Friday, August 21, 2009

Sunnybank, Terhune, Bransom, Kuhn & Savitt, UPDATED 10/1/11 with you tube clip address

Two rows of books by Albert Payson Terhune. He was once one of the most popluar authors in America. Now the public library in Pompton Lakes, NJ, is one of the few places you'll find so many Terhune books in one place...
Once upon a time... there was a real collie named Lad...
At nearby Wayne Township, there's a little museum and room of Terhune artifacts. There is even a lock of Lad's fur in the center of this showcase...

And even though Lad lived almost 100 years ago, people still visit his grave

Lad's world was The Place ..... also known as Sunnybank.... on the shores of Pompton Lakes in New Jersey...

Every summer, there is a "Convention" of sorts, of fans and scholars of the author Albert Payson Terhune. Never heard of him? In the 20s and 30s, he was one of the best known and most beloved writers in America. He had a long career as a journalist, sportswriter, and novelist, but he was best known for his dog stories, most of which were based on real collies that he owned and raised as his country estate in NJ. "Sunnybank" was originally 40 acres with a huge home and working farm. The house no longer exists, but thanks to the efforts of a woman named Claire Leishman, and other fans, 9.6 acres of Terhune's land is now preserved as a park. The beautiful grounds still evoke memories for fans of Terhune stories. Lad and many other of Terhune's canine "chums" are buried at Sunnybank. The annual event at Sunnybank also raises money for the restoration of the park, and for the Collie Health Foundation, which funds projects to find causes and cures for canine disorders.

"Lad: A Dog" was the best known Terhune dog story. Sam Savitt did the cover and illustrations for the 40th anniversary edition published by Dutton in 1959. ("Lad" was originally published in 1919). Marguerite Kirmse also illustrated Terhune books and stories in the 1920s. Renowned photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White took pictures of Terhune's collies and estate for the original edition of "The Book of Sunnybank."

There has been a resurgence of interest in Terhune in the last decade, and it's heartwarming to see support for the preservation and display of these artifacts, most of which hung in Terhune's home.

POST UPDATE OCT 1, 2011.... there's a clip on You Tube of newsreel of Terhune at Sunnybank with his dogs:


In glass case below is a copy of the book about Terhune's blue merle collie "Gray Dawn", along with a photo of the real dog. Noted wildlife artist Bob Kuhn is credited with the cover art for this series of the Terhune books. Believe it or not, researchers have established that many families of AKC collies today are descendants of Terhune's dogs!

Illustrator Paul Bransom was a friend of Terhune's and knew many of the Sunnybank collies. Bransom illustrated many of the magazine stories where Terhune's dog tales first appeared. Bramson also did dust jacket illustrations for early editions of some of the books. Here is the most famous of the Bransom portraits of Gray Dawn, which shows the dog w/ his favorite dog toy, a flannel elephant.

I was a fan of the books as a child. My mental images of Terhune and his collies were formed by the art of Bob Kuhn and Sam Savitt. I started collecting Terhune books once I met Stuart. Looking for Terhune books gave me something to do while Stuart and I visited bookstores together. That was over 25 years ago. I've completed my Terhune collection, but I still like to go to bookstores with Stuart. Sadly, there aren't as many good, general used bookstores around today. The internet now features Sunnybank websites, and has made books like the old Terhune titles accessible, but it was more fun finding them among shelves of other children's books or dog books.

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