Photo Friday: Plans Set Sail!

The Alura II from the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. Cranbrook Archives

The Alura II from the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. Cranbrook Archives

As the new Collections Fellow for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, I was charged with coming up with a theme and writing today’s Photo Friday blog, a daunting task as it is only my first week. Lucky for me, a few of our archivists were working in our reading room pulling documents and photographs for a display this weekend for Cranbrook Art Museum’s PNC Bank Family Day and a few of them jumped out at me.

In 1928 James Scripps Booth, eldest son of Cranbrook’s founders George and Ellen Booth, designed a plan for a boat called the Alura II. Today’s photo includes a Booth’s original design for the bureau-book cases, mirror and window to the cockpit and a photograph of the “screened door companion-way from enclosed bridge area.” Although some of the plans were changed during manufacture, you can see the resemblance to Booth’s original design especially in the drawers and shape of the window shape. The Alura II was a fifty four foot long motor cruiser, with two 275 horsepower engines, so it could go as fast as 16 mph on the water! The boat included electric lights and toilet facilities, a four burner gas stove, and a gas water heater, as well as a Fridgeair ice box. The Alura II was completed in 1929. James and his wife Jean cruised in the boat for most of the summer that year, closing their home to take to the water.

Today’s photo is a sneak peak at some objects you can see on display in the Cranbrook Archives during PNC Bank Family Day this coming Sunday September 28th from 11am to 5pm. Many documents and photographs like today’s Photo Friday will be available to view and learn more about Cranbrook, the Booths, and boats! Learn more about the day’s nautical themed activities, tours, and lecture on the Cranbrook Art Museum’s website.

– Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research


A Registrar’s Perspective

Tawny Nelb Workshop

Framed Ralph Rapson drawing, The Ralph Rapson Collection, 1935-1954. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatski.

This past Monday I had the great fortune of taking part in an archival workshop lead by forty-year archives veteran Tawny Ryan Nelb of Nelb Archival Consulting, Inc. As a Registrar, I primarily work with three-dimensional objects (furniture, paintings, gates, etc.), so I was eager to learn that this workshop focused on architectural records, the sub-genres within that medium, and how to properly care for and store these records.

I reference architectural records quite frequently when I am trying to learn more about, or troubleshoot, a problem related to an object. In all honesty, I thought I knew the proper handling, usage, and storage of these records as this knowledge is vital to my job; but it was obvious that I really needed the refresher course in “Paper Management 101.”

Archives workshop at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Tawny Ryan Nelb (third from left). Photographer, Justine Tobiasz.

Tawny’s discussion covered all areas of architectural records including paper mediums, drawing types, and then some. I have to admit though that I cringed when the conversation moved towards the exhibition processes for architectural records! Often, we loan architectural sketches, floorplans, and section drawings to other institutions that require us to frame the documents using a hinge system. A hinge, simply put, is a tab that is glued to a document using a reversible wheat paste that is then adhered to an acid-free backer board. To my dismay, this approach was used historically on tissue and tracing type papers records in our collections, which are likely to tear and off-gas inside their expensive frames, creating a microclimate of havoc. In a moment of panic my hand shot up in the middle of the lecture and I uttered, “But we have documents framed in our collection like this! What should we do?”

Thank goodness for archival specialists, because Tawny truly eased my conscience. She, in very kind words simply replied, “It’s ok. We can remove the tissue and tracing paper from their frames, disrupting the microclimate, and use archival paper and matting to resolve the issue.” My response, “what about those hinges?” And, again she calmed my nerves, “Leave the hinges, and store the objects in flat files, so there is no need to use the frames. Then, if these documents go on exhibition again, they are already hinged and ready to go.” In one word: genius. That is what I experienced at this workshop, shear genius. In all of the workshops I have been a part of, I have never been so glad to have attended an archives workshop in all of my life.

Gretchen Sawatski, Associate Registrar

Photo Friday: Seeing the Unseen

Dr. Harold Edgerton

Dr. Harold E. Edgerton giving a lecture at Cranbrook Institute of Science, Jan 1950. Cranbrook Archives.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, who was awarded the National Medal of Science, and won an Oscar  – the subject of today’s Photo Friday has quite the list of accomplishments! Dr. Harold E. Edgerton gave a lecture at Cranbrook Institute of Science in 1950 called “Seeing the Unseen”. Edgerton advanced the development of strobes – using them to freeze objects in motion to capture on film. Utilizing short duration electronic flash, Edgerton developed techniques for photographing athletic events, bullets, and drops and splashes. Many of his photographs were published in Time magazine.  In 1937, one of Edgerton’s milk-drop photographs was included in the first photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1952, the National Geographic Society invited Edgerton to join Jacques Cousteau on an underwater exploration. Edgerton built underwater cameras and flashes for Cousteau, and also developed sonar technology that enabled him to search for the ancient Greek city of Helike (submerged around 373 B.C.) and locate an H-bomb off the coast of Spain.

Gina Tecos, Archivist


Object in Focus: Viktor Schreckengost Correspondence

Viktor Schreckengost letter, 1938

Saarinen Family Papers, Cranbrook Archives

While doing research for the Cranbrook Archives’ upcoming exhibition Ephemera: The Stories that Letterhead Tells, I discovered a beautiful example of bold, colorful letterhead from 1938. The letterhead, designed by Viktor Schreckengost, was clearly influenced by the Bauhaus designs of the 1920s and 1930s which featured asymmetrical compositions and expressive typography. The content of the letter is of course also very interesting. A response to textile designer Loja Saarinen’s request to purchase the ceramic sculpture “Young Pegasus,” the letter shows a mutual respect between the two artists. The sculpture, which Schreckengost sold to Loja Saarinen, lived for many years in Saarinen House, and is now in the permanent collection of Cranbrook Art Museum.

As the saying goes, “curiosity killed the cat,” and as I knew nothing about Schreckengost, I set out to see what I could discover about him. Turns out that Schreckengost, who spent the majority of his life in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was not only an industrial designer (think streamlined pedal cars and the Sears Spaceline bicycle), but was also a painter and ceramicist. The son of a commercial potter, Schreckengost dabbled in clay sculpture as a child, and went on to design mid-century modern dinnerware for American Limoges and Salem China. Perhaps his best-known ceramic work is the Jazz Bowl (1930-1931) that he created at Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, Ohio, for a commission from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Viktor Schreckengost letter, 1948

Cranbrook Art Museum Exhibition records, Cranbrook Archives

In 1948, then curator of Cranbrook Art Museum, Esther Sperry, was in the process of planning the Academy of Art’s Second Biennial Ceramics and Textile Exhibition and reached out to Schreckengost. The exhibition records yielded two more very interesting letterhead from Schreckengost. With simplified typography, the first reflects Schreckengost’s response to post-war graphic design and the promotion of “less is more” concept, while the second illustrates how Schreckengost constantly experimented with type and design elements. Both 1948 letters show his conscious effort to utilize negative space as an active element.

Viktor Schreckengost letter, 1948

Cranbrook Art Museum Exhibition records, Cranbrook Archives

The bottom line is that for me, these three objects in our collection are fascinating – in their design, in their content and how they, as cultural artifacts, reflect the changing world of design through their rich visual vocabulary.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: Happy Birthday Ralph Rapson!

New Moon by Ralph Rapson

Plan for Rapson’s New Moon Homes, Alma, Michigan, 1945. (Project not realized) Cranbrook Archives

In honor of Ralph Rapson’s 100th birthday, (September 13th) today’s Photo Friday features images from the Ralph Rapson Collection (1935-1954). Rapson studied architecture under Eliel Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1938-1940.  He worked in the Saarinen office until 1941 when he moved to Chicago and taught at the New Bauhaus with Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.  In 1954, he relocated to Minneapolis where he established the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture.  One of the country’s leading modernist architects, Rapson created hundreds of sketches and is perhaps best known for his whimsical illustrations of people and transportation.

Ralph Rapson telegram

Telegram announcing Ralph Rapson’s first prize win for the “Lopez House” in the House and Garden Architectural Design Contest, 1945. Cranbrook Archives

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist, and Gina Tecos, Archivist

Object in Focus: “Cabin” by Marjorie Young

Cabin, by Marjorie Young

The unpublished manuscript, “Cabin,” by Cranbrook Academy of Art student, Marjorie Young. Cranbrook Archives.

