The Iconic Kitty Kingswood

A colleague recently inquired about a painting on the mezzanine wall leading to the music practice rooms at Kingswood School. The painting is of a girl, “Kitty Kingswood,” who is holding a pennant and is accompanied by a swan on the waves of Kingswood Lake. Eliel Saarinen painted the image in the 1930s to camouflage clay sewer pipes.

Painting by Eliel Saarinen in Kingswood School of Kitty Kingswood. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Nelson.

In 1950, Lillian Holm (Head of Weaving at Kingswood School from 1933-1965) copied the pattern of the gown from the painting and Louise Raisch hand-wove the first Kitty Kingswood doll. This doll was auctioned at the 1950 Autumn Festival.

The original Kitty Kingswood doll auctioned at the 1950 Autumn Festival. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Is there more to the Kitty Kingswood story? A recent trip over to the Girls Middle School, as well as a dive into our files here at the Archives, indicates that there is much more—and the iconic Kitty still plays an integral role.

Fast forward to 1964. The Kingswood Alumnae Association presents a new award to a seventh or eighth grade girl who has contributed to the spirit of Kingswood and is an outstanding citizen. The Association commissions Kingswood sculpture teacher, Pamela Stump Walsh, to create a statue of Kitty Kingswood for the award. The Birmingham Eccentric describes the sculpture as “a typical KSC girl who holds a hockey stick and a pennant and stands on the KSC seal.”

A sketch for the Kitty Kingswood award by Pamela Stump Walsh. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Today, the statue resides at the Girls Middle School as does a plaque (also donated by Pamela Stump Walsh) with the award recipients’ names. An additional case at the middle school displays a Kitty Kingswood doll, which was reproduced and auctioned off for many years to raise funds for the school.

Kitty Kingswood sculpture by Pamela Stump Walsh at the Girls Middle School today.

The Kitty Kingswood Citizenship Award is still presented to an outstanding student each year at the Girls Middle School. The award is determined by vote of the faculty. Pamela Stump Walsh presented the award to the first recipient in 1964, and her words still inspire students today: “Good citizenship is more than simple obedience to a set of rules or laws. It is a loving obedience to just laws and the courage to change the unjust…but most of all, it is serious concern for the condition of others, even for the condition of our enemies.”

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Ralph Rapson: New Archival Collection

Cranbrook Archives is excited to announce the opening of the Ralph Rapson Collection (1935-1954) for research. The collection focuses on the early years of Rapson’s work, including his time as a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Rapson’s later work is retained at the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, where he was the Dean of the School of Architecture from 1954-1984.

Rapson was born in Alma, Michigan in 1914. He earned Architecture degrees at the University of Michigan (1938) and at Cranbrook Academy of Art (1940). Upon completing his studies at CAA, Rapson set up his studio and was invited to help Eliel Saarinen with a planning project, which was to provide an analysis of the site for a new State Capitol complex in Lansing, Michigan. Following this experience, Rapson decided to focus more on architecture than planning. Between 1938 and 1942, Rapson contributed designs and drawings, and built models, for various projects and competitions for Eliel Saarinen and his associates.

While at Cranbrook, Rapson collaborated on several competition drawings with Eero Saarinen, Frederick James, David Runnells, Walter Hickey, Harry Weese and others. Rapson established an early reputation for his experimental concept houses like the 1939 “Cave House” and “Fabric House,” (both designed at CAA with fellow student David Runnells) and the 1945 “Greenbelt House” or Case Study House #4, one of the experiments in American residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine.

Case Study House #4 for Arts & Architecture magazine, Jun 1944.

In the early 1940s, Rapson moved to Chicago where he taught under the Hungarian Bauhaus artist, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Rapson served as Head of the Architectural Curriculum at the Institute of Design (New Bauhaus) from 1942-1946. He left this position late in 1946, when MIT Dean of Architecture, William Wurster, invited him to relocate to Massachusetts where he taught architecture alongside Finnish architect, Alvar Aaalto.

In 1951, Rapson was hired by the U.S. State Department to design a series of American embassies in Western Europe with architect John Van der Meulen. Rapson worked on several embassy projects, as well as residential projects, in the mid-1950s. In the spring of 1954, Rapson and his family moved to Minnesota where Rapson served as the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota from 1954-1984. He continued to work in private practice in Minneapolis until his death in 2008 at the age of 93.

