The Definitive Dwiggins no. 293—Textbooks in the 1920s (Part I): Open Doors to Science
In the mid-1920s, as he was trying to shift his career from advertising design to book design, W.A. Dwiggins found himself still contributing to textbooks, something which he might have felt was in his past. For Ginn and Company, a client he had worked with sporadically since 1905, he contributed illustrations to two books: Open Doors to Science with Experiments by Otis Caldwell and W.H.D. Meier (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926) and How the Old World Found the New by Eunice Fuller Barnard and Lida Lee Tall (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1929). For the latter Dwiggins reworked existing illustrations, but for Open Doors he was given the freedom to create original illustrations, though small in size. His contribution to the book was a set of nineteen vignettes, one for each of the book’s nineteen chapters where they functioned as headpieces. 
Open Doors to Science was written by Otis Caldwell (1869–1947), a professor at Columbia University, and William Herman Dietrich Meier (b. 1868), head of the Department of Biology and School Gardening at the State Normal School in Framingham, Massachusetts. Caldwell, according to David W. Levy, “was a botanist who had published numerous technical books and papers but was best known as a pioneering science educator whose work on introducing ‘general science’ into high school curricula was nationally recognized.”  Meier was also a botanist, though apparently without a national reputation like Caldwell. But he was probably responsible for shaping the text to fit a junior high or high school audience. “It makes boys and girls observant of and inquisitive about the world in which they live,” claimed a Ginn advertisement for the book. 
The focus of Open Doors to Science is on major topics in science “which are relatively universal in home, school, and community life.” It was intended as an elementary introduction to science. The authors stressed the importance of illustrations. “They are designed to present the features illustrated, because the situations themselves are not always available,” they write.  There are 249 illustrations, a mix of old engravings and contemporary photographs, along with four full color plates in Open Doors to Science. Among the latter is the frontispiece entitled “Early travelers camping overnight,” an original oil painting by Frank Schoonover (1877–1972), a member of the Brandywine School of American illustration.  Dwiggins’ vignettes, as chapter headpieces, are independent of the illustrations in the text. There is a striking contrast in artistic quality between the two as can be seen in this example of a woman forgetting to turn off her electric iron.
The vignettes for Open Doors to Science do not represent the height of Dwiggins’ talents as an illustrator. But neither are they mundane. Most of them have an odd perspective on each chapter’s subject matter indicating that he did whatever he could to avoid familiar images and clichés. One third of the images are set in the past. Some are slyly humorous, while others are simply puzzling. Below are all nineteen vignettes, in book order, with a few comments.
Chapter I. Some Common Problems of Living
Chapter I is an introduction to heat, light, and water. Dwiggins illustrates the theme with the rising sun.
Chapter II. Fire and Its Uses
Among the topics in Chapter II are sacred fires, open fires, stoves, and furnaces. Dwiggins chose a campfire scene for the headpiece. It makes a pair with the headpiece to Chapter VII where a group of young men—possibly the same ones here—are cooking over an outdoor fire. They could be Boy Scouts or cowboys.
III. Light and Its Uses
Although the focus of Chapter III is on light in the home (e.g. candles, kerosene lamps, tungsten lamps, etc.) Dwiggins has depicted a search light or the beam from a lighthouse. Kennett has praised his use of paper to represent light in the vignette. But it not the only instance in the book in which “paper is part of the picture”—in the words of the Strathmore Paper Co. See the vignettes for Chapters I, II, IV, and XVIII.
Chapter IV. Fire Control
Dwiggins probably based this vignette on a photograph of a Boston fire.
Chapter V. The Water Supply
The chapter discusses springs, wells, cisterns, and water tanks. Dwiggins has created a strange scene that appears to be set in Ancient Rome, except for the dark-clothed man with broad brimmed hat who seems to be an interloper from Colonial America. Water appears in a well, carried in jugs, and flowing through an aqueduct.
Chapter VI. Household Wastes
Chapter VI discusses cesspools, septic tanks, privies, and household garbage. It is about waste in the home. Contrarily, Dwiggins has drawn a rubbish man at the entrance to a wasteyard, with a garbage scow in the background.
Chapter VII. Fire in the Preparation of Foods
This vignette is the companion to the one for Chapter II. Here the figures seem more like Boy Scouts than cowboys given the presence of a canoe and some bedrolls. The chapter talks about the origins of cooking and cookery in Colonial times, but the emphasis is on modern domestic cooking.
