Collections Highlight: Benjamin Baldwin

A recent reference request took me into the collection of the architect and interior designer Benjamin Baldwin. While the bulk of his collection contains the drafts and revisions of his autobiography, An Autobiography in Design, his collection holds an abundance of historical treasures in the form of letters, drawings, and photographs. Finishing his autobiography shortly before his death in 1993, Baldwin dedicated it to, “many who have touched my life with the magic of friendship and love.”

Such magic is timeless and ineffable; yet, a glimpse of it is captured in the trove of letters written by his friends, his fellow Cranbrook Academy of Art alumni. Baldwin won a scholarship to attend the Academy while at Princeton, where he had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1935, and MFA in Architecture in 1938 following a year studying painting with Hans Hoffman.

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Benjamin Baldwin as a Navy ensign in Morocco in 1942. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Baldwin arrived at Cranbrook in 1938, the same year as Ralph Rapson and Charles Eames, and he formed a lifelong friendship with Harry Weese, who married Baldwin’s sister Kitty. The collection includes many letters to Harry Weese from Baldwin and others, notably Ralph Rapson, who signs himself “Le Rapson,” Wally Mitchell, Marianne Strengell, Eero Saarinen, Aline Saarinen, and Lily Swann Saarinen.

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Page of a letter from Ralph Rapson to Harry Weese, written despite Rapson being “not in a writing mode,” April 9, 1939. Perhaps unexpectedly, Baldwin’s collection has many letters connected to Weese but not Baldwin, likely because the collection was donated by Baldwin’s niece/Weese’s daughter, Shirley Weese Young. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Section of letter from Lily Swann Saarinen to Harry Weese discussing the importance of letters and friendship, July 17, 1939. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Drawing of an animal by Lily Swann Saarinen from the Baldwin collection, no date. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The handwriting and the composition of these letters open a window into their world, their ideas and projects, and their hopes and concerns for each other. Certainly, this correspondence provides richer detail, and perhaps the inside view, to information found in other collections, like Rapson’s early projects in Chicago and his design for Longshadows (the Hoey summer house). It also documents events that I have previously only seen in secondary sources, such as Wally Mitchell’s car accident over the Christmas of 1942, which is poignantly described by Marianne Strengell. It is also quite striking that the gift of art is not a “thing set apart” but pervades their everyday life.

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Postcard from Harry Weese to Ralph Rapson, c. 1942. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Letter from Marianne Strengell to Harry Weese, October 1939. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Section of a letter from Wally Mitchell to Harry Weese, with Mitchell apologizing for his letterhead, c. 1940. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

During his year at Cranbrook, Baldwin and Weese built a much celebrated and sought-after folding loom. In the Fall of 1939, Baldwin returned to Cranbrook to work with Eliel and Eero Saarinen and J. Robert F. Swanson on the model for the Smithsonian Art Gallery competition. The submission won, but the design was never built.

In 1940, when the Smithsonian work was finished, Baldwin joined Harry Weese in Chicago, where they opened a private practice (1940-1941). The same year, they also won a competition called ‘Organic Design,’ which focused on contemporary furniture. Following Navy service during World War II, Baldwin initially worked with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York before setting up an independent workshop, also in New York.

Although a registered architect, Baldwin’s career predominantly focused on interior design, including designs for furniture, textiles, chinaware, and gardens, which he loved the best. His aim was one of simplicity: flowing space and comfort to reflect the serenity that he found in nature. Baldwin’s designs for textiles and chinaware, filled with color and symmetry, are a truly wonderful part of this collection.

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Ben Baldwin’s award-winning Ritz chair, 1979. Cranbrook Art Museum, Gift of Ben Baldwin.

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An invitation for the opening of the Ben Baldwin Collection for Larsen Furniture, completed for fellow Cranbrook alum Jack Lenor Larsen, 1978. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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A design for textiles by Benjamin Baldwin, c. 1970. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Ben Baldwin’s Flower Garden Series, c. 1970. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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A design for chinaware by Benjamin Baldwin, c. 1970. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

From 1973, Baldwin split his time between East Hampton, New York, and Sarasota, Florida. He died in Sarasota on April 4, 1993. He had just completed his autobiography and his niece, Shirley Weese Young, made great efforts to finalize its publication. It was published in 1995.

– Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

Lisa Frank’s Cranbrook Years

When I’m talking with visitors to Cranbrook about our many famous alumni, there is perhaps only one graduate whose legacy and name recognition so divides responses between “Who is that?” and “Oh-my-gosh, really?!”

If the visitor was born before 1982, they likely have never heard of her. If they’re born after 1982, they almost certainly know her—even if they don’t know she’s a real person: Lisa Frank.

Lisa Frank from Kickstarter A typical example of Lisa Frank’s art: unicorns, golden retrievers, pandas, and rainbows, c. 2005-2015. Copyright Lisa Frank, Inc.; courtesy of Pinterest.

Lisa Deborah Frank graduated from Kingswood in 1972. For kids in the 80s and 90s, her iconic neon designs decorated our backpacks, Trapper Keepers, pencils, folders, and stickers. Anything that you might possibly need for the daily rigors of preteen life, Lisa Frank could provide. Rainbow kittens and neon unicorns adorned practically everything, and you’d be forgiven if you chalked these creations up to the work of some anonymous office supply conglomerate with a cadre of slightly nutty illustrators.

But no. Lisa Frank is very much a real person and artist, and she has led her company, Lisa Frank, Inc., as a successful commercial art studio since 1979. Her Day-Glo depictions of flora and fauna were sensational, ubiquitous, and often imitated but never equaled. Despite her success at brightening elementary schools across the globe, as an artist and businesswoman she has been a reclusive figure. So who exactly is Lisa Frank?

Lisa Frank, senior portrait from Woodwinds yearbook, 1972. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In 2015, Cranbrook Kingswood alumna Carly Marks interviewed Lisa Frank at her Tucson, Arizona headquarters for the art magazine Foundations, one of the only in-depth interviews Frank has ever sat for. Frank had this to say about her time at Kingswood (1966 to 1972):

“They had real people teaching, accomplished artists. We sat in the original Saarinen chairs. I don’t think we realized what we were surrounded by. I can tell you I wouldn’t be who I am without that experience.”

Lisa Frank Woodwinds 1971 Lisa Frank (left) painting at Kingswood School for Girls in her Junior year (1970-1971). Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Woodwinds 1971.

There was also art at home: Lisa Frank’s father served on the board of the Detroit Institute of Arts and had an impressive collection in their Palmer Woods (Detroit) house, including works by Jasper Johns, Josef Albers, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Jean Arp. One of Frank’s proudest moments was when her father hung one of her Kingswood-era paintings in the house—not because it was his daughter’s painting, but because he liked the work itself.

At Kingswood, Lisa Frank served on the Woodwinds yearbook staff as the advertising coordinator, among other activities. She also took advantage of the art opportunities, telling Foundations, “I had a senior show of the paintings I made…They were up on the wall, I sold out, and received a ton of commissions. Lee Iacocca, former president of Chrysler, bought a painting.”

Lisa Frank Kingswood Work Courtesy of Carl Marks Foundation MagazineUntitled. Lisa Frank, c. 1971-1972. Painted while Frank was a student at Kingswood School for Girls. Photo courtesy of Carly Mark for Foundations magazine, 2015.

Frank’s work at Cranbrook was abstract, using acrylic on Masonite or canvas, and sometimes incorporating paper on the canvas for additional texture. Although the work was nonrepresentational, the bright colors that would become her brand’s signature are present in these early paintings.

Lisa Frank Kingswood Work Courtesy of Carly Marks-Foundations MagazineUntitled. Lisa Frank, c. 1971-1972. Painted while Frank was a student at Kingswood School for Girls. Photo courtesy of Carly Mark for Foundations magazine, 2015.

Her success in the Kingswood senior show led to early independence: “I lived on those earnings forever. When I was in high school [my dad] was paying for all my materials. When I got the commissions he said, ‘You’re paying for all the supplies.’ Then when I told him I was going to the University of Arizona he said, ‘That’s fine and I love you all the same but I’m not going to support you.’”

In college, Frank supported herself by selling Native American art and jewelry. She noticed what sold and what didn’t, and she encouraged the artisans she represented to make certain pieces for commercial sale. Her knack for knowing what designs would sell extended into her own art.

As she recalls, “At first I didn’t want to do unicorns. The artist in me said no. Then I thought, wait a minute, this is commercial art. Let’s do what’s going to sell.”