The Ralph Rapson Collection includes project files, research, correspondence, architectural drawings, and photographic material from many of Rapson’s embassy projects, as well as design competition materials and residential projects. In addition to the physical collection, a digital site (including drawings, photographs, and ephemera) is now accessible from our web site. The Archives staff will continue to add to this site, as more material is digitized.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Sources:
Hession, Jane King, Rapson, Rip, and Wright, Bruce. Ralph Rapson Sixty Years of Modern Design. Afton, MN: Afton Historical Society Press, 1999.

Heyer, Paul, ed. Architects on Architecture. New York: Walker and Co. 1965.

Photo (Album) Friday

Over the past decade, digital photo albums have become commonplace. Although I enjoy seeing photos in digital albums, there is something magical about peering into the pages of a book constructed by someone decades ago. Here in the Archives we have many scrapbooks – from oversized books with newspaper clippings to school scrapbooks with photographs and ephemera related to sporting events, dances, and awards ceremonies.

Scrapbooks are a fundamental part of many of our manuscript collections – documenting the work and life of artists, educators, and scientists. The four scrapbooks in the Saarinen Family Papers contain newspaper clippings of Eliel Saarinen’s work, as well as photographs of family and friends in the U.S. and Europe.

I find that photographs and scrapbooks document life in a way that is unique to written correspondence. A letter provides detail to the reader or researcher, but a captioned photo provides visual representation and the details that were important to the creator. The Archives recently accessioned the Smith House Records, which includes 20 albums. The albums include artwork that the homeowners valued, as well as photographs of people enjoying their home. These images show what a fun couple the Smiths were – and how much they loved entertaining guests in their Wright home.

Smith Family album

A page from one of the Smith family albums, Dec 1970.

Henry Scripps Booth, youngest son of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth, elevated the scrapbook to a new level with his series of 14 albums, titled “Pleasures of Life.” These albums celebrate travel, as well as family life here at Cranbrook from 1911-1940. The carefully constructed pages in the “Pleasures of Life” series include captions for nearly all the photos (penned by Henry), including one of a house party at Cranbrook House in 1915.

Pleasures of Life, Vol II

“House Party, Cranbrook House,” Pleasures of Life, Vol 2, 1915.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

NB: This weekend, 103 years after Henry captioned his photo of “House Party, Cranbrook House,” the Center for Collections and Research is hosting a gala fundraiser A HOUSE PARTY AT CRANBROOK. It will celebrate the three historic houses under the Center’s care, and honor the legacies of the families who built and lived in them. Hopefully someone takes photos for an album to be appreciated in another 100 years!

Creativity and Experimentation: A Snapshot of the CKU Dance Department

A new collection that documents two decades of the Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School Dance Department is now open for research. The materials were donated to the Archives by the former Director of the Dance Department, Jessica Sinclair, and photographer Fred Olds.

Sinclair started teaching modern dance as part of Kingswood School’s physical education program in 1963. During her tenure, the program flourished, and Dance became its own department. Students performed throughout the year at the Performing Arts Winter Festival, the annual Evening of Dance concerts, and at events such as the Guy Fawkes Ball at Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA).

Alexandra Ohanian in studio, ca 2000. Copyright Fred Olds/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In 1982, Sinclair invited Fred Olds to photograph her dancers in collaboration with a fiber installation by Gerhardt Knodel, who was Head of the Fiber Department at CAA at that time. This event led to a twenty-year collaboration between Olds and Sinclair. Olds photographed students in performance, in the studio, and at local and international events.

Dancers perform at the David Whitney Building in Detroit, 1985. Copyright Fred Olds/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Between 1982 and 2002, the Dance department performed in Chicago, Toronto, and at the David Whitney Building in Detroit, where Sinclair choreographed “Dance in 4 Spaces,” with a grant awarded by the Michigan Council for the Arts. In 1989, Olds traveled with Sinclair and her dancers to the former Soviet Union to perform at the Children’s Palace in Moscow, the Choreographic Institute in Tblisi, and at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Olds remembers that the peak of applause at this concert came for a dancer in a 16-foot-tall dress designed by artist, Nick Cave (CAA ’89).

