22

February

2009

46

Lighting New York, 1895-1946: Edward F. Caldwell & Company

by Smithsonian Digital Library

angelThe Cooper-Hewitt Library is celebrating the release of Shedding Light on New York: Edward F. Caldwell Collection, a new online database on Saturday, February 28th. Margaret Caldwell, great granddaughter of E. F. Caldwell, will also talk about the firm’s origins, craftsmanship, clients, and importance in the decorative arts world. Select original drawings and photographs from the Caldwell Archive will be on display.

Caldwell & Co. was America’s premier producer of lighting and other metal objects during the turn of the 20th century through the 1940s, and the archives are currently stored in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library in New York City. Notable clients of Caldwell lighting fixtures included the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the Roosevelts, and the company was also commissioned for famous landmarks such as the Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.  Caldwell & Co. manufactured unique and intricate lighting fixtures in their Manhattan factory, such as chandeliers, electrified lamps and wall sconces, which were then shipped to prominent residences all over the United States.

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The digitization of the Caldwell & Co. archives will bring unprecedented access of this vast collection to viewers around the world.  Prior to this project, researchers faced great challenges accessing the collection, due to the fragility of physical archives, their location in New York City, and the difficulty of searching through unidentified pieces in the collection.  The Smithsonian Institution Libraries anticipates this visual resource to aid a diverse population, including historians, restorers, antique dealers, appraisers, collectors, and designers.

Shedding Light on New York: Edward F. Caldwell Collection was supported in part by funds from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.—Liz O’Brien

46 thoughts on “Lighting New York, 1895-1946: Edward F. Caldwell & Company

  1. Victor K. Jordan

    I attended the Margret Caldwell presentation at Cooper-Hewitt on February 28, 2009. Edward F. Caldwell & Company did the lights in the Nave at The Riverside Church and probably other lights as well. Are there drawings and photographs at Cooper-Hewitt for Riverside Church? Does the NYP Library have account books that include Riverside Church?
    Thank You.

    Reply
  2. Jen the Librarian

    Dear Mr. Jordan,
    After searching in the Caldwell account books (which we have on microfilm) around the date that Riverside Church was built (1927-1930), we identified four entries for Riverside Church entered on May 1, 1928 – A074478, A074479, A074489, & A074490.
    Upon searching for these account numbers using the keyword search in our online database, there were no matches for these numbers. This means we have no photographs or drawings for these items.
    However, further searching within the Caldwell account books will most likely result in discovering more account numbers that were commissioned for Riverside Church. Caldwell & Co. did most Rockefeller Jr. projects, so they most likely did all the lighting for Riverside Church.
    Jen
    Librarian
    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Library

    Reply
  3. Timothy Sheehy

    Hello. Thanks to everyone involved in this project. In the past I made a yearly trip to the Cooper Hewitt to raise dust and look at the archives (or vis-versa). It is wonderful to be able to view these images in my den here in Massachusetts. I notice that new images have not been added and wonder if there is a schedule available to indicate when new images or complete binders will be posted? Also, it would be very helpful to be able to book mark pages so that a viewer could know where he left off when last looking at a group of images (such as “Lamps”). When I search lamps now I have to go through every previously viewed page to see if there are any new entries. Is there any plan to do an Edward F. Caldwell exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt in the near future? I have many wonderful items I would like to share with other “Caldwellites”. Thank you once again. Tim Sheehy

    Reply
  4. Jen the Librarian

    Dear Mr. Sheehy,
    After meeting with “Team Caldwell” earlier this month (several Smithsonian Libraries staff are involved with this project), we determined the next steps for phase two of the Caldwell digital project. Your questions and feedback provided us with some helpful information on how to move forward – thanks!
    We will be adding new images within the next couple of months. First, we will add the Large Binder pages to provide access to all 142 binders that contain over 35,000 photographs. After these are online, we will then begin to add the drawings in batches, of which there are 10,000 total. Concurrently, we will be researching and adding more Caldwell project information over the summer months and identifying related images within our collection. Now that our initial grant from METRO has been completed, additional funds are needed to digitize the remaining 16,000 images (photographs and drawings).
    In response to your bookmarking question, we are looking into a feature that will allow you to return to a specific page within the results of a particular search in order to avoid having to page through everything again.
    There has been much discussion of a Caldwell exhibition and/or book. Many have shown interest in both and we’re always open to discuss ideas with fellow Caldwellians.
    We will be sending email announcements to inform interested parties of updates to the Caldwell online collection. Please let us know if you have any further questions or feedback concerning the Caldwell online collection.
    We’re glad you are enjoying this new resource!
    Jen
    Librarian
    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Library

    Reply
  5. Caleb Stewart

    Hi, I am really enjoying delving in to the Caldwell archives.
    I’d never heard of the firm until I bought a couple of fixtures that were in a a friends house that was built in 1907 in Brookline, MA. I was researching the yellow slag glass shades and came across a posting for a fixture made by Caldwell with identical shades. I have since become quite obsessed and would love to be kept informed of your progress. What a wonderful project!
    Caleb Stewart, Belmont, MA

    Reply
  6. Patrick Sheary, Washington, DC

    This is an excellent resource. May I make a few suggestions regarding ways to improve searching? Adding a few more categories may be helpful to those of us researching this large collection. For example I did not know Caldwell made telephones–indeed they did. It would be nice to have a category for those as well as other specialty items that would otherwise get lost among the lighting. Also within lighting creating subcategories would helpful. For example in the table lamps binders, a sub-section for girandoles or candelabras would also be helpful. Of course I realize that detailed tagging takes much time and resources but I thought I would make this friendly suggestion. Also, the images in large binder 042–chandeliers come up pixilated. With this said, however, I’m very grateful that you have put this valuable resource on-line. Many thanks!

    Reply
  7. Caleb Stewart

    Keep up the great work. I am thrilled to have confirmed (as I suspected) that some of my fixtures are made by Caldwell as I found photos in your collection.
    I did note that I am unable to enlarge the images in LB042 for some reason.
    How can one make a financial contribution towards work on the collection?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Jen the Librarian

    Dear Mr. Stewart,
    Thanks for your feedback! We’re very glad you are enjoying the Caldwell collection online. And how exciting that you were able to attribute some fixtures to Caldwell using this resource! Thanks also for bringing LB042 to our attention – it will be fixed shortly.
    Donations can be made online. Once you’ve decided on your gift amount, follow through to the page where you enter your credit card information. At the bottom of that page, write “Caldwell Digital Project” in the purpose of gift box. Alternatively, send a check made out to “Smithsonian Institution Libraries” to the address below and be sure to tell us it’s for the Caldwell Digital Project.
    Development Office
    Smithsonian Institution Libraries
    PO Box 37012 MRC 154
    Washington, DC 20013-7012.
    Or you can contact us directly at 212-849-8333 or cohlmanj@si.edu for other arrangements. We appreciate your support!
    Also, an update on the Caldwell project was recently posted on Smithsonian Libraries’ blog.
    Enjoy!
    Jen
    Librarian
    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Library

    Reply
  9. Robert Nester

    I have used the first 46 pages of these images to study early clocks, looking for certain models and the evolution of features in them. Unfortunately, this small taste of what the full collection holds is just enough to stimulate the imagination. Some day it will be terrific for scholars; the material will improve the arts of restoration and collection.
    These images also contain info important for historians, more than the obvious. Being able to browse, download and study these images is enormously important for those of us who cannot live in New York City to get initial research done. The collection may begin in New York but it leads everywhere. Bravo for the work so far. Best wishes for the near (I hope) future.

    Reply
  10. Chris Dawkins

    Iv been waiting for something like this for a while, it is a fantastic idea and should hopefully open the way for lots of people who would have otherwise never got the opportunity to see a Caldwell and Co fixture.
    Chris

    Reply
  11. Windows 8

    Hey, I have a quick question about Riverside Church. I was recently at Cooper-Hewitt but didn’t see any photos or other art of Riverside. Are there any actually there? Thanks for your time!

