Thursday, July 21, 2011

Apollo Man on the Moon Coloring Book

It's the time of the year again to turn our eyes to the Moon for a moment and ponder humanity's furthest expedition to date, even as the achievements of 30 years of Earth-orbiting Shuttles are considered.

Around 40 years ago, my mother bought me Apollo Man on the Moon Coloring Book, and last year I was astonished to find it at her house, its pages yellowing and its edges frayed, but otherwise in fairly good shape. I brought it back with me to Illinois.

The copyright date, unsurprisingly, is 1969. It's a product of the Saalfield Publishing Co. of Akron, Ohio, and cost my mother 29ยข (about $1.60 now, adjusted for inflation). A subhead says, "Based on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Program."

According to Kent State University, which now owns the company's library and archives, Saalfield "published children's books and other products from 1899 to 1977 and was, at one time, one of the largest publishers of children's materials in the world." Wiki continues: "During its flourishing, the company published the works of authors including Louisa May Alcott, Horatio Alger, P. T. Barnum, Daniel Defoe, Colonel George Durston, Laura Lee Hope, Herman Melville, Dr. Seuss, Anna Sewell, Shirley Temple, Johanna Spyri, Mark Twain, Johann Rudolf Wyss, and Robert Sidney Bowen."

And also published the works of anonymous staff artists who drew coloring pages about the Apollo program. When Saalfield went out of business in 1977, Kent State acquired what was left. The university now has 171 record storage boxes + oversize, 175 cubic feet, of material produced by the company.

"This inventory is limited to a group of cloth books, picture puzzles, paper dolls, and a variety of activity books," the inventory web page says. "The cloth items include children's books, banners, and promotional materials. Among the activity books are coloring books, follow-the-dot books, pasting and sticker books, wet-a-brush, rub-a-pencil, and stencil books, and sewing cards. Of special interest are a number of Shirley Temple items including authorized editions of paper dolls (including one 32" tall), coloring books, sewing cards, and other activity books."

Quite an operation in its day, but now not even a ghost of a memory except to a number of collectors and archivists. I checked the listing, and Kent State does not seem to have a copy of Apollo Man on the Moon Coloring Book. I doubt that they or any collectors would want mine, since I used it for coloring. Which was, you know, its purpose. I don't quite understand the fetish of mint-condition collectibles.

You might call the book's style Coloring Book Realism. Each of the 96 pages (three 32-page forms? probably) is briefly captioned, only one sentence per page, but still manages to contain a fair amount of information about the Saturn V, the CM and LM, the astronauts, their equipment and a step-by-step description of the journey to the Moon. Curiously, the term "Apollo 11" is never used, though "Columbia" and "Eagle" are mentioned once, and the date of the first moonwalk is specified, so there's no doubt which mission is depicted.

Also, none of the astronauts are named, and none of them quite look like Armstrong, Aldrin or Collins -- they're more generic clean-cut astronauts. Must have been a way to avoid any licensing entanglements. President Nixon, however, does make an appearance in name and visage, talking to the astronauts on the phone.

I colored some, but not all, of the pages. And added some comic relief.

Elsewhere, the astronauts have pointy goatees, green teeth and a few other added details.

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