stories.
Many Canadians left their country to pursue the greater opportunities offered in the United States. There is a long list of Canadian born Americans who have made major contributions. Cox may have been the first to have lead this exodus. As soon as he finished school, he headed for the United States (late-1850s). Cox began working as first a carpenter and then a car builder. He went to Panama as a railroad contractor. From there he went on to San Francisco (1863). He spent more than a decade in San Francisco. His first job in San Francisco was building a railway car. He joined the local militia and became an American citizen.
Cox decided to become an illustrator and began studing drawing part time while still in San Francisco (1874). He was an immediate success. Cox seens to have had an inate ability as an illustrator. While still stufying, he published a book as a subscription series (1874). He also began to contribute illustrated stories to publications like Golden Era and Alta California. He then moved to New York. He lived at Pine View House, East Quogue, Long Island). After his Brownie characters made a hit, he began calling his his art studio Brownieland.
Cox is best known as a children's writer and illustrator, creating the famous Brownie characters.
AQfter working for a few years in New York, Cox decided to switch his focus to the children's market (1879). His engraver suggested the idea. At the time, art work had to be engraved to be published. He soon created the Brownies characters and stories that would make him so famous.
He began by drawing animals and added humerous verses. They were used in children's books and magazines and advertisements. His big break came when St Nicholas introduced his mewest character--the Brownies (1883). St. Nicholas was an imensily popular childrem's magazine. The magazine was at the time only 4 years old, but had alreasy bdecome the most popular children;s magazine in thd country. In an age before radio, TV, and the movies, let alone the internet, it had a huge impact. This first story was titled, "The Brownies' Ride". It set the format for all the later Brownie stories. The Brownies borrow a horse to go for a fun ride. They return it unharmed before sunrise to the farmer. Children were enchanted. Cox for the mext 30 years churned out one Brownie story after another. The Brownies were a huge success, creating a rage for his work. This made him the first American author who created a rage. The characters were based on the mythological brownie. Cox's unique take was to dress the brownies in a variety of interesting costumes and place them in interesting situations. The costumes included national dress and various professions. His stories and verse were set around the helpful activities he attributed to them. The Cox Brownie stories appeared in the books and magazines. His his series of funny verse cartoons about the mischievous, but kind-hearted Brownies proved enormously popular. St Nicholas proved to be the perfect vehiche for Cox, nut he published in other magazines like Ladies Home Journal. He also published Brownie books. Cox wrote thirteen Brownies books. The first nook was Brownies - Their Book (1887). The Brownie stories are meant for younger children to introduce nooks to them. They are meant to be read aloud. Thus they are great for both teachers as well as parents reading stories at bed time. Many American children webt to sleep with these warmheated, but fun creatures in their heads. There are many characters in each Cox Brownie picture. The children have fun follow the adventures of their favorite Brownies. The Brownies are today virtually unknown to modern children and their parents. They were, however enormously important to earlier generations grom the 1880s into the 1930s.
As is the American tradition, popular books eventually appeared on the stage. A musical extravaganza proved very popular (1894-98). Cox advised on costumes, and sets. It was performed in major American and Canadian cities.
Children of course love to dress up and soon after the Bronies appeared wanted Brownie costumes. Some mothers made the costumes. We note Brownie costumes in the early-20th century. We are not sure when the first commercial versions appeared. We even see adult costumes for fancy parties.
Cox was not only a talented illustrator and writer, but proved to be a marketing genius as well. Cox's brownie character were popular in America for 30 years. Cox's importance is related to his genius in advertising and marketing. The characters are notable not only for their popularity, but because they were the first characters to be copyrighted and licensed for advertising. They were also used to sell a range of merchandise including Ivory Soap, Lion Coffee, and the Brownie Camera. Cox found a variety of ways to make money out of his Brownie characters. Cox is apparently the first individual to licensing his creative work (1885). His then used characters for dolls (1890), toys (1891) and games (1892). The characters where first used to sell brand products. Ivory Soap was the first company to use use an author's characters in an advertisement. The National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) marketed Brownie biscuits even before their popular animal crackers. He was the first North American author to write a successful musical based on his characters. And of course he is the grandfather of the comics. Brownie standing paper dolls were used as a premium in packages of Lion Coffee. There were 25 different Brownie folls used for these premiuss. They proved so popular with little girls that other coffee brands began putting unlicensed paper dolls in their coffee. At the time, copyright laws were still weak and not strictly enforced. Thus Cox's Brownies were often imitated. This probably occurred more than actual licencing deals. Unlicensed products included: Brownie soda, maple syrup, and ice cream. A Brownie figure carpet was made (mid-1890s). Cox attempted to protect his work from being exploited by others. He would be the first American author/illustrator to try to protect his characters from commercial exploitation by others.
Cox returned to his birthplace Granby in his later years. He began dividing his time between Granby in the summer and Long Island, New York in the Winter. After several years of building, he finally completed his famous "Scottish castle" in Granby, His Castle is still standing, complete with Brownie weather vane ans a Brownie flag. He died in 1924 and is buried in Granby.
Cox, Alan. E-mail message, December 28, 2010.
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