Cranbrook’s Great Books (Part 1)

Across Cranbrook’s campus are eleven different spaces, including the Archives, that house book collections – some 110,000 physical items. Several of these spaces are typical school or academic research libraries, where students, faculty, and staff can check out the majority of these books. As a library and information science professional, I champion the importance of these lending libraries and the egalitarian access to information they provide.

In this post, however, I’d like to focus on Cranbrook’s non-circulating book collections – those rare, historic, or valuable tomes that, in many cases, hide in plain sight in public areas. With help from colleagues at the Academy of Art, Schools, Institute of Science, and Center for Collections and Research, I’ll highlight some of these gems that promise to delight the bibliophile, art appreciator, historian, or simply the Cranbrook curious.

Cranbrook’s special book collections are carefully preserved as both informational and evidential artifacts, and many are housed within cultural heritage areas. Valued not only for research purposes, they also serve as historical objects which help individually or collectively to tell the Cranbrook story.

South end view of the newly completed Cranbrook House Library, 1920. John Wallace Gillies, photographer. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The origin of book collecting at Cranbrook actually predates any of the current collection spaces and begins with Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth. George, in particular, was an enthusiastic collector, and started acquiring volumes in 1900, commissioning purchases of William Morris works and other fine books in London. As George explained, “I am not a millionaire and cannot pay the big prices now prevailing in New York.” His strategy allowed him to accumulate 1,000 books by 1916, effectively seeding the Cranbrook House Library Collection when construction of the library wing was completed four years later.

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A New Kiwi at Cranbrook

Since joining the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research in late July as the new Collections Fellow, I’ve been busy exploring. These last weeks have been spent learning the Cranbrook story, taking long walks through the beautiful grounds, and getting to know Melvyn Maxwell and Sara Stein Smith, whose Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home will be the primary focus of my two-year fellowship.

Nina Blomfield with Eleen Auvil, Bird [Kiwi], c.1960s, in the Cranbrook Art Museum Collections Vault. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, September 2021.

While there is much that is new and exciting to discover, I have been surprised to meet some familiar figures around campus.

I am originally from Auckland, New Zealand, but I come to Cranbrook directly from Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I’ve been a graduate student in History of Art since 2015. This historically women’s college and the six institutions founded by George and Ellen Booth have much more in common than one might first imagine.

Like Cranbrook, Bryn Mawr College was conceived as a total work of art: an aesthetic environment that would foster learning and mold young scholars into thoughtful and productive members of society. Major transformations of the College campus were undertaken in the first decades of the twentieth century, just as the Booths began building their vision for Cranbrook. Both institutions were founded on a deep engagement with the Arts and Crafts Movement and a shared belief that art and education were intrinsically entwined.

Christ Church Cranbrook under construction, 1927. Photograph by Oscar H. Murray. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Oscar H. Murray Photograph Collection.

Driving along Lone Pine Road, the architecture of Cranbrook forms a first point of connection between Bloomfield Hills and Bryn Mawr. The stone exterior and ornate windows of Christ Church Cranbrook transport the viewer to the same Gothic past that architects Cope & Stewardson imagined for their Collegiate Gothic Great Hall at Bryn Mawr.

Old Library Great Hall, completed 1907. Undated photograph, Bryn Mawr College Photo Archives, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

Further into campus, the organization of Cranbrook into quadrangles and cloisters, the use of hand-hewn materials, and the style of ornament make direct references to historical models. Through their architecture, both Cranbrook and Bryn Mawr, very new American institutions, ground themselves in the traditions of medieval and early modern Western Europe.

At Cranbrook House, the monumental entrance gates seemed even more welcoming when I learned they were fabricated under the direction of celebrated ironworker Samuel Yellin, whose stunning lanterns and wrought iron door handles were a highlight of my daily commute past Goodhart Hall at Bryn Mawr.

George Gough Booth and Samuel Yellin, Cranbrook entrance gates, 1917. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, September 2021.
Samuel Yellin, lantern, c.1927-1929. Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Nina Blomfield, August 2019.

