Topics in the News
Architecture: Conflicting Currents
The Old versus the New.
By the 1910s the two major tendencies in twentieth-century architecture were already evident. One leaned toward the past, reviving styles from bygone eras, often in hopes of reinvigorating the faith and sense of community of older generations that twentieth-century architects feared were gone forever. This inclination was embodied in the work of architects trained at or influenced by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and in the neo-Gothic revival. The other looked toward the future, demanding that a new architectural vernacular be developed to meet the needs of technologically advanced, fast-paced, and scientifically enlightened modern life. Students of the Chicago school of urban architecture—and others who demanded that form follow function—were the chief proponents of this movement. Architects following both trends benefited from the vast expansion of the American economy—captains of industry, presidents of colleges, city boosters, new homeowners, and others were looking to put their marks on the landscape and had the cash to do so.
The Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Until the second half of the nineteenth century, there were no architectural schools in America. People who wanted to become architects either apprenticed themselves to individuals engaged in designing and constructing buildings or went to Europe to...
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Architecture: Domestic Design
During the 1910s homeowners were somewhat more open to new design ideas than the heads of big businesses. Women's magazines and housekeeping manuals called for the abandonment of outdated ideas in favor of scientific standards for middle-class home life. The architectural manifestations of late-nineteenth-century life, particularly the rambling, eclectic Queen Anne and Eastlake houses, were attacked as benighted, backward settings for growing families. At the same time, the city was judged to be an unsuitable place to rear children, and families were told to take advantage of trolley lines—and, increasingly, automobiles—to settle away from urban areas. Americans who wanted to become homeowners often also took on the role of home builders—and could choose from a range of designs, some published in national magazines or available ready-to-assemble from catalogues.
One particularly influential school of architecture was the so-called Prairie Style, spearheaded by Louis Sullivan's brilliant and ambitious student Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright, who was influenced by Japanese architecture—as well as by Sullivan's dictum that form should grow organically from function—favored simple, horizontal shapes and open vistas in his home designs, which recalled the expanses of the American prairie. He also took great...
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Architecture: Interior Design
The Up-to-Date Interior.
Authorities on the home had been calling for simplified, healthful interiors since the turn of the century. The formal, dark rooms filled with overstuffed furniture that were typical of nineteenth-century houses were vilified as old-fashioned and tasteless. Instead magazines and homemakers' manuals instructed American homeowners to take advantage of the latest technology to create an auspicious atmosphere for family life.
The Flexible Floor Plan.
A key component of interior design in the 1910s was the open floor plan, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. No longer was each space meant to serve a single, specific purpose, as in Victorian houses, with their parlors, sitting rooms, and library. Instead, the first floor of a house built in the 1910s typically consisted of a porch, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen, each room open to the next rather than separated by halls and doors. The living room combined the functions of the old-fashioned front hall, parlor, and library. The dining room could become a space for children's projects or a music room. The kitchen was the laboratory for the serious homemaker and a setting for casual family meals. Unlike the stuffy, dull-colored, heavily wallpapered and upholstered rooms of earlier generations, the modern house was uncluttered and airy. Rooms were to be...
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Goodbye to the Horse-Drawn Carriage.
During the 1910s automobiles rapidly replaced horses. Motorcars appealed to the adventurous and the professional—doctors and businessmen were among the first Americans to buy and drive cars. Over this momentous decade the design of the automobile stayed relatively stable: Henry Ford's Model T, introduced in 1908, set the standard, dominating the market and providing a model for its competitors. The wealthy drove cars that looked much like the Model T but were appointed with fur rugs and fine leather. During the 1910s the big changes in automobiles came in their production and engineering. Technological advances made cars easier to drive and maintain, while assembly innovations made them faster and cheaper to make. As costs came down, car dealers came up with a way to put automobile ownership within reach of virtually any adult: the installment plan.
The Model T.
Following an alphabet of horseless carriages pioneered by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan, the Model T—affectionately...
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Designs for New Products
American Design Falters.
As new inventions were mass-produced, American industrial designers sometimes packaged them in familiar forms. For example, the phonograph cabinet, first patented in 1910, was a hodgepodge of curly French cabriole legs, a stout rectangular box, and a hinged mansard lid. In other cases they allowed the process of manufacture to dictate form without consideration of how the new invention might be used most easily. One example of such a product is the lathe-turned telephone, with its mouthpieces mounted on a simple pillar equipped with a hook for the earpiece.
European Designers Forge A head.
In the same years that American engineering was turning out new appliances with little consideration for form, European designers were employing styles related to Art Nouveau in a sensual melding of the ornate tendencies of Victorian art with the dictates of organic form to create beautiful, as well as useful, consumer products. Dating from the turn of the century, Art Nouveau splintered into separate styles—all heading toward the streamlined, bold look that would be called Art Deco in the United States. Charles Rennie Mackintosh of the Glasgow school, Lucien Vogel, editor of the French taste-making magazine Gazette du Bon Ton, and Josef Hoffman of the Wiener Werkestätten in Vienna were all part of the larger movement...
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Fashion for Women
The Birth of the Modern.
At the turn of the century a growing middle class, composed primarily of men and women in management and service jobs, was gaining prominence in American life. With the rise of bigger, moreefficient businesses, the triumph of the automobile, and the growth of national magazines, the broad characteristics of twentieth-century America fell into place. Americans grew more prosperous, more mobile, and more alike in their tastes and habits—all of which seemed like progress. One reason for their growing similarity was the national magazine. Although there was a vast array of magazines in nineteenth-century America, none of them commanded a particularly large audience of readers. In the 1910s, however, thanks to a combination of innovations in printing, mailing, and advertising, some magazines began to approach circulations of one million or more. The most successful of these magazines was the Ladies' Home Journal (1883-), edited by Edward Bok, Bok's magazine and rivals such as Vogue (1892—) and Harper's Bazar (1867-; became Harper's Bazaar in 1929) exerted a strong influence in the areas of women's fashion, interior decorating, homemakmg, and architecture.
Although men headed most women's magazines, women editors, writers, artists, and fashion buyers dominated their...
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Men's and Children's Clothing
During the 1910s the fashionable silhouette in men's clothing followed the stripped-down look in women's fashions. Men's suits—which had been barrel-chested with thick shoulder padding and wide-legged trousers pegged at the ankle—now followed the body. Shoulder pads were whittled away; trousers had cuffs, and their legs were narrowed, ending just above the
shoe, with creases in the front and back. This slim look, which included a vest (still called a waistcoat), was aided by the decline of the union suit as the underwear of choice. Central heating made it possible to wear simple undershirts and undershorts, cutting down on the bulk under a man's suit. American men dressed formally for work, wearing dress trousers, shirts, vests, jackets, and ties.
Although a more natural look prevailed overall, stiff, detachable shirt collars remained in fashion throughout the decade—with the blunt-tipped high-band Belmont collar leading the way. A collar...
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Bacon, Henry 1866-1924
Leader in the Beaux -Arts Style.
Henry Bacon's greatest accomplishment was designing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (completed in 1917 and dedicated in 1922), a project that reflects his profound commitment to American democratic ideals. In his time Bacon was respected as one of the most talented exponents of the fashionable Beaux-Arts style of architecture, so-called because it was taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Based on a careful study of antiquity and often combining an eclectic use of other historic elements, this style placed great emphasis on refinement of taste and made up in elegance and sophistication what it sometimes lacked in vitality and originality. Bacon's contribution to the American interpretation of Beaux-Arts design was a pure classicism born of his great love for ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture. Yet perhaps his most significant legacy to American architecture was his collaboration with some of the foremost sculptors of his day, including Daniel Chester French (who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Training and Apprenticeship.
Henry Bacon was born on 28 November 1866 in Watseka, Illinois, a village near Chicago. He studied engineering and architecture at the University of Illinois in...
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Cram, Ralph Adams 1863-1942
Champion of the Gothic.
Ralph Adams Cram was the prime mover behind the revival of Gothic architecture in the 1910s. With his partners at the firm Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson (later Cram and Ferguson), Cram created some of the most influential church and college buildings of his era. Primarily responsible for the overall design and appearance of the firm's buildings, he is widely considered the founder and the foremost exponent of the Eclectic Gothic style in America. While remaining faithful to the pointed arches and delicate stone traceries of English Gothic architecture, this style also borrows from earlier architectural traditions to create structures on the grand scale of newer American buildings. In 1916 a reviewer said of Cram's Gothicism that he "hears its living music, and it is to him not past but eternal."
Proponent of the Spiritual.
