Monday, February 24, 2014

White Mountain Apache Basket

Amongst the items on display in the library is a 19th century Native American basket in the shape of a shallow bowl.  Although it is not known where or when the basket was acquired, the simple geometric design speaks to the sophisticated tastes of John and Frances Glessner and coordinates well with other pieces they collected.  

For many years, the Glessners displayed the basket on the lower shelf of a drum table in the main hall, a prominent location where it would have easily been seen by their many visitors and guests.  An expert at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois recently helped our staff to identify the origin and construction of the basket.

White Mountain Apache craftwork
displayed in front of a typical dwelling

The coiled woven bowl is Apache in origin, and was most likely made by a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe.  The piece measure 3-3/8” in height and 11-3/4” in diameter and is constructed with three rods, either willow or cottonwood, coiled together – a traditional Apache weaving technique.  Both the inside and outside of the basket feature a dark central circle which arcs outward creating a geometric star pattern.  Set within the diamond shaped panels formed by the pattern are stylized dogs in the upper rows, and arrowhead figures below.  All of the dark areas are made from the stalk of the martynia plant, also known as “Cat’s Claw,” a plant native to the southwestern United States. 

The White Mountain Apache are one of several Western Apache tribes, each with their own distinct language, history, and culture.  Located in the east-central region of Arizona, they were nomadic farmers, raising corn, beans, squash and other foods for part of the year, supplementing their crops with hunting and gathering.  The U.S. Army came into their lands in the 1860s with orders to capture and kill any Apaches that refused to be confined to a reservation.  The White Mountain Apache acted so peaceably and hospitably that the soldiers followed suit.  The Apache allowed construction of what was later known as Fort Apache on their lands in 1868 and agreed to live on a reservation there.  They assisted General George Crook as scouts during the 15 year Apache Wars from 1871 to 1886, which ended with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886.  In exchange for their service, the tribe was able to retain a large part of their homeland within their reservation, formally established in 1891 and now known as the White Mountain Apache Reservation.  A tribal council was established in 1936 to oversee all tribally owned property and businesses, the latter of which focus heavily on tourism.  Today there are approximately 15,000 members of the tribe living on their reservation of 1.67 million acres, located about 200 miles southeast of the Grand Canyon.   For more information on the White Mountain Apache, visit

Monday, February 17, 2014

Flonzaley Quartet Model Unveiled

One hundred years ago, on February 21, 1914, Frances Glessner Lee presented her model of the Flonzaley Quartet to that world-famous string quartet.  Known for her earlier model of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and later for her meticulously crafted series of “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” Frances Glessner Lee spent nearly two years creating the quartet model.

Her son, John Glessner Lee, recounted the creation and presentation of the model in his 1971 book, Family Reunion, and we present that excerpt in its entirety.  (Notes:  He refers to his mother as FGL; their family home where the model was created and unveiled was located at 1700 S. Prairie Avenue, one block north of the Glessner House).

“(The Chicago Symphony Orchestra model) really launched FGL in her career of model work.  Her next model was the Flonzaley Quartet – perhaps the best-known string quartet of the era – and a masterpiece it was.  It took nearly two years to do.  It really was precise, the individuals were striking likenesses, and everything about it was as close to reality as one could get.  You could actually play the ‘cello – it emitted a faint squeak, but no sound would come from the smaller instruments, despite the care in making the bridge and strings and other parts.  By the time FGL got going on the Quartet I was old enough to help.  We went to concerts together, and sat on opposite sides of the house, and made elaborate notes on how the men sat and what they wore – Mr. Betti’s vest (he was the first violin) – how Mr. Pochon put his feet (he was the second violin) – d’Archambeau’s gold watch chain, how it hung (he, the cellist) and last, but by no means least, Ugo Ara, who played the viola, a little Italian man with a magnificent Assyrian beard, how he managed his viola amongst the profusion of shrubbery.

