Say It With Flowers . . . . Do It With Dishpans

 

In 1926, Minnesota artist Cleora Clark Wheeler made the following observation in an article she wrote explaining her feat of photographing scores of fellow Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity sisters by means of silhouette portraiture:

 

1-say-it-with-flowers-do-it-with-dishpans-portrait-of-wheeler"Silhouette Self Portrait of Minnesota artist Cleora Clark Wheeler" ca. 1926. (typography added by this website) The photograph was used to illustrate an article written by her published in The Key, the quarterly magazine for Wheeler's fraternity Kappa Kappa Gamma in December, 1926. (p. 500)

 

“anyone who saw the interested crowd getting their pictures on banquet night just before we all parted, will be sure it proved there is a way to have one’s picture taken without having one’s head turned.”

 

Using said dishpans in the title to this post, procured from a nearby hardware store outside Oakland, California, Cleora, or Cleo as she was known, went on to secure these pans used as reflectors for the photo shoot using her mother’s wooden tomato supports, placed in the trunk of her car before heading to the annual convention that year at Mills College from her St. Paul, MN home, a journey of 2000 miles.

 

So we will say it with our own flowers here: on the occasion of PhotoSeed posting a rare surviving folio volume of 23 of her delicate Japan-tissue photogravures of California landscapes taken and printed by Wheeler used as a sales catalogue, some further context into the life of this fascinating and talented woman is necessary in order to fill in the historical record.

 

2-designer-illuminatorDetail: Title of California Sample Book by Cleora Clark Wheeler, American: 1882-1980: gilt hand-lettering: "Cleora Wheeler Designer And Illuminator 1376 Summit Avenue St. Paul, Minn." 33.0 x 50.0 cm: folded, olive-colored cardstock leaf used as album cover. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

To be clear, photography was just one of the many talents American artist Cleora Wheeler employed in her 98 years. Although never married, it might be said her significant partner through life was her beloved fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma, which she was initiated into at the Chi chapter at the University of Minnesota on October 9, 1899. Graduating in 1903, she went on to serve Kappa her entire life.

 

A designer and illuminator, as she would often describe herself while working out of the third floor studio of her longtime St. Paul family home, often in the act of creating unique bookplates and greeting cards, Cleora wore many professional hats.  Artist, poet, school teacher, women’s advocate, business manager, an expert in steel die stamping, photographer and tireless promoter of her fraternity both locally in Minnesota and around the country were but a few of her passions.

 

With the knowledge that “Miss Wheeler thinks of California as her second home” as noted in a follow-up article describing her hand-colored photographic work and bookplates on display in 1922 at the St. Paul Public Library, her love of place and record of spirit is evident in pictorial photographic work taken in the American West ca. 1914-1921: a reaffirmation of the cross-pollination taking place in the arts by unconventional practitioners.

 

3-redwoodsLeft: "Redwoods": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American-1882-1980: ca. 1922: hand-pulled Japan-tissue photogravure: 10.7 x 6.2 | 20.8 x 15.1 Gampi | 25.0 x 38.0 off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. From: PhotoSeed Archive. Right: "Redwoods": ca. 1922: Cleora Clark Wheeler: hand-colored gelatin silver exhibition print from the artist's 1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. A roadway in the Sierra Mountains leads to a stand of soaring redwood trees in this landscape study colored with Japanese dyes. Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN.  

 

The following timeline by year in the life of Cleora Wheeler is meant as a starting point for this remarkable artist.  It begins with her birth in Austin, Minnesota in 1882 and concludes with a 1980 obituary printed in her alumni magazine. Although long-winded in some cases, I’ve decided to include some of the expanded background articles written by and about Wheeler in The Key, the Kappa Kappa Gamma quarterly. In addition to photographic work by Wheeler held by this archive, a link to 45 bookplates held in the Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts can be found here, and a general search link to the Wheeler family archive at the Minnesota Historical Society Library catalogue is here. (type in “Cleora Clark Wheeler”)  Further suggestions for inclusion are welcomed. Please contact me through the blog or at admin@photoseed.com.


 David Spencer- February, 2018

 

4-december-1910-bookplate-advertisementTop: December, 1910 advertisement for new Ex-Libris book plate designed the same year by Minnesota artist Cleora Clark Wheeler as it appeared in The Key, the quarterly magazine of her fraternity Kappa Kappa Gamma. Bottom: "Ex Libris of Kappa Kappa Gamma, by Cleora Clark Wheeler": (American: 1882-1980). Ca. 1920-30. Hand-colored book plate shows the fleur-de-lis iris, the fraternity flower, with the artist's initials CW appearing on opposite sides of the base of cut flowers. Courtesy: Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections: Identifier: ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i001.

 

Timeline: Cleora Clark Wheeler: 1882-1980


1882: Wheeler is born in Austin, Minnesota. Her father, Rush Benjamin Wheeler, (1844-1930) was an East coast transplant who graduated from Yale. He was a lawyer involved in banking and real estate. Her mother Harriet Sophia Clark Wheeler (1853-1938) was a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Her siblings were two brothers: Frost Montaine Wheeler: 1878-1963 & Ross Clark Wheeler: 1886-1901. The family lived in St. Paul.

 

1903: Graduates from The University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She later went on to earn certificates of proficiency in engineering drafting and advanced engineering drafting from U. M.

 

  Moves to California and lives for a year: “Cleora Wheeler’s first work with the Young Women’s Christian Association was in California. Soon after her graduation from the University of Minnesota she was asked by Miss Louise Brooks of New York, national secretary of conventions and conferences, to be her assistant at the student conference at Capitola, Cal.” source: 1921 background on Wheeler in The Key.

Miss Wheeler thinks of California as her second home, as she spent a year with Pi after graduating at Minnesota.” -The Key: 1926 (Pi chapter at the University of California, Berkeley)

 

1904: Named Grand Registrar for the Grand Council of Kappa Kappa Gamma, with offices at 301 Pioneer Press Building in St. Paul, MN. source: The Key, October.

 

5-approaching-carmel-ks3Detail: "Approaching Carmel": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American: 1882-1980. Hand-pulled Japan-tissue photogravure ca. 1922: 10.2 x 7.5 | 21.0 x 15.3 Gampi | 24.2 x 38.0 off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. An archway of cypress trees near Carmel, California frames the famed Seventeen-Mile Drive along the Monterey coastline. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

1905: Wheeler’s love of nature,  a major theme that would soon emerge in her art, makes an initial greeting as Grand Registrar:

 

To all in Kappa Kappa Gamma, greetings! The wild thing of the woods has its call; the brook, playing with the bits of forest light and shadow, murmurs to itself; the wind, sighing through the trees, croons its melody and dies away; all nature is at peace, and sings. Song is the outpouring of a soul that cannot contain itself for very joy. Friendship is the life of that soul; a happiness too often unappreciated until perchance it is snatched away, only to leave a memory in its place. May we be worthy of this name of friend, appreciating more fully with each day the fortune that is ours. May we know a courtesy among ourselves that shall unconsciously touch each life we meet. May personal responsibility and devotion broaden into mutual helpfulness, and interest, and charity, until it meet and grace the world of kindly sympathy. (The Key: January: p. 298)

 

  Writes a poem in tribute to Anne Jones, a fellow Chi chapter member at the University of Minnesota, most likely a personal friend:

 

Jones. April 5, 1884-July 3, 1905. Initiated into Chi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma October 16, 1902.

As breath of morning gently steals its way O’er sleeping valleys where the morning mist Half timidly awaits the smile of day, Gray mantled, ere the sun has kissed To gold the dim dew-crystaled haze, And gliding soft with footsteps all to fleet For ken of humankind, from out the maze Brings memories, intangible, replete With wonder-fancies, melodies akin To whisperings of heaven; thus she came, Her arms light laden with the green of springA radiance as summer showers win In afterglow, long held ere twilight claim A melody, low borne on evening wing.

 -Cleora Clark Wheeler.  (The Key: October: p. 534)

 

 

6-december-1925-the-keyTop: "At the Beginning of The Seventeen Mile Drive": halftone photographic reproduction by Cleora Clark Wheeler used to illustrate article on annual convention for her fraternity Kappa Kappa Gamma. Taken from December, 1925 issue of The Key, the quarterly magazine of the fraternity. The photograph is a variant of her photo titled "Approaching Carmel" seen earlier in this post. Bottom: "After Nightfall": ca. 1922: Cleora Clark Wheeler: hand-colored gelatin silver exhibition print from the artist's 1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. Another variant of the halftone seen above, Wheeler used Japanese dyes and hand-painted white stars in the sky for this landscape transformed into a nighttime view featuring a twilight blue sky. Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN.

 

1906: Wheeler now living in Berkeley, CA, possibly for reasons of health, where she continue her duties as Grand Registrar:  Notices:

 

 “Record charts may be ordered by chapters or individuals at any time. One dollar, including postage; twenty-five cents in addition if backed with linen. Address care Corresponding Secretary of Pi chapter, Berkeley, California. Cleora Clark Wheeler.” (The Key: October: p. 262)

 

 

1907: Relinquishes her duties as Grand Registrar by January. In February, a confirmed report in The Key (p. 71) states health is the reason for her absence from MN:

“Cleora Wheeler, whom you all met at convention; is spending the winter in California. We miss her very much, but are glad to say that her health is greatly improved.”

 


1909: Takes up work again with the Young Women’s Christian Association, (YWCA) with a notice in the February issue of The Key that she is now the business secretary of the St. Paul Young Women’s Christian Association. (p. 72)

 

 

7-lc-plate-reads-sunlight-thro-the-redwoods-by-lindly-eddy-1914"Sunlight thro' the Redwoods": Lindley Eddy, American: 1873-1946: ca. 1914. 14.0 x 8.5 cm. Tipped to page: 21.5 x 14.0 cm. Sepia gelatin silver print included in volume A Traveler's Prayer of California Mountains, photographs by Lindley Eddy with poems by Olive Hinds Simpson: Visalia, CA: Commercial Printing Co.- copyrighted 1914 by Olive A. Simpson. It would have undoubtedly appealed to the artistic sensibilities of Cleora Clark Wheeler had she come across this volume of poetry featuring ten photographs taken by Eddy in the Sequoia National Forest. The work was published the same year it is believed Wheeler first took up her series of western US photographs in Colorado. From: PhotoSeed Archive (volume for sale: please inquire)

 

1910:  The first advertisement for Wheeler artwork appears in the October issue of The Key for what is believed to be her new book plate, although it’s described as a “plate book”. Showing her business savvy, earlier in August she had registered copyright in her own name for the design:

 

THE
Official Plate Book of the Fraternity
IN INDIVIDUAL PACKAGES
25 CENTS
Plan to Send Them at the Holidays
ORDER EARLY
Enclose Stamps or Money Order
1376 Summitt Ave. Cleora Wheeler St. Paul, Minn.

 


⎯ A notice in the December issue of The Key along with an accompanying photograph of the artist that Wheeler had indeed designed the official bookplate for her fraternity:

 

 

THE KAPPA BOOK-PLATE

There have been a number of inquiries as to the designer of the Kappa Kappa Gamma book-plate, which was adopted by the Grand Council at Convention Session as the official book-plate of the Fraternity. The plate was designed by Cleora Clark Wheeler, of Chi Chapter, who was Grand Registrar from 1904 to 1906. Miss Wheeler was particularly happy in her choice of the fraternity flower for decoration; for the fleur-de-lis with its long stem and heavy blossom lends itself with special effectiveness to composition. The Kappa bookplate should be an incentive to the growth of our chapter-house libraries; for the chapter name may be used in it, just as well as that of the individual owner.

(note: At the 1890 convention, the fraternity chose the fleur-de-lis “as the Kappa flower for its dignity and grace and because in it the two blues are combined.”)

 

 

8-the-gopher-volume-16-1903-page-78The senior portrait and entry for Minnesota artist Cleora Clark Wheeler as it appeared in her 1903 University of Minnesota Gopher yearbook. Wheeler, 1882-1980, graduated that year with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and went on to earn certificates of proficiency in engineering drafting and advanced engineering drafting from U. M. Source: online pdf of The Gopher: Vol. 16, 1903: p. 78.

 

1911: With the rough design of a new Kappa crest duly recorded in a 1910 committee report, the intent of the adoption of an official coat-of-arms for Kappa was soon becoming reality. (discussions began in 1905)  Because of this and given her proven design expertise on behalf of the fraternity, and with the aim of surely involving her in other design decisions regarding fraternity insignia, Wheeler is appointed by February as new Custodian of the Badge, an important oversight and secretarial role for the official fraternity Badge, a piece of jewelry in the shape of a golden key stamped with the Greek letters for Kappa and worn by chapter members. Wheeler’s role would have been to make sure changes to the key were permissible, and she held the position as Custodian through 1917.

 

In the October issue of The Key, two separate advertisements for Wheeler’s new book plate design featuring the fleur-de-lis iris appear. One, for correspondence cards, are stamped in gold and priced at 35 cents a dozen. Another is for her bookplate:

 

 

The KAPPA BOOK-PLATE
Several times the size
of this cut
In Individual Packages
of 25 Prints
Blue or black ink on English
gummed paper -25 cents
Black ink on Japanese handmade Vellum-50 cents
Tinted prints-50 cents a dozen
The design same size as the Book-Plate
adapted to Dinner Cards and Folders ⎯
Cards : Untinted, 30 cents a dozen
Tinted, 50 cents
Folders: Untinted, 50 cents a dozen
Tinted, 75 cents
Address: CLEORA WHEELER
1376 Summit Ave., St. Paul, Minn,
Enclose Stamps or Money Order

 

 

9-portrait-of-ccw-in-1910-from-the-keyAn early triptych of halftone portraits of Minnesota artist Cleora Clark Wheeler. Left: Studying a book, perhaps taken while she was still an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the very early 20th Century. Photo by fellow Kappa Kappa Gamma Chi chapter member Margaret Craig published in a 1910 issue of the fraternity quarterly The Key. Middle: Portrait of Wheeler in a sailor-inspired tunic as it appeared in the February, 1913 issue of The Key illustrating an article she wrote titled "Character By Handwriting- And Otherwise." Right: a photograph of Wheeler taken ca. 1911-17 when she was Custodian of the Badge, an important oversight and secretarial role for the official fraternity Badge, a piece of jewelry in the shape of a golden key stamped with the Greek letters for Kappa and worn by chapter members. Photo reproduced in the Fall 1977 issue of The Key.

 

1912: Wheeler becomes artistically involved in creating metal dies for the new fraternity coat-of-arms (also referred to as the crest) after consulting with the British College of Arms.  Earlier in 1910, A National Committee for Kappa, with Margaret Brown Moore appointed Chairman, produced the new coat-of-arms. Brown designed it with advice and help from Joanna Strange, BZ-Iowa, head of the reference department of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, as well as from J. F. Hopkins, the designer of the Sigma Nu coat of arms. Moore’s design was then put on paper in the form of a watercolor sketch by Philadelphia heraldry expert Mark J. Rowe: “Margaret urged the Fraternity to protect the design so that “the technically perfect coat-of-arms will not be lost to us.” She expressed a wish that there should be perfect dies for stamping in gold and silver as well as plates for printing on documents and reports. Cleora Wheeler, Minnesota, prepared such plates and dies. The College of Arms in England was consulted before Cleora cut her die in filigree and it was made after the others that were modeled in the regulation way. When these were done, Margaret Moore declared that perfect reproductions had been made.” (1.)

 

 

10-ywca-ex-libris"Ex Libris Young Women's Christian Association of Saint Paul, by Cleora Clark Wheeler": (American: 1882-1980). Ca. 1915-25. Hand-colored book plate shows an archway of grape clusters with stems forming a pair of opposing columns. The YWCA organization is spelled out at center while the whole is surrounded by extracted Bible verses from Philippians 4:8: "Whatsoever Things Are True - Whatsoever Thing Are Lovely - Think On These Things". Wheeler first worked with the YWCA in California in late 1903 after her graduation from the University of Minnesota and in 1909 became business secretary for the St. Paul chapter. A 1921 article in The Key profiling Wheeler's accomplishments stated: "The national bookplate of the association used in all of the books at the National Training School, and in association libraries throughout the country is designed by Miss Wheeler". Courtesy: Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections: Identifier: ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i011.

 

1912-13: Wheeler moves to New York City and attends classes at The School of Fine and Applied Art, (now Parsons School of Design) where she studied color harmony.  Two folders of notes, including those by Wheeler made during lectures given by Frank Alvah Parsons, are held by the school in the present day, as well as a set of her bookplates in the Kellen Design Archives. Sources: WorldCat and ‪Minnesota 1900‬: ‪Art and Life on the Upper Mississippi, 1890-1915‬: 1994, Newark: University of Delaware Press.

 

An article in the October issue of The Key for 1912 states Wheeler issues the limited edition book “Kappas I Have Known” in  250 copies:

 

A novelty in college scrap books was presented at Convention by Cleora Wheeler, Chi, in “Kappas I Have Known, ” which can be used not only in college, but as a life time fraternity record. The book is divided into sections, under the heads, “My Chapter,” ” National Officers”, and “Kappas From Other Chapters;” and further space is provided for songs and other miscellaneous entries. The book is bound with stubs, so that clippings and snapshots may be pasted in to illustrate the careers of the notable Kappas therein enrolled. And a particularly pretty Kappa touch is added by the Fleur-de-lis design on each page, and the blue and blue binding. (p. 257)

 

 

11-cleora-clark-wheeler-evening-43-back-of-frameDetail: Frame verso: "Evening", by Cleora Clark Wheeler, American: 1882-1980. ca. 1922: 24.7 x 19.8 cm. The original series of framed photographs appearing in Wheeler's 1922 St. Paul photographic exhibition "Atmospheric Studies" (& also most likely the 1926 San Francisco Paul Elder exhibition) were each finished off on the frame verso with one of several trimmed and pasted book plates identifying Wheeler as author of the work seen at top. Below it is a pasted and engraved listing for photographs included in a separate subheading for the exhibition that were taken in a particular region. This example shows "Evening" held by this archive and listed as #43 in the overall exhibition under Monterey's famed Seventeen-Mile Drive subheading. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Further details are included about this book, illustrated by a photograph in the advertising section for the December issue of The Key:

 

Bound in two-tone blue cloth with gold stamping; page decorations and headings in gray-blue ink to harmonize. Sewed by hand. special attention being given to the reinforcement of the back by transverse tapes, and by stubs arranged to offset extra bulk of Kodak Prints and Clippings. In this way the book not only offers space for such additions, but also overcomes the possibility of having it stand open when only partially filled. Edition Limited to 250 copies. Price $1.50 net $1.65 by mail.

 


1914: This may have been the first year Wheeler undertook her series of Western U.S. photographs that would eventually appear in her 1922 St. Paul exhibit Atmospheric Studies, under the exhibition heading Out Where The West Begins : Colorado. Sometime in the Fall,  Wheeler travels to Boulder as part of fraternity business as noted in the December issue of The Key:

 

“We were very glad to have Miss Cleora Wheeler with us for luncheon, on her way home from a visit with Beta Mu at Boulder. We enjoyed hearing of the rushing season there, and also the interesting convention news from Miss Wheeler and the five Sigma girls who attended.”


 

12-feb-1926-the-keyTwo examples of photographs taken ca. 1914-1921 in the northern California Redwood region by Cleora Clark Wheeler were later first exhibited in her 1922 St. Paul, MN exhibition Atmospheric Studies. Listed under the subheading "At Call-Of-The-Wild, California", they are: Left: "Day Is Passing" (#19 in St. Paul): seen here as a halftone as it appeared in the February, 1926 issue of The Key. Right: "Sunshine Beyond" (#14 in St. Paul): ca. 1922: hand-colored gelatin silver exhibition print shows a roadway in the Sierra Mountains with a stand of Redwood trees in background all cast in a yellow glow. The effect was achieved with Japanese dyes. Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN.

 

1915: Wheeler’s photographic skills come into play as she visits the U.S. states of  Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Texas and Missouri while reporting on Kappa chapter houses for the article “Chapter Homes I Have Known”, accompanied by several halftones appearing in the December issue of The Key.  (pp. 317-21)

 

The magazine cover design for The Key changes with the addition of a new hand-drawn crest (coat-of-arms) designed by recent Xi chapter graduate Ruth Anthony beginning with the May issue. This cover design was used through mid 1927 when it was replaced by a simplified navy blue crest against a gray background.

 

 

1924-photograph-and-bookplateSeveral photographs by Cleora Clark Wheeler were most likely used as the basis for custom book plates engraved by the artist, as seen in this pairing. Left: "The White Birches At Bigwin" was a photograph taken in June, 1924 during the national Kappa Kappa Gamma convention held in Toronto, Canada at the Bigwin Inn and subsequently published as a halftone in the October, 1924 issue of fraternity quarterly, The Key. Right: "Ex Libris Cleora Clark Wheeler, by Cleora Clark Wheeler": This book plate drawn free-hand by the artist shows a similar grouping of White Birch trees. Examples of this book plate are known to have been pasted to the verso of more than one framed exhibition print included in Wheeler's 1922 exhibition Atmospheric Studies along with the additional designation of "California". This leads one to believe these frames were the ones shown in the 1926 Paul Elder Gallery exhibition in San Francisco. Courtesy: Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections: Identifier: ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i029

 

 

1916: Wheeler expands her offering of Kappa designs in a full page advertisement for book plates, dinner cards, social stationary and other items appearing in the February issue of The Key.

 

 

13-bookplatesBelieved to depict scenes in Colorado or California and may have been done from source photographs, examples of these bookplates by Cleora Clark Wheeler were exhibited at her 1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. Left: "Robert Tatlow Barnard Avery Trask Barnard Their Book," by Cleora Clark Wheeler": ca. 1915-25. (Identifier ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i022). Right: "Ex Libris Frost Montaine and Emma Phyllis Wheeler," by Cleora Clark Wheeler": ca. 1915-25 (Identifier ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i021). Both courtesy Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

 

1918: In May, Wheeler becomes Director for the newly formed St. Paul Vocational Bureau for Trained Women:

 

1015 Commerce Building, St. Paul
MISS CLEORA WHEELER, DIRECTOR


Backed by the Women’s College Clubs of the Twin Cities, a Bureau for Trained Women was opened in Minneapolis within the last six months. The original idea was to open a branch office in St. Paul, with Miss Cleora Wheeler of St. Paul in charge. It came to be realized, however, that the work in the two cities would be sufficient in importance and scope to warrant the opening of two independent bureaus, so on the morning of May 8 the St. Paul Vocational Bureau for Trained Women opened its office for business. It is conducted under the auspices of the St. Paul College Club, the Vocational Committee assuming the responsibility of its organization and management, while Miss Wheeler is in charge as director.