Inside Cranbrook House, there are even more connections. Attending a meeting in the Oak Room, I was astonished to be seated in front of a beautiful fireplace surround designed by Henry Mercer of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.

Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, “Bible in Tile” fireplace detail, c. 1920. Oak Room, Cranbrook House. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, September 2021.

Bryn Mawr is located close to Moravian’s headquarters in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and each of the College’s buildings is home to Mercer tiles arranged in a unique pattern. The little dragons in the photograph are adapted from fourteenth-century wyverns and recall the Welsh origins of Bryn Mawr’s name. The figurative tiles are sprinkled throughout the Old Library halls, where they often go unnoticed by busy students rushing between classes.

Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, floor tiles, c.1905-6. Old Library Vestibule, Bryn Mawr College, PA. Photograph by Nina Blomfield, August 2019.

Given the historical associations of these institutions with the Arts & Crafts, the artistic affinities between Cranbrook and my adopted home of Bryn Mawr are not wholly unexpected. But I was less prepared to be welcomed to Cranbrook by not one, but two compatriots from much farther afield!

Walking into Cranbrook Institute of Science for the first time, I was greeted by an adorable Apteryx haastii, the Great Spotted Kiwi, displayed in the ornithology case near the museum entrance. This fuzzy flightless bird is endemic to New Zealand and has become a moniker both for the country’s citizens and its most famous fruit. The Institute’s specimen has rare leucistic or dilute-colored plumage and entered the collection sometime in the 1950s.

Great Spotted Kiwi. Cranbrook Institute of Science. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, September 2021.

Then, on my first visit to Cranbrook Art Museum I encountered another wee kiwi: a small bronze sculpture by Eleen Auvil, a 1961 graduate of the Academy’s Fiber department. Though dwarfed by the other Cranbrook creatures in the menagerie gallery of With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932, Auvil’s tender modeling of the little bird instantly caught my eye.

Eleen Auvil, Bird, c.1960s. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, September 2021.

As the Institute and the Museum both have their own kiwis, it is exciting that now the Center has one too!

I have enjoyed my first few weeks exploring, living, and working at Cranbrook. Even though this is my first time living in the Midwest, the connections between Cranbrook and my past homes—Bryn Mawr and New Zealand—have made me feel so welcome here. I look forward to making many more discoveries and to sharing them with you on the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink blog in the near future.

—Nina Blomfield, The Decorative Arts Trust Marie Zimmermann Collections Fellow for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, 2021-2023

“The Warning Came at About 10 P.M.” The Birth of George Booth

September 24 is the birthday of Cranbrook’s co-founder George Gough Booth. Trying to decide how best to commemorate his 157th birthday, I landed on the idea of sharing the story of the day he came into the world.

Portrait of George when he was around twelve years old. Photographer W. E. Lindop, Elgin Gallery, St. Thomas, Ontario. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

In 1864, Henry Wood Booth and Clara Louise Irene Gagnier Booth were living in Canada. Clara had already given birth to three children: Charles, Alice, and Grace. Baby Grace had, unfortunately, died at seven months. Clara would go on to have six more children—Edmund, Theodora, Adelaide, Ralph, Roland, and Bertha—for a total of nine children to live past infancy.

Clara Louise Irene Gagnier Booth in 1857. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.
Henry Wood Booth in 1862. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

George Gough Booth arrived on September 24, 1864, at 8 Magill (now McGill) Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Henry Wood Booth recalled that George was, “Born in the house at the East end of row on the South side of Magill St. about the middle of the block from Younge St. at 11.30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 1864.”

The terrace house at No. 8 Magill Street, the birthplace of George G. Booth in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as it looked in 1902. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

In a missive written much later about the night of George’s birth, Henry recalled “the time when, on opening the front door, I heard your sonorous voice for the first time, while your grandmother, coming down the stairs, assured me ‘it’s a fine boy.’”

But why was Henry out so late on the night George was born? Shouldn’t he have been home with Clara?

Henry Wood Booth’s recollection of the birth of George Gough Booth in 1864. George Gough Booth (1864-1949) Papers (1981-01), Box 1 Folder 1, Cranbrook Archives.

Distraught during Clara’s labor—”The warning came at about 10 p.m.” Henry recalled—the father-to-be was ushered out of the house to get help. His first stop was the home of Mrs. Cavie, across Magill Street, “who was in bed but promised to ‘dress and go over at once,’ which she did.” Henry then ran to Mother Gagnier’s house. She lived a mile away. “She also promised to go at once, and did.”

His final stop was the home of Dr. James Ross, who lived almost three miles away. Dr. Ross, however, took his time, dressing while a nervous Henry waited. He regretted waiting for the doctor, “I should have hurried home and told them there that the doctor was coming.”

George, “being a lively one,” commented Henry, “and his mother equal to the task,” had already made his entrance into the world, with the assistance of the experienced Grandmother Gagnier, before the doctor and Henry had reached the house.

George Gough got his first name from his great-grandfather as well as his uncle, both named George Booth. Gough came from two sources. Henry’s grandmother Elizabeth Dann Gough Booth had been a member of the influential Gough family back in England, and Henry’s father’s name was Henry Gough Booth.

In addition, Henry and Clara enjoyed the work of the famous temperance orator John Gough. Henry had once heard Gough lecture in 1849, where Henry signed “the pledge” to stop drinking, and became a champion of temperance. The Booths sought to dedicate George to “the sacred cause of temperance” and thought the strong middle name would help.

George Gough Booth did maintain a temperate life, so Henry and Clara’s goal was achieved.

Another thing Henry and Clara passed on to their son George: a tradition of honoring the family ancestry through names:

  • George’s second son’s name was Warren, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth’s middle name
  • His first daughter was named Grace Ellen, after his sister who died in infancy and his wife
  • His youngest son was named Henry after his father, grandfather, and a long line of Henrys before him
  • His youngest daughter Florence’s middle name was Louise, his mother’s middle name
  • All three of his sons’ middle names were Scripps, his wife’s maiden name
Ellen Scripps Booth and George Gough Booth with their children on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1937. The Booths are, from front row, from left: James Scripps, Henry Scripps, Warren Scripps. Second row from left: Ellen Scripps, George Gough, Grace Ellen, Florence Louise. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

And George and Ellen’s home, estate, and community they founded was, of course, named for the town in Kent, England, where Henry Wood Booth was born: Cranbrook.

And with that, I’d like to wish a very Happy Birthday, Mr. Booth!

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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She Walks in Beauty: The Life and Work of Helen Plumb

Helen Plumb, co-founder of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC) and its secretary from 1906 to 1928, was dedicated to the arts and crafts ideal of public service—encouraging an appreciation for beauty in everyday life and in the community. Surprisingly little is known of Plumb, but some evidence can be found in a few of the Archives’ collections.

During her tenure as DSAC secretary, Plumb saw the society through three distinct phases, each coinciding with a different physical location. The School of Design was established during the society’s first five years, when it was based at the Knowlson Building on Farmer Street (1906-1911). For the next five years, they were based at Witherell Street, during which time the society encouraged the production of theatrical masques, including the Masque of Arcadia, written by Alexandrine McEwen, and the Cranbrook Masque in 1916. The society moved to its third and final location at 47 Watson Street in October 1916. From then until 1922, they created the Little Theatre and expanded into Folk Handicraft and Lamp Departments. Once flourishing, by 1922 these programs were fading, causing Plumb to perceive a new era for the society and her future role in it.

Helen Plumb, secretary of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (1906-1928). Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

In a letter to George Booth in 1922, Plumb alludes to a choice between two paths: either “to go forward in a much larger, showier way, or to move into a closer, more restricted field,” which she felt would entail abandoning DSAC’s public and civic work. In this letter, she makes it very clear that if the second route were chosen, she would have no part in it. Her vision for the society’s future was to nurture more international connections, following the success of the Exhibition of British Arts and Crafts Assembled by the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in 1920.

A miniature portrait of Helen Plumb of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Detroit, on ivory, by Alexandrine McEwen (1876 – 1955), in same outfit as above. Cultural Properties Collection, Founders Collection.

Plumb’s correspondence with Booth was always very professional and business-focused with a modest sprinkling of personal comment. Then, in October of 1924, she writes candidly, “I have not many friends in all that word means, and still fewer confidants. It so happens that you are one of those two or three who shares my deepest one.” Plumb is variously described as a tireless worker, but here she shares how much she has struggled with chronic health problems and that her vitality has diminished such that it has, “become a life and death struggle” for her to keep going at all. There is a chance that she will finally be well, but she is unable to negotiate a path to it with the society’s board and she is no longer able to endure as is. It is in this impasse that she turns to Booth to advise the best course.

Letter from Helen Plumb to George G. Booth, October 16, 1924. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.
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Observing Landscapes: Topography and Photogrammetry

One of my favorite items in the collections of Cranbrook Archives is George Booth’s hand drawn map of Cranbrook, which he created over a 24-year period between 1904 and 1928. It is the earliest topographical record of Cranbrook and visually documents his ideas and plans for developing the landscape. In 1951, George’s son, Henry, created annotations to accompany the map, which are useful both in deciphering the map and identifying locations. Henry’s notes on what was envisioned and what was implemented during those early years, are a good starting point from which to venture into the manuscript collections for verification.

Cranbrook Map drawn by George G. Booth between 1904 and 1928.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

As Cranbrook’s landscape evolved from a family estate into a center for art and education, the means of recording and viewing the topography was assisted by developments in aerial photography, known as photogrammetry. Talbert Abrams, a native of Michigan, is regarded as a key contributor to this field of photography, as he founded the Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation in 1923. The earliest aerial photograph of Cranbrook I could locate is from circa 1918.

Aerial photograph of Cranbrook estate and environs, circa 1918.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

In the Cranbrook Photograph Collection there are many aerial photographs taken by Abrams, as well as other photography firms, ranging from the 1920s through the 1990s. Since the purposes of aerial surveys are manifold, correspondence provides some insight into why they were commissioned and how they were specifically used, for example, as publicity and advertising. In 1932 Cranbrook’s public relations manager, Lee A. White, engaged Cranbrook School Headmaster William Stevens to select an image for the coming year’s brochure, and aerial views appear in all the early Cranbrook brochures. Aerial surveys have also been used to assess and understand the landscape prior to making a change to it. This was the case in 1961, when a topographic map and aerial photography were requested for the Off-Street Parking Study.

Letter from Keith A. Smith to Arthur B. Wittliff, November 1961.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

Correspondence between Arthur Wittliff, Secretary for the Cranbrook Foundation Board of Trustees, and Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation, provides intriguing details about the scale of the photography and the material base of the prints. The images below are from a December 6, 1961 set of 12 double weight velvet prints of aerials covering 1 square mile at a scale of 1 inch per 600 feet.

Aerial photograph ASP-5 taken by Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation on 6 December 1961.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

ASP-5 (above) shows the intersection of Cranbrook Road and Lone Pine Road, and includes Kingswood School and Lake, the Institute of Science, Cranbrook House, Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, and the Academy of Art and Academy Way. ASP-10 (below) shows another view of Cranbrook and its environs, encompassing the Institute of Science, Academy of Art, and Cranbrook School.

Aerial photograph ASP-10 taken by Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation on 6 December 1961.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

When looking across the topographical history of Cranbrook from George’s map through aerial photographs, it is always fascinating to discern the changing landscape alongside the features that are unchanging. And, for me, the great inspiration of George’s map is that, although each individual project necessitated getting into the weeds and meticulous details, his ideas were always guided by situating them within a bigger picture.

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

All’s well that ends well

This is a story about a wonderful discovery and a trial of patience. A few years ago, I processed the F. Shirley Prouty Collection on Johannes Kirchmayer, which documents the life and work of her great uncle and contains many years of meticulous research. It was a wonderful collection to work with, and a trove of information on architects and craftsmen of the American gothic revival.

Two of the most outstanding of these are architect Ralph Adams Cram and woodcarver Johannes Kirchmayer, who worked together on many projects. This week I made a wonderful new discovery of another product of their hearts, minds, and hands: a silver and gilt portable font initially commissioned as a gift for the Detroit Museum of Art (now the Detroit Institute of Arts) by George Booth. Cram designed it and Kirchmayer created the sculpture models and chasings for it; then, the piece was executed by silversmith James T. Woolley and decorated by enamellist Elizabeth Copeland.

Silver gilt font completed in 1920 for Detroit Museum of Art. Ralph Adams Cram, Johannes Kirchmayer, James T. Woolley, and Elizabeth Copeland. Cranbrook Archives.

In February 1918, Cram designed the font, which George Booth hoped to have ready for display at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, to be held in Detroit for the first time in October of 1919.

The making of the font did not follow the anticipated timeline, but rather than a story of delay and disappointment, it becomes a story of patience and its reward.

During the spring, Booth visited Boston and left the Cram blueprint with Woolley. On May 1st, he enquired to know Woolley’s interest in executing the design and an estimate of cost, to which Woolley replied positively, quoting $450 excluding the enamel parts. Giving the commission to Woolley, Booth advised him to confer with Cram or his assistant, Mr. Cleveland, and that Copeland will complete the enameling work.

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Cranbrook, Kent: Then and Now

When George and Ellen Booth moved from Detroit to Bloomfield in 1904, they named their estate ‘Cranbrook’ after George’s ancestral home of Cranbrook, Kent, England. As the institutions and landscape developed, many of them were also named after places in and around the ancestral Cranbrook. George’s father, Henry Wood Booth, was born there in 1837, where his father, Henry Gough Booth, and grandfather, George Booth, were coppersmiths.

In 1901, Henry Wood Booth along with George and Ellen took a trip to England, and the photographs from this trip are held in the Henry Wood Booth Papers in Cranbrook Archives. I invite you on a virtual “walking” tour of Cranbrook, Kent, using these historical images alongside the same places in the present day.

Cranbrook is a small town situated on the River Crane with an industrial history in iron-making, that goes back to Roman times, and cloth-making, stimulated by the settlement of Flemish weavers in 1331. Cranbrook belongs to a group of towns known as the Weald, which comes from a West Saxon word for “forest”. During the middle ages, Kent was divided into seven “lathes” (an administrative unit peculiar to Kent), and Cranbrook was one of seven “hundreds” (the smallest administrative unit about the same size as a parish) belonging to the lathe of Scray.

The map below pinpoints the places that we will visit so that you can follow the route as we tour the town.

Map_of_walk

Walking tour directions. Google, 2020.

1. View down High Street towards Town Hall

Cranbrook is comprised of one main road, the High Street, which intersects with another smaller road, Stone Street. Most English towns have a “High Street,” just like “Main Street” in the US, and we will begin our tour on the High Street that leads into the town center.

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View of the High Street looking down to the Town Hall, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.

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View of Cranbrook High Street. May 2019. Google.

2. Crane Lane

At the end of the High Street, there is a small lane called Crane Lane. The Booth family lived on the High Street nearby this lane. The symbolism of the Crane is well known on the Cranbrook campus and you can see its history rooted in the etymology of the ancestral Cranbrook, which is named for the gathering of cranes at the brook.

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View of Crane Lane, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.

This is a bird’s eye view of Crane Lane showing the brook. If you click and zoom out on the map you can see that it leads to a small unbuilt area and eventually to a road named “Brookside”.

Crane_Lane

Satellite map showing Crane Brook and Crane Lane. 2020. Google.

3. Turning right onto Stone Street – you can see the George Hotel on the right:

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View of Stone Street with the George Hotel on the right, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.

The George Hotel is still there today:

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View of Stone Street. May 2019. Google.

4. At the intersection of Stone Street and Hill Road, which leads to the Union Mill, there was a blacksmith’s shop on the corner. Henry Wood Booth’s birthplace is on the left on Hill Road:

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View of Hill Road leading to Union Mill, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.

The view today is quite similar:

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View of Hill Road. May 2019. Google.

Union Mill is the last remaining of four smock mills in Cranbrook. It is still used to grind flour which you can see here.

5. Heading back to the center of town, you can see St. Dunstan’s in the distance:

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This is the view today:

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View looking down Hill Road from the site of the mill. May 2019. Google.

7. St. Dunstan’s Church

You may be familiar with this name from St. Dunstan’s Theatre and St. Dunstan’s Chapel. St. Dunstan’s Church is the parish church of Cranbrook in the Diocese of Canterbury. It is known as the Cathedral in the Weald and, while records show that a church was there almost 1000 years ago, the present building is over 500 years old. St. Dunstan himself is the patron saint of metalsmiths.

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St. Dunstan’s Church, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.

In the surrounding area, there are other sites with names that you will recognize from Cranbrook campus, namely Angley Wood and Glassenbury Manor (Kingswood Lake was once called Glassenbury Lake).

I hope you have enjoyed the trip and discovered something new about Cranbrook past and present.

–Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

Of Provenance and Harmony

This is a story about the mistaken attribution of a quote, as told through the lens of archival provenance, that further deepened my own understanding and appreciation of the Cranbrook story. A researcher, referring to Cranbrook’s founder George Booth, once asked, “How did he do it? All of this! How do you motivate the finest artisans and craftsmen to come and help build a center for art and education?” It is a marvelous question, and surely one in which each inquirer may draw a different conclusion. When I get similar questions about how Cranbrook came to be, I always turn first to the words of George G. Booth himself, whether they be formalized in a trust document or business letter, crafted for a speech, or in the informal fluidity of a personal letter. Booth always acknowledged, in both his words and artistic compositions, the contributions of many, both contemporaneous and historic, in the building of Cranbrook . The image below shows a document included in the folders containing ‘Talks, 1902-1942’ in the Biographical series of the George G. Booth Papers. At some point during their administrative or archival custody, the talks were enumerated and this one is identified as number 21 with a circa date of 1936. Naturally, I have wondered exactly when and where he gave this talk.

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The Laying of a New Foundation for Cranbrook Institutions, a document included among the talks of George Gough Booth. Cranbrook Archives.

In my work at Cranbrook Archives, I have observed many times that the answers we find depend upon the phrasing or precision of the questions we ask. I have also learned to remain attentive to questions when I think I have exhausted the search, as oftentimes I have found an answer when I am no longer looking for it. I recently quoted from this talk to emphasize the trajectory from vision and ideal, through words, drawings, and activity to a tangible object or building:

“… the Cranbrook Foundation, dealing with things material and visible, rests in turn upon another foundation made up of things invisible – that is, of thought, vision, and ideals… No product of human hands exists which was not a thought before it became a thing.”

Shortly thereafter, I was researching two reference requests that took me into the Cranbrook series of the Samuel Simpson Marquis Papers, wherein I discovered the original version of the talk with pencil edits to truncate it for publication in The Cranbrook News Bulletin, September 1936. It was identified as a Commencement Address to Cranbrook School by Dr. S. S. Marquis on June 6, 1936. Along with it was a typescript version, the same as the one in Booth’s papers, and a letter from the Executive Secretary of the Cranbrook Foundation, William A. Frayer, which tells us that Marquis had encouraged Frayer to digest the talk for its publication.

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The Cranbrook News Bulletin, Vol. I, No. I, September 1936. Cranbrook Archives.

Although I had found my quote in a talk among those of George Booth, given to the Archives as part of his papers, here was definitive proof that it was actually part of an address given by Marquis! This discovery highlights the important, but sometimes misleading, concept of provenance of an archival collection, and how archivists continually refine understanding of their collections, even long after they are opened to researchers. In an archival setting, provenance relates to the administrative origin of a collection and ensures that the collection remains intact so that the records accumulated by one person or office are not intermingled with those of another. From an archival standpoint, the talk still belongs in Booth’s Papers, but will now be understood as something he collected rather than created. The principle of provenance dictates that it shall remain there, albeit with a note to advise future archivists and researchers of its authorship. We cannot know for certain how and when and by whose hand it came to be in his papers, but this new knowledge simply adds another layer to the relationship between Booth and Marquis, and the harmony of their thinking.

