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

 

Experimental Jazz at Cranbrook

Last week’s post about jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, led to water cooler discussions and Facebook murmurings about additional jazz collaborations here at Cranbrook. Thanks to an inquiry on Facebook I discovered the great story of Yusef Lateef’s Cranbrook connection.

Lateef was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1920, but grew up in Detroit. After graduating from high school he began playing professionally in swing bands at the age of 18. In 1949, he was invited to tour with Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra. A year later, he returned to Detroit to begin his studies in composition and flute at Wayne State University. He eventually received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and his Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Lateef’s main instruments were the tenor sax and flute, though he played many other traditional and non-traditional instruments.

In the late 1950s, Lateef was invited to perform at Cranbrook by members of the Academy of Art Student Council. The Council thought it would be worthwhile for art students to learn something about another form of artistic expression – in this case, jazz. In April 1958, Lateef performed in the galleries at the Academy of Art. Seating  capacity was limited and patrons sat on pillows on the floor.

Promotional material for the jazz concert, April 9, 1958. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Promotional material for the jazz concert, April 9, 1958. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

It turned out the students and Lateef were of one mind about the value of exchange between the arts, and agreed that the concerts should be held in the galleries, rather than an auditorium. Lateef had a reputation for experimental sounds, and the audience was treated to a concert that included non-traditional instruments, such as an inflated balloon and a 7-Up bottle.

Pianist, Terry Pollard, plays the 7-Up bottle. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Pianist, Terry Pollard, plays the 7-Up bottle. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

One of the great treats of this collaboration was a recording from that night! The LP, “Yusef Lateef at Cranbrook,” includes the following pieces: Morning, Brazil, Let Every Soul Say Amen, and Woody ‘N’ You. In 1988 Lateef received a Grammy award for Best New Age album and in 2010, he received the Jazz Master Fellow award from the National Endowment of the Arts. When Lateef passed away in 2013, he had recorded more than 75 albums.

Yusef Lateef and his band perform in the CAA galleries. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Yusef Lateef and his band perform in the CAA galleries. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

 

 

Manship’s Memorable Memorial Medal

As the Assistant Registrar for Cranbrook Educational Community, it is my job to keep track of the objects in the collections of the Art Museum and the Cultural Properties across the campus.  Though not trained as a Museum Registrar, George Booth had a similar goal: he fastidiously kept his many collections and cultural properties around his home and the various school buildings inventoried or appraised.

The inventory, “Cranbrook Museum Art collection: 400 thru,” led me to a wonderful collection of coins and medals.  Some were ancient, some were more contemporary, but one in particular stood out: a memorial medal for soldiers who died during the First World War.  What was the story behind this medal?  Since none of the Booth children died during the war, I wondered why George Booth would have one of these medals in his collection.

During World War I, many prominent Americans spoke out against the war in Europe, including Henry Ford and Reverend Samuel Marquis (who in 1927 became the first rector of Christ Church Cranbrook).  As the editor of The Detroit News, George Booth oversaw “the leading newspaper in the country to give open and courageous expression to criticism.”  The News editorial staff had “sincerity of purpose and courage to voice temporarily unpopular principles.”  The United States entered the war in 1917 but The Detroit News continued its criticism. That criticism, however, was focused on governments and policies, not at the soldiers who put their lives on the line.

Indeed, Booth was very supportive of the fighting men who went off to war and of the families of those who did not return. He, architect Albert Kahn, and Clyde Burroughs (Director of the Detroit Museum of Art) established the Welcome Home Committee of Detroit – similar committees were formed in other major U.S. cities. The committee made sure all soldiers who returned from the front received the thanks of the nation and distributed rings and certificates of service to them upon their return.

The Committee’s recognition did not end with the men who returned.  It also distributed the memorial medal to the families of the war dead from Detroit. This medal, designed by sculptor Paul Manship and forged by Medallic Art Company in New York, was given as “a token of sympathy and gratitude to the nearest kin of those who gave their lives in the country’s service” during the Great War.

memorialmedal-1

Detroit Soldiers Memorial Medal, 1919 (obverse). Image Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

The front of the medal bears a winged female figure representing Victory striding forward while holding a sword wrapped in a palm leaf (sword of war and palm of peace) with a radiant sun in the background. The text around Victory reads, “VIXIT VIVIT VIVET” [lived, lives, will live].

memorialmedal-2

Detroit Soldiers Memorial Medal, 1919 (reverse). Image Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

The back of the medal reads, “Presented by the City of Detroit 1919.” At center is a scroll inscribed, “In Memory Of One Who Died in the Cause of Freedom and Humanity.”  Above, an eagle holding a laurel wreath is perched atop the end of a cannon and ball.

The Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library has a great image of a large crowd at Campus Martius for a memorial service to honor WWI soldiers.  I suspect that one of the men on the dais is George G. Booth, there to honor the Detroit war dead and their families.

For more on George Booth and his opinions on the war in Europe, see the George Gough Booth Papers and for more on Manship’s work at Cranbrook, check out Cranbrook Archives Digital Collections and Cranbrook Art Museum.

– Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Upcoming Day Away: Albert Kahn and the University of Michigan

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In this 1919 photo taken by Henry Scripps Booth of his two friends and architecture classmates Fred Morse and Martin Lexen, they’re all hanging out (and almost off of!) the roof of the University of Michigan’s brand new General Library by architect Albert Kahn. I found this snapshot in volume four of Booth’s Pleasures of Life series, which has lots of great images of the Booths at Cranbrook and of his friends at the university (where Henry studied from 1918- 1924). The building they’re sitting on here, known as the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library since 1971, figures prominently in the Center for Collections and Research’s next Day Away trip on October 28!

Henry Scripps Booth’s Scrapbook Album, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Dedication of the new (Hatcher) library building, 1920. Henry Scripps Booth’s Scrapbook Album, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While we won’t be quite so daring as to dangle our feet off the roof, you are invited to join the Center as we explore Albert Kahn’s architecture at University of Michigan. Best known for his industrial architecture in and around Detroit (and of course Cranbrook House), this tour will introduce you to his academic buildings. The day includes morning lectures followed by in-depth tours of five Kahn structures (including rarely accessible spaces like the carillon in Burton Memorial Tower), all interspersed with narrated walks and drives.

I should mention, though, that the Day Away won’t just be about touring. We’ll stop for a delicious lunch at Taste Kitchen, an acclaimed new restaurant by owner and chef Danny Van. It came highly recommended by friends of the Center, and we’re very happy Van has designed a three course meal, with optional drink pairings, just for us.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Pleasures of Life, Vol. IV. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In this photo, we see Booth’s friend Fred’s “long, lankey and lean” body around a street sign—with assistance from the bottom-half of another Cranbrook luminary and friend of Henry, J. Robert F. Swanson.* The photo shows the two goofing around on a road outside of Ann Arbor. For this post’s purposes, I’ll imagine they’re on the very route we’ll be taking from Cranbrook to Ann Arbor on October 28! There shouldn’t be any dangerous curves on our trip, though it’s guaranteed to be informative, delicious, and fun. Call and get your tickets today!

*Did you know Booth and Swanson met studying architecture at U of M, where they also encountered a certain visiting professor, Eliel Saarinen?

-Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Paris Calls: Cranbrook and Marcel Duchamp

Occasionally we post blogs that we hope will illustrate and educate about the work that we do here, both as archivists and registrars. One of my greatest pleasures is answering interesting research queries, so I thought I would share one from today.

I received a phone call from Paul B. Franklin, an independent art historian and one of the world’s experts on Marcel Duchamp. Born in Detroit, he received his doctorate from Harvard where his dissertation was on Duchamp. He now lives in Paris, where he edits the journal “Étant donné Marcel Duchamp.”

Exhibition card, 1959

Exhibition Announcement Card, 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Today, Paul was seeking clarification about the exhibition “Art and the Found Object” (which was held here at Cranbrook in April 1959 in what was then known as the Galleries of Cranbrook Academy of Art) for his catalogue essay in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition “”Marcel Duchamp: Porte-bouteilles” to be held in Paris in the fall.

News clipping, Detroit News, 9 Apr 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

News clipping, Detroit News, 9 Apr 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In an email exchange with Paul, he told me the Paris exhibition “is centered on the version of “Bottle Rack” that Duchamp exhibited in “Art and the Found Object” and which Robert Rauschenberg purchased for a mere three dollars.” (Rauschenberg’s work “Odalisque/Odalisk” was also in the exhibition.) “Duchamp signed his readymade for Rauschenberg in March 1960, and Rauschenberg retained possession of it his entire life.”

What a great story! And the fact that we had materials in the collections of Cranbrook Archives to add to the story is even better. Thanks, Paul, for allowing me to share this story with our readers.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Out From the Shadows #2: Colonel Edwin S. George

Many years ago, when I worked at the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society, I came across a man named Edwin S. George in reference to his home, “Cedarholm,” which he built in 1923 in Bloomfield Hills, and is now a part of Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church.

What many people do not realize is the colonel’s long-standing connection to Cranbrook. Recently, while searching for photographs for a researcher, I stumbled upon the negative of a stocky, kind-looking man standing by a grove of trees. Fortunately, early Cranbrook photographers kept great records and I was able to look up the subject on the index of negatives in the archives, and it is indeed a photo of Colonel George.

Colonel Edwin S. George, Apr 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Colonel Edwin S. George, Apr 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Much can be read about the Colonel’s acumen as an influential Detroit businessman and philanthropist, and there is no doubt that he and George Booth knew one another in Detroit. However, once they both moved to Bloomfield Hills, the relationship grew. The colonel organized the Bloomfield Hills Country Club of which Booth was a founding member, and both men were members of the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club. In 1912, Colonel George became one of the stockholders in the Bloomfield Hills Seminary (the pre-cursor to Brookside School) established by George Booth, and in 1926, the two men worked together to bring a post-office to the then Village of Bloomfield Hills.

Cranbrook School students with Colonel George (seated), The Edwin George Reserve, Sep 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Cranbrook School students with Colonel George (seated), The Edwin George Reserve, Sep 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

But certainly the most important contribution Colonel George made to Cranbrook was through the Institute of Science. In 1930, the colonel became a member of the Institute’s first Board of Trustees, a position he held until just before his death in 1950. That same year, he donated 1,250 acres of land near Pinckney, Michigan to the University of Michigan to be used not as a public park, but as an educational resource for University of Michigan students, scout troops, and Cranbrook School students. Known as “The Edwin George Reserve,” it featured hiking trails, streams and a small lake, stables, outbuildings, a gate lodge, and even an airstrip. Colonel George also stocked the reserve with wildlife including deer brought from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and antelope from Alberta, Canada. The colonel wanted the boys to have “an appreciation of the truer values of life as expressed by the truth in Nature,” and provided a place for them to do so.

So, while we have no direct proof that Booth and the colonel discussed the virtues of nature as education, it sure seems to me that they had a lot more in common than we previously thought!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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

Three Women and a Conservator

One of the interesting components of our jobs as collections managers, registrars, and archivists is that we get to interact and learn from conservators in our fields. On Friday, three of us went down to Detroit and met with Giogio Ginkas of Venus Bronze Works. A non-descript warehouse building sported a gray metal door which led us into the lobby gallery where Giorgio has displayed art from his personal collection of metro-Detroit artists, including Cranbrook’s Gary Griffin. Then we walked into the “shop” where his tools and equipment are interspersed with numerous sculptures (primarily metal) in various stages of repair, restoration, and conservation.

Giorgio Ginkas explaining the conservation process for the Wishing Well. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Giorgio Ginkas explaining the conservation process for the Wishing Well. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Currently, Venus Bronze Works has three of Cranbrook’s works in his shop – two are awaiting reinstallation on the grounds, while the metal “arch” from the Wishing Well at Cranbrook House is just undergoing restoration.

