Palmer Cox

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Palmer Cox
Cox palmer.jpg
Born (1840-04-28)April 28, 1840
Granby, Quebec, Canada
Died July 24, 1924(1924-07-24) (aged 84)
Granby, Quebec, Canada
Occupation Illustrator, author, poet
Notable works The Brownies

Palmer Cox (April 28, 1840 – July 24, 1924) was a Canadian illustrator and author,[1][2] best known for The Brownies, his series of humorous verse books and comic strips about the mischievous but kindhearted fairy-like sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book (1887). Due to the popularity of Cox's Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera.[3]


He was born in Granby, Quebec, the son of Michael and Sarah (Miller) Cox, and became a carpenter and car builder. He moved to San Francisco via Panama as a railroad contractor, and he lived in there from 1863 to 1875. In 1874, he began to formally study drawing and contribute illustrated stories to such publications as Golden Era and Alta California.[4] After 1875, Cox lived in New York (Pine View House, East Quogue, Long Island). During this time he regularly contributed editorial cartoons to Oscar Hammerstein's United States Tobacco Journal.

The earliest publication of Brownie characters took place in 1879, but not until the February 1881 issue of Wide Awake magazine were the creatures printed in their final form. In 1883, Brownie stories appeared in St. Nicholas Magazine and as their popularity rose, they were covered in publications such as the Ladies' Home Journal.[5]

Cox's Brownies were little men who had mischievous adventures together. Each Brownie had a distinctive physical appearance: for example, one, Cholly Boutonnière, wore a top hat and monocle, another was dressed as a stereotypical Chinese peasant, yet another was dressed as a Red Indian chief in war bonnet. Cox's text was quite crude, and did not develop individual personalities for the Brownies, aside from the "ethnic" ones speaking in stereotypical dialect. Cox's illustrations tended to show a crowd of Brownies jumbled together, with specific Brownies recurring from one illustration to the next, but with no Brownie occupying a predictable location in the picture.

Cox died at his 17-room dream home named Brownie Castle[6] at Granby, Quebec, July 24, 1924. His headstone has a Brownie figure and the inscription: In creating the Brownies he bestowed a priceless heritage on childhood.[7]


A Cox Brownie
Outcault 4th ward brownies.jpg

Homages in other works[edit]

  • Richard F. Outcault referenced Cox and The Brownies (whom he parodied) in a February 9, 1895 cartoon of Hogan's Alley.[10]
  • In the children's novel Rufus M, by Eleanor Estes set during World War I, young Rufus Moffat and his older sister Jane have a contest involving Palmer Cox's Brownie books: each new illustration, they compete to see who first spots the Brownie in the top hat.
  • The idea of the character of Dunno (Russian: Незнайка, Neznayka that is Don'tknowka) created by Soviet children's writer Nikolay Nosov comes from the books of Palmer Cox.[11]


  1. ^ "Cox, Palmer". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 401.
  2. ^ "Cox, Palmer". The International Who's Who in the World. 1912. p. 322.
  3. ^ CHARLES C. HILL. "Palmer Cox". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  4. ^ Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Palmer Cox".
  5. ^ Don Markstein's Toonopedia. "The Brownies (1881)".
  6. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. "Brownie Castle". Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  7. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. "Palmer Cox biography".
  8. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. "The Brownie Clown in Brownie Town". Image
  9. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. "Brownies on stage-Lyrics".
  10. ^ Gary Cross (2004). The Cute and the Cool: Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children's Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-190-28886-0.
  11. ^ Ben Hellman (2013). Fairy Tales and True Stories: The History of Russian Literature for Children and Young People (1574 - 2010). BRILL. p. 528. ISBN 978-9-004-25638-5.

External links[edit]