The National Museum of American Illustration
Remembers Recently Departed
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).
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 less 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
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
above: Then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy with Senatorial candidate Claiborne Pell and wife Nuala
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."
above: Upon his retirement in 1997, the Newport Bridge was
renamed the Claiborne Pell Bridge in the Senator's honor
RALPH 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.