THIS JUST IN: Motoring through the Depression: to Florida & New England by ‘House Car’

By Nicola Hellmann-McFarland, Special Collections Library Assistant

What exactly is a “house car”? It is, indeed, what it sounds like -a house that is also a car, very much like any other recreational vehicle (RV). However, it is often custom-built on a truck frame or a small bus, converted into a bulky sleeper and touring car made to allow its driver and inhabitants to romance the road with maximum convenience, celebrating their freedom to explore.

This was the idea of Winfield L. Markham from Lakewood, NY, who took to the road with his box-shaped house car in the early days of the Great Depression during the winters of 1930 and ’31. One of our latest additions to the Florida Photograph Album Collection at Special Collections, an album entitled “Motoring through the Depression: To Florida & New England by ‘House Car,’” showcases this excursions.

Camping-friendly alterations were generally made to cars almost as soon as they were introduced. Allegedly, the first version of a house car was the Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau from 1910 (America’s premiere prestige automaker at the time), which attracted quite a crowd when it was shown at the Madison Avenue Motor Show in New York that year. It was a nifty car to own, and only three Landaus were made, one of which was purchased by cereal magnate Charles William Post. A few years later, refusing to be outdone by Post, another famous cereal magnate, Will Keith Kellogg, requested his own vehicle -only fancier, of course. Known as the “Ark”, it was built from a white motor truck and was modeled after a classy Pullman railroad car.

The house car owned by Winfield L. Markham was not as dandy as those owned by Post or Kellogg, but it sure went places. In it, he made at least three long trips – a 5000 mile trip to Florida with a friend, a 1675 miles trip through New York and the New England States with his mother and a party of friends, and another trip to Florida, again with his mother and the same friends.

One of Mr. Markham’s hobbies was to produce travelogues of his trips, and he documented these voyages by taking many photographs of the places he went, with or without his travel companions posing in them. Afterwards, he arranged 95 of his images in a beautiful, hand-made photo album, each neatly captioned with typed titles, echoing both the diversity of the places traveled and the curiosity and eagerness of the travelers to explore unknown territories.

In his images, Mr. Markham’s eye for the quirky managed to capture the details of life on the road and his appreciation of nature side by side with his interest in cultural history. On one of the trips south to Florida, for instance, Mr. Markham and his travel companion Glenn W. Harris had made a stop in Georgia at the site of “Stone Mountain,” the gigantic memorial to the Confederacy of which had only been partially completed at the time –a surprising scene for today’s onlooker-, and in the following year, on their way back north from the Sunshine State, the group traveled through Florence, SC, where Mr. Markham took pictures and also gave a lecture at what his photos’ captions describe as the town’s “first colored high school”.

His pictures also reflect a fascination with Florida’s lush nature. He visited the state’s “Largest Cypress Tree” near Orlando twice, and there are several images in the album depicting the beauty of Florida’s royal palms and live oaks.

Furthermore, he documented himself and his travelers savoring Florida’s oranges, a Seminole Indian man fishing in the waters of the Everglades, and scantily-clad bathers and suit-wearing businessmen side by side at Miami Beach.

 

During his trip through New York and New England, his images brought a different set of interests into focus. There are images of the travel party roughing it between boulders in the Adirondack Mountains and marveling at the 228 feet high Taughhannock Falls near Ithaca, NY. The travelers were also captured admiring some Art Deco at Bok Singing Tower near Lake Wales and enjoying the simple pleasure of an Atlantic Ocean beach.

Throughout the entire photograph album, we get to see the quirky house car, framed by the great outdoors of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on a snowy road somewhere in North Carolina, gawked at by a group of nosy school children in Clinton, NC, and appearing majestic by the rolling waves of Daytona Beach.

