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Avery Johnson papers

Identifier: Ax 820

Scope and Contents

The Avery Johnson papers are comprised chiefly of original illustrations created for publications. These illustrations are composed in a variety of media including graphite, ink, watercolor, gouache, and scratchboard, and include some reproductions (photocopies and proofs).

The illustrations are arranged according to publication and include both preliminary sketches and final illustrations. For some publications (such as Ollie the Ostrich), the illustrations include drawings on paper with corresponding acetate overlays for the creation of multiple color plates. The illustrations also include lettering designs in ink for other book components such as title pages, chapter headings, and jackets.

The collection contains additional documents related to Johnson’s publications including correspondence, reviews, contracts, agreements, and royalty statements. These documents are arranged by publication title.


  • Creation: 1938-1957


Conditions Governing Access

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

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

Avery F. Johnson was born April 3, 1906 in Wheaton, Illinois. Johnson received a B.A. from Wheaton College in 1928, and then earned an additional degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1933. After leaving art school, Johnson worked as Supervisor of the United States Treasury Department Art Projects. At this post he travelled often, creating series of watercolors in locations such as Key West and the Virgin Islands. His work for the United States government continued throughout World War II, where he served in the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information. In this branch, he held the positions of Art Director in North Africa, and Art and Production Staff for Balkan Publications in Rome.

One of his first illustrated children’s books was Mouseknees (1939) written by William Chapman White. Johnson illustrated books on a wide range of themes including: African folktales in Wakaima and the Clay Man (written by Ernest Kalibala and Mary Gould Davis, 1946); the Wars of the Roses in The Black Arrow (written by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1947); and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in The Silver Disk (written by Loring MacKaye, 1955).

In addition to children’s book illustrations, Johnson produced many murals and watercolors. Some of his commissions included Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals in post offices across Illinois, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, and Indiana. Johnson’s watercolors are held in public and private collections in the United States including the Library of Congress, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Newark Museum, and the Montclair Museum.

Johnson also devoted much of his life to teaching art. He served as a Painting Instructor at the Montclair Art Museum, and as the Head of the Pictorial Illustration Department and Instructor in Illustration, Watercolor, and Mural Painting at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art. Johnson lived and worked in New Jersey until his death in 1990.

[Source: Viguers, Ruth Hill, Dalphin, Marcia, and Miller, Bertha E. Mahony. Illustrators of Children's Books, 1946-1956. Boston: Horn Book, 1958.]


3 linear feet (4 containers)

Language of Materials



Avery Johnson was an illustrator of children's books. The collection contains pencil, pen, charcoal, and ink illustrations. It also includes correspondence, reviews, contracts, agreements, and royalty statements.


Material in this collection is arranged intellectually by publication title. Each series may also contain the following subseries: correspondence, financial documents, and illustrations.

Other Finding Aids

Paper finding aid with additional information is available in Special Collections and University Archives.

Physical Description

1 manuscript box, 2 flat boxes, 1 oversize flat box

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff and Gail McMillian, 1977-1978. Collection received additional processing and description by Alexa Goff, 2016.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Avery Johnson Papers
Revise Description
Tanya Parlet and Kira B. Homo. Processing and description completed by Alexa Goff.
2013; 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

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

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA