The Littlest Rebel

In March 1936, Henry Scripps Booth traveled to California to meet up with his parents who had been wintering out west. Henry spent three weeks at The Desert Inn in Palm Springs where he went for walks, painted, and wrote many letters home to his wife, Carolyn. The following letter from him describes the famous people he saw while there.

“Desert Inn pepped up yesterday. There were three hundred fifty extra for lunch out-of-doors . . . Monte Montaigne (I believe that’s his name) entertained the people with trick roping acts and riding his trick horse, but I knew nothing about that until it was all over. I did see the horse in his private trailer parked in the grounds, however.

“But the guest of guests is none other than little Miss Shirley Temple who has come here with her mother and a mother’s friend to spend a couple of weeks.”

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Letterhead, March 1936. Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Temple and her family were frequent visitors to The Desert Inn, often around the Easter holiday. In 1936, the Temples stayed there after Shirley had completed filming “Captain January” and “Poor Little Rich Girl.”

“The new King of bally old England could hardly cause the other guests to take more notice. A waitress called my attention to her last night at dinner, sitting at right angles to me only two tables away. Everybody was craning his neck to have a look at her, and those who left the room first all sat by the door so they could see her make her exit. When she came out and walked over by the office, most everyone suddenly had business over there too. Monte Montaigne and his wife and baby were there, and as the Temples talked to them, the crowd became fictitiously interested in the baby also. It is the same story where ever Shirley is.

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Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

“This morning she was out trying to bat tennis balls one of her bodyguards was batting to her. A few other children were in on the play. The gallery consisted of at least six people nearby and a lot of others (like Myself) in the distance. Later when she was throwing a ball to a dog, people were talking movies and generally going ga-ga over her. When I came back from the pool where I had been painting this afternoon, I did see her without spectators, but of course with the guard who in reality is her playmate, and another guard in uniform. The two of them had a lot of dried peas and were shooting them with a sling-shot just like the Littlest Rebel.

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Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

“She is not pretty, but certainly is cute. Her hair is curls all over of sort of a deep taffey [sic] color. She is very blond with pink cheeks. She screws up her face when she talks, has a twinkle in her dark eyes, and sort of minces around in her usual movie manner. She is very well behaved, sitting at the table and eating her dinner as good little girls should, and generally taking the attention she gets with good grace. Both nights she has taken a doll to dinner; last night a girl doll, tonight an Indian chief with a feathered headdress. She has a pink coat more or less like Cynthia’s [Henry’s daughter], but short as the French would have it so her bare legs are seen pretty much all the way up. She played around today in sort of drab slacks with a jacket to match. Their cottage is by the pool so I will see a good deal of her.”

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The pool at The Desert Inn, 1936. Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

NOTE: In December 1937, Nellie Coffman, owner of The Desert Inn, dedicated the bungalow to Shirley Temple. Held in front of family, hotel visitors, and the press, the ceremony featured nine year old Shirley who christened the bungalow not with a bottle of champagne, but with a bottle of milk.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Operation Mercy and an Academy of Art Sculptor

In January 1957, members of the Academy of Art’s Student Council came across an article in Newsweek magazine about the plight of Hungarian refugees to the United States following the 1956 Hungarian revolt against Soviet domination. Moved by the story of the artist featured in the article, the students decided to act and conceived and executed a plan to finance a semester of study at the Academy for one of the artist refugees. During the weekend of January 19-20th, Academy students held a sale of their own artwork, and supplemented by their own meager cash funds, raised $2,600 for a fund administered entirely by the Student Council. The Academy of Art added enough funds to present an artist with a scholarship for one year of study.

Members of the student council wrote to various organizations including the American Hungarian Federation and the Central Department of Church World Service in order to identify an artist who might qualify for the scholarship. Under the provisions of the 1953 Refugee Relief Act, from November 1956-June 1957, the U.S. government processed over 31,000 refugees at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey through a program called “Operation Mercy.” Most refugees stayed an average of twelve days before a resettlement location was found for them.

