Secrets of the Shrunken Heads

Hello! My name is Alexandra Brennan and I am an intern at the Salisbury House this summer. I have been working “behind the scenes” at the Salisbury House, learning about the unique position a historic home holds as a center for education, history, and culture. Although I only have a few weeks left until I leave to go back to school, I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to explore the Salisbury House’s history and collections over the past couple months.

Among all the objects in the Salisbury House’s collection, few are as mysterious as the shrunken heads. It is unclear when, where, and from whom the Weeks family acquired the heads; the only evidence of Carl’s interest in shrunken heads is a novel in the library written by a friend on the topic. When the ISEA moved into the Salisbury House in the mid-1950’s, the shrunken heads, also called tsantsas, became an integral part of the museum for school children. The heads were displayed in the Indian Room as curiosities—strange artifacts sure to stick in memories of young visitors. In recent years, the tsantsas have been in storage, partly due to the objects’ fragility and partly due to changing sensibilities regarding the display of human remains in museum settings. The shrunken heads remain among the most contentious, memorable, and gruesome objects in the Salisbury House, with their individual histories and even authenticity a matter of conjecture.

The only shrunken heads in the world come from the Jivaro peoples in Ecuador and Peru. “Jivaro” actually refers to a group of tribes with a shared language, though the many different tribes share cultural and religious beliefs. One of the shared beliefs between these Jivaro tribes is that a person’s soul is not fixed in one body, and that by killing others, a new soul may be imparted into the killer. Constant warfare, paradoxically, was meant to bring eternal life. It was because of this culture of killing that the practice of shrinking heads developed.

The first step to creating a shrunken head was to carefully peel the skin off the skull. The skull was discarded, and the skin was pulled over a wooden ball to maintain the shape of the head. Then, the skin was shrunk by boiling the head in a mixture of water and tannins. The head was dried with hot sand and rocks, and the skin rubbed with ash. Like Egyptian mummies, shrunken heads are preserved to last for centuries (one of the heads in the Salisbury House’s collection may be over 200 years old). However, Egyptian mummification took 70 days, and the entire process for shrinking a head took less than one week.

IMG_8846

Front cover of Tsantsa. New York: Brentano’s, 1932.

So how did such strange artifacts end up in the Salisbury House? Unfortunately, there are no neatly kept receipts or records to suggest how two shrunken heads came to Iowa. The only connection is through a bookseller and an author. From the 1920’s to the 1940’s, Carl Weeks bought many of his rare and antique books from a bookseller in New York City named Harry Marks. It was through Harry Marks that Carl acquired much of his collections of D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, as well as many of his letters from famous historical figures and old Bibles. Harry Marks was also the man who sold Carl books by a man named Isadore Lhevinne, an author and philologist who had studied and lived among the Jivaro people in Ecuador.

Lhevinne was born in Bobruisk, Russia in 1896. He attended school in Poland, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1920’s with a degree in philology. Although his earlier works focused on stories about the Jewish experience throughout the world, Lhevinne’s interest in foreign languages sent him to southern Ecuador. It was there, in the sparsely populated and thick jungles of Ecuador, that Lhevinne was first introduced to the Jivaro peoples. He spent part of 1931 living among the Jivaro people, studying their language and culture. It is unclear when Carl Weeks and Isadore Lhevinne met, whether it was before or after Lhevinne’s trip to Ecuador. What is certain, however, is that by 1932, the two men were close enough that Lhevinne dedicated Tsantsa to Carl Weeks.

Young Wings magazine

Note from Harry Marks to Carl Weeks, pointing out a story about Isadore Lhevinne in “Young Wings” magazine. Note says: “To C.W. See pages 9-4-5. Harry”

Tsantsa itself is not a scholarly work. Instead, it tells a story of a white American man who travels to Ecuador and falls in love with a 15-year old Jivaro girl. The novel is an adventure story filled with “fervent eroticism” and takes advantage of the exotic setting to shock readers. The novel includes scenes of head shrinking and drug-induced ceremonies, and the protagonist even kills a 15-year old girl’s husband in a duel. The book uses many of the prevalent stereotypes and prejudices of the era, depicting the Jivaro people in turns as independently noble and ferociously savage. Although it sold fairly well, today Lhevinne and Tsantsa are largely forgotten to time.

Perhaps it was through this close relationship between Isadore Lhevinne and Carl Weeks that the tsantsas came to the Salisbury House. Certainly, if Lhevinne spent time living among Jivaro people, he would have had access to shrunken heads. Today, the Salisbury House has very little remaining correspondence between the two men, so it is unclear if the tsantsas were gifts from Lhevinne.

IMG_8848

Story in “Young Wings” magazine about Isadore Lhevinne regarding his novel The Enchanted Jungle, 1933. “While he was in Ecuador, Dr. Lhevinne…traveled in a light canoe over dangerous water falls and swirling currents interrupted by an endless series of whirlpools. He hacked his way through the trackless jungle ants so thick there was no room to sit down; he traveled on horseback, muleback, and foot, and endured the never-to-be-forgotten experience of a siege by an enemy tribe while he was living among the Jibaros.”

In the early 20th century, shrunken heads became a popular tourist souvenir and collector’s item, and the thriving market led to an abundance of fake tsantsas made from monkeys, sloths, and other animals. According to some forensic researchers, “presence of sealed eyelids, pierced lips with strings sealing the mouth, shiny black skin, a posterior sewn incision, long glossy black hair, and lateral head compression are characteristic of authentic tsantsas.” According to these guidelines, one of the tsantsas in the Salisbury House may be real; the other’s lips are not sewn shut, but that may indicate that it was made only for trade purposes and not as a ceremonial war trophy. Another way to determine whether the heads are truly human is to look at the ears, which should simply appear to be smaller versions of human ears, since the many folds of the ear are hard to copy. Once again, the Salisbury House’s tsantsas appear to be authentic, although according to the Smithsonian, more than half of the shrunken heads in museums and private collections in the United States may be fakes. The most reliable method of determining whether shrunken heads are authentic is to do a DNA analysis. Perhaps one day we will learn who made these heads and how they came to be in Des Moines, Iowa. But for now, the secrets of the tsantsas remain hidden behind sewn-shut lips.

