Dispatch from the Archives: Documenting Liggett

Part of the job of an archivist is to network with colleagues and provide guidance when neighboring organizations or institutions are looking to establish a new archive.  As luck would have it, two weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods to look at their archives, and work with the two stellar Sara(h)s: Sara Day Brewer and Sarah Gaines.  Both women—also current parents at the school—are working to preserve the heritage of the school.

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Liggett School ephemera noting architect Albert Kahn’s entrance to the school, 1942. The Liggett School Collection, Courtesy University Liggett School Archives.

To take a step back, the University Liggett School is actually comprised of four predecessor schools that merged at different points: The Liggett School, Detroit University School, Grosse Pointe Country Day School, and the Grosse Pointe University School.  Liggett was the private school for girls established by the Liggett family in 1878, while the Detroit University School (established in 1899 and commonly known as DUS) was a school for boys.  Grosse Pointe Country Day School (CDS) was established in 1915, and Grosse Pointe University School (GPUS) was created when Detroit University School and the Country Day School merged in the 1950s.

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Grandfather clock, located in University Liggett School’s Upper School. The oldest part of the Cook Road Campus, the Upper School dates to 1928. Photo by Leslie S. Edwards.

We started out with a tour of the school, where I saw a beautiful hand-carved grandfather clock that was donated to the school by the Farr children in 1950 in memory of their parents, Emma Rothe and Merton Farr.  My mouth dropped open in surprise as one of the Farr children was Carolyn Farr Booth, the wife of Cranbrook’s Henry Scripps Booth!

We then moved on to the archives, which was located in the basement of the school—sadly, a common situation for most archival storage. Though not very large, Liggett’s archival collection contains materials very similar to those we have in the Cranbrook Archives: papers of the founding families, school administrative records, publications, photographs and ephemera.  Continuing the work of a previous part-time worker (who was a trained archivist), the two Sara(h)s have created databases in order to search for objects by subject matter, and are in the process of organizing more of the collection.  My hat goes off to them!

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Commencement book belonging to Fanny Kanter, Liggett student and classmate of Grace Booth. The Liggett School Collection, Courtesy University Liggett School Archives.

In addition to the Farr connection, there are several other relationships between Liggett and Cranbrook.  Henry Scripps Booth attended D.U.S. and his sister, Grace, attended the Liggett School.  Will Scripps, Ellen Scripps Booth’s younger brother, also attended D.U.S.  Albert Kahn designed Liggett’s Burns Street location in 1914 which was known as Eastern Liggett.  Celebrated landscape architect O.C. Simonds (who designed the landscape for Cranbrook House and the surrounding acreage) drew up a landscape plan for Eastern Liggett in 1916. Detroit industrialist Gustavus Pope was also involved with both Liggett and Cranbrook. Pope, a friend of George Booth’s, was a founding member of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, Vice President of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and President of the Board of Directors for Liggett School. At Cranbrook, Pope served on the Board of Trustees for the Cranbrook Foundation, Christ Church Cranbrook, the Institute of Science, and the Academy of Art.

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Eastern Liggett landscape plan drawn up by landscape architect O.C. Simonds, 1916. The Liggett School Collection, Courtesy University Liggett School Archives.

It was truly a heart-warming experience to see the enthusiasm of the two Sara(h)s and to discuss ways in which they can move forward in promoting their collections.  It is always exciting for me to see new collections, to learn what is around us, and to see how archivists can work together collectively to preserve our rich heritage.

– Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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5 thoughts on “Dispatch from the Archives: Documenting Liggett

  1. My Mother, Carol Lawson Booth was the oldest living graduate of The Liggett School a few years ago. She was married to John McLaughlin Booth, son of James Scripps Booth and grandson of George and Ellen Booth. My Mother was 99 when she passed away last February and The Liggett School was always important to her. She maintained relationships with many of her Liggett friends her whole life and she was the last surviving member of her class.
    Nancy Booth Hanscom

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    • Hi Nancy – Tom sent a great photo of your mother’s graduating class. I am waiting to possible post it here as an addendum. It’s a great photo!

      Leslie

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    • Hello Nancy –

      We have the 1932 Liggett School yearbook here in our archives at the University Liggett School.

      You may know this, but your mother was class president! Next to her senior photograph it reads: “Distinguished for power of organization and chairmanship of hard-working committees; 1932’s class president, amusing, lovable, capable; with a sense of humor that saves many a situation and appears, to her disgust, when she is trying to be most serious; has served class and school long and capably.”

      The yearbook also includes a short essay she wrote about a little girl she sat in back of in church.

      I’m glad to hear that her experience at The Liggett School meant so much to her.

      Regards,
      Sarah Gaines

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  2. Thank you for sharing this very interesting endeavor – I continue to be be surprised and delighted as you reveal new items of great interest in the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink! Great job you all do, Leslie! Hope to see you again soon!

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  3. Leslie –
    Thank you for your visit to our archives!
    This is a great post, and you are a great resource and professional.
    Many thanks,
    Sarah Gaines

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