The papers of architect Albert Kahn date from 1875-1970, bulk 1875-1945, and measure 7.02 linear feet. Found within the papers is biographical material, correspondence, personal business records, nine sketchbooks, art work, notes and writings, two scrapbooks, printed material, photographs and photograph albums, artifacts, and motion picture film.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of architect Albert Kahn date from 1875-1970, bulk 1875-1945, and measure 7.02 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical material, correspondence, personal business records, nine sketchbooks, art work, notes and writings, two scrapbooks, printed material, photographs and photograph albums, artifacts, a sound recording and motion picture film.
Biographical material includes a biographical account, marriage certificate, architect's licenses, calling cards for the Kahns, passports, identification cards, letters of introduction, award certificates and medals, membership cards and certificates, a sound recording concerning Albert Kahn's life, and an address book.
Correspondence consists of letters between Albert Kahn, family members, and colleagues including Myron Barlow, George D. Mason, Carl Milles and Arthur A. Stoughton. There is one letter each from Henry Bacon and Alexander Trowbridge, and condolence letters to Kahn's widow.
Personal business records include records of stocks and income, lists of expenses and receipts for construction, property records, price lists for paintings by others, and miscellaneous receipts.
Art work includes nine sketchbooks and drawings by Albert Kahn, a paper silhouette portrait of Kahn, and drawings, watercolors, etchings, lithographs, and a sketchbook of Cornwall by others.
Notes and writings include Ernestine Kahn's diary, notebooks, guest registers and records concerning Albert Kahn's funeral, and typescripts of speeches and lectures.
Two scrapbooks contain clippings, small drawings, photographs of architecture, and letters of tribute.
Printed material includes clippings, exhibition catalogs for others, programs, booklets, books, reproductions of art work, travel brochures, picture postcards, and miscellaneous printed material.
Photographs are of Albert Kahn, members of his family, and colleagues including Myron Barlow, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Arturo Toscanini, residences, and travel scenes. Moving images include five reels of 16mm motion picture film of the Kahn family at the farm and at various family gatherings.
Artifacts primarily consist of the tools used by Albert Kahn during his career including t-squares and portable tripod supports for drawing boards used on construction sites.
The collection is arranged as 9 series. Glass plate negative housed separately and closed to researchers.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1896-1945 (Box 1, 6, OV 10; 19 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1891-1970 (Box 1-3, 6; 3.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1891-1943 (Box 3; 7 folders)
Series 4: Art Work, 1890-1936 (Box 3, 6, OV 11-12; 20 folders)
Series 5: Notes and Writings, 1899-1943 (Box 3-4; 29 folders)
Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1890-1942 (Box 7; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1897-1968 (Box 4-6, OV 10; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographs and Moving Images, 1875-1944 (Box 5-6, 8, FC 13-17, MGP 2; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Artifacts, circa 1942 (Box 5, 9; 0.4 linear feet)
Albert Kahn (1869-1942) of Detroit, Michigan, was an architect, primarily known for designing industrial buildings with the pioneering use of reinforced concrete that allowed large unobstructed interiors.
Albert Kahn was born on March 21, 1869 in Rhaunen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, the oldest son of rabbi Joseph Kahn and Rosalie Cohn Kahn. The family immigrated to the United States in 1881 and settled in Detroit, Michigan.
Albert Kahn worked as an office boy in an architect's office and studied drawing in Sunday classes conducted by sculptor Julius Melchers. Melchers found Kahn a position in the architectural offices of Mason and Rice where he worked for several years. In 1890, Kahn won a scholarship to travel in Europe to study architecture and in 1895 he opened his own architectural office, Albert Kahn Associates, hiring his younger brothers, Louis, Moritz, and Felix. In the following year, Kahn married Ernestine Krolik.
In 1903, Kahn was awarded his first two important commissions: to design the University of Michigan's engineering building and the Palm Apartments in Detroit, built with the early use of reinforced concrete. In the following year, he built the first reinforced concrete factory for the Packard Motor Company. Because of the industrial growth in Detroit at that time, Kahn was in demand to design various automobile factories including the General Motors Building, textile, business machine, and chemical plants. He became an authority on concrete construction and by the beginning of the First World War, his firm provided construction for the military aviation section of the Army.
Kahn later moved from using concrete to steel and glass. In 1927, his company finished a large building for the Fisher Brothers of Detroit for which he was awarded a medal by the Architectural League of New York for the year's outstanding contribution to architecture. In the following year his firm was given full charge of the entire heavy industrial building program of Russia's first five-year plan, and they constructed an estimated two billion dollars worth of factories in Russia.
During World War II, Kahn's firm was constantly busy constructing naval air bases, airplane engine plants, tank arsenals including the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, and other government defense projects. In June 1942 Kahn was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts by Syracuse University.
Albert Kahn died on December 8, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan.
The Albert Kahn papers were donated by Kahn's children, Mrs. Lydia Winston Malbin, Mrs. Rosalie Butzel, and Dr. Edgar A. Kahn, in 1974.
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The collection measures 20.8 linear feet, dates from 1885 to 1991 (bulk dates 1908-1986) and documents the career of lithographer, teacher, and painter Prentiss Taylor. The collection consists primarily of subject/correspondence files (circa 16 ft.), reflecting Prentiss' career as a lithographer and painter, his association with figures prominent in the Harlem Renaissance, notably Carl Van Vechten and Langston Hughes, his activities as president of the Society of Washington Printmakers and other art organizations, his work in art therapy treating mental illness, and his teaching position at American University. The subject files contain mostly correspondence, but many include photographs and printed material. Also included are biographical, financial, legal and printed material; several hundred photographs; notes and writings; sketchbooks, drawings and a few prints by Taylor; and scrapbooks dating from 1885-1956.
Scope and Content Note:
The collection measures 20.8 linear feet, dates from 1885 to 1991 (bulk dates 1908-1986) and documents the career of Harlem Renaissance lithographer, teacher, and painter Prentiss Taylor. The collection consists primarily of subject/correspondence files (circa 16 ft.), reflecting Prentiss' career as a lithographer and painter, his association with figures prominent in the Harlem Renaissance, notably Carl Van Vechten and Langston Hughes, his activities as president of the Society of Washington Printmakers and other art organizations, his work in art therapy treating mental illness, and his teaching position at American University. The subject files contain mostly correspondence, but many include photographs and printed material. Also included are biographical, financial, legal and printed material; several hundred photographs; notes and writings; sketchbooks, drawings and a few prints by Taylor; and scrapbooks dating from 1885-1956.
The Langston Hughes files contain photocopies of letters from Hughes, greeting cards, ten original photographs of Hughes, and an autographed card printed with Hughes' poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers. In addition, there is a contract between Hughes and Taylor, witnessed by Carl Van Vechten, forming the Golden Stair Press, through which many of Hughes' poems were printed with illustrations by Taylor. A rare edition of their first publication, The Negro Mother, is found here. Also found in this file is a 1932 final copy of Scottsboro Limited, another collaborative effort between Taylor and Hughes that focused on a case where nine black youths were falsely accused of raping two white women. The collection contains extensive correspondence about Taylor's lithograph of the same title and the printing of the publication. Other rare Harlem Renaissance publications found within Taylor's papers include Golden Stair Broadsides, Opportunity Journal of Negro Life, The Rebel Poet, and Eight Who Lie in the Death House, several of which were also illustrated by Taylor.
Prentiss Taylor's long association with Langston Hughes and other figures of the Harlem Renaissance stemmed from his early friendship with Carl Van Vechten. Taylor's papers contain correspondence with Van Vechten, autographed copies of Van Vechten's booklets, and numerous photographs of notable Harlem Renaissance figures, many taken by Van Vechten, including Zora Neale Hurston, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Eugene O'Neill, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Paul Robeson, and many others. Also found are period photographs of Charleston, South Carolina and Harlem street scenes.
95 letters from Rachel Field, 75 letters from Langston Hughes, 3 letters from Armin Landeck, 46 letters from Josephine Pinckney, 1 letter from Gertrude Stein, 7 letters from Alice B. Toklas, 1 postcard from Mark Van Doren, and 25 letters from Carl Van Vechten are photocopies. Originals of the Hughes and Toklas letters are located at the Yale University Library. Location of the remaining original letters are unknown.
The Prentiss Taylor papers offer researchers insight into the rich cultural documentation of the Harlem Renaissance and the development of twentieth-century printmaking as an American fine art.
The collection is arranged into ten series. The largest series housing Subject Files is arranged alphabetically, primarily by name of correspondent, maintaining Taylor's original arrangement. The remaining series are arranged in chronological order. Oversized material from various series has been housed in Box 21 (Sol) and OV 22 and is noted in the Series Description/Container Listing Section at the appropriate folder title with see also/see references.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1918-1985, undated (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 2: Miscellaneous Receipts, 1929-1986, undated (Box 1; 11 folders)
Series 3: Insurance Records, 1960-1976 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 4: Notes, 1921-1984, undated (Box 1; 18 folders)
Series 5: Writings, 1924-1971, undated (Box 1-2; 51 folders)
Series 6: Art Work, 1916-1975, undated (Box 2; 14 folders)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1885-1956 (Box 2, 21; 10 folders)
Series 9: Photographs, 1908-1984, undated (Box 3, 23-24; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 10: Subject Files, 1885-1991, undated (Box 3-21, OV 22; 18.0 linear feet)
Prentiss Taylor was born in 1907 at the Washington, D. C. residence of his maternal grandmother, his birth assisted by his grandmother's cook, affectionately known as Cookie Belle.
In the 1920s, Taylor studied painting with Charles W. Hawthorne in Provincetown, but turned to lithography in the late 1920s to early 1930s during his enrollment at the Art Students League in New York City. He received further training in that medium at the George C. Miller workshop in New York. During this period, he also designed costumes for the American-Oriental Revue. Taylor worked primarily in the printmaking medium for the rest of his life, experimenting with various techniques and compositions and ultimately achieving a status as one this country's great lithographers. Taylor depicted mostly realistic and narrative scenes of subjects and themes that reflected his personal interests in music, architecture, religion and social justice.
During his time in New York, Taylor developed close friendships with poet Langston Hughes and writer Carl Van Vechten. He collaborated with Hughes in the formation of the Golden Stair Press to produce publications reflecting the ideas of the Harlem Renaissance. Taylor created a number of prints and illustration for the press and its publications.
After returning to Washington, D.C., Taylor's work was included in exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. He was represented by the Franz Bader Gallery in Washington, D.C., and by the Bethesda Art Gallery in Maryland. In 1942, Taylor was elected President of the Society of Washington Printmakers, a position he held for thirty-four years. He also worked as an art therapist for more than thirty years and taught oil painting at American University from 1955-1975.
Prentiss Taylor died October 7, 1991 in Washington, D.C.
Prentiss Taylor papers are also located at the Yale University Library.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel 1392) including three notebooks detailing Taylor's lithographs, a gift and sales notebook, a guestbook, exhibition announcements, and a brochure. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Prentiss Taylor lent the Archives of American Art material for microfilming in 1978. Papers were donated in 1978 and 1984 by Taylor, and in 1992 and 2004 by his companion, Roderick S. Quiroz, for the estate of Prentiss Taylor.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
Prentiss Taylor papers, 1885-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the digitization of the microfilm of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Funding for the conservation of Prentiss Taylor's photograph album, 1929-1939, was provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.