Susan Loveland in a costume designed by Nick Cave, 1989. Copyright Fred Olds/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Throughout the years, Sinclair collaborated with a diverse group of fiber artists, sculptors, and architects to infuse creativity and experimentation into her work. The archival collection reflects this process in photographs, ephemera, and video.

– Gina Tecos, Archivist

New Digital Collection Focusing on the Middle East

Thanks to a generous grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, thousands of negatives from the collections at Cranbrook Archives have been re-housed to ensure their long-term stability and preservation. One of these collections, which documents a research trip conducted in the Middle East by Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS), has been digitized and is now available to users from our online database.

Domed Structures near Babylon. Photograph by Robert T. Hatt.

From 1952-1953, Dr. Robert T. Hatt (Director of CIS from 1935-1967) led an exhibition in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Hatt recorded his observations in a travel journal which is part of the Robert Torrens Hatt Papers at Cranbrook Archives. In addition to his research and work as a scientist, Hatt was an avid photographer. Our collection includes more than 400 photographs taken by Hatt during his travels.

Dr. Hatt’s travel diary, 1952-1953. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

We are excited to share this unique collection that documents communities and antiquities which may no longer exist. Users can browse the collection image by image, or use the Search box at the top of each page in the online database.  To browse the 400+ images in the collection, click the Browse All button (next to Home).

Dr. Hatt (right) and an unidentified man in Babylon.

We hope you enjoy this new collection! Special thanks to Archives Assistants Veronica Wood and Kaitlin Scharra Eraqi for their hard work and the many hours they spent on this project.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

 

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

Evolution of a Rink

Sixty years ago Cranbrook School headmaster, Harry Hoey, spoke to a group bundled in their warmest winter clothes at the formal dedication of the new outside skating rink at Cranbrook. The rink was unveiled on January 12th, 1957, at an estimated cost of $104,000. The new “artificial” rink, built on the site of the original natural ice surface, was constructed because there was a constant risk that the natural ice would not sustain a hockey season due to unreliable weather.

Hockey player on the “natural” ice rink, 1940. Photographer Richard G. Askew. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The new rink was built to hockey specifications (85 x 190 ft.) and was refrigerated by two over-sized compressors designed to operate in adverse weather conditions. Artificial rinks were a relatively new phenomenon in the 1950s and Cranbrook researched the project for several years before proceeding. The planning team looked at rinks around the country, including Dartmouth, Cornell, and Williams College.

Skaters at the artificial rink dedication. The Pontiac Press, 14 Jan 1957.

The rink was open six months out of the year and accommodated Cranbrook School ice hockey teams and students, as well as the outlying communities for day and night skating. From 1957-1982 the Cranbrook Skating Club oversaw all operations of the rink. During this time the club held Board of Directors meetings, generated correspondence for the raising of funds for daily operations, and supervised various program schedules, benefits, and employees of the skating rink.

By the 1970s the rink was showing wear and the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and middle school teams were forced to buy ice time at neighboring rinks for practice and games. A committee was formed and students, faculty, and friends staged a skate-a-thon and worked with then-Cranbrook president, Arthur Kiendl, to raise money.

The original plan was to build a new enclosed facility for winter skating and summer tennis, but the price was too high, so committee members and Cranbrook administrators decided to complete the work in phases. The first step – cement work for the rink surface and spectators’ section, new boards, and new piping – was completed with a gift by Grace Booth Wallace and her family in 1978. The final phases of the project – which included total enclosure of the arena – were completed in 1979.

A view of Wallace Ice Arena with the tennis courts in the foreground. Photographer Balthazar Korab, Oct 2000.

Today Cranbrook athletes, students, faculty, and the public enjoy the state-of-the art Wallace Ice Arena.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Cranbrook Celebrates Halloween

Campus celebrations throughout the years.

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The Art and Science of Numbers

“La science du nombre devient la clef de toute culture scientifique,” prefaces an article by then-director, Robert T. Hatt, in the May 1966 Cranbrook Institute of Science newsletter. Roughly translated – the science of numbers becomes the key to any scientific culture – an idea promoted through a long-term exhibition at the Institute, titled Mathematics Emporium.

Sponsored by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), the exhibition was a replacement for the World of Numbers, which was a mathematics-focused exhibition on display at the Institute from 1961-1966. The goal of the Mathematics Emporium was to discover the character of mathematics or as Dr. Hatt explained, “what mathematics is all about.”

