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Szerző: Howard Phillips Lovecraft • Év: 1925

 

Beauty in Crystal

 

In the leisurely days before the Revolution, when American craftsmanship and domestic life reached their greatest height in pure taste and subdued richness, there was no more notable product in the Colonies than the marvellously beautiful glassware of Heinrich Wilhelm Stiegel. The story of this brilliant immigrant, ironmaster, and glassblower, little known outside his chosen region of Pennsylvania, is itself a drama of the keenest interest; but today he is best remembered by the crystal perfections which he evolved in the great glass works founded in 1765 to supplement his already prodigious iron manufactures.

For this there is small wonder, since glassware is a prominent and carefully chosen item in every home of cultivation, and Stiegel was able to satisfy the most fastidious. The leading households of colonial America, demanding a variety of exquisite and classically moulded tableware and vases to suit every use, every type of interior decoration, and every choice of flowers and delicacies, soon recognised the supremacy of Stiegel’s workmanship; and ordered in immense quantities the lovely and resoundingly bell-like pieces whose modelling and colouring so far surpassed anything previously available. These diamond-clear wineglasses, majestic opal vases in relief, superbly patterned tumblers, enamelled mugs and cordial bottles, jade-green and amethyst cruets and carafes, and above all the famous blue creations with their undertones of green and purple, form priceless heirlooms today for those fortunate enough to inherit them. Persons not so fortunate must rely upon the museums.

Luckily, however, the tradition of Stiegel is not without its upholder in the present age; and what his ware was to our forefathers, the celebrated “Steuben Glass” of the Corning Glass Works, Corning, N.Y., may be justly said to be for us. In this choice commodity we have a living source of the same rare beauty which a century and a half ago came only from the Stiegel furnaces; a beauty not a whit corroded by the haste and carelessness of our mechanical era, but shining as restfully and restrainedly as its colonial predecessor.

In Steuben Glass all the nicety and sense of fitness which characterised the best historical glasswares is retained unimpaired, yet not without permitting the creation of pieces adapted to the most modern uses. Here may one find vases of the exact shade and shape to blend with one’s favourite blossoms, goblets to add sparkle to one’s particular scheme of dining-room ornamentation, salad and iced-tea sets that fit each special occasion, and comports, sweetmeat-jars, and perfume and cigarette boxes that present the widest possibilities as gifts. The infinite diversity of blues, greens, ambers, and other tints vie with the crystal-clear models for intrinsic loveliness; and in all there resides that intangible and aristocratic charm which only artistically conceived and hand-executed glassware can attain.

Happily, these heirlooms of the future are obtainable at very sensible prices, and at most of the better-grade jewellers’, glass and china shops, and department stores. To know their details and varieties in advance, though, it is best to send to Steuben Division, Coming Glass Works, Corning, N.Y., for the firm’s free illustrated brochure. Therein one may behold the inmost spirit of the colonial Stiegel reincarnated in the twentieth century; and in the very region where a grateful congress voted a rural estate to that other mighty voyager from the Rhine valley—Baron Steuben.

 

The Charm of Fine Woodwork

 

In the recent renaissance of taste in domestic architecture and furnishing, nothing has figured more importantly than woodwork. We all know the superlative fascination of the colonial doorway, which seemingly took its place among the lost arts in the nineteenth century, nor can any beauty-lover remain unmoved by the matchless grace of the old-time interiors with their arches, mouldings, mantels, door-frames, wainscoting, window-seats, and china-cupboards. These things, for two or three generations banished by patterns of the most incredible heaviness, ugliness, and grotesqueness, are again coming into their own; and once more the wood-carver rises to prominence as a moulder of charm and atmosphere.

The standard source of fine and enduring woodwork in America today is the Curtis Companies, Inc., of Clifton, Iowa. Realising how completely we are surrounded by woodwork at every turn of our daily lives, and how essential it is to keep that woodwork at a high artistic level, this firm has recaptured the conscientious colonial standard of taste and beauty; and offers a variety of carefully evolved and architecturally sound designs for every conceivable purpose. With selected and seasoned woods and fastidious workmanship the antique level of sumptuous restfulness has been achieved anew, and no modern householder need worry lest his doors, staircases, panelling, and kindred accessories fall below the ideal of his entire scheme in artistic finish and historical correctness.

Woodwork embraces both the usual structural units and the cleverest contrivances of built-in or permanent furniture, such as bookcases, dressers, buffets, and cupboards. Every model is conceived and created with the purest art, ripest scholarship, and mellowest craftsmanship which energetic enterprise can command; and made to conform rigidly to the architecture of each particular type of home. The cost, considering the quality, is amazingly low; and a trademark on the individual pieces prevents any substitution by careless contractors.

It would pay those interested in fine woodwork to send for the free booklets of the firm—one on Interior Doors and Trim and another on Permanent Furniture—addressing The Curtis Companies Service Bureau, 281 Curtis Building, Clinton, Iowa. More elaborate plan books for all styles of dwellings are furnished at one dollar each, or free through certain dealers.

With woodwork always before one’s eyes for better or worse, and comprising at least a sixth of the whole cost of a house, the contemporary homebuilder is fortunate in having so authoritative a service to depend on. Curtis taste and quality are a reliance which the years have tested and found adequate.

 

Personality in Clocks

 

It one were looking for an ideal symbol of that early American taste, enterprise, and craftsmanship which so strongly shaped our national character and gave our now treasured “antiques” the whole basis of their appeal, one could find no object more fitting than the Yankee pendulum clock.

The homes of our ancestors received much of their typical charm from the accurate and artistic timepieces of such master technicians as Simon and Aaron Willard of Massachusetts—the former of whom invented and first manufactured the celebrated “banjo” clock—while the whole life and industrial history of Connecticut were moulded by the famous group of clockmakers beginning with Thomas Harland and culminating in Eli Terry and Seth Thomas.

Today the tall “grandfather” clocks of makers like the Willards, Daniel Burnap, or Silas Hoadley, the Connecticut shelf clocks on the order of Terry’s pillar and scroll-top model of 1814, or the various “banjo” designs of Simon Willard and Elnathan Taber, are among the most prized heirlooms and collectors’ items in the country.

All this is not without reason, and would never have occurred in connexion with a carelessly stereotyped and wholly commercialised product. It is true that the early clockmakers were business men—often pedlars—but they were really much more than that. They put into their work all of the scrupulous thoroughness and honest zeal which marked their age, nor were they satisfied till they had furnished the maximum accuracy of works and most choicely quiet beauty of case for the least possible price. Eli Terry, for example, ceased to make a certain clock after a year’s trial because he found he could do better, though at no greater profit.

But our own age is not without clockmakers to carry on the great tradition. The Colonial Manufacturing Company of 109 Washington Street, Zeeland, Michigan, has studied the clock needs of the modern home as Terry and the Willards studied those of another time; and has produced as a result a series of designs surpassed by none for beauty, accuracy, and appropriateness. We here find the same individual craftsmanship which distinguished the older colonial article, embodied in an exquisite variety of tall and other patterns, each perfect of its kind, impeccable in historic background, unequalled for mechanism by any clock in America or Europe, and made complete by the mellowest and most musical of chimes.

Colonial Clocks, about which the company will gladly send a free booklet on request, are created with a keen realisation of the permanence and strategic decorative importance of the great clock in an American home. Artistic insight and conscience enter into their building, for the makers acutely visualise the clock as a focus of domestic cheer and nucleus of household life. They understand that the face and voice of a clock must be such as will never pall or grate throughout the years, and that a family’s best traditions must find an echo in its intimate furniture.

 

A Real Colonial Heritage

 

One of the first fruits of our modern revival of early Americana has been the welcome disappearance of ugly and nondescript household furniture, and the flooding of the market with patterns based on the classic colonial ideal. The horrors of mission and golden oak have gone to join those of haircloth and black walnut, and shop windows or today shew a very creditable array of rich woods and chaste designs in the manner of the Jacobean, Queen Anne, and Georgian designers.

Seldom, however, can our mechanical civilisation quite approach the elder spirt’ of thoroughness and individual craftsmanship. The bulk of the newer furniture is not offensive, but it is negative. Its vast quantity production forbids the loving attention to detail which marked the careful output of cabinet-makers like Duncan Phyfe, while widespread industrial conditions make harder and harder the achievement of such conscientious solidity as was possible to master-workmen who personally selected and seasoned their woods, created their own ornamental adaptations with mature original artistry, and thought less of intensive selling than of building something as perfect as possible of its kind. One cannot, for example, imagine the average frail, commercial “knock-down” furniture of our day as a potential heirloom to be bequeathed from generation to generation.

