Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB: www.storypreservation.org

Posts from the ‘Preserving a Legacy’ category

Native American and Pilgrim Stories from the Plymouth Colony

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We’ll be recording Carlton Bradford in March 2016. He is one of the last of the direct line descendants of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation. (Depicted above, the meeting between Governor William Bradford and Chief Massasoit).

As a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and a man who knows well his family history, Carlton will share with listeners rarely heard stories on life in the early years of the Plymouth Colony.

Courtesy of Gail Matthews and Yankee Cable Network, this recording will also include audio from an earlier interview of Carlton and Paul Weeden, also known as Deerfoot, one of the last of the direct line descendants of Chief Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620.

Of Squanto, another of the Wampanoag, Governor Bradford is known to have said:

Squanto  … “was a special instrument sent of God for [his] good beyond expectation.”

Bradford and Deerfoot share a rich and fascinating ancestral history and are today friends – echoing the time of their forefathers.

The Plot to Assassinate Hitler

Helmuth and Jutta Cords. Used with permission of the family.

Helmuth and Jutta Cords. Used with permission of the family.

Claudia Cords-Damon tells the captivating story of her parents, Helmuth and Jutta Cords.

Both German citizens, Jutta and Helmuth met during the Nazi era, fell in love, and eventually – wanting no part of Hitler’s Germany – joined the underground resistance movement and participated in Operation Valkyrie – the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Both Helmuth and Jutta were imprisoned, as were Jutta’s parents.  Somehow, miraculously, they all survived. A love story for the ages, theirs was the first wedding in post war Berlin.

Here’s a Wikipedia overview of Operation Valkyrie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_July_plot

Audio up!  (Run time: 57:00)

Gutzon Borglum  The Sculptor Behind Mt. Rushmore

GB & LB in cable car

 

As part of Story Preservation’s Preserving a Legacy series, we met with and recorded Gutzon Borglum’s granddaughter, Robin Borglum Kennedy.

Robin’s account of her grandfather’s life differs in ways significant from the PBS write up that follows. Her’s is more a personal history, centering on the man, his family, his life, and his art as a whole.

This recording is made possible through the generosity of Deborah L. Coffin.

To listen click on the links below.

From pbs.org:

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum liked to tinker with his own legend, subtracting a few years from his age, changing the story of his parentage. The best archival research has revealed that he was born in 1867 to one of the wives of a Danish Mormon bigamist. When his father decided to conform to societal norms that were pressing westward with the pioneers, he abandoned Gutzon’s mother, and remained married to his first wife, her sister.

In 1884, when Gutzon was sixteen, the family moved to Los Angeles. His father, unhappy in California, soon returned to Nebraska, but Gutzon stayed behind. He studied art and met Elizabeth Jaynes Putnam, a painter and divorcee eighteen years his senior. Lisa Putnam became a teacher and mentor to Gutzon, helping manage his career and advising his education. They were married in 1889. While in California, Gutzon painted a portrait of General John C. Fremont and learned the value of having a wealthy and socially connected patron. Although the general died a few years after sitting for his painting, his widow provided Borglum with contacts to men such as Leland Stanford and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Borglums traveled to Paris to work and study, and there Gutzon met sculptor Auguste Rodin. As much as he admired Rodin, more than one historian has suggested that the reason Gutzon gave up painting was to compete with his brother Solon, who had been making his name as a sculptor. Gutzon’s talent was immediately apparent and he found a few commissions (certainly the fact that Solon had already associated the name Borglum with fine sculpture didn’t hurt). At the same time, Gutzon’s marriage was falling apart. He left Paris alone in 1901 and aboard ship met Mary Montgomery, an American who had just completed her doctorate at the University of Berlin. He and Mary wed as soon as Lisa granted him a divorce. They bought a house and farm in Connecticut and named it “Borgland.”

Borglum’s major work back in America included a bust of Abraham Lincoln, which he was able to exhibit in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. The Lincoln portrait and other much admired works gave Borglum a national reputation, and he was invited by Helen Plane of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a bust of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Borglum’s conception was bigger than Plane’s and Stone Mountain became his first mountain carving project, and where Borglum developed some of the techniques that would later be used on Rushmore.

While at Stone Mountain, Borglum became associated with the newly reborn Ku Klux Klan. Whether this accorded with a racist world view, or if it was simply one way to bond with some of his patrons on the Stone Mountain project, is unclear. Frankly, Borglum had little time for anyone, white or black, who was not a Congressman or millionaire, or happened to be in his way. There is no indication, for example, that he treated his long-suffering black chauffeur Charlie Johnson any differently than any white employee — he owed him back pay just like everyone else. Stone Mountain was not finished by Borglum, but it inspired his next job: Mount Rushmore.

When South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson read about Stone Mountain, he invited Borglum out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to create a monument there. Borglum, perhaps realizing that Stone Mountain had only regional support, immediately suggested a national subject for Rushmore: Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson were added to the program soon afterward.

 

gb EARLY RUSHMORE MODEL

 

Borglum had met and campaigned for Roosevelt, and by invoking that president’s acquisition of the Panama Canal and Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the Rushmore monument became a story of the expansion of the United States, the embodiment of Manifest Destiny.

Work on the mountain was not constantly supervised by Borglum. When he was at Rushmore, Borglum would be climbing all over the mountain and all over the hills, to determine the best angle for each feature, and advising the carvers on how to create the nuanced details that might not even be visible from below. But after creating the models, siting the sculpture, and developing methods for transferring the image to the mountain and carving the rock, there were long periods during which Borglum’s presence was not required. He would often leave his assistants, including his son Lincoln, to supervise the work and then travel. He would go to Washington, D.C. to lobby for more money, and he also traveled around the world, finding and completing other commissions, sculpting a Thomas Paine for Paris and a Woodrow Wilson for Poland, and meeting politicians and celebrities such as Helen Keller. (Helping her feel pieces by his old friend Rodin, he recalled her comment: “Meeting you is like a visit from the gods.” He sometimes felt the same way about himself, writing in his journal: “I must see, think, feel and draw in Thor’s dimension.”) When he returned to the Dakotas, a rock might have been roughly blasted into an egg shape and he would be back to looking over every detail.

Borglum’s stubborn insistence on having things done his way led to numerous confrontations with John Boland, who chaired the executive committee of the Mount Rushmore Commission. His temper and perfectionism caused him to fire his best workmen (who then had to be hired back by Borglum’s son Lincoln). Borglum’s ambition and hubris motivated him to recreate a landscape in his image (a tableau of prominent white men) rather than for the Native Americans who held the Black Hills sacred. Borglum was stubborn, insistent, temperamental, perfectionist, high-reaching, and proud — but these were also the characteristics that were required to carve a mountain. Big, brash, almost larger than life, only a man like Gutzon Borglum could have conceived of and created the monument on Mount Rushmore.

On March 6, 1941, Borglum died, following complications after surgery. His son finished another season at Rushmore, but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father’s direction.

Photos are courtesy of Robin Borglum Kennedy.

 

Vivian Perlis  Preserving the Voices of American Music

Used with permission. Photographer unknown.

Perlis, Copland. Photo credit: David Walker

I have to say I am especially looking forward to sitting down with and recording Vivian Perlis.  I’ve known her personally for more than 30 years and admired her deeply since the day we met. Vivian is an historian in American music.  She is widely known for her publications, lectures, and recording and film productions.  In addition, she is a groundbreaking oral historian.

Vivian Perlis is the founder and former director of the Oral History of American Music (OHAM) project at Yale University.  OHAM is known to be the preeminent project in the field of music dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs of the creative musicians of our time.

Her story begins:  In 1969, while working as a reference librarian at the Yale School of Music, Vivian started a project of tape-recording interviews with those acquainted with the composer Charles Ives, a Yale graduate. Her work – thorough, methodical, and revealing – culminated in 1974 with the book: “Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History,” for which Vivian was awarded the Kinkeldey Prize of the American Musicological Society.  Hailed “a vivid memory portrait of an enigmatic American composer, told in the voices of the people who knew him best.”

Beginning with her pioneering work in 1969 and extending through to the present day (via OHAM), there are “thousands of recordings and transcripts accessible to a wide range of users including scholars, musicians, students, arts organizations, and the media.”*

From the OHAM website: Following the Ives Project, it was evident that no systematic scholarly research was in progress to document creative musical figures by means of tape-recorded interviews. Several composers had spoken about Ives, and in so doing, about themselves as well. (It is not a good idea to ask a celebrated composer to talk only about someone else.) These formed the nucleus for a broader-based project, Oral History of American Music (OHAM). Included were Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Dane Rudhyar. Through the decades since the founding of OHAM, composers have continued to be the project’s primary focus.  

Perlis, Bernstein, Copland. Used with permission. Photographer unknown.

Perlis, Bernstein, Copland.
Used with permission.
Photographer unknown.

A list of interviewees can be found at: http://web.library.yale.edu/oham/major-figures

In 1984 Copland: 1900 through 1942 was published.  Perlis and Copland co-authored this “enduring record of an American maestro’s explosively creative coming of age.”  The book garnered a Deems Taylor/ ASCAP award.

A review upon its release: Aaron Copland is one of America’s most beloved musical pioneers, famous for Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Lincoln Portrait, as well as the movie scores for “Our Town” and “Of Mice and Men,” and numerous orchestral and chamber works. This candid, colorful memoir begins with Copland’s Brooklyn childhood and takes us through his years in Paris, the creation of his early works, and his arrival at Tanglewood. Rich with remembrances from Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, and Nadia Boulanger, as well as a trove of letters, photographs, and scores from Copland’s collection.

In 1989 Copland Since 1943 was published, again to much acclaim.

In 2013 The Complete Copland was issued, combining the earlier two books into one volume.

Other works include:

Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington, co-authored with Libby Van Cleve, includes two CDs and is derived from interviews in the OHAM archive.

Among her productions are recordings of the music of Leo Ornstein and Charles Ives, and television documentaries on Ives, Eubie Blake, Aaron Copland, and John Cage.

Honors and awards received include: The Charles Ives Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1972); a Grammy nomination for “Charles Ives 100th Anniversary” (1974); the Harvey Kantor Award for excellence in the field of oral history (1984); a Guggenheim Fellowship (1987); and the Irving Lowens Award for distinguished scholarship in American Music from The Society for American Music (1991).

In 2010, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the archive, Vivian was honored at both Carnegie Hall and Yale’s Zankel Hall.  She stepped down as the director of OHAM the same year; however, she remains active and ever-influential. She continues to serve as a senior research scholar at Yale University.

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW, CLICK ON LINKS BELOW. 

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Stories Matter

The American Rodin ⎟ The Art, Life and Times of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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As part of our Preserving a Legacy series, this coming fall SPI will be recording John Dryfhout, the former curator and superintendent of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.  Dryfhout has lectured and written extensively on the work of Saint-Gaudens.  His books include: The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age,  and August Saint-Gaudens: The Portrait Reliefs.

 

 

A brief excerpt about Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ monumental sculpture “Standing Lincoln” from our recent conversation with John Dryfhout, emeritus curator of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, NH. 

“Saint-Gaudens had the advantage of having seen Lincoln in the funeral corteges that were held in New York. So he was able to see the body of Lincoln, which he says in his reminisces⎯that were published at the end of his life⎯that he had gone several times to see Lincoln because, as a sculptor, he wanted to keep that image fixed in his mind. 

Then he had another advantage in that one of his friends, a sculptor named Volk, had made a life-cast of Lincoln’s face. Life masks were usually done at an important point in a person’s life. It is kind of a gruesome thing that an individual has to go through and it is generally not welcomed by a very important person because they had to put straws into the nostrils so that the slincolnperson could breath. And they have to stay quite still when this is being done. It is made with plaster, and the plaster dries and is then removed from the face. That becomes the negative and then another plaster is made from the negative and that becomes the positive. That’s how sculpture is made. So he had that to use. And, of course, there were multitudes of photographs. 

Saint-Gaudens then found a man among the people that lived in the Cornish [NH] area that was the same size as Lincoln and he was engaged to be the model. [Saint-Gaudens] had an outfit created that was exactly the costume that Lincoln wore: his suit and his vest and jacket. And he had that man walk around in the woods so that it gave a realism to the monument. So many monuments are stilted⎯and Saint-Gaudens was able to capture that realism by having all the wrinkles and all the elements that you would have with a living person.”

 

From pbs.org:

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848. The son of a shoemaker, Saint-Gaudens moved with his family to New York before he was one. Growing up in the city, he became interested in art, and after turning thirteen he left school to apprentice with a cameo cutter. While an apprentice, Saint-Gaudens took classes at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. When he was nineteen he moved to Europe, where he continued his studies in both Paris and Rome. Studying classical art and architecture, Saint-Gaudens began to work as a professional sculptor.

Returning to America, Saint-Gaudens received his first major commission in New York City. Still considered one of his important works, “Admiral Farragut” (1881) stands in New York’s Madison Square Park. Combining the technical proficiency learned in Europe with a free and flowing hand, Saint-Gaudens created bronze statues that represented the complexity and grandeur of the American heroes he portrayed. Saint-Gaudens was a master of the human form, perfectly representing the physical while bringing to life the personality of his subjects.

