Gwen P. Reichert, President
Randolph Caldecott Society of America
TALK: ROTARY CLUB OF COASTAL ST. JOHNS COUNTY
7th. of April 2010, Amici Italian Restaurant
1915 A1A S Ste. B.
St. Augustine, Florida
RANDOLPH CALDECOTT GRAVE SITE & RANDOLPH CALDECOTT SOCIETY OF AMERICA (RCSA): ST. JOHNS COUNTY COMMUNITY ENHANCEMENTS
Thank you, Tom.
Good morning to everyone on another lovely Florida, Spring Day!
I especially want to thank the Rotary Leadership for providing other folks and organizations this platform for sharing their special areas of interest in our community with you and your members.
A community needs people who care about improving the quality of life in their area and two of those groups for our area would be ROTARY CLUB,
you folks, and the Randolph Caldecott Society such as my husband, Allan, and I represent here this today.
ROTARY is certainly acknowledged to be an international service organization, with the motto of “Service Above Self”. RCSA strives to be known as a cultural, artistic, society which creates a national, State, and St. Augustine Heritage awareness. Both organizations are an asset to our quality of life in St. Johns County, and both groups have signs located on the St. Augustine Community Organizations boards which are located on the four main highways entering St. Augustine.
Children and adults in England admired and loved him in the 19th. century and children and adults in England and America still admire and love him today. Of course, I am referring to the renowned British illustrator, artist, and sculptor, Randolph Caldecott.
I hope that most of you saw the excellent newspaper article, which appeared in THE RECORD on Monday, March 8, 2010, written by Marcia Lane and THE RECORD photograph, Peter Willott. It was exciting and fun to meet these two at Evergreen Cemetery to discuss Caldecott. Peter was born in Chester, Cheshire, England, the home town of Caldecott so, it was especially nice to be able to tell him about another Chester “native son”. If you did miss the article, we have a copy of the paper on our display board. It was such a nice honor for Caldecott and so well timed since March is Caldecott’s birth month and the month of the annual general meeting of the Caldecott Society.
I will give you a brief background on Caldecott and how he came to be so closely associated with St. Augustine and is honored annually by the American Library Association.
Caldecott was born on March 22, 1846 in Chester, Cheshire, England on the River Dee. As a boy he liked to sketch and crave in wood. At the age of fifteen he was sent to a nearby town, Whitchurch, in Shropshire, to work at a bank. He enjoyed the life of a country town; the meeting -of-hounds, steeplechases and the local markets. While he was working in the bank he was living in a county home just over the border in Wales. He used this house for his later illustration for THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. We have his illustration to share with you. (The only difference in the house as it appears here and as it is today is that the middle dormer has been removed. Allan and I visited this house in 1990 and were allowed to go into the attic to see where Caldecott drew the “rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built”.) A very fun experience for us!
All of these early rural scenes were stored in Caldecott’s memory and later, when illustrating books, he put many of them into his illustrations.
In 1867 Caldecott went to work at a larger bank in Manchester, which certainly offered him many more cultural experiences and encouragement for his drawing. It was here that people, seeing his sketches, took his artistic ability seriously. Friends encouraged him to study and develop his talents fully. He received a letter of introduction to a Manchester artist who had already moved to London and had become a well known artist, Thomas Armstrong.
Caldecott moved to London in 1872 so that he could spend all of his time drawing. His works were accepted by several newspapers, such as the London Graphic and London Society. With Thomas Armstrong serving as his mentor he was introduced into the artistic and publishing world of London and his career started to blossom. His illustrations for Washington Irving's’ OLD CHRISTMAS, published in 1876, were a great success and secured Caldecott’s place as a major illustrator in the publishing world.
In 1878 the first of his sixteen Picture Books, JOHN GILPIN, was published. It is an illustration from this book that was selected for the engraving on the front of the Caldecott Medal. It is through these outstanding Picture Book illustrations that we best know of Caldecott’s work today.
Allan and I brought just a very few samples of illustrations from the Picture Books to share with you. Other than the one which you have already seen from THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, we have the lovely QUEEN OF HEARTS said to be one of the loveliest illustrations by Caldecott and may indeed be an illustration of his wife, Marian.
We have an illustration from HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE, the cat and the fiddle to show the “movement” in Caldecott illustrations—one of his trademarks. Here, we see the animals from this old nursery rhyme all dancing to the fine fiddling by the cat. GREAT JOY and enthusiasm are evident in this illustration!
Caldecott was most fortunate to have had two outstanding wood engravers to engrave his illustrations on wood blocks to be printed for his early career work, J. D. Cooper and Edmund Evans.
The last illustration is from the first Picture Book, JOHN GILPIN and shows his wild ride through town when his horse ran away with him! In the engraving for the Caldecott Medal you can see “geese a-flying”, here, from another illustration in the book, we have the excitement of the adults waving from the balcony and the running of the children and a dog. Of course, poor John Gilpin has long lost his wig and not at all sure of how his ride will end!
Caldecott continued illustrating two Picture Books per year. We have facsimile book samples for some of these Picture Books for you to view after the meeting.
Caldecott usually placed his initials “R. C.” somewhere on his illustrations, paintings, and carvings. ON THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, you can see the R. C. and also, the E. E. of Edmund Evens. An original piece of art with these two set of initials on them would certainly be of great value today!
RCSA uses Caldecott’s initials on their society signs for the community organizations boards SO, look for the large “R.C.” as you pass in your car.
Throughout his life, Caldecott had modeled in clay. in 2007, Allan and I had the rare opportunity to see a cat he modeled for use in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. It gave us a great appreciation for his modeling ability. The cat is so handsome, it appears that his tail is ready to twitch and he is on “full alert” for that “rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built”!
Randolph also worked in oils and exhibited in the Royal Academy, in London.
Caldecott’s health, which had always been frail, caused him to spend winters in warmer climes in hopes of improving his health. He often went to Italy and the French Riviera.
He was said to be a man of great charm, with “genial, overflowing spirits”. He was said to be tall and handsome with blue-gray eyes and brown hair. In 1880 he was married to Marian H. Brind in St. Martin’s Church in Chelsfield, Kent, with his brother Alfred, officiating at the ceremony.
In the fall of 1885, Randolph and Marian sailed for America, once more in search of health and he also hoped to send back sketches of American life to the London Graphic. Unfortunately, the terrible winter weather and his poor health left him with little strength to work. It had previously been thought that his last sketch was made in Charleston, South Carolina. Until this past summer, it was thought that the Caldecotts had come to St. Augustine from Charleston, THEN a letter was found in a trunk in Kingston-upon-Thames by a friend, Philip Richards, as he was going through his inherited truck from his mother’s recent death! The letter was written by Marian Caldecott to her friend back in London from Camden, South Carolina and dated 6 Dec. 1885 and stating that they had been in Charleston and planned to wait for warmer weather at Camden before moving further south. This one letter offered some new information to clarify the whereabouts of the Caldecotts before they arrived in St. Augustine. We hope new discoveries will offer more exact information in the future.
Caldecott became seriously ill in St. Augustine, during their stay at the Magnolia Hotel, downtown, directly across, looking south, from where the Columbia Restaurant is today, Caldecott’s death certificate states that he died on “February 13, 1886 of organic heart disease, in St. Augustine, Florida, in his thirty-ninth year”, and was signed by the attending physician, Dr. H. Caruthers. Caldecott’s death took place at the height of his powers and reputation. Notices of his death appeared in numerous newspapers across England, and as you know he was buried in our Evergreen Cemetery. Marian Caldecott returned to England and never remarried. She lived to 1932 and is buried at Royal Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. Some of our RCSA members had the opportunity to place flowers on Marian’s grave in 1990 while traveling in England hosted by the UK Caldecott Society.
Fifty-two years after Caldecott’s death, Mr. Frederic G. Melcher, established the CALDECOTT MEDAL. It was first awarded in 1938. A committee selects, each year, the most distinguished picture book by an American artist published during the preceding year and the medal is presented at the annual meeting of the American Library Association. This award serves a double purpose as it honors a contemporary artist in the field of Children’s Literature and it also helps to keep the memory of Randolph Caldecott alive!
The 2010 Caldecott Medal winner is THE LION & THE MOUSE, illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney. We have this lovely Picture Book on the display table for you to see. You will notice the GOLD Caldecott Medal seal on the cover. We were delighted that Jerry won this year. He is so deserving of the honor. He and his lovely wife Gloria, visited St. Augustine in the late 1980s and placed flowers on Randolph’s grave site. We have a handout sheet for you concerning the Caldecott Medals-Gold & Silver for the runners up books.
RCSA donates a set of the winning books each year to the Children’s Room at the Main Branch Library, here in St. Augustine, and a set to the Children’s Room at the Southeast Branch Library for the enjoyment of all children and adults in our community.
Just a bit about RCSA. It was founded in 1983. Allan and I had been placing flowers on Randolph’s grave since 1967. During the next decade as I taught and became principal and told more and more teachers and students about Caldecott it was decided that we should start a society. We are now celebrating our 27th. year as a society. We have members locally, nationally, and five international members, four of which are Caldecott family members in Canada.
RCSA, like ROTARY, values international cooperation and friendship. We have enjoyed twenty-seven years of exchange and friendship with the UK Caldecott Society. They, too, organized in 1983 and their founding Chairman was Kenn Oultram. Kenn visited St. Augustine in 1989 and you can see a newspaper article concerning his visit on the display board. Kenn arranged for the UK Society to host our society in 1990 for a literary tour of England, focusing on Caldecott sites. We were delighted to take greetings from our Mayor to the Mayors of Chester and Tunbridge Wells.
