A Delightful Trip in a White Swedish Ship

Between 1925 and 1939, the Saarinen family made annual trips to Europe, always stopping for a time in Finland. They travelled by sea, usually departing from New York and arriving in Southampton, England or Gothenburg, Sweden. When they sailed directly to Scandinavia, they were abaord the MS Gripsholm.

MS Gripsholm 1951 mailed

The MS Gripsholm in New York City, c. 1951. Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.

The Gripsholm was built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, in 1924 for the Svenska Amerika Linien/Swedish American Line (SAL). The SAL was founded in 1914 as a direct Swedish-North American cargo and passenger shipping line, and the Gripsholm was the company’s first luxury liner. She was also the first diesel-engine transatlantic passenger liner, which is why she is the MS (or Motor Ship) Gripsholm. After 1929, all the SAL fleet was painted white, giving rise to the moniker “A delightful trip in a white Swedish ship.”

Aboard the MS Gripsholm, first class passengers enjoyed all the traditional features of luxury transatlantic liners (libraries, writing rooms, gyms, a pool, garden rooms, smoking parlors, bars, etc.), along with distinctly Nordic options, like folk dancing, Swedish foods, and a fully Swedish crew.

Along with the port of Gothenburg’s closer proximity to Helsinki, it was perhaps these northern-European comforts that led the Saarinens, who were Swedish-speaking Finns, to repeatedly choose the Gripsholm for their summer journeys. Aboard the Gripsholm in 1929, this photo was snapped on deck showing Eliel, his son-in-law J. Robert F. Swanson, months-old Bob Swanson, and Eliel’s daughter Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. The family captioned the photo “Last Dash Before the Crash.”

Eliel Bob Bobby Pipsan on the Gripsholm 1929

Eliel, Bob, Bobby, and Pipsan aboard the MS Gripsholm, 1929. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In 1934, Eliel, Loja, Pipsan, Bob, and their now five-year-old son Bobby were again aboard the Gripsholm. On the SAL stationery, Loja wrote a letter back to George and Ellen Booth at Cranbrook. She writes, “I wanted tell you again how happy Eliel and I have been at Cranbrook and how thankful we are to you because you want us there.” She continues:

“So far we are well off although neither Pipsan nor I knew what we took over us in taking Bobbi along. He is like a firework. He is nowhere and everywhere. He hasn’t climbed up the smoke stack yet neither has he ridden on a whale’s back, but he has done other things enough to worry us.”Letter from Loja Saarinen to George Booth_GGB Papers 19-4

On this same trip, a photograph of Pipsan and little firework Bobby was sent back stateside and ran in the local papers here in Oakland County. Pipsan is shown in a fashionable dress and hat, quite possibly of her own design, as at the time she was head of the Academy of Art’s short lived Fashion Department. Pipsan, like her mother, made many of her own clothes throughout her life.IMG_3206

In the Cranbrook Cultural Properties collection, we have the Saarinen’s steamer trunks and suitcases that they used aboard the Gripsholm and other ships. One of the suitcases has its stickers from the MS Gripsholm, still prominently called out in the Swedish pale blue and yellow.

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The Saarinen’s steamer trunks and suitcases. On view now in “Saarinen Home: Living and Working with Cranbrook’s First Family of Design”

During World War II, when the Saarinen’s remained in the States aiding the U.S. war effort and organizing the Finnish Relief Fund, the Gripsholm was charted by the U.S. as a repatriation ship. It carried German and Japanese citizens to exchange points for U.S. and Canadian citizens. Gripsholm (and her neutral Swedish crew) made these exchanges at neutral ports, including Stockholm, Lisbon, Portuguese Goa, and Lourenço Marques. Over 12,000 Americans who had been in enemy territory at the outbreak of war or were prisoners of war returned home aboard the Gripsholm in this diplomatic capacity.

In 1954, SAL sold the Gripsholm to a German company. She was rechristened the MS Berlin and entered into service as a Canadian immigration ship, sailing from points in Europe to Pier 21 in Halifax (the Ellis Island of Canada). The ship was retired and scrapped in 1966, but an image of the Gripsholm (in her Berlin livery) lives on in the Canadian passport!

Copies of the Saarinen’s letters sent from the Gripsholm, photographs of the family about the ship, and the trunks and suitcases used by the family are all currently on view in “Saarinen Home: Living and Working with Cranbrook’s First Family of Design” in Saaarinen House, open for tours Friday and Saturdays at 1pm and Sundays at 1 & 3pm through the end of July. Tonight is our last Finnish Friday, where there is an open house at Saarinen House and games and cake in its courtyard, also, the Cranbrook Art Museum will be open; there are Finnish-related treasures out in the Archives Reading Room; and a cash bar on the Peristyle. Come on by for our last Finnish Friday!

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

Hidden in Plain Sight at Brookside

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The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug (BS 1), 1973. Cultural Properties Collection, Brookside School.

In honor of the Cranbrook Kingswood Alumni Association’s Reunion Weekend, I thought I would share the story behind The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug.

In 1973, New York designer Rhoda Sablow (1926-2013) was commissioned to design a rug for the Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Auction. The idea for the rug came from Mrs. Arthur Kiendl, wife of the first President of the Cranbrook Educational Community.

The border and geometric squares are reminiscent of Eliel Saarinen’s designs and surround depictions of various Cranbrook buildings and sculptures. The buildings are Christ Church, Kingswood, Cranbrook School, and Brookside. The sculptures are Orpheus, Jonah and the Whale, Europa and the Bull, Orpheus Fountain, Triton with Shell, Siren with Fishes, and Diana.

