Tag Archives: Edgar Tafel

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

Miscellanea, Comedy, and Archivists

This letterhead of Tafel's with a cartoon by Gary Zamchick reads "Edgar can't come to the phone right now... He's busy making our home our castle"

Archivists tend to swerve away from creating the dreaded ‘Miscellaneous’ folder, but there are usually odds and ends that one finds in an archive that just do not seem to fit. Even more feared is the folder labeled “Miscellaneous” by its own creator!

Such was the case in Tafel’s archive, where I found dispersed throughout his files humorous and satirical writings or drawings done by Tafel poking fun at architecture, such as letterhead with custom, cut-and-pasted designs by Tafel, chain emails, comics, and mocking phrases (“The flogging will continue until morale improves” was used on one version of Tafel’s letterhead!).

Gradually, however, while gaining knowledge of an architect through their archive, an archivist can sense an overall theme to seemingly ‘miscellaneous’ files. In Tafel’s case, his satirical writings and drawings are proof of his engaging, charming personality. As if the countless letters of praise for Tafel’s lectures also found in the archive were not proof enough! Once the Tafel archive finding aid is published online, examples of his letterhead and other humorous files can be found under his Personal Papers.