Saarinen Family Papers
The Swanson brothers’ gift included a core grouping of archival materials relating to Eliel, Loja, and Eero Saarinen that had been held by Loja Saarinen until her death and later by Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. This grouping of material constitutes the majority of the Saarinen Family papers.
SERIES I: Biographical and Personal (1922-1969) contains biographical, genealogical and personal papers of Eliel, Loja, and Eero Saarinen.
SERIES II: Correspondence (1904-1985) mostly consists of correspondence to and from the Saarinens, but also has one file concerning the work of Albert Christ-Janer, in relation to his publications on Eliel Saarinen. The file with Albert Christ-Janer correspondence is copyrighted material from the Archives of American Art and cannot be reproduced without permission.
SERIES III: Financial Records (1933-1967) contains files and correspondence pertaining to Eliel and Loja Saarinen's contributions to war-relief efforts in European countries during World War II, tax and medical files, and materials relative to annual memberships to various organizations.
SERIES IV: Design Work and Exhibits (1930-1967) holds files on Studio Loja Saarinen, the textile weaving studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art, as well as articles, correspondence, and several documents concerning Eliel and Loja's design and exhibition works.
SERIES V: Buildings and Projects (1896-1980) is largely an artificial collection of magazine articles, booklets, photocopied newsprint, and specifications related to the many architectural projects undertaken by Eliel Saarinen and his firms, and Eero Saarinen & Associates. The files concerning the Kleinhans Music Hall are copyrighted reproductions and one must receive permission before making additional copies. Writings contains a small number of materials written by or about Eliel Saarinen.
SERIES VI: Writings contains a small number of materials written by or about Eliel Saarinen, however, actual published books have been removed from the collection and are housed in the Archives library collection.
SERIES VII: Photographic Materials (1918, undated) includes photographs, slides, glass negatives, as well as four photograph and scrapbook albums kept by the Saarinen Family.
One scrapbook titled "Eliel Saarinen's Work," consisting of loosely fixed articles and clippings, was disassembled and interfiled within series I and V.
- 1880 - 1989
- Saarinen, Eliel, 1873-1950 (Person)
Access to the collection is unrestricted.
Copyright to this collection is held by the Cranbrook Educational Community (with the exception of the Kleinhans, Albert Christ-Janer, Kenneth Grabowski, and Nancy Shaw materials). Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.
Use of films as moving images or stills is restricted.
Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen was born 20 August 1873 to Juho and Selma Broms Saarinen in Rantasalmi, Finland. He studied painting at the University of Helsingfors and architecture at Helsingfors' Polytekniska Institute from 1893-1897. He maintained an architectural practice in Finland with classmates Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren from 1896-1905. On 15 November 1899 Saarinen married Mathilda Gylden. After their divorce in 1904, Mathilda married Herman Gesellius.
On 6 March 1904 Saarinen married Minna Carolina Mathilde Louise “Loja” Gesellius, sister of Herman Gesellius. She was born on 16 March 1879 to Herman Otto and Emilie Caroline Auguste Gesellius in Helsingfors, Finland. Loja studied art in Helsinki at Taideteollinen Keskuskoulu, 1898-99, and at Suomen Taideyhdistyksen Piirustuskoulu, 1899-1902. After studying sculpture in Paris at Academie Colarossi under Jean-Antoine Injaalbert, she joined her brother in 1903 at Hvittrask where the architectural firm of Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen was located. Here she worked on commissions for interiors, photography and sculpture. Lindgren left the firm in 1905 and Gesellius and Saarinen continued the firm until 1907 when Saarinen began his own private practice. The Saarinen's daughter Eeva Lisa “Pipsan” was born in Helsingfors, Finland on 31 March 1905 and their son Eero was born in Kyrkslaett, Finland on 20 August 1910.
In 1922, Eliel won second place in the international competition for the Tribune Tower in Chicago. In February of 1923, Eliel Saarinen went to the United States to visit colleagues, and in April of that year the family settled in Evanston, Illinois where Eliel began a limited architectural practice. In the fall of 1923 the Saarinens moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where Eliel became a visiting professor of architecture at the University of Michigan. Shortly after his arrival, Eliel met the Detroit newspaper magnate George Gough Booth, who was to become his chief patron in America. At Booth’s invitation, Saarinen moved his practice to Bloomfield Hills in 1925, and he spent the remainder of his life assisting in the design and development of the cultural complex that Booth constructed at his country estate, Cranbrook. Saarinen also continued to work on a number of outside architectural commissions and projects.
In 1928, Loja Saarinen established a weaving firm at Cranbrook, Studio Loja Saarinen, to provide quality fabrics and textiles for Cranbrook buildings and private commissions. Studio Loja Saarinen had close ties with the Weaving Department of Cranbrook Academy of Art, which Loja headed between 1932 and 1942. Studio Loja Saarinen officially closed in 1942, but Loja remained semi-active in weaving up to the late 1940's.
Both Pipsan and Eero, educated in design by their parents, continued in design fields. Eero attended Yale School of Architecture from 1930-1934 and became successful in architectural work, first with his father and brother-in-law, J. Robert F. Swanson, then with his own architectural office, Eero Saarinen & Associates. Pipsan became a successful designer in home and office interiors and furniture design, and headed the company, Swanson Associates, with her husband.
Between 1932-1946, Eliel served as the president of Cranbrook Academy of Art. Thereafter, he continued as the director of the Department of Architecture and Urban Design until his death on 1 July 1950. In 1951, Loja moved from Saarinen House into a small home Eero built for her next to his Bloomfield Hills home on Vaughan Road, where she lived until her death on 21 April 1968. Eero died in Ann Arbor on 1 September 1961, and Pipsan passed away after a short illness on 23 October 1979 in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
7.3 Linear Feet (9 MS, 6 OS, 23 envelopes)
Language of Materials
Finnish architect, Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen was born August 20, 1873. In 1904 Saarinen married artist Minna Carolina Mathilde Louise “Loja” Gesellius (b. 1879). The Saarinen's daughter Eeva Lisa “Pipsan” was born in Helsingfors, Finland on 31 March 1905 and their son Eero was born in Kyrkslaett, Finland on 20 August 1910. In 1923 Eliel met the Detroit newspaper magnate George Gough Booth, who was to become his chief patron in America. At Booth’s invitation, Saarinen moved his practice to Bloomfield Hills in 1925, and he spent the remainder of his life assisting in the design and development of the cultural complex that Booth constructed at his country estate, Cranbrook. He also served as the president of Cranbrook Academy of Art and then director of the Department of Architecture and Urban Design until his death on July 1, 1950. In 1928, Loja Saarinen established a weaving firm at Cranbrook, Studio Loja Saarinen, and headed the Weaving Department of Cranbrook Academy of Art, between 1932 and 1942. Both Pipsan and Eero, educated in design by their parents, continued in design fields. Pipsan became a successful designer in home and office interiors and furniture design, and headed the company, Swanson Associates, with her husband, J. Robert F. Swanson. Eero attended Yale School of Architecture from 1930-1934 and became successful in architectural work, first with his father and brother-in-law, J. Robert F. Swanson, then with his own architectural office, Eero Saarinen & Associates. In 1951, Loja moved from Saarinen House into a small home Eero built for her next to his Bloomfield Hills home on Vaughan Road, where she lived until her death on April 21, 1968. Eero died in Ann Arbor on September 1, 1961, and Pipsan passed away after a short illness on October 23, 1979, in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
The Saarinen Family Papers primarily consist of correspondence, personal files, motion pictures, photographs, and scrapbooks organized and maintained by Loja Saarinen during her lifetime. Also included are several files of photocopied material related to architectural projects undertaken by the family that were added after the collection was donated to Cranbrook. Pipsan Saarinen Swanson’s materials relating to her family members have also been included. Although the collection reveals much about the family between 1901-1968, the majority of the materials pertain to the years the family lived and worked in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
The collection has been organized into seven series: Biographical and Personal (box 1), Correspondence (boxes 2-3), Financial Records (boxes 3-4), Design Work and Exhibits (box 4), Buildings and Projects (boxes 4-8), Writings (box 8), and Photographic Materials (boxes 8-14).
Series I-V are arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically within each folder.
An index to Series II is available.
Between December 1989 and September 1990, Ronald Saarinen Swanson and Robert Saarinen Swanson donated five lots of Saarinen and Swanson family papers to the Cranbrook Archives.
Eliel Saarinen’s original unpublished manuscript, “The Story of Cranbrook,” was donated to Cranbrook by Margueritte Kimball in 1994.
In 1988, Matthew Ginal donated copies of materials on Kleinhans to the Archives which were incorporated into this collection.
Copy negatives were made from many photographs in the scrapbooks previously not found in the Archives collections. A listing and brief description of the photographs copied and their corresponding negative numbers is found in Box 8, Folder 9. Contact sheets for the copied photographs are located in the Photograph Special File, 1990-08: Envelopes 13 and 23.
The photographs were rehoused in the Photograph Special File, and the glass negatives are housed with the Glass Negative Collection.
Seven 16 mm films, varying in length, ca. 1930's-1940's were moved to the film collection. See use restrictions.
Published books have been removed from the collection and are housed in the Archives library collection.
Portions of the Saarinen Family papers were foldered and labeled by Betsy Wagner. James M. Luzenski inventoried, organized and processed the initial gift of the papers in 1991. Ryan Wieber updated the collection and finding aid in 1998. A box of aperture cards of Eliel Saarinen was located in the reading room in July 2002, rehoused and stored with the Saarinen Family Papers. They were added as Box 4A as they pertain to folders within boxes four and five of this collection. The finding aid was updated at that time by Leslie S. Edwards.
- Aalto, Alvar, 1898-1976
- Architecture, Domestic
- Bertoia, Harry
- Bloomfield Hills (Mich.)
- Booth, George G. (George Gough), 1864-1949
- Christ-Janer, Albert, 1910-1973
- Cranbrook Academy of Art
- Cranbrook Institute of Science
- Cranbrook Kingswood School (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
- Dinkeloo, John G. (John Gerard), 1918-1981
- GM Technical Center
- Grotell, Maija, 1899-1973
- Hvitträsk (Museum)
- Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Saint Louis, Mo.)
- Knoll, Florence, 1917-2019
- Lorch, Emil, 1870-1963
- Maroti, Geza
- Marquis, Samuel S., 1866-1948
- McMath, Robert R. (Robert Raynolds), 1891-1962
- Milles, Carl, 1875-1955
- Milles, Olga Granner, 1874-1967
- Öhquist, Johannes, 1861-1949
- Saarinen, Lillian Swann, 1912-
- Science museums
- Sepeshy, Zoltan, 1898-1974
- Sibelius, Jean, 1865-1957
- Sparre, Louis, 1863-1964
- Strengell, Gustaf
- Suomi College
- Swanson, Jons Robert Ferdinand
- Trans World Airlines Terminal (New York, N.Y.)
- University of Michigan
- Guide to the Saarinen Family Papers
- Betsy Wagner and James Luzenski
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Edition statement
- Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.
Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository