Adler/Schnee’s Flower Fiesta

Are you enjoying the snow this winter? Or do you need something to brighten your February mood? Have you considered fake flowers?

This week, as the country was pummeled by winter storms, I was busy in Cranbrook Archives researching for my History of American Architecture: Eero Saarinen and His Circle lecture series. One important member of Eero’s circle of designers? Ruth Adler Schnee.

Ruth, a 1946 graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Design Department, was known for her printed textiles, interior designs, and the store she operated with her husband, Edward, in Detroit from 1948 to the 1977. In Cranbrook Archives, we have the Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers, which includes a wide variety of designs, notes, samples, and PR materials.

Adler/Schnee, Inc. on Harmonie Park. The design store was located at 240 Grand River East in Detroit between 1964 and 1977. Photograph February 1965. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

As I looked for materials related to Ruth’s work on the General Motors Technical Center—the subject of my lecture Monday—I came across this charming fold-out advertisement from the winter of 1966. Although it has nothing to do with my upcoming talk, it certainly brightened my mood, and I wanted to share it with you! The outside reads:

Sometimes it’s June in January…but at A/S it’s Bloomin’ February

The ad copy gets even better inside. Underneath a bright-pink line drawing of Scandinavian, Japanese, Danish, and Mexican home goods surrounded by Ferry-Morse seeds, a cat, birds, and flowers, it reads:

Stamp out snow with fake and fabulous flowers!

Put posies on everything—put posies in everything.

Color runs riot at Adler/Schnee Flower Fiesta

With kooky dried flowers ala Dr. Seuss; passionate pillows, dizzy dinnerware, palpitating papergoods, terrific totes and much marvelous more—all bursting with scintillating springtime.

Kick winter gloom and check Adler/Schnee, where even Harmonie Park itself is coming up new and exciting.

This pamphlet made me smile, and gets first prize in the alliterative Olympics. Based on other handwritten records in the Archives, it is possible Ruth herself wrote this little ditty (she wrote and designed much of the firm’s PR materials). Again based off other mailers, it seems likely the Schnees mailed out between 5,000 and 15,000 of these large fold-out advertisements.

The Flower Fiesta was just one in a series of events Adler/Schnee hosted in their Harmonie Park store between 1964 and 1977. In a previous blog, Deborah Rice wrote in more detail about the Adler/Schnee store, and the couple’s commitment to Detroit.

Fake flowers on display at Adler/Schnee c. 1964-1970. It is unclear if this is the Flower Fiesta, as the slide is unlabeled. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

If you want to learn more about Ruth’s contributions to the designs of Eero Saarinen and Associates’ General Motors Technical Center–including plates, silverware, napkins, and more–it’s not too late to sign up for this year’s History of American Architecture lecture series! They’re each Monday this month, at 11:00am and 7:00pm ET.

In the meantime, while we’ve all missed Carroll Sheeran’s “Dazzling decoupage demonstration” at Adler/Schnee on February 19, 1966, perhaps we can get some fake and fabulous flowers elsewhere to tide us over till springtime?

Kevin Adkisson, Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

P.S.: If you’re turned off by the words “fake flowers,” perhaps you’d like to use a term I learned in graduate school at Winterthur. After pointing out a fake plant in a display, my instructor corrected me: “Kevin, that is not a fake fern. That is a permanent botanical.”

Fully unfolded “Flower Fiesta” mailer from Adler/Schnee Inc. on Harmonie Park, January-February 1966. Approximately 16 inches x20 inches. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

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