As part of my recent immersion in early nineteenth-century design trends, I browsed through digital volumes of The Craftsman over its 1901-1916 run, every issue readily accessible at the University of Wisconsin’s wonderful Digital Library of the Decorative Arts and Material Culture. This was not a difficult task, as Stickley’s magazine is so interesting: such a heady mix of practicality, philosophy, and politics! How can you not enjoy a magazine with article titles like “Was Jesus a Carpenter?”, “The Century of Ugliness” (which was of course the 19th century from their point of view–when craftsmanship was compromised by industrialization), and “A Plea for True Democracy in the Domestic Architecture of America”? In the end though, I came away feeling sad, as the editors and authors were so very hopeful for their new century, and their hopes were not fulfilled–the most anachronistic aspect of the magazine is its strident optimism. Everything can be reformed and everything is “civic”: not just education and urban planning, but also architecture and horticulture, even clothing. Birds are just as essential as bookcases, as the magazine espouses an integrated doctrine of conservation, craftsmanship, and community. The persistent quest for everything that is simple and “true” does get a bit pedantic as time goes on, even though I would like to live in their well-crafted and orderly world much more than in our disposable and disorderly one! But as soon as I saw Kaiser Wilhelm II depicted in a rather romantic fashion by the “new” German artist Arthur Kampf my browsing grew increasingly melancholy: I knew that the twentieth century would obliterate all opportunities for “Craftsman World”, and transform all those hand-crafted bungalows into cookie-cutter ranches.
Images from The Craftsman, 1901-1916, including the first cover and Stickley’s device, “Als Ik Kan” underneath a joiner’s compass, borrowed from Jan Van Eyck (Flemish for “All that I can do”), a Craftsman door and two-family house, “affording an opportunity for economy of construction without loss of architectural beauty”, living room, dresses “designed for comfort with a purpose in their ornamentation”, hexagonal urban planning, bookcases, urban villages, 1914 cover, and the foreboding Kaiser.
September 8th, 2016 at 4:40 pm
I so want to go and read all the back copies of that magazine. If only I could get my hands on them!
September 8th, 2016 at 4:53 pm
Well–they are digitized, though I prefer paper myself!
September 8th, 2016 at 4:54 pm
REally?????? How do I access them?
September 8th, 2016 at 5:29 pm
There at the University of Wisconsin–I put the link right in the post, 4th line down. A great resource for the decorative arts. I think they’re also available at the internet archive (archive.com).
September 9th, 2016 at 9:41 am
September 12th, 2016 at 5:26 am
Such a wonderful treasure trove! Thanks for the link – in this progressively technical world of technological wizardry I have to remind myself to step away and do what I expound. Return to making with my hands and seeing with my own eyes . Great reminder.
September 12th, 2016 at 6:42 am
I know–it feels good to browse through this world for a bit…
November 24th, 2016 at 3:58 am
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