Miss Wheeler was for five years chairman of the Vocational section of the St. Paul Association of Collegiate Alumnae, and served on the Board of Directors of the Minneapolis bureau during its organization period and until joining their salaried staff as temporary assistant. She was their representative at the February convention of the Association for the Promotion of Industrial and Vocational Education in Philadelphia; and visited the Collegiate bureaus of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Detroit and Chicago. She also visited the headquarters of Women’s Work in Washington that the St. Paul office might fully cooperate with them and with the government.


The St. Paul bureau is particularly fortunate in securing office accommodations with the Ramsey County Women’s War Organization, and it is fully expected that this arrangement will prove mutually beneficial.  (2.)

 

 

14-cleora-clark-wheeler-bookplate-in-mt-holyoke-college-collectionExamples of bookplates by Wheeler: Left: "Cecily Wheeler Allen Ex Libris, by Cleora Clark Wheeler" : ca. 1930-40. (Identifier ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i045). Right: "Ex Libris Frank B. Kellogg," by Cleora Clark Wheeler": 1915. This bookplate was shown at the artist's1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. (Identifier ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i020). Both courtesy Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

 

  First publicized notice of Christmas cards designed by Wheeler appear in the February issue of The Key. They are sold to raise money for French orphans impacted by WWI: “Epsilon made twenty dollars for the French children by selling the Christmas cards designed by Cleora Wheeler.” (p. 56)

 

1921: Accompanied by a reflective portrait of the artist, the December issue of The Key publishes a lengthy professional background story on her:

 

Cleora Wheeler’s first work with the Young Women’s Christian Association was in California. Soon after her graduation from the University of Minnesota she was asked by Miss Louise Brooks of New York, national secretary of conventions and conferences, to be her assistant at the student conference at Capitola, Cal. Soon after this she was elected business secretary of the St. Paul Association which was just organizing.


In a city association the business secretary banks the money, issues the membership cards, registers the gymnasium and educational classes, inspects rooming houses, acts as hostess, and audits the money if the association raises $250,000 in a whirlwind campaign for a new building. After helping in this way in her own city for two years, Miss Wheeler did county organization work under the state committee, assisting in the organizing of Mower County, Minn., the third county to be organized in the United States. It meant riding on freight trains to little towns throughout the county, arranging mass meetings and then lecture places for the state nurse, domestic science teacher, and sewing teacher who were sent down by the Agricultural Department of the university to give a ten-weeks’ course of lectures, the university collaborating in extension work with the association.


The next year under the National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Association Miss Wheeler was one of the two business managers of the student and city conferences at Lake Geneva. The national bookplate of the association used in all of the books at the National Training School, and in association libraries throughout the country is designed by Miss Wheeler. (p. 292)

 

 

15-san-gabriel"San Gabriel": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American-1882-1980: ca. 1922: hand-pulled Japan-tissue photogravure: 10.5 x 6.3 | 21.0 x 15.2 Gampi | 24.2 x 38.0 off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. In California, the famous bell wall at the San Gabriel Spanish Mission is seen in this pictorial view by Wheeler. The California Missions Resource Center states: "Six bells occupy an espadaña or bell wall. The oldest bells were cast in Mexico City in 1795 by the famous bell maker, Paul Ruelas. The largest bell (dated 1830) weighs over a ton and was used for over a century to ring the Angelus, a prayer said at morning, noon, and evening in commemoration of the Incarnation." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

1922: The May 20th issue of American Art News prints a notice of Wheeler’s exhibition Atmospheric Studies:

 

“A collection of more than eighty prints of western scenes by Miss Cleora Wheeler, St. Paul artist, have been on exhibition at the St. Paul Public Library. They show a wide range of color and subject matter, and were done on trips which extended from the eastern reaches of the Rockies through the mountains and as far south as the Mexican border of California.   -G.E.P.” (p. 7)

 

⎯ In June, the artist’s first known public exhibition of hand-colored pictorial photographs as well as a smaller series of original bookplates takes place from June 1-15 at the Saint Paul Public Library under the auspices of the Saint Paul Institute. A slim eight-page exhibition brochure is printed listing the following sub-headings for the 76 exhibited photographs:

 

Out Where The West Begins : Colorado; California: At Call-Of-The-Wild, California; Pacific Grove; California: The Seventeen-Mile Drive; Santa Barbara; Farther South; La Jolla; Old Town; San Diego; Minnesota:  Senator Kellog’s Garden, St. Paul & White Bear Lake. A separate section for 14 original bookplates is also listed, and the entire list with all titles can be found on this website at a link featuring the original framed exhibition print Evening.

 

Some of the work for the exhibit was for sale, and a price list was printed on the last page of the brochure:

PRICE LIST

The prints in this exhibition are not for sale.
Duplicates can be ordered as follows:


SEPIA PRINTS
Large size, mounted as shown………$10.00
Smaller size, mounted as shown……..7.50


COLORED PRINTS

No. 34 ……………………………….$12.50
No. 40 ……………………………….. 20.00
No. 43 …………………………………10.00
All others …………………………….7.50
These prices include frames.


MINIATURE PRINTS
Made by hand from copper plates.
See sample book at desk.
Prints on Japanese tissue ……$1.00
No.  50,  No. 60, No. 63, colored ink, with
envelope …………………………… .50
Folders tinted to order, with envelope $.40 and  .50
Same without tinting ………… .15
Card without tinting …………. .10


CHRISTMAS CARDS
See sample books at desk.
Folders with Christmas wording.
Per 100 ………………………………$35.00 to $50.00
These may be ordered for fall delivery.


BOOKPLATE PRICES
Design ………………………………$25.00 up

Metal plate and prints are extra, cost depend-
ing on material.  Allow six months for book-
plate orders.  Estimates given.

1376 Summit Avenue             Midway 0234

 

16-cleora-clark-wheeler-1916-christmas-card-ad-in-the-minnesota-alumni-weekly-december-11-1916Left: Custom designed Christmas cards were a staple source of income for artist Cleora Wheeler as well as an important fund raiser for her fraternity. She produced them as early as 1915, when an advertisement similar to this one featuring a potted Bonsai tree was photographed alongside a box of cards featuring four different designs ran her Minnesota Alumni Weekly, (this ad from Dec. 1916) until the 1960's, when the cover of the December, 1963 issue of The Pen Woman magazine showcased card designs of Twin City churches. A 1944 article in the St. Cloud Daily Times newspaper of MN remarked: "Miss Wheeler has received nationwide recognition for her Christmas cards, hand-printed photogravures and hand stamped cards bearing her designs" Right: The Japanese inspired sensibility of Wheeler's design aesthetic can be seen carried over in this photographic landscape taken along California's Monterey coastline. In "Mustard Sky", a lone Cypress tree is shown atop an seaside ridge. This original hand-colored framed exhibition photograph was featured in her 1922 St. Paul, MN exhibition Atmospheric Studies, listed as #44 under the subheading "The Seventeen-Mile Drive". Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN.

 

1924: In June, at the national Kappa convention held in Toronto, Canada at the Bigwin Inn, Wheeler makes 19 hand-cut silhouettes from black paper used as part of the Historical Pageant. The works were later reproduced in the October issue of The Key that year. (shown on pp. 250-253) Soon, Wheeler would take on the art of silhouette portraiture by means of photography. Additionally, a pictorial portrait of Kappa president May Whiting Westerman and Georgia Hayden Lloyd Jones, National Director of Provinces, appeared as a full page halftone in the issue and another pictorial photographic landscape: The White Birches of Bigwin, appeared on pages 248 and 255 respectively.

 

 

1925: Several California pictorial photographic works are published as halftones in the October issue of The Key with the following titles:

 

- Call-of-the-Wild, California

- San Juan Capistrano Mission-between Los Angeles and San Diego, California


 

17-the-key-wheeler-advertisementLeft: Although Cleora Wheeler never held editorial positions for The Key, the quarterly magazine of Kappa Kappa Gamma, it featured notices of her progress as an artist, support of the fraternity's mission nationally via her election to various Kappa positions, including Grand Registrar in 1904 and Custodian of the Badge in 1911, and as a continual mouthpiece for advertisements in its' rear pages featuring original artwork for sale. This issue shows a new cover design which debuted in May, 1915 featuring a new crest (coat-of-arms) designed by recent Xi chapter graduate Ruth Anthony. Right: One large advertisement appearing in the October, 1930 issue of The Key showcased no less than 18 individual Kappa designs by Cleora Wheeler made into steel dies. These were used to emboss custom orders of stationary, all from the third floor studio of her St. Paul, MN home.

 

Three further California images appear in the December issue of The Key promoting the national convention that would be held at Mills College outside Oakland, CA the following summer. The frontis photograph for the issue featured a view of a lone cypress tree that had become Wheeler’s signature California image known as “Near Monterey” taken along the Seventeen Mile Drive and was darkened and hand-colored with a star placed in the sky and re-titled “Evening”.

 

The article published on pages 415-17 of the issue is titled:

 

An Invitation To California

“The California chapters together with all Kappa alumnae in this western province unite in inviting every Kappa, young and old, to come to convention in California during the first week of August in 1926.” …The convention will be held at Mills College, in the suburbs of Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco.”

 


The two additional halftones are titled:

 

- At the Beginning of The Seventeen Mile Drive
 
- The Cloister Stairway, San Gabriel Mission


 

18-the-wraith-gelatin-silver-and-gravureLeft: "The Wraith": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American:1882-1980. Sepia gelatin silver print, ca. 1922. Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN. Right: 'The Wraith": Hand-pulled Japan-tissue photogravure ca. 1922: 10.1 x 7.8 | 20.7 x 14.9 Gampi | 24.8 x 38.0 off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. Cypress trees, one living and the other dead, stand sentinel among a rock outcropping, with the Pacific Ocean beyond. The landscape was photographed by Wheeler along the famed Seventeen Mile Drive on the Monterey, California coastline. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

1925: Working out of her St. Paul home, Wheeler produced an unknown number of original artworks for the Buzza Company of Minneapolis in this year or before, with lithographed motto art being a specialty. (see example pulled from the web along with this post) Minnesota Historical Society author Moira F. Harris comments on the artist’s working methods:

 

Her studio was on the third floor of the family home at 1376 Summit Avenue. There she designed and engraved the plates for her cards and bookplates. Some cards she printed herself on a hand press, while others were printed on handmade paper by Brown & Bigelow and sold through the St. Paul Book & Stationery firm. (3.)

 

The Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis, MN supplied this short overview of the Buzza Company as part of their 2016 exhibit “Greetings”:

 

A History of the Buzza Company


During its prime, the Minneapolis-based Buzza Company (1907-1942) was one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of greeting cards, framed mottos, gift books, and party stationery. GREETINGS tells the story of the company’s rise and fall, its larger-than-life founder, and the hundreds of artists, poets, printers, and others who produced, sold, and shipped many millions of items from the company’s Lake Street headquarters each year. (George Earl Buzza: 1883-1957)

 

 

 

19-wheeler-illustration-1925-for-the-buzza-company-of-minneapolis-mnAround 1925 or before, Cleora Wheeler created original artwork like this example for the Minneapolis-based Buzza Company, which between 1907-1942 was one of the nation's largest manufacturers of greeting cards, framed mottos, gift books, and party stationery. This framed motto print made into a chromolithograph posted to Pinterest bears a 1925 Buzza copyright ("WHEELER" printed in lower left corner of artwork) and is titled "A Friend Like You": optimistic lines penned by the English-born American poet Edgar Albert Guest: 1881-1959.

 

 

1926: Interestingly, a review of Wheelers 1922 exhibit Atmospheric Studies is published nearly four years later in the February issue of The Key, with insight stating the artist had “tramped the California mountains” “for two successive summers” to produce the views. This may indicate the entire body of California work was taken ca. 1920-21, as it’s known she made a Santa Barbara landscape dated 1921. The issue features a commercial portrait of Wheeler to accompany the article. Four additional halftones of California landscapes are further reproduced in the issue.

 

California Photographs by Kappa Artist


THE California photographs by Cleora Wheeler which are appearing in these issues of THE KEY are reproductions of a part of an exhibit of seventy or more prints in colors which were recently hung in the art gallery of the beautiful public library of St. Paul, under the auspices of the St. Paul Institute. This constituted the only exhibition during the year which filled this large gallery with the work of one person. The pictures are being reproduced for the first time in THE KEY, and as they are part of a professional record they bear the name of the member who made them. Miss Wheeler thinks of California as her second home, as she spent a year with Pi after graduating at Minnesota. For two successive summers she has tramped the California mountains, and as a result has produced the pictures which you are now enjoying at the request of Mrs. Westermann, and of which Arthur L. Wilhelm, the art critic, wrote the following:

 


UNUSUAL QUALITIES ARE DISPLAYED IN WORK OF MISS
CLEORA WHEELER; SUBJECT MATTER SELECTED
WITH VIEW OF UNUSUAL

BY ARTHUR L. WILHELM

 

There is on exhibition at the St. Paul Public library this week a collection of colored California prints by Cleora Wheeler, St. Paul artist and etcher. The St. Paul Institute is sponsoring the exhibit. In the collection of more than eighty prints are many that have unusual qualities. All are atmospheric studies and are colored, many of them with fine Japanese dyes, giving a wide color range and depth. Miss Wheeler has grasped the fine essentials of design in many of her studies. Many simple little prints take on glowing beauty under the touch of her brush. The subject matter is carefully selected with a· view of the unusual. Here, in one print, one sees a fine flowing rhythm. Again one feels the structure of design carried out to a fine point. Again there is quality of the color that charms. Always there is something unusual to attract.

 

 

20-eucaliptus-screenTop: "Eucalyptus Screen": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American: 1882-1980. Hand-pulled Japan-tissue photogravure ca. 1922: 6.3 x 10.5 cm | 14.9 x 20.4 Gampi | 38.0 x 24.5 cm off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. From: PhotoSeed Archive. Bottom: "A Forest Screen": ca. 1922: Cleora Clark Wheeler: hand-colored gelatin silver exhibition print from the artist's 1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. "Screen-type" photographic landscapes by Wheeler show up frequently in her California work, with the latter print (#27 St. Paul) taken in the Pacific Grove region near Monterey and gravure believed to be from Santa Barbara. Courtesy: Grapefruit Moon Gallery auction listing, Minneapolis MN.

 

COLORADO-CALIFORNIA


Miss Wheeler has arranged the prints so that one follows her in her journey to the West, where the pictures were taken. First we see eight prints from Colorado, the first rampart range of the Rockies, a field of wild sunflowers with a great up-thrust of rock in the background, and others. Then we have what she terms the “Call of the Wild,” with a score of prints taken at random along the coast and in the big woods of the Sierras. There are many pictures that are romantic in feeling and others that have a rich poetic sentiment. The colors are soft and glowing or in the nocturnes are dimmed by the blue of night. There are ten prints taken at Pacific Grove which· include pictures of the woods and sea, pictures with the fog stealing in, and prints tinged with the sunset glow.

 

DRIVE PICTURES THE BEST

 

Perhaps the most charming group of the exhibition is that taken on the famous seventeen-mile drive at Monterey. Here the old cypresses are shown with all their varied forms. Also the rocks and the sea are most charmingly depicted. There are pictures of young eucalyptus groves with a bit of flaming sky showing through the foliage. One print, “The Old Witch,” is a portrait of a famous old tree which is known to the thousands of tourists who have made the trip. There is a group of prints from Santa Barbara and several from points farther South. The exhibition is enhanced by an oil painting, a landscape done by the mother of the artist, which has a fine feeling of harmony and color. The entire exhibition is both unusual and charming. (pp. 27-8)

 

 

1926:  July. Fifteen silhouettes, this time by means of photography, are taken by Wheeler of Kappa members taking part in the Historical Pageant held as part of the California annual convention at Mills College. In addition, she takes scores of additional silhouettes of those attending the convention itself on banquet day. The silhouette photos of the pageant members are published in the October issue of The Key.

 

 

21-silhouettes-by-cleora-clark-wheelerThese two sets of photographic silhouette portraits taken by Cleora Wheeler were done in July, 1926 as part of the Historical Pageant held during the annual Kappa Kappa Gamma national convention at Mills College outside Oakland, California. The studies here reproduced as halftones were published in the October issue of The Key. "So far as I was able to find out, this was the first time the Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco photographers had seen the experiment of silhouettes by this method, and they were interested" said Wheeler, in the article titled "Say It With Flowers … . Do It With Dishpans" published in the December, 1926 issue of The Key. Kappa chapter members were credited in the publication but in an unknown order. The first four are at left followed by 5-8 at right: 1. Loretta Shea of Lambda as "Alpha, 1870." 2. Mabel Paul, as "Beta Nu, 1888." 3. Beatrice Peters, as "Beta Omega, 1913." 4. Dorothy Fulton, as "Gamma Alpha, 1916." 5. Dorothy Lewis, as "Beta Rho, 1885, 1914." 6. Thelma Scheider, as "Beta Tau, 1883." 7. Martha Bordwell, as "Gamma Rho, 1888." 8. Abigail Semans, as "Rho, 1880, 1925."

 

November.  Calling Wheeler “a painter turned photographer”, partly referencing her motto work for the Buzza Company, an exhibition of her photographs-likely re-purposed from the 1922 Atmospheric Studies exhibition, are shown at Paul Elder & Company, a San Francisco bookseller & publisher. (1898-1968) The following notice for the show appeared in Bret Harte’s Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine that month:

 

A painter turned photographer will occupy the attention of the visitors at the Paul Elder Gallery October 25 to November 6.  Miss Cleora Clark Wheeler, of St. Paul, Minnesota, gained a reputation as a painter before she took up photography as her medium. As a result, her prints have a feeling of conscious design and a quality of painting. Those exhibited at Paul Elder’s will be some of her atmospheric studies of California scenes and a group of miniature prints from copper plates.


December. In The Key, the artist describes how she made the silhouettes that year:

 

 

Say It With Flowers … . Do It With Dishpans

CLEORA WHEELER

 

So Many persons have been interested to know how the silhouettes which I made in California last summer were done, that 1 am very glad to tell. It was with two huge electric lights of a thousand watts each, set into two deep dishpans. After the dishpans had been located at a hardware store, and the sockets soldered into place, they were nailed to the top of two of Mother’s two-by-four tomato supports which I took to convention in my trunk. They in turn were nailed at base of two wooden boxes which the janitor at Olney Hall found for me, and before the lights were put into the sockets Mr. Gibson the head electrician at Mills College made some special fuses of thirty amperes each, one of which was installed in the switchboard where the electric wiring from the room ended. Without these special fuses not only all the lights at that end of Olney Hall, but the big lamps themselves would have gone out as soon as lighted. He even provided some fuses of forty amperes each, to be kept on hand for emergency, in case the big lamps should suddenly stop.

 

 

22-capistranoArts & fine craftsmanship were integral to Cleora Wheeler's working methods, as evidenced by this representative leaf included in a California sample book she made featuring 23 hand-pulled, Japan-tissue photogravures individually mounted on hand-made paper contained within the ca. 1922 folio posted to PhotoSeed. This photograph is titled "Capistrano". Image and overall dimensions: 10.8 x 6.1 | 20.5 x 15.2 Gampi | 24.9 x 38.0 off-white handmade paper (folded) | 33.0 x 25.0 cm olive-colored cardstock leaf. The architectural study of archways was taken along the southern cloisters at the Capistrano Mission. From the missions online resource: "Mission San Juan Capistrano, became the seventh of twenty-one missions to be founded in Alta California. Like the previous six missions, San Juan Capistrano was established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain, and to spread Christianity to the Native peoples of California." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

A huge sheet was stretched across one end of the room, the two lights were focused on its center, from the front, and the person who was to have her silhouette, sat in the shadow between the lamps and the camera. The stool she sat upon was set upon a certain square, chalked upon the floor. The camera tripod stood on a triangle also chalked upon the floor as they had to be an exact number of inches apart. The camera was equipped with a special portrait lens which can be bought at any camera store for a dollar or two and added to the front of a camera lens. Regulation roll film was used which was very quick to operate. As a result the silhouettes were taken at the rate of two seconds each.


In order that there might be no reflection from walls, on the side of the person next the camera, black cloth was hung on one wall and an Oxford gown was hung over the looking glass on the other. Black oilcloth was fastened over the glass of the door leading into the hall, and over the transom above, so that no light from the hall lamps might enter. The girls lined up outside the door evenings, registered by number and the films were marked with the same numbers. · In that way each received her own negative and print in the end.


The developing solution was a special one, a formula which I brought with me. The photographer who prepared it for me on the coast had none of one of the ingredients. When it was located and added, it ate up the first roll of films, then when used one-tenth the strength, it blistered the second roll. After eight hours of experimenting in the darkroom I emerged with the mystery solved, and from that time on the negatives went through like magic. So far as I was able to find out, this was the first time the Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco photographers had seen the experiment of silhouettes by this method, and they were interested. But they didn’t know what in the world to do when that first film was eaten up.


The silhouettes of Ruth Rochford (Mrs. George W. Schmitz of Berkeley) and her children were made by a reverse method, using the light back of the sheet, and directly back of the figure, the figure being the only thing to prevent its shining into the lens of the camera. The sheet was a piece of architect’s tracing paper, this time, wide enough and long enough to fasten over the entire area of an open doorway. Tracing paper (not tracing cloth) gives a more satisfactory light than a sheet. It is almost transparent and the light is suffused around the figure. Only one light could be used by this method, and as the amount was therefore cut in two, the length of exposure was necessarily to be doubled. It is impossible to expect a little child of two and a half years, as the youngest was here, to sit still more than one second, surely not four seconds. So a graflex camera was used as it has a very fast lens. The exposures were one second.


Frances Murphy of the Oklahoma chapter, whose silhouette appears at the top of the page, was the first delegate to brave the array of dishpans. Dozens followed her, and anyone who saw the interested crowd getting their pictures on banquet night just before we all parted, will be sure it proved there is a way to have one’s picture taken without having one’s head turned.

 

 

23-formal-portrait-working-in-studioLeft: This commercial portrait of Cleora Wheeler dates to the mid 1920's. A cropped variant accompanied a review published on her California photographs in the February, 1926 issue of The Key written years earlier by Arthur L. Wilhelm on her 1922 St. Paul exhibition Atmospheric Studies. An excerpt: "There are many pictures that are romantic in feeling and others that have a rich poetic sentiment. The colors are soft and glowing or in the nocturnes are dimmed by the blue of night." Photographic halftone courtesy: Helen Brainerd Lay Bookplate Collection, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections: Identifier: ms0048-s02-b02-f15-i010. Middle: Variations of this single advertisement for products bearing designs by Wheeler: letter stationary, place cards and matching envelopes among other things, illustrated with a small photographic halftone of the artist working at an embossing machine inside her St. Paul home studio, continued to appear with regularity in the back pages of the Kappa quarterly, The Key. Right: At 95 years of age, Cleora Wheeler was still very active in her Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity. Here she is seen looking at a Ritual volume during an annual convention display. The original caption in the Fall, 1977 issue of The Key pointing out "that the cover had been hand-made by her!".

