Unsung Colorist – Good Times, A Prize Painting Book

prize painting book - back cover close upWhile searching to see if coloring books, or something of their like, existed in the era from which Curator Prime collects her vintage coloring book sources, she came upon an interesting specimen – a prize painting book from 1883.

Entitled “Good Times” and published by White & Stokes of New York, this book served as a means to enter a contest as well as having “the intention of providing the most attractive material for the fascinating work of painting in water colors, and with the certainty of furnishing amusement and instruction combined, to children and beginners in drawing and color-work.” Each entry was to be “accompanied by a certificate from some responsible person that the competitor is not over sixteen years old, and has had no assistance in the work.” *

prize painting book coverThree monetary prizes were offered; hefty winnings at a time when a quart of milk was less than 10 cents and a 4-room tenement rented for $8 per month:

  • First Prize – $75
  • Second Prize – $50
  • Third Prize – $25

Three judges were also listed, among whom was the illustrator Miss Dora Wheeler, as well as the note that this book had been “prepared in every respect with the idea of making it the model ‘painting-book.” – with “painting book” being the equivalent of our “coloring book.”

Offering 29 pages to color and one blank page on which to draw an illustration to support the facing page text, this painting book also included several of the illustrations in color as an example.

Curator Prime admits to being somewhat confused when first looking through her discovery, as both pages seemed to be colored professionally, down to the texture at the bottom of the dress.

prize painting book - sitting on fence

It was not until Curator Prime found a second copy of this prize painting book that the skill of the Unsung Colorist was revealed. For it was thanks to this second enthusiastically though somewhat less skillfully colored example that it was possible to know for certain which pages were printed in color and which colorings were created by hand.

prize painting book uncolored

Thus Curator Prime would like to share with you some of the beauty created by the Unsung Colorist. You may click on any image to increase its size for easier viewing and comparison.

prize painting book - title page

Left side printed. Right side colored.

prize painting book - at the beach

prize painting book - by the window

prize painting book - winter clothes

Left side colored. Right side printed.

prize painting book - hammock

Left side colored. Right side printed.

prize painting book - girls and boys

prize painting book - fairy

prize painting book - blue coat girl

And the custom drawing and coloring by the Unsung Colorist upon a blank page at the end of the book to match the text on the facing page.

prize painting book drawing page

Curator Prime would like to believe the Unsung Colorist was awarded a prize for their efforts, be it monetary or culinary, such as a bowl of ice cream.


* Curator Prime finds it amusing that there is no age qualification for a “responsible person.”

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