So Lummis Pretty Much Knew Everybody, Didn’t He?
As so aptly put by Robyn Hetrick, the Autry’s Director of Programs and Public Events, Charles Fletcher Lummis did indeed seem to know everyone. Lummis’s circle reached far and wide and included a dynamic set of artists, scientists, visionaries, and explorers. But the truth of this statement is best revealed by the fascinating “Lummis Housebook,” which was signed by guests who attended dinner parties and celebrations held in Lummis’s home, El Alisal. Lummis called these gatherings “Noises,” the most famous of which were held every March, the month of his birthday.
The entries made during these “Noises” do actually make noise, in a way. The Housebook captures not only signatures but also vivid sayings, drawings, menus, and seating arrangements. The way the book is organized (or not organized) makes an impression too. Because Lummis chose the signature page for a given event by simply opening the book to a random blank spot, the pages are not in chronological order!
At long last, the digitization and indexing of the Lummis Housebook is being realized. This project is being carried out with the help of two magnificent volunteers—Janice Raney and Dennis Harbach.
Janice has meticulously and systematically imaged each of the pages. Dennis, in the same detailed manner, is describing and listing information related to each page.
And in July the L.A. Autry Blog is starting a new series titled “Harbach and the Housebook.” In it Dennis will be sharing his progress and findings from this remarkable artifact each week.
Below is a sampling of signatures from just the first few pages. In true Lummis fashion, they are listed in no particular order:
- John Muir—probably the most well-known naturalist in the world, his writings have been read by millions.
- Ernest Thompson Seton—noted author and one of the pioneering founders of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Madame Helena Modjeska—renowned actress who specialized in Shakespearean and tragic roles. She has a park, canyon, and peak in California named after her.
- David Starr Jordan—the first president of Stanford University, Lummis’s son Jordan was named after him.
- Yiorgos Caralambo (aka “Greek George”)—a camel driver hired by the U.S. Army in 1856 for the Camel Corps experiment in the southwestern United States.
- Myron Hunt—architect whose numerous projects include many noted landmarks in Southern California, such as the Rose Bowl. He was one of the primary architects of the Southwest Museum building and worked with Lummis on many restoration projects with the Landmarks Club of California.
- Hobart Bosworth—known as the “Dean of Hollywood” for his pioneering work in the film industry in California. He was also an actor and director in silent films.
- Dorothea Lange Dixon—American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era photographs of the Dust Bowl.
- Maynard Dixon—well-known Western artist who referred to Charles Lummis as “Daddy Lummis.” Dixon did the banner heads for the Land of Sunshine/Outwest magazines, designed the front door of El Alisal, and painted The Pioneers (901.G.4 ) specifically for the Southwest Museum.
- Sharlot Hall—journalist, poet, politician, activist, and historian who was the first woman to hold government office in the Arizona territory.
- Ida M. Tarbell—one of the leading “muckrakers” (investigative reporters) of the Progressive Era in the United States.
- Charles M. Russell—arguably the most famous of all Western artists.
Tune in to “Harbach and the Housebook” weekly for new signatures and images.
Read Part 1 of the series here.