How a 19th Century Blog Led to a Museum

In 1881 James Edmund Scripps, founder of the Detroit Evening News (later the Detroit News) and father of Ellen Scripps Booth took a five-month trip to Europe with his wife Harriet Messenger Scripps and daughter Grace. As they traveled, Scripps wrote about his experiences and sent the blog-like entries back to his newspaper to publish. Detroit readers loved it.

James Edmund Scripps, ca 1870. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Because the response to his entries was so positive, Scripps compiled them into a book, Five Months Abroad: Or, The Observations and Experiences of an Editor in Europe, published in 1882. Scripps visited Italy, France, Germany, England, and the Netherlands exploring museums and churches. He wrote about art and culture and also sketched the details of many churches and cathedrals.

James Edmund Scripps bookplate from Five Months Abroad, ca 1882. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

William H. Brearley, the advertising manager for the Detroit Evening News, was so impressed with the response from Detroit residents about Scripps’ travel entries, that he decided to organize an art exhibit. Brearley gathered paintings, sculptures, etchings, and engravings (in all, 4,100 items) from collectors in Detroit, Boston, and Cleveland, and even a painting, “The Betrothal of St. Catherine,” from Pope Leo XIII.

 

 

Brearley’s “Art Loan Exhibition of 1883” was held in a temporary hall on Larned Street. The exhibition ran for 10 weeks and attracted more than 134,000 visitors at 25 cents each, covering the costs of the promoters and making a profit. With this success and a generous offer from Senator Thomas Palmer, Brearley and his associates undertook the task of raising money for a permanent museum of art.  A group of 40 Detroit citizens each gave $1,000, Sen. Palmer provided $12,000, and soon the group had raised $100,000.

In 1884, Brearley announced a $50,000 gift from James Edmund Scripps, and on April 16, 1885, the Detroit Museum of Art (later the Detroit Institute of Arts) was incorporated. The museum opened in 1888, and in 1889 Scripps bought and donated 70 European paintings. At a cost of $75,000 (roughly $2.1 million dollars today), this gift was among the first major accessions of European Old Master paintings for any American museum.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Additional Sources:

Burton, Clarence, William Stocking and Gordon K. Miller. The City of Detroit, Michigan 1701-1922. S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1922.

Detroit Museum of Art Hand Book of Paintings, Compiled by James E. Scripps. John F. Eby and Co.,1895.

 

Hats in the Alhambra

After a long illness in 1886, Ellen Scripps Booth’s father James Edmund Scripps (1835-1906) retired from his work life in the newspaper business (he had founded Detroit’s The Evening News in 1873). James spent two years recuperating and traveling in England and continental Europe with his wife Harriet and their children. The family visited Scripps cousins and traveled with some of his twelve siblings and their children. James, who had become interested in architecture (particularly church architecture), spent many hours sketching at the locations they visited.

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Scripps family members at the Courtyard of the Lions at Alhambra, Granada, Spain, November 1888.  From left: William Armiger Scripps, Ellen Browning Scripps, Eliza Virginia Scripps, Grace Locke Scripps, Florence May Scripps, Harriet Messinger Scripps, Anna Virginia Scripps, James Edmund Scripps. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

James Edmund Scripps sketched exterior wall decoration at Alhambra, below. Notice how closely it matches the wall in the photograph.

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In the picture at the Alhambra, take a look at James’s sister second from the left: Ellen Browning Scripps. Ellen was a publisher for The Evening News and wrote a daily column, nicknamed “Miss Ellen’s Miscellany” that rehashed local and national news in a conversational tone. She even sent dispatches back to Detroit from Europe. Shortly after their trip to Europe and well-hatted visit to the Alhambra, the Scripps siblings had a bit of a falling out: she and another brother headed to California, where she eventually founded many important educational and philanthropic organizations in the San Diego area.

If you want to hear more about Ellen Browning Scripps and the Scripps siblings, the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is hosting a lecture and book signing with Molly McClain on Sunday, November 12thEllen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy  is a new book by Dr. McClain, Professor of History at the University of San Diego. To learn more about the lecture and to purchase tickets, click here. Books are also available to purchase through the Center.

–Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

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

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