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Rev. Dr. Samuel Simpson Marquis, circa 1906-1915. Cranbrook Archives.

Booth had first met Marquis as the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and subsequently as visiting clergy when missionary services were conducted by Henry Wood Booth in the Meeting House (1918-1923). In October 1923, when the Meeting House began to be used for Bloomfield Hills School (later Brookside School Cranbrook), it was to Marquis that Booth turned with the idea of building a church and school. Moving to Bloomfield Hills the following year, Marquis remained part of the Cranbrook story as rector, teacher, trustee, and friend until his death in 1948.

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

 

 

Birds of a Feather …

“… the Cranbrook Foundation, dealing with things material and visible, rests in turn upon another foundation made up of things invisible – that is, of thought, vision, and ideals… No product of human hands exists which was not a thought before it became a thing.”
Rev. Dr. Samuel Simpson Marquis, “The Laying of a New Foundation for Cranbrook Institutions,” Commencement Address to Cranbrook School, June 6, 1936

The thought, vision, and ideals of George and Ellen Booth endure in the cultural community and architectural landscape that we enjoy today. One of the great joys of working in the Archives is witnessing the documentary heritage which traces the stories of the people, places, and things that contribute to Cranbrook’s history. All record types — from correspondence, financial records, and reports to written and oral memories and reflections — provide a different insight into the process of making an idea a reality.  I am particularly fond of architectural records, because it is possible to see the built campus in its earliest form. Cranbrook Archives holds a large collection of architectural drawings for the entire Cranbrook Educational Community, as well as for  projects of Cranbrook affiliated firms and architects. The drawings are arranged by division or creator and housed according to their format. One format that is housed separately are detail drawings, which include millwork details and decorative designs. They are pencil on tissue drawings preserved folded in their original envelopes, many for almost a century. I would like to share with you an example of this type of drawing, one that documents the birds sitting atop of the columns of the aisle wall stalls at Christ Church Cranbrook.

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View of the aisle wall stalls at Christ Church Cranbrook. Center for Collections and Research.

Finding sources in an archives depends upon the arrangement and description of the collections. Because of their very nature, sometimes a fair amount of detective work is required when the material being described is a visual format. Architectural drawings that have been catalogued are searchable using the Cranbrook Academy of Art library catalog, so the search most often begins there. In my case, a search for the wall stalls at the church returned seven results, none of which refer to the birds specifically. Yet, one of the descriptions suggested that there was great potential that it would include a drawing of the birds and, indeed, that is what I discovered.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659) Variants for Wall Stalls in Aisles and Paneling at Door #128 and Window #128, March 1930. Cranbrook Archives.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659), detail of the owl. Cranbrook Archives.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659), detail of the American robin. Cranbrook Archives.

The discussion between George Booth and Oscar Murray about the design and contract for the stalls began in early December 1929 and the stalls, carved by Irving and Casson, arrived for installation in August 1930. Booth left it to Murray’s judgment as to whether to have a continuous row of the same model for the columns or whether to include the variation. As you can see, this drawing includes two variants of tracery, four variants of corbels, and six of seven variants of birds, including the swallow, quail, dove, cat-bird, owl, and American robin. The seventh bird yet remains a mystery, leaving us something to discover in the future. Discoveries like these, and helping others achieve similar ones, make the job of a Cranbrook Archivist both enjoyable and rewarding.

– Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

[Editor’s Note: When this post was first published, the quote was attributed to George Gough Booth. Subsequent research has revealed that it is from an address by the Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Marquis.]

Using Archives—The Quest for the Gold Ciborium

The pursuit of historical truth, from national heritage to community identity or individual biography, depends upon archives—the portion of records selected for permanent preservation. In the west, recordkeeping emerged within the development of justice and administration—the earliest English law code is that of King Aethelberht of Kent, c.600, following the arrival of Augustine of Canterbury and the encouragement of peaceful dispute resolution. Henceforth, a fundamental and enduring feature of legal process comes to us from the Anglo-Saxons: the writ and the charter. Yet, throughout the early middle ages, grants and other legal deeds were made in public ceremonies where the attendant witnesses were the ‘memory’ of the act, not always supplemented by a charter. But, by the thirteenth century, documentary evidence had become necessary to prove ownership of land or other grants of the king, and records began to constitute the activity itself.

