Daily throughout the 20th century armies of kids across the country walked, pulled wagons and rode bicycles crisscrossing up and down every single street of every single town and city in America. These pre-dawn troops broke the early morning silence by launching bangs into front doors of homes and plops onto driveways with rolled-up, freshly printed newspapers.
Such was the scene in a late 1950’s small town (population 1,200) in central Illinois on the street where the Stewart home sat. Little did the young carrier delivering the “Tribune” on his paper route know, the contents within that home would come to have an impact on his life some twenty-five years in the future.
Son of the town fix-it contractor our young paper boy’s father helped the Stewart’s with projects around their house. Tragically, over the decades Lois’s only child passed away relatively young and Lois outlived her husband. By the 1980’s Lois decided to seek the comfort of a retirement home. She was going to sell her house and asked the trusted contractor to help by purchasing and removing the contents of the home.
Many years earlier, shortly after the birth of her son, Lois had taken an interest in the comic books being sold in the magazine section of her husband’s grocery store. In four short years from 1949 to 1952 she accumulated approximately 2,700 comics – an average of 13 comic books per week. There were not a lot of superhero books, most being funny animals and westerns. But what the collection lacked in “big name key hero titles” it made up for in care and condition. Nearly all the copies have the name “Lois Stewart” carefully stamped on the cover and on the inside first page along with a star drawn in colored pencil. Some covers also have the issue number written on it – indicating some form of advanced collection organization and management. There were also a number duplicate copies – one stamped with the name and the other marked by a handwritten “Lois” on the cover. The “Lois” books tended to be of lesser condition, frequently with a subscription crease – while the stamped copies were typically very fine to near mint (8.0-9.0) with white paper demonstrating conscientious storage. There were even a few comics with recognizable names of other town residents written on them – Lois was possibly trading or exchanging comics with others.
In addition to comics there were about 400 Little Golden Books (1947-1952) along with many old tin toys from that period. From 1953 to 1956 the collection turned to baseball cards, which also amounted to roughly 2,700 cards including multiples of Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente rookie cards.
The young paper delivery boy grew to an adult and he, his brother and their wives helped their contractor father clean out the same house he had delivered papers to many years before. As payment his father gave him the comic books and his brother the baseball cards.
Now 74 himself, the collection has brought joy to the former paper carrier in the form of a new found hobby. Selling about two copies per week, he slowly began to let go of the collection over the past decade – meeting and befriending hundreds of fellow comic collectors along the way. “This story is almost like one of those great finds you hear about, and it ends up it happened in my hometown.” If you happen to notice “Lois Stewart” stamped on the front of a comic book in your collection you too are now caretaker of a part of that history.