Tapestries – The Fabric of Society

As part of a module assignment for my MA in Archives Administration with Aberystwyth University (Wales), I have been researching a selection of tapestries that George Gough Booth purchased and commissioned from Morris & Co., Herter Looms, and Edgewater Tapestry Looms. I chose the theme of tapestry and time, inspired by Francis Thomson’s idea of tapestry as “mirror of history”. I was particularly interested in the Morris & Co. case study because I much admire William Morris as an artist and social reformer. Although the Morris & Co. tapestries that George Booth purchased were made after Morris’ death in 1896, they were made under the supervision of his former student, J.H. Dearle, who became Art Director in 1905.

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Photo Friday: Diogenes’ Search for an Honest Man

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

You might not immediately notice the small bronze statue that sits at the top of Hoey Tower’s stairwell at Cranbrook School. The statue is Diogenes – a Greek philosopher best known for holding a lantern and claiming to be on a quest for an honest man. Diogenes is considered to be one of the founders of Cynicism – a doctrine that supports a life in accordance with nature and rejects convention.

George Booth originally purchased Diogenes for Cranbrook House from the Gorham Silver Company in May 1914. One of the many statues he purchased during his lifetime, he bequeathed it to Cranbrook School upon his death.

Diogenes has been depicted throughout the centuries in paintings, drawings, and sculpture. Our sculpture was created by George Edwin Bissell (1839-1920) in 1906. Bissell, who was born in Connecticut, studied in Paris at the Academie Julian, the Academie Colarossi, the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1876, he studied at the American Academy in Rome. He also served in the Civil War as a private in the 23rd Connecticut (1862-1863) and as assistant Postmaster for the U.S. Navy (1863, 1865).

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Photo Friday: Underlying Principles of Beauty

St. Paul Chapel reredos. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

St. Paul Chapel reredos. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In a letter to George G. Booth ca 1931, Detroit News Art Critic Florence Davies, writes of artist Hildreth Meiere, “All over the place she discovered these refinements of line, these essential underlying principles of beauty. I have taken many people to Cranbrook, never anyone who saw it with so much understanding.”

Meiere (1892-1961) was a distinguished Art Deco muralist, painter, and decorative artist. Her commissions range from the medallions on the exterior of Radio City Music Hall to the dome in the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. to the reredos panels in St. Paul’s Chapel in Christ Church Cranbrook. Educated at Manhattanville, the Art Students League, the California School of Fine Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in Florence, Italy, Meiere was a renowned muralist, as well as an important figure in the history of American Liturgical Art, and a preeminent mosaicist.

“It drives me wild to be spoken of as ‘one of the best women artists,” Meiere wrote to a friend in 1936, “I’ve worked as an equal with men and my rating as an equal is all that I value.” In 1956, she was the first woman honored with The Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects. Although it has taken years for her work to be discovered and viewed in its rich cultural context, we are grateful for her artistry here at Cranbrook.

Note: You can view more information and images of Hildreth Meiere’s work here.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Photo Friday: Opening Doors

Today, while up in storage at Cranbrook House, we rediscovered the Master Key for Cranbrook School For Boys, given to George G. Booth in 1927. The locks have changed, after almost 90 years, but it is still fun to see and think about.

Cranbrook Schools original master key.

Cranbrook School original master key.

Bart Simpson: What’s that weird key for?
Ralph Wiggum: That’s Daddy’s magic key. It opens every door in town.
Bart Simpson: The police master key? Oh, Ralph. Do you realize what we can do with…

Like Bart Simpson in This Little Wiggy, what would you do with the Master Key to the Cranbrook Schools? I think I’d eat all the cookies in the dining hall . . .

Leslie Mio, Assistant Registrar

A Fond Farewell

It’s been a little over five years since I accepted a position as archivist at Cranbrook Archives. I had toured the Archives some years before, when I first became photo archivist in the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library. Though familiar with Cranbrook from growing up in the area, I thought, boy, this would be a cool place to work.

My wishful thinking turned into reality when, after retiring from Detroit Public Library and working as a volunteer in Cranbrook Archives, a position opened up. Lucky me! And my first assignment was to process the papers of Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee. I had shopped in their iconic store in Harmonie Park and was delighted to meet Ruth and hear all about her fascinating life, which gave me a framework for processing her papers.

RAS

Ruth Adler Schnee in a fun moment.

Meeting Ruth was just the beginning of a deep plunge into subjects of which I was only marginally aware: the George Gough Booth family who founded Cranbrook; the Saarinens who designed its campus, many of its buildings and furnishings; artists such as Harry Bertoia, Marianne Strengell, Katherine McEwen, Charles & Ray Eames, Maija Grotell, Harry Weese. My head was spinning trying to keep up!