Shrunken

The tsantsas will be on display at our Night at the Museum event, August 24, 2017. Please visit our website or call (515) 274-1777 for tickets and more information.

The Christmas Story, 1483-Style

As December 25th approaches, we wanted to share a significant part of the oldest bible in our Library and Rare Documents collection at Salisbury House: the traditional Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20. Our oldest bible dates to 1483 (for more on this and other incunabula in our collection, click here), and its text is, as one would expect, in Latin.

spine.jpg

Below, the bible is open to the section in Luke wherein the Christmas story is told. Luke 2 begins on the left page, at the very bottom of the left-hand column of text:

Open to Luke.jpg

Here’s a closer detail of this page (look for the rubrics, in red ink, that indicate the start of the second chapter):

20161220_143241.jpg

Want to read along? Here is a handy, side-by-side reading of the Christmas story:

Final combined all.jpg

It can be a bit of a slog – but a rewarding slog! – to read the English version of the Christmas story alongside its 1483 Latin counterpart. Happy holidays!

Want to see the 1483 bible in person? Our Treasures Tours will return in late spring 2017; check out salisburyhouse.org for more information.

 

What’s in a Motto?

Over the past seven years I have been a tour guide at the Salisbury House. In all that time, I am still finding objects that I have questions about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, with over ten thousand artifacts in the museum!

The other day I was looking at the Weeks family crest or coat of arms. The Weeks crest is located in several places in the museum. They appear on the main stair runner, the Great Hall, in the Library on the light sconces, and also on the family’s finest dinnerware on display in the Breakfast Room.

The crest has three battle axes on a field of crosses. At the bottom of the crest is a motto: Cari Deo Nihilo Carent. At first I thought that the first and last words started with G’s. But on closer inspection, I realized that the words started with C’s. 

crest 1

Weeks crest on the family’s dinnerware

crest2

Weeks crest on a wall sconce in the Library

crest4

Weeks crest on stair runner

 

crest3

Detail the Weeks crest on the stair runner

 

I had heard that Carl Weeks had made up his own family crest in the 1920s, but was this actually true? I had a real mystery to solve.

Did Carl, in fact, create his own Weeks family crest and motto? Or was there an existing Weeks family crest and motto that had been historically associated with the Weekses? Finally, what did the motto actually mean?

When I was in grade school I had taken Latin so I recognize some of the words. Also while being an altar boy, I had to learn all the payers for the Catholic mass in Latin – which, to this day, I can still recite. My next step was to go online and see if I could translate the Latin to English. 

I knew that Deo was God and Nihilo meant nothing. If you strictly translate the words the motto reads, Dear God Nothing Lacking. But Latin is not that easy. The position of the words can make that sentence mean something completely different. Additionally, certain prefixes or suffixes can give the word a different meaning and change the overall interpretation of the motto. 

During my search online, I came upon a site called “House Of Names,” and searched for the Weeks family crest. It was there that all my question were answered.

According to this website, the motto Cari Deo Nihilo Carent has long been associated with the Weeks family. In fact, the crest pictured on the website matches the crests included in the Weeks family collection.

from site

Here was the answer! Carl did not make up his own crest or motto – he used the historical Weeks family logo and crest in his design of Salisbury House. The full meaning of Cari Deo Nihilo Carent reads, “Those dear to God want nothing.”  

As you can see we are constantly learning new things about Salisbury House. Sometimes what we thought was true is, in fact, not the case. 

The Black Sun Press and Harry Marks at Salisbury House

They were christened the “Lost Generation” by Gertrude Stein – the extraordinary creative generation in the 1920s and 1930s, including James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Igor Stravinsky, Isadora Duncan, George Gershwin, Aldous Huxley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, and many others.  Most of them lived around Paris and southern France, most were expatriates, and many became the core of what is known as “Modernism.”  Particularly among the writers, many were American.  One major port of call for the Lost Generation was the Parisian English language bookstore Shakespeare & Co. run by an American woman named Sylvia Beach.  Beach is best known as the publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The Library and Rare Documents Collection at Salisbury House provides a fascinating survey of significant works to emerge from the creative energies of Paris during the 1920s and 1930s.

A young and wealthy American couple, Harry and Caresse Crosby, joined the expat crowd in Paris by the early 1920s. He was a nephew of J. P. Morgan, and both were aspiring, but marginally talented, poets.  The Crosbys were regulars at Shakespeare & Co.  Most of their early work consisted of love poems written to each other.  This photo of a bust of Harry by his wife was the frontispiece of the Black Sun Press edition of Poems for Harry Crosby written by Caresse after Harry’s death.

Harry Crosby bust

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents 

Realizing that they had little chance of getting their poems published elsewhere, the Crosbys decided to use their own money to publish them themselves in finely-made and hand-bound editions.  This was the start, in 1925, of the Editions Narcisse, which soon became The Black Sun Press.  This title page is typical of many subsequent books, with the combination of red and black ink.

20160315_084358

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents

 

The frontispiece was a drawing by Lawrence – and, in the Salisbury House copy, with Lawrence’s signature – as shown below.

20160315_084411

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

The Crosby’s had found an eccentric, but perfectionist printer named Roger Lescaret who printed almost all of their books (their office was upstairs from his shop.)  His work was matched by the perfectionism of Harry and Caresse – their books have the effect of “elaborate care rather than wasteful expense, of delicacy rather than elaboration.”

The second player in the Black Sun Press story at Salisbury House was, naturally, Carl Weeks: the builder of Salisbury House and the collector of its magnificent library.

The third major player in the story of the Black Sun Press was their United States distributor – Harry F. Marks.  Marks was a New York book dealer (with, by 1925,  a shop on West 47th St.) who was known for fine bindings and high-end “sporting books”, i.e. erotica.  He openly listed such books in his catalogs, yet he was never arrested – probably because of his affluent and respectable clientele.  He also dealt in the avant-garde literature of the time, as did his close neighbor, the Gotham Book Mart.

Marks was one of the two favorite book dealers of Carl Weeks, (the other being the New York dealer Philip Duschnes) and Carl was a favored customer who was offered many rare items, many of which still reside in the Salisbury House library.

Harry Marks had attempted to get a signed agreement with the Crosby’s making him the sole US distributor of the Black Sun Press books, but they would not sign such an agreement.  They did, however, provide him with nearly complete print runs of many of their books and even printed Marks as the source for many books as shown in this page from the 1931 Poems for Harry Crosby.  Note that this copy has a signed presentation from Marks to Carl.

20160315_083553

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

One of the Black Sun books from 1929 that is discussed in more detail in another blog entry is James Joyce’s Tales Told of Shem and Shaun. That book includes a colophon (an inscription at the end of a book usually with facts about its production) showing its availability at Marks’ bookshop

What follows is a survey of the other Black Sun Press books in the Salisbury House library in rough order of publication date.

One of the early Black Sun books from 1928 was  Letters of Henry James to Walter Berry.  James was, of course, the well-known novelist and Walter Berry was an American lawyer living in Paris who was a good friend of Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Edith Wharton.  He willed his library to his cousin – Harry Crosby.  The Salisbury House copy of the Letters is unique in preserving the original holographs of two of the letters from the book – number three and number ten; the first page of number ten in Henry James hand is shown below.

Walter Berry 1

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy was published in 1929 and again the colophon shows Marks as the US dealer.

Laurence Stern end

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

 

Harry Crosby died on 10 December, 1929 in New York in a probable murder-suicide with a woman with whom he was having an affair.  He had combined his sun-worship with a fascination with death for many years.  Now, Crosby would probably be diagnosed with PTSD from his traumatic experiences as an ambulance driver at Verdun in World War I.  Caresse, Harry’s wife, continued the publishing activities of the Black Sun Press for many years after  her husband’s death.

In the Salisbury House collection, Sun, Tales Told of Shem and Shaun, Secession in Astropolis, New Found Land, Einstein , Imaginary Letters, and A Sentimental Journey show the Harry Marks addition to the colophon in nearly identical style.

One of the interesting questions about the Harry Crosby, Harry Marks, and Carl Weeks connections is when Carl started collecting the Black Sun Press.  One answer, albeit a little confusing, comes from a dedication from Harry Marks to Carl in Sleeping Together, one of the parts of the 1931 first volume of Harry Crosby’s posthumous Collected Poems.

As Carl’s adjacent note (left of the bookplate) points out, this is from 1931 (and “introduce” is clearly present tense) and yet it seems likely that Marks was selling Black Sun books to Carl long before then, but who knows?

Harry Marks inscription to Carl in Sleeping Together

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

Secession in Astropolis by Eugene Jolas is an experiment in mythic and abstract language somewhat in the style of Finnegans Wake, but without the genius.  It is interesting in that it establishes another important connection in the close-knit modernist group in Paris; Jolas was the founder and editor of the literary journal transition.  This was probably the most influential little magazine in Paris, publishing nearly every major name in early 20th century English literature, including the first major serialization of James Joyce’s Work in Progress (later published as the book Finnegans Wake.)  It is hardly surprising that Harry Crosby was involved there too – as an associate editor and financial backer.  Sleeping Together was reprinted in transition #19/20 in a memorial section after Harry Crosby’s death. The Gotham Book Mart was the sole US distributor of transition.

One of the other major publications in 1929 was The Escaped Cock by D. H. Lawrence.  This book involves a very complicated story, discussed in more detail below.  1929 also saw the publication of another book by Harry Crosby, The Transit of Venus.

1930 saw the publication of a number of important books as well, including a finely printed edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with color illustrations by Marie Laurencin.

Edited for blog

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

Ezra Pound’s Imaginary Letters was also published in 1930 and Salisbury House has one of the fifty limited copies signed by Pound.

Ezra Pound signature

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

Other Black Sun books from 1930 in the Salisbury House library include New Found Land by Archibald MacLeish, Harry Crosby’s Shadows of the Sun, and Crosby’s Aphrodite in Flight.  The last is his memoir of learning to fly an airplane.  The last in this general survey (but much less than half of all the Black Sun titles) is the 1936 edition of the Collected Poems of James Joyce.  This is notable for the very fine 1930 Augustus John portrait of Joyce used as a frontispiece; the Salisbury House copy was also signed by Joyce.

Joyce Collected Poems image and signature

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

At this point, it’s time to return to the 1929 first edition of The Escaped Cock by D. H. Lawrence, with this frontispiece by Lawrence.

DH Lawrence Black Sun Press frontispiece

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

This novella is a different interpretation of the resurrection of Jesus; it was later re-published as The Man Who Died.  Salisbury House has three copies of the first edition and is fortunate to have the complete hand-written manuscript of the novel. The travels of this manuscript – from the hand of Lawrence to the library of Carl Weeks – are the first mystery of the book.  The first page is shown below.

 

DH Lawrence manuscript

Salisbury House Library & Rare Documents Collection

The idea and title for the book derive from a toy rooster escaping from an egg displayed in a shop window in Grosseto, Italy.  Lawrence saw it in 1927 and remarked to a friend that it inspired the title.   The book was written in two parts and both parts were eventually sent by Lawrence on September 2, 1928 to his long-time family friend Enid Hilton.  On May 20, 1929 he instructed Enid to send it to Caresse Crosby, but NOT as a gift.  After the book was published, Lawrence complained to Caresse about the low price she had asked for the print run for – who else – Harry Marks, and about the large profit margin Marks was making.

After Harry Crosby’s death in December, 1929 (and probably after Lawrence’s death in March of 1930), Frieda Lawrence (David’s widow) wrote in 1930 to Caresse Crosby asking for the return of the manuscript, saying, in part, “I won’t give you another word of Lawrence’s to print if I don’t get the ms. of The Escaped Cock. Yours in disgust, Frieda.”  I can find no mention of any further Black Sun books by Lawrence and it is clear that Frieda did not receive it from Caresse, because she expressed surprise in a letter of Dec 1, 1934 to Carl Weeks on finding that Carl had it!  Carl had likely purchased the manuscript from  Harry Marks.

Therein lies the mystery – how did Harry Marks get the manuscript?  One possibility is that Caresse sold it to Marks, possibly out of anger at Frieda, but the biography of Caresse does not show her as vindictive and, despite the death of her husband, she didn’t really need the money.  Another story is part of the Salisbury House oral tradition, but seems a bit far-fetched.  IF Harry Crosby had taken the manuscript with him to New York, and IF the dinner party that had been expecting Harry Crosby (including Harry Marks, of course) when they were informed at the theater of Harry’s suicide had rushed to the suicide scene, and IF Marks had “liberated” the manuscript as part of cleaning up the crime scene – then Harry Marks had it.  If I were a gambler, I’d bet on the first possibility.

The second oddity with this book is the fact that Harry Marks, somehow, eventually obtained the copyright for The Escaped Cock and published it with that copyright.

 

20160315_090552

Salisbury House Library & Rare Document Collection

Salisbury House has an unique archive relating to this edition, consisting of a marked-up copy of the Black Sun edition showing the changes that Marks made to the colophon in preparation for his edition.

20160315_090407

 
We have seen that there is an intimate connection between the Lost Generation in 1920s and 1930s Paris, The Black Sun Press, Harry Marks, and Carl Weeks.  Some of the connections are a bit murky, but that only adds to the extraordinary Library and Rare Documents Collection at Salisbury House.

 

A Detective Story at Salisbury House

One of the intriguing aspects of the collections at Salisbury House is the opportunity they present for research about the many interesting objects in the house.  A case in point is a very unusual prayer rug displayed in the first floor west hallway, outside the Dining Room.

The rug is a “saf” or “saph”, which is a family prayer rug – in this case, with six niches for a man and his five sons or other male family members.  In use, the points of the arches would be pointed toward Mecca.  Safs are fairly uncommon, and this layout of side-by-side niches is only one of the possible arrangements of the niches.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prayer rug at Salisbury House

 

The rug has been hanging in this location since at least 1928.  It is listed in a 1928 appraisal inventory as 16th Century with “thousand knots gold field,” but with no location of origin specified  On the other hand, the standard object inventory for the house lists it as from Hamadan in western Iran, but dating from 1880.  That is almost 3 centuries difference – which is correct?

In addition to the design, I originally became interested in the rug when I noticed that the construction is extremely unusual. Nearly all Persian rugs are constructed over the entire surface with the so-called Persian knot with the ends of each knot forming the rug surface (Turkish rugs generally use a different knot).

 

Senneh

 

There are generally warp threads between the knots that help hold the rug together, but they are usually not visible from the front.  The construction of this rug is different in that only the figural design elements are knotted pile of this type, while the background is woven with a herringbone pattern of flat weave. 

In the image below, the raised pile design is in blue, faded red, and a line of light brown, while the woven background is clearly different.  Some of the lighter specks in the background are traces of metallic gold thread.  The rug clearly belonged to a wealthy man!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prayer rug detail – woven background and pile design

 

While on a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I noticed a so-called “polonaise” carpet which had many features in common with the rug in Salisbury House.  The palette was similar, the age was given as circa 1600 (nearly the same as one description of the Salisbury House rug), and the construction combined woven and pile elements.

There were differences, of course – the Victoria and Albert rug is not a prayer rug, it is silk rather than wool, and the background is a brocade rather than a weave.  Nonetheless, the similarities led me to contact the Victoria and Albert to see if they could clarify the background of the Salisbury House rug.

My email was very promptly answered by Dr. Moya Carey, Iran Heritage Foundation Curator for the Iranian Collections at the Victoria and Albert.  This was something of a surprise, in that Dr. Carey, a distinguished scholar of Iranian art, almost certainly experiences many demands on her time. After sending her some images of the Salisbury House rug, she sent me images of a 1986 museum catalog from the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, AustriaThis museum is known for its collection of oriental rugs.  The rug on the cover of this catalog is very nearly identical to the one in Salisbury House, as shown in the following image.  The Salisbury House rug is on the left.

 

Salisbury_Vienna_Prayer.JPG

Salisbury House Rug ~ Vienna Rug

 

 

Based on the catalog description of the Vienna rug, the flat woven background is not in a herringbone pattern, but the rug has the same combination of woven and pile techniques.  Clearly, the palette and design are nearly identical.As far as the dating discrepancy, the Vienna rug is a late 19th Century carpet from Khotan, which is in what might once have been called Eastern Turkestan on the Silk Road, in what is now western China. 

The two rugs are so similar that there is little doubt that the Salisbury House rug is also from 19th Century Khotan.Thus, the 1928 appraisal was incorrect.  Even the experts can be wrong!  But the object inventory is also wrong about where it was made, although the date is roughly correct, if a bit too specific. 

In all, it makes a fascinating detective story!  Salisbury House is fortunate to have such an interesting and unusual rug.The rug on the Vienna catalog cover also has an interesting history, which can be found here

I would like to again thank Dr. Moya Carey for providing the definitive research that solved this particular Salisbury House detective story.

From Overalls and Shovels to Fedoras and Cuban Cigars: The Gilded Age Inspiration for Salisbury House

There were three distinct aristocracies in Washington. One of these, (nick-named the Antiques,) consisted of cultivated, high-bred old families who looked back with pride upon an ancestry that had been always great in the nation’s councils and its wars from the birth of the republic downward. Into this select circle it was difficult to gain admission. No. 2 was the aristocracy of the middle ground . . . No. 3 lay beyond; of it we will say a word here. We will call it the Aristocracy of the Parvenus—as, indeed, the general public did. Official position, no matter how obtained, entitled a man to a place in it, and carried his family with him, no matter whence they sprang. Great wealth gave a man a still higher and nobler place in it than did official position. If this wealth had been acquired by conspicuous ingenuity, with just a pleasant little spice of illegality about it, all the better. This aristocracy was “fast,” and not averse to ostentation.

