All Series Level Scope and Content Notes
The Albert Kahn Associates records offer researchers the opportunity to study the correspondence, transcripts of speeches, photographs, and architectural drawings of the preeminent, American, industrial architect, Albert Kahn, and his firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. On March 21, 2003 (the 134th anniversary of Albert Kahn's birthday), Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. (AKA) donated this collection to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan to ensure the conservation and accessibility of these records. Through this gift, AKA has shown its commitment to preserving the legacy of Kahn, whose factories on five continents influenced the development of industrial architecture and whose commercial, residential and institutional buildings define the character of Detroit and the University of Michigan today. The collection encompasses 166 linear feet (in 180 boxes) of correspondence, transcripts of speeches, newspaper and journal articles, company files, audiovisual materials, photographs and slides, as well as 90 leather portfolios containing photographs of completed buildings, 22 albums of sample architectural materials, 131 books, and 12,731 architectural drawings in 45 flat-file drawers and 114 oversize tubes.
The narrative and visual materials in the collection illuminate the breadth of Kahn's career and highlight the work of his architectural firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., which continued to develop projects after his death, and remains a living institution. In pairing the textual materials with the photographs and architectural drawings associated with Kahn's projects, this collection offers a rich perspective on the master architect himself, illuminating his personal views on his own architecture and its place in a changing and often tumultuous world.
The Albert Kahn's Personal Papers series (1 linear foot, 1917-1970) contains correspondence to and from Albert Kahn from 1917 to 1942 and to a few principals of his firm through 1970. These documents were probably saved in a special file by Kahn because they are letters of appreciation, commendation and reference from admiring clients and government officials, including such historic figures as Henry Ford, George G. Booth, James C. Couzens, Henry B. Joy, William L. Clements, C. S. Mott, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. and The Honorable Ferry K. Heath, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. The letters have been described at the item-level in this finding aid because of the importance of the authors and their own contributions to American industrial and political history.
The Albert Kahn's Professional Papers and Albert Kahn Associates' Files series (18 linear feet, 1903-2014) includes nine subseries of professional materials related to Albert Kahn and his firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.: the AIA 2003 Gold Medal Submission, Cost Ledgers, Employee Biographies, Mechanical Engineering Department Maps, Newspaper and Journal Articles, Publications, Scholarships and Contributions, Special Activities and Events, and Transcripts of Speeches.
The AIA Gold Medal Submission subseries (0.2 linear feet, 2002-2003) includes printed and CD copies of the presentation that was made to the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects. It was prepared by Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. in its unsuccessful attempt to have Kahn receive this award posthumously in 2003. With photographs and text, the nomination materials effectively summarize the significance of Kahn's industrial, commercial, institutional and residential architecture in American history.
The Cost Ledgers subseries (2 linear feet, 1907-1948) consists of cost books, cost cards, and other various materials regarding the monetary costs of many of the projects produced by Albert Kahn and his architectural firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. One of the most valuable items in the collection is Albert Kahn's Personal Cost Ledger.
Albert Kahn's Personal Cost Ledger, 1907-1913, is perhaps the most valuable piece in this collection. The leather-covered, 4x6-inch binder includes cost summaries, dimensions, descriptions of construction materials and structural sketches for Kahn's projects during this period, written and drawn in his own hand. The inscription, "Valuable," inside the front cover signifies that Kahn considered this an important notebook of building data. The meticulously written records give the researcher a sense of the master's hands-on involvement in all of his projects, as well as his strong interest in structural design and his adherence to financial budgets. The original notebook has been restored by Bentley Conservator James Craven and is being limited to restricted use. A photocopy of the ledger is available for research.
The Employee Biographies subseries (0.3 linear feet, 1957-1991) consists of biographical information for various employees of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. from the 1950s to the 1990s. The materials in this subseries are arranged alphabetically.
The Mechanical Engineering Department Maps subseries (156 maps in 4 folders and 1 drawer, 1905-1966) consists of topigraphical maps that were used by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. during the 20th century. The maps cover various regions within seven states: Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Virginia.
The Newspaper and Journal Articles subseries (10.75 linear feet, 1903-2014) consists of articles that offer an in-depth perspective on issues surrounding the design, construction technologies, budgets, politics and dedications of many of Kahn's buildings. Materials in this subseries are arranged chronologically and alphabetically by subject. Articles often include Kahn's own comments about the buildings, as well as construction and opening-day photographs which document the artistic detailing and technological advancements of his structures. Researchers interested in the work which Kahn's firm did in Russia between 1929 and 1932, during which time he designed 521 factories for Stalin's First Five-Year Industrial Plan, will find two leather binders of newspaper articles documenting this period in Box 13. A number of journal articles written by Kahn himself summarize his views on defense architecture and the business of industrial architecture. The researcher will note the proliferation of articles from 1939 to 1942, when such national journals asAero Digest, Engineering News-Record, Heating and Ventilating, American Builder and Architectural Forum covered in detail his design and construction of aircraft factories, tank arsenals and U. S. Navy air stations. Articles written after his death include analytical pieces by historians Grant Hildebrand (1970 and 1998), David Lewis (1975), Anatole Senkevich, Jr. (1996) and Janet Kreger (1998). Post-1942 materials, documenting the demolition, restoration and adaptive re-use of a number of Kahn's buildings up to the present time, have been included in the collection.
The Publications subseries (2.4 linear feet, 1921-2007) includes promotional literature produced by the firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., as well as, among others, three volumes which offer perspective on Kahn's career as well as photographs of the master's most important projects. Albert Kahn, Architect, Architectural Catalog, published in October 1921, is a 90-page book containing full-page photographs of the General Motors Building, Detroit Athletic Club, Hill Auditorium and many other buildings, as well as trade advertisements which document the construction technologies and materials used by Kahn at that time. The editors of Architectural Forum chose to dedicate the entire issue of August 1938 to Albert Kahn's accomplishments, the organization of his firm and photographs of numerous manufacturing plants which had advanced his reputation as America's greatest industrial architect. The Michigan Society of Architects' Weekly Bulletin, Albert Kahn Memorial Issue of March 30, 1943 is an important journal in bringing together many contemporary tributes to Kahn, written by friends and colleagues. The high regard in which he was held at the time of his death, even before historians could offer perspective on his contributions, may be of particular interest to researchers.
The Scholarships and Contributions subseries (0.3 linear feet, 1942-1978) consists of materials related to various monetary gifts and scholarships produced by Albert Kahn and his firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., and awarded to deserving individuals and organizations at various universities and institutions.
The Special Activities and Events subseries (0.8 linear feet, 1947-1979) consists of materials related to Project 75, which was the 75th anniversary of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., celebrated in 1970. Additional materials include items from other miscellaneous special activities and events in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as materials related to an open house event that was held by the firm in 1977, and black-and-white photographs of the Albert Kahn Bowling League annual banquet in 1947 and 1948.
The Transcripts of Speeches subseries (0.25 linear feet, 1918-1942) contains Kahn's typed presentations with annotations and corrections by his own hand. The reader can imagine him reading over his transcripts before a lecture with a discerning eye to punctuation and content. The topics of Kahn's talks in the early years range from "Reinforced Concrete," the innovative structural material which he used in his early automobile factories for Henry Joy and Henry Ford, to tributes to George D. Mason and George G. Booth. During the 1930s, his speeches run the gamut from the challenges of industrial architecture to his love of architectural and art history. His collection of Impressionist art was the focus of his Torch Club talk at his own home on 5/14/1935. Kahn's well-publicized speech entitled "Building Program for National Defense" to the Adcraft Club on 11/28/1941 enriches our understanding of his major contribution to America's "Arsenal of Democracy." Taken as a whole, the transcripts capture his immense genius, sense of humor, humility and intellect.
The Construction Photographs series (90 linear feet, 1902-1982) contains photographs that document the construction process of many of Kahn's buildings, representing the range of industrial, commercial, residential and institutional projects which he and his firm built in Detroit, Ann Arbor and across the nation. The evolution of construction technology through the first half of the twentieth century is captured in these dynamic, black-and-white prints. Researchers interested in the innovative structure of his industrial designs will find the construction photographs of the Detroit News Building, Glenn L. Martin Company Factory Buildings (Baltimore), Chrysler Half-Ton Truck Plant (Warren, MI) and Ford Motor Company Willow Run Bomber Plant (Ypsilanti, MI) of particular value. Other iconic buildings represented in this subseries include the General Motors (Durant) Building and Ford Motor Company Engineering Laboratory in Detroit and the University of Michigan Natural Science Building and Hospital in Ann Arbor. The photographs in this series are arranged chronologically by job number.
The Marketing Photographs series (46 linear feet, 1902-2007) consists of black-and-white and color photographs of the interiors and exteriors of many of Kahn's completed buildings that were used by Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. for marketing purposes. The photographs in this series are arranged alphabetically by project title.
The Photographs of Completed Buildings in Leather Portfolios series (90 portfolios, 1907-1941) is an important collection of large-format, black-and-white images of Kahn's projects, built between 1907 and 1941. With the exception of the Hudson Motor Car Company Factory photographs, which document the project under construction in a series of fold-out images, all of the photographs in this subseries were taken after the buildings were completed and measure between 4-1/2x6-1/2 and 10x14 inches, with the majority at the larger end of this range. These prints are housed in their original, 90 leather portfolios, with marbled end-papers. A few smaller leather albums can be found in Boxes 11 and 12. The series is arranged alphabetically by project title. The portfolio numbers were assigned by the Bentley Historical Library during processing of the collection.
The full dimensions of Kahn's work are represented here, from institutional, residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to such important First and Second World War projects as Langley Field (Hampton, VA), Buick Airplane Engine Plant (Melrose Park, IL), Chrysler Tank Arsenal (Warren, MI), Curtiss Wright Corporation Aeroplane Division Buildings (Buffalo, NY), and Thompson Aircraft Products Building (Euclid, OH). The twenty-three photographs of Langley Field (1917) are particularly interesting, because they document views of several military and civilian structures, even before the roads were completed. The portfolio photographic collection offers researchers an unparalleled opportunity to view in rich detail the exteriors and interiors of Kahn's buildings, representing the entire range of his industrial-modern and historically influenced projects. Five of the leather portfolios contain photographs of important buildings by other architects, including Paul P. Cret, York & Sawyer, Malcomson & Higgenbotham, Ayman Embury, Charles Platt, Walker & Gillette and McKim, Mead & White.
The photographers whose work is represented in the portfolio collection were among the most respected architectural photographers of their day, including the Hedrich-Blessing Studio of Chicago, John Wallace Gillies of New York, and Thomas Ellison of Detroit. The partnership of Ken and Bill Hedrich and Phillip Blessing, established in 1929, is particularly noteworthy, as the firm became the premier, architectural, photographic studio in the country, with such other famous architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill also using their services. Albert Kahn hired Hedrich-Blessing to photograph four of the projects in the portfolio collection: Curtiss Wright Corporation Aeroplane Division Buildings (Buffalo), W. K. Kellogg Auditorium and High School (Battle Creek), Southeastern Junior High School (Battle Creek), and Thompson Aircraft Products Building (Euclid, Ohio). The archives of the Hedrich-Blessing Studio have been housed at the Chicago Historical Society since 1991.
The Slides series (7 linear feet, 1924-2002) consists of thousands of 35mm mounted color slides of the interiors and exteriors of many of Kahn's completed buildings, and were maintained by Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. for presentation purposes. The slides in this series are arranged alphabetically by project title.
The Albums Containing Furniture, Fabrics, Ironwork and Terra Cotta Samples series consists of 22 scrapbooks that contain photographs and drawings of decorative arts pieces used by Kahn in the designs of both the interiors and exteriors of a number of his projects, built between 1913 and 1926. Researchers interested in Kahn's selection of furniture, fabrics and decorative architectural elements for such buildings as the Detroit Athletic Club, the University of Michigan Natural Science Building and Hill Auditorium, the Standard Club of Chicago, the Evening News Building, King's Theatre and Detroit Trust Company, among others, will find these albums of great interest. Many of them were prepared by W. & J. Sloane, the renowned interior design firm and furniture and rug store in New York, which serviced prominent clients across the country during its 94-year history (1891-1985).
The Books Owned by Albert Kahn series consists of a library of 131 books, many of which were autographed and dated by the architect when Albert Kahn purchased them in the early 20th century. These volumes, published between 1825 and 1944, cover a number of subjects of interest to Kahn, including European and American art, architecture and gardens, and library, school, greenhouse, ironwork, and hospital design. The large-format books about architecture and gardens contain hundreds of plates of images, which may have been of inspiration to Kahn in the design of his residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. While the majority of the books are written in English, some are also written in French, German, Italian, and Hungarian.
The Audiovisual Materials series (1 linear foot, 1970-2004) consists of audiocassettes and videocassettes arranged alphabetically by format. The materials include recordings of interviews, special events, architectural discussions, and featurettes on Albert Kahn and some of his building projects. Many of these materials were produced by Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., although some were produced by third parties.
The Architectural Drawings series (3 linear feet and 12,731 drawings, 1896-1970) contains the heart of the Albert Kahn Associates records, and consists of origainal drawings arranged chronologically by job number and Drawing Record Cards.
The drawings in this series were produced by Kahn's firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., are located in 45 flat-file storage drawers and 114 oversize tubes, and are accessible to researchers for study. The original, ink-on-linen drawings in this series often include the structural, mechanical and electrical drawings, as well as the architectural. A number of the larger projects include more than one building, as in the case of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Residence (1926-1932), for which the drawings of the Gate Lodge, Heating Plant, Boat House, Dog Kennel and later Activities Building (1990-1991) are also available.
The buildings represented in this collection of drawings range from Job. No. 1-A, Dupont Residence in Detroit, Michigan (1896) to Job. No. 2223-A, General Electric Appliance and Television Group, Appliance Park East in Columbia, Maryland (1969-1970), and include such industrial landmarks as Packard Motor Company Building No. 10, Ford Motor Company Highland Park Plant, Ford Motor Company River Rouge Eagle Shipbuilding Plant, Ford Motor Company River Rouge Glass Manufacturing Plant and the Amtorg Trading Company Stalingrad Tractor Plant. The drawings representing sections of these innovative factory buildings are especially illustrative of the pioneering structural design which revolutionized American industrial architecture. Elevations of the George G. Booth, Edsel and Eleanor Ford and James C. Couzens residences show the rich, historic, exterior detailing of Kahn's domestic architecture. His versatility with Italian Renaissance and Art Deco design styles in his institutional and commercial work is also beautifully illuminated in the construction drawings of, among others, the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan and the Fisher Building in Detroit.
The Drawing Record Cards subseries (3 linear feet, 1920-1958) serves as a complement to the architectural drawings, and contains informational cards relating to the structural drawings for some of Kahn's building projects. The cards in this subseries are arranged in chronological order by job number, and range from the Hiram Walker and Sons office building addition in Walkerville, Ontario, Canada, Job No. 150-L, to the Rehabilitation Institute of Metropolitan Detroit in Detroit, Michigan, Job No. 2113-Q. The information on these cards includes the name of the artist who created the drawing, the sheet number, sheet title, and the start and end dates for each of the structural drawings produced for the building projects listed in this subseries.