This children’s painting book and crayon set (circa 1920) were owned by Harry J. Sohl. who was born in Plainsboro in 1908. It is currently on display in our temporary exhibit “The School that Started a Town – A History of Plainsboro Schools” where we have lots of interesting objects used by students during Plainsboro’s early years! Come check out the exhibit while it’s still open!

A little history about coloring books – It was not until the second half of the 19th century that children’s coloring books were widely available. Though there were some books designed to teach kids how to paint, widespread illustrated children’s books didn’t become possible until the invention of the printing process: lithography, which reduced the time, difficulty and cost to reproduce detailed illustrations. This increased the general population’s access to printed books, and made changes to children’s education. The first U.S. kindergarten was started in the 1850s, which encouraged the early rise of coloring books moving into the early 20th century.

The Sohl family has deep roots in Plainsboro. Harry’s father, Harry L. Sohl, operated a gas station in Plainsboro and was a retired fuel oil distributor for the Standard Oil Company, bringing gasoline and kerosene to his customers in horse drawn wagons. Harry’s brothers Clifford and Raymond were well known in the town as “the institutional memory of Plainsboro.” Raymond became Plainsboro’s second postmaster and remained as such for 17 years while Clifford served on the Board of Education, the Town Council and was president of the Plainsboro Historical Society. The two brothers worked to preserve the history of Plainsboro Township throughout their final years, as they arranged archeological digs ahead of road construction and worked with developers to preserve historical family plots such as the Van Dyke farm.