An Attempted Analysis
"A Salute to Leo Edwards:
The Centennial of His Birth 1884-1984"
By Keith Cochran
It is tempting to become eloquent, to be poetic, to laud the virtues of a most worthy and and deserving author. But to sell Leo Edwards to the expenders of this periodical would be inconsequential. So why not analyze the man and the books on their renowned approval and their captivating and alluring fame!
Not the most famous? You say that the names of Carolyn Keene, victor Appleton, Franklin W. Dixon and Horatio Alger are better known" Well, then will you not accept "most popular with modern collectors"? Is it not true that Leo Edwards' books are the most captivating, enticing, pleasing, demanded, sought, beloved, admired, esteemed and winning of all juvenile series?
What can be the reason for his popularity? Is it the quality of the story? Depth of the characters? The choice of names for characters and places? The humor, plus the captivating mystery? The use of Bert Salg to do the illustrating? Quit so; these are all reasons for the popularity.
The combination of Bert Salg and Leo Edwards was a dynamic duo. No, that is Batman and Robin. Well then, a peach and a pair. No, that is from a love song. Well, whatever, the combination was a winning legacy. We, the collectors, the original buyers were the inheritors.
Bert Salg was born in 1881 and spent his boyhood in Fayetteville, New York near Syracuse. As a young man he worked for the L.C. Smith typewriter company then somehow he decided to go to New York City and do art work. He took samples of his art work to publishing companies and in 1921 went to work for Grosset and Dunlap. It was customary for the author to send his manuscript directly to the illustrator where the desired art work was performed. Using color only on dust jackets, Salg was color blind to red and had help from his wife in this respect. Later Salg moved to Greenwich Village and then to Congers, New York where died in the spring of 1938.
Three years after the birth of Salg, Edward Edson Lee was born on September 2, 1884 near Streator, Illinois. On August 26, 1994 Mergenthaler patented the linotype and on October 13th of the same year the prime meridian was established at Greenwich, England; so born between the linotype and the prime meridian the future of Leo Edwards was to grow to perfection.
A born story teller, Leo had many jobs until he finally settled on what was to make him famous. Past 35 years of age, he decided to become a full-time writer. With sixty (60) books as his goal, he started to write, and by the time of his death, on September 21, 1944, he had completed 39 of them. Leo died in Rockford, Illinois and is buried in Beloit, Wisconsin
The Hi-Lee Cottage on the shore of Lake Ripley near Cambridge, Wisconsin is the Mecca for Edwards collectors. The author of this article visited his honored, venerable place on two occasions. In front of the cottage on the shore is a large tree where Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) of Tarzan fame posed for a picture. (see note 1, below) The local reporter deemed it only appropriate that he pose in the tree for a picture for the local paper. In the yard is the place where the initiation for the Secret Order Of Humpty-Dumpty, The Rejuvenated Egg too place. This was probably in 1925.
It was here that a great tragedy took place. A tragedy in the way that it deprived the then readers and the present collectors of Leo Edwards of in irreplaceable tale. At the end of Jerry Todd's Cuckoo Camp Leo gives a short sketch of the next book in the series, Jerry Todd Detective. These books, mentioned at the end of the last of the series, such as Andy Blake, Boy Builder and Tuffy Bean's Hunting Days, are called phantom books because they were never written. Alas! this is not the case with Jerry Todd, Detective. This book was written. According to Gene Lee (Leo's son) a visitor to Hi-Lee Cottage borrowed the manuscript for the evening and left the next day without returning it. (see note 2, below) Is it possible this manuscript will appear and we can enjoy a rare treat. Since Gene Lee will be reading this, I would like to ask him if Leo had outlined a story at the end of Jerry Todd, Detective. Was there a phantom book mentioned on the last page of this manuscript? (see note 2, below)
Bert Salg died in 1938 so he never illustrated all of Edwards Books. A.D. Rahan illustrated Andy Blake in Advertising as this book was not published by Grosset and Dunlap. However, Salg did illustrate all the Tuffy Bean and Trigger Berg books, and also all the Andy Blake books published by Grosset and Dunlap. As for the Jerry Todd books, he illustrated through Jerry Todd and the Flying Flapdoodle; there is no illustrator signed on any of the illustrations for Jerry Todd and the Buffalo Bill Bathtub. Who was the illustrator? Jerry Todd's Up-The-Ladder Club and Jerry Todd's Poodle Parlor were illustrated by Myrtle Sheldon and Jerry Todd's Cuckoo Camp was done by Herman Bacharach. As for the Poppy Ott books, Salg did the first eight, or through Poppy Ott Hits the Trail. Myrtle Sheldon did Inferior Decorators, and the illustrator is unknown for Monkey's Paw and Hidden Dwarf. The artistry appears the same for these to books; who was this unknown artist?
Even with the death of Salg, the popularity of Edwards was established so the series remained a favorite with young readers. John Keats (1795-1821) the English poet once wrote: "I hope I live long enough for my pen to glean my teeming brain." Leo was of the Keats type. He was an artist with words, choosing characters, naming characters, devising major and minor conflicts, a story teller of the first order. But alas! his pen was stilled before it could glean his teeming brain.
Collectors prize their books with original dust jackets. A full set of 39 Grosset and Dunlap jackets would be profound joy. Few collectors have experienced this. Adding the 40th, Andy Black in Advertising (without jacket) could turn this joy into ecstasy. Would the addition of this one with jacket (only one is known) become rapture personified? According to Gene Lee the toughest Grosset and Dunlap book to obtain is Trigger Berg and the Cockeyed Ghost. As this was the lst in the series it was kept in print the shortest time. Also, on a check of jackets only one format is known to the author, which would mean only one press run of probably 5,000. Compare 5,000 this with Jerry Todd and the Whispering Mummy which has a minimum of 20 different jackets. but the end books of each of the five series are the scarcest as they were kept in print the shortest period of time.
If immortality was one of Leo's goals, he has achieved it with his artistry. And this author's memory is assured as long as there are dreamers and collectors. As men may dream and historians may write, the image maker is himself. As this attempt at an analytical sketch of both Leo Edwards and his books falls short of its goal, maybe I should have been more eloquent. Possibly poetic! Well, what the heck --- it is Leo's birthday! His centennial. So here's to you Leo: may your tribe increase. Paso Por Aqui. We are all richer because you pass this way.
Note 1. Gene Lee says: "I had, as a kid, built a low down play house in one of the small basswood trees in the front of Hi-Lee. The tree blew down many years ago. When E.R.B. came by to call these many years ago the paper (Cambridge News?) came out to take a picture, and it was suggested that he walk out to the platform on the tree and the photographer could stand on the raised shore and take the picture."
Note 2: Gene Lee says: "Leo died in the fall of 1944. After his burial we just drove to the lake and closed up the cottages and turned the water off and got the place ready for winter. It was not until the spring of 1945 that we drove to the lake to look our new home over because as soon as Leo died and I inherited Hi-Lee I know that my next move was to leave Rockford (Illinois) and move to Hi-Lee. When we got there we noted this manuscript, Jerry Todd: Detective, on his desk. It was Saturday and we were both too busy to look it over and late Saturday afternoon arrived the first of what, in the years to follow, we were to know as Leo Edwards callers. He wanted to stay overnight so we let him use one of the small guest houses, no charge, naturally. In the evening he came to our door and asked about Leo Edwards stuff. He knew my father had died the preceding year. I showed him the J.T. Detective script and he got quite interested. He looked at some author's copies of the Target magazine and asked to take them to his cottage to read. I naturally aid 'Yes.' In the morning (Sunday) I noted his car was gone and just thought he had gone to town to eat. I was wrong. He just left. No good-byes, no thanks and the manuscript and author's copies of the Target left with him. In any event neither Betty nor I had read it so have no idea what it was about or if any other book was promised at the end."