The rug was needlepointed by Cranbrook Schools parents: Mrs. Iain Anderson, Mrs. Richard Darragh, Mrs. Micheal Davis, Mrs. Fritz Fiesselmann, Mrs. Walter Flannery, Mrs. Robert Flint, Mrs. Mounir Guindi, Mrs. Wilfred Hemmer, Mrs. Charles Himelhoch, Mrs. James Holmes, Mrs. Lee Iacocca, Mrs. Arthur Kiendl, Mrs. George Kilbourne, Mrs. Jamse Lowell, Mrs. James May, Mrs. David Mott, Mrs. John McCue,  Mrs. Richard Pearce, Mrs. Donald Pendray, Mrs. J. Pierson Smith, Mrs. Edwin Spence, Mrs. Wright Tisdale, and Mrs. James Williams.

ESB and Elizabeth Wallace 1919file HSB15.27.1

Ellen Scripps Booth with granddaughter Elizabeth Wallace at Cranbrook House, circa 1919. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Elizabeth Wallace McLean bought the needlepoint rug at an auction during the three-day celebration of the founding of Cranbrook schools. Mrs. McLean, the granddaughter of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth, immediately donated the tapestry back to the school in honor of its golden anniversary. Elizabeth was in the original class of seven who attended Brookside School, so it is appropriate that the rug now hangs inside the main entrance of Brookside.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

 

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The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug (BS 1), 1973, on display in the Brookside Main Entrance. Cultural Properties Collection, Brookside School.

Opulence and Splendor

In the spring of 1927, Cranbrook founders George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth traveled to Egypt. In addition to visiting Cairo and having their photograph taken after an hour long camelback ride, the Booths visited the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun (King Tut).

Letter from Cairo, Mar 1927.

Letter from Cairo, Mar 1927.

In a letter to his son Henry, Booth describes in detail the opulent beauty of the tomb: “When in Luxor we went to the Valley of the Kings and saw the tomb – that is we saw one room where the King lay. He is there still in one of the gold coffins – the mummy had over it a gold mask covering head and shoulders and many jeweled ribbons of gold covering the joints of the mummy cloth. Thimbles on each finger and toe… this lay inside a gorgeous solid gold coffin inlaid with stones. This was all in the finest carved sarcophagus and that inside a splendid wooden shrine – and this inside of a beautifully decorated room.”

Replica created by Egyptian artisans and purchased by George Booth in 1927. The original chair is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photograph courtesy of Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Replica created by Egyptian artisans and purchased by George Booth in 1927. The original chair is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photograph courtesy of Cranbrook Institute of Science.

The Booths also visited the Egyptian Museum while in Cairo. Booth writes that although there is still a great deal in the actual tomb, he is in awe of the exhibition’s craftsmanship and value. He was particularly interested in a chair that at the time was believed to be the State Chair of Queen Taia, wife of King Amenhotep III (grandfather of Tutankhamun). Booth writes to Henry, “I would cheerfully give $10,000 for the throne –  which is an ordinary sized chair, but beautifully wrought.”

Exhibition poster, 1973.

Exhibition poster, 1973.

As the original chair was not for sale, Booth commissioned a replica to be made for the Art Museum collection. The chair, of carved wood with relief decorations covered in gold leaf, was later determined to be the chair of Sitamun, an Egyptian princess (and thought by many scholars to be the mother of King Tutankhamun). The chair was lent to the Institute of Science for a 1973 exhibition titled, “Ancient Egypt and the Tomb of Tutankhamen”. In 1984 the chair was transferred from the Art Museum to the Institute of Science, where it still resides today.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Alphabet Soup

This morning I was looking for an image from our collection to relate to the Cranbrook Art Museum’s newest exhibition “Read Image, See Text” to post on our Facebook page. I would hazard a guess to say that most, if not all, archivists love books almost as much as historic documents.  Though archives usually do not seek to collect books, and certainly are not lending libraries, books can often comprise part of a collection. So my search for a single image led me to think about the range of books we have in our collection.

The first was written by William O. Stevens, nearly 25 years before he became the first headmaster of Cranbrook School.  After receiving his doctorate at Yale, Stevens taught English at the U.S. Naval Academy for 21 years. The book, which satirized early 20th century Annapolis using twenty-six limericks and illustrations, became an instant success. Find out why it also became controversial.

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

The first edition poetry book below illustrates beautiful text and the tooled binding of the times. It is inscribed: “Ellen W. Scripps, a Christmas present from her Father [James E. Scripps], Detroit 1879.” The editor of the compilation, Henry T. Coates joined the publishing firm of Davis & Porter in 1966; Davis retired the following year and the company became Porter & Coates which became famous for creating Home and Garden magazine and publishing the Horatio Alger Junior titles.

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Gustaf Strengell, the father of Cranbrook’s textile designer Marianne Strengell, composed and designed this handwritten analysis of the Swedish poet’s writings as part of his graduate thesis. Franz Michael Franzén’s (1772-1847) work expressed the romantic conception of nature as both idyllic and divine, and was influential in the development of Finnish poetry.

Gustaf Strengell., Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

Gustaf Strengell, Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

For a really great blog post about related collections, see: Graphic Arts Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Dear Diary: Women in Their Own Words

“When women tell their life stories in their own words, a distinct enthusiasm, engagement and affirmation emerges . . . these are the stories in which women are the central actors, even if their stories are camouflaged by modesty and disclaimers.” So writes Judy Nolte Lensink in Perspectives on Women’s Archives. One of the most common ways in which women tell their life stories is through their personal diaries. The stories can range from day-to-day events, personal reflections, or comments about the world at large. Nearly every archive has diaries in its collection, and ours is no exception. Below are a few examples of the range of journals found in the Cranbrook Archives.

Harriet Messinger Scripps, circa 1872. Cranbrook Archives.

Harriet Messinger Scripps, circa 1872. Cranbrook Archives.

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