Putting on a Holiday Scene

Every year, the Center for Collections and Research decorates George G. Booth’s Office for the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary’s Holiday Splendor event. This year, we were inspired by the Booth children and grandchildren.

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Some of the Booth grandchildren put on a play at George and Ellen Booth’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

All children enjoy playing “dress-up” – whether in a costume or in the clothes of a family member. For George and Ellen Booth’s family, especially their youngest children Florence (“Smike”) and Henry (“Thistle”), any occasion was an excuse to dress-up – a family picnic, a visit from family or friends, the arrival of a new boat for Glastonbury Lake.

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Marjorie Booth wearing her grandmother Ellen Scripps Booth’s wedding dress, on the occasion of George and Ellen’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

For this year’s holiday installation, we imagined the Booth grandchildren playing dress-up with clothes from their grandparent’s closet—their grandmother’s dresses and hats, costumes from performances at the Greek Theater, and other items stored in the vast closets here at Cranbrook House. Perhaps they’re putting on a play, as they did for their grandparents’ anniversary in 1937, or maybe they’re simply celebrating and having fun, as Smike and Thistle were so fond of doing in their youth.

Accompanying the five outfits, the Center decorated a small tree and the mantle with iridescent, green, and silver ornaments, drawing out the colors of Florence Booth’s green dress and a beautiful Rene Lalique (1860-1945) glass vase (before 1930) we’ve set out on the desk. In the center of the mantle we’ve displayed Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth’s Nativity (mid-20th century), sculpted by Clivia Calder Morrison (1909-2010). A Michigan native, Calder Morrison studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts with Samuel Cashwan and later at the Art Students League in New York, and this small crèche featuring the three Magi with gifts, Mary holding Jesus, and Joseph was kept in the oratory at Thornlea. Oh, and the Santa bag and hat on display were part of Henry’s costume he donned for Christmas parties here at the House!

Our display will be up through the New Year.  If you are in Cranbrook House for the Center’s piano/violin concert & book launch, Carl Milles’s Muse: Ludwig van Beethoven on December 11, or a Holiday Tea, Luncheon, or just for a meeting, please stop by and visit.

-Kevin Adkisson, Center Collections Fellow; Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Photo Friday: Feasting Together

The Center hopes you and your loved ones had a fantastic Thanksgiving, and that you were able to have a great meal together like these Cranbrook students back in 1935!

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Cranbrook School for Boys Dining Hall. Photographer, Dick G. Askew, June 1935.

Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow

Experimental Jazz at Cranbrook

Last week’s post about jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, led to water cooler discussions and Facebook murmurings about additional jazz collaborations here at Cranbrook. Thanks to an inquiry on Facebook I discovered the great story of Yusef Lateef’s Cranbrook connection.

Lateef was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1920, but grew up in Detroit. After graduating from high school he began playing professionally in swing bands at the age of 18. In 1949, he was invited to tour with Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra. A year later, he returned to Detroit to begin his studies in composition and flute at Wayne State University. He eventually received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and his Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Lateef’s main instruments were the tenor sax and flute, though he played many other traditional and non-traditional instruments.

In the late 1950s, Lateef was invited to perform at Cranbrook by members of the Academy of Art Student Council. The Council thought it would be worthwhile for art students to learn something about another form of artistic expression – in this case, jazz. In April 1958, Lateef performed in the galleries at the Academy of Art. Seating  capacity was limited and patrons sat on pillows on the floor.

Promotional material for the jazz concert, April 9, 1958. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Promotional material for the jazz concert, April 9, 1958. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

It turned out the students and Lateef were of one mind about the value of exchange between the arts, and agreed that the concerts should be held in the galleries, rather than an auditorium. Lateef had a reputation for experimental sounds, and the audience was treated to a concert that included non-traditional instruments, such as an inflated balloon and a 7-Up bottle.

Pianist, Terry Pollard, plays the 7-Up bottle. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Pianist, Terry Pollard, plays the 7-Up bottle. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

One of the great treats of this collaboration was a recording from that night! The LP, “Yusef Lateef at Cranbrook,” includes the following pieces: Morning, Brazil, Let Every Soul Say Amen, and Woody ‘N’ You. In 1988 Lateef received a Grammy award for Best New Age album and in 2010, he received the Jazz Master Fellow award from the National Endowment of the Arts. When Lateef passed away in 2013, he had recorded more than 75 albums.

Yusef Lateef and his band perform in the CAA galleries. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Yusef Lateef and his band perform in the CAA galleries. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

 

 

Contemporary Jazz Finds Its Way to Cranbrook

For more than 60 years, the Cranbrook Music Guild has been providing chamber music to Oakland County residents. The Guild, started by a group of music lovers in 1951, wanted to promote and provide chamber music on the beautiful grounds of Cranbrook. Consequently, the first Cranbrook Festival was held during the summer that year. While the early years focused on presenting classical music, including performances by the Julliard String Quartet and the Detroit Symphony Wind Quartet, by 1959 the Guild members were looking to expand the roster and even included ballet in the summer program.

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Encouraged by the response during the 1959 season, the summer of 1960 featured the Michigan Chorale (a 100-mixed voice ensemble), the Severo Ballet accompanied by the DSO, and even a jazz concert in order to “present the best in all fields of art.” The first two performances were, as usual, held at the Greek Theatre. The third of the season was the Dave Brubeck Quartet. One Rochester [Michigan] News reporter called it “the Guild’s boldest experiment” to date. In anticipation of a capacity crowd, the performance was held at the football stadium at Cranbrook School instead of the Greek Theatre, which is a smaller venue.

Dave Brubeck Quartet, Cranbrook School, July 14, 1960. Harvey Croze, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Dave Brubeck Quartet, Cranbrook School, July 14, 1960. Harvey Croze, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

In 1960, the members of The Dave Brubeck Quartet were Dave Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto saxophone), Joe Morello (drums), and Eugene Wright (double bass). The concert at Cranbrook was held on Sunday afternoon, July 14th at 4:30 pm. While the Guild was hopeful for a full house of 2,000, more than 1,100 people actually attended, still beating the Guild’s previous attendance record of 775.

Cranbrook Music Guild Records. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook Music Guild Records. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While I was not able to find any notes or articles about what the Quartet played at Cranbrook, it is highly likely that they played at least a few songs from their album, “Time Out,” which was recorded in 1959. Most of you will recognize the song “Take Five” from the album, which became one of their most popular. It is fun to imagine sitting outside at the stadium (now known as Thompson Oval) listening to this “new jazz.”

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Chris Morton for bringing this event to our attention!

 

The Skeptics Tale

The dichotomy of reading is much like the daily work undertaken in the archives. Reading, like research, can feel private, almost sacrosanct, something to escape to; on the other hand, there is a great draw to share the stories and information one discovers, seek commentary and comparison, enlighten someone’s thought process. As archivists, it is our job to assist researchers on their paths to discovery. Often times this direction and assistance leads us to insights as well. In fact, I have yet to assist a researcher along their path of inquiry without further developing my own along the way.

This was very much the case last week while I was scouring our collections for autumnal ephemera to add color to our Facebook followers’ harvest season. In my seasonally focused search I was delighted to come across Cranbrook’s very own ghost story—Cranbrook Boasts a Ghost; or, The Skeptics Tale, by Henry Scripps Booth (Thistle, as he was commonly known). I was intrigued and excited — what a timely discovery, what with Halloween just around the corner! And while I was enticed by the mystery, and enjoyed reading the descriptions of the vaulted spaces of St. Dunstan’s chapel [editor’s note: St. Dunstan’s is at Christ Church Cranbrook] filled with apparitions (a place I was lucky enough to tour, and you can too!) The Skeptics Tale, more importantly, reiterated an intrinsic truth about Cranbrook – that it is a space imagined and created by many minds and hands.

Christ Church Cranbrook, from "Highlights of Detroit". Cut by Eugene Reeber, Jefferson Intermediate School, 1932.

Christ Church Cranbrook, from “Highlights of Detroit”. Cut by Eugene Reeber, Jefferson Intermediate School, 1932.

Throughout the tale, I gained a sense of workmanship and craft, two features indicative of most spaces on Cranbrook’s sprawling campus. The characters in the tale pined over the construction of the brilliant structure, venerating its beauty as a testament to their commitment to their craft. It is, however, only near the end of the short story where I began to feel (if not see) the intentions of individuals who worked throughout the years to craft Cranbrook into the sprawling idyllic landscape of natural and man-made elements we know today.

“He discovered familiar faces in that strange assembly—faces of men who had lived and worked at Cranbrook. There before him was Tony by the column which bears his name; Mike Vettraino; Henry Booth, the coppersmith; his distinguished-looking father with the sideburns who brought the craftsman’s tradition from the ancient Cranbrook to this continent. There in the fourth chair of the fifth row: Milles, famed for his sculpture; a row or two behind, Saarinen, famed for his buildings; and nearby, Kirk, the silversmith.”

Though only apparitions in The Skeptics Tale, these individuals’ real accomplishments and contributions to Cranbrook, along with those of countless other influential men, women, and students, can be discovered through our collections. In the spirit of the season, we invite you to journey into our crypt and discover some of their stories yourself.

Belinda Krencicki, Associate Archivist

Manship’s Memorable Memorial Medal

As the Assistant Registrar for Cranbrook Educational Community, it is my job to keep track of the objects in the collections of the Art Museum and the Cultural Properties across the campus.  Though not trained as a Museum Registrar, George Booth had a similar goal: he fastidiously kept his many collections and cultural properties around his home and the various school buildings inventoried or appraised.

The inventory, “Cranbrook Museum Art collection: 400 thru,” led me to a wonderful collection of coins and medals.  Some were ancient, some were more contemporary, but one in particular stood out: a memorial medal for soldiers who died during the First World War.  What was the story behind this medal?  Since none of the Booth children died during the war, I wondered why George Booth would have one of these medals in his collection.

During World War I, many prominent Americans spoke out against the war in Europe, including Henry Ford and Reverend Samuel Marquis (who in 1927 became the first rector of Christ Church Cranbrook).  As the editor of The Detroit News, George Booth oversaw “the leading newspaper in the country to give open and courageous expression to criticism.”  The News editorial staff had “sincerity of purpose and courage to voice temporarily unpopular principles.”  The United States entered the war in 1917 but The Detroit News continued its criticism. That criticism, however, was focused on governments and policies, not at the soldiers who put their lives on the line.

Indeed, Booth was very supportive of the fighting men who went off to war and of the families of those who did not return. He, architect Albert Kahn, and Clyde Burroughs (Director of the Detroit Museum of Art) established the Welcome Home Committee of Detroit – similar committees were formed in other major U.S. cities. The committee made sure all soldiers who returned from the front received the thanks of the nation and distributed rings and certificates of service to them upon their return.

The Committee’s recognition did not end with the men who returned.  It also distributed the memorial medal to the families of the war dead from Detroit. This medal, designed by sculptor Paul Manship and forged by Medallic Art Company in New York, was given as “a token of sympathy and gratitude to the nearest kin of those who gave their lives in the country’s service” during the Great War.

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Detroit Soldiers Memorial Medal, 1919 (obverse). Image Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

The front of the medal bears a winged female figure representing Victory striding forward while holding a sword wrapped in a palm leaf (sword of war and palm of peace) with a radiant sun in the background. The text around Victory reads, “VIXIT VIVIT VIVET” [lived, lives, will live].

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Detroit Soldiers Memorial Medal, 1919 (reverse). Image Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

The back of the medal reads, “Presented by the City of Detroit 1919.” At center is a scroll inscribed, “In Memory Of One Who Died in the Cause of Freedom and Humanity.”  Above, an eagle holding a laurel wreath is perched atop the end of a cannon and ball.

The Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library has a great image of a large crowd at Campus Martius for a memorial service to honor WWI soldiers.  I suspect that one of the men on the dais is George G. Booth, there to honor the Detroit war dead and their families.

For more on George Booth and his opinions on the war in Europe, see the George Gough Booth Papers and for more on Manship’s work at Cranbrook, check out Cranbrook Archives Digital Collections and Cranbrook Art Museum.

– Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Cranbrook’s Other Kahn

What many people do not know is that Albert Kahn had a famous daughter, Lydia Kahn Winston Malbin (1897-1989). She was not an architect, nor a famous actress or TV personality, but was referred to as the “First Lady of Modernism” in a 1984 Detroit News magazine article by art critic Joy Hakanson Colby. Malbin, a lifetime trustee and honorary curator of the DIA, chairman of the Detroit Artists Market, and a member of the Detroit Arts Commission, was also a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1934 and then again from 1940-1944 when she received her MFA in Ceramics. (Malbin took additional ceramics classes with Maija Grotell and painting with Zoltan Sepeshy through 1950.)

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Lydia Malbin in her Manhattan apartment, 1984. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

But what she was best known for was her vast collection of modern art, an interest that began for her in the 1930s and continued throughout her lifetime. This week I received a query from an art auction house in London, England. They have a work by German-American painter, Lyonel Feininger, that had once been in Malbin’s collection and was on display in a 1951 exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum called “The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lewis Winston.” (Winston was Lydia Kahn’s first husband.) As auction houses often do, they wanted to verify that Feininger’s painting “Becalmed” had indeed been in this exhibition. As I researched this work, it reminded me of Malbin’s additional connections to Cranbrook.

 

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Exhibition Catalog, 1951. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Not only was Malbin a student at the Academy of Art, she was also one of the six Cranbrook-related artists who contributed to the Saarinen-Swanson Group, an affordable, coordinated line of modern home furnishings, which debuted in 1947. Malbin designed the oven-ware pottery, manufactured by Frankoma Pottery Company, and china with glazes meant to “simulate the quality and color of semi-precious stones” manufactured by Glenco Porcelain Company. She also designed ash trays and vases – a line of “red ware” – which featured clay and glazes from Ferro Enamel in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Detroit Free Press, September 1948. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Malbin began collecting modern art in the 1930s. Though her father, Albert Kahn, couldn’t stand modern art, he did instill in all of his children the lesson that they should be independent thinkers. So, Malbin sought out what SHE liked – “tough, off-beat things” rather than popular artists or “pretty pictures.” She and her first husband, Harry Winston, were an art collecting team until Harry’s death in 1965, and Malbin’s second husband, Barnett Malbin, while not a collector himself, supported her collecting activities and even made photographic records of her art for her archives.

For more on Malbin’s collecting interests, check out the Lydia Winston Malbin Papers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Barnett and Lydia Winston Malbin Papers, 1940-1973 at the Archives of American Art.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Upcoming Day Away: Albert Kahn and the University of Michigan

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In this 1919 photo taken by Henry Scripps Booth of his two friends and architecture classmates Fred Morse and Martin Lexen, they’re all hanging out (and almost off of!) the roof of the University of Michigan’s brand new General Library by architect Albert Kahn. I found this snapshot in volume four of Booth’s Pleasures of Life series, which has lots of great images of the Booths at Cranbrook and of his friends at the university (where Henry studied from 1918- 1924). The building they’re sitting on here, known as the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library since 1971, figures prominently in the Center for Collections and Research’s next Day Away trip on October 28!

Henry Scripps Booth’s Scrapbook Album, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Dedication of the new (Hatcher) library building, 1920. Henry Scripps Booth’s Scrapbook Album, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While we won’t be quite so daring as to dangle our feet off the roof, you are invited to join the Center as we explore Albert Kahn’s architecture at University of Michigan. Best known for his industrial architecture in and around Detroit (and of course Cranbrook House), this tour will introduce you to his academic buildings. The day includes morning lectures followed by in-depth tours of five Kahn structures (including rarely accessible spaces like the carillon in Burton Memorial Tower), all interspersed with narrated walks and drives.

I should mention, though, that the Day Away won’t just be about touring. We’ll stop for a delicious lunch at Taste Kitchen, an acclaimed new restaurant by owner and chef Danny Van. It came highly recommended by friends of the Center, and we’re very happy Van has designed a three course meal, with optional drink pairings, just for us.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In this photo, we see Booth’s friend Fred’s “long, lankey and lean” body around a street sign—with assistance from the bottom-half of another Cranbrook luminary and friend of Henry, J. Robert F. Swanson.* The photo shows the two goofing around on a road outside of Ann Arbor. For this post’s purposes, I’ll imagine they’re on the very route we’ll be taking from Cranbrook to Ann Arbor on October 28! There shouldn’t be any dangerous curves on our trip, though it’s guaranteed to be informative, delicious, and fun. Call and get your tickets today!

