A Treasure Hunt in the Archives

I have had the pleasure of spending much of my time over the last year going through the Cranbrook Archives in search of information about Pewabic Pottery.  This is in preparation for the upcoming exhibition Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: The Gerald W. McNeely Pewabic Pottery Collection opening December 12. Through the Archives’ amazing resources, including inventories, architectural drawings, correspondence, receipts, historic photographs, and even meeting notes from the founding of Cranbrook School, one of the most awesome discoveries was regarding one of the Pewabic Pottery vases in our collection.

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276 Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276
Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Through inventories we can trace the placement of this vase from during its life in Cranbrook House. It was located in the Living Room in 1921, and by 1933 had been relocated to the Sunset Room. In 1937, George Booth notes the work by its size and a brief description, “14 inch vase- luster- Pewabic.” Cranbrook has 15 Pewabic works purchased during Booth’s lifetime which now reside between the collections of the Art Museum and the Cranbrook Educational Community. While I am still working to place the pieces of the puzzle together to see if we can do this for other work, it may not be possible as some of the receipts and notations are much more cryptic including only “Pewabic Vase” with no dimensions, or description.

It’s treasure hunts like these that make the Archives such a great place to spend my time as you never know what you might find and where it will take you!

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

A Portrait Comes Home to Cranbrook House

The portrait of Clara Gagnier Booth, mother of Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, has been mounted in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House. This painting is on long-term loan to Cranbrook from the Saginaw Art Museum, which acquired the painting through a donation from Clara Booth’s grandson, John Lord Booth I.

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Conservation in-progress, April 2013 by Kenneth B. Katz, Conservation and Museum Services.

After receiving conservation treatment and a new frame, this painting of Clara Booth will accompany that of her husband, Henry Wood Booth, as well as their son George, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, and Ellen’s father James Edmund Scripps. Financial support from John Lord Booth II affords this opportunity to join the painting of the Booth family matriarch with those of her relatives at Cranbrook House.

The artwork was painted in 1918 by Russian-born artist Ossip Perelma, known particularly for his portraits of men of stature such as President Woodrow Wilson, King Albert I of Belgium, and several Russian and French political officials. Perelma also executed the stately portrait of Henry Wood Booth, currently on view in the Oak Room.

Demure in size and executed with soft and fluid brush strokes, Clara Booth’s portrait contrasts with that of her husband. While Henry is depicted in full length in an outdoor background, his wife is shown only by profile, with just the upper half of her torso included in the composition. The stylistic distinction between Clara’s portrait and that of her husband—and indeed many of Perelma’s other subjects—emphasizes the differing approach Perelma took to depicting a woman.

In the early twentieth century, even women of position, beauty, and culture were often removed from public view after their role as wife and mother was fulfilled, and their youth had faded. This portrait was painted when Clara Booth was 79, and it is notable that Perelma chose not to conceal his subject’s age. Indeed, the portrait is a rare and significant example of art providing legitimacy and prestige to a woman who remained elegant and strong as she reached an age when most women no longer had a public presence or were being immortalized by artists.

Both portraits, Clara Gagnier Booth and Henry Wood Booth, will be available for viewing when Cranbrook House opens for public tours on Sunday June 14th! For more information on the tours check out the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxillary website.

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Frank Lloyd Wright & Cranbrook

With the strong lineage of Modern masters here at Cranbrook, it is no surprise that Frank Lloyd Wright has some relationship to the campus and its history. As a renowned architect, Wright had many projects all over Michigan from Kalamazoo, Okemos, Benton Harbor, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Bloomfield Hills. Many of these homes came out of his “Usonian Architecture.”

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Photograph by James Haefner ©

The term Usonian means “of the United States,” and was used by Wright to emphasize his architecture as uniquely American, specifically the American Midwest.  The Usonian style was Wright’s solution to the rise of suburbia where people moved outside of cities. This was his solution to what he deemed “the small house problem,” a direct response to post war needs and the growing necessity of affordable and comfortable homes.

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Photograph by James Haefner ©

Partnering with The Towbes Foundation, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research will be providing tours of one of Wright’s Usonian homes in Bloomfield Hills, the Melvin Maxwell and Sara Stein Smith House. Known as “My Haven” by the owners, Wright called the house, “my little gem.” Designed in 1946 and completed in 1950 the home is a great example in Wright’s oeuvre of a Usonian home.

Another of Wrights’ Usonian homes within Bloomfield Hills can also be connected to Cranbrook.   Commissioned by Gregor S. Affleck, a chemical engineer who invented an automotive fast-drying paint, the Affleck House was completed in 1941. Affleck’s son, Gregor Porter Affleck, attended Cranbrook Academy of Art and studied Architecture with Eliel Saarinen from 1944-1945. In 1978, the Affleck children donated the house to Lawrence Technological University.

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Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Foundation Records.

Saarinen and Wright were colleagues who supported each other in the field of Architecture, at least as much as two established architects with considerable egos could get along. Wright visited Cranbrook at least three times, for lectures in 1935, 1936 and 1937. All were sold out to standing room only.

The Melvin Maxwell and Sara Stein Smith House will be open for tours May – October on one Friday and one Sunday of each month. For more information on the tours, please visit our website.

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton,  Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

It’s all in the details: Cranbrook’s Homestead Property

In 1914 George Gough Booth commissioned the Coats & Burchard Company to complete an appraisal of the “Homestead Property” which included a full inventory of Cranbrook House and its outbuildings. This was not uncommon, and Booth continued the practice several times during his life as the Cranbrook campus and its buildings grew and changed.

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Selection of Cranbrook House flooring materials. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Since Cranbrook House was constructed in 1908, the 1914 appraisal ledger is the first in our collection, and is markedly different from the subsequent ones. The biggest difference is that in addition to the furnishings and artwork, all building materials, down to every last detail including number of bricks used, cubic feet for flooring, and even all of the hardware was judiciously and meticulously cataloged.

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Selection of “Bill of Materials” for Cranbrook House. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

This ledger and the others (which were taken in 1921, 1933, 1937, and in 1944) have been immensely helpful in historic research of the home and properties. They can be used to help locate objects in their original location in the house, and often point to the year they were purchased and even original purchase invoices. Using this ledger in conjunction with the original drawings and blueprints have been assisted campus architects and project managers with restoration projects on campus as well as projects which determine the structural integrity of buildings for building use and preservation.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Photo Friday: Spectacular Strikeouts

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Academy of Art students bowling. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Academy of Art students waiting to reset pins. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Today’s photos show Academy of Art students having some fun bowling! Bowling was popular on Cranbrook’s campus with alleys in both Cranbrook School for Boys and Kingswood School for Girls.  Kingswood School, which had the earliest alleys on campus, still uses their bowling alleys as part of the physical education curriculum.

The Academy of Art bowling lanes were located in the basement of the Art Museum and were for Academy of Art student and faculty use.  These lanes  did not have  mechanical pinsetters and therefore had to be manually set. In 1944 the lanes were removed from the Art Museum to allow for more storage for artworks, and relocated to the lower level of the Academic Building at Cranbrook School (now called Hoey Hall) under the study hall.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Photo Friday: The Great Outdoors

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George G. Booth by Kingswood school area. c. 1906. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Since it has yet to snow and cover the campus with glistening white, I though it best to show the beauty of the greenery and foliage all over this campus. Enjoy the end of the year and holidays with this photo of George G. Booth in the midst of the nature of Cranbrook! We will see you next year!

– Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

A Fond Farewell

Farewell Gretchen

Gretchen in front of the North Gates before they head off to conservation.

As the end of the year approaches, it is with a heavy heart that the Center for Collections and Research is saying a fond farewell to our Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki. After 2 years of working hard at Cranbrook cataloging and restoring cultural properties all over the campus, organizing the restoration of the North Gates, contributing to the blog, maintaining objects, coordinating loans, and much much more, Gretchen will be leaving Michigan. She has taken a position in California and will be driving out west in the new year! We couldn’t be happier for her and her new opportunity but she will be greatly missed here at the Center for Collections and Research, as well as at all over the Cranbrook Campus.

Please feel free to leave comments and well wishes to Gretchen as she begins this new chapter!

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Highlighting Access: The Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers

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Recently the staff of the Cranbrook Archives announced the online addition of The Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers which was  donated to the Archives in 2010.  While the website is not a biography of Ruth or Eddie’s life, it is a tribute to the work they created as evidenced by the materials in the collection. 

Archives Assistant Justine Tobiasz designed the web pages “drawing from Schnee’s designs and sketches.” She was inspired by, and wanted to pay tribute to, Schnee’s use of color  when creating the site about the collection.  Moving forward I hope that we can find ways to create sites for other collections. I think it’s a good way for us to use the incredible materials we have to convey a ‘whole picture’ view of our mind-blowing collections.” 

Working within the constraints of our web portal was very challenging – it did not allow free reign, and Justine had to find ways to display the content exactly how the staff wanted it to be.  All of the Archives staff worked collaboratively to create the content, digitize the images and post them up on CONTENTdm (our digital asset management system), and find external links to populate the design created by Justine.

Check out this addition and let us know what you think!

Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research & Justine Tobiasz, Archives Assistant

Christmas card, 1941. Benjamin Baldwin Papers (2006-02), Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

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Wedding photo, 1941. Benjamin Baldwin Papers (2006-02), Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Today we are celebrating Ray Eames’ birthday a few days early. In honor of her birthday, which is December 15th, we selected a few photos from our collections. Ray Kaiser studied weaving and design at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the fall of 1940, where she met her future husband, Charles Eames.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow  & Gina Tecos, Archivist, Center for Collections and Research

Lighting Up Cranbrook House: Edward F. Caldwell & Co.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

This past weekend the Center for Collections and Research put on a display for Holiday Tables at Cranbrook House, organized by the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary.  Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki and I put together a display highlighting the electric lighting original to the home, focused on lamps and lighting by the Edward F. Caldwell & Company.

Cranbrook House was designed and built in 1908, and George Gough Booth always had the intention of having electric lighting throughout the home. Within the city of Detroit there had been an interest in electricity, and by 1906 there were two power plants on the Detroit River owned and operated by the Detroit Edison Company. However, with Cranbrook House being roughly 20 miles to downtown Detroit, this was an achievement. The Booth’s interest in innovation propelled them to always be ahead of their time by investing in the newly available widespread utility for their home.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

In the first half of the twentieth century Edward F. Caldwell & Company was America’s premier design and manufacturer for electric light fixtures. The New York firm founded in 1895 created designed and works with several prominent clients at the time including the Frick, Morgan, and Carnegie families. Much of their work was done in tandem with architectural commissions, and therefore clients like Booth were able to provide input and alter details to customize their lighting choices. Booth provided his own ideas about a few pieces for the home, but overall selected most of the pieces directly from their catalogues. During the construction and design of Cranbrook House, George G. Booth was actively involved in conversations with Albert Kahn, the architect, and many of the vendors providing goods and products for the home. Booth was enthusiastically involved in providing input on the design elements of the home, and the lighting was no different. Many of the Edward F. Caldwell & Co. catalogues can be found online through the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

 

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