New Brunswick

Fredericton's battle against comic books on display at UNB

How a local publisher, Brunswick Press, as well as the local paper, The Daily Gleaner, combined to engage children in the early 1950’s is the subject of a new exhibit on display at UNB.

Book series produced in 1950s as alternative to comics, which were accused of promoting juvenile delinquency

Sue Fisher, the curator of UNB’s Eileen Wallace Children’s Book Collection, shows one of the Brunswick News books from the 1950s published for children. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

A new exhibit at UNB Fredericton shows how a local publisher, Brunswick Press, as well as the local paper, The Daily Gleaner, combined to engage children in the early 1950's in a battle against comic books.

The exhibit showcases more than 70 books produced by the partnership, including classic tales, all illustrated by the staff from the newspaper.

Sue Fisher, the curator of UNB's Eileen Wallace Children's Book collection, has been researching the books for three years.

She said the books were meant to compete with comic books, which many people at that time thought contributed to juvenile delinquency.

"It's interesting they (the books) sold for a dime, because comic books sold for a dime. And I think [the owner] saw himself as in direct competition with comic books," said Fisher.

Brunswick News kept the prices of its books at a dime, the same as a comic book cost at the time. (CBC)
"I think there was a lot of fear in Canada and the United States in the early 1950's that comic books were leading to juvenile delinquency. There were a lot of love and crime comics that had a lot of parents concerned."

Both publishing ventures were owned by Brigadier Michael Wardell, and bankrolled largely by Sir Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook.

Fisher said Brunswick Press was innovative in a number of ways.

"It was really the first regional publisher in Canada, publishing local authors from the get-go."

A Musical Moo and other favourites

The first children's book by a local author was The Cow With The Musical Moo, and its follow-up, Hippity Hobo And The Bee. They were collections of poetry written by Desmond Pacey, the highly regarded Canadian literary scholar who taught at the University of New Brunswick.

Brunswick Press was also ahead of the pack thanks to its well-financed printing operation, said Fisher.

A poetry collection by Desmond Pacey published in 1952 by Brunswick Press, containing 'verses for children'. (CBC)
"They owned a 4-colour offset printing press that Lord Beaverbrook financed for the operation, and it allowed full-colour printing. The larger publishers in New York and Boston had this technology but Fredericton was the place for it in Canada."

Brunswick Press and The Daily Gleaner were sold to K.C. Irving in 1968, and Brunswick Press stopped publishing in the late 1970s.

Sue Fisher will deliver a lecture on the Brunswick Press books Thursday at 4 p.m. at UNB Fredericton's Harriet Irving Library. The exhibit of Brunswick Press books runs Oct. 24 - 28 in the Stewart Room at the library.