Object Spotlight: Refectory Table

Generally, the term “Refectory Table” describes long dining tables resembling those in dining halls of monasteries, especially oblong tables with four or six turned legs that may be expanded by leaves.CEC37 (4)Purchased by George G. Booth, before 1949, for use in Cranbrook House, the Refectory Table (CEC 37) in the Cranbrook House Oak Room has a plain 76 inch by 35-1/2 inch rectangular top, with two extendable tops of 31-1/2 inches each.cec37-13.jpgThe extension mechanism works by removing the top wood leaf, pulling out each side of tabletop – these are supported by bars under the table top that pull out – removing the center section, then placing the top leaf in the center.

“Interesting, but not really worthy of a spotlight,” you say?

“My table at home has leaves built into it. Why is this one so special?”

It is distinct because the top of this table sits over a beautiful and vibrantly carved and painted frieze, and is raised on four carved and painted legs and a box stretcher with a carved and painted linear design. It is the frieze and the carvings that make the table stand out.CEC37 (3).JPGThe frieze runs all around the table and features a grapevine interspersed at regular intervals with Medieval-style figures: mermaids, men, women, and animals.CEC37 (10)The figures carry banners and staffs, are sitting on benches, and, in the case of the mermaid, holding a fish.CEC37 (18)The frieze background is painted red; the grapevine and grapes are brown with black and the leaves are green with gold detailing; the figures and animals are mostly tan with gold and the mermaids are gold as well.  The lower edge molding of the frieze is painted with diagonal lines of green, gold, and red.CEC37 (11)Each of the four carved and painted legs is decorated with a different linear design of stripes, twisted around the trunk, with hexagonal base and top.CEC37 (6)Metal stars are attached to the base and top of each leg.  The legs are painted blue, green, red, and tan, all with gold detailing.CEC37 (12)The outer side of each stretcher has carved lines painted red and green.

The table is an English antique, likely from the 19th century. A careful study of comparable tables in books or at other museums could help us narrow down its age.

I am happy to share this beautiful table on the blog. If you ever find yourself in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House, whether for a meeting, house tour, or special event, please take the time and give this exception table a closer look.

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Refectory Table in the Oak Room, 1952. Cranbrook Archives.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar and “Keeper of Keys and Cultural Properties” at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

“Smoking and Coking”: The Kingswood Senior Cabin

In March 1940, Kingswood girls were invited to party at Cranbook School’s senior cabin. (George Booth had given the boys the gift of the senior cabin in December 1927.) While the girls had known about the cabin, their visit really brought home the fact that they did not have one to enjoy for themselves. Spearheaded by then sophomore, Mary Adie ‘42, the Kingswood girls began to push for their own cabin.

Henry Scripps Booth supported the idea and was the architect. The cabin had an open floor plan with a fireplace, bathroom, and a small kitchenette. Bench seating lined the window wall that looked out over the brook. The Cranbrook Foundation paid for the structure which cost $2392. The Kingswood School Board of Directors felt that student involvement would help stimulate class and school spirit, and that the cabin would provide an informal respite from the rigors of the school day. The girls raised money and paid for furnishings themselves (from Sears), and even made curtains to decorate the space. Each successive senior class left their mark by adding something to the décor. Mr. Wentz made a wrought iron screen for the fireplace which featured the Kingswood seal. Mrs. Dow contributed a combination radio-Victrola which was very popular as it played twelve records simultaneously! And eventually, the girls even got a telephone.

View of the Senior Cabin (left) with the Western Playfield Shelter, 1963. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Once the plan was approved, a location was determined. Then Headmistress, Margaret Auger stated: “I thought I was very clever” when she sited the cabin on the edge of the Kingswood School grounds – close enough where there could be adult supervision, but far enough away so it did not seem as if the faculty was spying on the students. Ground was broken November 19, 1940, and the girls had a housewarming party May 9, 1941 with juniors and the outgoing seniors. The party became an annual “right of passage” which transferred the rights to use the cabin from one class to another. The cabin was so popular that initially there was a column in The Clarion called “Cabin Close-ups!”

Kingswood Seniors hanging out, Feb 1957. Notice the décor.

The cabin was used for a variety of leisure activities. Bridge club was held on Wednesdays, which was the only time that girls were allowed to smoke on campus. Auger’s smoking rule was that students could smoke cigarettes at the cabin, but only on Wednesdays, when faculty member Josephine Waldo was there to supervise. (She, by the way, was a smoker herself). The catch was that if Auger found out that the girls smoked on any other day of the week, she would close the cabin. By far, one of the best parts was that the girls could drink cokes – by the case full! During exam weeks, girls took study breaks at the cabin and revived themselves by “smoking and coking.” In 1964, smoking at the cabin ended when Michigan State law outlawed cigarette smoking for  minors under the age of eighteen.

