eBay: Various FLW signed letters & postcards

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DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

AN APOLOGY FROM FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT?!!!

SpringGreen
Posts: 538
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 9:00 am

Apology from Wright?!

Post by SpringGreen »

I was transcribing FLW's correspondence, had some time, so I looked into the letters from him to Mies van der Rohe. In a letter that Wright wrote to Mies on Oct. 25, 1947 Wright wrote that,
Somebody has told me you were hurt by remarks of mine when I came to see your New York show. ….

I am conscious only of two “crack�. One: you know you have frequently said you believe in “doing next to nothing� all down the line. Well when I saw the enormous blow ups the phraze [sic] “much ado bout your ‘next to nothing’� came spontaneously from me....

But it is note [sic] to say that I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings – even with the truth. You are the best of them all as in artist and a man.
I had to read Wright's letter 2-3 times to make sure I was actually seeing that Wright was checking in on someone else's feelings!
"The building as architecture is born out of the heart of man, permanent consort to the ground, comrade to the trees, true reflection of man in the realm of his own spirit." FLLW, "Two Lectures in Architecture: in the Realm of Ideas".

SDR
Posts: 19444
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Heh-heh. Surprises all around ! I looked closely at the signature on the postcard to see if it seemed genuine. The handwriting---printing---is quite atypical, is it not ?

S

Rood
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Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:19 pm
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

SDR wrote:Heh-heh. Surprises all around ! I looked closely at the signature on the postcard to see if it seemed genuine. The handwriting---printing---is quite atypical, is it not ? S
Atypical? Not by my eye.

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

That's good; I would certainly defer to you . . .

S

Rood
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Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:19 pm
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

SDR wrote:That's good; I would certainly defer to you . . . S
No doubt, because the signature is almost exactly like the one in my copy of An Autobiography

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The signature looks genuine enough -- it's the printing that I questioned, what there is of it. The real mystery, I suppose, is "What was he apologizing for ?"

S

Rood
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Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

Good question, SDR. Of course nearly everyone knows Mr. Wright enjoyed being witty and, at times he could be particularly acerbic, when making comments ... but the problem might have been fairly innocent, such as forgetting an appointment ... or the like.

As for his writing and printing .. when not working on presentation drawings, he could be so busy, and write so quickly, that it often took someone like Gene Masselink ... (or someone who was very familiar with his penmanship). to decipher each word and its meaning.

And even then, we were once trying to decipher some of Mr. Wright's handwriting found on coloured drawings showing the plantings and the pool at the entrance to the Martin Country Estate ... and not one of us, including scholars, could make out everything. We finally just threw up our hands.

wjsaia
Posts: 230
Joined: Sat Aug 26, 2006 6:53 pm

A Cry for Help! Rood?

Post by wjsaia »

I am always interested in almost anything having to do with Frank Lloyd Wright and like to explore clues that offer glimpses into most aspects of the man, including his private, inner world�how he responded internally to unfolding events, how he thought, how he operated, how he thought to operate. Basically, I wish to know all I can about what it would be like to be him. We learn a great deal from his writings, pubic talks and appearances and from the vast array of scholarly works that have been written about Wright by biographers and experts and, as well as from reports, observations and reflections of others who knew him�particularly the stories told by those who knew him well. However, such material is inevitably subject to biased filtration and editing. Viewing his drawings and visiting his executed buildings are of course rewarding and revealing to a degree, but opportunities to view his private correspondence with friends and clients sometimes have the potential to be even more illuminating with respect to Wright’s inner feelings and his authentic, personal sensibilities.

Along come these old post cards, two described as having been handwritten and signed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a third one typed with his signature applied. Dated 1949 and 1951, all three contain personal sentiments, and one might expect to gain insight from his selection of each of the cards as vehicles to reinforce his expression of a personal sentiment. All have been recently offered for sale, each by a separate dealer, two accompanied by certifications by experts in autograph authentication and the third certified as genuine by a person who identifies herself as a distant Wright relative. The handwriting and signatures appear convincingly genuine. Although the comments and questions that follow are not to be taken as allegations of forgery, a number of surprising and bewildering questions are elicited, if one examines and considers the pieces of correspondence, as explained below.

One thinks of Wright as one who espoused and supremely personified the ever-independent, self-reliant, artistically creative, forward-thinking individual who designed and did all things in his own way for himself. He couldn’t accept without alteration off-the-shelf items of clothing. He wouldn’t tie a necktie in the manner other men did or drive an automobile he liked well enough to purchase without first re-painting it and, in at least one instance, remodeling it to suit his preferences, etc., etc. Bearing in mind this prevailing attitude that Wright carried with him, it seems astonishing that he might ever have been inclined to accept the commonplace drivel portrayed in these postcards as a means to strengthen, add support or enhance in any way the quality of his communication with others in sharing the personal sentiments expressed. Thus it becomes absolutely astonishing to contemplate that Wright might ever had anything to do with any of these postcards.

One might have other reasons to question their authenticity as instruments Wright used for correspondence in 1949-51. Specifically in regard to the first postcard, purportedly written by Wright to Clinton Walker in 1949, how might the following curious and weird aspects be explained?

Image
-----Front------------------------------------------------------------------- Back-------------------------------------------------------------
1. This postcard appears on its back to be addressed to “Mrs. C . . .� (the remainder of the addressee’s name is obscured by lost areas of the surface ply of the laminated paper card), but on its front (message) side, one sees the salutation to read, “Dear Clinton Walker.� The surprise here is that Clinton L. Walker had died about five years prior to the date written on this card. It was Clinton Walker’s widow who had engaged Wright to design the Carmel cottage. By 1949, Wright had visited the Carmel site and had corresponded with Mrs. Walker for about a year, if not yet met her in person. She was no shrinking violet. He could have had a mental lapse�he had at least forty active projects underway for residential clients alone in 1948-49, twenty-two of which were constructed, and there was an enormous amount of other work he was involved with then, as well. We can only speculate about what might have elicited this apology. But it would appear he might next have needed to apologize for this apology in which he addressed the lady as her late husband. Is that postcard out there somewhere about to go on the market? If this card ever found its way to Della Walker, why would her descendants have released this particular memento of her relationship with Wright when the balance of their correspondence seems to have been held intact? If it never reached her, it would be miracle for it to have been returned to Taliesin. (See #4 below.)

Image

2. The one-cent stamp on this postcard was sold by the U.S. Post Office Dept. between 1901 and 1910. Whether or not Wright conceivably could have possessed an unused forty-year-old stamp like this to affix to a postcard in 1949 is beside the point, because one can tell that this particular card had been mailed and postmarked long before then. Although much of the postmark is illegible due to poor initial impression and some of the face ply of paper having been torn from the card, the four-digit year may be discerned. One sees a full “1�; then the tail of a “9�; then the bottom of a numeral that most certainly is not a “4� and could be nothing other than a “0�; and, lastly, clearly not a “9� but a “7�. Thus we see the postmarked year to have been “1907�. It was struck using a “duplex handstamp� that combined a postmark to record the date and location of posting and a “killer� to cancel the stamp with ink so as to render it not re-useable. These were introduced in the U.S. in the 1860s. While conceivable, the employment of such a handstamp in 1949 would have to be regarded as the outside limit of late usage. But no, this handstamped postmark was struck on this card in 1907. The presence of the “This Side for Address� instruction also dates the card. Postcards with undivided backs like this one were not published after 1907.

3. This joke postcard would have seemed outdated by 1949. How out-of-character it would have been for Wright to employ such a curiously old-fashioned and rather hokey means for communicating an apology, awkward or not, to a sophisticated woman like Della Walker, as he would have known her to be by this time�if not ever since or even prior to the outset of their relationship. She and her husband and her sister and brother-in-law, (two sisters having married two brothers) were all members of the social elite in San Francisco. Might Wright have elected to use the clownish cartoon character as a stand-in proxy to deliver�but at the same time belittle�his own apology, even though he apparently felt one was deserved? Wright was a master of epistolary brevity for its effectiveness in pursuit of his own best interests. Letters of his could be a line or two–sometimes even shorter, and in 1949 these almost invariably would have been typed by Gene Masselink for Wright’s signature on Taliesin stationery emblazoned for stunning force and effect with his distinctive red square and return address, all unconventionally oriented and arranged on the page.

4. As vaguely as it is written on this card (“Scenic Road� being a relatively long street in Carmel), the use of a street address might have further risked its never having reached Mrs. Walker at all, because there was no home delivery. Residents rented mailboxes at the Carmel post office where they went to collect their mail. Wright had exchanged written communication with Mrs. Walker in Carmel through the U.S. mail by this time. The inclusion of “U.S.A� in the address seems curious; would not “California� have been sufficient? We know of Wright’s preference for brevity, and on this card his return address is indeed so: “FLlW�. Would the thought apparently reflected here be that anyone should know to whom and where to return a piece of mail that carried those particular initials?

Looking next at the second item recently offered for sale, the letter and postcard to Manuel Sandoval, one finds this same odd “U.S.A.� inclusion in the address in each of these documents as we see on the Clinton Walker address. Huh? Could there be a connection between these two offerings that have run concurrently on eBay albeit from separate dealers? Was this curiosity often seen in Wright’s domestic correspondence? Any insight, Rood?

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-----Front------------------------------------------------------------------- Back-------------------------------------------------------------

A few other observations with respect to the postcard addressed to Manuel Sandoval: again we see here a vintage postcard, this one published in 1909. The Franklin stamp with “One Cent� spelled out was only issued in the years 1908-11 and was then superseded by different designs.

Image

This postmark, once again only partially legible due to having been weakly hand-struck with a duplex handstamp, can be seen possibly to include the name “Col. Springs� around the top of the circle�it does not say “Denver.� We definitely see the state designated as “Colo.� The partially legible date could be August (?) 1949, which might seem reasonable in the light of this invitation being a follow-up to the thank-you letter of January. The same typewriter seems to have been used to type both documents, but 1949 would be very late for the use of a duplex handstamp. The partial markings we see could just as well reflect a stamping of the year 1910, which makes more sense given the vintage of both card and postage stamp. A separate question concerns whether Wright would ever have chosen to employ this old vintage postcard with the cute puppy dog, tattered straw hat and humorous slogan to serve in any correspondence of his at all. It seems utterly inconsistent with his pattern of presenting himself with a greater degree of force and decorum. The reference to “the cabin in Denver . . .� is stranger than strange. Its matter-of-fact mention lacks further explanation, as if the reader naturally was assumed to already have known about the place, its location, etc. Curiously, a Colorado Springs dealer had made this particular sale offering. Does anyone have any knowledge of Wright ever having had a cabin in Colorado?

It gets even more baffling with a third postcard that we also find now offered for sale�in this instance by a dealer in Scottsdale, AZ. It is presented along with written testimony as to the authenticity of Wright’s handwriting and signature on it from a person named Carrie Wright who identifies herself as a distant relative of his:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Frank-Lloyd-Wr ... :rk:2:pf:0

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-----Front------------------------------------------------------------------- Back-------------------------------------------------------------

Here we have yet another vintage postcard from about 1910. The stamp affixed to it was sold in various editions by the U. S. Postal Service from 1912 to 1923. Did Wright hoard unused postcards and stamps for twenty, or thirty or forty years and have them handy to use as greeting cards? How could he even abide keeping in his possession this one with its mawkish, snowy scene with a quaint little Georgian bungalow and traditional English (or French?) garden walls with urns on top of pedestals, let alone write his personal greetings and signature on it to send to friends? Curiously, the card carries on its back the handwritten date of December 3, 1951, whereas on the front, it conveys a "New Year Greeting." Grady Gammage was a pillar of the Phoenix community, a friend of influence and a potential benefactor of Wright’s. The card has nothing to do with Arizona, and it seems it would have been nothing but repugnantly offensive, aesthetically, to Wright even to have it around him. How astonishing to entertain that for the purpose of sending a holiday greeting Wright might have employed such a piece of clichéd dreck�forty years old as it may have been at the time� as opposed to instead using a distinctive graphic design of his own creation or possibly one that he might have asked Gene Masselink to develop, which then would have been printed on his own Taliesin press by Gene. Carrie Wright, who endorses the signature as legitimate, seems to find unremarkable the dichotomy between the card’s graphic content and Wright’s architectural and aesthetic sensibilities. Rood, do you know who Carrie Wright might be?

Personally, I seriously doubt the veracity of the claims that these cards were written and signed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the various reasons cited. He would have had to stop being Frank Lloyd Wright in each instance, and I don’t think he would ever have done that.

Rood? Rood?

peterm
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Post by peterm »

The letters from Wright to the Lambersons were typically one or two sentences long, and nearly always witty and contained some dry humor.

He must have been a delightful, but mischievous, soul.

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

Bill:
I suppose we have been looking but not seeing.

I hadn't even bothered to look at the other two cards, the "Walker" card looked old fashioned, and curiously damaged, but I rationalized it as an "oops" type card Wright may have had on hand for the few occasions he might require one.

The others, as you suggest, do appear curiously similar to one another and out of character from the other Wright correspondence of the period...Wright and his apprentices seemed to relish the creation of graphic abstractions for daily and especially holiday correspondence. I doubt after two fires and several moves of his practice, Wright would still have old stamps ready for use on penny post cards.

Caveat emptor.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

I had the (missed) opportunity to buy a Christmas card, hand-made by FLW, for $3,500. I demurred, but returned to the shop a day later, and it was already sold. A day late and a dollar short, as the saying goes.

The 'card' was exquisite, almost a booklet of 8 or so pages, with a hand-written message running through it, each page containing a small watercolor image relative to the season ... that is, December, not a religious theme. The time and care evidenced was in keeping with the sort of man, Bill, that you describe, not a slap-dash thing like the Gammage post card.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

I have never heard of Carrie Wright, but there are some persons of FLW lineage (including a model from San Diego, who is, I believe, a descendant of John Lloyd Wright) born after publication of the family tree in the 1980 issue of Heinz's Newsletter. Given the family's habit of reusing names from their own past, it may be that, since the sisters of poetry, Alice and Phoebe Cary, were relatives of William Cary Wright, that name was used.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Following Bill's trip down the rabbit-hole of these plausibly phony ephemera---including a full study of the philately---I can only suggest that a close look at the typewriter(s) employed might yield further useful data.

We have in print many many (James Baker: "meeny meeny") examples of Wright's and Masselink's typed messages with which to compare these cards and letters . . .

S

Cards and letters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIlSymom4GE

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