small Judy Bolton collage

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Potter Leader Enterprise
September 8, 2005

Margaret Sutton's Personal Library Being Sold On Ebay

By Donald Gilliland Managing Editor

Fans of the Judy Bolton mystery series, bibliophiles and people interested in Potter County history are in for a treat. The personal library of author Margaret Sutton is being sold on Ebay, offering collectors of all stripes a chance to bid on pieces of history as well as good books. Sutton, the author of the Judy Bolton mystery series as well as a host of other titles, grew up in Potter County and returned often to see family and friends. Her library contains books passed down to her from Potter County ancestors as well as her own books and titles she read for pleasure. Sutton died in 2001 at the age of 98. Lindsay Stroh, Sutton's youngest daughter, is selling the collection as part of settling Sutton's estate. Stroh has left her job as fund-raiser for the Baltimore Red Cross, and plans to work part time from her home doing free-lance grant writing - but she says "I want to get this stuff done first." "My siblings are much older than I am, and they aren't going to live forever and they deserve to be part of the estate." Stroh's home in a secluded Baltimore suburb has become Margaret Sutton Central. Truckloads of her mother's books and papers have been delivered from her mother's old house on Long Island. "My mom kept everything," said Stroh, her eyes crossing momentarily as she added "She saved all her fan mail!" Stroh's basement is chock-a-block with her mother's files, books, manuscripts and, yes, fan mail. Sutton's original manuscripts will be going to the series book collection at the University of Minnesota. The books will go to the highest bidder. Stroh is the executor of the estate and notes, "part of my job is to go through all these books and sell them." There are 48 crates of books stacked against the back wall. It's an eclectic assortment. Modern authors like James Herriot and John Irving figure prominently, but so do series authors from the 19th Century: Little Prudy books and Laura Richards' Hildegard series from the 1890s. There's a copy of "Witchcraft of Salem Village" by Shirley Jackson as well as an 1883 edition of Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter." "I'm learning all about selling books," said Stroh; how to use the proper terminology people expect to see when reading a description. She notes "foxing" refers to the brown spots caused by acid paper. A spare room has been converted into an office where Stroh catalogues the books, writes the descriptions and readies them for sale. It's "an ongoing process," she said. She works crate by crate, hauling them up from the basement, sorting the books and then posting them on Ebay for sale. She's just getting started. "I've sold about 10 books already," said Stroh. She has placed an ad in a national newsletter for series book collectors; she has notified the Phantom Friends fan club, and she called the local newspaper. She recalls pulling "The Ideal Music Course" - a 19th Century educational reader - from a crate and discovering it had been used by her great grandmother Emma Beebe to teach school in the early days of Potter County. "Who knows how many children learned their music from this book?" said Stroh. "I thought, 'I'm holding history in my hands.'" There are a number of old, old books in the Sutton collection, many with a particular appeal to Potter County history buffs. There are the purely beautiful, such as "Drone's Honey" which sports a gold cover with elaborate gilt illustration of a bee skep with flowers and bees and an inscription dated July 20, 1887. And there are the truly historic books such as "Songs, Odes & Other Poems On National Subjects, Part III, Military" by Wm. McCarty with an inscription from the author to O.A. Lewis, the former Potter County treasurer after whom Ulysses was originally named and who volunteered at the age of 55 to fight in the Civil War in place of his son. Lewis joined the fight in October 1861. McCarty inscribed the book to him in April 1862. Lewis in turn gave the book to a relative with the inscription "A present for Henry from Uncle Orange - May 1862" Lewis died of fever while in the service three months later. There are some that will be prized by collectors of the Judy Bolton series, including battered copies that Sutton "re-edited" in her later years. Sutton continued editing the Judy Bolton books even when she was in the nursing home in Lock Haven. "She used some words that would sound really prejudiced today, but were perfectly acceptable at the time," said Stroh. "She'd go back and change what she'd say differently. She'd use a beat-up copy to do that. I'm sure some of the fans would like to have those." Sutton was concerned throughout her life with social justice, and employed the Bolton books and others to instill values of honesty and fair play. Stroh said her mother marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and worked on an integration committee while living on Long Island. All the books are in good condition; not only did Sutton care for them well, she taught her children to do the same. "When I was a child, we were taught to take care of books. If you scribbled in a book, boy, you were in trouble!" recalls Stroh. The Sutton collection will be posted on Ebay for sale on an on-going basis as Stroh works her way through the crates in the basement. Those interested in bidding should search Ebay at regular intervals for Stroh's Ebay ID: "lindsay19990". In addition to executor of the estate, Stroh has become defacto caretaker of her mother's legacy. Sifting through faded photos, drawing books and old letters, she recalls her mother's passion for life and for Potter County. Much of what Sutton wrote was based on Potter County and her experiences growing up here. Stroh has the manuscript of an autobiography Sutton started in the 1970s, and plans to finish it and get it published. The autobiography, entitled "Jupiter Girl," was part family history so her grandchildren would know the family stories that had been passed down to her, part thanks to the people who had helped her through her career and part literary biography - to satisfy the many fans and explain the background of the popular books. When Sutton was a child, she and her siblings were given tablets and allowed to pick a planet, and each was then encouraged to write stories about what happened on that planet. Margaret's planet was Jupiter, and her experience writing those stories as a young girl fostered what would become a passion and talent that would propel the Potter County girl into the national light and the pages of the New York Times. In the manuscript, says Stroh, she talks about going to school in Odin and moving to Coudersport, "which was a big thing for my mother because she could walk to the library." "She had read the 'Secret Garden' and loved the story and went back and asked where's the next book. The librarian said 'This isn't a series - there's only one.' Mother was so disappointed she said when she grew up she would write lots and lots of books with the same character." Stroh also has a collection of her mother's drawings - from the time she was only 6 years old to when she was an adult. There are early color pencil sketches of a girl feeding chickens, classes in a one-room school, children playing jacks. There are sketches of Sutton's first conceptions of evolution: birds and fish and even kitchen utensils slowly morphing into humans. Sutton's father insisted the children be well-educated from an early age, and the sketches reveal a very clever and talented little girl. A much later pen and ink illustration of a scene from the first Judy Bolton book is professional quality. Stroh said she plans to display the artwork next June at the annual Phantom Friends convention in Baltimore. She said she hopes also to bring it to the Judy Bolton weekend in Potter County. And there are books that are out of print that Stroh wants to see on bookshelves again. "Mother said, 'It's nice that there are adults who collect them, but I really wrote those books for children.' "If I can get them published again, cheaply enough that kids can read them, perhaps in paperback, Mom would love that. Judy Bolton was a role model, a person who made mistakes but in the end held to her values."

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