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Edwin Tunis papers

Identifier: Ax 776

Scope and Contents note

The Edwin Tunis papers consist primarily of children's book production material and correspondence. The production material for each book may include research sketches, original illustrations, outlines, holograph drafts, drafts, dummies, printer’s copies, galley proofs, page proofs, layouts, paste-ups, publicity materials, reviews, and sample book jackets. In most cases, the book publishing process is represented completely, from preliminary research materials to final galley proofs and page layouts.

Some personal papers are also represented, which include articles, bookplate sketches, Christmas cards and biographical material.


  • Creation: 1920s-1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1949-1979


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Author and illustrator Edwin Tunis (1897-1973) entered the City College in Baltimore and studied there for three years before transferring to the Maryland Institute of Art and Design. His course there was interrupted by World War I. After his service, he returned to the Maryland Institute as a part-time student, while working at C.S. Benson and Company as a furniture designer. Subsequently, he worked for the Manufacturers' Record in the advertising department drawing layout copy, and at a newly formed advertising agency, where he was "the whole art department." His typographical design talent led to work for printers (brochures and direct mail material) and later to illustrating for Grosset and Dunlop and A. P. Putnam's Sons. For Maryland's Tercentenary in 1934, he designed a commemorative stamp and drew a literary and historical mural map of the state, which was later shown at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

In 1943, Tunis was commissioned by McCormick and Company of Baltimore to paint a mural depicting the history of spices. This 145-foot mural took two and a half years to complete. According to Tunis, "there was no one book which recounted the whole basic story of the development of ships in a simple way that might interest young people. An outline, a dummy, some pages of text, and one finished illustration went to a literary agent who sold Oars, Sails and Steam within a week."

Voted to be the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the 50 Books of the Year and one of the Best Juvenile Books of 20 Years, Oars, Sails and Steam launched his career as writer and illustrator. It was followed by Weapons, 1954; Wheels, 1955; Colonial Living (winner of the Thomas A. Edison Foundation Children's Book Award for special excellence in portraying America's past), 1957; Indians, 1959; Frontier Living, (first runner-up for the American Library Association's Newbery Medal, 1961; Colonial Craftsmen, 1965; Shaw's Fortune, 1966; The Young United States (first runner-up for the National Book Award), 1969; Chipmunks on the Doorstep, 1971; and The Tavern at the Ferry (one of the A.L.A.'s Notable Books), 1973.


47.5 linear feet (30 containers) : 9 record storage boxes; 17 oversize flat boxes; 4 oversize folders

Language of Materials



The Edwin Tunis papers include manuscripts and illustrations for children's books, as well as correspondence, articles, reviews, publicity, and personal papers.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series:

Series 1: Children's book production materials Series 2: Correspondence Series 3: Personal papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Edwin and Elizabeth Tunis, 1973-1987. Additional material gift of Lynda Dorsee, 2000 and gift of William Wilburn, 2021.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items are available online in the Edwin Tunis Papers, 1920s-1979 in Oregon Digital.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Alexa Goff, 2021.

Guide to the Edwin Tunis Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Alexa Goff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funding for publishing this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA