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The Society of Arts and Crafts Boston


Medal presented by the Society of Arts and Crafts Boston in 1915 to Margaret Rogers for her metalwork

Medal presented by the Society of Arts and Crafts Boston in 1915 to Margaret Rogers for her metalwork

Medal presented by the SOACB in 1915 to Margaret Rogers for metalwork


The Society of Arts and Crafts Boston was a vital force in educating the public about Arts & Crafts work, recognizing important craftspeople, and providing a retail outlet for its members.  A short history of the SOACB published in Handicrafts of New England by Allen H. Eaton in 1949 (pp. 281-294) follows below.


Especially interesting are the list of the 63 SOACB medalists, and the list of local National League of Handicraft Societies:





THE Society of Arts and Crafts of Boston was for more than a quarter of a century one of the greatest influences in our country for spreading "the gospel of Beauty combined with Usefulness." In New England, and to a considerable extent throughout the nation, it continues to be a strong factor in the handicraft movement, and includes in its membership some of the best craftsmen in the country…. it was the exhibition idea which made the connection between the arts and crafts movement in old England and its expression in New England, resulting in the organization of the Society of Arts and Crafts.


The plea of the young printer, Henry Lewis Johnson, for the establishment here of handicraft exhibitions similar to those held in England and France resulted in his being appointed to carry out plans for the first such exhibit to be held on this continent, in 1897. The members of the committee who made the decision are given because all who are interested in handicrafts owe a great deal to these farsighted persons. The list is taken from a short history of the Society by May R. Spain, published in 1924 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding, which was celebrated in 1922. Free use of Mrs. Spain's material has been made because it is believed that the booklet would itself be available to comparatively few readers.


The members of the organizing committee for the 1897 exhibition were:


General Charles G. Loring, chairman of the trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts; Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow and Denman W. Ross, trustees of the Museum; Ross Turner, the painter; Charles A. Cummings, president of the Boston Society of Architects; R. Clipston Sturgis of the Boston Architectural Club; C. Howard Walker, who had founded the Museum School of Design; A. W. Longfellow, Jr., Sylvester Baxter, then art critic for the Boston Transcript.


The prospectus bore the names of the following persons, both men and women, who believed in the importance of this movement:


J. B. Millet, Thomas P. Smith, James Richard Carter, Robert Treat Paine, Jr., Mrs. Henry Whitman, C. H. Blackall, William T. Sedgwick, Curtis Guild, Jr., Robert D. Andrews, Arthur Astor Carey, H. Langford Warren, Mrs. J. Montgomery Sears, Mrs. Richard Morris Hunt, Mrs. Samuel D. Warren, Holker Abbott, Sears Gallagher, E. H. Clement, Rev. E. A. Horton, J. W. Phinney, Will Bradley, Edwin D. Mead, Mrs. Charles S. Sargent, Warren F. Kellogg, F. W. Chandler, H. W. Hartwell, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, S. N. D. North, and Samuel B. Capon....


There were some 400 exhibits -- many, of course, comprising several articles -- by over 100 exhibitors, at least half of whom were women. The more noteworthy included the very valuable collection of jewelry by George Marcus of New York; wrought iron Work by Eugene Kulinski and Co., and William H. Jackson and Co.; decorative book-bindings and stained glass by Mrs. Henry Whitman; fine hand wrought silver by Barton P. Jenks, George P. Kendrick, the Gorham Mfg. Co. and L. S. Ipsen; book covers, book­plates and illustrations by Miss Amy M. Sacker; embroidery by Mrs. J. Montgomery Sears, St. Margaret's School, Miss Olive Long and Mrs. D. D. Addison; pen and ink designs by Theodore Brown Hopgood, Jr., and Harry Goodhue; the "Altar Book," with type, initials and borders designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, pottery designed by Joseph Linden Smith and Charles E. Mills, and executed by Hugh C. Robertson of the Dedham Pottery; a set of fire irons designed by A. W. Longfellow, Jr.; wood carvings by I. Kirchmayer; designs for stained glass by John and Bancel LaFarge; and designs for carpets by William Morris, "to whom this and all the arts and crafts exhibitions owe their existence more than to any other man."




The success of the exhibition seemed to justify a permanent organi­zation, and on June 28, 1897, the Society of Arts and Crafts was duly incorporated, its purpose as stated in its constitution being "to develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts."


[The] twenty-four people signing the articles of agreement . . . were: Charles Eliot Norton, Arthur Astor Carey, C. Howard Walker, A. W. Longfellow, Jr., Morris Gray, Henry Lewis Johnson, H. Langford Warren, Denman W. Ross, Robert D. Andrews, Ralph Adams Cram, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Barton P. Jenks, D. B. Updike, Hugh Cairns, Mrs. D. D. Addison, Mrs. J. Montgomery Sears, Mrs. Henry Whitman, John Evans, I. Kirchmayer, George P. Kendrick, George R. Shaw, J. T. Coolidge, Jr., Samuel D. Warren and George Edward Barton.


At the first meeting held October 13, 1897, Professor Charles Eliot Norton was elected president, and Arthur Astor Carey, Mrs. Henry Whitman and John Evans, vice-presidents. Morris Gray was the first treasurer, and George Edward Barton, clerk....


The aims of the Society were summed up by Professor Norton in the following words: "The Society of Arts and Crafts is incorporated for the purpose of promoting artistic work in all branches of handi­craft. It hopes to bring designers and workmen into mutually helpful relations, and to encourage workmen to execute designs of their own. It endeavors to stimulate in workmen an appreciation of the dignity and value of good design; to counteract the popular impatience of Law and Form, and the desire for over-ornamentation and specious originality. It will insist upon the necessity of sobriety and restraint, of ordered arrangement, of due regard for the relation between the form of an object and its use, and of harmony and fitness in the decoration put upon it."


When Professor Norton resigned as president of the Society, Arthur Astor Carey succeeded him. Early in 1899 the advisability of omitting an exhibition was considered unless the Society could be guaranteed against financial loss. President Carey announced that "a friend had been found who would make good any deficit that might be incurred:" The same friend came to the Society's rescue periodically during Mr. Carey's presidency, thus giving an opportunity for progress which would not have been possible under other circumstances. Accordingly the exhibition of 1899 was directed by Mr. Johnson with Professor H. Langford Warren as chairman. "It was continued for three weeks, even being kept open on Sunday at the nominal charge of ten cents for admission in order to reach the people for whom it was primarily intended."


   There were about three thousand entries in the 1899 exhibition, including work in jewelry, metals, woodcarving, modeling, printing, bookbinding, engraving, pottery, stained glass, wall hangings in gilded leather, lace by Italian women of North Boston, embroidery from the Society of Blue and White Needlework.


Sample metalwork by New England silversmiths Hazel French, Edward Oakes,

Frank Gardner Hale, and others (from Handicrafts of New England)


Sample metalwork by New England silversmiths Hazel French, Edward Oakes, Frank Gardner Hale, and others (from Handicrafts of New England)




A few significant facts given in chronological order will serve to acquaint the reader at this point with the Society's growth, as well as its continuing importance in the present handicraft movement.


In the course of its fifty years the Society of Arts and Crafts has occupied several headquarters in Boston with exhibition and salesroom facilities of various kinds. In December, 1900, the first salesroom was opened in the old Twentieth Century Club Building on Somerset Street and Ashburton Place. Sales for the first year were $4,000. By 1904 they had increased to $14,000. The Society was then occupying quarters at 9 Park Street. When a large increase of business in 1905 put sales at $37,000, the Society achieved financial independence. A year later the remaining part of the street floor of Ticknor House was taken over. Between 1909 and 1920 sales increased until they reached $152,000 in the latter year. As would be expected, sales fell off appre­ciably at the end of the 1920's.


The Society has had a distinguished list of presidents, a complete list of whom follows:


1897-1899 Charles Eliot Norton

1899-1903 Arthur Astor Carey

1903-1917 H. Langford Warren

1917-1920 R. Clipston Sturgis

1920-1921 John Endicott Peabody

1922-1925 C. Howard Walker

1925-1928 William T. Aldrich

1928-1930 William L. Mowll

1930-1933 C. Howard Walker

1933-1935 J. Templeman Cool­idge, Jr.

1935-1939 Charles J. Connick

1939-1946 Charles Ewing

1946-          Mrs. John S. Ames


Frederic Allen Whiting, who had become secretary and treasurer of the Society in 1900, organized and managed the first salesroom, and directed the activities of the Society until April, 1911. The Jury of Standards, appointed about the time of the opening of the salesroom, was an institution to which the Society has always attributed much of its success and growth.


The members of the first jury were: J. Templeman Coolidge, Jr., Mrs. J. Montgomery Sears, Mrs. Henry Whitman, Mrs. Hartley Dennett, R. Clipston Sturgis, Professor H. Langford Warren, Laurin H. Martin, Henry Hunt Clark, A. W. Longfellow, Jr., Denman W. Ross, C. Howard Walker, Nils J. Kjellstrom, and George R. Shaw.


There have been changes in membership from the 24 charter mem­bers of 1897: In its first year the Society grew to 71; by 1907, its tenth anniversary, membership had reached 700, and its executive officers had begun to give much time to the development of other handicraft groups throughout the country. In 1922 the Society had nearly 1,100 members; today, under the more strict rules indicated below, there are approximately 700.


Four classes of craftsmanship are recognized: junior, craftsman, master craftsman, and medalist. Associate membership consists of persons who are not producing craftsmen, but are interested in sup­porting the craft movement. The Council, established in 1898, is composed equally of craftsmen and associate members.


By action of the jury, increasingly high standards of selection have been instituted in recent years. The Society felt that craftsmen had reached the point where such a policy could be enacted. This has inevitably reduced the numbers of acceptable craftsmen and of work approved, and it has caused some reduction in sales. However, growth is measured in different ways and this policy may be placed in the category of a calculated risk.


From 1913, when the custom of awarding a medal for excellence in craftsmanship and service was instituted, until 1948 only sixty-three medals have been conferred, never to more than three craftsmen in any single year. Below is given a complete list of medalists arranged chronologically: [emphasis ours]


Arthur J. Stone, silversmith

I. Kirchmayer, woodcarver

Henry C. Mercer, potter

Frank L. Koralewsky, ironworker

Mrs. Josephine H. Shaw, jeweler

Mary Crease Sears, bookbinder

Margaret Rogers, jeweler

Mrs. Adelaide Alsop Robineau, potter

Frank Gardner Hale, jeweler

James T. Woolley, silversmith

Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Dixon, jewelers

Elizabeth E. Copeland, enameler

Herbert A. Taylor, silversmith

Bertrand H. Wentworth, photographer

Karl F. Lein­onen, silversmith

Douglas Donaldson, metalworker

Walfred Thulin, woodcarver

Sister Magdalen, illuminator.

George C. Gebelein, silversmith

Samuel Yellin, ironworker

Charles J. Connick, stained glass designer

T. M. Cleland, designer and printer

Lester H. Vaughan, metalworker

E. Crosby Doughty, photographer

Winifred M. Crawford, illuminator

Charles F. Binns, potter

Edward E. Oakes, jeweler

Francis O. Libby, photographer

Emile Bernat, tapestry weaver

Ellsworth Woodward, potter

Henry Lewis Johnson, printer

Lydia Bush-Brown, batik dyer and designer

Raymond E. Hanson, photographer.

Arthur E. Baggs, potter

Ernest Watson, blockprinter

Beatrix Holmes, illuminator

D. B. Updike, printer

George E. Germer, silversmith

Mrs. Gertrude S. Bassett, illuminator

Herbert Turner, photographer

Mrs. Louise Chrimes, needleworker

C. Howard Walker, designer, adviser

Joseph G. Reynolds, stained glass de­signer

F. J. R. Gyllenberg, silversmith

W. J. Phillips, blockprinter

John Templeman Coolidge, Jr., president of Arts and Crafts Society, 1933.

John G. Wiggins, woodcarver

Amy M. Sacker, art teacher

Charles Feurer, decorator

Katharine Pratt, silversmith

Mrs. Grace Corbett Reed, weaver

Edward M. Billings, chaser of silver

Charles W. Brown, spoon maker

William E. Brigham, jeweler

Charles Ewing, distinguished service

Mrs. Marion Y. Greene, decorator

Marion L. Fosdick, potter

Mildred Watkins, enameler

Mrs. Foster Stearns, needleworker

Porter Blanchard, silversmith

Humphrey J. Emery, distinguished service

Charles D. Maginnis, architect

Mrs. Orin E. Skinner, service in design and technique.


   The rare service of C. Howard Walker as critic for the jury of Standards is one of the great chapters in the history of the Arts and Crafts Society. His death in 1935 brought an outpouring of appreciative comments from many sources, which were used in a memorial issue of the Society's Bulletin. His distinguished activities as an architect, city planner, educator, artist, and critic were of national importance, and Boston knew him as one of her "most caustic critics and most affectionate defenders." J. Templeman Coolidge, Jr., who succeeded him as president of the Society, said, "Everything about Howdy was big -- his brain, his knowledge, his imagination, and his heart." Of his service on the jury, "which soon made him its authorized spokesman," Mrs. Robert B. Stone, a member of the Council wrote as follows: "Vigorous, caustic, and fearless in denouncing sham, he was cooperative and kindly toward earnest effort both in his criticism and encourage­ment.... His vividness, his energy and genial presence were a never-­failing inspiration.... One can hardly estimate the number of those who have been heartened to further effort by ... his helpful leader­ship." That a man of such eminence should give mind and heart to the guidance of craftsmen was at once a tribute to his breadth of under­standing and to the importance of handicrafts.


"Principles of Handicraft" from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903


"Principles of Handicraft" from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903




The Society's monthly publication, Handicraft, which first appeared in April, 1902, was of great interest and benefit to craftsmen, especially to those who could not visit the shop or attend meetings. This booklet combined typographical elements of modesty and beauty as refreshing today as when it was first printed. A note appearing in the first issue read: "Handicraft is intended as a means of increasing clearness of thought and community of sentiment among the followers of the Arts and Crafts movement, to offer an opportunity for public discussion of the artistic and economic problems involved, and to be a constant and definite reminder of the strong and wholesome principles which must necessarily underlie permanent success in genuine handi­craft. Its aim is to uphold standards of work and taste, and to discuss questions from the point of view of practical good sense."


Some of the subjects discussed in Handicraft during its first year were: Aesthetics and Ethics, by Mary Ware Dennett; Style in the Composition of Type, by D. B. Updike; Lace-Making in Boston, by Sylvester Baxter; Art Enamels and Enamelling, by Samuel Bridge Dean; The Present Aspect of American Art from the Point of View of an Illustrator, by Howard Pyle; The Movement for Village Indus­tries, by Sylvester Baxter; Byways Among Craftsmen, by Elizabeth B. Stone; The Qualities of Carving, by H. Langford Warren; The Arts and Crafts: A Diagnosis, by Dr. Denman W. Ross; Indian Handicrafts, by George Wharton James. Each issue contained a one-page editorial, and a favorite quotation was printed on the back cover.


Silver objects from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903.  It is interesting that Mary Knight designed both the bowl that she made and one created by fellow Handicraft Society worker Seth Ek.


Silver objects from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903.  It is interesting that Mary Knight designed both the bowl that she made and one created by fellow Handicraft Society worker Seth Ek.




It is scarcely possible for craftsmen of the present day fully to realize their obligation to the pioneer thinkers and workers who by banding together devoted themselves to the practical problems involved in the creation of objects of beauty by hand. They were largely responsible for a great advance in taste, and for laying the foundation of a handi­craft movement which has affected the lives of countless persons throughout our nation.


In line with its broad educational policy the Society voted to send Mr. Whiting to represent it at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904; the Society's exhibits there in the Division of Applied Arts numbered 477 objects out of a total of 863 shown. Craftsmen from the Society won twenty-seven of the forty-nine medals awarded. Mr. Whiting was in charge of all the applied arts exhibits; he also served on the International Jury of Award. Three of the six United States members of this body belonged to the Society of Arts and Crafts. Mr. and Mrs. Whiting received medals in recognition of their splendid service. The Exposition did much to advance the influence of the Society as a leader in the arts and crafts movement, and crafts­men throughout the country made application for membership.


In 1904 the Society suffered a great loss in the death of Mrs. Henry Whitman, one of its charter members who was also a vice-president and member of the jury. She was a master craftsman, whose stained glass and designs for book covers and bookbindings had been shown in the 1897 exhibit. A memorial exhibition of her work was held in the spring of 1905.


   In 1917 the Society suffered another heavy loss in the sudden death of its president, Professor H. Langford Warren.




The new quarters at 9 Park Street, into which the Society moved in 1904, provided an excellent gallery for display purposes and two exhibitions were planned for the autumn of 1904. The first one was held during the sessions of the Episcopal General Convention, and showed a variety 'of work designed for church service and decoration. The second exhibition was of modern printing, which included work by the four men who received the only awards made for printing at the St. Louis Exposition: Bruce Rogers, who had received the grand prize; D. B. Updike, who had been awarded the gold medal; and Clark Conwell and Frederic W. Goudy, each of whom had won a bronze medal.


     The tenth anniversary of the Society of Arts and Crafts was marked in February, 1907, by an exhibition held in Copley Hall, which at­tracted international attention and received wide comment by art critics and editors. Professor Warren was chairman of the Exhibition Committee which awarded commendation to twenty-five members and mention to thirty-five. In this exhibition as in others, the Society carried out the rule it had adopted when organized in 1897: to give credit to the individual craftsman or designer for work done whether it was exhibited by him or by his employer. In addition to work by members, exhibits were admitted from affiliated organizations for the anniversary exhibition.





It was in 1907 during the tenth anniversary celebration that the various arts and crafts societies outside of Boston met in conference with the Boston Society on its invitation and established the National League of Handicraft Societies. Professor Warren was elected presi­dent; Mr. Whiting served as secretary and treasurer. An announcement sent out soon after the conference described the purpose of the League as follows: "To bring together the various societies who are working for the same general purpose; to provide a small traveling exhibit which could serve as a set of standards; to provide traveling libraries of technical handbooks and of photographs; to arrange in cooperation with local societies, large exhibitions in various centers; to revive Handicraft as an organ of the League; to arrange courses of lectures through cooperation so that the various societies can secure the leading lecturers at a minimum cost."


The constituent societies of the League, numbering originally twenty-four and later augmented to thirty-three, including the Boston Society, were as follows: [emphasis ours]


Colorado: Arts -- Crafts Society, Denver

Connecticut: Arts and Crafts Club, Hartford; Art-Crafts Society, Wallingford

Illinois: Chicago Society of Arts and Crafts; Bradley Arts and Crafts Club, Peoria; Society of Arts and Crafts, Rockford

Indiana: Arts and Crafts League, Evansville

Maine: Portland Society of Arts and Crafts

Maryland: Handicraft Club of Baltimore

Massachusetts: Whittier Home Association of Arts and Crafts, Amesbury; Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston; Society of Deerfield Industries; Arts and Crafts Society, Haverhill; Hingham Society of Arts and Crafts; Melrose Society of Arts and Crafts; Norwell Society of Arts and Crafts; Wayland Society of Arts and Crafts

Michigan: Society of Arts and Crafts, Detroit

Minnesota: Handicraft Guild, Minneapolis; Society of Arts and Crafts, Minneapolis

Missouri: Arts and Crafts Society, Kansas City; Society of Applied Arts, St. Louis

Montana: Society of Arts and Crafts, Deer Lodge; Helena Society of Arts and Crafts

New Hampshire: Handicraft Workers of Peterboro

New Jersey: Arts and Crafts Society of New Jersey, East Orange

New York: National Society of Craftsmen, New York City

North Carolina: Arts and Handicrafts Guild, Greensboro

Ohio: William Morris Society, Columbus

Oregon: Portland Arts and Crafts Society

Pennsylvania: Arts and Crafts Guild, Philadelphia

Rhode Island: Handicraft Club, Providence

South Carolina: Handicraft Guild, Charleston


As a result of the organization of the League, two traveling libraries of books in the arts and crafts were circulated throughout the country and a reference library was maintained at the main offices of the Society in Boston for League members. The magazine, Handicraft, was revived under League auspices and was published at The Dyke Mill, Montague, Massachusetts, for several years with Mr. Whiting as editor. Carl Purington Rollins was assistant editor and designed its format.


In spite of the recession of 1907, an educational program was ad­vanced by the Society of Arts and Crafts which gave renewed vitality to the movement. A number of lectures were arranged under the auspices of the Library Committee, and the Metal Workers' Guild was organized. This was followed in 1908 by the organization of the Wood Workers' Guild, and shortly after came the St. Dunstan's Guild for workers in ecclesiastical arts. By 1909 the Society had again become self-supporting; its educational movements were developing apprecia­tion of things beautiful throughout the land, and producing craftsmen found marketing opportunities through the Society and the League. The principle of the Society was to require just enough in the way of commissions to cover the expenses of their sales. This cooperative arrangement for both craftsman and supporter formed a strong basis for steady growth.


As the Society of Arts and Crafts was growing and realizing the hopes of its founders, the countrywide organization was also getting well under way. The National League of Handicraft Societies in 1911 held its annual meeting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, by invitation of the Museum's trustees, and the Society of Arts and Crafts arranged a special exhibition at the Museum for the occasion. Professor Warren and Mr. Whiting had piloted the League to a point where it was strong enough to relieve them of this responsibility and elect other officers. Huger Elliott was elected president of the League and its headquarters were moved to Providence, Rhode Island.


In the following year Mr. Whiting accepted the invitation of the John Herron Art Institute of Indianapolis to become director of its Museum; a year later he was made director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1930 Mr. Whiting became president of the American Feder­ation of Arts at Washington, and one of his able curators, William M. Milliken, succeeded him as director of the Cleveland Museum. Mr. Whiting and Mr. Milliken were responsible for the first local exhibition, held in 1919, showing the handicrafts of our foreign-born citizens. The Cleveland Museum holds annually a notable handicraft exhibition, the work of local craftsmen.


   After Mr. Whiting's resignation as director of the Society of Arts and Crafts, responsibility for the work fell for a time upon Mrs. C. S. Ropes, who had assisted him so efficiently, and judge Frederick P. Cabot, chairman of the salesroom committee. In the autumn of 1912 Henry P. Macomber became director, and Mrs. Ropes assumed full responsibility for sales. Mr. Macomber visited many craftsmen and their organizations throughout the country and thus helped them main­tain a close cooperative relationship with the Boston Society.


Small silver objects by Mark Knight and Karl Leinonen, from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903


Small silver objects by Mark Knight and Karl Leinonen, from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903




The exhibition of April, 1913, proved to be especially significant because of the high quality of the entries -- fine wrought-iron objects by Frederick Krasser, porcelain and pottery by Mrs. A. A. Robineau, lacquered furniture by Miss B. E. Colman, woodcarvings by I. Kirch­mayer, stained glass by Charles J. Connick -- and also because it was held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


Although the Society did not exhibit as a group at the Panama-­Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, it was represented officially by Mr. Macomber, who also served on the International Jury of Award, and individual members of the Society from parts of the country received awards:


Grand Prizes: for pottery, Mrs. A. A. Robineau; for bookbinding, Mrs. L. Averill Howland. Medals of Honor: for miniatures, Miss Laura C. Hills; for pottery, the Fulper Pottery. Gold Medals: for stained glass, Charles J. Connick; for ironwork, Frank L. Koralewsky; for decorated china, Miss Maud M. Mason; for oil paintings, Giovanni B. Troccoli. Silver Medals: for water colors, Mrs. Elizabeth S. G. Elliott; for oil paintings and water colors, H. D. Murphy; for oil paintings, Philip Little. Bronze Medals: for wood engraving, Miss Elizabeth Colwell and Arthur W. Dow; for enamel work, Miss Elizabeth E. Copeland. Mr. Macomber was also awarded a bronze medal for his services.


During this same year the Art Institute at Chicago in its annual exhibition of Applied Arts conferred prizes upon three members of the Society: Arthur E. Baggs for the best exhibit of pottery; George E. Germer for the best original design in silverware; and Mrs. Clara S. Grierson for the best exhibit of textiles.


Early in 1920 an exhibition was held in Boston of Modern British Arts and Crafts, which had been assembled by Miss Helen Plumb of the Detroit Arts and Crafts Society, and which gave much pleasure to the American group. A few years prior to this, C. R. Ashbee, presi­dent of the London Guild of Handicrafts, had lectured on William Morris, with whom Ashbee had been closely associated. During all the period of its growth the Society's rooms have been in constant use for exhibitions, meetings, and lectures.


The 1920's were fateful years for the Society. Its twenty-fifth anniversary was marked by the publication of Mrs. Spain's history, and by the part the Society played in arranging a traveling exhibition of handicrafts which, under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts, circulated from 1922 to 1923. Mr. Macomber headed a special committee in charge of this enterprise and C. Howard Walker was a member of the jury, serving with Frederic Allen Whiting and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. The exhibit demonstrated the progress that had taken place in design and craftsmanship since the first exhibition of the Society in 1897.


During the Boston Tercentenary in 1930, the Society was invited to exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.




In 1924 a large membership and a considerable surplus influenced the Society to take the step, which had long been contemplated, of establishing a New York salesroom at 7 West Fifty-sixth Street -- later moved to Madison Avenue -- under the direct supervision of Mrs. C. H. Busck and shortly thereafter of Miss Elizabeth Lyman. A com­mittee consisting of Mr. Macomber, George J. Hunt, Henry Hunt Clark, and George C. Greener acted with Mr. Walker in making the arrangements. The new move, while of definite benefit to member craftsmen, proved in the long run to be a serious drain upon the Boston Society. The sales would have been considered high for any city except New York, where expenses soon outran profits. New Yorkers, the shop management thought, appeared to expect orders to be com­pleted the day after they were placed. In any event, it became nec­essary to close the shop after about four years.


The New York venture had not been separately incorporated, and the burden of its failure fell upon the Boston Society. The surplus of about $20,000, which the Society had accumulated in Boston, was wiped out and an additional debt of the same amount was incurred. That the Society was able to work its way through these difficulties without sacrificing the high standard of craftsmanship it had always maintained, is a remarkable tribute to its leadership and to the loyalty of its member craftsmen, who frequently agreed to postponement of payments. To add to its problems, sales in 1929 began to recede.


   Shortly after the close of the New York shop, Mr. Macomber, who had served the Society as its executive officer for sixteen years, left to accept a position at Cranbrook. Grant H. Code was elected director in his stead, a position which he held until the election of Joseph Loud in the spring of 1930.