The aristocracy of the Antiques ignored the aristocracy of the Parvenus; the Parvenus laughed at the Antiques, (and secretly envied them.)

-From Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today

photo1

Carl and Edith Weeks, c. 1930

Before Armand – before Salisbury House – few would have assumed Carl Weeks to be any more extraordinary than any other Midwestern businessman of his era. In fact, when roaming the halls of Salisbury House, one tends to forget his humble and, at times, impoverished origins. Born the fourth child of a hog farmer and his wife on a farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1876, Carl’s prospects were quite modest. When his father’s swine herd was wiped out by cholera around 1880, the Weekses were forced into selling their farm. They set off for Kansas in search of a new start. His father, however, still had trouble finding work and was often away from home. Carl helped out by picking up bison chips for use as fuel in their little sod house and once recalled how his mother had had to trade one of their bedsteads for a bag of flour. Eventually, his mother’s brothers, Lowell and Davis Chamberlain, brought them back to Iowa and settled them in Des Moines. Carl left public schooling at the age of 13 and it was only with his uncles’ financial assistance that he was able to attend Highland Park College of Pharmacy to obtain his pharmacist certification in 1892.

Little of Carl’s early life foreshadows the great success he would eventually achieve when he established what would become an international cosmetics empire in 1915. But he was born into an unusual era. One where American society had one foot planted deep in the agrarian soils of its hard-working, ancestral pioneers just as it was stepping into a quickly industrializing, burgeoning urban culture obsessed with leisure, pleasure and wealth. It was an era as rampant with corruption and materialism as it was entrepreneurial optimism where every man had the potential to become the next Carnegie or Rockefeller. This time period, known as the Gilded Age and sometimes referred to as the American Renaissance, spanned the years following the Civil War to the early 1900s with some historians extending it as far as the stock market crash of 1929. The term was lifted from Mark Twain’s 1873 satirical novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, that depicts the greed and corruption endemic in American politics and society in the late 1860s and early 1870s. This era, however, also laid the foundations of our modern, secular culture and shaped the minds of many Americans, including Carl Weeks.

photo2

Cover of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, 1873.

After the Civil War, industrialization and mechanization increased at a rapid rate in the United States. It centralized the economy in urban centers and concentrated wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer men. Immigrants and formerly-rural Americans descended upon the cities in search of new opportunities. Mass-produced goods, department stores and mail order catalogues brought the modern idea of shopping to the masses. The extension of the railroads connected the East and West coasts of the United States and new refrigerated boxcars allowed for fresh produce out of season, exotic fruits, Midwestern-raised beef, and beer to be transported to retailers all across the nation. Telephones and transatlantic cables knitted the world closer together through faster methods of communication. Amusement parks, dance halls, theaters, libraries and opera houses flourished, providing entertainment, education, and, at times, opportunities for vice to the burgeoning urban population.

Entrepreneurs were the driving force behind this explosion of modernity. A lucky few, however, through hard work, shrewd business decisions, and more than a little back-room subterfuge, succeeded in building business empires that reached far beyond their own little corners of the world. Many of these men, such as Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John D. Rockefeller, arose from humble means to become industrial tycoons with massive fortunes. They were household names and served as role models for the businessmen of Carl’s generation. Several biographies of these infamous American entrepreneurs grace the shelves of the Library at Salisbury House and probably had a great impact on Carl as he made his way in the business world.

photo3

The Rouge Room at the Armand Factory in Des Moines, Iowa, c. 1920.

Though these nouveau riche Americans of the Gilded Age had the world at their fingertips and, at times, groveling on its knees before them, there was one thing money could not buy: pedigree. For much of recorded human history, wealth was concentrated in land and passed down through strict and often complicated inheritance laws and customs formulated to keep everything within one family line. But the world had been turned upside down by the Industrial Revolution. With advances in manufacturing technology in the late 18th century, hand production methods of textiles and other goods fell by the wayside as factories sprung up in urban centers and produced goods more cheaply and efficiently than ever before. People, once tied to the land and rarely traveling more than 50 miles from their places of birth, descended upon the cities in search of work. The European aristocracy and the “old money” families of the United States, whose income traditionally depended upon the productivity of the people who lived on their lands, saw their economic power shrink as an ever greater share of the world’s wealth flowed into the hands of the savvy factory owners and businessmen of the middle class.

Two things the European aristocracy and American “old money” retained, however, was their social position and status as the arbiters of good taste. An air of self-consciousness pervaded the newly wealthy and powerful as they sought to emulate the nobility in a subconscious effort to prove both to themselves and their “social betters” that they were worthy of their newfound elite status. Instead of seeking new forms of architecture, they copied styles long used by the European aristocracy. At first, Classical styles were mimicked as wealthy Americans embraced the notion of the United States as heir to the cultural traditions of ancient Greece and Rome and the European Renaissance. Later, especially during the time of the Weekses’ rise in wealth, many embraced the picturesque nature of the rambling, built-through-the-centuries styling of the houses of the medieval and Tudor nobility of England. Salisbury House, however, is unique in that it incorporates both stylistic influences in its interior furnishings.

photo4

Classical and Renaissance style detailing: grille above Welte-Mignon Organ in the Common Room

photo5

Classical and Renaissance style detailing: chandelier detail in the Dining Room. Both the Common Room and Dining Room are overall Elizabethan or late Tudor style in the architectural details and most furnishings but also include Neoclassical touches such as these.

photo6

Tudor style detailing of 16th century fireplace surround in the Great Hall featuring a Tudor rose flanked by quatrefoils.

photo7

Tudor style, 16th century carved door detail in the hallway outside the master suites featuring linenfold, which was a common type of carving to decorate plain panels in Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries.