She started a line of jewelry made up of plastic fruits assembled with hot glue guns. She sold this line, called Sticky Fingers, at gift shows, and its success led to the establishment of her eponymous business. She entered into the pin/button market, painting licensed figures like Felix the Cat or Betty Boop, along with her own colorful animals with big eyes. These buttons were mass produced in Asia and imported to the U.S. Her breakout moment came in 1982, when teen mall staple Spencer’s Gifts ordered a million dollars’ worth of colorful Lisa Frank-designed stickers. She was only 28 years old.

Panda Painter by Lisa Frank courtesy of Carly Marks-Foundations MagazinePanda Painter, Lisa Frank, c. 1982-85. Frank worked with markers, acrylics, and airbrush. By 1989, the production had shifted to computer design. Artwork was created by various artists (including Rondi Kutz, Senior Designer, and Frank’s then-husband James Green, CEO) but always approved by Lisa Frank. Courtesy of Carly Marks for Foundations magazine, 2015.

Her success skyrocketed, and her technicolor art expanded onto the menagerie of product I remember from my own elementary school bookstore in the late 1990s. Since the very beginning of the company, Frank has served as the art director and sole source of product approval. Even with so many thousands of products, she and her team spend hours making each piece of new art. One thing Lisa Frank does not want? Repetition.

To her, using the same imagery over and over is not only bad business, its insulting to the customer. As she notes, “believe it or not, the consumers with less money have a keener eye than the ones with more. Consumers with less money only have so much to spend. For this reason they are critical and want to buy the best of the best. I’ve always appealed to the masses because, I felt so lucky to grow up in a beautiful world, and believe just because someone has less money, why should they not be offered the best of the best, as well?”

Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper Today Show (2) Trapper Keeper depicting Markie (unicorn) in Airfluff Island, Lisa Frank, Inc., c. 1990-2000. Markie was one of the early characters from Lisa Frank. According to Frank, Markie enjoys butterflies, exploring, collecting starts, cloud hopping, and dreams. Courtesy of Today.

As for her unique, technicolor style? “I think the reason I made what I made is because I’m unconventional,” she explained. “I am who I am. You read stuff about me; people think it was all influenced by drugs. You couldn’t do what I did if I was on drugs. . . I was running my business. You can’t be just a creative; you have to be a businesswoman, too. You have to have the motivation to get there.”

Lisa Frank Panda Painter Scented Stickers Nicole Flickr Panda Painter Scented Sticker sheet, Lisa Frank, Inc. c. 1990-2000. Panda Painter is seen here surrounded by rainbows and gumballs. Gumballs are a common Frank motif, inspired by a childhood gift of an antique gumball machine from her father. Copyright Lisa Frank, Inc.; scan courtesy of Nicole on Flickr.

Even at the helm of a multi-national, billion dollar company, Lisa Frank is still focused on her art: “I feel like I’m fortunate enough to live my passion…There’s a big commitment to making beautiful quality work.” She continues, “I mean, yes, it’s a business but it’s more important that the art is beautiful.”

Lisa Frank Halloween Stickers Nicole Flickr Halloween sticker sheet, Lisa Frank, Inc. c. 1993-2000. The signature bright colors of Lisa Frank are printed using a proprietary four-color print process that keeps the colors from muddying. All licensees producing Lisa Frank, Inc. materials must sign confidentiality agreements as the ink mixtures are a closely-held secret. Copyright Lisa Frank, Inc.; scan courtesy of Nicole on Flickr.

While Lisa Frank’s heyday may be over (the 2000s were especially difficult), she has continued to put out new product. In this moment of 90s nostalgia, Lisa Frank continues to bring joy and brightness to the world. In fact, you can now stay in a Lisa Frank-designed hotel room!

Always the businesswoman, Lisa Frank (second from left) seen here at a Kingswood Bake Sale, c. 1970-71. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Woodwinds 1971.

To my knowledge, the inspiring and motivational Lisa Frank hasn’t spoken at the Schools or done any type of event here at her alma mater. She did not even have a file in the Archives until I started looking for her (we’ve started one now!) Part of what explains her absence on campus might be her distaste for fame. As she told Foundations, “…I do what I do because I love what I do. I never did it for fame, fortune, or publicity…People tell me that not knowing me or seeing me lends to their imagination. They make up who they want me to be.”

Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

N.B.:  I think we need to collect something of Lisa Frank’s for the Archives!

What’s in a Name?

Sometimes, what appears to be a simple question doesn’t have an easy answer in the archives. By combining forces with colleagues, and looking in places you might not first suspect, you can ideally turn a boggling question into a rewarding quest. Provided, of course, you can solve the mystery! Happily, this was recently the case.

When contacted by a Kingswood School graduate about the origins of a certain sculpture that had graced the Green Lobby in the 1960s-1970s, I had two names to go on: Suki and Pam Stump Walsh. Was either of these the name of the sculptor and was the sculpture even still there? After checking several possible sources in the archives, it was time for a field trip to Kingswood. There she was opposite the green stairs, just as she had been described to me: a bronze sculpture of a girl, sitting cross-legged, head bowed, reading a book. I’d answered part of the question: she was still there.

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And much to my delight there was also a plate tacked to the sculpture’s wooden pedestal. It read: “In Remembrance, Suzanne Anderson Stenglein, Class of 1947.”

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Could this be Suki?

Back in Archives, I found a Suzanne Anderson in the 1947 Kingswood yearbook, Woodwinds. Next to her picture, this description: “That dashing station wagon, that’s always on the go, beautiful taste in clothes, and exciting vacations make Suki the ideal senior for every underclassman. Her pertness, her nose, and her spirit, that help to create her charm, match perfectly her conversational ability on all subjects from Broadway to baseball.”

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Suzanne Anderson, 1947. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

I still didn’t know if this was the sculptor, or if it was Pam Stump, who is perhaps best known at Cranbrook for her work, Jane: Homage to Duchamp in the Kingswood courtyard. It certainly appeared to be Stump’s style. Associate Registrar Leslie Mio found a listing in Cranbrook Cultural Properties records for Suki, described as a patinated bronze sculpture attributed to Pam Stump.

Detroit native M. Pamela Stump graduated from Kingswood School in 1946. After attending the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning for one year, she left to study sculpture under Marshall Fredericks in his Saginaw studio. Twenty-three years after leaving Kingswood, Stump, now Pamela Stump Walsh (she married Cranbrook School 1944 graduate, David E. Walsh), returned to teach sculpture. She retired in 1990, but continued creating and showing her own work throughout the state and internationally.

I appeared to have my answer, but I wanted definitive proof, and, ideally, a date. Back to Kingswood School. This time, with the help of Associate Archivist Laura MacNewman, I found the artist’s signature, and, a date!

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End of story, right? Not quite. I still wondered about the sculpture’s origins. The Archives, thankfully, hold the M. Pamela Stump Papers. Consisting mainly of her Cranbrook Kingswood Chronicle, a memoir she titled, “Ubi Ignes Est or Where’s the Fire?” it provided the final details.

Stump made eighteen sculptures for Cranbrook while on the Kingswood faculty. Shortly after she started, in 1969, she was commissioned by the Class of 1947 to create a sculpture in memory of their classmate Suzanne Anderson Stenglein, who had died prematurely the year before. Stump refers to the bronze sculpture of Suzanne as Girl Reading or Suki. It was specifically designed to fit in the niche just outside the Headmistress’ office, directly opposite the staircase in the Green Lobby, and purposely placed on a revolving wooden pedestal so it could be turned 180-degrees to face the wall and enable examination of all the various textures and symbols on its surface. Stump writes, “On her body are many symbols of her life. This was easy because I had known her at Kingswood and in Saginaw.” Here you see this symbolism, along with the names of Suzanne’s schools before she came to Kingswood; her initials, S.A.; and her nickname, found on the crown of her head:

To bring things full circle: a close examination of negatives in the archives collections (identified only as “Kingswood Interiors”) found period images of the sculpture:

suki012 The Reading Girl by Pamela Stump, July 2, 1969. Bradford Herzog, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Photograph Collection.

I also learned from The Birmingham Eccentric, that Suki was the daughter of Goebel Brewing Company President Edwin John Anderson. She grew up in Saginaw, where she presumably met her husband, Harold Stenglein. The pair were married at Christ Church Cranbrook in 1955, and made their own home in Saginaw. At this juncture, little else is known about the girl behind the sculpture’s name.

 – Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

There’s Always a Detroit Connection

In the main hallway of Kingswood and in the living room of Thornlea, there are paintings by artist Myron G. Barlow (1873-1937). I love the look of these paintings and began to wonder about the artist. I’ve come to learn he was an internationally known Detroit-raised painter. As with all things Cranbrook, it seems, there is always a Detroit connection.

Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow.

The Kingswood painting Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table depicts two peasant girls, one standing and one bending over a bowl of flowers. It was donated to Kingswood around 1970 by Herbert Sott in memory of his wife Mignon Ginsburg Sott, who was Kingswood Class of 1943.

Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

The other painting, Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, is of a girl looking in a mirror braiding her hair. It was purchased by James Scripps Booth from the artist in 1912. James attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and in 1911 had studied under Barlow; James’ painting “Onion Gatherer, Cote d’Azure” depicts Barlow’s cottage studio. James gave Young Girl Braiding Her Hair to his parents George and Ellen Booth. It originally hung in Cranbrook House’s main staircase. George and Ellen gifted the painting to Henry and Carolyn Booth, who hung it in their home, Thornlea.

Myron Barlow (1873-1937). Son of Adolph and Fanny Barlow who were members of Temple Beth El. Courtesy Temple Beth El Facebook page.

Myron G. Barlow (1873-1937), son of Adolph and Fanny Barlow who were members of Temple Beth-El in Detroit. Courtesy Temple Beth El.

Myron G. Barlow was born in Ionia, Michigan in 1873 and raised in Detroit. As a teenager, he trained at the Detroit Museum School, where he studied under Joseph Gies, and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. He began his career as a newspaper artist. He eventually traveled to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where studied under Jean-Leon Gerome.

While copying paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Barlow discovered Johannes Vermeer. As stated in William H. Gerdts’ Masterworks of American Impressionism from the Pfeil Collection, “Like Vermeer, one of Barlow’s favorite artistic themes became the depiction of figures, often female and usually set in an interior; frequently isolated and motionless, surrounded by a dream-like atmosphere rendered in a single, dominant tonality, often blue.”

Barlow in his studio after 1900. Courtesy of Nancy Brett (Barlow's great-niece) on Temple Beth-El Facebook page.

Barlow in his studio after 1900. Courtesy of Nancy Brett (Barlow’s great-niece) via Temple Beth-El.

Around 1900, Barlow moved to the French village of Trepied. There he transformed a peasant’s house into his studio. He would, however, make frequent trips back to Detroit and kept a home there as well.

He served as the Chairman of the Scarab Club around 1918. According to his Detroit News obituary, “Among his major achievements in Detroit are six large murals which he painted for the main auditorium of Temple Beth-El, which were completed in 1925.”

In 1907, he was the only American elected to the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts and in 1932 was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French Government. He was recognized for his work with gold medals at the St. Louis and Panama Pacific Exhibition, and by having his works purchased by many international museums, including the Musée Quentovic in France, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit Club and the private collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild also included works by Barlow.

In May 1937, he left Detroit with the intention of selling his studio in France and returning to the city for the remainder of his life. Unfortunately, he died in his home in Trepied that fall.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Do you know the Rustic Man?

A recent request made me curious about Albert Charpaize, a French landscape gardener with expertise in rustic woodwork. In the annals of Henry Wood Booth, it states that he was engaged by George Gough Booth in the fall of 1914 to complete rustic woodwork on the estate. He had worked until Christmas that year, when he had returned to his home in Dayton, Ohio, before returning to Cranbrook in the Spring of 1915.

Having found no correspondence between George and Charpaize, I anticipated there would be mention of him in the letters that George sent to his son, Henry Scripps Booth. The correspondence between George and Henry is always a delightful source for information on Booth family life and travels, as well as the progress of early Cranbrook architectural projects. While I found no direct mention of Charpaize, I noticed that George referred instead a “Rustic Man”.

Letter from George Gough Booth to Henry Scripps Booth, September 20, 1914. Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers (1982-05) Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Letter from George Gough Booth to Henry Scripps Booth, September 20, 1914. Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers (1982-05), Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Henry Wood Booth’s Annals state that, between 1914 and 1915, Charpaize built two rustic summer houses (small one near the Pump House and a larger one on the hillside west of Nob Hill), a rustic fence on the northward side of Oakdale Road, a rustic wood bannister on Nob Hill, and five rustic bridges – one across the entrance to Mill Pond, one across the Serpentine near the Spillway, one across the brook near Cranbrook Road, and one each across Sunny Brook (located between Kingswood School and the lake) and Stony Brook (located north yet parallel of Sunny Brook).

Bridge across Sunny Brook. Pleasures of Life Volume 2, Page 2

Bridge across Sunny Brook, Pleasures of Life Volume 2, Page 2

Visual sources are an important source for verifying information in documents, in this case for identifying the work of Charpaize, and his artistic signature is distinctive. Look again at the bridge across Sunny Brook and compare it with the rustic fence and the rustic tea house below:

Mar 1916 Rustic fence with steps to gazebo

March 1916, Rustic fence with steps to gazebo

Looking east over Cranbrook Road Gazebo by Albert Charpaize “Rustic Tea House”

Looking east over Cranbrook Road, Gazebo by Albert Charpaize, “Rustic Tea House”

Archives are the vestiges of times past – they are the key to historical accuracy. Yet, different types of records hold varying degrees of evidential value. From the description of the work of the Rustic Man given by George, the list of projects described by Henry Wood Booth, and the visual sources, it is possible to confidently infer that the rustic man is Albert Charpaize.

Ideally, the list of projects in the annals should be corroborated by an informal source (a document created to officially record an activity, rather than consciously conveying history as is the case with annals, chronicles, and newspapers). The test for historical evidence is always who created it, for whom, when, why and for what purpose. Then I found Charpaize in the Coats and Burchard Appraisal of 1914-1918, which refers to him four times: “pergola to well” at Colony House, and three rustic bridges – one at mill race, one across the stream near Brookside Cottage and one across the stream at Cranbrook Road (all in 1915). The appraisal provides the evidence for Charpaize working on specific projects across the estate.

Page of appraisal listing three rustic bridges built by Albert Charpaize in 1915 Coats and Burchard Appraisal, 1914-1918 George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth Financial Papers (1981-02) Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Page of appraisal listing three rustic bridges built by Albert Charpaize in 1915. Coats and Burchard Appraisal, 1914-1918, George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth Financial Papers (1981-02), Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

The archives of three generations of the Booth family have contributed to our knowledge of Albert Charpaize. I feel sure there is more to be discovered – the appraisal only listed three of the bridges described by Henry Wood Booth. The story of Cranbrook’s Rustic Man is to be continued…

We are busy preparing for House Party this weekend, where we are celebrating the history of the Cranbrook Archives! And there are many more events coming up – we all look forward to seeing you soon!

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

Photo Friday: Family Life at Thornlea

Henry Scripps Booth designed his home near Cranbrook just north of the Meeting House and Brookside School (another building on which he served as architect) in a thorny meadow. He called it “Thornlea” after its hardscrabble site. Built from 1925-1926, the house and its grounds hosted over sixty years of family gatherings, large and small. As is evidenced in Henry’s photograph albums, he, his wife Carolyn, and their five children celebrated holidays and entertained friends often. Equally represented are images of everyday life, such as this one:

Henry Scripps Booth can be seen soaking up the rays alongside the pool at Thornlea House in the summer of 1964. To his right are son David and grandson Miles. 

Henry Scripps Booth can be seen soaking up the rays alongside the pool at Thornlea House in the summer of 1964. To his right are son David and grandson Miles. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Henry Scripps Booth Papers.

With just ten official days left of summer, let’s take a moment to bask in similar memories of long hot sunny days.

See Thornlea for yourself and help us make new memories at the house on Saturday, September 21st, when you join us for A House Party at Cranbrook. Thornlea will be open for tours, live jazz at the piano, and cocktails on the patio prior to the evening’s live auction and dinner at Cranbrook House. Join us and support Cranbrook Archives and the Center for Collections and Research at our annual fundraiser, tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available!

 

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

The Day Cranbrook Went Bananas

You probably know Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School has a football team, and you might remember that the Detroit Lions held training camps here in the 1970s, but did you also know that Cranbrook Academy of Art is an undefeated intercollegiate football team?

Homecoming Queen Barbara Tiso takes a convertible ride around the field with Academy President Wallace Mitchell.

Homecoming Queen Barbara Tiso takes a convertible ride around the field with Academy President Wallace Mitchell. Cranbrook Archives.

As The Cranbrook Magazine reported in the Winter 1971 issue, “Before winter zeroed in [the Academy] had a rousing football weekend similar in events, at least, to those at large universities that specialize in such things.” There was a bonfire pep rally, organized cheering sections, a Homecoming Queen, the game itself with a halftime show from both schools, and a victory banquet.

Sculpture head Michael Hall regarded the weekend as a conceptual art project, and said “as spectacle, pageant, formation and participation football is a direct parallel to art forms as disparate as the Baroque Mass and Alan Kaprow’s ‘Soapsuds Event’.”

The idea for a game began after conversations between Hall and a colleague at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The students at both schools accepted the challenge, and Cranbrook’s bucolic suburban setting (replete with Thompson Oval) seemed the idea location.

The game of flag football was covered by newspapers in Detroit and Chicago, with radio DJ’s in Detroit billing the game on Cranbrook School’s field as a season highlight. Cranbrook’s seventy-six male students were augmented with faculty and Nick Vettraino, groundskeeper. After an extensive (minor) injury list, only twenty players made the roster. I’ll let the Magazine coverage of the game speak for itself:

Emma Kay Szabados was a big hit as the Academy's mascot banana.

Emma Kay Szabados was a big hit as the Academy’s mascot banana. It is unclear why we were the bananas. Cranbrook Archives.

“Hog Butchers and Bananas were noticeably self-conscious when they trotted onto the field. But as the game progressed and the crowd of 300 cheered vociferously, players and spectators alike were caught up in the spirit of true athletic competition.

Cranbrook grabbed an early lead on the swift running of Nick Vettraino and the spectacular pass catching of Dick Ewen. But the Hog Butchers kept fighting back.

Quarterback George Sorrels used a “flexible formation from the pro set,” allegedly adapted from Detroit Lions plays by Coach Mel Baker. Cranbrook Archives.

“Cranbrook grabbed an early lead on the swift running of Nick Vettraino and the spectacular pass catching of Dick Ewen. But the Hog Butchers kept fighting back.

the pro-Bananas crowd flocked onto the field and hoisted heroes onto their shoulders.

The crowd going wild as Cranbrook marches on to victory. Notice Gerhardt Knodel, Artist-in-Residence of the Fiber department (and future Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art) in the foreground. Cranbrook Archives.

 

“As darkness descended Cranbrook led 27-25 with time left for just one play. Chicago tried a field goal that would bring victory. The kick failed, and the pro-Bananas crowd flocked onto the field and hoisted heroes onto their shoulders.

Patrick and Mary Mitchell, son and wife of Academy President Wallace Mitchell, manned the sideline markers.

Patrick and Mary Mitchell, son and wife of Academy President Wallace Mitchell, manned the sideline markers. Cranbrook Archives.

“Art or not, it was a helluva weekend. And after it was all over the campus was permeated with a camaraderie never seen before in Academy history.”

As the Upper School kicks off its season against U of D Jesuit tonight, I’d like to wish everyone a happy football season (Go Cranes!) and welcome Schools and Academy students back to campus. Perhaps we will see a rematch of the Bananas and the Hog Butchers on the gridiron soon? If so, there’s a new press box from which to call the game. I volunteer to provide color commentary!

Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

Photo Friday: Garnett’s Orange Grove

Florida, it seems, has always been a tourist destination. In 1911, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth, and their granddaughter Grace Ellen Booth visited a tourist attraction known as Dr. Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida. It was the novelty of picking oranges in “rural” St. Augustine that attracted visitors. Dr. Garnett was ready to capture a memory of your visit, installing a photography studio in his orange grove. Lewis W. Blair was the onsite photographer at Garnett’s from 1910 to 1912.

From left: Grace Ellen Booth, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth picking oranges at Garnett's Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida, 1911. Photo by Lewis W. Blair.

From left: Grace Ellen Booth, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth picking oranges at Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida, 1911. Photo by Lewis W. Blair. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

This postcard was mailed to George and Ellen Booth March 14, 1911. The note read, “Just had lunch Mch 14. Grace, Gail, Ma and I went by boat this AM to north shore. Fran just learned that James is coming. We are all well today. Temp 68 – 83. H.W.B.”

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

The A-maize-ing Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, architect of the Smith House, called it his “little gem.” Many of his apprentices considered it one of the best examples of Wright’s Usonian style. So it should come as no surprise that he liked to stop by and see the Smiths when he was in Detroit.

