Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1875-1961)
—The graduating class of the Lansingburgh academy will be composed of the following: Miss Caro Bailey, Miss Anna A. Gill, Miss Frances GIllespie, Miss Jeanette Graham, Miss Sarah N. Graham, Miss Isabella D. Hume, Miss Bessie B. Rogers, Miss Blandina Peck and Howard A. M. Briggs, of Lansingburgh
“Lansingburgh.” Troy Daily Times. March 29, 1893: 2 col 5.
The graduating class of the Lansingburgh academy celebrated class-day at the academy yesterday afternoon. There was a large attendance, and the exercises were of the usual high standard. The young ladies’ school-room, in which the exercises were held, was prettily decorated with large flags, flowers and potted plants. The program included interesting remarks by Principal C. T. R. Smith; class oration, Howard M. Briggs; address to the class of ’94, Ernest J. Cory; response, Thomas W. Salmon; class chronicle, Jeanette F. Graham; class prophecies, Miss Blandina M. Peck and Miss Bessie B. Rogers; singing of the class song, composed by Miss Caro S. Bailey. The exercises concluded with the planting of the class ivy in the school yard, the ivy oration being delivered by Elmer S. Morris. The singing of college songs during the exercises contributed to the enjoyment. The members of the class not taking part yesterday are Miss Frances B. Gillespy, Miss Sarah N. Graham, Miss Isabella D. Hume, Miss Anna A. Gill, Miss Helen L. Warner, Miss Caro S. Bailey, Charles H. Brown and Charles K. Moulton. For the speakers at commencement the class has chosen Misses Gillespy, Hume, Bailey and Sarah N. Graham, and Messrs. Briggs and Cory.
“Lansingburgh.” Troy Daily Times. May 20, 1893: 2 col 3.
No better manifestation of the admiration which the Lansingburgh academy enjoys could be had than the large audience which filled Millis Memorial church, Lansingburgh, last evening on the occasion of the commencement exercises of the class of ’93. […]
Seated on the platform were […] Miss Caro Sherwin Bailey. […] Four members were selected by the class and two were appointed by Principal Smith as the essayists for the evening, one being afterward excused. […]
The last essay was by Miss Caro S. Bailey and entitled “Behind the Scenes.” The essay was one of the best of the evening. It abounded in poetic fancy and displayed marked creative ability. The essayist expressed her thoughts in charming language. […]
During the year regents’ credentials have been won as follows: […] Sixty-count diplomas, […]Caro S. Bailey
Troy Daily Times. June 23, 1893: 2 col 6.
—Miss Caro Bailey will leave Thursday to enter the teachers’ college in New York.
Troy Daily Times. September 18, 1894: 3 col 5.
Among the students at the Teachers’ college are Miss Bessie Pine, Miss Jeannette Gillespy, Miss Frances Gillespy and Miss Caro Bailey, all of whom reside in Lansingburgh.
“Lansingburgh.” Troy Daily Times. December 10, 1894: 2 col 4.
That well known artist, Peter Newell, has drawn some pictures of the well known other Goose episodes that give them a new humor and vitality. They will illustrate the clever book by Miss Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, a new author, who has written of the very quaint adventures of a little girl among the characters of Goose Land, introducing these well tried favorites and about a hundred of their familiar rhymes. Mesrs. Henry Holt and Company will issue the book before the close of the month.
“Our Daily Bulletin; Brief Interesting Notes of What is Moving in the Book-World.” Buffalo Commercial. October 17, 1905: 10 col 1.
By RONALD BIRNBACK
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, whose books and stories have delighted four generations of children, recalls her own childhood in Lansingburgh as “the most impressionable years of my life.”
The award-winning juvenile author, entering her 80th year of writing this week, lived in “Leafy Lansingburgh” from age 8 to 18, the years in which her girlish imagination blossomed into some of the wittiest and most charming tales ever to appear in children’s fantasyland.
Today, Miss Bailey is Mrs. Eben Clayton Hill in private life and she lives most of the year at her estate, “Hillcrest,” in Temple N. H., overlooking 600 acres of apple orchards and rolling hills.