Parts of the Wishing Well “arch” removed for restoration. One element was missing so a replacement piece had to be fabricated. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Parts of the Wishing Well “arch” removed for restoration. One element was missing so a replacement piece had to be fabricated. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Orpheus figure, restored and waiting to be reinstalled at Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAM 1931.9). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Orpheus figure, restored and waiting to be reinstalled at Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAM 1931.9). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

For more on Venus Bronze Works, including Detroit’s own RoboCop statue, see: http://www.dailydetroit.com/2015/08/24/remember-robo-cop-statue/

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Forays in Metalwork: Cranbrook and Fairhope, AL

Women’s History month always gives us a good excuse (not that we need one!) to spotlight the accomplishments of some of Cranbrook’s lesser-known but equally important women. They may not have been famous artists or designers, but rather women who educated scores of students, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to catalog thousands of scientific specimens, or played a role in documenting the history and heritage of the Cranbrook community. So this month we have chosen to make each post about a Cranbrook woman – the work she accomplished, an artwork she created, or some other notable fact that we find interesting.

Margaret Elleanor Biggar (1906-1992) was born in Detroit, and became interested in silverwork when she attended spent her senior year in high school at Marietta Johnson’s experimental School of Organic Education in Fairhope, Alabama. After graduation, Biggar returned home to Detroit, where she attended the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts school. In November 1929, renowned British silversmith Arthur Nevill Kirk (who headed the silver department at Cranbrook), called Biggar and asked if she would like to come and be his student apprentice. She worked for Kirk in the Arts and Crafts Studio until 1931, where she made thirty cents an hour executing and polishing Kirk’s designs.

Silver Teapot, 1929. Designed and executed by Margaret Biggar. Image Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM 1933.45).

Silver Teapot, 1929. Designed and executed by Margaret Biggar. Image Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM 1933.45).

In 1931, Biggar returned to Fairhope, Alabama in where she taught metals at the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education and formed a lasting relationship with Elise Hooker (1895-1977), who was head of the school’s craft department. In 1938, the two women left the school to open their own studio where they taught metalcraft classes in silver, copper, and brass. Generous and hard-working, their primary objective was not to make money but rather to teach others the craft they loved. In 1946, they only charged fifty cents for a two-hour lesson!

Biggar and Hooker’s home on Magnolia Avenue, Fairhope, AL. The studio was called “Metalcraft Studio.” Photo courtesy Margaret Elleanor Biggar Scrapbook, Cranbrook Archives.

Biggar and Hooker’s home on Magnolia Avenue, Fairhope, AL. The studio was called “Metalcraft Studio.” Photo courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Margaret Elleanor Biggar Scrapbook.

The studio was successful and works of their students were shown in local exhibitions. People came from around the country to take classes, and the studio became a part of local crafts tours in Fairhope.

Hooker (left) and Biggar at an exhibition in Pensacola, Florida. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Margaret Elleanor Biggar Scrapbook, U.S. Navy photographer.

Hooker (left) and Biggar at an exhibition in Pensacola, Florida. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Margaret Elleanor Biggar Scrapbook, U.S. Navy photographer.

Metalwork was not Biggar’s only interest. In 1943, she spearheaded the “War Dog Fund” effort in Fairhope. This was a project organized to enlist the help of dogs on the “home front” to secure funds through the donations of their owners. Dogs could be enrolled as a Sergeant ($1) or Lieutenant ($5) all the way up to General ($100). The funds were then used to help feed and care for the dogs in WWII combat zones.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Monday: Oops!

Photo Friday ran away with us last week, so here it is Monday already. Today’s post is about Camp Brady on Green Lake, Independence Township, Michigan. You are probably wondering how this camp relates to Cranbrook? The photo below shows a group photo of Cranbrook School boys, taken at Camp Brady in the winter 1930.

Cranbrook School boys at Camp Brady, Feb 1930. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook School boys at Camp Brady, Feb 1930. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Camp Brady was established in 1921 in honor of George Nexsen Brady (1837-1920). Brady, born and raised in Detroit, became a businessman and philanthropist always interested in the welfare of children. He was a big supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and allowed the Detroit chapter to use his forty-acre parcel on Green Lake as a summer camp. After he passed away (and donated his land to the Scouts), it was known as Camp Brady until it was sold in 1946.

What does Brady have to do with Cranbrook? After he retired, Brady moved to Bloomfield Hills and was a member of the Bloomfield Hills Country Club. He purchased 45 acres along Cranbrook Road, across the street from Cranbrook. Thornlea Studio (the old archives building) is located on his property, on what is known as Brady Lane!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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