In our day and age, we often take travel experiences for granted and might not even be easily impressed by them anymore. But in 1930 when personal motorized transportation -let alone inside a bulky custom-made house car- was still a relatively new thing and other American states beyond one’s own hometown were thought to be far and mysterious destinations, it is easy to imagine how much of an adventurer’s heart Mr. Markham and his travel companions must have had to embark on such long expeditions. They belonged to the early camper culture of Americans, following their wishes to take to the road and explore their country while enjoying “the intimate pleasure of traveling in a vehicle that was both an oversized car and an undersized house.” (Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America by Roger B. White)

The photo album, “Motoring through the Depression: To Florida & New England by ‘House Car,’” can be viewed as part of the Florida Photograph Album Collection at Special Collections on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.



When the Illusory is Real: Richard Haas’ Fontainebleau Trompe-l’oeil Mural

Perhaps it was foreboding, ominous, or just plain bad luck, but in 1986, when Richard Haas’s iconic mural on a side addition of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach was christened, the Mayor of Miami Beach Alex Daoud tried to smash a champagne bottle on the wall and couldn’t. The bottle didn’t break. Around a decade later, Mayor Daoud was indicted on forty-one counts of bribery and sentenced to federal prison. Yet another decade passed and Haas’s mural came down, reduced to rubble, despite the pleas of residents fighting for its preservation.

Miami Beach isn’t historically known for its iconic public art, but for nearly twenty years, a beloved 13,000 square foot, six-story trompe l’oeil mural allowed passersby to take an illusionary peek inside the Morris Lapidus designed Fontainebleau Hotel. The mural figuratively opened up the supplemental building that was obstructing the original hotel at the time. That work is still remembered fondly amongst Miami Beach natives and visitors from the old school.  Some still lament the decision to tear down the building with the mural, as Head of Special Collections Cristina Favretto explains, “Miami’s skyline changes at a vertiginous pace. Buildings appear and disappear almost overnight. Sometimes the change is good, and sometimes it most definitely is not.” She goes on to explain that, “the destruction of the Haas mural is not only in the ‘not good’ side of the story, but in the ‘what were they thinking?’ side.”

Richard Haas

Richard Haas (b. 1936) has a decades-long and much-celebrated career of architectural murals. A 2005 book on his work entitled The Prints of Richard Haas 1970-2004, describes his work as “depicting in painstaking detail the physiognomy of particular buildings,” and later, “a clear eyed view of western civilization’s achievement through its mastery of scientific engineering.” Countless of Haas’s murals have peppered the American and international urban landscapes, putting architecture on architecture, in a wondrous and somehow playful style, inspiring and delighting onlookers.

The original Fontainebleau mural design maquettes—or preliminary design sketches—for the project were recently donated to the Special Collections by the artist himself. The larger maquettes, painted in gouache on board, are quite large themselves, measuring at around four and a half by three and a half feet. Today, Haas looks back on the project fondly and describes the mural’s style as it “really related to a kind of deco meets moderne.” Haas and his patrons wanted to respect Lapidus’s original building. They wanted the rest of Miami Beach to see the majestic Fontainebleau. So they opened it up the only way an artist could: through mirage.

Alternative Design No. 1

Also in the donation are three alternative design collages, constructed of mixed media and depicting early scrapped schemes that Haas clearly didn’t utilize. Alongside preliminary street photographs, which appear to be used for references, these images of depictions that didn’t make it are fascinating to show the artist’s working and thinking process.

 

Mural Overlay on a photograph of Collins Avenue

Haas admits that his client, the Muss family, owners of the hotel, asked for more prominence of the pool, which would be a major draw for patrons, and you can see this process unfold in the folders at Special Collections. You can also see extensive documentation about the project, including correspondence between the artist and client, periodicals, as well as later letters from supportive residents when, after more than two decades, the project appeared to be doomed. Favretto explains that she is “very grateful to Mr. Haas for his generosity in donating these materials to Special Collections, where [staff] can retain tangible documentation of the mural as evidence of a time when creativity didn’t automatically have to bow down to practicality or the almighty dollar.”