On a visit in 1953, a luncheon was organized by Mary Palmer, Elizabeth Affleck, and Sara Smith. The Smith House was to be the site of the event. Sara Smith recalled the event in her biography, Building a Dream: The Sara Smith Story by Kathryn Watterson.

“‘Mary called me and Elizabeth Affleck and we decided to have a luncheon at my house,’ Sara says. ‘I had just been to the store and I had bought a whole lot of corn on the cob and much more fish than I could possibly use in a week.'”

The luncheon also consisted of lamb and some salads, but it was Sara’s corn that was a hit. “‘[Wright] said that one of his favorite foods was corn on the cob, and he helped himself and came over here to the built-in lounge.'”

Frank Lloyd Wright lunches on corn-on-the-cob at Smith House.

Frank Lloyd Wright lunches on corn on the cob at Smith House in 1953. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Smith Family Papers.

The funny thing was, of all the people at the house for the luncheon, no one was sitting with Wright. “‘Frank Lloyd Wright was sitting toward the end of the lounge alone and no one came near him. No one was talking to him. Then he said, ‘Isn’t anyone going to sit with me?””

“‘So some people moved in. But they didn’t stay. They would go over and say a word or two and walk away. People just don’t seem to want to go up to a genius or a great person. I don’t know whether it’s fear of something else.'”

Sara Smith in her kitchen, August 19, 1976. Photo by Joyce Seid.

Sara Smith in her kitchen, August 19, 1976. Photo by Joyce Seid. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Smith Family Papers.

“‘At the time, I was in the kitchen taking care of the dishes and the thought came to me, ‘Sara, you’re doing a Mary-Martha.’ In the bible story, Martha was the one who was always staying in the kitchen mumbling and grumbling because Mary didn’t help her. Well, there I was in the kitchen pulling a Mary-Martha, and the thought came, ‘What are you doing in the kitchen? Get in there and talk to that man.’ So I did.””

Sara and Wright discussed a number of things, including shadows and how Wright used them to best position a house to take advantage of the sun’s energy. “‘It was very interesting,’ she says, ‘and I was so grateful that I had gone over to sit with him. While we were talking, I asked him, ‘Mr. Wright, what do you consider to be your greatest design you ever made?’ His replay was ‘Why, the next one.'”

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Note: Public tours of Smith House are offered from May through November. For information about private and group tours, please contact the Center at 248.645.3307 or visit us online.

Welcome Deborah Rice, New Head Archivist!

I am quite thrilled to announce that we have an outstanding new Head Archivist (and future Kitchen Sink blogger), Deborah Rice. Let me take this opportunity to introduce her to the readers of the Kitchen Sink Blog.

Deborah has over seventeen years of experience as a professional archivist. For the past fifteen years, she has been working in Detroit at Wayne State University with the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.  At Wayne she not only served as a Collection Archivist, Technical Services Archivist, and Audiovisual Archivist, but also the Interim Assistant Director—all of which are invaluable experience for her work here at Cranbrook. Prior to her work at Wayne, she was the Archivist for the Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library & Archives.

Deborah holds a BA in Art History from the University of Michigan and an MLIS degree (Master of Library and Information Services) and Archives Administration Certificate from Wayne State University. Equally important is what you will find to be her warm and engaging personality, and her sincere desire to engage audiences and help us make Cranbrook Archives a welcoming environment for our on-campus visitors and a digitally accessible resource for an even broader public worldwide.

In her first weeks here, Deborah has been off to a running start learning about Cranbrook history, getting a lay of the land and our extensive archival holdings, meeting with a potential donor in Lansing, and helping Cranbrook staff and our many outside researchers in our endless stream of research requests.

While there will be many opportunities to meet Deborah later this fall, her first official public event will be the Center’s gala fundraiser on Saturday, September 21: “A House Party at Cranbrook: History in the Making.”  The event, which focuses this year on the nearly 80-year journey of Cranbrook Archives, will include tours of three campus locations that have been, are, and hopefully will be important to the Archives future.  These include the current Reading Room where Deborah will be sharing with you some of the Archives’ hidden treasures.

We are grateful that Deborah made the decision to take the same journey that our founders made in 1904, traveling up Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Bloomfield Hills.  You can look forward to new blog posts from her very soon!

Greg Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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