FGL presented the model to the Quartet one evening at dinner at our house in Chicago.  It was covered with a large floral piece in the center of the table, which gave no hint as to what was underneath.  FGL sat at one side of the table which was long and narrow and my grandfather opposite her, each with a member of the Quartet on both sides of them.  We lesser lights were farther down the table.  After dinner, the floral piece was removed with a flourish, and there, not two feet from their noses, was this model of themselves playing!  The effect was extraordinary.  For a moment nobody spoke, and then all four members of the Quartet burst out into voluble language.  Nobody listened.  But each one of them pointed with delight to the eccentricities of the other three.  I still remember Mr. Betti, with a magnifying glass, peering over the shoulder of his own miniature, trying to read the music on the music rack.  It had been specially written by Frederick Stock, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony, in the style of Schoenberg, but was impossible to play – a fact which Mr. Betti soon appreciated.

Then my grandfather read a long account of how the model was made, which FGL had written.  The figures were Viennese dolls, as before, modified by FGL to incorporate a wire frame so they would hold a position.  The heads were modeled out of a mixture of LePage’s fish glue and plaster of Paris which she had developed.  This was long before the days of plastics or quick-drying cement.  The result, which took several days to dry, became as hard as glass.  To this cotton fibers were added for hair, and the result painted to match the individual.  I can still remember the four little heads hanging upside down on a stand on FGL’s work table.  Mr. Ara’s with its square cut beard was particularly gruesome, and one had uncomfortable thoughts of the guillotine.  The accompanying picture of FGL shows her working on this model at a card table in her bedroom in Chicago.

The model was built for permanence, with every party thoroughly anchored.  When I last heard of it, the Quartet had taken it to Switzerland and placed it in a museum near the home of Mr. (Edward J.) de Coppet, the chief sponsor of the Quartet.  Mr. Pochon told us afterwards that the only damage resulting from the long voyage was that his bow had slipped off of his violin, which they had been able to fix themselves.”

The presentation was also recorded in the Glessner journal, by this time being written by John Glessner.  He notes that in addition to the persons listed above, those attending the dinner included his wife, Frederick Stock and his wife, Enrico Tramonti (CSO harpist) and his wife, and Henry Voegeli (CSO assistant manager and treasurer) and his wife.  An interesting discrepancy in the two accounts is that John Glessner Lee places his grandfather in a place of honor with members of the Quartet to either side; but John Glessner clearly indicates it was his grandson, age 15 at the time, who sat opposite his mother:

“John Lee sat opposite his mother at table & did his part very well.  Betti seated at right & Pochon at Frances’ left, d’Archambeau at right & Ara at John’s left.  Next to Betti came Mrs. Tramonti, then I, Mr. Stock, Mrs. Voegeli, Ara, John, d’Archambeau, Frances, Tramonti, Voegeli, Mrs. Stock, Pochon & Frances Lee.”

One must conclude that John Glessner’s account, written immediately after the event is indeed accurate, especially since he identifies where each of the 14 members of the party sat.  Why John Glessner Lee saw his grandfather in that place of honor and not himself when recounting the incident nearly 60 years later remains an interesting question, but perhaps shows the high level of esteem in which he held the patriarch of the family.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Frances Glessner on Etiquette

On February 10, 1889 – exactly 125 years ago – Frances Glessner recorded the following in her journal:
“The article on Etiquette which John and I wrote came out yesterday in the (Saturday Evening) Herald.”

Frances Glessner was well qualified to write on etiquette.  As a resident of Chicago’s exclusive Prairie Avenue district, she would have been well-versed on the topic.  In addition, she owned a number of books on the subject, including the 1887 edition of Manners and Social Usages, the leading book on etiquette at the time, penned by Mrs. John Sherwood, and quoted at the end of her article.  (For more information on Mrs. Sherwood and the lecture she gave in the Glessner home in May 1888, see the blog article dated July 8, 2013).

In honor of the anniversary of the publication of John and Frances Glessners’ article, we provide excerpts for your reading pleasure.