Haas’ prepared “canvas”

The mural—which stood from 1986-2003—was remarkable; two Art Nouveau style stanchions flank the main image of the Fontainebleau Hotel, itself inspired by the stylings of Finnish architect Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen, father of the famed architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. On top are two native birds intertwined with local foliage. The intention is to frame the image of the original hotel, standing firm as guardians of the opening, which by precise detail brings the Lapidus building through a six-story wall. Its lush pool invites the viewer to paradise. The mural itself stood as a striking unity of architecture and art, mischievously showing the hotel behind the hotel. Haas explains that the building “needed a dramatic opening” and then jokes that it was “very hard to come upon the original Lapidus building as you’re driving” because the view is obstructed. So he opened up the wall.

Preparing to photograph one of Haas’ framed maquettes for this post.

Looking back over this work in the context of his career, Haas explains, “I’ve lost a lot of murals, probably that’s the biggest loss.” Haas laments today, and goes on to explain poignantly, “it had been so long [that] it had almost detached itself from me and become part of the city itself.” Favretto puts the work and its donation further into context, explaining that Miami is “now a city of murals,” noting, “but so many of them will be gone without a trace a few years from now. I hope other artists will have Mr. Haas’s presence of mind, and that they’ll think about contributing to our ‘Amazing Things That Aren’t Here Anymore’ collections.”

Much like its home on Miami Beach, Richard Haas’s Fontainebleau mural was a beautiful act of artifice. We are not here to speculate on the future of the island itself (and thankfully, disgraced Mayor Daoud has no christening power), but the mural lives on in Special Collections, forever reminding us of a time when private business took large-scale creative risks and we could all enjoy a brief peek into paradise.

Off the record, the writer was able to confirm one case of a motorist driving into the trompe l’oeil mural staring a little too deeply into that paradise. In addition, there has been unconfirmed speculation that American Pie and Orange is the New Black star Natasha Lyonne ran into the mural during her 2001 Miami Beach DUI. When asked of this potential other outcome of his mural, Haas was somewhat shocked.

“Oh dear,” he gasped. But it seemed a little knowingly.

Maybe this gargantuan symbolic vision of paradise on a multimillion-dollar hotel is like everything on Miami Beach. It is an artificial reality, beautiful and serene, which has the always present potential to hit you in the head. And like all beloved things here, it was eventually destroyed under the guise of making more money.

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections



THIS JUST IN: Ben Cartwright Wants You to Know About Propaganda

Lorne Greene as “Ben Cartwright” in the long-running TV show Bonanza. (Photo: NBC)

By Nicola Hellmann-McFarland, Special Collections Library Assistant

For those of you old enough, or those who have fathers and grandfathers that remember the Golden Age of Television, the 1960s TV show, Bonanza, was about Ben “Pa” Cartwright and his three sons, who ran a farm by the name of “Ponderosa Ranch” in the Wild West during the Civil War era. Bonanza aired on television for an amazing fourteen years, and it rose to legendary status, as did Ben Cartwright, a beloved and wise patriarch, an upstanding citizen, and a conservative – in the best sense of the word. Although this was not his first television job, Canadian actor Lorne Greene (1915-1987), who played Ben Cartwright, quickly became an American household name as much as that of his alter ego.

None of his other memorable roles had reached a status as iconic as the role of Ben Cartwright, and in the face of all his “olden days” wholesomeness, who would have thought that Lorne Greene was actually quite interested in philosophy? And why is his name among those of the creators of a card game from the mid-1960s entitled The Propaganda Game? Well, one of his friends at the time was a certain Robert W. Allen, a former student of Professor George Henry Moulds, author of the book Thinking Straighter. Rumor has it that Allen and Greene “were discussing philosophical topics one evening, when Greene suggested that they design a game based on propaganda and its techniques.” Allen, remembering Moulds’ textbook, contacted his former professor, and the three men went to work on what eventually became The Propaganda Game in 1966.

