The Paulding collection contains eleven heavily illustrated letters written by the teenaged artist-in-training, John Paulding, to his mother between 1897 and 1899. The content of these brief letters is limited, but Paulding's light-hearted style and good nature make reading them enjoyable, and there are a few small barbs about his status as a bachelor in the city, and about the possibility that the art work he sends home might scandalize the small town in which his mother lives (Carthage, Mo.). "I can hang the pictures in my room," he wrote, "because I am a young bachelor and live in a city where such matters are not given criticism. You are situated differently" (1898 March 13).
The main interest in Paulding's letters, however, are the excellent pen and ink sketches that he uses to illustrate his experiences in the city. Each letter contains as many as half a dozen small sketches, ranging from humorous self portraits to views of the street outside his window, country roads, and humorous characters. As an illustrator, Paulding's style is strongly influenced by the popular magazine illustrators of the day, featuring strong, clean lines, and outstanding attention to detail and character.