On this visit to Chester we had the delightful opportunity to meet the Duchess of Westminster when she joined us for tea. She was serving as the Sponsor to the UK Caldecott Society at that time.
Kenn invited Allan and me to speak to their society at 46 Great Russell Street, London, in 1994. This address is the location of Caldecott’s London Blue Plaque, which honors the building as the first place where Caldecott lived upon arriving in London.
It is located directly across the street from the British Museum, which served as a valuable resource for Caldecott when preparing his illustrations. (The photograph in the brown frame shows Kenn Oultram, Janet Nassau, owner of the present day JARNDYCE bookstore, in this building, and me standing in front of 46 Great Russell Street.)
London Blue Plaques are used to designate buildings where FAMOUS native sons and daughters, as well as other famous residents, lived or had some association with the so designated site.
THE BANK OF SCOTLAND uses a DVD as a resource for young British students wanting to learn about banking. Since Caldecott worked at the Manchester/Salford Bank, which is now owned by the Bank of Scotland, as a young man he was selected to be featured on the DVD. Allan and I were requested to supply information on Caldecott and a photograph of his grave site for the DVD, we were delighted to be asked to assist.
In 1996, when Chester was celebrating the 150th. anniversary of Caldecott’s birth in Chester, Mayor Len Weeks, sent Greetings to City of Chester, the Duchess of Westminster, and to the UK Caldecott Society.
In 2002, Allan and I were beginning our research on Thomas Armstrong, Caldecott’s mentor and lifelong best friend. In making contact with the Tarvin Primary School, located just outside of Chester and where Thomas had attended school in the 1840s, we were asked to speak to a classroom of students about Caldecott. The young students were so well prepared and knowledgeable about Caldecott when we arrived! It was a joy to be with them, their teachers, staff members, and the Head of the school.
In 2005 a relative of Caldecott, his great-great-nephew, Keeling Anthony visited St. Augustine, and he and his wife, Rosemary, visited Randolph’s grave site which had been a longtime goal for Keeling. Keeling is now deceased however, he designed the very handsome web site for the UK Society, which is still being used in his honor, and there is a link from our RCSA web page to the UK Society web page.
The most recent international activity we have experienced was at our most recent RCSA meeting when it was attended by Jane Eilenbacher, of New Jersey, who is a member of RCSA and of the UK Society, often attending their meetings since her children are all in England, attending university or working.
To return to our local area. One of the early projects for which RCSA was very pleased to accomplish with the untiring efforts of then Director of Library Services, Michael Rouse, was to have our County Commissioners designate the Children’s Room at the Main Branch Library as THE RANDOLPH CALDECOTT CHILDREN’S ROOM.
In 2005 RCSA joined the Friends of St. Johns County Public Library in securing Caldecott’s grave site as the first grave site to ever become a Literary Landmark sponsored by the Florida Center for the Book. The first Literary Landmark designation occurred in 1987. At that time Florida was home to seventeen designated Literary Landmarks. The Literary Landmark plaque was placed at the foot of the Caldecott grave. The celebration was quite an affair and you may have caught it on our cable TV station as it ran several weeks. You can still view the photographs of the ceremony by visiting the RCSA web site.
RCSA jointly sponsors with the First Coast Pilot Club the Caldecott Art Award to encourage a high school student to pursue a career in Art.
The most recent honor for Caldecott came in 2007 when Evergreen Cemetery received a Historical Marker as A Florida Heritage Site, which was sponsored by the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and the Florida Department of State. Caldecott’s name appears in the signage as one being buried in Evergreen. I had the opportunity to serve as one of the two speakers for the occasion, along with Nancy Sikes-Kline who was Chairwoman, St. Johns County Historical Resources Review Board.
The most recent biography of Caldecott was published last year by ABDO Publishing. The author is Rebecca Rowell and it was her first book. She wrote the book for middle school students and it was most welcomed as there were few resources for this age group concerning Caldecott. I was so pleased to be asked to serve as Content Consultant for the biographical information about Caldecott. It was a unique experience producing a book totally on the computer between the three of us: Author/Editor/Content Consultant. We had one initial phone call and from then on everything else was electronic—amazing! The book is on the display table.
In closing, I do want to tell you about the RCSA web site which was designed and is maintained by Allan. The URL is <rcsamerica.com> and will be listed on the brochure in your handouts. You will find a MAP on the site to assist you or out of town visitors for locating the Main Library and Evergreen Cemetery. There is also detailed directions for located the Caldecott grave site once you reach Evergreen. Richard Root, President of Evergreen Cemetery donated the base for the Literary Landmark plaque on Caldecott’s grave and he along with Curt Meadows, Superintendent of Evergreen and his staff take really good care of the grave site and maintain copies of the Picture Books in the office for visitors to view.
RCSA would like to encourage you to visit the Caldecott grave site, attend one of our annual societal meetings, and/or visit our RCSA web site to learn more about Randolph Caldecott, a true community enhancement.
Some time for Q&A: