A BOOK REVIEW : GRIMM DEATH by Dorothy Foster Brown, Published by Smith and Durrell in 1946

By Pat Silvernail, Elmira Button Club

“Some thrillers are so far-fetched that they lose all semblance of reality. This is a true-to-life mystery; not too fantastic to be plausible but tremendously exciting throughout. It combines lively action with likable characters, realistic atmosphere–and a surprising ending.” This is the description taken from the book jacket and the book does indeed have a surprise ending!

Also from the book jacket – Dorothy Foster Brown was born in 1901 and lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her interests were wide and varied. As an artist (she graduated from the School of the Worcester Art Museum), she exhibited paintings in various cities. Her poetry appeared in the better magazines and on greeting cards of her own design. Her interest in stamp and button collecting led to her becoming a regular contributor to the magazine, HOBBIES. GRIMM DEATH, which reflects a deep attachment to the rural New England way of life, was the first of what was confidently expected to be a succession of first-rate mystery stories. ( This was her only mystery novel).

Before “The Big Book of Buttons” was first published in 1981, there was “Button Parade” published in 1942 and revised in 1968. The Lightner Publishing Company of Chicago, publisher of the famous HOBBIES magazine, issued the first edition of this book written and illustrated by Miss Brown. Mr. Lightner had many hobbies and went on to establish the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida which does indeed have a button collection in its many exhibits. Miss Brown did not write a technical book devoted to button composition and manufacturing. Rather, she looked at buttons from the human side because they are beautiful, interesting or amusing or from the standpoint of Art, Beauty and Human Interest. The author had a true collectors love for craftsmanship and detail as represented in the some 2,000 buttons shown–each painstakingly drawn by Miss Brown.

Dorothy Foster Brown became a button enthusiast in 1933 when pioneer collectors in New Hampshire introduced her parents to the hobby. Her mother was a teacher and her father an artist and designer. She started contributing button articles and drawings to HOBBIES in 1938. At the time, it was the world’s most famous publication devoted to Antiques. Miss Brown also devoted much of her time to history, liked mystery novels and Dickens and was an avid baseball fan. “I enjoy buttons” she wrote, “and I also enjoy the good friends and interesting acquaintances I have made through the hobby. But I endeavor to keep a sense of proportion: I refuse to become too serious about buttons, or to let them become too important in my scheme of things. After all, there are so many interesting things in the world!”

Miss Brown’s South High Yearbook photo includes the quote “Better to wear out than to rust out”. She was always on the honor roll and it was said she could out-talk every pupil and nearly every teacher on the subject of “War”. She spent most of her time in the art room where her fame was firmly established. In 1952, she sent a letter to a Mrs. Gibson in Worcester and enclosed four buttons she had painted– two of them were Jenny Lind, one was a snowman and one had a helmeted woman and said “Rule Britannia”. She said they were individualized and she never knew how they would come out.

Her death date is listed as “Unknown”. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster, Massachusetts. A lovely monument has her parents’ names and dates but her name has only 1901–. One of the auction houses selling her artwork said she was 119. Her paintings are lovely, very much in the Art Deco style.

 


Images found at the findagrave.com website.

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