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Detroit News, 18 May 1958, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

The artist sent to Cranbrook was Laszlo Ispanky (1919-2010), a 38-year old sculptor whose interest in art started at a young age. His father owned a restaurant in Budapest near a large sand mine, which soon became Ispanky’s canvas. His sand art was recognized by a man who suggested that he become a sculptor, so Ispanky eventually graduated from the Hungarian Fine Art Academy. In November 1956, during the Hungarian revolt, Ispanky and a friend escaped to Vienna where they sought asylum in the United States.

 

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“Two Sisters,” Laszlo Ispanky, c. 1958, bronze, 17 1/2 x 9 x 6 inches, CAM 1984.45, Gift of Peggy de Salle. Image courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum.

Ispanky had been unable to work creatively under Communist rule. He once commented “In a Communist country, you have to be a Communist to be supported as an artist.” Described as a “romantic European,” Ispanky was grateful for the total freedom he was allowed at Cranbrook – “the most fantastic thing . . . a huge studio, and you do whatever you want.” While at Cranbrook, Ispanky sculpted over 32 works in terra cotta, bronze and plaster and was given the nickname “Speedy Gonzalez” by his fellow students.

 

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Correspondence from Ispanky to Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1957. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While he did not receive a degree at Cranbrook, Ispanky was eternally grateful for the chance to study here. In his letter, he expresses his heartfelt sentiments and poetic nature. “My thanks to you for reaching out to me with something that is inherent in the sacred name of freedom and for lending me hope. It feels good! I have waited with anxiety to hold the clay with which to give birth to the flowers blooming in my heart – to the hidden music which lives within me; to turn the material into form and into a million statements.”

After Cranbrook, Ispanky moved to New Jersey where he lived his life as a successful sculptor, specializing in the portraiture that he developed while at Cranbrook.

– Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Harry and Nerissa Hoey’s Weekend Retreat

While cataloging some of the Ralph Rapson architectural drawings in our collection, archivist Gina Tecos and I discovered designs for “Longshadows,” a weekend retreat for Cranbrook School English teacher (and later Headmaster) Harry Hoey and his wife, Nerissa. Hoey came to Cranbrook in 1928, where he taught English until 1944 when he became Assistant Headmaster (1944-1950) and then Headmaster (1950-1964) of Cranbrook School. While the Hoeys lived on campus, first on Faculty Way, and later in the Headmaster’s House, they commissioned Rapson, along with fellow Cranbrook student Walter Hickey, to design a weekend vacation home in Metamora, Lapeer County.

Elevation by Ralph Rapson, 1939. The Ralph Rapson Collection, 1935-1954, Cranbrook Archives.

Coincidentally, I have been corresponding with the Hoeys’s granddaughter, Susan, regarding the disposition of her grandfather’s papers to Cranbrook Archives. In the course of this correspondence, I asked Susan about the home. While Rapson called the home “Longshadows,” the family called it “Hoyden.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “hoyden” means “a girl or woman of saucy, boisterous, or carefree behavior” and the word is sometimes used to mean just “carefree.” As Susan stated, “Somehow, though I have no way to prove it, I am guessing this word was in my grandmother’s [Nerissa] vocabulary. Anyway, it seems to fit the bill for a weekend/summer place.”

Susan’s mother has fond memories of the weekend house – as a five-year old girl when she walked up the hill to the house behind her mother, the forty acre property looked endless. She remembers falling in the wild strawberry patch and staining her dress, and playing with the girl across the street whose father tended the property for the Hoeys.

“Hoyden,” 1940. The Ralph Rapson Collection, 1935-1954, Cranbrook Archives.

The summer the house was completed (1940), the Hoeys began hosting numerous Cranbrook guests who wanted to see the midcentury modern design. Guests included Dorothy and Zoltan Sepeshy of the Academy of Art, Henry and Carolyn Booth, and of course numerous Cranbrook faculty.

Page from the Hoyden Guest Book, 1940. Courtesy Harry and Nerissa Hoey Family.

In a letter to fellow Cranbrook student Ben Baldwin, Rapson described the house as clad in red wood, left natural, with a flat roof. The house had three bedrooms, two fireplaces, and even a basement for storage and a play room. The house still stands today, though it has had some minor additions and has been painted. It is one of Rapson’s only Michigan designs. Hopefully, we will soon have additional photographs of the house, and perhaps even more stories about the relationship between Hoey and Rapson.