 

1932: A historian at heart, Wheeler writes the chapter on Kappa insignia and compiles extensive illustrations included in the weighty volume: ‪The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870-1930‬ published this year.

 

 

1930-1940’s: Advertisements for products bearing designs by Wheeler: book plates, stationary, etc, continue to appear with regularity in the back pages of the Kappa quarterly, The Key.

 

 

1952: The artist receives Kappa’s Alumnae Achievement Award, with the following notice appearring in the October issue of The Key:

 

 

Cleora Clark Wheeler, former grand registrar and custodian of the badge for the Fraternity, also prepared the text and illustrations on insignia which appears in the History of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Miss Wheeler is listed in Who’s Who in America and also in Who’s Who in American Art. She has recently served as national chairman of design for the National League of American Pen Women and holds certificates of proficiency in engineering drafting and advanced engineering drafting from the University of Minnesota. As a designer and illuminator of books and other publications, Miss Wheeler has gained national recognition. Her bookplate designs are represented in many collections. Of her work Miss Wheeler says: “The public seems to be especially interested in the fact that I learned’ the trade of steel-die stamping. It is a highly specialized field in the factories of wholesale stationery companies. It usually takes a girl nine years, stamping 1000 impressions a day by hand, to become an expert.” (p. 244)

 

1967: The following article published in the Mid-Winter issue of The Key gives a good overview of Cleora Wheeler’s accomplishments later in life:

 

CLEORA WHEELER, X-Minnesota, is one of America’s most distinguished artists in the rare field of illumination and etching. Forty three of her exquisitely fine drawings prepared as steel engravings, copper intaglio plates, and etchings on zinc and copper are on file in the Library of Congress, and in 28 university, historical and city libraries. She is listed in Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Art, and Who’s Who in the MidWest.


She has long made book plates, plaques, dedicatory scrolls, and coats-of-arms for New York firms, on special order for customers so discriminating they realize the surpassing quality of her workmanship. She is an honored member of the National League of American Pen Women, serving as national chairman of design (1944-46), of Heraldic Art (1954-56), and of Inscriptions, Illumination and Heraldic Art (1964-66). The work of the print maker is a dedicated one, and Miss Wheeler has experimented with the quiet and esoteric medium (as did Durer and Rembrandt) until her form of expression is close to perfection. In 1960 she went to Santa Barbara to extract the secrets of an early artist named Monsen, who washed glass slides with purple color, using other colors on top, to bring out rich values of greens in mountain landscapes. Miss Wheeler does many fraternity designs, seals, book covers, and Christmas cards. Her work requires space, and the entire third floor of her home is her shop, with the basement used for storing supplies.

 

 

1950-1977: A single advertisement for products bearing designs by Wheeler: letter stationary, place cards and matching envelopes among other things, illustrated with a small photographic halftone of the artist working at an embossing machine inside her St. Paul home studio, continue to appear with regularity in the back pages of the Kappa quarterly, The Key.

 

 

1980: Wheeler dies. Her obituary appears in the Spring issue of The Key:

 

Cleora Wheeler Dies

Kappa records with sorrow the death of Cleora Clark Wheeler, Minnesota, at age 97. She died of pneumonia February 24, 1980. Her BA in engineering and engraving was from Minnesota and she studied color harmony at New York School of Fine and Applied Art now Parsons School of Art) and is listed in Who’s Who of American Women. She began her career as a designer of Christmas cards and illuminator of books and publications. Her bookplates are on file in Paris, the Library of Congress and in 30 other libraries. They were exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution from 1946-1964 and at the International Ex Libris Association of Congress, Elsinore, Denmark, in 1972. Miss Wheeler received numerous awards for her work and served as president, chairwoman and judge of several national art associations. She was a member of the National Society of Magna Charta Dames, a past president of the Minnesota branch of the National League of American Pen Women, a member of the International Bookplate Association, held various offices in the Daughters of the American Revolution and was a life member of the American Association of University Women. Born July 8, 1882, Cleora Wheeler was initiated October 9, 1899 and served Kappa her entire life. She was an active delegate to the 1902 convention and an alumnae delegate to the 1908 convention. She was Grand Registrar of the Fraternity 1904-1906 and Custodian of the Badge 1911-1918. She received Kappa’s Achievement Award in 1952 and was the recipient of her 75 year pin.


 

Addendum: Wheeler family History

 

Described as “one of the best preserved upper-class Victorian promenade boulevards in America”, the homes along Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota- including one owned by Cleora Clark Wheeler at 1376 Summit Ave. where she maintained her studio for decades, were individually described for their architectural significance as part of the 2003 online posting: Thursday Night Hikes: Western Summit Avenue Hike Architecture Notes, Part 2.

 

Significant biographical background for Clark, her mother, father and extended family are included with the summary. It was compiled from public sources as well as from the University of Minnesota, Northwest Architectural Archives by historian Lawrence A. Martin. The following is his summary. I have only confirmed and filled in several birth and death dates for Cleora’s mother and father that were missing and added a few paragraph breaks for purposes of style:

 

 

1376 Summit Avenue: Rush B. Wheeler House; Built in 1909 (Ramsey County property tax records and Sandeen; 1909-1910 according to Larson;) Early Modern Rectilinear in style; Clarence H. Johnston, Sr., architect.

 

The structure is a two story, 2496 square foot, eight room, five bedroom, two bathroom, one half-bathroom, stucco house, with a detached garage. The house was constructed at a cost of $5,500 (Sandeen; $6,000 according to Larson.) In 1916, Rush B. Wheeler was a member of the Minnesota Historical Society and resided at this address. The 1918 and 1924 city directories indicate that Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Wheeler and their daughter resided at this address. The 1930 city directory indicates that Mrs. Harriet S. Wheeler, the widow of Rush B. Wheeler, resided at this address. In 1934, Harriet Clark Wheeler, the widow of Rush Wheeler, and Cleora Clark Wheeler resided at this address.


Rush B. Wheeler (1844-1930,) the son of Orange H. Wheeler and Eve Tucker Wheeler, was born in South Butler, Wayne County, New York, graduated from the Cazenovia Seminary in New York in 1867, was a graduate of Yale University in 1871, moved to Minnesota in 1873, resided in Austin, Minnesota, from 1873 until 1888, read the law in 1876, was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Austin, Minnesota, from 1880 until 1883, moved to St. Paul in 1883, practiced law, was engaged in real estate and loans, was a member of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce from 1885 until 1900, was president of the Real Estate Exchange of St. Paul from 1894 until 1896, resided at 520 Summit Avenue in 1907, and officed at the Pioneer Press Building in 1907.


Rush Wheeler married Harriet S. L. Clark in 1876. Harriet Clark Wheeler was a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Harriet Clark Wheeler and Cleora Clark Wheeler were members of the American Association of University Women and the Women’s City Club of St. Paul.


Cleora Clark Wheeler (1882-1980) was born in Austin, Minnesota, graduated with honors from St. Paul Central High School and from the University of Minnesota, received art training at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art/Parsons School of Art, opened a studio at this address, was a renowned artist, a designer, and an illuminator of books and other publications who received certificates of proficiency in advanced engineering drafting from the University of Minnesota, was a well-known bookplate and Christmas card designer, was also an architectural photographer and poet, was a wedding invitation designer, and was an expert in steel-die stamping with widespread recognition.


Cleora Clark Wheeler received an Alumnae Achievement Award from the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity in 1952, after she served as the Fraternity’s Grand Registrar from 1904 to 1906 and as its representative to National Panhellenic Conference from 1905 to 1906, after she prepared a Song Leaflet and Manual of Information for distribution at the 1914 Estes Park Convention, after she attended the Fourth Inter-Sorority Conference in Chicago, where she was instrumental in bringing about the decision that the fraternities had the power of vote on recommendations only, not the power to legislate and hold their entire membership to rules passed by single representatives, after she served for seven years as the Fraternity’s Custodian of the Badge, after she prepared the text and illustrations on insignia which appeared in the 1930 History of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and after she created an official bookplate of the Fraternity.


Cleora Clark Wheeler was a member of the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons, whose membership is based upon the existence of a direct lineal descent from one or more of the twenty-five Sureties for the Magna Charta or from a Baron, Prelate, Knight, or other influential person present on the field of Runnemede, England, in June, 1215, was a judge for national achievement awards and was National Chairman of Heraldic Art of the National League of American Pen Women, and was state curator of the Nathan Hale chapter of the Minnesota Daughters of the American Revolution.


Cleora Wheeler also was a substitute teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools. Cleora Wheeler had an exhibition of her bookplate work, entitled “Atmospheric studies,” at the St. Paul Public Library in 1922, under the auspices of the Saint Paul Institute. Cleora Clark Wheeler was a niece of Charles A. Clark (1865-1929,) who was a Spanish-American War veteran and was a resident of the Far East. Clark airfield in Honolulu, Hawaii, was named for Clark’s son, Harold Melville Clark (1890-1919,) who died in a airplane crash. Rush B. Wheeler (1844 -1930) and Harriet S. Wheeler (1853-1938) both died in Ramsey County. Cleora Clark Wheeler (1882-1980) was born in Minnesota, had a mother with a maiden name of Clark, and died in Ramsey County. (current owner information as of 2003 was also included but has been left out here)  (4.)

 

 

24-evening-cleora-clark-wh"Evening": Cleora Clark Wheeler, American: 1882-1980. Hand-colored gelatin silver print ca. 1922: image: 23.6 x 19.8 cm; frame: 24.7 x 19.8 cm: Believed to have been taken around 1920, the medium of fine Japanese dyes in hues of blue, green and yellow were used to color this double-weight, rough surface print, the view originally taken in daylight but manipulated as a much darker print in the artist's darkroom with the addition of a lone “twinkling” star added to the "night" sky. The variant daylight version is titled "Near Monterey", and a photogravure version pulled on Japanese tissue can be seen on this website. "Evening" was catalogued as #43, appearing under the sub-heading The Seventeen-Mile Drive as part of the artist's 1922 exhibit ‪Atmospheric Studies: An Exhibition of the Work of Cleora Clark Wheeler, June 1-15, 1922. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Notes:

1. “All About the Fraternity Coat-of-Arms”, Excerpt from January 2006 Historically Speaking, by Kay Smith Larson, Washington, History Chairman 2002-2006, excerpted in This is Kappa blog: accessed January, 2018.
2. The Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae: Ithaca, NY:  June, 1918: pp. 704-05
3. Citation #19: St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jan. 2, 1967, p. 13; Crump, Minnesota Prints, 173. Moira F. Harris: Season’s Greetings from Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society magazine Winter 2011-12
4. Excerpt: Thursday Night Hikes: Western Summit Avenue Hike Architecture Notes, Part 2: Observations on Architectural Styles: Western Summit Avenue Hike Assembled by Lawrence A. Martin. Webpage Creation: October 20, 2003.

 

 

New Paths | New Year

 

blog-2018-new-year-greeting



 

 

 

Christmas Number Cover

Merry Christmas!

 

blog-an-old-fashioned-winteDetail: "An Old-fashioned Winter": Henry Stevens, (1843-1925) 1892, English, Woodbury Gravure: 18.3 x 12.8 | 39.0 x 28.3 cm. Vintage plate from salon portfolio: "Photographs of The Year. Descriptive Notes and Critical review of The Photographic Society's Exhibition, 1891, by H.P. Robinson." Published in their salon catalogue by the Photographic Society of Great Britain, Robinson comments on this photograph originally taken in 1890 from the letterpress, which features the photographer's pet Jack Russell terrier at the front of the sleigh: …This delightful sleighing picture is good enough to make the success of the Christmas number of any illustrated paper, and we are pleased to give a reproduction of it. There is life and motion; the sleigh flies over the snow; the young lady behind, on skates, moves; and the dog in front thinks it is all done for his enjoyment. We may perhaps venture to congratulate the artist on having such charming models in his daughters." From: PhotoSeed Archive

Blue Boo

Happy Halloween!

 

paddy-and-the-ghost-decDetail: "Paddy and the Ghost — Dec. 9 1899": Henry Byett, (ca.1870-1949) English: 1899: vintage cyanotype mounted on card album leaf: (6.9 x 9.5 | 8.3 x 10.8 | 12.1 x 15.0 cm) This rare cyanotype "spirit" photograph is the lone blueprint in a small album of carefully composed, mounted and captioned gelatin silver photographs attributed to the English amateur photographer, who was for many years a railway clerk for the Swindon works of the Great Western Railway in England. Byett is best known today as having been a close friend of the celebrated English poet Alfred Williams, (1877-1930) Swindon’s “Hammerman Poet ” whom he met there in 1905. From: PhotoSeed Archive

Now Playing: White's World

 

The following are a few snaps from my recent attendance at the symposium: Rethinking “Pictorialism” held in conjunction with the exhibition now playing at the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey: Clarence H. White and His World: The Art & Craft of Photography, 1895-1925. On exhibit at Princeton through January 7, 2018, the show will then travel to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College (MA) from 02-07-18 to 06-03-18; The Portland Museum of Art in Maine from 06-30-18 to 09-16-18 and the Cleveland Museum of Art in OH from 10-21-18 to 01-21-19.


 

1-entry-wall-yv8A visitor enters the exhibit "Clarence H. White and His World: The Art & Craft of Photography, 1895-1925" at the Princeton University Art Museum during the October, 2017 weekend in which a symposium devoted to Rethinking "Pictorialism" in context with White's work and those of his contemporaries was discussed. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

2-young-clarence-whiteTwo men from two very distinct photographic worlds: Seen at center ca. 1900 at around 25 years of age, Clarence H. White, with hair slightly unkempt as befitting one whose energies were certainly taxed for familial obligations combined with lofty personal ambitions related to the nascent field of art photography, (and the necessity of keeping his day job) was compared with a mentor at left: Alfred Stieglitz, during a symposium paper. Sarah Greenough, far right, senior curator and head of the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., compared both as part of her keynote address: Alfred Stieglitz, 291, and the Nursery of Genius: 100 Years Later. The symposium- Rethinking "Pictorialism" American Art and Photography, 1895 to 1925, was held at Princeton University on October 20-21, 2017 in conjunction with the in-progress exhibition on Clarence White at the University art museum. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

3-vintage-wallA wall grouping of original Clarence H. White photographs in their original wood frames are on display as part of the exhibit: "Clarence H. White and His World: The Art & Craft of Photography, 1895-1925" now at the Princeton University Museum of Art through early 2018. An excerpt of the wall label: "These photographs are among the few pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive

 

4-caricature-of-whiteA caricature drawing of Clarence White done in 1910 by Mexican artist Marius De Zayas (1880-1961) is included in the exhibit on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accompanied by a vintage portrait of the artist by White at far right, an excerpt from the wall caption reveals: "…de Zayas places White's hangdog face and porkpie hat beneath the gold moon that symbolized the Photo-Secession. Unlike de Zayas's more blended, charcoal portraits that Stieglitz exhibited in January 1909, the flat wash areas and sinuous ink contours of this design seem intended for photomechanical reproduction." Note: caricature drawings by the artist appeared in the journal Camera Work XXIX in 1910 and CW XLVI in 1914. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

5-white-stieglitz-wallVisitors take in a select grouping of vintage photographs taken in 1907 by Clarence H. White and Alfred Stieglitz in White's New York City studio that are part of the exhibit "Clarence H. White and His World: The art & Craft of Photography, 1895-1925" now at the Princeton University Museum of Art. An excerpt from the wall label: "In 1907 White and Stieglitz collaborated on a series of photographs of two models who posed in varying degrees of undress in White's studio. The ostensible goal was to test lenses and plates and to demonstrate the potential of "straight photography" to yield artistic portraits and figures. The real inspiration was the availability of a California beauty queen, Mabel Cramer, who arrived in New York in the spring looking for jobs." Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

6-display-caseIn one exhibit gallery, a display case seen at bottom contains examples of Clarence White's published work. In the early 20th Century, his interest in commercial illustration lent itself to the publication of several articles as well as volumes featuring staged genre photographs, including a photogravure-illustrated edition of the best-selling Irving Bacheller novel Eben Holden published by the Lothrop in 1903 and Songs of All Seasons in 1904. The latter volume, lent by this website for the exhibit and written by White's uncle Ira Billman contained the following label excerpt: "White provided a bust portrait of Billman as a frontispiece but recycled many older exhibition prints that had only minimal links to the lyrical content of poems celebrating nature, God, and "Plain living and high thinking," as one was titled." On another label, for a bound collection of work prints for Eben Holden and the article "Beneath the Wrinkle", we learn White recruited a bearded gent named John Miles Jones at a Newark, Oh market who served as the "heroic protagonist of Bacheller's Eben Holden". (seen at far left at frame bottom) Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

7-dow-as-teacherPerhaps Clarence White's greatest legacy was his teaching career. On the exhibit wall at center, a portrait of the American painter Arthur Wesley Dow taken by White around 1908 is shown with an original painting by Dow at far left showing the influence of Japanese design. White’s transition from Newark to New York City in 1906 began a new chapter of teaching by the photographer, who soon made the acquaintance of artist and arts educator Arthur Wesley Dow, (1857-1922) who hired White as an instructor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1907. White would go on to found his own groundbreaking schools of artistic photography utilizing a modern pedagogy learned from Dow among others: first in Maine beginning in 1910 and then in New York City in 1914. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

8-stieglitz-letterIn the final gallery exhibition display case, an original letter to Clarence White's widow Jane White by Alfred Stieglitz is displayed, with this modern-day reader struck by the author's self importance revealed in the letter's conclusion at an inopportune time: writing from Lake George, New York, the elder statesman of American pictorial photography pens a belated note of condolence dated September 25, 1923: "My dear Mrs. White: I have refrained from writing to you before this. Life has taught me that words mean little in days like ours. But I want you to know that it did shock me to hear of Clarence's sudden death-so far away from home. He died in harness. A man can wish no more. Naturally my thoughts of him go back to the "early" days- when I think he was happier- He followed his lights-as I suppose we all do for we seem to have no choice. - I look at Camera Work & am glad it exists. - Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

9-rose-stokesThe exhibit features marvelous images by Clarence White held in the Clarence H. White Collection at the Princeton University Art Museum, like this stunning full-length portrait titled The Sea taken of socialist, feminist and activist Rose Pastor Stokes in 1909 and printed after 1917 as a Palladium print. A committed socialist himself, White photographed Stokes during a visit to her and husband Graham Phelps Stokes (portrait of him at far right of frame by White) summer home on Caritas Island, CT. A label excerpt: "Struck by Rose's fiery spirit, White conceived this romantic, windswept profile as best embodying her fierce independence and powerful moral convictions." Note: this portrait used as the cover illustration for the exhibit's accompanying monograph volume. Photo by David Spencer for PhotoSeed Archive.

 

 

 

A Reevaluation: Clarence H. White

1-clarence-white-signature"Clarence H. White Autograph": Black ink, 1916. By his own hand, White autographed a manilla card-stock mount (36.2 x 28.6 cm) featuring a portrait photograph of himself taken by student Ruth Anthony Davis during the Seventh Summer Session of the School of Photography at Stevens Farm in East Canaan, CT that year. Please see portrait below. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

When I remarried a dozen years ago, an obscure bit of farce entered the equation leading up to the “I do” moment. The fateful convolution? My beloved hailed from Newark, OH: the same Midwestern US city where pioneering art photographer Clarence Hudson White (1871-1925) had spent his formative years before leaving permanently along with his family to New York City in 1906.

 

2-clarence-white-portrait-Detail: "Portrait of Clarence H. White": Ruth Anthony Davis, American (1880-1979): 1916: vintage platinum print: 24.2 x 19.3 cm | 29.0 x 21.5 cm Japan paper | 36.2 x 28.6 cm manilla card-stock: Davis, an early member of the Providence Camera Club, photographed her instructor Clarence Hudson White while she attended the Seventh Summer Session of the School of Photography at Stevens Farm in East Canaan, CT. A description of the school's location with emphasis on potential photographic subjects for students appeared in the March, 1916 issue of the International Studio: "The seventh summer session of the Clarence H. White School of Photography will be held at East Canaan, Connecticut, instead of Sequinland, Maine, as heretofore, during July and August. East Canaan is situated in a beautiful valley in the Berkshire Hills of Northern Connecticut, at an elevation of eight hundred feet above the sea level, and is surrounded by hills rising another eight hundred feet above the floor of the valley. The country furnishes abundance of photographic material, comprising, within easy walking distance, farms, rolling uplands, streams, rugged mountains and architecture of typically New England character, many of the buildings dating from Colonial times. Numerous industries, such as iron furnaces, lime kilns, and the like, afford abundant opportunity for pictorial work. The neighbourhood is by no means thickly settled, and those persons who enjoy the seclusion of country life will find it here. Not least among the attractions of this portion of Connecticut are the delightful climate and the practical freedom from mosquitoes." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

But this aside is merely an excuse for the real purpose of this post: today is the official public opening of an exciting and ground breaking new exhibit on Clarence White at the Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, New Jersey. ‪Clarence H. White and His World‬: ‪The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925‬ will be on display there from October 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018. But don’t despair if you can’t make it right away, because the show travels to an additional three US museums through early 2019. Venue details along with additional links including one for the first comprehensive monograph on White published in conjunction with the show and authored by Anne McCauley, David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University, concludes this post.

 

3-clarence-h-white-and-hiDetail: "‪Clarence H. White and His World‬: ‪The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925‬": composite gatefold brochure for exhibit at Princeton University Art Museum which runs from October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018. Photographic illustrations by White left and middle: The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut) (detail), 1909, printed after 1917. Palladium print. Princeton University Art Museum, Clarence H. White Collection; middle: In the Orchard, Newark, Ohio (detail), 1902, printed after 1917. Palladium print. The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Jane Felix White, 1941. Courtesy: Princeton University Art Museum

 

Several years before, I had taken a deep-dive into the remarkable life of White, whose arc resonated with me on many levels, especially his love for breaking the rules as applied to photographic lighting. To wit: what do you mean I can’t photograph my subject backlit? A simple optical concept today perhaps but in the late 1890’s? Revolutionary. I kid you not.

 

4-edge-of-the-woods-eveninDetail: "At the Edge of the Woods ⎯ Evening": Clarence H. White, American (1871-1925): Chine-collé photogravure from Camera Notes, Vol. IV, April 1901: 14.4 x 10.1 cm | 28.6 x 19.6 cm uncut: The photographer’s sister-in-law, Letitia Felix is shown at twilight in a wooded setting. Alternately titled as In the Woods; Evening, the photograph was first exhibited in the Third Philadelphia Photographic Salon the same year. (cat.# 202) Later that year, it was exhibited as part of the Newark Camera Club’s exhibition in the town’s Association Building from November 28-December 1, 1900 where it was titled as Edge of the Woods ⎯Evening.  The catalogue issued for the exhibit reproduced the photo as the frontis gravure for the publication. From: PhotoSeed Archi

 

In groundbreaking photographs by White such as his brooding landscape figure study At the Edge of the Woods ⎯Evening (1900), a remarkable twilight composition showing his sister-in-law Letitia Felix emerging from a thicket with just a hint of light on the horizon became just one example of his early output. White’s decidedly masterful reinterpretation of the possibilities of light and the photographic medium done with artistic intent was quickly getting accolades in the press, and his work was soon honored in salons the world over beginning at the end of the 19th century.

