The following information should give you an idea of what Childcraft was like from 1949-1961.
This description is for a 1961 set and the pictures are taken from a 1961 set, but I have noted the differences between it and earlier sets.
Poems of Childhood starts the Childcraft set.
This includes about 70 classic Mother Goose rhymes plus selections by Sarah Josepha Hale, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, Walter de la Mare, Christopher Morley, Aileen Fisher, Kate Greenaway, Dorothy Aldis, Rachel Field, Alfred Tennyson, Marjorie Barrows, Eleanor Farjeon, Margaret Wise Brown, Vachel Lindsay, Hilaire Belloc, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale, and many others!
It is a beautiful volume, filled with full color illustrations on every page. Illustrators include Milo Winter, Leonard Weisgard, Eloise Wilkin, Janice Holland, Henry C. Patz, William Moyers, Esther Friend, Ursula Koering, Larry McKenzie, Tasha Tudor, Walt Disney, William Pene du Bois, and MANY others!
The illustrations I have chosen are representative! This volume contains well over 200 selections, all beautifully illustrated.
This volume is identical from 1949-1961. In the volumes I have seen, the 1949 volume used a slightly rougher paper and the illustrations are not quite as bright as in the later print years.
Volume Two, Story Telling and Other Poems, continues with over 135 poems, including some longer story-poems like The Blind Man and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe, The Mountain and the Squirrel by Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, The Raggedy Man by James Whitcomb Riley, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, Hiawatha's Childhood and Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Daniel Boone by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét, and others!
Again, there are four color illustrations on every page and the illustrators include Eloise Wilkin, William Pene du Bios, Leonard Weisgard, Robert McCloskey, Hildegarde Woodward, Walt Disney, Samuel Armstrong, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Milo Winter, Lynd Ward, and others. It is, again, a gorgeous volume in full color. These illustrations were done especially for Childcraft by these wonderful artists.
This volume is identical from 1949-1961.
Volume Three, Folk and Fairy Tales, includes about 45 stories. Some of those are The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, The Teeny, Tiny Lady, The Pancake, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Bremen Town Musicians, The Shoemaker and the Elves, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and His Cat, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Rapunzel, and over thirty others!
Authors include the Brothers Grimm, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, Beatrix Potter, Hans Christian Andersen, Ruth Sawyer, Arthur Ransome, Wanda Gág, Aesop, and others.
At this level, with longer stories, there are illustrations on most pages, but not every page. The volume is still beautiful, with some illustrations in full color, some in two colors, and some in black and white. Illustrators include Milo Winter, Leonard Weisgard, Roger Duvoisin, William Pene du Bois, Rosemary Buehring, Harold Price, Lynd Ward, and others.
This volume is identical from 1949-1961
Volume Four, Animal Friends and Adventures, includes wonderful animal stories by authors such as Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Newberry medalist), Marjorie Flack, Elizabeth Orton Jones, Carol Ryrie Brink, Alice Dalgliesh, Marguerite Henry, Ellis Credle, Rudyard Kipling, Hugh Lofting, Hildegarde Woodward, and Jeannette Covert Nolan.
There are nice illustrations on nearly every page.
In the 1949 set, there are a few minor story differences in the Wheels, Wings, and Real Things section of this volume, but I don't find any real advantage between the 1949 volume and the later volumes.
Volume Five, Life in Many Lands, introduces children to world geography by means of beautifully written stories. It includes Holiday Stories, Stories of America, and Stories of Many Lands. Authors include Cornelia Meigs, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, Frances Cavanah, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alice Dalgliesh, Clara Ingram Judson, Kate Seredy, Armstrong Speery, and others.
Bora Bora, China, North Africa, Lithuania, France, Greece, Dalmatia, Argentina, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Hungary, and other places are presented through excellent fiction and biographical sketches.
The stories of America are carefully chosen to represent different regions at various times in our history.
Again, this is beautifully illustrated by a variety of artists in black-and-white, two colors, and four colors and using a variety of media.
The following is representative of volumes 3-6. There are illustrations like this, not on every page, but on most pages.
sorry the illstrations are not straight and even,
but my first priority is to protect a book's spine when I am scanning a collectible old volume!)
Volume Six, Great Men and Famous Deeds is my favorite of this set.