But distances of time and space have not dimmed her fond memories of Lansingburgh—bob-sledding on ice, Mag Orr’s notions shoppe, the legend of Diamond Rock and school days at Lansingburgh Academy.
“We rode bob-sleds perilously between flares on the streets, which sloped from the hills to the river,” she notes in an autobiography written for The Record Newspapers. “The thrill of venturing out on the ice between red flags was spine-chilling but we could always look forward to camp fires and coffee on shore.
“And how could I forget Mag Orr’s shoppe on 5th avenue where I spent my weekly ten-cent allowance! We could get spices, gingham and candies from all over the world but most of us preferred to listen to gossip. Whenever you wanted to know something the word was ‘Ask Mag Orr.’”
The memories of youth, gaiety and growing up in a river town not only ring clear to the 81-year-old author but they have formed backgrounds and themes for many of the more than 40 books and hundreds of stories she has written.
“The legend of Diamond Rock,” she recalls so vividly, “was that an Indian maiden mourned on a hill above the Hudson for her lover away in the wars. He never returned and her tears crystallized into diamonds.
“We used to go up to Diamond Rock looking for these tiny quartz crystals, munching apples and chestnuts along the way, and ending the trip with a panoramic view of Lansingburgh lying in peace and beauty.
“I suffered in my first school-days,” says the author who was educated at home by her mother for her first 12 years. “I cowered in a corner of the playground that first day, freer spirits ridiculing my yellow curls. So many children, with such wild, free ways!”
Miss Bailey finished her grade schooling in two years, then entered the Academy, where she had her first love affair—almost. “Mr. Cowan, an English teacher, asked to see me home one star-filled night but my grandfather met us at the gate with a lantern. It just seemed to extinguish my first hint of romance.”
The author considers herself a product of New England tradition but her family background is set in the Troy Area. Her mother, Emma Blanchard Bailey, once taught canal drivers in Whitehall how to read and write. She later married Charles Henry Bailey in Hoosick Falls where Carolyn was born on Oct. 23, 1875.
Her father was a widely-traveled scientist who had established the first blast steel furnace in Peru. He moved with his family from Auburn to Troy to become superintendent of a steel mill here.
The family lived for a short time near the intersection of Glen and 6th avenues, and then moved in a brown wood house at the corner of 5th avenue and 117th street in Lansingburgh which the author describes as having “a backyard full of fruit trees and gardens.”
Miss Bailey’s first story, which she dictated to her mother at age 5, was about a mother and son who were twins and caught a lot of fish together. It won a $25 second prize in a contest sponsored by a New York book publisher and it launched the author on her fabulous career.
Those days when Miss Bailey was a little blonde-haired girl nicknamed Caro are well remembered by her childhood friend, Sylvia Hoag, now Mrs. Harry W. Fielding of 97 College Ave.
“I still recall some of the clever poems and stories that Caro wrote,” says Mrs. Fielding who hasn’t seen Caro in more than 75 years. “We used to attend Saturday afternoon sewing classes together at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church near our homes on 6th Avenue.”
And Lansingburgh was also the birthplace of “Miss Hickory.”
Somehow this nut-and-twig spinster doll has always been linked with her creator, and her story, finally written in 1946, is regarded as Miss Bailey’s crowning literary achievement. “Miss Hickory” was (and still is) a juvenile best seller and it earned the Newberry Award for the most distinguished children’s book written in the United States during 1946.
“’Miss Hickory’ grew up under a lilac tree behind our 5th avenue house,” she recalls. “My grandmother made her for me but I forgot about her until early 1946.”
And then the author quips, “But she forgave me because I wrote a very imaginative story about her. We’ve been the best of friends ever since.”
After graduating from Lansingburgh Academy Miss Bailey attended Teachers College of Columbia University, the Montessori School in Rome and the New York School of Social Work.
Following several years of teaching and social work she became an editor, first on “Delineator” and then on “American Childhood.” In 1906 she edited a book of children’s stories entitled “For The Children’s Hour” which changed the course of her writing career.