Etiquette is an old French word derived from the Low German “atikke,” a peg or pin, and originally meant a thing attached, or a label. . . The word now means conventional forms of ceremony or decorum, the forms which are observed toward particular persons or in particular places, especially in courts, levees and on public occasions; social observances required by good breeding.  This last is our definition.  We doubtless need more simplicity in our daily lives; they are already artificial enough, but conventionality is no hindrance – rather it is a great assistance, regulating our relations to acquaintances and the world at large, smoothing the friction of our contact with neighbors and friends, and telling us how to govern our acts and appearances on particular times and occasions. 

The questions commonly asked concerning correct forms of etiquette have reference to these three subjects – the acknowledgement of invitations, the use of visiting cards, and formal calls.  These and all other social usages are based on common sense.

The average society woman has so many engagements and so much to do that it is impossible she should be at home all days, and driving the rounds, climbing steps to front doors, etc., to learn that the lady is out or is excused, involves much labor and time; so it becomes a duty as well as a pleasure for every lady in society to select and announce to her friends some time when she may always be found at home.  If she can not keep one day each week she should keep a part of a day or days each month during the season.  If at these times she serves tea and wafers to those who call, it is an afternoon tea, and so it comes that an invitation to such tea may be written on a visiting card.  If she write only “tea at 5 o’clock” below her own name, and the date after her receiving day, that is enough.  The lady who has selected an “at home” day should give her afternoon tea on one of those days.

Does your attendance at an afternoon tea require a subsequent call upon you by the hostess?  Certainly not; it differs from the ordinary call in this only.  You may return this civility in like manner, and in that way your hostess returns this particular call.  Of course, owing to the occasion, ladies never remove their bonnets at such tea, and wear the same dress and in the same way as at ordinary afternoon calls, and the hostess wears the same house dress she would in receiving the ordinary afternoon call, as do the ladies who assist her.  Where it can conveniently be so arranged it is well for the ladies in one neighborhood to select the same “at home” day and naturally then the afternoon teas in one neighborhood will fall on the same days, enabling ladies to make several such calls in one afternoon.  There is no time between luncheon and dinner when it is proper to serve more than tea, wafers and confections, and it is because people forget this, that confusion has arisen about calls after an afternoon tea.

The evening reception is a much more formal affair.  Here is the opportunity for all the elaboration and magnificence and dress that is desired.  Everybody knows this requires full dress, no bonnets, and a call afterwards.  At no evening entertainment is it permissible for a lady to wear her bonnet, and this applies with equal force to the theatre as to the private house. . . Objectionable as they are at the home reception, they are much more objectionable at the play.  If you feel that the lace or other headgear ordinarily worn by fashionable women is not enough when going from your home to the theatre, by all means wear a bonnet, but remove it when you have taken your seat and hold it in your lap.

A lady who is “at home” to her friends and acquaintances a certain day in the week, will have that day engraved on her visiting cards.  While it is often impossible to call upon that day, one should not be hurt if the busy woman is excused or out when the call is made upon another day than that set apart to see her friends.  A lady who has no day will endeavor to receive callers at any time.  If she is occupied she will instruct her servant to say so when callers present themselves, and before they are admitted, for a visitor once admitted to the house must be seen at any inconvenience.

Leaving cards is one of the most important of social observances, as it is the foundation in society of all acquaintance.  Cards are always to be left at the afternoon tea, but not at the evening reception.  On entering, they should be passed to the servant who opens the door, or left in the hall where a place is or should be provided for them.

Ladies do most of the card-leaving.  She leaves a card upon those upon whom she calls, and for those whose cards she carries.  A wife leaves cards for her husband, a daughter for her father, a niece for her uncle.  A wife in calling upon a married lady leaves two of her husband’s cards, one for the husband and one for the wife, together with one of her own, for a lady never leaves her card upon a gentleman.  No separate cards of the husband need to be left upon unmarried members of the family, unless one of them has left a card upon him, or their age is such as to require it, or when other exceptions make it desirable to do so.  One may leave cards for an invalid mother or sister.  If guests are stopping in the house where you call, cards must always be left upon them, or if calling upon guests where you do not know the hostess you may inquire if the ladies are at home, and not being admitted, leave cards for the host and hostess as well as for the guests themselves, as this is one of the first requirements of good breeding.  After the first exchange of cards the acquaintance drops, unless followed by an invitation from one side or the other.