Leinonen flatware, from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903


Leinonen flatware, from Handicraft, Volume I, 1902-1903




In June, 1930, Humphrey J. Emery, the present director of the Society, was elected secretary-treasurer. The officers at that time were: C. Howard Walker, president; J. Templeman Coolidge, Jr., and Mrs. Henry Lyman, vice-presidents. Mr. Emery came in at a time when the Society was in serious financial condition and sales were diminishing. The most drastic economies were undertaken, and in the course of three years the expenses of operation were reduced by 60 per cent. It was difficult to maintain the service to which members were accus­tomed, but a loyal and well-trained staff succeeded in doing so.


By the end of 1932 sales had begun to show a change for the better. Gradually the Society was able to resume its program of edu­cation and production. Three special exhibits were held in 1933, and two were sent on tour. The important decision to move to 32 Newbury Street was announced to eight thousand customers and friends in a beautifully printed broadside. Mr. Coolidge, recognizing Mr. Emery's part in improving the Society's condition, remarked at a meeting in 1934, held in the new quarters, that "but for him the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts could not be assembled here tonight." The move to new quarters was based on the careful reasoning that business was moving to the western part of the city, and that at this time leases were available at reasonable rates. Events fully justified the decision.


In 1934 the Society exhibited twenty-eight water colors of descend­ants of Maximilian the Great by C. Howard Walker. Shortly thereafter the Society collected an Exhibition of Contemporary Craft Work to be judged by a jury independent of its own membership. It comprised: William T. Aldrich, a former president, William Emerson, dean of the Architectural School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Frank L. Allen of the Massachusetts School of Art. The awards were: first, Charles Harder; second, Katharine Alden; and third, John P. Petterson.


During the next three years the Society was called upon to aid representatives of the churches of Greater Boston by providing exhibi­tions of ecclesiastical work to be shown during their annual con­vention. There were at the time several craftsmen especially well fitted to meet the demands of this exhibition. In 1937 members of the Society took part in the International Exposition in Paris through a collection of handicrafts assembled by Horace H. F. Jayne.


In 1938 the Society accepted an invitation to participate in the Fiftieth Exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society of Lon­don. In 1943 a committee of the Society selected from the Contem­porary Handicrafts Exhibition, sponsored by the Worcester Art Museum, a collection of handicrafts which was shown in Boston.


In the summer of 1946 the Society was obliged to find a new home. This need naturally took precedence over any other matters; even the plans of the Society to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. When new quarters had been found at 145 Newbury Street, the question of marking the Society's anniversary was again considered. Previous exhibitions of the kind contemplated had been held either at the Museum of Fine Arts or in halls suitable for the purpose. The Society's officers, however, were eager to bring the Fiftieth Anniversary Exhi­bition to the attention of a public that knew but little about contem­porary American craft work. Since the greatest human traffic exists in the downtown department store area, it seemed logical to turn in this direction for an exhibition gallery. Conferences with Lee W. Court, display manager of the William Filene's Sons Company, resulted in the Company's generously offering the use of show windows on three streets surrounding the store.


The Exhibition was arranged for a period of two weeks beginning at Easter time. The first three windows set forth the past, present, and future work of the Society. The past was represented by objects which had been previously shown in the early exhibitions of 1897 and 1899. The second window showed characteristic work of the period when the Society was at 9 Park Street. The third window covered the most modern work exhibited by the Society. The remaining windows represented contemporary craft work.


An artist and a craftsman himself, Mr. Court saw in the Exhibition an opportunity for the store to help interpret to the people of New England a part of their heritage of contemporary life and culture of the region. Statements were sent to about a hundred newspapers, calling attention to the participation of local craftsmen. Although no sales were made by the store, an information center was maintained there from which prospective purchasers were directed to the Society's headquarters. Of the thousands of people who saw the Exhibition from the street, many of them before and after working hours, several hundred made inquiries regarding opportunities to become craftsmen. The example of interest and cooperation in the handicraft movement set by Filene's has been followed by stores in other cities.


   The direct responsibility for the Exhibition was assumed by Miss Louisa Dresser, former acting director of the Worcester Art Museum, to whose skill, taste, tact, and good management Mr. Emery and Mr. Court attest.




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