NOTE: Harry and Nerissa Hoey were well-loved at Cranbrook. He also served on the vestry of Christ Church Cranbrook. Not only was Harry an effective administrator, but he was one who led the school with kindness and compassion. On the birthday of each boy in the school, Hoey would greet them with them a “happy birthday,” and shake their hand into which he pressed a shiny penny! On his 85th birthday, Hoey’s former students surprised him by mailing birthday cards – each one with pennies – he received over 500.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Three C’s: China, Cranbrook, and the Crane

It is generally known that our founder, George Booth, named our community “Cranbrook” after the Booth’s ancestral home in Kent, England. Even the portion of the Rouge River which flows through the property was called the “Crane” by the Booth family. I’m certain that Booth must have been aware of the derivation of the Cranbrook name, which began with the Old English words “cran broc” which means “crane marsh.” The spelling, which evolved over time from Cranebroca to Cranebroc then Cranebrok, eventually became Cranbrooke.

On a recent trip to China, I was surprised when I saw large bronze cranes at the Teng Wang Pavilion in Jiangxi province’s capital city of Nanchang. They reminded me of the crane iconography at Cranbrook. While I had previously noticed the use of cranes as a subject in Chinese paintings, I never really thought about their meaning. The Chinese have a symbol for everything including life, death, and immortality. Our guide informed us that the crane symbolizes good health, longevity, and auspiciousness to the Chinese people.

Photo taken at Teng Wang Pavilion, Nanchang, China, Jun 2017. Courtesy of the author.

A crane can also represent happiness and a soaring spirit. A crane that is shown outstretched wings and one leg raised stands for longevity while one shown flying towards the sun is illustrative of a wish or hope for social advancement. There is even a form of martial arts called the “White Crane Style” originated by the female martial artist Fang Qi Niang during the Qing Dynasty.

Back to Cranbrook! References to cranes have been widely used over the past 100 years, many in relation to Cranbrook School. Perhaps the most obvious is the use of The Crane as the title for the Cranbrook School for Boys school newspaper, which won by popular vote at the first meeting of the School League in 1928. (Today the paper is known as The Crane-Clarion since the merger with Kingswood School in 1985.) Below are block prints by Cranbrook School students found on the covers of the 1928 papers. In mid-March 1930, The Crane switched to a new format and instead of being mimeographed, was printed by The Cranbrook Press at the Academy of Art. To go along with this new format, a logo for the paper was designed, likely by art editor Alfred Davock.

The bronze crane inserts for the dining hall chairs for Cranbrook School (designed by Eero Saarinen) are still in use today. Henry Scripps Booth used the symbol of the crane as a directional marker on his architectural drawings. The Academy of Art Administration Building (designed by Swanson and Booth) features a crane brick pattern on the south façade of the building, and Eliel Saarinen designed two “bird motifs” for the bottom of the stairs at the First Arts and Crafts building. The drawings, in the collection of Cranbrook Archives, show Saarinen’s plan to use light and dark bluestone to delineate the body of the cranes with red slate for the eyes and black slate for the beaks. As recently as 1994, Katherine McCoy, co-chair of the Academy’s design department, developed the current Cranbrook community logo which features a contemporary symbol of the crane rising out of a large “C” for Cranbrook. It is shown below, alongside a humorous 1930 illustration for a column heading in The Crane.

While Cranbrook’s history with the crane may not be as long-standing as that of the Chinese, one might argue that we, too, have incorporated the crane into our community’s culture as a symbol not only of longevity, but one of respect for the legacy of our founders and our community’s heritage.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Asheville, North Carolina: Then and Now

My daughter’s spring break was last week, so she and I took our friend Susan up on her invitation to visit her in Asheville, North Carolina. We decided to take a road trip and check out college campuses on the way. Let me just say that the University of Cincinnati has the largest (and most stunning) classics library in the country, and perhaps even in the world.

As I was planning for the trip, I remembered that Henry Scripps Booth went to boarding school in Asheville from 1913-1918. So before I left, I perused his photo albums for relevant photographs and devised a plan to do a “then and now” blog post. I took copies of photos from Henry’s 1916 photograph album which contained images of Asheville School. So, while my daughter was sitting in on the college class “Roman Comedy” at the University North Carolina Asheville (UNCA), I ventured out to find Asheville School. Nestled back away from a main road in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville School is home to approximately 285 students in grades 9-12. Historic buildings are sited on a 300-acre campus and it is easy to see the similarities between this school and Cranbrook School for Boys. While changes have been made to the campus over the years, much of it remains as it was when Henry attended school there.

Another place in Henry’s album that I was able to locate (with the help of my friend) was what is now known as Trinity Episcopal Church on Church Street in downtown Asheville.

Henry returned to visit Asheville at least once after he graduated, and visited the Biltmore Estate in 1931. The photos below show how the landscape around the main house has been altered to better accommodate over one million visitors annually.

As some of you may know, last year Asheville celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the infamous flood of 1916.

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“Street to the Station”, 1916.

While Henry was there at the time of the flood, and took numerous photos of the ravaged Biltmore Village, I was unable to locate this exact street. Local archivists at Asheville School and the UNCA’s Special Collections and University Archives were also baffled, so if anyone knows the location of this image, please let us know!

It never ceases to amaze me how far and wide Cranbrook’s reach is, and how well our collections document it.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Illuminating a Craftswoman

The work of British arts and craftswoman Jessie Bayes (1876-1970) has been described as ethereal, magical, and an “expression of things felt and seen.” Cranbrook has in its collection three of Bayes’s works, acquired by George Booth between 1920 and 1929. The illuminated manuscript “Hymns to the Elements” is one of her most stunning works.

Bayes was known for her work in woodcarving, painting, calligraphy, gesso and gilding, and stained glass, but is best known for her ethereal illuminated manuscripts inspired by Scandinavian, Celtic, and French poetry. She often wrote the texts which were dominated by themes of romance and mysticism and strove to beautify everyday life and “wed the physical and spiritual.” The art of illumination requires patience and laborious attention to detail, which is clearly evident in “Hymns to the Elements.” Bayes, who combined tempera with watercolor and gold gilt, developed her own sense of jewel-like color, often in blues and golds. She felt that the “idea of colour symbolizing love should be above all precious to an illuminator, since, in illuminating, colour can reach its intensest [sic] height of purity and radiance.”

Hymns to the Elements, ca 1923. One of Bayes’ largest and most elaborate illuminated manuscripts. Close-up of Athena, Mistress of the Air.

Jessie Bayes was raised in an artistic family where the four children were taught by their father Alfred, an etcher and book illustrator, to appreciate beauty at an early age. Her brother Gilbert became a sculptor, her brother Walter was a painter who also designed theatrical scenery, illustrated books, and lectured about art, and her sister Emmeline worked in enamel.

Bayes received art education from evening classes at London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts, which grew directly out of the Arts and Crafts Movement of William Morris and John Ruskin. There, Bayes learned to gild on wood and discovered a love for writing and illumination which she deemed among the strongest of the curriculum. She was also heavily influenced by her employment with Sydney Cockerell, an engraver and former librarian for William Morris. In this role, he had been responsible for completing the Kelmscott Press publications after Morris’s death.

Close-up view of Hephaistos, the Fire King.

Bayes exhibited widely with the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society, and at the Royal Academy and the Baillie Gallery in London, alongside artists like Walter Crane, Arthur Nevill Kirk, and Omar Ramsden. In 1922, Bayes exhibited some of her illuminated books, as well as paintings on vellum, fans, and panels, at the Art Center in New York. Bayes gradually expanded her repertoire to include painted and gilded decoration on furniture as well as interior design and stained glass work. Jessie Bayes died in Paddington, Central London in 1970.

For Jessie’s personal views on family, life, and art, read The Bayes Saga (1970).

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Craft in Time: Oscar Bach and the Cranbrook School Dining Hall Clock

For nearly ninety years, diners in the Cranbrook School dining hall have marveled at the clock that hangs high above the fireplace. Designed and fabricated by New York metalsmith Oscar Bruno Bach, the clock is a tribute to George Booth’s beloved Arts and Crafts Movement. Each hour is represented by an art or craft, ranging from metalworkers to woodworkers.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Oscar Bruno Bach (1884-1957), who was born in Germany, came to the United States in 1913 and established a metal design studio with his brother in New York City. As they built up their reputation and the business grew, Bach exhibited his work through The Architectural League of New York and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. His work graces numerous churches, industrial buildings, and residences primarily in New York but also in the Midwest. His first known work in Michigan was ornamental metalwork for the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit (1915).

Bach was known for incorporating a variety of metals and metal techniques in his work. Cranbrook’s clock (1926) is made of four concentric iron rings with a center element (two male figures at an anvil) of repoussé brass surrounded by three brass “flame” rings. Each of the twelve figures representing arts, crafts, and trades are also made of brass, surrounded by floral elements made of iron. Copper was used for the rivets and for the small fleur-de-lis elements on the outer rim. Finally, the hour and minute hands are made of aluminum with brass rivets.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

The clock however was not Bach’s first contribution to Cranbrook. In 1919, he fabricated lead “conductors” for the exterior of the east and west wings of Cranbrook House. George Booth also acquired a smoking stand (1922) and two table lamps (1929) for Cranbrook House, and commissioned Bach to fabricate Cranbrook School’s Peacock Gates (after Eliel Saarinen’s drawings) and the Treasury Door (1928) at Christ Church Cranbrook. Other local commissions include The Detroit Players Club (1925), Moulton Manor (1926), the estate of William Scripps (Ellen Booth’s brother) in Lake Orion, and the First National Bank (1927) in Ann Arbor.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the most interesting discoveries I made in writing this post was that the clock used similar elements as doors Bach designed for the new wing of the Toledo Art Museum (1925). They both feature arts and crafts figures – a potter, sculptor, glassblower, draughtsman, metal worker, and bookbinder. In January 1926, Bach received the “Medal of Honor in Design and Craftsmanship in Native Industrial Art” from the Architectural League for his design for the doors so it’s no wonder that he incorporated some of the same elements in the Cranbrook School dining hall clock. I may be a bit partial, but I think our clock is even more magnificent than the doors and I imagine you will too!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

Making Wartime History Come Alive

Last spring I gave a presentation about Cranbrook during World War II to the 8th grade history classes at the Girls Middle School. So, when our blogmaster asked for a post this week about WWII, I thought I would share that experience. After working in the archives for more than 14 years, I knew we had a myriad of materials relevant to WWII and I was excited to share these stories with the 8th grade girls. I was hopeful that it would help make a part of history more real to them. I began by asking each class (there were four that day!) how many thought Cranbrook was affected in ANY way by the war? Throughout the day, maybe 8 of the nearly 60 girls raised their hands. While I was surprised, I was also excited to enlighten them.

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Other ways in which the Cranbrook community supported war relief efforts included the British Children Refugee program, the Finnish War Relief Fund, and the Red Cross and Victory Book Drives

Cranbrook’s war-related activities were far-reaching – from Cranbrook School boys practicing military drills on the football field to Academy of Art ceramicist Maija Grotell who collected sweaters and unraveled them to repurpose into balls of yarn that she sent to families in Finland. War Bond drives were held at each of the school campuses, the Booth family closed off the west wing of Cranbrook House to conserve fuel due to rationing, and a previous blog post highlights one of Cranbrook’s own Monuments Men.  The 8th grade girls were particularly amused by the photograph of the Red Cross class which was held at Kingswood School, and that girls their same ages had collected waste fat from the school dining hall. There were a lot of “EWW!s”

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Cranbrook School Scrapbook, April 1942

I told the girls about the war memorial plaque which hangs at the base of Hoey tower and lists the names of all 678 Cranbrook School alumni who served in the war, including the 37 who lost their lives. We talked about the Cranbrook Committee on Civilian Defense and the air raid sirens/drills on campus, and how students from both Cranbrook and Kingswood Schools entertained the troops at Selfridge Air Force Base.

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Cranbrook had air raid sirens in numerous locations across campus.

At the end of each class, I asked the girls again how many thought Cranbrook was affected by World War II, and nearly all of them raised their hands. It was gratifying to be able to share primary source documents from our collections to help bring history out of the textbook and onto the campus. I’m looking forward to teaching again this school year!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head 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!

 

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

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