The exception which proves the rule is “Danersk” furniture, created in special New England factory-studios for the Erskine-Danforth Corporation, whose new and commodious Manhattan showrooms were opened a year and a half ago at 383 Madison Avenue, opposite the Ritz-Carlton. Here, if nowhere else, we have a genuine perpetuation of the old-time atmosphere; and a painstaking construction of classically derived pieces from tried walnuts, maples, and Cuban mahogany in a fashion likely to resist the wear and tear of coming centuries. Here, indeed, we have one remaining place where a person of taste may buy the future heirlooms of his great-grandchildren, and actually “found a household” in a sense which modernity has almost forgotten.

Free from the superficial and almost contemptuous attitude toward art and scholarship which many strictly commercial enterprises nowadays profess, the Erskine-Danforth Corporation has without sacrifice of surprisingly moderate prices adopted the highest standard of historic accuracy and exact beauty of detail in the choice of its models. American domestic life from the landing of the Pilgrims to the decadence of style in the eighteen-thirties has been minutely and appreciatively searched for inspirations, and all the country’s leading collections have contributed their share toward the making of a wide and versatile body of designs authentically expressive of every phase and period of our lineal tradition. A consistently “Danersk” furnished home, besides enjoying the friendly and livable quality conferred by quiet attention to the most modem needs (and one Georgian “Danersk” desk offers even an unobtrusive compartment for the radio!), has meaning, repose, mellowness, and associations; nor is it likely to violate any aesthetic or historical convention, great or small.

Under this label we may rove at will through the colonial age, choosing a Queen Anne mirror, a chintz-upholstered wing rocker, a Plymouth cupboard, a six-leg highboy, a Chippendale secretary in the Salem manner, or a delicate Empire four-poster, with equal confidence in the faithfulness of the article to its type and antecedents. “Danersk” furniture, in short, is really less of a reproduction than a legitimate continuation of the good old Yankee spirit; and forms perhaps the only contemporary colonial ware which a trained connoisseur would be likely to mistake for the actual products of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries.

 

A True Home of Literature

 

There are few persons, perhaps, who have not wondered at one time or another why the average bookstore does not more fully live up to its obvious possibilities. Necessarily frequented by every sort of literature-lover, it ought logically to become a vital meeting-place for the bookish and the scholarly—the definitely individualised nucleus and headquarters for many a group of wits or informal cultural circle. Yet in most actual cases such a place is provokingly content to remain a mere emporium without distinctiveness or personal appeal; an emporium so little different from any other that the unimpressed customer cares not a whit whether he buys his next book there or at the shop across the way.

It has remained for Paterson, New Jersey, to break ground so far as America is concerned for a newer and sounder custom. Misses Helen and Daisy Modeman, proprietors of the Alexander Hamilton Book Shop at 22 Hamilton St., have visualised the need and the opportunity; and in enlarging their popular establishment to twice its former size have adopted features not heretofore to be met with except at such rare European bookselling salons as Pergolan’s near the Sorbonne in Paris.

In an addition measuring forty-five by fifteen feet, with commodious office balcony and space for a vast variety of desirable used books, will be installed a tasteful and hospitable reading-room designed to meet the uses and comfort of choice lettered spirits and societies of booklovers. There, amidst friendly shelves, mellow woodwork, quaint recesses, and a delightful fireplace of antique brick bearing the appropriate inscription “Ye Ornament of Ye House is Ye Guest Thereof’, the Misses Modeman will act as hostesses to literary Paterson; providing that reposeful background which is almost the inherent right of a great and all-embracing storehouse of written knowledge, tradition, and romance. Of business-like library formality and austerity there will be none. In. stead, we shall find a cheerful home where all our favourite characters of the printed page will vie with one another to welcome us.

Paterson is singularly fortunate in possessing this novel and truly metropolitan enterprise; an enterprise which ably emancipates the city from literary dependence on any of the larger centres of population. The stock is as exceptional as the atmosphere, and competes on equal terms with that of the most esteemed Manhattan book marts. “Nothing too good for our clientele” is a well-fulfilled Modeman motto.

Besides the standard line there is a select department of rare and valuable books, soon to be increased to such proportions that the connoisseur in every branch may have a chance to indulge his bibliomania without seeking outside specialists. Truly, the Alexander Hamilton Book Shop holds an unique and indispensable place among the intellectual influences of its community; and is an achievement worthy of study and emulation in every corner of the nation.

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Legolvasottabb

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
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