Smoking and Coking, Dec 1952. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

As time went on, various updates and changes were made to the cabin. However, by 1966, the foundation of the building had begun to erode. In the early 1980s, the cabin was only used as a restroom facility for Kingswood School outdoor events, end of year parties for the Girls Middle School field hockey team, and by Academy of Art students as a space to build the models for the Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision 1925-1950 exhibition. The cabin faced increased neglect. There was not enough interest or funds to maintain or repair it and it in the mid 1990s it was demolished. The boys’ Senior Cabin still stands today.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Speak up!

Every once in a while, you stumble upon an artifact that takes you down an interesting path.

Recently, while discussing interesting artifacts in museum collections – specifically “Edison’s Last Breath” in the collections of The Henry Ford – I discovered that we had George Booth’s hearing aid!

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The hearing aid was manufactured by Western Electric Company of Kearny, NJ in 1938. A Google search directed me to the Hearing Aid Museum (yes, there is a museum for everything), which claims to be the “largest on-line hearing aid museum in the world, and indeed, probably the second largest collection of old hearing aids in the world.”

George Booth’s hearing aid is a Model 1-A “Ortho-Technic” Carbon Hearing Aid. We have the microphone, receiver, amplifier, battery, and soft leather carrying case. We are only missing the molded earpiece which was attached to the receiver.

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Having a “use” item in such great condition is rare in most museum collections and I’m glad we have it as part of the George Gough Booth Papers in the archives.

– Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar

 

Metals & Cranbrook House

George Booth was a connoisseur. As an avid collector of beautiful objects, he acquired decorative and fine art to adorn his home, Cranbrook House (and later, the various Cranbrook institutions). One of the most collected categories: metal objects.

He was, after all, descended from a line of copper and tinsmiths. At fifteen, George Booth started a two-year apprenticeship at the Red Foundry in St. Thomas, Ontario, where he learned the fundamentals of the millwright and blacksmithing trades. He expanded his interest in craftsmanship through investment into an ornamental ironworks firm in Windsor (Evans and Booth) soon thereafter.

While he sold his share of the iron business in 1888, Booth continued sketching designs for metal products throughout his life. They’re collected in his sketchbooks . Some of his sketches for gates, furniture, and decorative elements were realized by Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia, while others were completed by local forges, and some simply ideas.

In examining photographs of Cranbrook House from Booth’s lifetime, I’m struck by the careful arrangement of art objects, specifically art bronzes, in the space. In the image above, on the table sits Albin Polasek’s 1917 sculpture Woman with Moon, still on view in the house. (Click images to enlarge)

If you look at enough images of the house, you will realize Booth was constantly rearranging his collection. Here, Eli Harvey’s 1904 work Recumbent Lioness is on the mantelpiece.

Starting in 1915, Booth loaned decorative and fine artworks to the Detroit Institute of Arts, including many bronzes previously on display in his home. In 1919, he gifted ninety-six of these objects (in iron, ceramics, wood, silver, and bronze) to the DIA, where many are still on view. You can flip through the DIA’s 1919 Bulletin describing Booth’s gift (in text and images).

Once Booth began developing the Cranbrook campus, he spent less energy collecting for Cranbrook House. However, the house has on occasion welcomed contemporary design, like the 1950 competition for Cranbrook Academy of Art students for the design of Packard automobiles and hood ornaments.

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Cranbrook Academy of Art students admiring designs for the Packard Motor Competition on display in the Cranbrook House Library, December 1950. Harvey Croze, Photographer. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Next week, students and alumni of the Academy’s Metalsmithing department will be gathering in Cranbrook House to show their work in the context of the Booth home in an exhibition organized by current students, A Line of Beauty: Cranbrook House Inhabitation. Taking their work out of the typical museum gallery setting (and off of the usual white pedestal) will provide a new framework in which to understand and view their pieces, and will also be a continuation of what George Booth did in his own lifetime: bring new art into the home to be placed among other items of beauty.

I mentioned that George Booth was a connoisseur. Curator and educator Charles Montgomery, who in the mid-twentieth century helped professionalize the genteel ideas of connoisseurship, wrote that the budding connoisseur must learn “to approach every object with an inquiring mind as well as with an inquiring eye.” He continued that “when first looking at an object, it is important to let oneself go and try to get a sensual reaction to it. I ask myself: Do I enjoy it? Does it automatically ring true? Does it sing to me?”

What I look forward to in the pop-up exhibition with the Metalsmithing department is not only the opportunity to see work from students and alumni, but also to view the many objects already in the house in a new light. Montgomery recommends looking at objects with half-closed eyes and from various angles, and next Friday night, I plan to do the same.

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Ye Triumphe Ship, 1918 Henry Brundage Culver, with Untitled, 2017, Adam Shirley, CAA Metalsmithing 2010

A Line of Beauty: Cranbrook House Inhabitation will take place Friday, January 26th from 5:30 to 8:30pm. The presentation is curated and organized by the Cranbrook Academy of Art Metalsmithing Department, and is presented at Cranbrook House through the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. All are welcome.

– Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Editor’s Note: New works shown are by Adam Shirley, Alberte Tranberg, Natalia Sarrazin, and Iris Eichenberg.

Squawk Like an Animal

While many of us know that George Booth’s acquisition of a mineral collection formed the nucleus of the Institute of Science, who knew that Cranbrook once maintained a zoo? In 1929, Cranbrook’s “Natural History Museum of the [Cranbrook] Foundation” was established (it was the pre-cursor to the Institute of Science) with naturalist W. Bryant Tyrrell as the director. In addition to the mineral collection, Cranbrook’s “modern scientific” museum also had a small collection of taxidermied birds and mammals which were housed in what is now the Academy of Art administration building. A workshop was set up in the basement which doubled as a preparation space and classroom where Tyrrell taught Cranbrook School boys about natural history. Tyrrell was also instrumental in designing the science portion of Cranbrook’s first exhibition space.

When the first science building (designed by George Booth) was constructed in late 1930 on Sunset Hill, plans were made for a small zoo which would eventually house smaller mammals, reptiles, and amphibians of the Great Lakes Region in “pens of modern design.” With Tyrrell’s experience as a taxidermist and naturalist at both the Field Museum in Chicago and the Detroit Children’s Museum, Cranbrook’s Natural History Museum found itself the recipient of live raccoons, snakes, frogs, and even a mother skunk and her babies.

Feeding Shelter, Mar 1930. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Soon, the informal Cranbrook zoo spilled out of the rear of the new building and down into the small ravine behind it. Temporary cages for the animals were placed along the edges of the ravine, and were of considerable interest not only to the Cranbrook School boys but also to the general public. The first issue of the Institute’s Newsletter (November 1931) stated that “the zoo is growing rapidly, and is beginning to achieve quite professional proportions with the addition this month of a wildcat, red fox, several weasels, and three white rats. The rats were loaned by [student] J. O’Connor of Cranbrook School.”

Cranbrook School boys with flying squirrels, May 1930. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

However, not all were so enamored with the idea of live animals including George Booth, especially when a black snake was found in the hallway by one of the secretaries who fainted in fright! And, in fact, the Institute did not have the resources to support a really good zoo. Ultimately, several factors contributed to the demise of the short-lived zoo including a new curator for the museum (which led to Tyrrell’s resignation in June 1931) and the formal establishment of the Institute of Science in 1932. The national-wide financial crisis and the Bank Holiday of 1933 put a final end to Cranbrook’s brief foray into zookeeping.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Cranbrook Kitchen Sink: Best of 2017

This was a great year for the Center. We are honored so many of you, our readers, joined us on Cranbrook’s campus to attend tours, lectures, exhibitions, and concerts; or rode along with us on Day Away trips; or visited Cranbrook Archives to research, volunteer, or just explore. If you’re a reader from farther afield, thank you for following our blog and your continued interest in the many Cranbrook legacies. We hope everyone has enjoyed learning more about Cranbrook through the Kitchen Sink!Here are ten of our most viewed (and favorite) blog posts of the year. In no particular order, take a look back and catch up on posts you might have missed!

The Devil Made Him Do It Learn about the iconic (and enigmatic) 1989 rock sculpture by Richard Nonas near Kingswood Lake

Three C’s: China, Cranbrook, and the Crane Read about cross-cultural connections our Head Archivist Leslie S. Edwards made after spotting countless cranes in China

May The Fork Be With You Read about the many, many pieces of silverware selected by Loja Saarinen for use in the Kingswood Dining Hall

House of the Poet Take a look back at this special unbuilt project for Cranbrook by legendary architect John Hejduk

Pergola Restored! Follow along with Capital Project’s Project Manager Ryan Pfeifer and his team’s restoration of the Cranbrook Gardens pergola

Indiana Jones and the Search for the Pergola Picture: My Senior May Experience Learn what it’s like to be a Cranbrook Kingswood student volunteer with the Center and our Archives

Going Green: LED Lightbulbs at our Historic Houses Learn about how our Assistant Registrar Leslie Mio successfully converted Saarinen House to LED Lightbulbs

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Landscapes Read this post about a late summer visit with the horticulturalist of Fallingwater to Wright’s Bloomfield Hills homes, and then learn about Edna Vogel: Cranbrook’s Other Wright Weaver, a Cranbrook Academy student who met with Wright and wove rugs for his Affleck House

Evolution of a Rink Learn about Cranbrook’s history of ice hockey, rink technology, and the move from outdoor to indoor skating

Harry and Nerissa Hoey’s Weekend Retreat Finally, warm up reading about the Ralph Rapson-designed midcentury modern summer house for a former Cranbrook School Headmaster

Brookside School Tower, designed by Henry Booth in 1929, photographed on a winter walk. Kevin Adkisson, Dec. 2017.

In addition to continuing our Friday blog posts, the Center has lots of exciting programming coming up in 2018. You can be the first to find out about Center events through our emails (if you’re not subscribed, you can join here), or on the Center’s website.

I hope you enjoy looking back over these posts, ideally from the comfort of some place warm (or at least out of the snow). I’m off to polish my sequins and tune my kazoo for New Years Eve! Happy New Year everyone!

– Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

Enduring Traditions: The Festival of Gifts

Next year will mark the 90th celebration of the Festival of Gifts at Christ Church Cranbrook – as the church also celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2018. Henry Scripps Booth wrote, produced, and participated in a nativity play at St. James Church in Birmingham prior to the building of Christ Church. With the establishment of the new parish, Booth suggested that the two combine efforts in a special Christmas program. According to documentation in the Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth papers, “the cooperation turned out to be in name only.”

Festival of Gifts order of procession and liturgy, 1928. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The Festival of Gifts is an adaptation of the St. James play, with a procession of the entire congregation to the nativity tableau followed by the entrance of the Holy Family, shepherds, and wise men as the story of the birth of Christ is read. As the congregation proceeds to the altar they lay gifts at the manger, which are then distributed to local families in need.

Some of the original festival costumes were re-purposed from the 1916 Cranbrook Masque and others were purchased by Henry Scripps Booth in Tunisia in 1922. Originally a doll was laid in the manger, but at some point, the decision was made to cast an infant from the parish. Animals have also been a part of the event, however, according to Henry Scripps Booth, “Brighty” (star of Stephen Booth’s movie Brighty of the Grand Canyon) made the greatest impression!

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Winter is coming

In late fall, as the winter approaches, you will see some of the sculptures around the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Gardens disappear behind their winter covers.

As part of our stone sculpture conservation program, the stone sculptures and fountains on campus are covered for the winter. The covers prevent water from collecting and freeze in fountains, planters, saucers, or birdbaths. They also prevent statuary or pedestals from sitting in pools of ice.

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The Thinker, 1940,  by Marshall Maynard Fredericks (CAM 1941.34).

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The Thinker under its winter cover.

So, sculptures like The Thinker have been put into “hibernation,” but they will return in the spring with the flowers.

Happy winter!

-Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

The Tale of a Bodhisattva

Nearly every day I run across some previously unknown person or event relative to Cranbrook’s history. My latest obsession is with a Chinese wall painting purchased in 1939 by George Booth for the Art Museum’s collection. Sadly, it is no longer in our collection, but the story is quite interesting nonetheless.

As early as 1916, Booth was acquiring Chinese objects from the Japanese dealer Yamanaka & Company, and soon after from Duveen Brothers and the Parish-Watson Company in New York, Spink & Son in London, and Gumps in San Francisco. As was customary, dealers maintained a relationship with their clients via letters often suggesting objects they might be interested in and including photographs and catalogs. In 1939, Booth began a relationship with the well-known Chinese dealer, C.T. Loo, who had offices and gallery space in both New York and Paris.

Bodhisattva from the Five Dynasties Period. Cisheng Monastery, Wenxian, Henan Province, China. You can clearly see where the wall painting had been cut into three sections in order to remove it from the temple.

Loo was widely considered one of the most prominent, and controversial, dealers in Chinese art and artifacts in the early twentieth century. Loo traveled annually to China to hand-pick the objects he wanted, many of which were chiseled out of or pilfered from ancient Buddhist Temples and monasteries. Daisy Yiyou Wang, Curator of Chinese and East Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the pre-eminent scholar of Loo, stated “he is remembered as a culprit for the depletion of the nation’s cultural heritage.” Loo justified his practice by stating that he was preserving China’s history by getting the objects out of China – that the Chinese couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them! In 1915, after a visit to the U.S., Loo opened a gallery in New York. His first sale was to Charles Lang Freer.

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The three sections were shipped to Paris and reassembled by restorers there.

Booth’s first interaction with C.T. Loo came in the fall of 1939 when he acquired two Chinese bronzes. In correspondence about the bronzes, Loo also suggested to Booth a large “fresco” (or wall painting) which stood thirteen feet tall. After consultation with Eliel Saarinen, Booth acquired the work, which arrived in January 1940.

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Part of the detail drawing of the Art Museum’s east wall. Saarinen designed a recessed panel which housed the painting. AD.11.236, November 5, 1940. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

In December 1941, John Gettens of the Fogg Museum examined the painting and found it to be in generally good condition. It was of the “usual mud wall of Chinese temple paintings” which included organic matter – straw, seed hulls, and rice. It was covered with a very thin white coating of kaolin, and the colored pigments were malachite, azurite, red iron oxide, yellow ochre, vermilion, and white clay.

The painting hung in the main gallery of Cranbrook Art Museum for more than thirty years. In 1974, the Museum Committee unanimously decided to sell the painting instead of pay the $5-6,000 to have it restored. Funds from the sale were to go towards the care and restoration of other works in the collection, as well as for renovations to museum storage space.

Tracing which shows the location of small areas of in-painting by Cranbook’s Marshall Fredericks, October 1941. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Thus ends the saga of the Chinese temple wall painting at Cranbrook as we do not know its whereabouts today. Other temple paintings can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Booth and Birds

In a corner of George Booth’s Old Country Office, there is a door that opens into a blank wall. I became curious about this door to nowhere last year when I was setting up the Center’s holiday display, and so this year’s Christmas scene is inspired by the door’s original purpose.

Around 1919, Booth purchased a blue and yellow macaw and named him Mack. Mack, like all parrots, enjoyed chewing things—Booth’s picture frames, furniture, and the walls themselves. Booth thought getting a second macaw, which he named Jack, might calm Mack’s chewing, but alas, he simply doubled the trouble.

In early 1920, Booth added a flat-roofed glass walled aviary outside of his office to give Mack and Jack their own space (and save the furniture). It was bound by the exterior walls of the office, living room, and library. Accessed through a door left of the fireplace, Mack and Jack were joined by canaries in the aviary, and according to Henry Booth’s memories, every time the canaries sang or the telephone rang, the macaws’ squawk would fill the house.

This ca 1925 view of Cranbrook House shows the exterior window of the aviary, covered with a cabana striped awning, between the bay window of the office and the library wing. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Eventually, the Booth’s gave Mack and Jack to the Belle Isle Zoo. The canaries remained for a time, cared for by one of the maids, Harriet. When she retired, the aviary was disassembled and the window was reused as a kitchen window for Brookside School, where it remains.

For my holiday display, I’ve opened the door to the aviary and staged a scene as if Mack and Jack were just here: destroying a book and leaving their feathers all around. You can find the canaries enjoying themselves around the Christmas Tree.

IMG_0798Also on display in the office, is a series of birds that Booth could have seen on his many walks around the Cranbrook estate–hawks, cardinals, robins, and plenty of ducks (on loan to me from Cranbrook Institute of Science). All are native to Michigan, except for the pheasant which would have been introduced to the area by early settlers. Pheasants, however, love fallow fields and run-down farms—exactly what the land which became Cranbrook was when Booth purchased the property in 1904!

IMG_0799Alongside the taxidermy I’ve included pieces from the Cranbrook Archives: early copies of Institute bulletins on the Birds of Michigan, original artwork from an ornithogist working at Cranbrook in the 1930s, and photographs and short biographies of other bird-related Cranbrook people, like W. Bryant Tyrrell, Walter P. Nickell, and Edmund J. Sawyer.

Come and see the Office display this weekend (December 1-3) for the House and Gardens Auxiliary’s Holiday Splendor event (Friday, 10-4pm, Saturday 9-4pm, and Sunday 12-4pm), visit it with me next Wednesday before or after the Center’s Järnefelt Piano Trio: Jean Sibelius Concert, or at any of the other Cranbrook House events before January 8th.

Kevin Adkisson, 2016-2018 Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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