Note from the Webweaver: This Finding Aid for materials about Armstrong Sperry in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota Children's Literature Research Collection is not currently available on-line, but is presented here with the permission of their librarians Colette Lunday Brautigam and Jenny Hanson, 16 May 2001. I have edited the file they sent me for presentation on the web. All links on this page are mine.



Armstrong Sperry

PAPERS, 1940-1967


ca. 1940-1967 

1 linear ft. (manuscripts) ; 0.5 cubic ft. (illustrations)

Part of this collection was originally donated to Dr. Irwin Kerlan, who in turn donated it to the University of Minnesota. During the 1970s, Mr. Sperry donated additional materials.

Collection is non-circulating, in-house use only.

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Armstrong Sperry's papers focus on his work as both an author and illustrator of children's and young adult fiction and non-fiction. The collection includes illustrations, typescripts, correspondence, galley proofs, as well as a typescript of an unpublished article. The material is organized by title.

Prepared by Christina Cowan, November 1994

This collection was processed with financial assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Parts of this collection were originally donated to Dr. Irvin Kerlan, who in turn donated his collection to the University of Minnesota. During the 1970s, Mr. Sperry donated additional materials.

Access and Use

There are no restrictions on this collection.

Biographical Sketch

Armstrong W. Sperry was born November 7,1897 in New Haven, Connecticut. Educated at the Yale School of Fine Arts, Sperry continued his education in New York City and Paris. Sperry served in the United States Navy in 1917 and this plus his experiences as an ethnologist in the 1920s in the French controlled islands of the South Pacific led to a life-long interest in the seafaring history and legends of that region and shaped his work. Sperry began his artistic career as an illustrator and shifted to writing stories for children as well, although he continued to illustrate others' works throughout his long career. In 1932, he published his first work, One Day With Manu. Sperry continued to write and illustrate both fiction and non-fiction, and in 1940 published his best-known work, Call It Courage, which won the Newbery Award in 1941. In his long career, Sperry authored and illustrated many books for children and young adults, most with an "adventure" theme ; he also wrote war stories set during World War II. While some of his work may appear overly sentimental or dated in its depictions of various ethnic groups and historical figures such as Columbus, Sperry's works, for their date of publication were quite sympathetic and introduced many young readers to an unfamiliar area, the South Pacific. Call It Courage continues to be read and admired as a superb example of an adventure and coming-of-age story, whose language evokes the image of the peoples and legends of the South Pacific. Armstrong Sperry died April 28, 1978 in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Scope and Content

The collection contains both illustrations (ink, tempera, and pencil) and typescripts for works written, some unpublished, between 1940-1967. There is material for eight published titles and two unpublished ones. Many of the items are inscribed for Irvin Kerlan.


The materials are arranged by title. The illustrative material is shelved separately from the manuscript material. Both manuscript and illustrative material are arranged alphabetically by title.

 See attached inventory for box and folder contents.

Cacao, the Chocolate Tree [unpublished]

1 pencil & tempera dummy with typescript, 40 p. (M.C. 385)

Call It Courage

1 ink illustration [inscribed for Irvin Kerlan] (M.C. 385)

Great River, Wide Land

1 ink study (sketch), (M.C. 385)
1 typescript, corrected, 225 p. (M.F. 726, folders 5-9)
Correspondence, 1 p. (M.F. 726, folder 9)
1 galley proof, corrected, 88 p. (M.F. 727, folder 10)
1 galley proof, corrected, 87 p. (M.F. 727, folder 11)

On Writing for Young People [unpublished]

1 typescript, 15 p. (M.F. 727, folder 12)

Pacific Islands Speaking

1 tempera & watercolor illustration for jacket [inscribed for Irvin Kerlan], (M.C. 385)
5 ink illustrations (M.C. 385)

Secret on the Congo

1 tempera study, (M.C. 804)

South of Cape Horn

Front matter, 9 p. (M.F. 726, folder 1)
1 typescript, corrected, 188 p. (M.F. 726, folders 1-4)

The Story of Hiawatha

1 tempera study for jacket cover, (M.C. 385)
1 tempera & pencil dummy with text proof paste-up, 72 p. (M.C. 385)

Thunder Country

1 ink illustration [inscribed for Irvin Kerlan], (M.C. 804)

The Voyages of Christopher Columbus

1 tempera illustration for jacket, (M.C. 804)
1 typescript, corrected, 147 p.[inscribed for Irvin Kerlan], (M.F. 727, folders 13-15)

This page last updated Sunday, 05/02/21, by Margo Burns,
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