“The Propaganda Game” comes with an instruction book, 40 cards containing propaganda quotations, four “prediction dials,” and a “clear thinking chart.”

Designed to be played by two to five players, the game’s neat little plastic box includes an instruction book, 40 cards containing propaganda quotations, four “prediction dials,” and a “clear thinking chart.” Players must compete in propaganda techniques like self-deception, language, irrelevance, and exploitation. The instructions indicate that one player must read a quote, and the other players must secretly decide which technique is being employed. Afterwards, they must vote on an outcome to be decided by the majority rule. Each player who did NOT vote with the majority must then try to sway the popular voters to change their vote within one minute. Finally, the majority voters are instructed to cast their ballots again, and the true outcome is determined.

The Propaganda Game has been played continuously ever since it joined the ranks of the Academic Games Leagues of America. It has educated thousands of players on how to recognize propaganda techniques used in advertisements, political announcements, and other examples from human dialogue.

We can thank Lorne Greene for creating socio-cultural awareness by lending his famous name to this game, and The Propaganda Game itself can be viewed in all its glory here at Special Collections on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.



The Man Who Built South Florida: The Landscape Designs of William Lyman Phillips

Imagine the wilderness of South Florida. In your head, right now. Born and raised native, resident, or visitor, everyone can concoct a vision of sprawling mangroves clasping the shoreline, sawgrass slicing through the slough, or lush sea grape hanging over the sand dunes. Feel the breeze. Let any version of being outside in the tropics come into your thoughts. Relax.

Fairchild Tropical Garden, Nov. 1943

There’s a man who lived in Miami who is almost solely responsible for whatever you just visualized. And you’ve most likely never heard of him. His name is William Lyman Phillips and he is one of the most important people in the history of Miami’s current physical landscape and throughout its nascent history. In South Florida alone, an incomplete list of places he had a hand in, or led the landscape design on, is as follows: the Overseas Highway to the Keys, Venetian and Rickenbacker Causeways, Royal Palm State Park in the Everglades, Matheson Hammock, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Greynolds Park, Crandon Park, Virginia Key, Haulover, Fruit and Spice and of course, the University of Miami. Outside of students of landscape architecture and scholars of Miami history, his name is almost entirely unknown.

William Lyman Phillips was born in West Somerville, Massachusetts in 1885 and was very much a product of his environment. Born to a middle class family that summered every year in Maine, his mother was a housewife and father was a man of letters. First a high school principal, then a chemist in a paper mill, his father’s interests were varied; he published a book of poetry and believed steadfastly in education for both men and women. Phillips grew up in what we might imagine as an idyllic, white, middle class turn-of-the-century life, all the while diligently sketching his environs in Massachusetts and Maine.

William Lyman Phillips
(photo courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden)

As a young man, Phillips attended Harvard University in in 1910 in the newly formed and innovative program awarding Masters of Landscape Architecture degrees under Charles Eliot and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of Frederick Law Olmsted who famously designed Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Harvard was establishing a groundbreaking new field of study that combined architecture, design, civil engineering, the arts, horticulture, geology, and countless other disciplines needed in order to manipulate natural landscapes to enhance both their usefulness and their beauty. They were focused on unifying all of the elements of landscape—such as plants, water, architecture and their form, color and scale—into a seamless and integrated experience for people. There was a need for landscape architects because of the vast swaths of land the United States had that was yet to be properly cultivated in the early 20th century. The program also put into place the basic tenets of the field of study which is still very much in demand today. Phillips graduated and was immediately offered a job with the Olmsted Brothers firm, evidence of his already burgeoning mastery of the field.

But he passed on the offer, hoping to create some distance from his teachers and make a name in his own right. After university, he went to work in Montreal, but ended up returning to America to finally work for the Olmsted Brothers, a partnership that would influence all of them for the rest of their lives. Phillips briefly left their employ to go on “the Grand Tour,” travelling around Europe, sketching every possible landscape and soaking in what his predecessors on the continent had developed. While there, he was offered a position working in Panama in the area surrounding a new canal project. Afterward he bounced around various design and architecture jobs until 1924 when he was sent by the Olmsted Brothers to head up the Mountain Lake Sanctuary, now famous for its gothic revival Bok Tower. He was finally in Florida, where he would find inspiration in the tropics for the rest of his life and make an indelible mark on the land with his work.