Cram was born in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, on 16 December 1863, the son of a Unitarian minister. He displayed an early talent for drawing and toured Europe after high school. In 1881 he went to Boston to work as an apprentice architect for the firm Rotch and Tilden and as the art critic for the Boston Transcript. A second European tour in 1886 strengthened his interest in historical styles of art and architecture. During both his pilgrimages to the Old...
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de Wolfe, Elsie 1865-1950
Elsie de Wolfe was the first professional interior designer in America. Before de Wolfe began helping her friends with home decoration around 1900, American homes had never been "designed." Upper-class women called in curtain makers, furniture salesmen, wallpaper specialists, and other craftsmen and then attempted to arrange these elements themselves. De Wolfe, who believed in achieving a single, harmonious, overall design statement, felt that the decoration of the home should reflect the woman's personality, rather than simply the husband's earning power. She introduced a startling freshness to the elaborate, heavily fringed and tasseled Victorian design sensibility of her time. While carrying on the tradition of decorative surfaces and harmonious color combinations, she cleared away the thickly curtained and upholstered look of the nineteenth century. Having spent summers in France, she had come to prefer the light, gilded interiors of Versailles and the delicate lines of eighteenth-century French...
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Gilbert, Cass 1859-1934
Cass Gilbert, one of the most respected Beaux-Arts architects of the early twentieth century, is most often remembered for designing the Woolworth Building (1913) in New York City, an eclectic Gothic structure that was the tallest building in the world for nearly twenty years.
Out of the Heartland.
Gilbert was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on 24 November 1859 and grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After a yearlong apprenticeship with the Twin Cities architectural firm of A. M. Radcliff, which helped him develop what became a legendary skill as a draftsman, he entered the new architecture program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first of its kind in the country. Leaving school after one academic year, he received the most important part of his training during two years as an assistant to Stanford White, the most prominent member of the Beaux-Arts firm of McKim, Mead and White. In 1883 Gilbert returned to Saint Paul, where he opened a practice with James Knox Taylor, an MIT classmate. Their firm was awarded contracts for residential and commercial projects, as well as churches. Gilbert is considered the first architect to bring the formal and symmetrical Colonial Revival style and other, more sophisticated East Coast architectural styles to the Twin Cities. Examples of his...
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Hubbard, Elbert 1856-1915
From Soap to Art.
In 1893, at the age of thirty-s even, Elbert Hubbard had already made his fortune in soap manufacturing and abandoned the business world for a life dedicated to educating the American public about the Arts and Crafts movement. Using his business savvy and motivated by a passion for medieval-inspired designs for fabric, paper, ceramics, and furniture, Hubbard turned a small publishing venture into the lifeblood of a community of artists, craftspeople, and workers dedicated to preserving superior craftsmanship in an era of mass production.
Elbert Hubbard was born on 19 June 1856 in Bloomington, Indiana. At fifteen he moved to Buffalo, New York, to help his brother-in-law, John Larkin, start a soap-manufacturing business. He would later say that he had achieved his education in the "University of Hard Knocks." As a charming, handsome, talkative young man, Hubbard was a successful salesman who was willing to experiment with promotional techniques, gimmicks, and prizes at a time when the art of advertising was in its infancy. By the time Hubbard left the company in 1893 it was worth $30 million.
In 1893 Hubbard entered Harvard College to prepare himself for a new career as a writer, but he left after a...
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Stickley, Gustav 1857-1942
Inspired by British art critic John Ruskin and British painter-designer William Morris, Gustav Stickley created a distinctly American approach to furniture design, following their call for a return to the medieval reliance on fine craftsmanship based on solid training and respect for the innate qualities of the craftsman's materials. Founding what became known as the Craftsman movement, he adapted Morris's handmade approach to creating furniture that integrated colonial, Art Nouveau, Mission, and European peasant design into an original, vigorous, straightforward style. Extensively imitated in his own time, Stickley's designs are now recognized as the embodiment of a modern American sensibility that relied primarily on function and the natural beauty of indigenous materials, rather than on design elements of the past and exotic woods.
The Stickley Brothers.
Gustav Stickley was born on 9 March 1857 in Osceola, Wisconsin, the eldest of eleven children, six of whom would become furniture makers. After his father abandoned the family during the 1870s, his mother took her children to Brandt, Pennsylvania, where her brother operated a chair factory. There Stickley learned to love working with wood and to appreciate its natural color, texture, and grain, and within a few years he had...
