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The National Museum of American Illustration
Remembers Recently Departed
Board Members
The National Museum of American Illustration considers its past and present Advisory Board members to be superlative amongst those who are accomplished, respected, groundbreaking, and discerning individuals involved with the arts, culture, and service to the public. In this most recent MuseNews, we examine the lives and accomplishments of two NMAI Advisory Board Members who recently passed away. They each have led long lives of accomplishment and public service to citizens of their home state, and the nation - U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (1918-2009), and Ralph Emerson Carpenter (1909-2009).
Claiborne Pell         1901 Medal

Senator Claiborne Pell (1918-2009)                 Mr. Ralph Carpenter (1909-2009)

SENATOR CLAIBORNE PELL is most remembered as a tireless advocate for the working class. He was the longest-serving Senator for the State of Rhode Island having served  six consecutive terms from 1961 to 1997. With numerous Senators, Congressmen, and even a former Vice President in his family tree, it is not surprising that  Senator Pell dedicated much of his life to public service.

Sen. Pell first served his country in an official capacity in 1941, enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard lessClaiborne Pell Coast Guard than a year after graduating from Princeton University, and mere months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served on active duty for the duration of the Second World War, and afterwards stayed on in the Coast Guard Reserve, retiring with the rank of Captain in 1978. It was  during this period that Pell met and married his wife Nuala, with whom he  raised their four children. From 1945 to 1952, Sen. Pell served as a Foreign Service Officer for the United States State Department in Czechoslavakia, Italy, and Washington D.C. In 1946, Sen. Pell  received an M.A. in history from Columbia University.

right: Captain Claiborne Pell, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve

For most of the 1950s, Sen. Pell was involved in investment banking, but he always kept an eye on politics. In 1960, following the retirement of Rhode Island Senator Theodore Francis Green, he ran in the Democratic primary for Senator as an unendorsed "outside candidate", beating two former Governors and one former Senator, going on to win the general election.

The Pells & JFK
above: Then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy with Senatorial candidate Claiborne Pell and wife Nuala

Senator Pell was the main sponsor of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 - the bill responsible for creating the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a steadfast proponent for the increase of funding for passenger trains, and his 1966 book, Megalopolis Unbound: Supercity and the Transportation of Tomorrow outlined the groundwork for high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor. As Senator, Pell was also well known for his stance against nuclear proliferation and hawkish foreign policy.

However, it is for sponsoring the legislation that created the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants in 1973 (renamed 'Pell Grants' in 1980), for which Senator Pell is best known. These grants award a sum of money for secondary education students, based on need, to be used for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses such as textbooks. Indeed, when asked his greatest achievement, Pell was always quick to answer "the Pell Grants."

Pell Bridge

above: Upon his retirement in 1997, the Newport Bridge was
renamed the Claiborne Pell Bridge in the Senator's honor

Ralph CarpenterRALPH E. CARPENTER is best remembered for his work as a conservationist and expert in antiques, particularly American Colonial furniture. Born and raised in Woonsocket, RI, he received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in 1931, and  later lived in Toledo, Ohio, before moving to Scarsdale, a suburb of  New York City. 

left: Ralph Carpenter (2007)

1901 MedalCarpenter's interest in antiques began as a way to acquire inexpensive furniture for his Scarsdale apartment. After filling his apartment, he began storing his antiques in a warehouse, and then in the 1950's constructed a house specifically to house his very special collection. Carpenter's 1954 book, The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island 1640-1820, is considered to be the seminal work in the antique furniture field, bringing the work of Colonial craftsmen to the attention of the public at large. If not for his efforts, American Colonial furniture would likely not have been recognized as it is, especially Newport's fabled furniture makers, Townsend and Goddard.

right: Newport's notable Trinity Church,
one of the many historic sites which
benefited from Carpenter's amazing combination of skills.

Due to his reputation in the antique and furniture world, in 1945 Carpenter was appointed by the newly founded Preservation Society of Newport County to oversee the restoration of Hunter House, a Georgian Colonial  built in 1748 for Colonial Deputy Jonathon Nichols Jr., and expanded into a formal mansion by U.S. Senator and Ambassador William Hunter after the Revolutionary War.

Hunter House is but one of many of Newport's important historic architectural masterpieces which would have lain fallow if not for Carpenter's intervention and positive contributions. In addition to Hunter House, other notable examples include the Newport Colony House, Trinity Church, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, and the Museum of Newport History at Brick Market.

Cutlers and Ralph Carpenter Carpenter's renown was not limited solely to the Newport area, however. He was also asked, among other projects, to reconstruct Sudbury, Massachusetts's historic Wayside Inn following a devastating fire in 1955. Starting in 1978, he lent his expertise to Christie's auction house as consultant on decorative arts and antiques, contributing significantly to their  reputation as a preeminent auctioneer  for American furniture.

left: Ralph Carpenter is greeted by NMAI founders Judy and Laurence Cutler during a recent function at the NMAI.

In 1992, Carpenter founded the Newport Symposium, an annual event where experts in the fields of art, antiques, and historic preservation gather to discuss relevant  events and issues of interest. Ralph's wisdom, progressive foresight, and aggressively bold enthusiasm was a bulwark for the Preservation Society of Newport County, and to the field of conservation at large.

The National Museum of American Illustration would not exist today at Vernon Court  had it not been for the unflagging support by our late Honorary Trustee, Sen. Claiborne Pell and  our late Advisory Board member, Ralph Carpenter.

The Museum is open year-round for visitors and group tours by advance reservation.
Tickets: $18.  Seniors (60+), and Military w/id: $16. Students w/id: $12. Children ages 5 to 12: $8. Children ages 5 to 12 are permitted, only if they are vouchsafed by parents or guardians as being 'well-behaved.'
NMAI Marble Hall Entrance Table
For Reservations:

nmai logoEric Brocklehurst
National Museum of American Illustration
492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840
T: 401-851-8949 ext.18. F: 401-851-8974,

The National Museum of American Illustration is a nonprofit, independent, educational and aesthetic organization. It is located in Newport, RI, on Bellevue Avenue at Vernon Court (1898), a Carreré and Hastings designed Beaux-Arts adaptation of an 18th century French chateau. It is the first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art. Illustration consists of original artwork created to be reproduced in books, magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. 'Golden Age' paintings by such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth, JC Leyendecker, and 75 others are displayed in 'Gilded Age' architecture, creating a unique union of architecture and art - a national treasure. The Museum is administered by the American Civilization Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal to present the best possible venue for appreciating the greatest collection of illustration art - the most American of American art.

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