Putting on a Holiday Scene

Every year, the Center for Collections and Research decorates George G. Booth’s Office for the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary’s Holiday Splendor event. This year, we were inspired by the Booth children and grandchildren.

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Some of the Booth grandchildren put on a play at George and Ellen Booth’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

All children enjoy playing “dress-up” – whether in a costume or in the clothes of a family member. For George and Ellen Booth’s family, especially their youngest children Florence (“Smike”) and Henry (“Thistle”), any occasion was an excuse to dress-up – a family picnic, a visit from family or friends, the arrival of a new boat for Glastonbury Lake.

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Marjorie Booth wearing her grandmother Ellen Scripps Booth’s wedding dress, on the occasion of George and Ellen’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

For this year’s holiday installation, we imagined the Booth grandchildren playing dress-up with clothes from their grandparent’s closet—their grandmother’s dresses and hats, costumes from performances at the Greek Theater, and other items stored in the vast closets here at Cranbrook House. Perhaps they’re putting on a play, as they did for their grandparents’ anniversary in 1937, or maybe they’re simply celebrating and having fun, as Smike and Thistle were so fond of doing in their youth.

Accompanying the five outfits, the Center decorated a small tree and the mantle with iridescent, green, and silver ornaments, drawing out the colors of Florence Booth’s green dress and a beautiful Rene Lalique (1860-1945) glass vase (before 1930) we’ve set out on the desk. In the center of the mantle we’ve displayed Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth’s Nativity (mid-20th century), sculpted by Clivia Calder Morrison (1909-2010). A Michigan native, Calder Morrison studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts with Samuel Cashwan and later at the Art Students League in New York, and this small crèche featuring the three Magi with gifts, Mary holding Jesus, and Joseph was kept in the oratory at Thornlea. Oh, and the Santa bag and hat on display were part of Henry’s costume he donned for Christmas parties here at the House!

Our display will be up through the New Year.  If you are in Cranbrook House for the Center’s piano/violin concert & book launch, Carl Milles’s Muse: Ludwig van Beethoven on December 11, or a Holiday Tea, Luncheon, or just for a meeting, please stop by and visit.

-Kevin Adkisson, Center Collections Fellow; Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Eat, Greek, and Be Merry: the Greek Theatre Turns 100!

Drama and arts and crafts have been intertwined in Detroit history for more than 100 years. Under the auspices of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC), on January 19th 1910, May Morris (daughter of William Morris) captivated a capacity crowd at the Detroit Museum of Art with her illustrated lecture “Pageantry and the Mask.” Morris’s presentation helped mark a turning point in propelling Detroit onto the national stage as an arts and crafts center. Almost immediately after May Morris left Detroit, Alexandrine McEwen, a bookplate artist and founding member of the DSAC, penned what was termed a “modern immorality play” called Everywoman with characters named “Suffrage” and “Art.” Less than a month later, she wrote The Masque of Arcadia, another outdoor play held on the grounds of Clairview, J.L. Hudson’s Grosse Pointe estate. These performances led to the DSAC being the first to foster a little theatre as part of their program.

By 1914, George Booth (the first president of the DSAC) already had plans in mind for a bathing pavilion and a theatre on the hill overlooking Cranbrook House. (My own suspicion is that he did not like the fact that the DSAC performances were not held on HIS estate!) In early 1915, Booth commissioned Canadian architect Marcus Burrowes to draw up the plans for an outdoor Greek Theatre. The open-air amphitheater, constructed of stone, seats nearly 300 people and was described in contemporary news articles as a “gem of architecture” and a “temple of art.” By May 1916, landscaping was underway and red tulips graced the front of the bathing pavilion.

Invitation Card, The Cranbrook Masque, June 1916. George Gough Booth Papers.

Invitation Card, The Cranbrook Masque, June 1916. George Gough Booth Papers.

Meanwhile, the DSAC was planning the production of The Cranbrook Masque which would also serve as the public dedication for the new Greek Theatre. The play showed the development of drama from ancient to modern times in five episodes, emulating May Morris’s lecture theme from 1910. For more on the play, see an earlier blog post.

Greek Theater masque, 1916

The Cranbrook Masque at the Greek Theatre, 1916. Hand-tinted glass slide.

Fast forward to 1991 and the 75th anniversary of the Greek Theatre. A team of dedicated Cranbrook staff, historians, and theater enthusiasts initiated the restoration of the Greek Theatre and a contemporary production, using the script from the original Masque, this time with cast members from St. Dunstan’s Guild and dancers from Jessie Sinclair’s Cranbrook Kingswood Dancers.

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Cranbrook House sunken garden (originally called the kitchen garden) with staked tomato plants, ca 1915.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Greek Theatre and a long-standing tradition of theater programs at Cranbrook. In honor of this memorable event, the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research will be presenting “Edible Landscapes: A Midsummer Night’s Dinner.”

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Lost and Found in a Sea of Cranbrook History

Ye Triumphe Ship

Ye Triumphe Ship, CEC 1918.1

Every day at the Center for Collections and Research brings new adventures and discoveries. During a visit to one of the storage spaces on Cranbrook’s campus, I stumbled upon a curious object, which inspired me to research it and its past. Like most things around here, the object has a great lineage throughout the campus with connections to George Booth, the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, and Cranbrook School.

The Ye Triumphe model ship was crafted by Henry Brundage Culver (1869-1946), and although it is a model, it is a large one: about 40 inches long and 32 inches high. George Gough Booth purchased the Ye Triumphe in September 1918 from the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The model, which was advertised in the Detroit Sunday News, had been on display in the window of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts shop during that same year.

Henry Brundage Culver worked as an attorney and also served as secretary for The Ship Model Society in New York. He participated in building ship models, and contributed to scholarship on the art of model-making. He produced several publications including Contemporary Scale Models of Vessels of the Seventeenth Century (1926) and The Book of Old Ships: Something of their Evolution and Romance (1924). In the introduction to Contemporary Scale Models Culver compares the art of ship-model building to that of painting.

The finest examples of these miniature vessels are, in the eyes of those best fitted to judge productions of the highest artistic quality, appealing in general composition, line, mass and technical execution, to the aesthetic susceptibilities of those, who have eyes to see, in a no less degree than do the best examples of pictorial art.”

­—Henry B. Culver, Contemporary Scale Models of Vessels of the Seventeenth Century, New York: Payson and Clarke Ltd.1926, pg.ix.

Originally, the ship was placed in the reception hall of Cranbrook House, and was later loaned by Booth for display in the library at Cranbrook School for Boys. Each of the photographs show the ship on display and its presence throughout Cranbrook.

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Cranbrook House reception hall, ca. 1920. Cranbrook Archives

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Cranbrook School for Boys, Library interior, ca. 1945. Cranbrook Archives.

The Ye Triumphe will be returning to view at the Cranbrook Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition The Cranbrook Hall of Wonders: Artworks, Objects, and Natural Curiosities opening November 23rd, 2014. Come and check out the Ye Triumphe and many other fabulous objects from across the Cranbrook campus including works from the Center for Collections and Research, Cranbrook Art Museum, and the Cranbrook Institute of Science!

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

Photo Friday: Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts

George Booth’s devotion to the ideals of the Arts & Crafts Movement was evident in the early buildings of Cranbrook (Cranbrook House, the Greek Theatre, Brookside, Christ Christ Church Cranbrook). One of the hallmarks of the movement was to support living, working artists.  Enter the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts (DSAC). Founded in 1906, the DSAC provided an environment where artists, craftsmen, architects, and designers could share ideas and coordinate activities to raise the level of American craftsmanship. Out of their showroom, works by nearly every major craftsman active in Europe and America were exhibited and sold. George Booth was not only one of the founders of the DSAC, but also its first president.

Watson Street Showroom

Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts Watson Street Showroom. Cranbrook Archives

George Booth was also a great supporter of the DSAC and filled his home with items he purchased or commissioned.  A collection of those objects is currently on display at Cranbrook House in an exhibit titled, “Crafting a Life: George Gough Booth and the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts.

~Robbie Terman, Archivist

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