You may have wondered why I have never blogged about this book, Man-Made Satellites. First, because I think everyone who loves old 1950s children's books has seen it. Secondly because I have been saving a story about it for my 200th blog post.
(1957) Ley, Willy. Illustrated by Polgreen, John. Man-made Satellites. Poughkeepsie, NY: Guild Press Inc. (44 p.) 29 cm.
John Polgreen's space art is astonishing. He has a dreamy air-brush style that is part of the core memories of a lot of 1950s kids.
Since his art is so good I have been trying to learn more about him for years. Ever since I first had a website I loved to find and show off his work.
I did discover why there seemed to be so many copies of this particular book.
Sugar Jets cereal had a promotion where you could get a copy of this book for $0.50.
One of the first real cool things I found on the internet was a copy of this book still in the mailing cardboard box from Sugar Jets. But something cooler was yet to come.
As I searched Google for any mention of John Polgreen I came across some Heritage Galleries auctions for John Polgreen paintings from this series. What was even stranger was how familiar the wording on these listings sounded:
John Polgreen - "Space Travel" Illustration Original Art (Adventures in Space, 1958). America's future in space had become a nation-wide fad by the mid-fifties. It was not a question of if we would land on the Moon but when. The Adventure in Space books were at the forefront in their technical sophistication of how men would travel to the Moon. John Polgreen's acrylic on board painting captured the thrilling moment of a lunar touchdown. The image area of the painting measures 13" x 12" and the art is in Excellent condition. From the Random House Archives.
Compare that to this text from my website "Dreams of Space": http://dreamsofspace.nfshost.com/1954-1956.htm
Strangely two of the other painting's descriptions also seemed very familiar:
John Polgreen - "Space Travel" Cover Illustration Original Art (Adventures in Space, 1958). John Polgreen's airbrushed painting captured the stark light and harsh conditions of this cosmic scene perfectly. In the fifties, science author Willy Ley opined, "The younger generation of rocket engineers is just beginning. They are of the new generation to which space travel is not going to be a dream of the future but an everyday job with everyday worries in which they will be engaged." The acrylic on board painting has an image area of 20" x 13", and the art is in Excellent condition. From the Random House Archives. vs my page:
AND this quote ALSO from that page:
John Polgreen - "Man-made Satellites" Cover Illustration Original Art (Adventures in Space, 1958). With the discoveries of liquid-fueled rockets in the 1930's and the use of V-2 rockets in the 1940's, rocket travel went from science fiction to science fact. In post-World War II America everything seemed possible, even traveling to the Moon. A new trend in children's books predicted the space-age era the "Baby Boomers" would grow up in -- a thrilling time of limitless exploration. The image area of John Polgreen's cover painting measures 19.5" x 13" and the art is in Excellent condition. From the Random House Archives.
Yes someone at the auction house had trouble finding information about John Polgreen so when they "Googled" him they found my quotes. When I called them they apologized and I was sort of flattered. They gave me a subscription to free catalogs for a couple of years, but more importaly they told me that this painting was up for auction.
After all that who deserves (to be very immodest) more than me to own the John Polgreen painting for the cover of the first book in the "Adventure in Space" series?
As I said, this may be my greatest treasure of space book collecting. It is both a beautiful painting and signifies the best of the children's books I love. Happy 200th post to me!