Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


Children's Stories Selected by Ellen White

Some twenty years before this, when the children of James and Ellen White were growing up, and before Seventh-day Adventists had either schools or appropriate reading matter for youth, except the eight-page monthly Youth's Instructor, Ellen White began to select, largely from religious magazines, stories with moral lessons that would help to furnish appropriate reading for the Sabbath in their home. 3BIO 52.3

At this period of time there was an exchange of journals between publishers. The Review and Herald furnished its journals, the Review, the Health Reformer, and the Youth's Instructor, to non-Adventist publishers in return for the journals they put out. It was a common practice, and the magazines so received were referred to as “exchanges.” These journals came to Uriah Smith's desk. After he had looked them over and selected what he wanted from them, he passed them to Ellen White. She, in turn, watching for helpful materials, especially to read to her family, clipped out choice articles and pasted them in scrapbooks—large-sized volumes made up by binding the issues of some journals together for this specific purpose, or constructed from heavy new stock. These grew in number until there were some twelve or fifteen, which she referred to as her scrapbooks. They are now in the White Estate vault. 3BIO 52.4

As time went on, Ellen White and others observing the value of these materials began to think in terms of some booklets for children. Well along in the year 1875 she led out in selecting materials for twenty little books of sixteen pages each, to be put out in neat, colored covers. James White, advertising them in the Signs of December 23, 1875, described their origin. This is one of the few places Ellen White was linked, by name, with this enterprise: 3BIO 52.5

We have for sale at this office a series of little books for children suited to the ages of from 5 to 12 years. Mrs. White has been gathering blessed little stories for the past twenty years, and pasting them in her scrapbooks. This little series of books is a careful selection from a great amount of excellent reading matter for children, and will be universally acknowledged by all who become acquainted with them to be the best in print. 3BIO 53.1

These were priced at 2 cents each or 40 cents for the full series of twenty. The same material was put up in ten books of thirty-two pages each with “highly colored, glazed covers,” which could be had for 50 cents postpaid, for the set of ten. Although the pamphlets were small and inexpensive, James White thought big in terms of their distribution. He continued: 3BIO 53.2

We know that our friends have ten thousand little sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, and other little folks who are very dear to them to whom they wish to present these precious little books. So we print enough for all. 3BIO 53.3

Seventh-day Adventist parents and others welcomed heartily this new line of literature. Beginning in the early months of 1876 and continuing for several years, the Signs carried a department titled “The Home Circle.” Not a few stories selected from Ellen White's scrapbooks were here republished. Many holes cut into the pages of these scrapbooks testify to the use made of these materials as items were clipped out to make up copy for the journal. Looking through these scrapbooks today, one finds at the head of a number of the clippings, in Ellen White's handwriting, the words penciled, “Child's Book,” “Sunshine Series,” “Second Series,” et cetera. 3BIO 53.4

Just before leaving Battle Creek for the West, Ellen White, in writing on October 26 to Willie and Mary, mentioned them: 3BIO 53.5

While we are seeking to get off my books, Sister Ings is devoting every evening to my scrapbooks. I have one about completed and several smaller-sized ones half done. We are getting together all the best pieces from exchanges for you to use—mothers’ pieces for books, children's pieces for small books, youths’ pieces for Sabbath reading. We are working to help you [Mary, in editing the Signs] in your work in every way we can.—Letter 46, 1876. 3BIO 53.6

Soon plans emerged to issue four bound books of about four hundred pages each, composed of such materials; they were called Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle. As the fourth volume was on the press in 1881, James White told the story of this line of work: 3BIO 54.1

In our early labors in the cause, both Mrs. White and the writer have felt a deep solicitude for the precious youth. Thirty long years since, when in comparative youth, before its present managers were born, we published the first number of the Youth's Instructor, containing the first Sabbath school lesson learned by the children of Seventh-day Adventists. 3BIO 54.2

Mrs. White has ever been a great reader, and in our extensive travels she has gathered juvenile books and papers in great quantities, from which she selected moral and religious lessons to read to her own dear children. This work commenced about thirty years since. 3BIO 54.3

We purchased every series of books for children and youth, printed in America and in Europe in the English language, which came to our notice, and bought, borrowed, and begged miscellaneous books of this class, almost without number. And when we established the Pacific Press at Oakland, California, in 1875, we shipped more than half a ton of these books and papers to that office at great expense. 3BIO 54.4

And there we published the Sunshine Series of little books for the little ones, from 5 to 10 years old, the series of Golden Grains, for children from 10 to 15 years, and the volumes for the Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle for still more advanced readers. Our object in publishing in Oakland, California, instead of Battle Creek, Michigan, was to help the California office in its infancy.... 3BIO 54.5

We published ten thousand copies of the Sunshine Series, and ten thousand of the Golden Grains at Oakland, making in all 240,000 little books. And we have published six thousand copies of each of the four volumes of the Home Circle, making in all twenty-four thousand bound books.... 3BIO 54.6

Precious books! The compilers have spent years in reading and rejecting ninety-nine parts, and accepting one. Precious books, indeed, for the precious youth.—The Review and Herald, June 21, 1881. 3BIO 55.1

The development of these materials, largely for the reading of children and youth, but in some cases the parents, provides a glimpse of Ellen White in a role she did not often fill. She selected materials for publication, materials for which she made no claim beyond that of a compiler. In this work she provided most useful reading matter for Adventist homes. The pamphlets and little bound books were advertised from time to time in the Signs of the Times and the Review and Herald, the bound books selling for 75 cents each, or four for $3. 3BIO 55.2