Brownie Castle is the former home of Palmer Cox a writer/illustrator who created a popular group of impish brownies in the late 19th century. Palmer Cox was forty-three years of age before he drew his first Brownie.
“I was brought up in an old Scottish settlement, and the people had a quaint notion of a Brownie who was supposed to attach himself to each particular household and help the old folks do odd jobs when nobody was looking. That was the idea which I developed.” – Palmer Cox
Cox’s seventeen-room home featured a studio called “Brownieland” with the artist’s drawing table, desk, bookcase, boxes of brownie products and a high round window through which to view the garden.
Born at Granby, Quebec April 28, 1840, Palmer Cox (called the Walt Disney of the Victorian Age) graduated from Granby Academy in 1858. He then traveled to California in the 1860s to train as an artist where he became a newspaper cartoonist for a number of San Francisco papers, including The Examiner. In the 1870s, Cox relocated to New York where he illustrated newspapers and magazines, including Harpers, Wild Oats and The Graphic.
With the money earned from his Brownie children’s books about the impish house spirits of Scottish and English folklore, Cox built a castle-like manor house in Granby, Quebec.
Constructed in 1902-1904 to Palmer’s design by his brothers, William and George, Brownie Castle had seventeen rooms, six staircases and a Brownie stained-glass window. A Brownie flag flew from the four-storied octagonal tower complete with battlements while a running Brownie, arms outstretched, acted as weather vane atop the barn.
The first Brownies story, “The Brownies’ Ride”, appeared in the February 1883 issue of St. Nicholas, a popular children’s magazine of the time.
“Brownies, like fairies and goblins, are imaginary little spirits, who are supposed to delight in harmless pranks and helpful deeds. They work and sport while weary households sleep, and never allow themselves to be seen by mortal eyes.” – Palmer Cox
Cox’s industrious brownies, who enjoyed doing good deeds and having fun, dressed in costumes representing different nationalities and professions. An article entitled ” The Origin of the Brownies,” appeared in the November 1892 issue of the Ladies Home Journal.
Twenty four Brownie stories appeared between 1883 and 1887. In 1887 they were collected and published as The Brownies, Their Book. Cox’s books sold over a million copies.
The Brownies, Their Book, 1887.
Queer People – Goblins, Giants, Merry Men & Monarchs & Their Kweer Kapers, 1889.
Another Brownie Book, 1890.
The Brownies at Home, 1893.
The Brownies Around the World, 1894.
Palmer Cox’s Brownies (libretto), 1894.
The Brownies in Fairyland (libretto), 1894.
The Brownies Through the Union, 1895.
Brownie Year Book, 1895.
The Brownies Abroad, 1899.
The Brownies in the Philippines, 1904.
The Palmer Cox Brownie Primer (text by Mary C. Judd), 1906.
Brownie Clown of Brownie Town, 1908.
The Brownies’ Latest Adventures, 1910.
The Amazing Adventures of Forest People 1913.
The Brownies Many More Nights, 1913.
The Brownies and Prince Florimel or Brownieland, Fairyland and Demonland, 1918
The Brownies in Fairyland (lyrics and music by Malcolm Douglas), 1925.
In addition to the books, Cox’s characters appeared in comic strips, magazine stories, toys, rubber stamps, card games, blocks, puzzles, household furnishings like carpets, wallpaper, fireplace sets, china, glassware, flatware, and advertising items for “sick stomach” remedies and mascots for the Kodak Brownie camera.
With the composer Malcolm Douglas, he wrote, produced and directed a musical show that ran for five years on Broadway and around the world.
Palmer Cox died in Brownie Castle on July 24, 1924. His tombstone reads: IN CREATING THE BROWNIES HE BESTOWED A PRICELESS HERITAGE ON CHILDHOOD.
NOTE: In Derby, Connecticut there is a an old red painted two-story, wood-framed building called “Brownie-Castle”. Is is said, “On the night of June 28, 1781, French officers — on their way to join George Washington’s army, were entertained here.”
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