    Reply
  12. Private Schools Palm Beach

    We are going to be bringing some of our 12th grade students through a decorative arts education segment this Spring. I’m so happy I came across this post! The digital version of this collection would be a great addition to our lesson plan. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. White Noise Cd

    While spending some time in New York I was fascinated with the views of Grand Central Terminal and Waldorf-Astoria landmarks. It now a pleasure for me to know that, probably, with time, and because of the challenges that researchers are facing now, this beautiful collection will be available for public eye. I will be constantly checking on the issue while I am in New York City. Thanks for information.

    Reply
  14. nashville movers

    I was lucky enough to see a few pieces of Caldwell & Co. works during a recent visit to New York. It’s a shame that you do not see more of this type of detailed and beautiful works made in the U.S. anymore.

    Reply
  15. Magniwork review

    I am always fascinated by the detail that is in these. Back in those days, craftsmen were artists and sculptors. Not like today where so much stuff is mass produced and lacking in originality and artistic flair.

    Reply
  16. Fireworks Wisconsin

    My grandmother has a Caldwell & Co. lighting fixture from the 1930′s and they are one of her cherished objects. I think it looks at bit medieval and scary looking, something you might see at a Catholic church perhaps. I hope they include a current value of pieces in the database. I have an photo of it if anyone is interested.

    Reply
  17. mike h

    I have a piece which is marked “E. F. Caldwell & Co. N. Y.” I am interested in learning more about its’ history. I cannot find its’ picture in your published internet list. It appears to be a chandelier similar to A016710 and is about 24 inches in diameter, but the odd fact is that it was found in the Houston,Texas area. Could I e-mail someone some pictures and see if someone could shed some light (no pun intended) on its previous home. It is quite beautiful even in its present state. Thanks, Mike

    Reply
  18. mike h

    I just received an opinion of a man with younger eyes who says the numbers are A 8968. (any opinions can be sent to(mphann(at) aol.com)
    Sorry Mike

    Reply
  19. Tim

    Hello. I just viewed the improved web site. So much brighter and easier on the eyes. I started my own web site dedicated to E. F. Caldwell. The address is http://www.EFCALDWELL.ORG. I have begun to add pictures of my collection slowly. I hope you will be adding more Caldwell pages soon. I really enjoy this site. Thanks. Tim Sheehy

    Reply
  20. Tim

    Hi. Seems to be a problem with “search”. When I try to browse the collection my screen comes up with the brown background only, no images. Tim Sheehy, Boston
    p.s. It would be great if there was some way you could add images of the items today, as they pop up at auction and in private collections. I have tried to do that, in a small way, with my site http://www.efcaldwell.org. Recently Skinner auction house here in Boston sold a Chinese-design telephone cabinet (sans phone) and it was so interesting to see the piece in the Caldwell archives as well as it appears today (pretty rough). I know there is only so many resources available, of course.

    Reply
  21. kendra k

    A distanced relative passed away a few years ago and among his belongings was something that looks like Caldwell & Co. lighting fixture from the 1930’s or 1940′s – not exactly sure of the period it came from but I’ve been doing some research to get the information verified. Would appreciate if someone could direct me to how or where I can get further assistance on this. Anyway, I am prepared to send pictures of this item in jpg format to anyone who can help in this matter. There is a marking on the item that “E. F Caldwell & Co. N. Y”.

    Reply
  22. best seo

    Certainly I understand that detailed tagging takes much time and resources but I thought I would make this pleasant suggestion. Also, the images in large binder 042–chandeliers come up pixilated.

    Reply
  23. Nike cycling shoes

    “Prior to this project, researchers faced great challenges accessing the collection, due to the fragility of physical archives, their location in New York City, and the difficulty of searching through unidentified pieces in the collection.”
    In one field of interest after another, I see benefits of the digital world. Those who can’t adapt, get left behind. I’m glad to see that you’ve found a way to greatly increase the exposure of these beautiful items.

    Reply
  24. Chicago Web Design

    My aunt has collected Caldwell for over 40 years. She will be so excited to see the collection online. We live in Chicago and she does not travel often, going to New York is not in the cards for her. The pieces she has in her collection are timeless, and the craftsmanship is unbelievable. I wonder is she will have some matches…
    These days, the only way to get anything comparable to the metal work from the early to mid 1900′s is from a specialist or in Europe.
    Hopefully this will inspire other museums to put their collections online for the world to be able to see. Think about how nice this is for someone who cannot travel to museums.
    Dan O’Callaghan

    Reply
  25. Kelly Levine

    It was my understanding that Caldwell did all of the lighting for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 19th century…am I correct? I have a chandelier that was said to have been in the tea room and it has 1877 imprinted under one of the arms.

    Reply
  26. Daine Douglas

    Great online database. Alone, this was one of the best projects funded by the Metropolitan New York Library Council.

    Reply
  27. guild wars 2 gold

    It was my understanding that Caldwell did all of the lighting for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 19th century…am I correct? I have a chandelier that was said to have been in the tea room and it has 1877 imprinted under one of the arms.

    Reply
  28. Jen the Librarian

    Dear guild wars to gold,
    Caldwell & Co. did not form until the 1890’s, after the date you mention, 1877. Therefore, it is not a Caldwell fixture if that is an accurate date. Caldwell did do the lighting for the second Waldorf Astoria hotel, built in 1930s. The original Waldorf Hotel stood where the Empire State Building stands today and was torn down for its construction. Maybe your fixture is from the original Waldorf?

    Reply
  29. Sikaal Vrenssen

    What interest me the most is the intrinsic details of Caldwell & Co. works. It is hard to find that in our current era, especially since we just don’t seem to have the craftsmanship of this time.

    Reply
  30. juwelier utrecht

    Visiting Waldorf Astoria Hotel last summer opened my eyes to the wonderfull work of Edward F. Caldwell.
    This gives me the oppertunity to explore his facsinating detailled
    work
    sorry for bad writing but english is not my first language.
    Thank You

    Reply
  31. Windows 8

    If I am correct than Caldwell did all of the lighting for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 19th century.I have a chandelier that was said to have been in the tea room and it has 1877 imprinted under one of the arms.

    Reply
  32. Vanessa Stalets

    Spent a couple hours today looking through the Smithsonian and specifically Caldwell & Co. I can’t stand modern art which seems so thin and lifeless – give me the great detail of those who sought to mirror life in its richness – Bravo!

    Reply
  33. Joe Mackey

    I personally have owned a 10 unit Historical building in KC, MO which has been in 2 movies. But interestingly two of the units have Caldwell light fixtures. Always wondered about their origin. Thanks.

    Reply
  34. Sally R

    I own a lovely Caldwell chandelier that came from the house where I grew up. We had many Caldwell light fixtures and chandeliers throughout the house. I have all the original invoices and communication with Edward T. Caldwell from June 1928. I also have some pictures of the pieces installed. Is anyone interested in any of this?! I would like to find out the approximate value of the one chandelier I still own which is Caldwell # A53345.

    Reply
  35. M.S.

    It would be great in the event that there was a way you could add pictures of the products today, because they pop up from auction as well as in private selections. I have attempted to do that, in a tiny way, along with my website http://www.efcaldwell.org. Lately Skinner auction house within Boston offered a Chinese-design phone cabinet (minus phone) also it was so fascinating to see the actual piece within the Caldwell archives in addition to it appears these days (pretty tough). I know there’s only a lot of resources obtainable, of course.

    Reply
  36. Metaphysics

    @Vanessa
    I agree. The modern art of today seems to lack a certain ‘depth’ that is not found often in today’s artists. There are a few shining exceptions around the world though.

    Reply
  37. FuGenX Technologies

    History needs to be preserved. The traditional modern art techniques needs to be taught to the younger generations.

    Reply
  38. woody

    History needs to be preserved. The traditional modern art techniques needs to be taught to the younger generations.They will all thank you later, not right away, but if they listen to you, they will never forget, give it time, they will remember if they want to, the best thing is, you showed them something and when they go to a store and see something like it, they will tell there friends. trust me.

    Reply
  39. Greg

    Great information in the archives. I have been collecting for years myself.
    Was curious – what was his full middle name?

    Reply

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