In a time where what you owned was an unspoken announcement of who you were as an individual, collecting art and antiques from around the world became an obsession for the nouveau riche who wanted nothing more than to appear sophisticated, worldly, educated and powerful. The Weekses were no different. Much like J.P. Morgan, who had spent a whopping $60 million on art and rare books in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Rockefeller family who splurged on artwork from around the world, Carl and Edith sought after all of the trappings of the leisured class. Carl was an avid bibliophile and Edith’s bachelor’s degree in Art History provided her with a discerning eye for both fine art and period-specific furnishings.

photo8

Late 18th century alabaster urns with Classical style detailing in the Great Hall.

photo9

Elizabethan style carving on Carl’s c. 1600 bed.

The economic devastation in Europe after World War I led to easy pickings for the Weekses and other wealthy Americans who snatched up whatever Europeans wanted to sell, including antiques, art, and architectural detailing. Though they did not spend anywhere close to what Morgan had, Carl and Edith did spend nearly $3 million to build and furnish their house. In today’s money, that would equal about $40 million.

Patronage of artists skyrocketed in the United States during the Gilded Age as well, continuing a centuries-old European tradition where artists relied on wealthy patrons for work and financial support. Artists were sought after as companions as well as for their ability to beautify the homes of the wealthy and public spaces. Rather than pushing the social envelope as many artists do today, the artists of this era reinforced the new status quo and soothed the egos of wealthy Americans through their attention and commissioned works. Architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson once said of Gilded Age artists that their social function was to “provide a setting of leisured elegance bearing the patina of class and taste for people who were frequently one generation removed from overalls and shovel.”

Like their Gilded Age predecessors, the Weekses too befriended artists and even commissioned Joseph Stella to create one work specifically for Salisbury House. This commissioned piece, Apotheosis of the Rose, still hangs in the Breakfast Room today.

photo10

Apotheosis of the Rose by Joseph Stella, 1926. Oil on canvas.

photo11

The Birth of Venus by Joseph Stella, 1925. Oil on canvas. Hangs in the Great Hall at Salisbury House.

Finally assembled at home in Iowa, the Weekses’ collections lent an air of aristocratic pedigree to their new home meant to look centuries old the day it was built. Like the entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age and the European nobility, Carl’s house and collections were a signal to the world that he had arrived and was a force to be reckoned with. A man born to a hog breeder and who had picked up bison chips on the Kansas prairie was now a social and business leader who was well-traveled, well-connected, and a man of noble bearing.

photo12

Salisbury House in early spring.

The Gilded Age gave birth to Salisbury House. The ideals of the era – wealth, consumption, pleasure and leisure – reside throughout its history, collections and architecture. Carl Weeks was born into this era and persevered until he could finally emulate those whose names were on the tongues of every American entrepreneur – Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller. The result was Salisbury House: a grand mansion distinctly English in flavor and filled with treasures that reveal how Carl and others of his ilk wished to be seen – worldly, aristocratic, powerful. It represents one final expression of a bygone era in which America itself came of age.

 

Evolution of a Fable: Finnegans Wake at Salisbury House

The Salisbury House library contains an amazing collection of works by James Joyce.  One of these works is his last book, Finnegans Wake.  What is even more amazing in the collection are the preliminary parts of the Wake that Joyce published as he continued to revise the work from around 1924 until the final release as a book in 1939.  This essay will discuss the evolution of a small part of the book through these preliminary versions.  Most of them are found at Salisbury House. Below is the signed half-title of one of these early fragments – Tales Told of Shem and Shaun (Black Sun Press, Paris, 1929).

blog 1

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

Finnegans Wake is one of the most complicated works in literature; it consists of puns and portmanteau words in 27 languages, with the base being English.  An essay such as this can only discuss one tiny aspect of many recurring themes.  Mankind is represented in the book by a family consisting of a man, his wife, their daughter, and their twin sons, basically referred to as Shem and Shaun. The relationship and conflict between the two brothers is shown in many different guises throughout the book. One of the instances of this fraternal conflict is framed by the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper – or, as Joyce wrote it, “the Ondt and the Gracehoper.”  In this title, he was playing on the Danish “ondt” meaning “evil” and note that the grasshopper is hoping for grace.  We will follow this fable from its first short version published in 1928 through to the final book.

Folklore is one of the frequently used frameworks in the book.  Joyce calls it “fokloire”, playing on the Gaelic “foclóir” meaning “vocabulary” – Joyce’s book was intended as a world of all languages.  The fable derives from Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, which pits the frugal, hoarding ant against the profligate but ultimately starving grasshopper.  Joyce evens the match by letting the grasshopper have the last word.  The first published part of the fable was in transition (note the lower-case “t”), a prominent literary magazine in Paris (#12, March, 1928.)  This snippet remained nearly unchanged from first to last.

blog 2

Norman Hills Collection

In Joyce’s scheme, the Gracehoper represents Shem, Time, the ear, and Joyce himself.  The Ondt represents Shaun, Space, the eye, and Wyndham Lewis. Lewis, who had attacked Joyce in his book Time and Western Man, had a long-standing feud with Joyce. Among the many interpretations of the overall intent of the fable, Eric McLuhan views it as a conflict between ages of technology.  Other critics emphasize the opposition and interaction between space and time, or the stages of the cyclic theory of history of the philosopher Giambattista Vico.

Joyce scatters various reference clusters throughout the fable, such as many names of insects and parts of insect anatomy.  There are many names of philosophers and words with repeated syllables recalling the stuttering of the brothers’ father.  It includes many references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. There are other clusters, but we now turn our attention to our main concern: the revision history of the text as reflected in the Salisbury House library.

The original three hand-written drafts of the fable were written quickly – probably beginning in February 1928, and published the following month.  This transition version is quite short (less than one half of the length of the final text), so the obvious main method of revision was additive.  There were many levels of revision added to the transition proofs.  The editor, Eugene Jolas, had the same problem with endless revisions that had plagued Sylvia Beach when publishing Ulysses and later, Harry Crosby.  transition had been publishing parts of Work in Progress (as the draft Finnegans Wake was called) starting with the first issue in April 1927 and would continue with portions of it in almost all the remaining issues. A small amount of this text had been published earlier in other magazines, but most of it was new and transition provided the first extended publication.

