Katharine Pyle papers

A Finding Aid to the Katharine Pyle Papers

Helen Farr Sloan Library, Delaware Art Museum

Wilmington, Delaware


Accessioned: Purchased from Oak Knoll Books, 1996
Extent: 2 linear ft.
Access: Unrestricted
Processed: Harriet Memeger, 1996; Sarena Deglin, 2002
Contact Information:

Helen Farr Sloan Library
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE 19806


Biography of Katharine Pyle
Scope and Contents Note
Organization of the papers
Description of the papers

BIOGRAPHY OF KATHARINE PYLEBorn in Wilmington, the youngest child of the Pyle family, Katharine Pyle was encouraged by her brother, Howard, to pursue a career in writing and illustration. While still a child, her poem “The Piping Shepherd” was published in Atlantic Monthly. Howard Pyle asked her to contribute drawings and verses to his book The Wonder Clock, published in 1888.

Katharine Pyle studied art at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and in her brother’s illustration class at Drexel Institute. Two of her drawings were exhibited in the first exhibition of Pyle’s School of Illustration at Drexel in 1897. While living in New York for four years, she wrote a play published by Ladies’ Home Journal in 1896 and the book The Counterpane Fairy, published in 1898. During her career she wrote and illustrated about thirty books and illustrated a number of books by other authors, including Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty in 1923. In 1924 her serialized article “The Story of Delaware” appeared in the Wilmington newspaper, the Sunday Morning Star.

Many of her stories were drawn from fairy tales, ancient myths, nursery rhymes, and stories about animals. In 1900 a series of poems about young children by Katharine Pyle, illustrated by Sarah S. Stilwell, appeared in Harper’s Bazaar. In 1902 she and Bertha Corson Day, a friend at Drexel, collaborated on a book of fairy tales, Where the Wind Blows; Katharine Pyle provided the text and Bertha Day the pictures.

In 1923 the editor of Child Life magazine expressed concern about two fairy tales that Katharine had submitted for publication. The editorial policy was to keep out “the horror element and the adult experience from Child Life stories as much as possible.” Katharine argued that in traditional fairy tales evil always defeated itself and that in the end good always triumphed. However, the Child Life editor argued that “lurid picturization of the hideousness of evil is usually more impressed upon the child than is the great truth that good finally triumphs.” However, she continued to re-tell and illustrate fairy tales and stories from Greek and Norse mythologies throughout her career.

Katharine Pyle was an intense, public-spirited person who pressed for change in the field of social reforms. Her deep concern for troubled young people led to her involvement in the Juvenile Court of Wilmington. AS a champion of the underdog, she was responsive to anyone in need, often at her own expense. Her niece Ellen Pyle Lawrence has described her as “a brilliant and vital individual and a woman well ahead of her time.” Though raised in a Quaker faith, she, like her brother, became an active member of the Swedenborgian Church.

Pyle relatives fondly recall her curious distinction of having one blue and one brown eye.

By Elizabeth H. Hawkes


Taken from Elzea, Rowland and Elizabeth H. Hawkes, eds. A Small School of Art: The Students of Howard Pyle. Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1980.

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This collection contains 20 books, 28 original manuscripts (mostly handwritten with a couple of typescripts), 4 photographs (3 portraits, one work of art), 8 pieces of correspondence addressed to Pyle, and 4 pieces of original artwork.

A large and unique collection including a large number of Katharine Pyle’s handwritten stories. Many of the manuscripts relate to her book Tales From Norse Mythology (Lippincott, 1930) and are annotated and bear revisions. The photographs include two large attributed portraits, one photograph of a work of art, and one image of Pyle in her studio. The original works of art include a hand drawn illustration for Black Beauty (Dodd, Mead, 1923, plate facing p. 238), and three other similarly drawn illustrations for other unidentified books. One of these depicting mice is damaged. In all this is a large and interesting collection. Also included are twenty books either written or illustrated (sometimes both) by Katharine Pyle over the period 1898 to 1932. Two of the books are signed by the author.

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Series I. Correspondence
Series II. Illustration
Series III. Manuscripts, Books, Tales from Norse Mythology
Series IV. Manuscripts, Poetry
Series V. Manuscripts, Stories
Series VI. Photographs
Series VII. Miscellaneous

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Series I. Correspondence

Folder Contents
1 Miscellaneous
2 Miscellaneous
3 Miscellaneous, 11 items

Series II. Illustration

Folder Contents
4 Magazine St. Nicholas, 1902, p. 880
St. Nicholas, 1905, January pp. 238-9
5 Book “The Giant Ymer is Cast Into Ginnungagap”
“Loki clips away Sif’s golden hair”
“Frey Mounts the Height of Hlidskialf”

Series III. Manuscripts, Books, Tales from Norse Mythology

Folder Contents
6 Index & “Thor the Thunderer”, 3 items
7 Chapter 1 “In the Beginning”, 3 items
8 Chapter 2 “How the World Was Made”, 5 items
9 Chapter 3 “Sun, Moon Stars and Day and Night”, 7 items
10 Chapter 4 “Sif’s Golden Hair”, 16 items
11 Chapter 5 “How a Wall Was Built Around Asgard”, 10 items
12 Chapter 6 “How the Gods Made War and Peace With One Another”, 6 items
13 Chapter 7 “Frey Wins a Hide and Loses a Sword”, 14 items
14 Chapter 8 “Skadi Chooses a Husband for Herself”, 8 items
15 Chapter 11 “The Story of Brisingamen” (How Freva Won a Necklace for Herself), 9 items
16 Chapter 12 “Loki Tries to Steal a Necklace”, 5 items
17 Chapter 13 “The Binding of the Fenris-Wolf” (How the Fenris Wolf Was Bound), 8 items
18 Chapter 14 “Freya’s Gift”, 6 items
19 Chapter 17 “Thor Brings a Kettle from Jotunheim”, 11 items
20 Chapter 18 “How Odin Brought the Magic Mead to Asgard” (How the Magic Mead Was Brought to Asgard), 15 items
21 Chapter 19 “Thor Loses and Finds His Hammer”, 11 items
22 Chapter 20 “Thor Visits Jotunheim” (How Thor Visited Jotunheim), 36 items
23 Chapter 21 “The Battles with Hrungnir”, 14 items
24 Chapter 23 ” The One Who Would Not Weep” (One There was Who Did Not Weep for Balder), 8 items
25 Chapter 24 “The Punishment of Loki”, 7 items

Series IV. Manuscripts, Poetry

Folder Contents
26 Virgin’s Cradle Song, 4 leaves=1 item
27 Miscellaneous, 20 items

Series V. Manuscripts, Stories

Folder Contents
28 “The Bees’ Wedding”, 15 items
29 “Curious Losts & Founds”, 12 items
30 “Johnny & Janey”, 11 items
31 “The Story of Heracles”, 23 items
32 “Uncle Pie’s Hair”, 10 items
33 “Well Known Superstitions”, 8 items

Series VI. Photographs

Folder Contents
34 4 items

Series VII. Miscellaneous

Folder Contents
35 Miscellaneous
36 Watteau Dairymaids: A Pastoral Interlude by Katharine West, 33 items

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