My family has been going “up north” for nearly 50 years and in 1967, purchased property in Good Hart, Michigan. A popular vacation spot nestled in the woods along the bluff of Lake Michigan, the area from Harbor Springs to Cross Village has been a retreat for numerous Cranbrook-related luminaries over the years. In the 1940s, Henry Scripps Booth and his family vacationed in Good Hart at the Blisswood and the Old Trail Inn resorts. In the 1950s, Cranbrook Academy of Art painting instructor Wally Mitchell began vacationing up north, and in 1972 built an A-frame cottage on the beach just south of Cross Village. Bob and Pipsan Swanson began designing buildings near Harbor Springs as early as 1941 as well. Blog posts about these and other Cranbrook stories in northern Michigan can be found on the Cranbrook Sightings blog.

This object in focus today is an unpublished manuscript in our collection penned by a lesser known Cranbrook Academy of Art student named Marjorie Young. When I first read “Cabin,” my heart skipped a beat as I soon realized that Young was writing about MY up north: the place where I go for, as I jokingly say, my “mental health holidays.” The place of trees and wind and waves lapping in the distance, of spectacular sunsets and so many beautiful rocks that there is not time to look at much less collect them all. Young wrote about the same sort of experiences and thought-feelings in “Cabin” from the time she first visited the area in 1935 with her family, to 1946 when she bought her parcel of land with her friend Barbara, and through the 1980s. (Marjorie passed away in 1988.)

Cabin in northern Michigan

Marjorie Young’s cabin in Cross Village, Michigan. Private Collection.

Marjorie Young received her M.F.A. in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1951. She and Barbara originally intended to build a small studio in which to work and house their “cultural artifacts.” The initial cabin sat close to the bluff but due to land erosion but was moved back and expanded to a larger cottage in 1973. Over the course of Young’s career, she taught art at the Toledo Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Art, Western Michigan University, and The Oakland Art Museum in California among others. She was also Director of the Battle Creek Art Center from 1963-1974. However, no matter where she lived or worked, she always returned to her cabin up north.

Cranbrook Academy of Art student, Marjorie Young. Cranbrook Archives.

Portrait of Marjorie Young. Cranbrook Archives.

In the preface of “Cabin,” Young wrote “sitting in the studio which overlooks Lake Michigan . . . I am distracted. Everywhere is growth and beauty, all senses are pleased and excited whatever the hour or season. As I stand inside at the window, waiting for that most hushed and spectacular wonder of each day – the setting of the sun – I know once more the serenity of being here, absolved from all conflicts.” Marjorie’s up north, my up north, and the up north of many of us will always be this same place of respite, of refuge, and of creativity, hopefully for decades to come.

Interior of Marjorie Young's cabin in northern Michigan. Cranbrook Archives.

An interior view of cabin studio. Private Collection.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: Back to School in 1912

Stock certificate for the Bloomfield Hills Seminary issued in 1912/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Stock certificate for the Bloomfield Hills Seminary issued in 1912. Cranbrook Archives.

In early June of 1912 a small group of Bloomfield Hills residents assembled at the home of William T. Barbour (president of Detroit Stove Works) to discuss the formation of a small local private school. After general discussion, it was moved by George Gough Booth to establish a corporation with capital of $5,000.00 in order to establish the school. According to meeting minutes, the objectives were to “give the young people of Bloomfield Hills, and those from nearby towns, the opportunity to study in the country; to offer a course of study that will fit them for life as well as for college.” With these objectives in place, the Bloomfield Hills Seminary was incorporated in August.

Often referred to as the precursor to Brookside School, the Seminary was located on five acres at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Lone Pine, in a historic house built in 1820 by Ezra Parke. Booth, who had purchased the property in 1910, offered use of the house and added a five-class-room addition with the caveat that the property would revert back to him should the school ever close.

Mary Eade, who had been the principal of the Detroit Seminary for Girls, became the principal and taught grammar and upper level courses, including History of Art. Elizabeth K. Seward (granddaughter of William Henry Seward of the Alaska purchase fame) taught intermediate classes including French, and Winifred Eastman was responsible for the elementary age children. The coeducational day school used the Montessori method of instruction.

In 1916, the trustees voted to change the name of the school to the Bloomfield Hills School. At its peak, there were eight teachers and fifty-one students enrolled. Due in part to the resignation of Mary Eade (who resigned to do war work) and the construction of new schools in Birmingham and Pontiac, the school closed in 1918 after six years. The property reverted back to Booth who purchased all of the stock certificates back from the trustees, and later became known as the Lone Pine Inn and Tea House, but that’s another story!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist and, Gina Tecos, Archivist

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