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People in the News
At the 1918 annual conference of the American Federation of Art, Richard Bach, curator of industrial art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, said, "It will be an evil day for manufacturers and dealers after the war if American taste must again go to Europe for industrial art products."
In 1912 Leon Leonwood Bean founded L. L. Bean, Inc., of Freeport, Maine, a mail-order sporting-goods empire worth $3.5 million by the time of his death in 1967. The casual, sporting clothes sold in his catalogues were a major component of the "preppy" look that became popular during the second half of the twentieth century.
In 1917 Henri Bendel, an importer and designer, was one of several influential members of the New York fashion world to write about American and French fashion in Harper's Bazar.
On 23 February 1913 Irma Campbell, an in-house designer for Lord & Taylor, took second prize for her gray-silk "Quaker dress" in the afternoon-dress division of the American fashion competition staged by The New York Times.
In 1913 the architectural firm of John M. Carrère and Thomas Hastings designed a mansion for industrialist
Henry Clay Frick at East Seventieth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. After Frick's death in 1919, his...
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John M. Allston, 86, fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a charter member of its Pittsburgh chapter, 17 April 1910.
George M. Anderson, 47, architect who designed the Avondale Presbyterian Church and the Ingalls Building in Cincinnati, 4 October 1916.
Daniel Hudson Burnham, 66, architect, chief of construction for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, 1 June 1912.
Edward M. Butz, 57, architect who designed the Dollar Savings Bank and the Seventh Street Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 4 September 1916.
J. Cleveland Cady, 82, partner in the architectural firm of Cady, Berg & See, which designed the Brooklyn Academy of Design and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, 16 April 1919.
Adolph Cudell, 60, architect who designed houses for prominent Chicago families, 18 August 1910.
James A. Darrach, 36, architect who collaborated in the design for Whittier Hall at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City, 6 July 1912.
Rudolph L. Daus, 62, member of the Beaux-Arts Society of Architects who designed the Brooklyn Armory for the Second Regiment, 16 October 1916.
Clinton Day, 50, architect who designed the Union Trust Company Bank in...
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"Agitation for American Fashions," Current Opinion, 54 (March 1913): 251;
Charles V. Boyd, "An American Bungalow," Women's Home Companion, 46 (October 1919): 54.
"Bungalows," National Builder, 55 (July 1913): 35;
Charles A. Byers, "Colonial Influence Brings the Bungalow to Greater Perfection," Art World, 3 (February 1918): 445-747;
Alwyn T. Covell, "The Real Place of Mission Furniture," Good Furniture (March 1915): 359-368;
Herbert D. Croly, "The Country House in California," Architectural Record, 33-34 (December 1913): 482-519;
F. J. DeLuce, "How We Built Our Bungalow for $450," Country Life in America, 21 (February 1912): 53—54;
Una N. Hopkins, "The Young Folks' First Bungalow," Ladies' Home Journal, 30 (May 1913): 39;
Phil M. Riley, "What is a Bungalow?," Country Life in America, 22 (July 1912): 11-12;
Henry H. Saylor, Bungalows: Their Design, Construction and Furnishing (Philadelphia: Winston, 1911);
Saylor, ed., Distinctive Homes of Moderate Cost (New York: McBride, Winston, 1910);
John S. Van Bergen, "A Plea for Americanism in Our Architecture," Western Architect (April...
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Important Events in Fashion and Design, 1910–1919
- Enormous hats festooned with ostrich plumes and fastened with long hat pins mark the end of the vogue for elaborate millinery creations that began in the nineteenth century.
- Elizabeth Arden (born Florence Nightingale Graham) opens a beauty salon in New York City. In 1915 she opens a branch in Washington, D.C., and by 1939 there are twenty-nine Elizabeth Arden salons.
- Ford Motor Company begins operations at Highland Park in the "Crystal Palace," a trailblazing factory complex designed by Albert Kahn and engineered by Edward Gray.
- Levi Strauss and Company begins making children's clothes, preparing the way for the adoption of casual play clothes for children.
- The first phonograph cabinet, with French cabriole legs and a mansard lid, is patented.
- Frank Lloyd Wright returns from Europe and begins construction on Taliesin, his new studio and house in the farmlands of Wisconsin, where he had lived as a child.
- On July 13, the first issue of Women's Wear Daily is published in New York City.
- On September 8, Pennsylvania Station in New York City, the largest project ever undertaken by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, is opened to commuter traffic from Long Island, linking the Pennsylvania and Long Island Railroads....
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