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Bill Martin, Jr. Collection

Identifier: 2008.027

Scope and Contents

Series I, Correspondence, is the second largest series in the collection. It contains correspondence between Bill Martin, Jr. and numerous individuals (including friends, acquaintances, and colleagues) as well as organizations (including companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies). It includes a major sub-series for art-related correspondence. Note that photographs originally filed in this series have been moved to separate photograph-only folders that have been retained adjacent to the source folder.

Series II, Working files, is the largest series in the collection. It consists of three primary sub-series: works by Bill Martin, Jr., works collected by Bill Martin, Jr. (including both materials curated by Martin for his many textbooks and readers as well as for inspiration), and works about Bill Martin, Jr. The latter is substantially less voluminous than the former two. All three primary sub-series are further subdivided into secondary sub-series based on the form of the material. The first two contain sub-series for stories, poems, songs, notes, art, travel materials, and the like, while the latter contains sub-series for promotional materials, awards, reviews, and legal and medical materials. The files within these secondary sub-series are sorted by title or by author, as appropriate. Note that photographs originally filed in this series have been moved to separate photograph-only folders that have been retained adjacent to the source folder.

Series III, Personal papers, is the second smallest series in the collection. It consists of biographical and bibliographical material about Bill Martin, Jr., his birth certificate and related materials, and a personal greeting from Eric Carle.

Series IV, Photographs, is the third largest series in the collection. It contains numerous black and white and color photographs, as well as negatives, transparencies, and contact sheets, the vast majority of which include Bill Martin, Jr. as a chief subject. All of the photographic materials in this series were originally filed separately as photographs, as opposed to the photographs that were filed in correspondence and working files, which have been retained in those respective series.

Series V, Audio/visual, is the third smallest series in the collection. It contains all non-textual audio and visual materials in the collection (aside from photographs), including VHS video tapes, grooved discs (vinyl records), cassettes, and a reel-to-reel audio tape. Note that some audio/visual materials have been removed from their original locations in the collection due to preservation concerns.

Series VI, Realia, is the smallest series in the collection. It contains materials that are neither two-dimensional textual nor audio/visual. It is comprised of just a teddy bear and a scrapbook.


  • Creation: 1819 - 2001, inclusive
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1992,


Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection are protected by applicable copyright laws.

Biographical / Historical

Bill Martin, Jr. (born William Ivan Martin) was a writer most renowned as a children’s author, as well as a poet, a teacher, and an elementary-school principal.

Martin was born William Ivan Martin on March 20, 1916 in Hiawatha, Kansas, one of five boys. He was named after his father William, a paperhanger, and his mother Iva. He was teased about his middle name as a child, and left it off his official application at Emporia State University. Noting that his father was also named "William Martin," school officials added Junior to his name, thus effectively rechristening him Bill Martin, Jr.

Attentive and intelligent, Martin was a good student, but he had considerable difficulty reading more than a sentence or so at a time. He ultimately taught himself how to read by studying books of poetry he had memorized at Emporia State. After graduating, he taught drama, English, and journalism at high schools in Newton and St. John, Kansas, before serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a newspaper editor. In 1942, he married Betty Jean Bachmann, with whom he had two children: Danielle and Gary (who died in 1963). The couple divorced in 1978.

In 1945, Martin published his first book, The Little Squeegy Bug, which was illustrated by his brother Bernard. It sold over a million copies and was acclaimed by Eleanor Roosevelt. In all, the Martin brothers collaborated on 11 books between 1945 and 1955. During the 1950s, Bill Martin, Jr. was also the host of a regional television program called The Storyteller.

During the late 1950s, Martin completed both master’s and doctoral degrees in early childhood education at Northwestern University. He then worked as a principal at Crown Island Elementary School in Evanston, Illinois, before moving to New York City in 1961. There, while the editor in chief of Holt Rinehart & Winston’s school division during the 1960s, he developed school reading programs such as the Instant Reader books and the Sounds of Language series for beginning readers. In 1972, he became a full-time children’s author. Martin was one of the first children’s authors to tour bookstores and schools, where he read his new books aloud to children; he also produced audiotapes of his works.

In total, Martin wrote or co-wrote more than 300 children’s books, including bestsellers such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; Knots on a Counting Rope; and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Many of his books were illustrated by his friend Eric Carle. He wrote Brown Bear, regarded by many as his magnum opus, during a 33-minute trip on the Long Island Railroad.