Chapter VIII. Factors Regarding Food Requirements
Among the topics of Chapter VIII are “Energy foods. Growth foods. Health foods.” Dwiggins has created an 18th century Dutch market scene—possibly based on a Dutch painting? His decision to set the headpiece in the past is echoed by the one for Chapter XII, which is also about food.
Chapter IX. Production, Use, and Care of Milk
Chapter IX is not about thr production and distribution of milk, as Dwiggins’ vignette suggests. Instead it is about bacteria, bovine tuberculosis, and pasteurizing and grading milk. At least Dwiggins didn’t draw a cow being milked.
Chapter X. Care of Foods within the Home
Dwiggins is on point with his drawing of a modern woman taking items from her modern ice-box. The same woman reappears in Chapter XVI.
Chapter XI. Animals that Injure Our Foods
Chapter XI discusses ants, beetles, moths, skippers, mites, cockroaches, tapeworms, and rats. Why did Dwiggins decide to show foodstuffs being transported by what appears to be conscripted labor?
Chapter XII. Regulation of the Food Industry
Instead of illustrating the pioneering Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, Dwiggins has created a Colonial scene of food inspection.
Chapter XIII. Sources and Qualities of Materials for Clothing
Rugs are not clothing. And they are not mentioned in Chapter XIII. Nevertheless, Dwiggins decided to draw an Oriental scene of rug merchants and buyers. The illustration harks back to several similar ones he made for the Paine Furniture Co. between 1911 and 1913.
Chapter XIV. Home Grounds and Gardening
There is a lot packed into Chapter XIV: trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetable gardens, song birds, and even game wardens. An illustration of a vegetable garden, such as the one Mabel Dwiggins had, would have been expected. Instead Dwiggins appears to be showing the expansive grounds of an upper-class home.
Chapter XV. Home Equipment or Indoor Environment
Dwiggins’ illustration of a paleolithic cave is a tongue-in-cheek evocation of “the indoor environment”. maybe he was excited by the discovery in 1922 of the cave at Pech Merle in France.
Chapter XVI. Hygiene of the Home
Chapter XVI discusses malaria, yellow fever, hookworm, lice, bed bugs—and dust. Dwiggins has chosen the latter subject, showing a middle-class woman (the same one from the vignette to Chapter X) dusting a mantelpiece. (Judging by the expression on her face, she appears to be in a fugue, bored by her domestic duties.).
Chapter XVII. Transportation
In this tiny illustration Dwiggins has crammed in seven modes of transportation: train, streetcar, boat, truck, automobile, airplane, and on foot. The only thing covered by the chapter that he has left is the Pony Express.
Chapter XVIII. Communication
Chapter XVIII covers the postal service, telegraph, telephone, and radio. Dwiggins has ignored these modern methods of communication and depicted a Colonial bonfire, a means of alarm used for centuries.
Chapter XIX. Recreational Science
The woman on the lakeshore is using a Brownie or similar box camera to take a photograph of the boy (her son?) in the rowboat. A game of tennis is taking place in the background. The chapter specifically discusses how to make a rowboat and how to use a camera. tennis is only mentioned in pssing, along with football, baseball, and golf.
According to Dwiggins’ account books he began working on Elements of Science—the provisional name for Open Doors to Science—in December 1923. He finished the job at the end of November 1924.  Unfortunately, Ginn never asked Dwiggins to do more than create headpieces to Open Doors to Science. It would have been nice if he had had the opportunity to design its binding or, better yet, its interior.
1. Open Doors to Science with Experiments by Otis Caldwell and W.H.D. Meier (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926) is not included in The Books of WAD: A Bibliography of the Books Designed by W. A. Dwiggins by Dwight Agner (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Press of the Nightowl, 1974). It is mentioned in W.A Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett (San Francisco: Letterform Archive: 2018), p. 178. Kennett shows the vignette for Chapter III but incorrectly gives the book’s publication date as 1925.
2. The University of Oklahoma: A History, Volume II: 1917–1950 by David W. Levy (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), p. 88.
3. New York State Education vol. XII, no. 9 (May 1925), p. 635.
4. Open Doors to Science with Experiments by Otis Caldwell and W.H.D. Meier (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), p. v.
5. Schoonover was paid $250 for the painting. Dwiggins’ account books do not indicate how much he was paid for the nineteen vignettes, but based on his fees for the illustrations in Collar and Daniell’s First Year Latin (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1918) he received between $350 and $800, depending on whether the drawings were classified as “small” or not.
6. See entries in dwiggins account books between 4 December 1923 and 31 November 1924 in Folder 6, Box 81(1), 1974 W.A. Dwiggins Collection, Boston Public Library.