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Louise Seaman Bechtel

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Louise Seaman Bechtel
Louise Seaman

June 29, 1894[1]
Brooklyn, New York
DiedApril 12, 1985(1985-04-12) (aged 90)
Mount Kisco, New York
EducationVassar College
Occupation(s)Editor, critic, author, teacher
SpouseEdwin DeTurck Bechtel

Louise Seaman Bechtel (June 29, 1894 – April 12, 1985) was an American editor, critic, author, and teacher of young children. She was the first person to head a juvenile book department established by an American publishing house.


Early life[edit]

Louise Seaman was born in 1894 to Charles F. Seaman. She attended and graduated from Vassar College in 1915. Bechtel married to Edwin DeTurck Bechtel, an attorney, art collector, and authority about and scholar of rose culture in March 1929.[2][3]


In 1919, she became the editor of the Macmillan Publishers' new juvenile department, and the first person to head a juvenile book department established by an American publishing house. Macmillan's president, George P. Brett, later wrote about the founding of the department: “It had occurred to me [that children's] books would benefit more than any others, perhaps, from separate editorial supervision.”[4] Brett believed that women knew more about children and would therefore make a better department head. Even with the freedom to develop the new department, Brett still expected Seaman to develop her own advertising copy. She inherited Macmillan's standard children's titles including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Charles Kingsley's Water Babies, and Mary Louisa Molesworth's The Cuckoo Clock. During her fifteen-year tenure as managing editor at the Macmillan Company, she expanded Macmillan's children's titles to more than 600 new books, a milestone in the growth and development of American literature for children.[2][3][4]

During the Great Depression, Bechtel was able to continue publishing novels through the reputation of the publishing house. However, by 1932, she was forced to dismiss her assistant, Eunice P. Blake, and Macmillan had a new president with George Platt Brett, Jr. The new president cut Bechtel's budget and understated the financial role her department had on the company. Bechtel resigned from Macmillan Company in 1934 due to a broken hip from a horseback riding accident injury sustained in 1933 and internal pressures. Between 1949 and 1956, she was editor of the "Books for Young People" section of the New York Herald Tribune.[5]

Three of the books she published, The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly in 1929, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field in 1930, and The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth in 1931, were awarded the Newbery Medal. As an author, Bechtel's best-known books are The Brave Bantam[6] in 1946, and Mr. Peck's Pets[7] in 1947.

During her long career, Bechtel acquired an incomparable collection of children's books. Later donated to Vassar College and the University of Florida in Gainesville), it exceeded 3,500 volumes, among them rare folk tales, Asian and African legends, Greek mythology, Aesop's fables, tales from Shakespeare, and early twentieth century children's book illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Kate Greenaway, and Boris Artzybasheff.


Louise Seaman Bechtel died on April 12, 1985, in Mount Kisco, New York, and is buried at Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard in Bedford, New York.[8]

The Bechtel Prize[edit]

The Bechtel Prize, named for her, is endowed by the Cerimon Fund and administered by Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York. The Prize is awarded annually in recognition of an exemplary article or essay related to creative writing education, literary studies, and/or the profession of writing.

The winning essay appears in Teachers & Writers magazine, and the author receives a $1,000 honorarium.[9] Possible topics for Bechtel Prize submissions include contemporary issues in classroom teaching, innovative approaches to teaching literary forms and genres, and the intersection between literature and imaginative writing.

Bechtel Prize winners and finalists[edit]

Note: winner in bold.

  • 2007
    • Anna Sopko for “Writing Standards: Finding One's Way with Words
    • Sarah J. Gardner for “Three Writers, Imagination, and Meaning”
    • Jeff Kass for “In Search of a True Word”
    • Cheryl Pallant for “Gifting Poems: Getting Students to Read Poetry Closely”
    • Barbara Roether for “Pride and Prejudice on the Barbary Coast”
  • 2011 (judged by Patricia Hampl)
    • Janet L. Bland for "The Possum"
    • Julia Shipley for "Writing from the Ox House"
    • Jane Elkington Wohl for "On Teaching Othello Again"

The Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship at the Baldwin Library[edit]

The Bechtel Fellowship, awarded by the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, awards a mid-career librarian, with a minimum of eight years experience working with children, $4,000 to spend a month reading and studying at the Baldwin library at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

Bibliography (partial)[edit]

Books written[edit]

  • The Brave Bantam. 1946
  • Mr. Peck's Pets. 1947
  • The boy with the star lantern: Edwin De Turck Bechtel, 1880-1957: a memoir. published privately, 1960[10]
  • About Bedford Corners and Our Home in One Corner. Luneburg, Vt., Stinehour Press, 1963[10]

Books edited[edit]


  1. ^ Eddy, Jacalyn (2006). Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children's Book Publishing, 1919-1939 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-299-21794-5. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b Archives and Special Collections Library of Vassar College.
  3. ^ a b "Louise Seaman and Edwin De Turck Bechtel Wedding - Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  4. ^ a b "Six Pioneers". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  5. ^ Marcus, Leonard C.; Marcus, Leonard S. (2008). Minders of Make-believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 334. ISBN 978-0395674079. Bechtel.
  6. ^ The Brave Bantam, OpenLibrary.org.
  7. ^ Mr. Peck's Pets, OpenLibrary.org.
  8. ^ "Louise Seaman Bechtel Dies; Authority on Juvenile Books," New York Times (Apr. 13, 1985).
  9. ^ "Bechtel Prize," Archived 2014-05-30 at the Wayback Machine Poets & Writers website. Accessed May 29, 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Edwin DeTurck Bechtel Papers (PP)Bechtel, Edwin DeTurck, 1880-1957". www.nybg.org. Retrieved 2018-10-31.

External links[edit]