Discovering the University of Michigan in the collections of Cranbrook Archives

In October, the University of Michigan Osher Lifelong Learning group visited Cranbrook for a lecture, luncheon, and tours of our historic houses, the Art Museum, and Cranbrook Archives. In gathering materials related to the university, I found that my growing archival display began to tell a wonderful story of the early relationship between the Booth family and the University of Michigan, predominantly between 1918 and 1924. The story begins with the friendship of George Booth and Emil Lorch.

Born in Detroit in 1870, Lorch had studied at MIT and Paris, before graduating Master of Arts at Harvard in 1903. In 1906, he arrived at the University of Michigan to establish the School of Architecture, which remained a unit of the School of Engineering until 1931. The correspondence between Booth and Lorch covers a manifold of topics over many years.

 

On January 11, 1918, George Booth gave an address to the students of the departments of Journalism and Architecture at the university, entitled The Spirit of Journalism and Architecture which focused on the development of the Detroit News business and the new News building, which had been recently completed.

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Program for an address, The Spirit of Journalism and Architecture, delivered by George Booth at the University of Michigan, January 11, 1918. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Later that year, in October, George’s son, Henry Scripps Booth began his studies in architecture at the university. It was there that he met J. Robert F. Swanson, with whom he traveled Europe for ten months beginning in June 1922, and later established the architectural practice Swanson and Booth between 1924 and 1926. Henry took with him letters of endorsement to help facilitate access to architectural treasures on their journey, including one from Professor Lorch:

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Letter of introduction for Henry Booth from Emil Lorch, July 17, 1922. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Eliel Saarinen arrived at the University of Michigan as a Visiting Professor at the invitation of Emil Lorch the next year, staying from September 1923 through 1925. To extend a warm welcome, Henry wrote, costumed, and performed in a pageant in honor of Saarinen. Many of Henry’s classmates performed in the pageant, including Ralph Calder and J. Robert F. Swanson, who also designed the program. The event took place on December 8, 1923, in the Michigan Union ballroom. Many of the members of the Michigan Society of Architects and the Michigan branch of the American Institute of Architects were present. During the dinner, George G. Booth made the principal address of welcome to Eliel.

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Program for A Pageant of Arts and Crafts, a Reception for Eliel Saarinen, program design by J. Robert F. Swanson, December 1923. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Interior of the program. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Henry and Robert graduated from the University of Michigan in 1924. Graduating with them was Ralph Calder, who was also one of the first two students to win the George G. Booth Traveling Fellowship, with which he traveled to England, France, and Italy. The fellowship continues to this day. Calder was among the original staff of the Cranbrook Architectural Office, working on Cranbrook School and Thornlea House. He later went on to design many buildings for colleges and universities in Michigan, including Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Hope College, and Hillsdale College.

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Letter concerning the Booth Traveling Fellowship from the first recipient Ralph Calder to George G. Booth, June 12, 1924. Notice the Michigan logo on the letterhead. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In another Cranbrook connection, Ralph Rapson submitted a Fellowship entry in 1938, and, while he didn’t win, his submission impressed Eliel Saarinen so much that Rapson was given a scholarship to the Art Academy.

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Ralph Rapson’s submission to the George G. Booth Traveling Fellowship, AD.26.01.03. Ralph Rapson Architectural Drawing Collection, Cranbrook Archives. Gift of Rip Rapson.

There is much more in our collections about the University of Michigan; this post has selected items covering only the early years. In preparing for the Osher tour, I realized that, while the contents of processed archival collections remain the same, what we find in them depends on the question being asked. The collections of George G. Booth, Henry S. Booth, the Cranbrook Foundation, Swanson Associates, Inc. are among the most highly used and yet there is always something new to learn, something wonderful to discover.

— Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

Can You Say Lobster Roll?

It feels as though summer is winding down and this week is the final session of Cranbrook Art Museum Summer Camp. We enjoyed a visit from students earlier in the week who were part of the “Costumes and Characters” session. While pulling materials to show the students, we came across this photo of Ralph Russell Calder (1894-1969), an architect and friend of Henry Scripps Booth. He is in a lobster costume made by Loja Saarinen for a “May Party” in 1926.

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From the Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Calder, born in 1894, was a veteran of World War I and an accomplished musician. He graduated in 1923 from the University of Michigan College of Architecture (he and Henry were classmates). In 1924, he studied in England, France, and Italy as the winner of the George G. Booth Traveling Fellowship in Architecture.

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A card from Ralph Calder & Associates, Inc. with a 1924 sketch by Ralph Calder during his travels in Europe on the Booth Traveling Fellowship.

In 1925, Calder worked for several months as part of U of M’s Near East Research Expedition in Tunisia. The research and objects obtained from this expedition are the basis of the collection at the Francis W. Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at U of M. Calder joined the Cranbrook Architectural Office in 1926 and remained there until staff was reduced due to the economic depression. In 1937, he joined the firm of William G. Malcomson and Maurice E. Hammond where he stayed until 1945, when he started his own firm, Ralph Calder and Associates, in Detroit.

Calder worked on the following buildings on the Cranbrook campus: the main academic building (Hoey Hall) at Cranbrook School, Thornlea, and Thornlea Studio. In addition, he was the architect for buildings at Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Hope College, Northern Michigan University, Hillsdale College, Wayne State University, Ferris State University, Western Michigan University, and Lake Superior State University. He enjoyed music as a hobby and was the organist and choirmaster for St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Detroit in the 1940s.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

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