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Mary Bacon Jones

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Mary Bacon Jones (1868-1924) American Artist

Mary Bacon Jones, my great aunt and the designer of what were called "The Jungle Folk Design Plates," was born August 13, 1879, in Fort Shaw, Montana. A painter, craftsworker, printmaker and teacher, she never married, studying and working primarily in Boston, New York City and Provincetown, MA. She died in Nice, France, in 1924. I have one of at least five known sets of the 12 final Limoges plates, as well as several smaller test sample pottery plates created earlier, her copyrights (including a French copyright), and other personal photographs and correspondence. Three other sets remain in the possession of our extended family. She designed the first six plates prior to May 31, 1903, when she applied to the Library of Congress Copyright Office for copyrights for the first six plates, "Design for Set of Kipling Plates for a Child." On May 6, 1910, after the new U.S. copyright laws became effective July 1, 1909, she applied for and received copyrights for all 12 designs. The final plates were fabricated in 1910 by Wm. Guerin & Cie. of Limoges, France, later known as Guerin & Co., and Guerin Pouyat Elite before the factory closed in 1933.

Mr. Kipling was aware of Mary Bacon Jones's designs for the plates. In November 1909, with the support of Mr. Kipling's New York publisher (who felt "the sale of the plates would have a beneficial effect upon the circulation of the Jungle Books") she appealed to Mr. Kipling's literary agent in London, Mr. A.P. Watt, for Mr. Kipling's permission to call the plates 'Kipling Plates Illustrating the Jungle Books' [to be placed on the back of the plates]." However, Mr. Kipling replied through his agent that although he had "no objection to the designing, colouring and production of the set of plates to which you refer....He [Mr. Kipling] cannot allow any mark to be made thereon connecting the set of plates with him or with 'The Jungle Book.'"

Submitted by Jennifer Jones

I inherited a complete set of "The Jungle Folk Design Plates" and would like to know more about the artist.

Submitted by Nancy Taylor

Below you see 12 Limoges plates based on The Jungle Books, designed and painstakingly wrought by one of Limoges best folk artist at the turn of the century - Mary Bacon Jones.

(larger photo's received by email from Tish Noble -- May 25 and 26, 2008)

He believed that all things were one big Miracle, and when a man knows that much he knows something to go upon.
The Miracle of Purun Bhagat.

These are the Four that are never content, that have never be filled since the Dews began--
Jacala's mouth, and the glut of the Kite, and the hands of the Ape, and the Eyes of Man.
The King's Ankus.

That is the noise of the spring--a vibrating boom which is neither bees, nor falling water, nor the wind in tree-tops, but the purring of the warm, happy world.
The Spring Running.

All things made he--Shiva the Preserver.
Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all--
Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,
And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!
Toomai Of The Elephants.

Praise him with nightingale words--
Nay, I will praise him instead.
Hear! I will sing you the praise of the bottle-tailed Rikki, with eyeballs of red!
Darzee's Chant.

This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call!--Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!
Mowgli's Brothers.

"There is none like to me!" says the Cub in the pride of his earliest kill;
But the jungle is large and the Cub he is small. Let him think and be still.
Kaa's Hunting.

Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping your temper;
"Tiger! Tiger!".

For summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be;
But splash and grow strong,
And you can't be wrong.
Child of the Open Sea!
The White Seal.

He knew that when the Jungle moves only white men can hope to turn it aside.
Letting in the Jungle.

'Nothing was ever yet lost by silence,' said Kaa -no sting could penetrate his scales- 'and thou hast all the long night for the hunting'.
Red Dog.

With good luck, a keen eye, and the custom of considering whether a creek or a backwater has an outlet to it ere you ascend, much may be done.
The Undertakers.

A selection of these wonderful plates were also exhibited in Provincetown, Massachusetts during her membership at the Provincetown Art Association. An example of her work as a printmaker can be seen at www.provincetownhistoryproject.com from the Collection of the Town of Provincetown. The Provincetown Art Commission of which I am Chairman is honored to be the caretake of this rare work.

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