The next published version of the fable was in the Black Sun Press Tales Told of Shem and Shaun in 1929.  The editor, Harry Crosby, started work on this edition by asking Joyce if he would agree to him publishing part of Work in Progress.  Joyce gave him heavily hand-modified sheets of the transition version (known, but not extant.)  Crosby produced a number of proofs, and each time Joyce added more text.  One of the last of these proofs (probably the next to the last) is in the Salisbury House library.  The following image shows a major addition to it in Joyce’s handwriting.

blog3

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

The following image shows this hand-written addition as it appears in the final Tales Told of Shem and Shaun.

blog4

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

The revision process was slow and frustrating for Crosby, as shown by this note accompanying the proof in Crosby’s hand urging Joyce to finish the changes. The final Tales Told of Shem and Shaun and this note are also in the Salisbury House library.

blog 5

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

The final version of Tales Told of Shem and Shaun includes a commissioned “portrait” of Joyce by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi.  This abstract drawing is a very loose interpretation of a “portrait”, but it is widely reproduced in the Joyce literature.

blog 6

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

The next published part of this fable, which the Salisbury House library also has, is a very brief excerpt from Tales Told of Shem and Shaun in the Imagist Anthology, (Chatto & Windus, London, 1930.)  This edition has no significant textual changes.

The next-to-final version was published as a small book entitled Two Tales of Shem and Shaun, (Faber and Faber, London, December 1932). This re-prints two of the three fragments from the earlier Tales Told of Shem and Shaun including “the Ondt and the Gracehoper.”  Although the text was re-set, I could find no textual differences between the two.  The cover of this book is shown below.

blog 7

Norman Hills Collection

The fable’s final version is in the book published as Finnegans Wake (Faber and Faber, London, May 4, 1939.)  It was followed very shortly also in May 1939 by the American first edition (Viking Press, New York.) The fable is on pages 414.19 to 419.20 (the number after the period of each is the line number.)  The text throughout the book has been greatly expanded from earlier versions with many additions of major blocks of text.  Some of these are within previously published fragments, but many are completely new. The following image shows the beginning of the song that ends the “the Ondt and the Gracehoper.”  This is from the first edition/first printing included in the Salisbury House library.

blog 8

Salisbury House Library and Rare Documents Collection

The subsequent publishing history of Finnegans Wake is quite brief.  Surprisingly, the book has remained in print for the last 76 years with no textual changes of any kind. This is partly because of the refusal of his heirs to allow any change as long as it was under copyright and because of the difficulty in determining what in the text constitutes an error.  One exception is a 16-page list of corrections compiled by Joyce before his death on January 13, 1941, though not published until 1945 (Faber and Faber, London, printed in the U.S.A.)  These corrections were incorporated into the text starting with the eighth edition in 1958.  None of these corrections affect the Ondt fable. The upper part of the pamphlet title page is shown below.

blog 9

Norman Hills Collection

In 2010, Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon edited The Restored Finnegans Wake, which included thousands of changes.  Most critics have not liked this version and their Penguin trade edition of it is no longer in print.  A hypertext version is supposedly in preparation, although it will likely meet the same fate.

James Joyce is widely considered to be the greatest prose writer of the 20th century.  Ulysses regularly appears as the head of lists of great 20th century novels.  The distinguished critic, Harold Bloom, has said that “if aesthetic merit were ever again to center the canon, the Wake,…, would be as close as our chaos could come to the heights of Shakespeare and Dante.”  Given the extraordinary literary value of Joyce, it is not surprising that Carl Weeks, as a collector living in the time of Joyce, would collect the major works, such as first editions of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.  What is truly astonishing is the depth of the Joyce collection in the Salisbury House library, including early printed pamphlets, a corrected proof, and many secondary items that are found only in the best of Joyce research libraries.  Central Iowa is indeed fortunate.

“The Michelangelo of Caricature”: Honoré Daumier at Salisbury House

Honoré Daumier, the nineteenth-century French artist, became most widely known during his lifetime as a skilled caricaturist. Indeed, he continues to be roundly considered the “Michelangelo of Caricature.”  Daumier’s work for Le Charivari, a French daily newspaper, and for the journal La Caricature, both founded in the 1830s, remain at the apex of caricature as social satire. To draw a modern parallel, perhaps, Daumier might be considered the Jon Stewart of French satirical commentary.

honore_daumier

Honoré Daumier

Still, there was more to the man than caricature. His other talents, particularly in terms of painting and sculpture, remained largely unrecognized until after his death in 1879 at the age of 71. A panegyric collection of essays celebrating Daumier and his work, published in 1922, suggests that “In his day [he] was celebrated as a caricaturist and only a few of the more discerning artists and critics realized that he was one of the giants of Arts, one of the salient individualities [sic]  of the nineteenth century.” A catalogue printed for a 1993 Daumier exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York describes the him as “an artist of exceptional genius and power.” Posthumous reevaluations of Daumier’s work laud, in addition to lithography, his paintings, sculpture, and drawings; he also worked in oil, watercolor, prints, and wood.

Today, Daumier remains widely collected. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty, and the Hammer Museum at UCLA are only a few among the many world-class institutions that exhibit and/or hold Daumier works.

Our collections here at Salisbury House include Daumier images as well. While we are still in the process of researching our Daumier holdings, they’re just too cool not to share.

As you will see below, we have found translations and descriptions of the headings and captions paired with the works. Still, even for those of us who are not conversant in French, Daumier’s work transcends language. His renderings of human expressions and situations speak for themselves.

This first set of  Daumier images below are both amusing and puzzling. We do not yet know who created these cutouts of his caricatures, or who added paper tabs to the reverse of the cutouts that allowed figures’ arms and other appendages to be moved back and forth. The cutouts seem to be Daumier’s images, anonymously translated into folk art. Put simply: they’re awesome.

Messieurs en dames

Translation:  Ladies and gentlemen! Silver mines, gold mines, diamond mines are only thin gruel and stale rolls in comparison with coal . . . But even so, (you’re going to say), you’re selling your shares for a million? . . . I’m not selling my shares, gentlemen, I’m giving them away for 200 miserable francs, I’m giving two for every one, I’m giving away a needle, an ear-pick, a bodkin, and what’s more, I give you my blessing into the bargain. Bring out the big drum!

Description: Here, Daumier is aiming at [French politician] Girardin who had been offering mining shares to the public. The entire project was a scam and all participants, with the exception of Girardin, were sent to prison.

The reverse: the paper tab at the bottom, when pulled up and down, maneuvered the main figure’s right arm.

Messieurs en dames_reverse

Les enfants charmants

Translation: Crrrrr !…… woman….!…to leave a man alone for four hours with three crrrrrrrying children……. !

Description: A man is in a state of frustration over three crying babies.

The reverse:

Les enfants back (1)

Robert Macaire Magnetiseur

Translation: Robert Macaire hypnotist. Here is an excellent subject……… for hypnosis……. Certainly ! there is no connection between us, I do not have the honor of knowing Mademoiselle de St. Bertrand and you will see gentlemen, the effect of sleepwalking… (in her sleep Mademoiselle de St. Bertrand gives diagnoses on everyone’s diseases, advocates hidden underground treasures and gives investment advice to Mozart paper company, in gold mines and a host of other very fine operations).

Description: Robert Macaire is hypnotizing a woman. Robert Macaire may seem to be a realistic figure, however one should remember that in reality he is an artificial personality, created in 1823 by Benjamin Antier for his play “L’Auberge des Adrets.”

The reverse:

Robert back

The figure of Robert Macaire became a proxy for Daumier and his publisher at Le CharivariCharles Philipon, for their criticism of French social and political life under Louis-Philippe (r. 1830-1848). Philipon often provided the captions for Daumier’s work, and they both had good cause to create a buffer between their work and their satirical commentary about the monarch. Daumier had been imprisoned for six months in 1832 for his caricature of the king as “Gargantua” while he was on staff at Philipon’s La Caricature. After Daumier’s release from prison, Philipon founded Le Charivari and continued to publish his work. Macaire remained particularly useful after 1835, when political satire was banned in France and Le Charivari ostensibly focused  on French daily life instead.

Our collections include a bound set of Daumier prints from Le Charvari. The collection is undated, but the originals would have been produced during Daumier’s tenure at the French daily from the 1830s to the 1860s.

Cover

DSC_0131

TranslationHow silly!. . . . just look at how they run away! . . . . that is what you get when you are in the wrong place!!! . . . . My little love, when you prevent to pass, you will burn the pellets from Sérail. . . . .

Description:  A terrified couple is walking very fast because they are afraid of two men who are looking at them and commenting on their behavior. Daumier succeeds to show the bourgeoisie with humor but also with that certain touch of bitterness and at the same time endeavors to help us understand how much we are all fighting to climb up the social ladder, while often forgetting our roots and damaging our own self-esteem as well as that of our surrounding.

DSC_0138

Translation: Robbed! . . . . Empty pocket street . . . . . .

Description: A man realizes that he has just been robbed. Reportedly, this street was the former “rue Vieille-Doucet”. Before the reconstruction of the Parisian roads was done by Haussmann, most street in Paris were narrow and dark, an ideal situation for pickpockets.

DSC_0150

 Translation: Oh here you are, darn it, how handsome you are! Come and give your father a kiss.

Description: Daumier portrays generational (and class) differences between father and son.

DSC_0137

Translation: This proves that when you patrol, you should never pass by your own house.

Description: A soldier is patrolling the streets and happens to look up at his window and see his wife with another man.

Another bound set of Daumier’s work in the Salisbury House collections is entitled “Les Cosaques Pour Rire,” or, “The Cossacks in Jest.” Daumier created these images during the Crimean War (1853-1856), and used his considerable skills to skewer Russian military command, soldiers, and the czar, though not all the images included in this set necessarily pertain to either the Crimean War or to the Cossacks.

DSC_0162

Translation: The best-disciplined soldiers in the world.

DSC_0169

Translation: IN BUCHAREST. – It’s here.. come in… we’ll pay you!…

Description: Some soldiers sitting in a tent in Bucharest are inviting an old man to join their forces.

DSC_0170

Translation: Having to also consult his little table in order to be sure that he is definitely the winner.

Description: Nicolas I, Nicolas Pavlovitch (1796-1855), became Emperor of Russia in 1825. Daumier pokes fun at the czar.

DSC_0174

Translation: Russian blind men’s bluff – New game, but more dangerous.

Description: A blindfolded soldier is playing blind man’s bluff.

Daumier’s prolific career reflected his uncanny ability to skewer both the machinations of kings and empires and the foibles of the everyday. Our collections include a selection from his Croquis de Chasse (Hunting Sketches) from the 1850s in which Daumier takes aim at the appearance of hunting mania among the French middle class, brought on by the loosening of laws which had traditionally maintained the hunt as the preserve of aristocrats.

DSC_0184

Translation:  What a hideous Thing this wild Boar is… without this tree I would be lost… it has the air of considering… wouldn’t it be nice if it just went

Description: A hunter is frightened by a wild pig.

DSC_0185

Translation: A misplaced shot.

Description: A hunter shooting at a hare has missed and accidentally shot another hunter in the buttocks.

DSC_0187

Translation: – Blast, what bad luck… he passes just when I am unable to fire!….

Description: A hare hops past a hunter just as he has put his gun down [and is pulling his pants back up].

DSC_0190

Translation: Two hunters were living in peace. A partridge passed and behold, the war began.  

We are still learning more about our Daumier collection here at Salisbury House, but the selection of images included here exemplify the artist’s remarkable skills and legacy.

We are indebted to the Brandeis Institutional Repository’s translations within their Honoré Daumier Digitized Lithographs collection.