 

5-experiment-28-1907"Experiment 28": Alfred Stieglitz 1864-1946 & Clarence White 1871-1925, Americans: vintage japanese tissue photogravure published in Camera Work XXVII: 1909: 20.6 x 15.9 | 30.2 x 21.1 cm: In 1907, the year after Clarence White arrived in New York City, he collaborated with Photo-Secession founder Alfred Stieglitz on a series of portraits featuring two models. Shown here holding a glass globe, California model Mabel Cramer poses in a portrait later reproduced as a plate in Camera Work. Said to be a friend of the German American photographer Arnold Genthe and possessing a face worthy of Cleopatra, Cramer and a woman known only as a Miss Thompson, posed for a series of photographs intended to promote photography as an equivalent medium to painting. It was the only time Stieglitz would ever work in tandem with another photographer and shows the extent to which the photographers were allied aesthetically and technically. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Not bad for a man with limited means and a high school education. Employed as a bookkeeper in 1890’s Newark nearly seven days a week for the same wholesale grocery firm his father worked at, (the family had moved there in 1887 from nearby West Carlisle, OH), White first took up amateur photography a year after his 1893 marriage to Jane Felix, with the young photographer diligently saving weekly spare change from his salary for camera and darkroom supplies. Reportedly, his reality of only being able to afford the exposure of several glass plates a week necessitated lots of planning in order to make successful photographs. With outdoor locations previously scouted throughout Licking County and interiors often taken in the darkened homes of family and friends, these same subjects were further cajoled into wearing fashions from the American Civil-War era or earlier in order to evoke feelings of times gone by for the compositions.

 

6-arthur-wesley-dow-1908Detail: "Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow": Clarence H. White, American (1871-1925): vintage waxed platinum print, unmounted: 22.1 x 16.6 cm. From the Princeton University Museum website: "White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s)." from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

A founding member of the American Photo-Secession movement begun in 1902 by Alfred Stieglitz, White’s transition from Newark to New York City in 1906 began a new chapter of teaching by the photographer, who soon made the acquaintance of artist and arts educator Arthur Wesley Dow, (1857-1922) who hired White as an instructor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1907. White would go on to found his own groundbreaking schools of artistic photography utilizing a modern pedagogy learned from Dow among others: first in Maine beginning in 1910 and then in New York City in 1914. Besides emphasizing pictorial photographic technique as well as numerous technical processes as part of the school curriculum, modern composition as espoused by Dow was taught along with art history through lecture format in classes by artists including early American cubist painter Max Weber (1881-1961) and later by artists including Charles James Martin (1886-1955) in the early 1920’s.

 

7-charles-james-martin-etc"Interior Composition with Figurines": Charles James Martin, American (1886-1955): vintage etching on plate paper ca. 1915-20: 15.1 x 20.1 | 18.8 x 24.8 cm (trimmed): Martin studied with Arthur Wesley Dow, and later taught alongside him at Columbia University Teachers College. At TC, he also studied photography with Clarence H. White, and became an instructor at White’s School of Photography in 1918. Martin began teaching at the Art Students League of New York in 1921. The following background on Martin and his involvement with the White school appeared in the February, 1921 issue of "The Touchstone and the American Art Student Magazine": "The Clarence H. White School of Photography announces a course of instruction in Print Making by Prof. Charles J. Martin of the Department of Fine Arts, Columbia University. The purpose of the course is to develop an appreciation of prints through a study of fine examples and particularly through practice in etching plates, cutting blocks and printing. There will be also an opportunity to do photo-engraving such as the line cut and photogravure. The course will consist of twenty sessions. The earlier sessions are now under way, and the response to this announcement gives evidence that the student of the Photographic Arts is endeavoring to gain practical knowledge as well as artistic reproduction." p. 406: from: PhotoSeed Archive

 

At 54, Clarence White died of a heart attack while accompanying photo students during a summer session of his school in Mexico City in 1925. Besides his important contributions as a ground-breaking photographic artist in the late 19th and early 20th century, his legacy as a teacher is perhaps more important as we finally begin to reevaluate his importance in the larger history of early artistic photography. The Princeton exhibition and accompanying monograph-the first truly comprehensive volume on White ever published, will further our understanding and appreciation for this gentleman.

 

PhotoSeed is honored to have played a small role in the exhibition showcasing Clarence White’s talents at photographic book illustration. A slim volume loaned for the show, Songs of All Seasons, published in 1904 with prose by his uncle Ira Billman and photographs by White, will be included in an exhibit display case.  An additional rare illustrated copy of Irving Bacheller’s best-selling novel Eben Holden from 1903, with photogravure plates by White, will also appear after it was acquired by Princeton from this archive. This site further intends to publish additional posts over the next several years chronicling White’s groundbreaking schools of photography as well as other aspects of his early and later life in Newark, OH and New York.

 

8-landscape-woman-with-gloDetail: "Morning": Clarence H. White, American (1871-1925): 1905: vintage photogravure published in the volume "The Artistic Side of Photography" by A.J. Anderson: London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1910. 11.9 x 9.3 | 22.5 x 15.1 cm. The plate, titled "A Landscape", from a platinotype in the collection of A.L. Coburn, appears on p. 155. This moody landscape photograph with figure was taken by White on the bluffs in Newark, Ohio overlooking the Licking River, a location that appears in several of the photographer's compositions. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website, which holds an original platinum print dated to 1905 bequeathed by Alfred Stieglitz: "Morning perfectly embodies the tenets of Pictorialism: expressive, rather than narrative or documentary, content; craftsmanship in the execution of the print; and a carefully constructed composition allied to Impressionist and American Tonalist painting and to popular Japanese prints. His photographs from the period before he moved to New York in 1906 signaled a remove from the modern urban world. Neither genre scene nor narrative tableau, this photograph is a retreat into domesticized nature." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: ‪Clarence H. White and His World‬: ‪The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925‬


Princeton University Art Museum  
       (10/07/17–01/07/18)

Further link to the exhibit at Princeton

Video:  Breaking down photographic processes used by Pictorialist photographers: a collaboration between the Princeton University Art Museum and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.


 

 

Davis Museum, Wellesley College                   
(02/13/18–06/10/18)
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
                      (06/22/18–09/16/18)
Cleveland Museum of Art
                                    (10/21/18–01/21/19)

 

 

Book link:
October 31, 2017
    408 pages, 10 x 11 1/2
346 color + b/w illus.
   ISBN: 9780300229080  
Hardcover
Distributed for the Princeton University Art Museum

 

 

 

 

 

The Beautiful Beyond

 

PhotoSeed celebrates the life of one of its profound influences on the recent passing of my father Charles Edward Spencer 1925-2017.

 

charles-spencer-photographs"Charlie Spencer and WWII Classmates" : unknown English photographer: gelatin silver K(odak) Ltd postcard ca. 1940: 13.8 x 8.7 cm : The author's father, about 15, is seen at far left striking a pose in Workington, on the west coast of Cumbria England (Cumberland county) during the early part of World War II. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1925 to English parents who sought their fortune in the United States, the American Depression forced the family back to their native Newcastle upon Tyne by 1933. A favored German aerial target during the war because of its important shipbuilding industry, Charlie was evacuated along with over 800,000 English school age children from Newcastle and other large English cities beginning in late 1939 as part of the British government's Operation Pied Piper, which eventually displaced 3.5 million people in the UK. Late in the war, he returned to Newcastle, (Benwell) reuniting with his parents Charles and Jane (Garland) Spencer and graduating there from Atkinson Road Technical School. An American by birth, he soon found himself serving in the U.S. Army of Occupation in Germany, where he was a reporter for the Stars and Stripes newspaper among other duties. His first eight years in America had certainly made an impression however, and he returned to the states for good in early 1949 aboard the troop ship USNS General Maurice Rose. Settling in the greater Bridgeport, CT area, he went on to become an advertising and sales promotion specialist for the General Electric Company in their small appliance division for fifteen years and later in the same capacity with other business ventures in CT. Married 61 years to Ann, he passed away in September, 2017. Note: girl in photograph is daughter from Workington family with whom Charlie stayed with during his billet. After Workington, he was billeted with another family in Siddick England. From: Authors personal family archive.

 

 

The call would come, I had convinced myself, for years. But it waited patiently. I reassured myself I was prepared, but for naught. When it did, from my brother Will, it was from his childhood voice over 50 years gone: punctuating his cries through the distance, he gasped for breath: “Dad did not wake up” he somehow forced through his cracking voice, cries and tears. My own response immediate: a shuddering to my core equal to his-helpless feelings not revisited since my toddler days-cries my father was now unable to comfort as he did throughout my entire life ⎯the finality of it all.

 

But goodness had shined its light, in this most profound form of sudden loss: my dad was now truly free of any miseries real for him in the physical present, and ones our family perceived in him during his long and noticeable decline. Vanquished. He was now free, and on his journey to the beautiful beyond.

David Spencer-

 

 

Summer Love & Remembrance

 From days gone by, an early summer scene for your viewing fancy.

woman-holding-wearing-poppi"Woman with Poppies": vintage Autochrome glass plate: Anonymous, perhaps British photographer: ca. 1910-20: 8.2 x 8.2 cm. Autochrome, the first practical color photographic process, was invented and first patented by Auguste and Louis Lumière of France in 1903. Commercially available beginning in 1907 and championed by pictorialist photographers the world over, Wikipedia states Autochrome was an additive color mosaic screen plate process. "The medium consists of a glass plate coated on one side with a random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch dyed red-orange, green, and blue-violet which act as color filters. Lampblack fills the spaces between grains, and a black-and-white panchromatic silver halide emulsion is coated on top of the filter layer." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

See other examples of early color views in various processes from PhotoSeed here.

 

 

Freedom of Jones

 

That experiment of American Democracy, culminating in our annual celebration today of the Fourth of July holiday, has survived 241 times since that fateful Philadelphia signing, in 1776, of a remarkable document giving notice to the larger world our Declaration of Independence and legal right to self-rule, with benefits.

 

asbury-park-boardwalk-sceneDetail: "Asbury Park Boardwalk": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: A woman who may have become the photographer's second wife, Edith, sits with a white hat on her lap on a bench at center in this bustling summer boardwalk scene taken at the Fourth Ave. entrance. The 18-hole Asbury Park Obstacle Golf course can be seen directly behind the bench at center and at left. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

 

Freedom of expression, and with it speech as it relates to the right of picking up a camera and chronicling daily life in one own’s creative bent without fear or favor are American freedoms held dearly by this website. I long hope our presently divided country can see the worth and value of all her citizens understanding each other and getting along for the betterment of the whole.

 

 

2-military-paradeDetail: "Fifth Avenue Military Parade": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Possibly taken before World War II, a little girl at far right holds an American flag as US infantry troops march up Fifth Ave. in New York City. The location of the photograph is W. 27th Street. The former La Primadora Havana Cigar shop can be seen at center at 234 Fifth Ave. and a Horn & Hardart automat is in the lower floor retail area next door at 236 Fifth Ave. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Not Lost Forever: the work of Laural J. Jones


With the blessing of a good friend who owns this documentary work in the form of developed 35mm black & white film negatives, and dating more than 20 years past the offerings of the more typical pictorialist body of work featured on PhotoSeed, I’m taking advantage of America’s national holiday to introduce to the world a gentleman who knew a thing or two about self-expressionistic ideals enshrined in our Constitution, the work of American amateur photographer Laural J.(ohn) Jones. (1897-1980)

 

3-rms-queen-elizabethDetail: "RMS Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbor": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1940-1945 black and white film negative: Although it is unknown when this photograph was taken, onlookers witness the famed 85,000 ton RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner in this photo. She initially docked on March 7, 1940 at Pier 90 in quarantine anchorage off Staten Island following a secret voyage to the US from Greenock, Scotland in order to evade German bombers. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Reminiscent in some ways to the much larger body of unknown photographs done by Chicago nanny Vivian Maier (1926-2009) after her life’s work was rescued from a storage locker in 2007, Jones work by contrast and fate was preserved in only two shoe boxes. Residing for more than five years in a Florida antique store before being discovered and saved, spooled negatives by Laural Jones along with an assortment of very small printed photographs are believed to have been placed there from an estate sale originating from the photographer’s second wife Edith, who had lived with Laural in the community of Harbour Oaks, south of Daytona Beach.  

 

 

4-laural-j-jones-triptch"Self-Portraits of Laural J. Jones: 1897-1980": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scans taken from ca. 1938-1953: black and white film negatives: The photographer is seen here in a series of self portraits with the center view taken at his office in New York City, where he was employed as the secretary of purchasing for Bell Bakeries, Inc. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Since all that remains are negatives, and with sparse details of his life slowly emerging from US Census and other web resources and records only recently, the Michigan-born Jones is known to have owned the then-new Leica camera sometime around 1938, around the time he is believed to have commenced his early interest in photography. In one surviving photograph stamped 1942 that is an obvious self-portrait, the photographer is nattily dressed and smoking a pipe while he inspects a copy of Popular Photography magazine.

 

 

5-times-square-new-years-eDetail: "1938: Times Square at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scans taken from ca. 1938 black and white film negative: In this view showing Times Square at night in New York City taken between Christmas and New Year's Eve 1938, a large banner for the year 1939 hangs above the entrance to the Hotel Astor at far left which exclaims those to Celebrate New year's Eve in their Grand Ball Room and Grill. A large lighted Christmas tree is in center background while at far right, the Loew's Criterion marquee advertises in glowing lights the American movie western "Ride a Crooked Mile" starring Akim Tamiroff and Frances Farmer. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Earlier, on Thanksgiving day in 1918, he was first married to the former Ruby A. Armour, (1899-1977) and is listed in a newspaper wedding announcement from the time as being the assistant manager of the Grand Leader Department Store in Battle Creek, with Ruby working there as a clerk. The year of the marriage, the future photographer is described as tall and slender with blue eyes on his World War I draft card, although it appears he was never called up. The couple lived with Laural’s father Mayver Jones, a carpenter for the Advance-Rumely Co., and mother Cora at their home at 129 Somerset Ave. in Battle Creek.

 

An interesting newspaper account from 1933 showed Laural shared a passion for carpentry like his father, and was also skilled in design. That year he spent several months constructing and designing a custom travel trailer coach in his father’s Someset Ave. carpentry shop meant to “conform with the new stream-line automobiles”. It was: “20 feet in length, maroon color with aluminum top. The interior is divided into two compartments, and is finished throughout in paneled veneer, walnut finish. The forward compartment is furnished with built-in library table, Pullman couch upholstered in brown Spanish leather with chairs to match, and folding typewriter desk, and radio, with an oval rug as floor covering.” The couple also seemed to have the luxery of time and money: they hit the road late that Fall pulling the new coach in route to St. Petersburg, FL, where they spent the Winter.

 

In 1935, according to his 1980 obituary, Laural moved to New York City from Michigan in order to serve as secretary in charge of purchasing for Bell Bakeries Inc., a large commercial concern with factories throughout the eastern seaboard and beyond. But it’s not clear if Laural’s wife Ruby accompanied him on the new adventure. That’s because 11 years later, the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper for June 4, 1946 lists the couple receiving a divorce before Battle Creek circuit court Judge Blaine W. Hatch the day before.

 

 

6-chock-full-o-nuts-at-nigDetail: "Chock Full o' Nuts at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: This nighttime view believed to have been taken in Brooklyn Heights shows the popular post-Depression coffee shop with the large China Palace restaurant behind it. The coffee brand still marketed today featured shops selling a cup of coffee and sandwich for only a nickel. (at the time, there were 18 shops around New York) A police officer looks on at foreground left while a gentleman wearing his hat can be seen seated along a row of stools through the open doorway of the establishment at center. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

7-union-strike-rally-at-niDetail: "Union Rally at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Holding flares and American flags, a nighttime rally of custodians employed by New York City custodians, members of School & Library Employees Local Union 74, takes place at an unknown New York City location. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

8-luna-park-coney-islandDetail: "Entrance to Luna Park, Coney Island at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Luna Park was an amusement park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, in New York City that first opened in 1903 and was destroyed by fire in 1944. It finally closed in 1946 after a second fire. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Taking advantage of city life, while using the Leica 35mm rangefinder to record night scenes a speciality, Laural Jones documented a fascinating and important record of Manhattan and the outer boroughs from the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s, with some of the larger events unfolding before his camera spanning the later years of the American Depression and leading through to the re-ordering of a new world order brought on by World War II. Sadly, the story of preservation as it relates to someones creative and personal artistic endeavors is one consistent with people’s indifference to memories and Photography’s evolving history. But survivors like Laural Jones do show up, thankfully, and in these nine digital offerings, I think you will find plenty to be fascinated with and hopefully inspired by.

 

David Spencer-

 

 

9-kissingDetail: "Picnic Kiss": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative. Laying on a blanket shirtless, and with a picnic hamper and two glasses balancing on top at left, the photographer Laural Jones kisses a woman that may be his future spouse Edith at an unknown location. This woman appears in many surviving negatives taken by the photographer, including one of her on the Asbury Park boardwalk at the top of this post. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

 

 

Let the Children Selfie

 

Cute and engaging as they are, these photographs showing a little boy posing with his then new No. 1A Kodak Jr. Autographic camera and Staten Island, N.Y. resident Dorothy Tucker with her model 3A Folding Pocket model are not known to have been singled out by judges in the annual Kodak Advertising Contests they were entered in. 

 

1-let-the-children-kodak-1Detail: "Let the Children Kodak": Anonymous American Photographer: ca. 1915-20: Gelatin Silver print, mounted to vintage 1890's era cabinet card: 11.3 x 7.7 | 13.2 x 8.7 | 16.4 x 13.9 cm. This amateur photograph was submitted as part of Kodak's annual Advertising Contest around 1915. An unknown little boy in overalls is shown about to take a photograph using a pneumatic bulb shutter release in his right hand while posing behind a No. 1A Kodak Jr. (Autographic) camera. The camera was produced and sold by the Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, New York from 1914-27. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

But times do change, and so has the company that promoted their namesake as a verb, as in the following slogan used to promote themselves for advertising purposes: Let the Children Kodak.

 

Belatedly, it’s reassuring to know Eastman Kodak did re-emerge from 20 months of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 3, 2013. (1.)

 

For the record, Kodak now brands itself “a technology company focused on imaging”, with major divisions including separate Print and Enterprise Inkjet Systems, Flexographic Packaging, Software and Solutions, Consumer and Film, Advanced Materials and 3D Printing Technology.

 

2-little-boy-with-kodak-mo-89sDetail: "Let the Children Kodak": Anonymous American Photographer: ca. 1915-20: Gelatin Silver print, mounted to vintage 1890's era cabinet card: 10.9 x 7.7 | 13.0 x 9.7 | 16.4 x 13.9 cm. This amateur photograph was submitted as part of Kodak's annual Advertising Contest around 1915. An unknown little boy in overalls is shown about to take a photograph using a pneumatic bulb shutter release in his right hand while standing and holding a No. 1A Kodak Jr. (Autographic) camera. The camera was produced and sold by the Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, New York from 1914-27. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

The Consumer and Film part of the above is what were interested in here, and happily, Kodak is at least trying to stay in the game, with an outside licensing agreement in place for their own branded PixPro series digital camera and camcorder line (manufactured in China) as well as a new Android™ based smartphone called the Ektra. The company does a good job in putting the Ektra in historical context with all the Kodak innovations going way back, with a company website copywriter pontificating a bit about how company founder George Eastman would …” totally understand the power of putting a camera into a smartphone, a device that everyone always carries.”

 

The reality however-and I do hope they push back given their rich heritage in photography-are plenty of negative reviews for the Ektra. (on CNET, among other sites) Luckily they have a few aces up their sleeves and are proactive and smart enough to diversify into smartphone accessories like wireless selfie sticks, vehicle dashboard mounts and mini tripods, among other things. Word in January, 2017 of the re-introduction of Ektachrome film for both motion picture cinematographers and still shooters scheduled for later this year has also made plenty of folks very happy indeed.

 

3-dorothy-tucker-with-3a-kDetail: "Dorothy Tucker with Kodak 3A Folding Pocket Camera": Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): unmounted vintage platinum print ca. 1910-15: 23.6 x 15.0 cm: Dorothy Tucker,  b. August, 1899, of Staten Island, N.Y., the photographer's daughter, is shown holding what is believed to be Kodak's first postcard format camera introduced in 1903 and manufactured until 1915. Wearing an elegant hat and overcoat, Dorothy posed for a series of photographs that were entered over successive years by her father in Kodak's annual Advertising contests. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

So go out and buy that Kodak 40” Selfie Stick with Wireless Remote: impress your neighbors by taking photos and videos “to a whole new level of awesome” as the ad copy promotes, and don’t forget to take some ancient advice from a company that knew a thing or two about winning photo contests with cameras they once made themselves:

 

4-dorothy-tucker-with-foldDetail: "Dorothy Tucker with Kodak 3A Folding Pocket Camera": Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): mounted vintage platinum print ca. 1910-15: 22.0 x 14.0 | 33.9 x 24.9 cm: Dorothy Tucker,  b. August, 1899, of Staten Island, N.Y., the photographer's daughter, is shown holding and snuggling up to what is believed to be Kodak's first postcard format camera (shown in closed position) introduced in 1903 and manufactured until 1915. Over a period of successive years, Dorothy posed for a series of photographs taken by her father and entered in Kodak's annual Advertising contests. Scott's Photographica Collection online resource states the 3A was manufactured in seven different models over its' lifetime and that the "1912 Eastman Kodak catalog prices the 3A FPK with Kodak Ball Bearing shutter at 20 dollars, with Kodak Automatic shutter at 25 dollars and with Compound shutter and Zeiss Kodak anastigmat lens at 61.40 dollars." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Pretty pictures of pretty children will not sell Kodaks, but the picture of a pretty little girl photographing her playmates will make other children want Kodaks to photograph their playmates.  Make an attractive picture of this sort and you have an entry for Class 4, which calls for pictures illustrating the slogan, “Let the children Kodak.” (2.)

 

 

 

1. see 2012 post on this website: “Kodak’s Work not Done”. A history of Kodak’s annual contests from this site can be found here.
2. excerpt: Thirty Days Left (Kodak Advertising Competition) in: Studio Light (publication of the Eastman Kodak Company): October, 1915, p. 20. A nice historical overview of George Eastman and the Kodak company can be found here on their website.