Between two and six o’clock in the afternoon is the proper time for making calls.  Party calls should be made within ten days and must be made within two weeks after the party, unless certain reception days were set apart when the invitation was sent.  If reception cards are enclosed in invitations, setting aside certain day or days in which to receive party calls, a special effort should be made to attend on one of those days.  If unable, a card should be left at the house of the reception.

“It is not a communistic spirit that asks,” says Mrs. Sherwood, “How can I do this thing in a better way?  It is that wise and liberal conservatism which includes reference for law, respect for age, belief in religion, and a desire for a refined society.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Friendship of Maud Powell and Frances Glessner

On January 25, 2014 the American violinist Maud Powell was posthumously granted a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys, during the Recording Academy’s 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception.  The award was accepted on behalf of Powell by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who recorded a tribute album of Powell’s work in 2007.  Powell is widely regarded as one of the greatest female violinists in history, and was also the first American violinist to achieve international rank.

Powell was a close friend of Frances Glessner and visited the Glessner home on Prairie Avenue many times during her trips to Chicago to concertize and perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  The museum is fortunate to have a number of letters in its archives from Maud Powell to Frances Glessner, in addition to a signed photograph (shown above), which is inscribed, “To one of the dearest and best ladies in the land, with fond affection, Maud Powell.”

Maud Powell was born in Peru, Illinois on August 22, 1867.  She began the study of the violin about 1874, taking lessons in Aurora, Illinois.  Within a couple of years she was recognized as a child prodigy and started taking lessons with William Lewis in Chicago.  At the age of 13, her parents sold their home to finance her musical studies, and she travelled to Europe with her mother to study with Joseph Joachim at the Berlin Hochschule, Henry Schradieck at the Leipzig Conservatoire, and Charles Dancla at the Paris Conservatoire. 

Her official debut took place in 1885, when she performed Bruch’s G minor concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic under Joachim’s baton.  Her American debut was with the New York Philharmonic under Theodore Thomas, marking the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership with Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Powell was the first American violinist – man or woman – to change the opinions of Europeans, who, at the time, tended to scoff at classical music in America.  She concertized extensively throughout her career on stages across the United States and Europe.  She also introduced solo violin recordings with the Victor Talking Machine Company on their Red Seal label, all of which have been digitally remastered and were rereleased in 2009. 

She met her future husband and manager, H. Godfrey Turner, in London during the winter of 1902-1903.  At the time, Turner was serving as manager of the British syndicate which guaranteed the band of John Philip Sousa, and in that role, he extended an offer to Powell to play with Sousa’s band.  They married in 1904.

On November 27, 1919 she suffered a heart attack on stage while performing in St. Louis, Missouri; she died from another heart attack on January 8, 1920 while on tour in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.  She was just 52 years old. 

Journal entries by Frances Glessner and surviving letters indicate that the two became acquainted in 1907, when Powell was in Chicago playing with the Orchestra.  Frances Glessner wrote on January 24, 1907, “I went to the orchestra rehearsal . . . Maud Powell played.  After rehearsal was over, she came down with Mr. Wessels and I had a pleasant talk with her.  We walked down to her hotel together.”

The next day, Frances Glessner received a letter from Maud Powell, which reads, in part:
“I can’t quite tell you how touched I was that you have sent me those beautiful, beautiful roses!  They are the most exquisite things in the world.  I wonder if you saw them and know how ravishingly lovely they are?  They are filling the gap that comes in the awful reaction after an exciting performance and it WAS exciting today.  I tried so hard to induce Mr. Stock to have the orchestra rise to share the applause – but he was obdurate.  I felt that it was awful to stand there and to take all of it myself after their wonderful work.   I shall be here Sat. and Sun. the 2nd & 3rd of Feb. unless plans are changed.  Should I leave St. Paul earlier I might (visit) you – for I should love to see you again if possible.  With a thousand thanks for filling my room with beauty and my heart with warmth, believe me, yours sincerely, Maud Powell.” 

Another letter, written in February 1908, reads in part:
“En Route – Pennsylvania Lines – Pullman Vestibuled Train – Monday:
Dear Mrs. Glessner,
It is extraordinary, but I feel as though I had always known you and as if our ideas about essential things of life and conduct would walk hand in hand, and when you called me “Maud” – I loved it.  You radiate womanliness and have so many qualities of mind and temperament that I am so woefully lacking in, but love to feel the influence of!  It was very sweet of you to give me such a delightful opportunity of meeting the artistically elite – and in Chicago the artistically elite are so RIGHT personally.   Isn’t it so?  It was a lovely evening?”

By 1909, she is signing her letters simply “Maud” such as this example from November 1909 where she thanks Frances Glessner for making a chain for her:
“My dear Mrs. Glessner,
I keep hugging myself with pleasure YOU not being near to receive my ebullitions of delight – over the beautiful chain.  Why I should be so honored I hardly know, but certainly no one else could appreciate the lovely gift more than this erratic fiddler.  I am so proud that a woman made it – and proud that you wanted to give it to me.  What I love in you so much is the beautiful enthusiasm that keeps you interested in right things – the simple things of life – in spite of worldly riches.  How few people know how to live – and how seldom riches help them to know – isn’t it so?  My love to you and a heartful of thanks – thanks to the fates, too, for letting me know you.”

Frances Glessner was quite ill for an extended period, and Maud Powell was unable to see her when visiting Chicago in 1911.  She wrote in part:
“Thank you for your sweet letter received many weeks ago.  How are you now, dear?  I tried to see you in Chicago, when they told me of your illness – and since then I have had news of you from different mutual friends . . . Take care of your dear self – what I mean is: as you convalesce, don’t get busy being nice and kind to everyone and doing too much.  Don’t let your heart go beyond your strength.  I send you my love, and hope next winter will find you in Chicago feeling QUITE your old self.”

A particularly amusing letter was sent in 1912 after Frances Glessner wrote inquiring about Maud Powell’s condition following an automobile accident:
“It was very good of you to write.  The accident occurred a month ago.  It was not nearly as bad as it might have been, nor was it as bad as it seemed at first.  I was badly cut up, as my head went through the windshield, but my eyes were not hurt, and I shall carry only one small scar, and that, the Doctor promises will go down in a year.  Mr. Turner was not hurt at all, thank goodness, and the little machine came out of the repair shop, better than ever.  I was to blame for the whole thing.  A case of too much artistic temperament!  A wonderful butterfly flew in and fell on his back.  I tried to save him, but the draught caught him a second time, and he blew against the pedals.  Mr. Turner’s attention was taken for a second from the wheel, and of course, in that second, bang! we ran off the road and tried to root up the stump of a tree!  And if that tree had not been there, we should have been down in the ravine, - and in eternity, probably.  However it was a good lesson for us, and we are more careful than ever, now.”

Powell ends the letter with a postscript apologizing for typing the letter (which at the time was not considered appropriate for personal correspondence):
“I almost forgot to apologise for writing with the machine!  But I know you will forgive me, when you realize how it saves my bow arm.  And it is easier to read!”

Letters continue until 1917, when Frances Glessner stopped writing her journal.  There are frequent mentions of visits, dinners at the Glessner house, and of Maud Powell sitting in the Glessners’ box at Orchestra Hall during concerts.  It must have been a hard blow for Frances Glessner to lose her dear and talented friend at such a young age especially considered Maud Powell was only four years older than the Glessners’ son George.  But the warm and affectionate friendship they shared for more than a decade provided many happy memories that Frances Glessner carried with her for the remainder of her life.
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