Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family was itinerant in her childhood, moving from place to place in search of good land to call home. One place they called home was Walnut Grove, Minnesota, now home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. (The city also hosts an annual Wilder Pageant and Laura/Nellie lookalike contests.)
The public image of Minnesota’s most famous farmgirl (sorry, Mom) has been shaped most recently by a stage musical and before that by the Little House on the Prairie TV show, but even before that there were the illustrations for Wilder’s books. Among the artists who created pictures for the books was celebrated book illustrator Garth Williams, who visited Minnesota in the late 1940s to get a sense of the land before he wetted his watercolor brush. Here’s how he described his visit:
“I did not expect to find the house, but I felt certain that it would have left an indentation in the bank. A light rain did not help my search, and I was about to give up when ahead of me I saw exactly what I was looking for, a hollow in the east bank of Plum Creek. I felt very well rewarded, for the scene fitted Mrs Wilder’s description perfectly.”
A number of Williams’s beloved illustrations are in the process of being auctioned, and the Wilder Museum is soliciting donations to bring the pictures to Minnesota. They’ve already acquired several, and they’re now setting their sights on the cover art for On the Banks of Plum Creek, which is expected to cost $3,000-$5,000. Donations are being accepted here.
Image from Heritage Auctions site