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Richard Thomas Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1989-14

Collection Scope

The collection is arranged in five series:

SERIES I: Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) (1946-1978) deals with Thomas’s role as head of the Art Academy Metalsmithing Department and as faculty member, and is arranged topically, then chronologically. Faculty meeting minutes, interspersed with faculty-related communications, are chronologically arranged and cover the period of Zoltan Sepeshy’s retirement and the search for a new Art Academy director. Items on the Metalsmithing Dept. include itineraries from their 1973 London “field trip,” plans for future departmental activities, and lists of donations from members of the “Harchers,” a group of professional and businessmen who worked and studied weekly in the metalsmith shop. A 1973 “Report of the Reexamination of the CAA,” and a study proposing a trimester system for the Academy is in the CAA minutes.

SERIES II: Professional (1930-1985) contains a significant amount of correspondence dealing with Thomas’s many commissions and is arranged alphabetically by commissioning organization. Folders containing general correspondence are arranged chronologically. Other correspondence covers the American Craftsmen Council Conference (ACC), held at Cranbrook, and his 1961-62 book, Metalsmithing for the Artist-Craftsman.

SERIES III: Photographic has both black and white prints and 35 mm color slides of Thomas’s liturgical work, as well as a lesser amount of his secular work. There are two collections of slides of work by Thomas’s students, one arranged by student name, and another, called “alumni work,” arranged by slide number. Box 5 contains the accompanying guide to the numbered collection.

SERIES IV: Drawings (1982, n.d.) is arranged by non-secular and general designs, and also contains several of Thomas’s sketchbooks.

SERIES V: Oversize (1960-1968, n.d.) has large photographs and drawings, plus a folder of scrapbook pages containing publicity on Thomas.

Dates

  • 1930 - 1984
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1978

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

Richard Thomas was born on April 6, 1917 in Marion Center, Penn. where he attended high school. In 1940, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in art education from the State Teachers College at Indiana (now Indiana University at Pennsylvania). After graduation he worked for a year at Fort Belvoir, Va., on an Army construction job, then was appointed Art Supervisor for the Conneaut, Ohio public schools. He entered the Army immediately after Pearl Harbor, serving at Fort Riley, Kansas and overseas, and was discharged in 1946, having received a Bronze Star.

Thomas made the decision to study at Cranbrook in 1936, when, as part of an undergraduate assignment, he wrote to Zoltan Sepeshy and Carl Milles. Their reply to his letters set him on his course and he was admitted to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1947. He graduated in May1948 with an MFA in painting. At Zoltan Sepeshy’s request, Thomas re-established the Metalsmithing Department, which he headed from 1948-1984. In addition he served in other administrative positions for the Academy, including Dean of Students (1951-50), Registrar (1962-65), Administrative Assistant to the President (1965-66) and Dean of Students (1968).

His chief interest was liturgical art, fabricating around 300 objects for religious institutions locally and across the country including: St. Paul’s Cathedral in Detroit; Christ Church Cranbrook; Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne; and Presbyterian Church in New York City. At Cranbrook, he designed the school’s ceremonial mace and silver punch bowl. As a student in the Academy of Art, he designed the Cranbrook Medal, originally conceived by Eliel Saarinen as a merit award for students; it became obsolete after three years. Roy Slade resurrected and renamed it the Saarinen Medal, which is now given as an honorary doctorate to notable contributors to the art world. Thomas’s textbook Metalsmithing for the Artist-Craftsman is widely used. In 1979 he received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and in 1981, received both a Michigan Foundation for the Arts award and the Cranbrook Founders Medal. He died in Ypsilanti on November 21, 1988.

Extent

10.1 Linear Feet ((5 MS, 6 OS). Box 6 contains slide boxes 1-6.)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Richard Thomas graduated from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in May 1948 with an MFA in painting, subsequently re-establishing the Metalsmithing Department at the Academy and becoming Head for thirty-six years. He also served in other administrative capacities for the Academy, including Dean of Students (1951-50), Registrar (1962-65), Administrative Assistant to the President (1965-66), and Dean of Students (1968). His chief interest was liturgical art, fabricating around 300 objects for religious institutions locally and across the country, including: St. Paul’s Cathedral in Detroit; Christ Church Cranbrook; Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne; and Presbyterian Church in New York City. At Cranbrook, he designed the school’s ceremonial mace and silver punch bowl. Thomas’s textbook 'Metalsmithing for the Artist-Craftsman' is still widely used. The collection contains correspondence related to Thomas’s artistic work as a metalsmith and author, along with correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports from his time at Cranbrook as an educator, department head and faculty member. It also includes a sizeable amount of photographic material, including prints and slides, showing his metalsmith work, chiefly liturgical, and drawings of the same. There are also slides of his students’ work.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in five series: Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) (Box 1-2); Professional (Box 3-4); Photographic (Box 5-6; Slide Box 1-6); Drawings (Box 7); and Oversize (Box 8-10).

Custodial History

This collection was once owned by the Cranbrook Academy of Art and was transferred in two lots.

Acquisition

Transferred from Cranbrook Academy of Art in two separate lots, in 1989 and 2013.

Related Materials

Audio Cassette Tape Collection, 1990-09 (various, see index)

Cranbrook Archives Photograph Collection. See: CAA Faculty Photographs and CAA Faculty Work

Cranbrook Art Academy. Office of the President, 1974-1995 (1995-09)

Cranbrook Art Academy. Records of the Administration (1981-09)

Processing History

Processed by Cheri Y. Gay, June 2012 and December 2013.
Title
Guide to the Richard Thomas Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid written by Cheri Y. Gay.
Date
June 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Revision Statements

  • December 2013: Revised by Cheri Y. Gay.

Repository Details

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

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US