Over time, the type, format, and number of records has proliferated but those that are preserved, as archives, are the critical vestiges of ancient and recent memory—individual memories, institutional memories, national memories. They are primary sources essential to historical method to evidence claims of historical fact based on a reasoned interpretation of the records—these are the tasks of historians and scholars whose published research is found in secondary sources. Both types of sources are necessary when greeted with the archival FAQ, “I want to know more about this person, place, or thing—what do you have?” A recent request related to a church vessel, the “gold ciborium” at Christ Church Cranbrook. As is the case with any research, the starting place is to discover what has already been done. The first place to look for information on the art works at Christ Church Cranbrook is the Pilgrims’ Guide, first published in 1939, which guides visitors through the church with details of its artworks and craftsmen.

The Pilgrim’s Guide (4th Ed.), Thistle [Henry S. Booth], 1956

 

While the Guide is full of meticulously researched information, there was no mention of a ciborium. The reference files were similarly silent, except a photocopied memo from George Gough Booth dated 1927, listing a ciborium made by Arthur Stone (1992-01 5:2). And, sure enough, in the George Gough Booth Papers (1981-01, 22:7), there is correspondence with Arthur Stone about a gold-plated ciborium. Voilà! Well, not quite… it was not the right one. So, we found a photograph of it in the photo files, though it had no date, photographer or artist details, only the words “silver gilt ciborium”.

Silver Gilt Ciborium
Copyright Cranbrook Archives, photographer unknown.

An inventory written by Henry Scripps Booth in 1960 (1981-01 20:6) has two ciboriums listed—that of Arthur Stone and another one with blanks for the creator and date of creation. But, taking a step back to the contemporaneous records for the building of the church, there are detailed ledgers for its construction and decoration. If the ciborium was purchased by George Gough Booth, there would most certainly be a record of it. Looking closely at the ledger pages, it is clear that a ciborium was commissioned from three separate artists: A. Nevill Kirk, Arthur Stone, and Helen K. Mills. These have certificate numbers which can be matched up with the ‘Cranbrook Church notebook’. So, we know that a third ciborium was purchased from an artist called Helen K. Mills, and the notebook gives us the date, February 7, 1928.

There is correspondence with Kirk and Stone in the Christ Church Cranbrook series of George’s papers but none with Helen Mills. But there must be some elsewhere. When we are processing archives, we must carefully consider three things: content (who created the documents and what is in them?), context (in what circumstances were they created and why?), and structure (how do they relate to other documents in the collection and the institution?). These things can also be applied in using archives. So, in looking for correspondence with artists regarding artwork at the time of the construction of the church, there is another place to look—the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts correspondence. Here we find correspondence between Helen Keeling Mills, Helen Plumb, and George Gough Booth.

While records might initially be kept to evidence an activity, over time they are of historical value. They can help us understand a person, provide knowledge of an organization, contribute to knowledge of a craft or a culture, they inform us of the creation of an object so that it may be maintained and preserved in its most beneficial environment. Last, but not least, a document becomes an artifact in itself because of who wrote it, what it says, and because it is simply beautiful. This correspondence was kept initially to document his transaction with Helen as part of the wider collection of records for the church. But we can learn much more from it. We know something about the creative process of the ciborium—what it is made of, the saints depicted upon it, that it was sent to another artist after which it was damaged. We know the importance that Helen placed in her work and her regret of the damage. We can see George’s gracious response and understanding—his appreciation of her devotion to her work and the joy that will be taken in the object she created.

This research query helped to draw information out of the archive that was hitherto not expressly known. There is now a reference file to aid future researchers so that the knowledge is accessible with references to the records that document it, and the research process need not be made again. And so, just as teachers learn from their students, the archive and archivists learn from their researchers.

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

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