“I found that to be successful over a long period of time a child’s story has to have child interest; it has to fit into his year of holidays, stimulate his imagination and emotions. It must be human and akin to the child’s life.
Obviously this formula paid off from the start because “For The Children’s Hour” sold more than a half million copies and it has been in continuous print for more than 50 years.
“Miss Hickory” was presented the Newberry Award on July 2, 1947 by the American Library Assn, at its annual convention in San Francisco.
In her acceptance speech Miss Bailey said, “A child’s imagination is a place of refuge all his life, a guidebook to reality. The children’s country is untouched by our adult roads; we may only chart it for them.”
“Miss Hickory” has come a long way from her birthplace in Lansingburgh, adding such friends as the mysterious cat, T. Willard Brown, and such enemies as the squirrel who finally bit of her head. But today she lives intact in Nutley, N. J., with Miss Bailey’s sister, Marian, now Mrs. Eugene Gregory Toy, a well known engineering designer.
Even more “Miss Hickory” lives in the hearts of millions of children who both love and hate her. She’s the star of 150,000 books which have circulated everywhere—even in Japan where she is billed as “The Honorable Nut.”
Her schooldays at Lansingburgh Academy are described in a chapter in one of Miss Bailey’s more recent books, “Enchanted Village,” which describes many school experiences. “A Candle For Your Cake” tells birthday stories of famous men and women in their childhood, including President Eisenhower.
And who can forget that lovable traveling alley cat, Finnie, who romps through “Finnegan II: His Nine Lives!” The lucky feline not only ended up with a tenth life but he was also a choice of the Junior Literary Guild.
Although Miss Bailey is a master of fantasy writing, her unique accomplishment has been to write fascinating stories about heroes and heroines in American history. She has shown that history can be made living, real and exciting, as, for example, in a series of four books on pioneer arts and crafts in early America.
“Children of the Handicrafts,” a Junior Literary Guild choice, tells true stories of boys and girls who had a share in the development of the handcrafts which helped to build America. “Tops and Whistles” relates 17 stories about old American toys.
This series also includes “Homespun Playdays” and “Pioneer Art in America,” also a Guild choice — making three such distinctions for the author.
Miss Bailey’s most recent book is “Little Red School House” published in 1957 but she hopes in write another book in the near future. “I don’t know what it’ll be yet,” she says. “Maybe one of my readers will suggest it.”
Her readers have written her thousands of letters and in her autobiography she fondly recalls those which several classes from Troy schools sent her after “Mis Hickory” was published. She likes to meet her young fans in person and delights is giving them apples from her orchards.
Miss Bailey’s writings may deal with fantasy but her personality is very real; she generates an intimate and warm feeling — that of a lifelong friends—the first time one speaks with her or receives one of her letters.
Her books have been published in a dozen languages and in almost every country except the Soviet Union where they have been banned for being too idealistic!
Miss Bailey was married to Dr. Eben Clayton Hill, a radiologist at Johns Hopkins University, in 1936, and until his death in 1940 they spent every summer discovering “Hillcrest.” There was plenty to discover because the house boasts of three hidden fireplaces, a secret staircase and even a ghost who mysteriously opens doors.
The author still lives there most of the year, spending her winter in New York City, but this year she is staying with friends in Peterborough, N. H.
Her last appearance in this area was in 1948 at a Junior League party co-sponsored by the Troy Public Library, but she hopes to return again one day.
“There’s a special place in my heart for Lansingburgh because of the unforgettable influence it had upon me,” Carolyn Sherwin Bailey remarks. “I’m sure it has a memorable place in every child’s heart, one that he will treasure through his life.”
Troy Record. November 26, 1959: 44, 46.
“Guide to the Carolyn Sherwin Bailey Non-Book Materials.” Hilton Buley Library, Southern Connecticut State University. http://library.wcsu.edu/cao/scsu/bailey.xml
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey Hill (1875-1961)
East Cemetery, Temple, New Hampshire