This past weekend the Center for Collections and Research put on a display for Holiday Tables at Cranbrook House, organized by the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary. Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki and I put together a display highlighting the electric lighting original to the home, focused on lamps and lighting by the Edward F. Caldwell & Company.
Cranbrook House was designed and built in 1908, and George Gough Booth always had the intention of having electric lighting throughout the home. Within the city of Detroit there had been an interest in electricity, and by 1906 there were two power plants on the Detroit River owned and operated by the Detroit Edison Company. However, with Cranbrook House being roughly 20 miles to downtown Detroit, this was an achievement. The Booth’s interest in innovation propelled them to always be ahead of their time by investing in the newly available widespread utility for their home.
In the first half of the twentieth century Edward F. Caldwell & Company was America’s premier design and manufacturer for electric light fixtures. The New York firm founded in 1895 created designed and works with several prominent clients at the time including the Frick, Morgan, and Carnegie families. Much of their work was done in tandem with architectural commissions, and therefore clients like Booth were able to provide input and alter details to customize their lighting choices. Booth provided his own ideas about a few pieces for the home, but overall selected most of the pieces directly from their catalogues. During the construction and design of Cranbrook House, George G. Booth was actively involved in conversations with Albert Kahn, the architect, and many of the vendors providing goods and products for the home. Booth was enthusiastically involved in providing input on the design elements of the home, and the lighting was no different. Many of the Edward F. Caldwell & Co. catalogues can be found online through the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
–Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research