A good deal of Phillips’ Florida work was done for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal national public works revitalization initiative launched by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. Phillips joined this project in 1933 and contributed until 1941 as the project superintendent for Royal Palm Park in the Everglades, Greynolds, Matheson Hammock, Fairchild, and others. Still today, these are many people’s introductory points for understanding and experiencing tropical cultivated landscapes.

As Phillips wrote, “the swamp is silent, windless, monotonous,” a feeling no person wants when outside for a pleasant stroll. In his work, Phillips took the wild and actually dangerous and tamed it for human consumption. He removed the treachery of the swamp and made it leisurely, while still allowing the wild to be present and felt. This is the reality we experience and feel; his work has profoundly affected how both residents and visitors alike understand South Florida.

Matheson Hammock: An early, ill-conceived conservation attempt

It takes two eight foot tables to hold one of the 87 massive folders, that each contain a stack of the original drawings, blueprints and photographs of William Lyman Phillips’ landscape design work. Some of the drawings, nearly 100 years old, have been taped in a show of early and misguided restoration, the adhesive dark brown of the tape deeply aged with chips of the aging paper fallen off. They are meticulously drawn, as architectural designs are, on both blue and brown print paper. The most beautiful moments of handling the old sketches are the considerable and colorful plant bunchings, in various hues, as well as the hundreds of lines of scientific classifications for each species included, representative of Phillips’ methodical style and hands-on approach.

Joanna Lombard, Professor of the University of Miami School of Architecture, knows these drawings well and has written extensively about Phillips. She confirms he was influential in picking these tree and plant bunchings. Phillips, Lombard explains, was hyper focused on the need for local plants, and recognized that taking out the native, and bringing in things people thought were beautiful, was wrong. According to Lombard, he believed in the place—South Florida—and understood that Florida is a place of subtlety. Of Phillips’ mindset in creating, she says he was operating under the assumption that, “we need to frame places that make people live better lives,” and that “it’s not about us, it’s not about this one little moment in time, it’s about how do we connect the deepest ambitions and desires to be significant and how to make places that support that.”

Greynolds Park notes on riverside planting, Dec. 1945

Greynolds Park is a good example of Phillips’ vision, which, according to Lombard, was built upon an ancient marine terrace that reaches as far as Jacksonville. During his time with the CCC, he was hired to build the park, donated by A.O. Greynolds of the Ojus Rock Company. The rock on site was used to build early road systems all over South Florida and the property even included several old quarries, pieces of left-behind machinery, and an abandoned spur of the Florida East Coast Railroad, which created an elevation on the site. He changed the quarry pits into lagoons and lakes, while clearing extensive trails through the mangrove but leaving the hammock intact. Utilizing the elevation—and needing a way to get rid of the abandoned machinery—he collected all of the equipment and covered it with stone and built a coral rock castle on top of it for an observation mound, one of the most iconic features of any Miami-Dade park. In 1936 when the park opened to regular people who didn’t work in a fancy office building or couldn’t afford a trip in an airplane, it was the only elevation they could experience. Phillips’ topographic studies and planting plans for Greynolds are in Special Collections.

The impetus for this particular piece of writing was a request from the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation department. They reached out to Special Collections in order to continue compiling Phillips’ designs for their archive. Explains Maria Nardi, Deputy Director of Miami-Dade Parks, “his work is instrumental in establishing the framework of the parks system in Miami-Dade County.” Nardi herself studied Phillips as a graduate student and helped save some of his designs from destruction before Hurricane Andrew. William Lyman Phillips designed six of the seven “Heritage Parks” in Miami-Dade County, a designation reserved for the largest and most important green spaces we have. She goes on to explain that “today these drawings are instrumental in the reclamation of an extraordinary design legacy for the Miami-Dade County Parks Department.” It should be comforting to the city of Miami that Nardi, so carefully cognizant of Phillips’ work and overall importance, is overseeing our parks today.

