As we start a new year, I thought I would share some winter scenes at Cranbrook from 105 years ago. In the Winter of 1916, Henry Wood Booth and his daughter Alice Booth Miller took a stroll around the grounds of a snow-covered Cranbrook Estate. The journey was documented in pictures now in the Estate Albums in Cranbrook Archives.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year from your friends at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research!
– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
In the earliest days of Cranbrook, Fourth of July picnics were held in the shade of a big oak tree on the site of the present Japanese Garden near Kingswood School. In his history, Henry Wood Booth reports that in 1910, George decided a well was needed so that drinking water would not need to be carried down from the house. After much digging, there was no water, and the new well remained dry. The family would need to come back to the project another day.
Later the same evening, Cranbrook Road was flooded with mud and water. The well, having burst through the last layer of mud, was shooting eight feet into the air! A fountain was placed there a few months later and it flowed for fifty or more years until the screen was clogged. In 1963, a new well was drilled nearby.
The family didn’t always celebrate the Fourth so close to home. Here’s a parade planned by Henry Scripps Booth in 1935 while vacationing on Cuttyhunk Island, south of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on Buzzard’s Bay. Daughter Cynthia Booth is in the carriage pushed by Henry, and sons Stephen and David are in the parade.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
—Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
As Michigan emerges from our lockdown and we slowly begin driving to more places and contemplating summer road trips, I thought we’d look back to a time before asphalt, air conditioning, and safety features.
Here, we see Ellen Scripps Booth, daughter-in-law Jean McLaughlin Booth, and young Henry stranded somewhere along Lahser Road. I love the ladies’ wide hats and wraps, intended to keep their hair in and dust out. Henry looks particularly pleased with the situation (sort of like me when my own mom got a speeding ticket—she didn’t appreciate my backseat smirking, either).
Instead of AAA, the family turned to their own skills. Here’s Henry Wood Booth, Ellen’s father-in-law, addressing the situation:
The Booth family’s Pierce-Arrow Limousine was one of several cars they used to move about here in Michigan and in Europe (where they traveled with the Pierce-Arrow and chauffeur). Purchased for $7,750 in July 1908 ($215,984.08 in 2020), the seven-seater, 6-cylinder touring car came with two bodies: a closed limousine body for winter use and a sports-touring body for summer. As Henry Scripps Booth later wrote:
The original garage at Cranbrook House had a traveling crane in it so the Pierce-Arrow’s winter and summer bodies could be conveniently changed with the seasons. The crane spanned the depth of the garage, having an iron track bolted to the east and west walls on which the crane with a hand operated hoist could be pulled to the spot where the two respective bodies could be removed or hoisted into place.
The accident on Lahser Road wasn’t the first time Ellen had been betrayed by poor road conditions. In 1908, she wrote in her diary of a similar event that took place as the family traveled from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan:
“Wed. Aug. 12. We decided to take the auto as far as Holland on the way to Ottawa Beach but I wish we hadn’t for it took us five hours to go the 25 miles—We got off the road and one place slid into a ditch. It took an hour & a half to get a team to pull us out. We later frightened a horse and it ran down this deep ditch and horse, top-buggy and all just lay right down flat. The old couple in it were not hurt at all.”
If you want to learn more about the history and social impact of cars, register for our free virtual Bauder Lecturethis Sunday, June 28, 2020, at 3:00pm EST. Brendan Cormier, Senior Design Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, will be speaking about his recent exhibition and publication, Cars: Accelerating the Modern World. Center for Collections and Research Director Greg Wittkopp will deliver an introduction about Cranbrook and cars, featuring more treasures from Cranbrook Archives relating to our place in automobile history.
—Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
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, werecoppersmiths.
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.
Cranbrookis a small town situated on the River Crane with anindustrial 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 Cranbrookwas 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.
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.
View of the High Street looking down to the Town Hall, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.
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.
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”.
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:
View of Stone Street with the George Hotel on the right, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.
The George Hotel is still there today:
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:
View of Hill Road leading to Union Mill, 1901. Cranbrook Archives.
The view today is quite similar:
View of Hill Road. May 2019. Google.
Union Millis 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:
This is the view today:
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.
Florida, it seems, has always been a tourist destination. In 1911, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth, and their granddaughter Grace Ellen Booth visited a tourist attraction known as Dr. Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida. It was the novelty of picking oranges in “rural” St. Augustine that attracted visitors. Dr. Garnett was ready to capture a memory of your visit, installing a photography studio in his orange grove. Lewis W. Blair was the onsite photographer at Garnett’s from 1910 to 1912.
From left: Grace Ellen Booth, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth picking oranges at Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida, 1911. Photo by Lewis W. Blair. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.
This postcard was mailed to George and Ellen Booth March 14, 1911. The note read, “Just had lunch Mch 14. Grace, Gail, Ma and I went by boat this AM to north shore. Fran just learned that James is coming. We are all well today. Temp 68 – 83. H.W.B.”
The dichotomy of reading is much like the daily work undertaken in the archives. Reading, like research, can feel private, almost sacrosanct, something to escape to; on the other hand, there is a great draw to share the stories and information one discovers, seek commentary and comparison, enlighten someone’s thought process. As archivists, it is our job to assist researchers on their paths to discovery. Often times this direction and assistance leads us to insights as well. In fact, I have yet to assist a researcher along their path of inquiry without further developing my own along the way.
This was very much the case last week while I was scouring our collections for autumnal ephemera to add color to our Facebook followers’ harvest season. In my seasonally focused search I was delighted to come across Cranbrook’s very own ghost story—Cranbrook Boasts a Ghost; or, The Skeptics Tale, by Henry Scripps Booth (Thistle, as he was commonly known). I was intrigued and excited — what a timely discovery, what with Halloween just around the corner! And while I was enticed by the mystery, and enjoyed reading the descriptions of the vaulted spaces of St. Dunstan’s chapel [editor’s note: St. Dunstan’s is at Christ Church Cranbrook] filled with apparitions (a place I was lucky enough to tour, and you can too!) The Skeptics Tale, more importantly, reiterated an intrinsic truth about Cranbrook – that it is a space imagined and created by many minds and hands.
Christ Church Cranbrook, from “Highlights of Detroit”. Cut by Eugene Reeber, Jefferson Intermediate School, 1932.
Throughout the tale, I gained a sense of workmanship and craft, two features indicative of most spaces on Cranbrook’s sprawling campus. The characters in the tale pined over the construction of the brilliant structure, venerating its beauty as a testament to their commitment to their craft. It is, however, only near the end of the short story where I began to feel (if not see) the intentions of individuals who worked throughout the years to craft Cranbrook into the sprawling idyllic landscape of natural and man-made elements we know today.
“He discovered familiar faces in that strange assembly—faces of men who had lived and worked at Cranbrook. There before him was Tony by the column which bears his name; Mike Vettraino; Henry Booth, the coppersmith; his distinguished-looking father with the sideburns who brought the craftsman’s tradition from the ancient Cranbrook to this continent. There in the fourth chair of the fifth row: Milles, famed for his sculpture; a row or two behind, Saarinen, famed for his buildings; and nearby, Kirk, the silversmith.”
Though only apparitions in The Skeptics Tale, these individuals’ real accomplishments and contributions to Cranbrook, along with those of countless other influential men, women, and students, can be discovered through our collections. In the spirit of the season, we invite you to journey into our crypt and discover some of their stories yourself.
Kaoka, the brainchild of Henry Wood Booth, came about after a doctor suggested that he quit drinking caffeine and gave Booth a recipe for “bran coffee.” Since Booth and his children all liked the beverage, he determined one night that it might make a good business venture. He experimented with various roasting pans– even one in the form of a coffee roaster which was a failure as “it nearly blew up with the generated steam.” Booth finally made one that roasted to his satisfaction and the family gathered together to name this new beverage and “Kaoka” was born. Wrappers were printed and family members made paper boxes to put in local grocery stores.
