Eric Sloane, c. 1965, signing a copy of his “The Book of Storms” at Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City. Notice one of his covered bridge paintings on the wall in front of him.
Photo used by permission, from Wil Mauch’s Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane.
To learn more about the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum and our mission to assist in the preservation and interpretation of the Eric Sloane Museum and its collection, see www.friendsoftheericsloanemuseum.org. While you’re there, please consider making a donation online to our new hands-on classroom project.
ERIC SLOANE UPON COMPLETION OF THE NOAH BLAKE CABIN
When Eric Sloane’s Dairy of An Early American Boy: Noah Blake – 1805 was published in 1962, “Eric Sloane” was already synonymous with “American”. Having painted everything from “cloudscapes” (a term he coined) to covered bridges, and written on subjects as seemingly diverse as meteorology and barns, Eric Sloane was looking for a way to synthesize so much of what he had explored in oils and in words. “Not long ago”, reads the dust jacket of the book, “Eric Sloane was exploring an ancient house and came upon a small, leather-bound, wood- backedvolume…” It was through this volume that Eric found the crucible in which to explore weather, clouds, barns, early American architecture, farm life, and pioneer culture. Out of this crucible came a profusely illustrated work of great charm and wonder.
Not just charming and wonderful, it turned out, but very popular. In fact, Dairy of An Early American Boy: Noah Blake – 1805 proved popular enough to attract the attention of Walt Disney, who rather clumsily made an offer to purchase the rights to the book for the purpose of creating a movie. Sloane rejected the offer, hanging Disney’s proffered check over his toilet.
This kind of interest in his book led Eric to conceive a project where he would re-create, on the grounds of the Eric Sloane Museum of Kent, Connecticut, the cabin as described by Noah Blake. The project began in earnest over the summer of 1974 and was complete and open to museum visitors that autumn. The Noah Blake cabin continued to delight visitors for decades. By 2002, however, it was clear that the elements were taking a toll on the cabin. Five years later, the cabin was locked and the public barred from viewing the interior. Museum curator Barbara Russ, with the help of Sloane biographer and museum volunteer James Mauch, worked a number of avenues in an attempt to focus attention on the condition of the structure. At the time, the State of Connecticut (the owner and operating authority of the Eric Sloane Museum) showed little interest in the museum and in the plight of the cabin.
By early 2012, however, things began to change. Mauch tacked to a different course, founding the federally recognized non-profit group The Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum. Mauch re-conceptualized the task of restoring the cabin from a grass roots effort to bring awareness to a problem to a coordinated effort aimed at advocating for a group of dedicated volunteers to assume direct responsibility for the cabin. The Friends board worked to grow membership and financial support while working closely with Barbara Russ to develop innovative, hands-on programming at the museum.
In the ensuing years the Friends underwrote the annual art exhibit and sale, created a series of hands on workshops that led to the construction of a traditional New England dry laid stone gathering area and fire pit, re-engineered the space between the museum and the Kent iron furnace, and undertook numerous other initiatives to enhance the museum collection and visitor experience. The organization was also building credibility and rapport with representatives from the State of Connecticut.
THE VISION OF FRIENDS VICE PRESIDENT JEFFREY BISCHOFF – A TRADITIONAL DRY LAID NEW ENGLAND STONEWALL GATHERING AREA, COMPLETE WITH FIRE PIT.
It was in early 2015 that Mauch forged a relationship with Kristina Newman-Scott, the new Director of Culture for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the organization tasked with day-to-day operations (among a myriad of other things) of the four state-run museums in Connecticut. Kristina understood immediately the importance of the four museums and worked diligently to create an environment in which the state could work cooperatively with the Friends organization. Catherine Labadia, Staff Archaeologist for the DECD, worked tirelessly to create an innovative and creative framework whereby the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum could assume responsibility for the rehabilitation of the Noah Blake Cabin. In the summer of 2016, the State of Connecticut and the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum entered into a formal agreement to have the Friends assume responsibility for restoring the Noah Blake Cabin.
The Friends are seeking an initial $50,000 in donations to underwrite the first phase of the cabin restoration. Vice President Jeffrey Bischoffwill spearhead this fundraising effort. The Friends intend to re-build the cabin using a series of hands-on learning classes devoted to traditional skills, similar to the very successful series of courses offered in traditional New England stonewall building during the 2015 programming season. Class participants will learn from experts in the fields of timber framing, stone foundation construction, carpentry, shingle making, and many more early American skills, as they become an active and important part in the restoration process. Once completed, the Friends envision utilizing the cabin as a teaching tool for all ages.
Won’t you please help us to bring the magic back to Kent?
We welcome your support at any level to help us to rebuild the Noah Blake Cabin. When sending your donation, tell us your story of your connection to Eric Sloane, the museum he founded, and the Noah Blake cabin. Send it to [email protected]. We’ll publish your story on our website, www.noahblakecabin.org.
Box of Blacksmith-made iron nails- $20.00
Antique bottle (for Noah’s window) – $25.00
Shutter or door hardware – $35.00
Bundle of wooden shingles – $50.00
Section of exact-match siding – $75.00
Adzed wooden beam – $100.00
Sawn Lumber fund – $150.00
Period Accessories Fund – $Custom. We welcome donations of period accessories to compliment the Noah Blake cabin restoration.
We welcome your financial gift:
The Noah Blake Cabin Restoration Fund
℅ Lia Brassord, Treasurer
72 Amity Place
Amherst, MA 01002
We are a 501c3 organization. Please contact us for more information
Our thanks to Robin Dill-Herde, owner of Kent’s House of Books, for allowing us to use her display window. Friends board member Jeffrey Bischoff did an outstanding job creating an inviting and informative window using a number of books by Eric Sloane. It looks fantastic and we are so grateful for Robin’s support of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum and for Jeffrey’s efforts in creating a great display.
House of Books will be featuring these new old stock hardbound editions of Eric Sloane books for some time. For additional information, please call House of Books (contact information and hours appear below the photographs).
Interior view of the display window at House of Books
Eighty, Eric Sloane’s last book, is available in two different editions. The text, illustrations and paintings are essentially the same in each. There are, however, two important distinctions between the two editions. One edition is a beautifully bound hardcover edition that is made to slide into a hard slipcase. These were limited to 350 copies that were to be numbered and signed by Eric, and an additional 26 copies for private distribution, lettered A-Z. Those who purchase only the slipcover version feeling that this is the more “valuable” of the two copies to own should consider purchasing the other hardcover “standard” edition of Eighty for the dust jacket alone. It features, in my opinion, one of Sloane’s paintings that truly straddles the line between reality and abstraction.
Sloane literally ran to a warehouse to pick up a case of (slipcover edition) books for the Eighty show at Hammer Galleries in New York. The bulk of the shipment of books was to be ready for the show, but production delays made that impossible. At any rate, Sloane brought a case of books to the show, signed them all and gave them away to friends and family. The number of books actually signed is in dispute – I have heard estimates from 7 – 50. Eighty was a heavy book and was likely packed into cartons weighing less than 50 lbs., so my estimate is closer to the 25 copy range than the 50. Additionally, it would make sense that the books lettered A-Z would be packaged together, making a case of 26. He was able to sign some (I have heard estimates as low as 7 copies) or all of the books for private distribution, but none of the books that were numbered 1 to 350. It would be an interesting piece of investigative work to determine what happened to all 26 of the privately distributed copies. I have first hand knowledge that 1 signed copy went to Reverend Schuler of “Crystal Cathedral” fame and 1 is owned by Joan Martin (?), the woman who was curator of the Sloane-Stanley Museum at the time. The remaining copies numbered 1-350 were left unsigned and a piece of onion skin paper was inserted that read:
“Due to the untimely death of Eric Sloane, EIGHTY: An American Souvenir, was regrettably left unsigned. This publication, the last of his over forty books, will remain as a legacy to his place in the world of American arts and letters.”
A place was left for hand numbering and a signature by his widow, Mimi H. Sloane.