|Chalk Talks and Famous People Who Gave Them
Patricia L. Cummings
This essay is a brief look at the individuals who are known to have given "chalk talks" in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Bertha Corbett Melcher, Albert Einstein, Hans Rey, and Tasha Tudor, in the 20th century and Nathaniel Scrimshaw are
among those presenters discussed.
The first time I ever saw the phrase "chalk talk" was in regards to the talks given by Bertha Corbett (Melcher), an early
20th century artist, famous for her Sunbonnet Sue figures, a pre-cursor to all of the later Sunbonnet Sue quilts. "The
Minneapolis Journal" said this: "Her work is decidedly out of the ordinary as she chalks and chalks as she talks." To read
more comments about Bertha's talks, please visit the following link: http://www.sunbonnetsue.com/suehistory.html
Noted German physicist, Albert Einstein, perhaps best known for discovering the theory of relativity, is another person who
reportedly gave "chalk talks."
Hans Rey (1898-1977), the creator of the cartoon character, "Curious George," was a naturalist and an artist. Born Hans
Reyersbach, both he and his wife were German Jews who had escaped the Nazis by riding their bicycles out of Paris ahead
of the Nazi invasion on bicycles that Hans himself had constructed. He and his wife, Margret (1906-1996), born Margarete
Waldstein, chose to make their home in New Hampshire.
According to a February 9, 2006 article in the "Concord Monitor," Rey bought land in Waterville Valley in 1957 and three
years later built a cottage there. In that northern part of New Hampshire, Hans could fulfill his desire of studying the
constellations without the interference of city lights.
During their lifetime, Hans often gave "chalk talks," utilizing a chalk board, poster board, or large sheets of newsprint. He
would create alphabet drawings and give the drawings away afterwards to whomever had sat the most quietly and listened,
mostly children. To read more about Hans and Margret Rey, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margret_Rey
Nathaniel Scrimshaw Continues the Chalk Talk Tradition
Nat Scrimshaw knew "Mr. Rey," as a child. He has recently come back to New Hampshire to serve as the director of the
Curious George Cottage and to continue the tradition of "chalk talks," that he had so loved when he was a youngster.
Scrimshaw's work has helped to raise one and a half million dollars toward a new Waterville Valley Center for the Arts.
The 501c3, non-profit organization, will transform the town of Waterville Valley, NH into a cultural mecca.
At one point in time, Tasha Tudor, (1915-2008), a famous artist who illustrated books for children and lived a quaint way
of life, resided in Vermont with her Corgi dogs. She used to give a 45 minute "chalk talk" about being an artist. She is
known for her love of antiques and for daily wearing "costumes" that reflect previous times.
Book: Chalk Talks for Sunday Schools
When we were browsing in a shop that sells antiques I came across a little book that I bought just for its title: Chalk Talks
for Sunday Schools by Harlan Tarbell, (Chicago: T.S. Denison & Company Publishers, 1928). The illustrations are simple
and could easily be translated into needlework.
A quick look at amazon.com turns up a number of similarly-named books. However, most of them appear to be unavailable.
Chalk Talks, in General
So, isn't this situation just classic? I have gone from having never heard anything about "chalk talks" to noticing the
expression cropping up everywhere. Artists, scientists, and Sunday School teachers have been documented as giving "chalk
talks." If you hear of any other "chalk talk" sightings, please let me know!
©Copyright 2007/2016. Patricia Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, New Hampshire. All rights reserved.