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Series III: Professional


Collection Scope

From the Collection:

There is a large variety of materials in this collection, covering Ruth Adler Schnee’s early years to the present. The prominent role of her husband, Edward Schnee, in her design work and as partner in their retail business, is documented throughout their married life. There is a wealth of items that illustrate her early, artistic talent, including drawings, diaries and school papers, plus material on the contributions of her parents, Marie and Joseph Adler. Original drawings of her textile designs and correspondence with fabric companies help trace her artistic history. The collection is arranged into five series, Education, Personal, Professional, Oversize Material and Photographs.

SERIES I: Education (1912-2002) covers Ruth’s early years in Germany, through her graduation from Cranbrook Art Academy. Material from Germany, in this series, is untranslated. There are related, oversize items, such as diplomas, a scrapbook from RISD, and many drawings done from elementary school age through her Cranbrook period. A number of pattern and fashion illustration books, compiled by Schnee, show her talent in that field, a talent redirected to architecture once she began at RISD. SERIES II: Personal (1828- 2005) is of particular interest for the many letters Ruth wrote during her formative years, including camp letters from 1940 and many letters to her family when she was in Providence attending RISD, then living in New York City, 1942-1946. There are also letters from Ruth’s parents, Marie and Joseph Adler, written mainly from their winter home in Mexico. Two early diaries are written in “old” German but have been translated by Schnee. Contained in this series are the papers of Edward Schnee, though there are many references to and by him throughout the entire collection. SERIES III: Professional (1940-2009, n.d.)

Subseries 1, Design Production (1940-2009, n.d.) has in it records of Schnee’s work and achievements as a textile designer. It includes statements of her design philosophy, resumes and copies of publicity for her fabric and interior design work. Correspondence with ICF/Unika Vaev and Anzea documents the reissue of her 1950s designs as well as the creation of new designs. Categories on exhibitions and lectures illustrate her wide popularity and authority on the subject of design, especially mid-century modern. Original textile drawings can be found in the Oversize Material series. Subseries 2, Business Records (1947-2003, n.d.) has the history of what began as Ruth Adler Designs, Inc., with original catalogs used to promote and sell her fabrics. Following her marriage to Edward Schnee in 1948, the company became Adler-Schnee Associates, then Adler/Schnee, and finally Schnee & Schnee. Materials gathered during the couples’ buying trips to such places as Scandinavia, Mexico and Central America give some idea of what was involved in these endeavors. There is information on the historic Hemmeter building, on Harmonie Park, where the last store was located. Publicity on activities in the store and surrounding area help chronicle the retail history of downtown Detroit during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Advertising and promotions show the Avant Garde merchandise carried by Adler/Schnee, as well as the store’s involvement with the local artistic community. There is information on several of the residential projects designed by Ruth, as well as some of the smaller commercial projects such as Hannan House and the DeSerrano senior residence. Subseries 3, Major Projects (1982-1991, n.d.) has detailed information on the work involved in the interior space design work for the Metropolitan Detroit Jewish Community Center’s Residence for Jewish Elderly, in West Bloomfield in 1983-1985. Architectural plans, signage design, chapel and meeting place details reveal the intense level of work involved. In the series Oversize Material are room presentation boards for this project. There is also an abundance of material on a similar project, called Sholom House, undertaken in Minneapolis in 1992. SERIES IV: Oversize Material (1932-2007, n.d.) has a wide assortment of mainly artistic materials ranging from childhood, high school and RISD drawings (16 are unfoldered and mounted on matboard) to Schnee’s professional textile designs. There are a few Adler/Schnee items such as a design done for an early promotion piece, shopping bags and some ad layouts. There are over 400 loose pieces of Schnee’s drawing through her Cranbrook years, much of it school assignments. Other work is contained in notebooks. There are roughly 150 of Schnee’s textile designs, in varying sizes and stages. Eighteen Design boards for the Residence for Jewish Elderly project display room and floor designs. The boards have mounted on them samples for carpet, walls, furniture fabric & wood, and window treatment material, plus illustrations of furniture. SERIES V: Photographs (n.d.) has many slides and color prints of Schnee’s work in interior design, both commercial and residential. Images that document several of her exhibitions capture many of her fabrics. Of interest are both prints and negatives of student projects she did while at Cranbrook. Also included are images of work of local artists displayed in the store or used in interior design work


  • 1828 - 2009
  • Majority of material found within 1942 - 2009


Access to the collection is unrestricted.


From the Collection: 34.4 Linear Feet (28 MS, 1 SB, 10 OS)

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

From the Collection: German


Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository