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Munson_Paddock / Donnelley and Lee Library Archives and Special Collections at Lake Forest

Munson Paddock

Munson Leroy Paddock (1886-1970) “was an illustrator, a commercial artist, a photographer, a collector of railroad photographs and memorabilia and an artist in the earliest comic books,” according to Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. He was also a book and periodical collector.  Paddock was born and graduated from high school (1904) in Kenosha, Wisconsin; pioneer descendant Paddocks were legion in the area that also has a Paddock Lake west of Kenosha. 

Moving to Chicago with a 1906 address at the Chicago Dailly News, Paddock was an early creator of comic strips and also cartoonist, with work appearing in Judge Magazine to 1916. He is recorded living in Wysox, Pennsylvania in 1917 and by 1919 in New York City.   Working as an illustrator in a firm at 41 Union Square, NYC, according to a “rough draft” biography by Benajmin F.G. Kline, Jr. in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (RMP), Paddock came into contact with the “cache of excellent glass negatives or railroad photographs” from which the examples now at the RMP and at Lake Forest College are derived.  This firm was successor to F. W. Blauvelt, photographer for — among other clients — Angus Sinclair and his Locomotive and Engineering News.  Most of this material comes from Munson Paddock — A Life by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., Palo Alto, CA, 2003; 20, vi pp., an off-print apparently from a comics periodical.  

In 1976, following the death of her spouse, Elliott Donnelley, Ann Steinwedell Donnellery (Hardy) was contacted by Mrs. Wilson Sked of Lake Forest.  Mrs. Sked had received at her home a massive deposit of material (a double garage stacked higher than cars) relating to her family member, Munson Paddock, which had been in storage in New York City since Paddock’s 1957 retirement and move from New York to Pennsylvania to live with his sister (his spouse had died). With the help of Kurt Bell at RMP and Vadeboncoeur, it becomes apparent that the material in RMP from Paddock is what he took with him and then gathered after 1957; the material that came to Mrs. Sked was what was left in storage in NYC by Paddock, presumably material Paddock thought significant, but not his priority to take with him into retirement. Mrs. Donnelley suggested that Mrs. Sked contact this writer at the Lake Forest College Donnelley Library which had embarked on a program to build a railroad collection with Mrs. Donnelley’s late spouse’s library as a nucleus.  First treated was a large collection of illustrated books, all in one way or another showing trains, tracks, stations, etc.  Many of these were in poor condition and were sent out by then head of Technical Services the late Joel M. Lee for commercial binding.  With a summer 1977 intern, local resident Keith Schlesinger of Oberlin College, Lee further organized and arrranged to store in the library more of Paddock’s collection.  The only deacquisition of photography was a group of 8 x 10 glass negatives of nude women, probably from John Reid (see next paragraph), 1977 being at the height of the women’s movement.  The destination of these plates is not known, Lee being deceased. 

Otherwise, the glass negatives were left undisturbed in their cut-up blanket protective wrappings.  These were then discovered and identified in the late 1990s by railroad researchers Glenn Guerra and Ray Buhrmaster.  They prepared a preliminary finding aid to the  approx. three hundred glass and film 8 x 10 negatives.  These and a small group of 11 x 14 glass negatives were printed in film-era methods the n in their twilight.  Buhrmaster, off the top of his head, recalled that John Reid (1835-1911) and his photographic work had been the subject of an article in Railroad Stories (March 1937), recounting also the history of the photo collection, through Reid’s  widow and son to Max Kotz, whose business went under in early 1936, when the shop’s goods were sold “most of it as junk.”  This apparently led to Paddock’s acquisition of the files.  The Reid story appears under the following heading: “International Engine Picture Club: A Famous Photographer of the Iron Horses.”  It is likely that Paddock was a member of that group and his correspondence, lists of addresses, and information on the backs of his several hundred postcard size Paddock Collection (long-existing spreadsheet; larger scans and upgraded metadata in some cases also are available) and larger images suggests that this or a similar network facilitated his collecting.  These smaller images first were organized and listed on cards by wheel type by Glenn Davis ‘79 and then ca. early 1990s these cards were converted with student assistants to a spreadsheet for web access, with low resolution scans attached to many.  In the mid 2000s railroad photgrapher and student intern Sayre Kos ‘07 made selections from these, several of which have been included in the railroadheritage.org web collection of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, some with greatly enhanced information and context, as a result.  David Mattoon ‘76 has played a major role in preparing these images for transfer to the Center. 

Paddock, his collections, and their odysseys are worthy of chronicling in this Railroad Library devoted as much to railfans and their works as to the subjects relating to the railroads themselves.  Scores of persons from New York and New Jersey to Pennsylvania and Lake Forest, Illinois have played large and small roles in preserving these fragile, rare, often little-understood or appreciated artifacts of mostly nineteenth century and early twentieth century railroad history.

Arthur H. Miller

Archivist and Librarian

  for Special Collections

October 9, 2009