Category Archives: Biographical Information

On Archives Illuminating Archives… and Blogs

Once an archive has been cataloged, the finding aid is released online (and/or in paper) and is an organized guide to helping you find what information you are searching for. The work behind the scenes is lost: questioning the original order (or disorder!) of documents, the process of organization, and identifying the unidentifiable or unique objects.

To some extent I feel the same way about blogs. I enjoy reading other blogs about archives because they shed light on the same archival problems I might be having and at the same time they highlight specific points about their archive that may be lost later on. Archival blogs give that extra amount of information, sometimes unusual, or mundane, but always curious. Archival finding aids are supposed to be unbiased so that they do not deter from the research process. But having a blog lets the archivist test out their detective skills and share any other information found that illuminates the archive.

So I thought I might share some related information about Edgar Tafel and Frank Lloyd Wright that I stumbled upon on the Internet, and share this blog about them. I also want to make sure that the unique information found by other historians and archivists is not lost!

When I was working on Tafel’s biography, I wondered why I couldn’t find information on his first wife, Lucille Allman Blair. After searching the Internet, I found the blog “Looking for Franklin Lincoln Wright,” which documents the story of Edgar Tafel, Lucille Allman Blair, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The blog unfolds the story of how Lucille Allman Blair played a role in getting Frank Lloyd Wright to speak at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas in 1952, and at the same time reveals some details about Tafel’s life around that time.

Looking for Franklin Lincoln Wright

An Exceptional Childhood

Is greatness and genius bred in childhood or acquired with age? Does an unusual upbringing make for a creative person? Edgar Tafel had quite a colored past which seemed to lead him on a path of creativity and activism.

Tafel’s parents were born in Russia and immigrated to New York where they owned and operated Tafel Wholesale Gowns. They soon purchased a home on the Ferrer Colony in Stelton, New Jersey. The seeds of the Ferrer Colony began with Francisco Ferrer, a Spanish educator and radical thinker who was executed in Barcelona in 1909. Soon after, American anarchists began opening Ferrer Modern Schools in his honor across the United States. Tafel attended the Modern School in Stelton, the longest-running school which lasted 1915-1953.

The above article shows Tafel as conductor of the Modern School orchestra. The Modern School taught progressive education, where often the teachers were parents of children attending the school. The School’s mandate was to teach from example and experience and not from instruction and memorization. If a colony member had a particular talent, such as typesetting or carpentry, the children were taught that skill, as well as being free to study whatever interested them. It was at the Modern School where Tafel began constructing a model city; perhaps his first foray into architecture. Growing up in a progressive colony, and later attending high school in Manhattan, Tafel experienced both challenging big-city life and radical free-thinking, a foreshadowing of his future education as an apprentice at Taliesin and opening his own architectural practice in New York City.

 

*The picture is from an article in The New York Times, by Joseph Deitch, March 8 1981.