Little Folks and Black Cats

A little window into the publishing world of turn-of-the-century Salem and Boston today.  I found it difficult to reconcile the very divergent titles of the prolific Salem publisher Samuel Edson Cassino until I uncovered the family history behind the family business.  The S.E. Cassino Company is best known for producing children’s literature, both periodicals like the long-running Little Folks.  The Children’s Magazine (1897-1923) and charmingly-illustrated texts like Edith Francis Foster’s Mary’s Little Lamb:  a Picture Guessing Story for Little Children (1903).

These publications contrast sharply with the other Cassino titles, issued in Boston rather than Salem, primarily scientific compendiums like the annual Naturalists’ Universal Directory.  It turns out that Samuel Edson Cassino, a trained naturalist who married into a prominent North Shore family and turned to publishing, focused on his own interests down in Boston and left the newer (and I suspect more profitable) branch of his business to his daughter Margherita Cassino Osborne, an 1899 graduate of Radcliffe College.  Margherita not only edited Little Folks and several other serial publications (and later put out her own children’s books) but seems to have managed all of the Salem publishing operations, along with her second husband Frank Wellman Osborne.  The Cassino catalogue acquired another–even more diverse–serial title in 1912:  the very interesting early science fiction Black Cat magazine, founded by Herman D. Umbstaetter in Boston in 1895.  The operation of Black Cat were moved from Boston to Salem (which must have seemed appropriate to everyone, as this was just when Salem was beginning to transform itself into “Witch City”), and was managed by Mr. Osborne until its demise in 1920.

The family business was certainly profitable but there’s a (relatively, materially) tragic chapter in the Cassino story as well:  their stately mansion on Lafayette Street, pictured below in 1910, was completely destroyed by the Great Salem Fire of 1914.

32 responses to “Little Folks and Black Cats

  • Nelson Dionne

    Very interesting; who is Barbara Casino ? I have an envelope with her name on the return address; The Cassino Studio, Salem. It had a precancelled 1 1/2 cent stamp ( so no date). In it were a pair of etchings by artist. Lovis K. Harlow.

  • ceciliag

    Always sad when you hear of the demise of the mansions.. almost always fire too.. but interesting another Enid out in Boston.. .. c

  • Helen

    What a house! Show us more of pre-fire.

    • daseger

      Wish I could! Can’t find another image in any of the digital archives–have to look in real archives when I have time. It looks like one of those big square Greek Revival houses you see on Nantucket….

  • Nelson Dionne

    Just one bit of info; I have a bound volume of “Little People”, ( 11-1915, 10-1916) ; there is no Salem content to the magazine. Plenty of good period line drawings, and articles. Single issues do pop up on eBay on a regular basis.

  • Brian

    Always love a good cat post!

  • Ferns of North America | streetsofsalem

    […] hand-colored by James H. Emerton and C. E. Faxon. Another Salem surprise; I’m familiar with Cassino, whose diverse publications included everything from Black Cat Magazine to Bleak House, but this […]

  • » What would I do with this?

    […] Little Folks was published from 1897 to 1923 by Samuel Edson Cassino; it was edited by his daughter Marguerite Cassino Osborne. This ad is from the December 1918 issue — not that anyone had any reason to be thinking about guns in December 1918, of course. […]

  • Virginia W. Blackburn

    Samuel E. Cassino was my Great Grandfather and my mother was named after Margherita Osborn Cassino. He was greatly loved, especially by all his grandchildren who he spent much time with. I have a great picture of their home on Lafayette St. before the Salem fire.

    • daseger

      Oh Virginia, I’m so glad to hear from you! Your great-grandfather sounds like a really interesting and lovely man. If you would send me a picture of the Lafayette house, I know everyone would love to see it. We don’t have enough pictures of that part of Lafayette Street, pre-fire.

  • Virginia W. Blackburn

    The picture I have is from my aunt who was born in the house in 1912 and passed away about a year ago at age 101. She wrote a short accounting of the house and fire on the back of the picture. In comparing it with your picture, it looks similar but your picture doesn’t have all the pillars. Maybe it’s a neighboring house? I don’t know how to attach it here so I will try to find your email address and send it that way.

  • Laura

    Hi Donna, I stumbled upon your informative post when searching for more information about the Cassino Art Company. Thanks for the great information! About 10 years ago I stumbled upon the sweetest little calendar at a flea market out in Long Beach, CA, where I lived at the time. It’s called Play Day Calendar and contains the sweetest little illustrations I have ever seen. It was published by The Cassino Art Company in 1893. I’m amazed it has survived all these years, and it is remarkably great condition. Anyway, I treasure it and have not been able to find any others online…not even an image of any. Do you happen to know if The Cassino Art Company published many calendars?
    Many thanks! Lovely blog. Laura

  • Dana Ferguson Michalovic

    I am in awe of having just found this blog. Marguerite Cassino Osborne was my great-grandmother. I have fond memories of her as she also lived a long life. I would be interested in connecting with Harold’s descendants.

    • daseger

      Well Hello Dana! Your relative sent me the photographs of the beautiful family mansion in this post: Obviously you would be interested in that–more to come from you interesting family, I’m sure!

    • Virginia W. Blackburn

      I am the one that sent the picture of the Cassino house and would like to get in touch with Dana Ferguson Michalovic. I am a descendant of Harold’s brother Leslie who died in the flu epidemic in 1919. My mother (Margherita Osborn Cassino) was named after her favorite Aunt “Daisy” although with an “a”.
      Could you possibly give her my email address?

      • daseger

        Hi Virginia–Dana’s comment is not attached to an email that I am able to access. I’ll keep trying, and maybe she will chime in again!

      • Gregory skop

        I am amazed I found this blog. My name is Greg and I recently stumbled upon a shipping tube with the Cassino name on it. Inside is an original print from chas Herbert Woodbury! Can anyone tell me if the Cassino company made prints like this??

      • daseger

        Charles Woodbury was a local artist so it is very possible; there is a large collection of his works at the Boston Public Library and I have posted about him here too, in “Tracing my Tracks”. So it is certainly very possible.

  • Wendy Huston

    My Great Grandfather, Samuel Edson Cassino, owned the publishing company. I have no doubt the print you found was one of his.

  • Ben Wickey

    I have a question about the National Guard after the fire of 1914. I had heard hints of a story about someone who was either killed or arrested while trying to reenter his/her home during curfew. Do you have any more information on this story, who this person was, or where I could find this information?

  • BG Hildebrant

    Hi! I found a copy of The Happy Forest and its Christmases by Daisy D Plympton at an old engine show. The publisher is Samuel Edson Cassino. So far I haven’t found any info about the book or the author. Copyright is 1901,02,03. It’s a delightful book of its era but has issues with its binding so I’m being careful with it and cherishing it. If anyone knows anything about the author or the book I’d love to hear it. Thanx. BGH

    • daseger

      Not me, but I’ll ask around!

    • Thomas Edgar

      The Happy Forest by Daisy D Plympton has been a family favorite in my family for at least 4 generations.. The stories still resonate with my grand children now in 2021.. Wish I could redo this book as a self publishing effort. Would there be any copyright issues since the copyright in the front indicates it is 117 to 120 years old. The illustrations are priceless..

      • Wendy E Huston

        I don’t know about copy right issues, but you could contact my brother Jon Haywood. We are great grandchildren of the publisher, Samuel Edson Cassino.

  • Jon Haywood

    Just added this information to

    I am the great grandson of SE Cassino

    • daseger

      Oh thanks for stopping by. There is a photograph of the Cassino House that one of your relatives sent to me somewhere on here! I’ll find and link!

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