Matheson Hammock Fishing Concession, Nov. 1943

In Special Collections, the drawings and designs themselves show Phillips’ seal and signature, presented in a businesslike and unassuming fashion. The rest of his life’s work is spread out. University of Miami has these 87 crucial folders of drawings which encompass his work at Miami sites such as Woodlawn Cemetery and the Indian Creek Club. There are also designs for Greynolds, Redland, Phipps, Matheson Hammock and Fairchild Tropical Gardens and his work at the University of Miami amongst others. Harvard University has his professional correspondence, more drawings and his thesis, while HistoryMiami has his personal papers, journals, and correspondence.

It’s rare that one person has such a wide sweeping influence on the natural face of an entire city. Green space in Miami today remains what Phillips originally envisioned. What Phillips did with these places was mold a raw and dangerous natural landscape into a polished and imperfect microcosm. Obtained through the balance of the wild and the cultivated, the work of William Lyman Phillips is now the only way we understand the genesis of South Florida as a built experience.

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections



THIS JUST IN: Lions, Tigers, and Pegacorns, Oh My!

Age of the Womanimal, published for the Garden of the Womanimal/Caroline Paquita exhibition at the Booklyn Art Gallery from April 12 – June 18, 2014.

By Yvette Yurubi, Research Assistant

In following this year’s #BeBoldForChange theme for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight one of our more recent and unique acquisitions from Caroline Paquita and Pegacorn Press. Caroline and her collaborators have been publishing zines together since the mid-1990s. These works showcase femininity and sexuality in a raw and brazen way, and capture the female body in all of its many shapes, forms, and sizes, while also tackling the experience of being a woman in today’s society. The exaggerated, cartoon-like designs blend with their uninhibited approach to art and serve to capture women not at their most demure, but at their most feral and expressive, unencumbered by traditional gender roles and society’s seemingly impossible-to-achieve beauty standards. There is an elegant absurdity to her work that completely divorces the notion of being a woman from any regulatory definition and instead represents women as untamed, unapologetic, and unashamed of their own female form.

Garden of the Womanimal, published for an exhibition at the Booklyn Art Gallery from April 12 – June 18, 2014.

On the moniker of her independent press, Caroline states that Pegacorn has “embodied the wild spirit that I wanted the press to embrace – a feral beast, and one that wouldn’t just print and release ‘boring’ work by ‘socially acceptable’ people who have always had opportunities to have their work put out. I wanted artists to feel there were no restraints on what they wanted to put out with Pegacorn Press, and that they had the freedom to make whatever they wanted – that they could be as weird or as wild as they wanted.” Her run of Womanilistic, in particular, with its unhinged and frenetic art style, perfectly encapsulates the ideas of unabashed freedom that she wants to encourage. The style achieves this by using close-up ink drawings of the female anatomy and women wearing bestial features in a manner that is explicitly treated as empowering instead of insulting.

Taco Time, from Womanilistic #3

Several women’s issues are conveyed through abstract images in this set of zines. The themes range from body image to sexuality and gender inequality, taking an evocative stance that emboldens readers to not shy away from these topics but rather to lay them all out in the open for discussion. The resulting images and text elicit a dialogue about modern perceptions of gender and trying to transform the norm by rampaging through the idealistic and encouraging self-expression in an unrestricted sense. These zines also offer a welcome glimpse into the celebration of being a woman in a society where the definition is ever-changing and where barriers are constantly being shattered.

We invite you to come enjoy International Women’s Day every day with us here in the Special Collections Department. Located on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library, the department is a place where anyone can learn more about women’s history by exploring our growing collection of feminist zines and artists’ books.