Gradually I became familiar with the history of Cranbrook as documented by the rich material in the Cranbrook Archives. The manuscript collection (institutional and individual), the photograph collection, the architectural drawings, and the myriad other informational sources, not to mention my coworkers, other Cranbrook staff, and Archives’ volunteers, all helped fill in the blanks. Most of all, head archivist Leslie S. Edwards, guided me through the intricacies of building names and campus personalities, filling me in on strange anomalies such as Chanticleer Cottage, or some of the unheralded people like the Vettraino family or John Buckberrough who, in small but important ways, helped make Cranbrook what it is today.

farewell

A favorite view when eating outside in the summer!

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m moving on to other adventures; today is my last day. I learned so much here, thanks to everyone I worked with. And it turns out I was right. Cranbrook is a cool place to work!

– Cheri Gay, Archivist

 

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

The Name Game

From the beginning of Cranbrook’s history in 1904, place names at Cranbrook have evolved and changed. Once the Booths turned the original mill pond into a lake, they named it first Glassenbury Lake (after Glassenbury, England), then it was known as Cranbrook Lake for a very short time, and ultimately Kingswood Lake. The man-made Jonah Lake (or Lake Jonah as it is also known) was originally called Lake Manitou. Brookside School was originally called Bloomfield Hills School and Cranbrook School was Cranbrook School for Boys. Although Brookside School retains its name, since 1985 when the boys and girls schools merged, they are jointly known as Cranbrook Kingswood Schools.

Building names have also changed, often due to an alteration in use or sometimes because they were dedicated to an influential or long-time faculty member.  The Garden House became the Cranbrook Pavilion and is now St. Dunstan’s Playhouse. The Cranbrook School academic building became Hoey Hall after former Headmaster Harry Hoey and what was originally called the “Arcade” is now known as the Peristyle at the Cranbrook Art Museum. Lyon House was first called Stonelea (after its owner Ralph Stone, a long-time friend of George Booth), then Belwood, then the Kyes House before being acquired by Cranbrook.

And even Cranbrook Educational Community is not our first name. In 1927, the Booths established The Cranbrook Foundation as the legal and financial entity that oversaw the then six institutions: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Cranbrook School, and Kingswood School.

So, what is really in a name? How do we name our campus buildings and landmarks going forward and what legacy will we be imparting with them?

That said, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Or should I say Bonne année? Feliz Año Nuevo? Or maybe Xin nian kuai le?

(And thank you Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton for getting me thinking about names at Cranbrook!)

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

The Fascinating Notebooks of John Buckberrough

John H. Buckberrough (1874-1955), an immigrant from Ontario, Canada, was a civil engineer for the Cranbrook Foundation from 1927 until he retired in 1955. As described by Henry Scripps Booth:

Buckberrough, a slight man of medium height, started working for Swanson and Booth as that firm’s sole employee two years before Cranbrook officially employed him. That was in the firm’s tiny architectural office located in the below-road-level room of the Ram House section of Brookside’s buildings. … He became one of the first employees of what was known as the Cranbrook Architectural Office in January 1927. … Over the years he was chief surveyor, planned most of the pump rooms, transformer vaults and underground systems, kept copious notes and made detailed plans regarding changes which not only proved increasingly valuable in solving complicated problems but put to shame those who were later supposed to fill his shoes.

In addition to numerous architectural drawings that bear his signature, Buckberrough’s legacy in the Cranbrook Archives is 10 calfskin engineers’ field books, chock full of drawings and notations, covering 1926-1955.

Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Descriptions and diagrams of Cranbrook property, heating and plumbing data for Cranbrook buildings, data on Cranbrook roads and lakes, drawings of pump houses, sidewalks, lighting layouts and water lines can be found in the notebooks. Here are some examples:

Design of a bridge.

Bridge at Kingswood Lake, 1938.

Column design for fireplace in Cranbrook House living room.

Column design for fireplace in Cranbrook House living room.

The Archives’ staff often finds valuable information in the notebooks, which is used for campus restoration and renovation projects including the recent restoration of Cranbrook School Quad. Little did Buckberrough know how valuable his meticulous note-taking would prove to be. Though a search for information requires a careful page-by-page hunt, it’s a pleasant change from the impersonality of electronic resources.

Cheri Y. Gay, Archivist

To Sit or Not to Sit

Chair design at Cranbrook has always had its own special niche and fascination among artists and patrons alike. George Booth altered chair designs for his own use at Cranbrook House. Eliel Saarinen designed unique chairs for Cranbrook School and Saarinen House. Ralph Rapson conceived of his chair design for what became known as the Rapson Rocker while a student here. Most of us are familiar with the famous chair designers, but what about projects by less famous designers?

During the war years, Academy of Art students were encouraged to experiment with modern design and new and unusual materials. In 1944, Academy students Gloria Bucerzan and Jean Roberts designed and constructed a chair born of war shortages, by eliminating the use of springs and creating webbing using “non-critical” materials.

Gloria (left) and Jean with woodworking instructor Svend Steen, 1944. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

For more on chair design in general, check out the 2012 Year of No-Chair-Design and the Guide to Great Chair Design which features links to chair blogs, the history of chair design, museums, galleries, and books that all feature what else? Chairs!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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

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