Inside the Booth Library

For all of us who are confined to quarters and find ourselves condemned to read from our own library, let me invite you into George and Ellen Booth’s ample domain. Those of you who know Cranbrook House, the Booths’ Albert Kahn mansion, will have visited the library or attended events there. Perhaps your attention was more taken up by the Herter tapestry or the Kirchmeyer overmantel than by what is on the actual shelves, but art aside, let’s look at the books.

George Booth may well have had a jobber buying books for him to fill those shelves, and he certainly would have been aware of the 1909 Collier’s Harvard Classics, consisting of all the books Harvard President Charles Eliot deemed essential background reading for an educated man of substance.

Cranbrook House library, 1920.

View of the south end of the Cranbrook House library, 1920. Photo by John Wallace Gillies. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

So, books to impress and accessorize, yes, but now we need to read: we want to be lost in a book that takes us away from this turbulent world. What’s on offer? We will skip Dante’s Inferno, however much we may feel it appropriate, and pick some things at random which you can read either through your e-reader or your library access to Hoopla! and which may do the trick.

Nonfiction: Sven Hedin’s Through Asia. Remember Sven Hedin from Carl Milles’s sculpture at the Institute of Science?

Carl Milles's "Sven Hedin" sculpture, which sits beside the reflecting pool at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Carl Milles’s “Sven Hedin” (1932), which sits beside the reflecting pool at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Hedin was a Swedish explorer of Central Asia in the 1920s. His accounts are absorbing and illustrated copiously by Hedin himself. Read Hedlin here.

Who doesn’t love the memoirs of a spy? Here comes Bruce Lockhart’s best-selling Memoirs of a British Agent, his 1932 account of diplomatic shenanigans in Moscow, trying to keep Russia in the war against Germany in 1918. This was the book to be reading in 1933. Purchase Lockhart here.

British Agent from Booth Library

Memoirs of a British Agent in the Booth Library, 11th Printing, 1933. Courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

This next one is really quite a story and a book I knew nothing about. On the Booth shelves it is called A German Prince and His Victim, but in Google Play you will find it as Memoirs of a Young Greek Lady. This is no novel but the autobiographical account of a 14-year-old girl and her abduction by Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg. The Coburgs, though minor princelings in theory, ended up marrying into all the royal families of Europe including Russia. This good duke was the philandering father of Queen Victoria’s Albert, and not at all of the same character. If you have watched the PBS series, Victoria, you will remember that the brothers Ernest and Albert were embarrassed that their father was their father. The writing is histrionic, to say the least, but the story is riveting, the duke dreadful, the girl tenacious: the forerunner to reports you will find in newspapers today. I have to say I was mesmerized by this story and gobbled it up. Read the memoirs here.

Ernst_I,_Duke_of_Saxe-Coburg_and_Gotha_-_Dawe_1818-19

Portrait of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by George Dawe, 1819.  Courtesy of The Royal Collection.

And novels: I was glad to see that the Booths have a copy of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.  I am told there is a great TV serialization of this comédie humaine, but the book contains everything you will ever need to know about human nature, told with humor and restraint. The writers of the TV serialization of Sanditon, the would-be adaptation of the Jane Austen tale, have certainly borrowed from this novel. Read Thackeray here.

Vanity Fair from Booth Library

Vanity Fair title page in the Booth Library, from The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray Vol. I, 1878. Courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

If you have never read these books, you should; the stories are magnificent and the nineteenth century novelistic version of the action movie, and quite possibly the archetype of swashbuckling in movies or anywhere else: The Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas. They are a great read for young adults too. Read Dumas here.

One of the twenty-one illustrations of "The Three Musketeers" by A. J. Lalauze in the Collection of the Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM 1955.360.15).

One of the twenty-one illustrations of “The Three Musketeers” by A. J. Lalauze in the Collection of the Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM 1955.360.15).

Family time. Try reading Sheridan’s The Rivals out loud. It’s a challenge but very funny. This play has the great Mrs. Malaprop who manages to misuse words in a most perplexing fashion. Your reading out loud will improve immeasurably, and you may even find that some of the expressions find their way in your life. Read Sheridan here.

Malapropism from GRE Word of the Day

A malapropism courtesy of GRE Word of the Day.

There are lots of great reads in the Booth library, whether intentionally collected or not.  We are just scratching the surface here!

Just a note: the books remaining on the library shelves today represent only a portion of the Booth collection, many of the more notable volumes being housed in the Academy of Art Library or Cranbrook Archives.

If you want to know what happened to the “victim” of the German prince after the period in question, reply in the comments and we can fill you in.

–Lynette Mayman, Collections Interpreter

Editor’s Note: Happy National Library Week, everyone!

A Michigan Mural

Metro Detroiters, out-of-town visitors, and architectural aficionados worldwide have long admired the Penobscot Building in Detroit’s Financial District. Like its close neighbor, the Guardian Building, and the Fisher Building further north in Midtown, it is one of the city’s finest examples of art deco architecture and one of the iconic structures that still make up Detroit’s skyline today. Designed by Wirt C. Rowland of Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls, when its 47 stories were built in 1928, it was the tallest building in the city and the fourth tallest in the nation.

The Penobscot, on the National Register of Historic Places, is perhaps best known architecturally for its tiered upper seventeen floors and the exterior ornament by sculptor Corrado Parducci, whose work can be seen on many other Detroit buildings. It’s also known to locals for the red-lit globe at the top (originally designed as an aviation beacon), the legendary Caucus Club (Barbara Streisand reportedly launched her singing career here), or the famed roof observation deck which offered an excellent panorama of the city.

But, what about the interior of the Penobscot? Well it just so happens there’s a Cranbrook connection!

penob-1

The original bank lobby. Courtesy Detroit Free Press Archives.

The Guardian Detroit Group was the first tenant of the two-story bank hall at 635 Griswold St. before they had their own skyscraper commissioned just a block away. A later occupant, Detroit City Bank, opened in the same space in February 1949. When they did, adorning one wall was a mural painted by Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate and Head of Kingswood School Art Department (1940-1956), Clifford B. West. Known as the “Mural of Michigan” the twenty-six-foot painting depicts scenes representing state commerce and industry. West, who studied under Zoltan Sepeshy, and with fellow muralist David Fredenthal, had already completed a bank mural in Alamosa, Colorado, as well as Detroit-area murals in the Rackham Building, Stockholm Restaurant, and Fox & Hounds Restaurant.

Following a meticulous process that involved a series of sketches at different scales, cartoons plotted to a numbered grid and traced on the wall, and painting in two steps (large blocks of color followed by detail work), the scenes were applied in casein tempera on canvas cemented to the wall. Joining in this process was West’s wife and fellow artist, Joy Griffin West, and several academy students. Fortuitously, each stage of work was captured in a series of photographs by Cranbrook photographer, Harvey Croze.

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Upon completion of the mural, West mounted an exhibit at Cranbrook Art Museum titled, Progress of a Mural in April 1949, detailing his process for the Penobscot mural, and featuring many of the preliminary sketches and cartoons.

It’s largely unknown whether the Penobscot mural exists today, since a drop ceiling was installed many years ago, completely obscuring West’s creation.

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

Cranbrook’s Crazy Clubs

Most high schools have a lot of clubs in order to foster the interests of their students. Since opening in 1927, Cranbrook School for Boys has had its fair share of extracurricular activities. There has been a Biology Club, a Pre-Med Club, and a club for the boys that had earned their Varsity letter (called the “C” Club). But, there have also been some clubs that were not so traditional.

Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, was quite popular at one time. The boys at Cranbrook started their own Radio Club with the help of Science teacher William Schultz, Jr.

Boys sit around a ham radio.

Radio Club members listening to the radio, July 1935. You can see the station’s call sign on the wall: W8LME. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Then there was the Model Club, which was for boys who enjoyed making models, judging from the picture, mostly of airplanes.

A group of boys standing behind a table of model airplanes

The Model Club, 1952. From left: Faculty Advisor Richard Gregg, David Higbie, Don Young, David Morris, President Richard Gielow, Adams McHenry, Don Hart, Pete Dawkins, Dahmen Brown, Jerry Phillips. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

A Drama Club is not an unusual thing to have at a school, but Cranbrook’s club has an interesting name: Ergasterion Club. Ergasterion is the Greek name for the workshop of craftsman.

Group of boys sitting on a stage.

The Ergasterion “Erg” Club is Cranbrook School’s dramatic society, April 1960. First row, left to right: Louis Beer, Templin Licklider, Jr.; second row: Rick Strong, Bill MacLachlan, Henry Weil, Mike Hilder, Phil Weisenbarger, Richard Foster; third row: Gregg Carr, Boris Nicoloff, Bill Thompson, George Roth, Mitchell Grayson. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

I guess a Rifle Club is not that unusual either, but their yearbook photo was just too great not to share!

A group of boys posing with rifles on a hill

Cranbrook Rifle Club, November 1968. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In the great state of Michigan, we have a lot of lakes. That is what must have inspired the creation of the SCUBA Club.

Group of boys in SCUBA gear standing in a fountain. of

Cranbrook School SCUBA Club, 1968. From left Thomas O’Hara 69′, Robert O’Hara 70′, Edward Soudeck (language instructor), Thomas Strickland 70′, Marlin Atkinson 70′, Donald Rosiello 70′, and Richard Genthe 70′. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Today, Cranbrook Schools (co-ed since 1984) continues to have a wide variety of extracurriculars; just ask the members of “The Beyond Earth Club (Space Club)” or the Namtenga Club.

– Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar

From Concept to Cover

The General Motors Technical Center is one of Eero Saarinen’s most acclaimed projects. Dedicated in 1956, the “Corporate Cranbrook” was years in development, starting with initial designs by Eliel Saarinen and J. Robert F. Swanson (with Eero consulting) in 1945.

After a hiatus in the project by GM and reorganization of the Saarinen Swanson office, Eero completely redesigned the scheme in late 1948. The new design is high modernism at its finest: clean lines, experimental materials, and a lot of flat roofs. We can see Eero’s boxy proposal here, a treasured sketch from Cranbrook Archives:

Eero Saarinen GM Tech Center Sketch Small ad21-12

Eero Saarinen sketch of General Motors Technical Center, Warren, Michigan, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

As the son of a world-famous architect building for one of America’s greatest companies, the project drew lots of attention well before it opened. Architectural Forum, in fact, featured the Tech Center as its cover story in July 1949. But what to show of the yet-constructed campus?

Glen Paulsen Eero Saarinen GM Tech Center Rendering ad21-12

Glen Paulsen drawing depicting Eero Saarinen’s proposed General Motors Technical Center, Saarinen Saarinen and Associates, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Eero turned to a talented young architect in his office, Glen Paulsen, to delineate the Tech Center for the magazine cover. Paulsen was known for his complex and sophisticated architectural renderings, and had worked for various firms as a renderer before coming to Saarinen’s office in 1949 as a design architect.  He sketched out several different options for Forum , and my favorite includes the entire layout of the cover, not just the buildings:

Arch Forum July 1949 Glen Paulsen rendering Eero Saarinen ad21-14

Concept art for cover of Architectural Forum by Glen Paulsen, depicting Eero Saarinen’s proposed General Motors Technical Center, Saarinen Saarinen and Associates, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Finally, in June 1949, the magazine hit the presses with a crisp, color drawing by Glen Paulsen depicting Eero’s General Motors Tech Center.

Architectural Forum July 1949 Glen Paulsen cover for Eero Saarinen

Architectural Forum 91, no. 1 (July 1949). Cover art by Glen Paulsen of Saarinen Saarinen and Associates. Courtesy of Cranbrook Academy of Art Library.

—Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

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