Just a random selection from Volume Six:
Columbus Finds America (Roger Duvoisin)
Pocahontas and Captain John Smith (D'Aulaires)
The True Story of Benjamin Franklin (Elbridge S. Brooks)
Daniel Boone's New Home in Kentucky (Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft)
Robert Fulton Makes the Paddles Work (Clara Ingram Judson)
John James Audubon (Carolyn Sherwin Bailey)
Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood (as told by himself)
Louisa May Alcott's Childhood (as told by herself)
The Story of Robert E. Lee (Smith Burnham)
The Map that Came to Life (Elizabeth Rider Montgomery)
North to Labrador (May McNeer)
Will Rogers, Immortal Cowboy (Shannon Garst)
Pandora's Box (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
The Story of King Arthur (Eleanor Farjeon)
The 1961 set has ten history selections (Alexander Graham Bell, Louis Braille, Madame Curie, and others) that are not in the earlier sets. Both the 1949 and 1954 sets have instead eight retold Bible stories.
Volume Seven, Exploring the World Around Us, is the nature volume for the set. It is filled with photography, both in black-and-white and in color. Sections of this book include Animals of Zoo and Circus (Paul T. Gilbert), Animals of Fields and Woods (Virginia Moe), Our Pets, The Animals We Know Best (Georg Mann), Animals that Work for Man (Dorothy Childs Hogner), Our Friends of the Bird World (Leon Augustus Hausman), Our Frog and Toad Helpers (E. Laurence Palmer), Insects and Spiders (Carl D. Duncan), Animals that Live in Water (Herbert S. Zim), Animals that Live in the Ground (Roy L. Abbott), Turtles, Lizards, and Other Reptiles (Wilfred S. Bronson), Wild Flowers (Margaret McKenny), Growing Flowers and Vegetables (how to manage a garden, Margaret McKenny), and Trees and How They Grow (Rutherfold Platt).
The 1949 set also includes The Earth and its Treasures (Carroll Lane Fenton) and Wonders of the Sky (William T. Skilling and Robert S. Richardson).
Volume Eight, Creative Play and Hobbies, is filled with game ideas, party-planning, hobby and collecting ideas, drama, arts and crafts, creative writing ideas, plans for making toys, cooking ideas and recipes (co-authored by Irma S. Rombauer! [author of Joy of Cooking]), puppetry, sewing, making musical instruments, and MORE. This volume is illustrated entirely in black-and-white with photos and helpful line drawings.
Volume Nine, Science and Industry, is illustrated mostly in black-and-white with some pages done in two colors. This is a very nice volume. It includes ideas for nature study and ideas for experimentation in all the major areas of science. The section on simple machines is excellent. The volume ends with descriptions of food processing and manufacturing. Children love to read how we get things like wool sweaters, fresh food, silk, plastic, leather, gasoline, houses, books, etc.
The 1949 volume is much different. It is an oblong, oversized (14x10) book with a different volume number (14). It has no experimentation for children. Instead it has excellent captioned photographs and paintings for nature study, pictures describing the uses of simple machines, and large, captioned photographs of manufacturing and industry. As I mentioned it is geared more toward drawing children into the adult world.
Volume Ten, Art for Children, includes ideas for children's art and reproductions of famous paintings, most in color.
The 1949 volume is much different, again. It is also an oblong, oversized (14x10) book (numbered '14') and it combines the Art and Music volumes into one awesome book! If you love art study, it would be worth your effort to track down this volume alone. The reproductions of paintings are black-and-white but they are nice and large, with charming descriptions. An introduction to orchestral instruments and some very well written musician biographies are included.
Volume Eleven, Music for the Family includes an introduction to various instruments followed by words and music for over 100 lullabies, nursery songs, folk songs, holiday songs, patriotic songs, and Christian hymns. It also includes short biographies of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Verdi, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Humperdinck, MacDowell, Debussy, Sousa, and Gershwin. The 1954 and 1961 sets include hymns not found in the 1949 combination volume.
There are eleven instructional volumes. Volumes Twelve through Fifteen are parent guides of various kinds. With the exception of the second half of volume fifteen, the Index, I do not think these volumes are useful. In my library, volumes One through Eleven enjoy a prominent place; volumes Twelve through Fifteen are stored in the back of a closet!
The 1949 set had fourteen volumes. Art and Music were combined as a single volume making a total of TEN instructional volumes and four parent guides (volumes 9-12).