His style as an author made prominent use of adventure and rhythmic wordplay. In a 2004 interview, Martin described his work as creating "simple poetry that children know in their hearts," and he noted that his writing was inspired by his own learning experiences as a young reader as well as the storytelling abilities of his grandmother and fifth-grade teacher.

In 1993, Martin moved from New York to Northeast Texas, where he settled near Commerce. Near the end of his career, he collaborated with his neighbor Michael Sampson on more than 20 books. In 1996, he was honored by the creation of the Bill Martin, Jr. Picture Book Award by the Kansas Reading Association, which is given to one picture book each year. Martin died in Commerce on August 11, 2004.


33.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The names and contents of the individual folders in the collection have been retained with few exceptions, which are noted wherever they occurred. While the original order within folders has been preserved, there was no clear discernible order to the arrangement of folders in relation to each other before processing. The processor therefore imposed an order, first organizing materials by genre and secondarily organizing them alphabetically.

Separated Materials

Numerous print books were removed from this collection and added to the department's non-circulating library. They are:

Behn, Harry, and James R. Endicott. Trees: A Poem. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992. Print.

Burns, Olive A. Cold Sassy Tree. New York: Dell Pub., 1986. Print.

Clifford, Richard J. Psalms 1-72 [commentary]. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1986. Print.

Cowley, Joy, Deirdre Gardiner, and June Melser. Hairy Bear. Auckland, NZ: Shortland Publications, 1980. Print.

Cowley, Joy, Rodney McRae, and June Melser. The Haunted House. Auckland, NZ: Shortland, 1982. Print.

Cowley, Joy, June Melser, and Christine Ross. In a Dark Dark Wood. Auckland, NZ: Shortland Publications, 1980. Print.

Cox, Palmer. The Brownies: Their Book. New York: Dover, 1964. Print.

Dorner, Jane, and Edward Blacksell (eds.). Poems from a Competition: An Anthology of Verse by Schoolchildren. London: Blond Educational, 1971. Print.

Goodman, Yetta M, and Roberta Arenson. The Little Overcoat: Traditional Folksong. New York: Mondo, 1998. Print.

Gorey, Edward, Stephen Currens, and David Aldrich. Gorey Stories: A Musical Entertainment. London: Samuel French, Inc., 1983. Print.

Greenberg, David, and Victoria Chess. Slugs. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1983. Print.

Heine, Helme. Friends. New York: Aladdin Books, 1986. Print.

Hunt, T W, and Claude V. King. In God's Presence: Your Daily Guide to a Meaningful Prayer Life. Nashville, Tn: LifeWay, 1994. Print.

Lear, Edward. A Nonsense Alphabet. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962. Print.

Martin, Bill. The Maestro Plays. Melbourne: Rigby Education, 1986. Print.

Martin, Bill, and Eric Carle. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? New York: Henry Holt and Co, 1996. Print.

Martin, Bill, Michael R. Sampson, and Cathie Felstead. Adam, Adam, What Do You See? Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2000. Print.

Martin, Bill, and Bernard J. Weiss. Sounds of Our Heritage from the Southwest. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. Print.

Melser, June, and David Cowe. Fizz and Splutter. Auckland, NZ: Shortland Publications, 1982. Print.

Merriam, Eve, and Dale Gottlieb. Train Leaves the Station. New York: Henry Holt, 1992. Print.

Morris, William B, and Betty Fraser. The Longest Journey in the World. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970. Print. [Includes oversize book, teacher's guide, and student's book.]

Noodles, and Michael Foreman. How to Catch a Ghost. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1979. Print. [Includes oversize book, teacher's guide, and student's book.]

Sammons, Sonny. The Keepers of Echowah: A Novel. Atlanta, Ga: Cherokee Pub. Co, 1995. Print.

Schultz, Jeff, and Bill Sherwonit. Iditarod: The Great Race to Nome. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1991. Print.

Soavi, Giorgio. Le Message. Dessins De Folon. Paris: Hermann, 1967. Print.

Processing Information

Materials on newsprint ("newspaper") and other fragile types of paper ("fragile documents") have been photocopied onto archival-quality bond paper, which have then been inserted into the newsprint/fragile paper’s original location. Newsprint/newspaper and fragile original documents have been segregated in separate folders adjacent to their original locations, in the same manner that photographs in the first two series have been segregated.

Bill Martin, Jr. Collection
Michael Barera
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, Waters Library, Texas A&M University-Commerce Repository