 

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By the late 1880s and 1890s, Saint-Gaudens had produced some of his greatest work including a copper statue of Diana and the first of his bronze monuments to President Abraham Lincoln. He had also become part of a group of rising artists and architects including H.H. Richardson, Stanford White, Charles McKim and John La Farge. Working with the McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm he produced a significant body of monuments and decorative sculpture. Throughout his career, he would continue to work closely with architects, creating most of his work specifically for the sites.

 

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Throughout the 1890s Saint-Gaudens continued to work while engaging in the greater art world through teaching and advocacy. Often taking on many private students at once, Saint-Gaudens also taught at the Art Students League of New York, and worked in support of the American Academy in Rome. During these busy times, however, Saint-Gaudens continued to work diligently on a number of projects, many of which took him upwards of ten years or more to complete. His bronze statue of General Sherman led by Victory, which stands at the entrance to New York’s Central Park took eleven years. Probably the most famous of this time however, was the sculpture of a bent and draped figure deep in thought and grief in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C. This sculpture uniquely brings together the monumental and the personal for which Saint-Gaudens’ work has become known.

 

 

By 1900, Saint-Gaudens moved to his summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire. Joined by other artists including Maxfield Parrish, Thomas Dewing, and his brother, the sculptor Louis Saint-Gaudens created a community of artists there that supported and inspired him throughout his final years. On August 3, 1907, Saint-Gaudens died. Today, nearly one hundred years later, the technical grace and subtle beauty of his work remains an inspiration to artists everywhere.

 

 

 

 

Stories Matter

 

 

 

 

An Upcoming Conversation with Singer/ Songwriter Tom Rush

Tom Rush is credited by Rolling Stone Magazine as the musician responsible for ushering in the age of the singer / songwriter.

tr-about_2012_symFrom his bio:

Tom Rush’s impact on the American music scene has been profound. He helped shape the folk revival in the ’60s and the renaissance of the ’80s and ’90s, his music having left its stamp on generations of artists.

James Taylor told Rolling Stone, “Tom was not only one of my early heroes, but also one of my main influences.”

He is a gifted musician and performer, whose shows offer a musical celebration…a journey into the tradition and spectrum of what music has been, can be, and will become. His distinctive guitar style, wry humor and warm, expressive voice have made him both a legend and a lure to audiences around the world.

Country music star Garth Brooks has credited Rush with being one of his top five musical influences. Rush has long championed emerging artists. His early recordings introduced the world to the work of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor, and in more recent years his Club 47 concerts have brought artists such as Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin to wider audiences when they were just beginning to build their own reputations.

Tom Rush began his musical career in the early ’60s playing the Boston-area clubs while a Harvard student. The Club 47 was the flagship of the coffee house fleet, and he was soon holding down a weekly spot there, learning from the legendary artists who came to play, honing his skills and growing into his talent. He had released two albums by the time he graduated.

Rush displayed then, as he does today, an uncanny knack for finding wonderful songs, and writing his own – many of which have become classics re-interpreted by new generations.

We will be recording Tom in November.

Click to hear Tom play No Regrets:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pxEKfEBOWM

Photo Credit: Thomas White

 

 

Stories Matter

Helping to Preserve a Legacy ⎢The Natural History Dioramas of James Perry Wilson and Ralph Morrill

Few would argue that the highest standard in the creation of natural history dioramas was achieved by James Perry Wilson and Ralph Morrill.

James Perry Wilson in Mule Deer diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, 1943. Photograph by Thanos Johnson

James Perry Wilson in Mule Deer diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, 1943.
Photograph by Thanos Johnson

When you stand in front of them, you feel like you are looking into miles of landscape. But just beyond the animals and faux foreground, you are looking at a vertical painting, which recreates in painstaking detail the atmosphere, flora, and geology of the native and natural environment of the species exhibited.

Story Preservation was at Yale University in early 2013 recording Ruth Morrill, widow of Ralph Morrill, and Peabody Museum preparator, Michael Anderson.  While Michael led the interview session, his voice is not heard in the audio as it was Ruth who was both present and participated in the creation of these magnificent works of art and science.

Ruth worked with her husband and James Perry Wilson and shared both her memories as well as knowledge of this fascinating art.

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A Dual-Grid System for Diorama Layout by Ruth Morrill, which outlines the methods used by James Perry Wilson can be read here:  

Preparing a grid

A Dual-Grid System for Diorama Layout 

Ruth is sending along a children’s book that she wrote about creating dioramas.  When received, we’ll pass it along.

Wilson’s dioramas – and legacy – have also been preserved thanks to the efforts of Michael Anderson, who has authored several books on the artist.

To listen to Ruth’s story, click here: 

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  2013. 

Stories Matter

 

 

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