*Did you know Booth and Swanson met studying architecture at U of M, where they also encountered a certain visiting professor, Eliel Saarinen?

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

Vitrolite: Better than Marble

At Saarinen House, the 1930 home of Eliel and Loja Saarinen at Cranbrook, the master bath is one of the best rooms in the house.

img_1580The bathroom is symmetrical, with his and hers sinks on either end of the room. The tile is off-the-shelf, not custom made for Saarinen, but deployed in an utterly unique way. In this post, I want to look specifically at the material of the countertops, Vitrolite glass.

Pigmented structural glass was developed at the start of the 20th century, and its first uses were in hospital, laboratory, and industrial food environments where its qualities of cleanliness, imperviousness, strength, and durability could be exploited. From institutional uses, structural glass took the next logical step into other places where sanitation mattered: bars, restaurants and restrooms.

 

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Vitrolite trade catalog, c. 1922, Courtesy of the Hagley Library Digital Archives

The first structural glass came out in 1900, Sani Onyx by the Marietta Manufacturing Company, but it was under the brand name Vitrolite that structural glass achieved its greatest success. Vitrolite was manufactured from 1908 to 1947, first by the Vitrolite Company, and after 1935, by the Libby-Owen-Ford Company (both out of Toledo, Ohio).

At first, structural glass was manufactured only in black or white, colors befitting its promotion as an alternative to marble (Pittsburgh Plate Glass’ Vitrolite rival was called Carrara Glass, after Carrara marble, and Vitrolite’s sometime slogan was “Vitrolite: Better Than Marble.”) In its 1922 promotional material “Vitrolite Sanitary Tables and Counters,” the company claims that the products “delightfully cool, bright surface is just the place to serve palatable drinks and dainties. It keeps clean— nothing stains it and it just wears and wears.”

img_1585The sanitation and durability arguments likely appealed to Eliel Saarinen as he specified white Vitrolite for the master bathroom, but he was probably also drawn to its aesthetic potential: a single, seamless, and uniform surface for the countertop. It offsets the grid of the bathroom tile beautifully, providing a place to rest both your toothbrush and your eye.img_1590

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Correspondence concerning Saarinen House Vitrolite bathrooms, from our Archives

Installed by the plumbing contractor Robert Purcell, the sink bowls are vitreous china set beneath the Vitrolite counter. It’s likely that the oval for the sink basin was cut out of the Vitrolite by hand by Purcell’s team, and if you look at the result, it’s not a perfect oval—this isn’t your machined Corian countertop! In a house (and on a campus) where craftspeople are often celebrated, it’s neat that the bathroom counter’s utterly modern material still reflects the hand of the maker.

 

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Colors of Vitrolite from 1936, published in “52 Designs to Modernize Main Street with Glass,” Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co., Courtesy of the Winterthur Library, Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Once Vitrolite bcame available in an array of colors and patterns, its aesthetic potential boomed. After its purchase by Libby-Owen-Ford in 1935, the glass was heavily marketed towards architects for its use in building facades, particularly for remodeling storefronts. In many design competitions and promotional literature, Vitrolite was sold as a way of “Modernizing Main Street,” a quick way to freshen up old buildings. Its these flashy, Art Deco facades that stand out in structural glass history, but it’s nice to remember its humbler, utilitarian beginnings.

 
One final note on the Saarinen House countertops: where are the faucets?! Look inside the sink, the water came out of the small bump at the top of the bowl itself. I hope they had great water pressure.

 

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Back cover of “Vitrolite Sanitary Tables and Counters,” c. 1922

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

 

Photo Friday: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

In October 2014, archivist Cheri Gay, wrote a blog on the pet cemetery at Thornlea Studio and the love the Booth family had for their animals.

In the blog, Cheri states, “When Henry was growing up, the Booth family had beagles, Prince and Mike, and a great dane, Ginger. Mike, according to Henry, ‘… loved having a fuss made over him, one time going so far as being pushed around in a doll carriage while wearing a canvas hat.’ Oh to have a photograph of that!”

On this Photo Friday, the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink is proud to present:

Mike the beagle, being pushed in a doll stroller... wearing a canvas hat!

Mike the beagle, being pushed around in a doll carriage… while wearing a canvas hat!

Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

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