Virtual Children's Books Exhibits


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Magic for Sale

Magic Lantern






9.  Premiums for Bee Soap Wrappers. Over 200 Articles. 1000 Books. Something for Old Folks, Young People, and Little Folks.
Palmer Cox, illustrator.
New York: Colgate & Co., c. 1892.

This little catalogue of premiums available from the Colgate Company is an early example of a corporation promoting its products with a tie-in to a popular work of children's literature. During the 1890s, the Brownie books of Palmer Cox (1840-1924) were the equivalent of J. R. Rowling's Harry Potter series, igniting a fire storm of commercial spin-offs, of which the Brownie camera is the best known.

Here one of Cox's Brownies in an academic robe and a mortar board (possibly an allusion to scientific showmen) lectures to his fellow elves about the virtues of Bee Soap. In the lower left hand corner, a Brownie inserts a slide into a magic lantern which is the same model being offered as a premium for 250 black bees clipped from Bee Soap wrappers. One could be obtained for only 55 black bees and 78-cents' worth of postage stamps, but that still must have been a lot of soap for Mother to buy!