On June 10, 1879, a patent was issued to the Kaoka Manufacturing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario. Booth located a building and fitted it with a large steam engine and boiler and seven roasters which ran day and night. In addition to the male employees, seventy-five women were employed (to make boxes), and soon a joint stock company was formed. Booth was retained as the manager of the plant and also served as the public relations “salesman.” In November 1879, Booth set up a display at the First Annual Exhibition of the Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition Association of Toronto with a “kaoka coffee pot” and gave away free samples of the drink. A local newspaper reported that “kaoka was found to be palatable and quite fit – at least with a large number of people – to be used as a regular beverage.”
The Kaoka Manufacturing Company, 1879. Henry Wood Booth Papers.
In 1880, the company’s directors asked Booth to go to Detroit in order to establish the business in the United States. However, Booth made the decision (which he later deemed “unwise”) to strike out on his own and set up the American business for himself, and sold his interest in the Canadian venture. After several set-backs, and his money ran out, Henry Wood Booth got out of the Kaoka business and went to work for the United States Post Office. The Detroit venture was, however, what ultimately relocated the Booth family to Detroit. And, Henry Wood Booth was considered the originator of the commercial cereal beverage.
Sidebar: during the time the company was trying to set up the Detroit enterprise, two men who had worked at the Kaoka plant in St. Thomas went to Battle Creek and established the cereal drink under a new name!
The portrait of Clara Gagnier Booth, mother of Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, has been mounted in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House. This painting is on long-term loan to Cranbrook from the Saginaw Art Museum, which acquired the painting through a donation from Clara Booth’s grandson, John Lord Booth I.
Conservation in-progress, April 2013 by Kenneth B. Katz, Conservation and Museum Services.
After receiving conservation treatment and a new frame, this painting of Clara Booth will accompany that of her husband, Henry Wood Booth, as well as their son George, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, and Ellen’s father James Edmund Scripps. Financial support from John Lord Booth II affords this opportunity to join the painting of the Booth family matriarch with those of her relatives at Cranbrook House.
The artwork was painted in 1918 by Russian-born artist Ossip Perelma, known particularly for his portraits of men of stature such as President Woodrow Wilson, King Albert I of Belgium, and several Russian and French political officials. Perelma also executed the stately portrait of Henry Wood Booth, currently on view in the Oak Room.
Demure in size and executed with soft and fluid brush strokes, Clara Booth’s portrait contrasts with that of her husband. While Henry is depicted in full length in an outdoor background, his wife is shown only by profile, with just the upper half of her torso included in the composition. The stylistic distinction between Clara’s portrait and that of her husband—and indeed many of Perelma’s other subjects—emphasizes the differing approach Perelma took to depicting a woman.
In the early twentieth century, even women of position, beauty, and culture were often removed from public view after their role as wife and mother was fulfilled, and their youth had faded. This portrait was painted when Clara Booth was 79, and it is notable that Perelma chose not to conceal his subject’s age. Indeed, the portrait is a rare and significant example of art providing legitimacy and prestige to a woman who remained elegant and strong as she reached an age when most women no longer had a public presence or were being immortalized by artists.
Henry Wood Booth outside the Meeting House (now Brookside School).
On January 5, 1919, Henry Wood Booth (HWB), father of George Gough Booth (GGB), “opened the Meeting House for divine worship,” according to the historical notes of Henry Scripps Booth (HSB). HWB, who would turn 82 on January 21st, conducted a vesper service and continued to officiate for six months. The Meeting House, designed by GGB and HSB, was the foundation for what later became Brookside School.
In 1901, Henry Wood Booth, Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth’s father, took this photograph of the shop in Cranbrook, Kent, where his own father had worked as a coppersmith before moving to Canada with his young family. A handwritten note on the back of the photograph, which is held in the Henry Wood Booth Papers at the Cranbrook Archives, explains that the copper tea kettle hanging from the door was made by Henry’s grandfather (the original George Booth), who also made his trade as a coppersmith. Three generations (and a whole lot of people named Booth) later, George Booth’s great-great-grandson George Gough Booth would build an entire campus around the idea of promoting the applied arts, naming it “Cranbrook” in honor of this town and community.