Invitation to preview the Mathematics Emporium exhibition, Apr 1966.

The exhibition was created by well-known designer, Gordon Ashby, who previously worked with Charles and Ray Eames.  During Ashby’s tenure with the Eames Office, he worked on the Mathematica exhibition (also sponsored by IBM) for the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles (now the California Science Center) and later for the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair (1964/1965). For the Cranbrook exhibition, Ashby worked in consultation with several mathematics teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area to design displays about geometry, calculus, the properties of space, the giving of form to algebraic equations, and the measurement of motion and change.

Letter from Ashby to Hatt, Feb 1966.

Ashby’s goal with the Mathematics Emporium was to depict mathematical subjects in an imaginative way to stimulate the curiosity of visitors and encourage further investigation. The exhibition was enclosed in an 18-foot modular showcase that contained a graphic panel with sketches or diagrams, as well as a collection of thirteen small displays. Ashby said he hoped to create an exhibition “that would make mathematics ‘look-at-able’ and bear repeated visits.”

Mathematics Emporium exhibition. Photograph by Harvey Croze, Apr 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The exhibition showcase was trimmed in gold-leaf and included photographs, mathematical limericks, and quotes by famous mathematicians. Within each display there were thought-provoking questions, such as “what has a can of baking powder to do with calculus?” and “which mathematical science sees a coffee cup and a doughnut as alike?” The Mathematics Emporium was very popular with visitors, and it remained a permanent exhibition in the Institute’s collections for more than 14 years.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Kitchen Sink Back to School Edition: Cranbrook’s Own Elizabeth Bennett

Although the legacy of Kingswood School English teacher, Elizabeth Bennett* (1904-1983) does not involve Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, it is certainly the story of a woman who inspired and captivated multiple generations of students. Bennett started teaching at Kingswood in 1936 after completing her A.B. from Oberlin College and her A.M. from Radcliffe College. Prior to accepting the position at Kingswood, Bennett taught at the Hartridge School for Girls (Plainfield, NJ) and traveled in Europe and South Africa.

Portrait of Elizabeth Bennett, 1959. Photographer, Harvey Croze.

Bennett was born in New York City to William and Mary Umstead Bennett. Her father was a lawyer and a member of the New York state senate and her mother was a professor emeritus who taught pianoforte at Oberlin College. As a student at Oberlin, Bennett was an officer of the Women’s League – described in the campus yearbook as an organization for women to govern themselves and administer their affairs. She was later a member of the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

During her more than thirty years at Kingswood, Bennett taught English, History, Bible, and Creative Writing. Although she was a tough critic, she was known to be fair, and gained great admiration from both students and fellow teachers. In an anthology of memories, Elizabeth Bennett: A Word Portrait (1983), one former student states: “who could ever forget Elizabeth Bennett, who never raised her voice or lowered her standards for our work; who like Michelangelo, helped us chip out the readers and writers buried within us; who gave us all the charge of language? The light in her room did not all come through the windows or from the ceiling” (Carolyn Faulkner Peck, ’52).

Bennett with students, ca 1963.

Bennett or “Benny” as she was known by friends, was beloved not only by her students, but by her fellow teachers at Kingswood. During her summers off she regularly corresponded with Kingswood headmistress, Margaret Augur, and later Marion Goodale. Fellow faculty member, Gertrude M. White said of Benny, “Elizabeth Bennett: an unfashionable woman, a private woman, with unfathomable riches of mind and character and personality. Kingswood was lucky in her. We who knew her were lucky. Simply by being what she was, she enriched her world and ours.”

Summer correspondence from Bennett to Augur, 1948. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Inspired by Bennett and her passion for writing, several former students established the Bennett Fund in 1984 to honor a faculty member who is distinguished as a nurturer of writing and writers. In the Fall, the award recipient reads from recent works at the annual “Elizabeth Bennett Reading.” This year, the event takes place on Tuesday, September 19th at 6:30 PM in the Cranbrook School Library Reading Room.

With a new school year right around the corner, I enjoyed learning about this beloved teacher whose legacy lives on here at Cranbrook.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

*Editor’s Note: It should be noted that the spelling of Elizabeth Bennett’s name varies from the fictional character in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice.

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