Purcell and Elmslie, Architects
Firm active: 1907-1921
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Chicago,
Here enter two books which lifted me off the earth completely. The first is now commonplace because its content is accepted, but still a beautiful prose poem. The other, after forty years, fresh, powerful, beautiful, and the very best of writing on Art.
In July, 1908, G.G.E. sent me a copy of "The Voice of the Machines." I opened it on a crowded Hennepin Avenue Street car on the way home and read the first chapter. It gave me such an emotional shock that the picture of the hot street car, jam of people, are deeply stained into my mind's film.
The author, Gerald Stanley Lee, and my frequent later personal contacts with him, provide the material for a most interesting and amusing portrait which I shall write for the year 1917. His book is an inspirational reaction to machinery and the contemporary world and will remain great reading for any mind that can sense reality through the whirl of actuality which confuses even the most level headed. [Annotation on draft: The Reel and Rudder Club now appears as a more interesting minor adventure than I had originally assumed. Never photographed. Easily found and identified - at Cottage Wood - Lake Minnetonka...also did two other cottages on this point. (There is a map drawn by WGP)].
From "The Voice of the Machines," I tried Lee's "The Child and the Book," "Crowds," Inspired Millionaires," but they are top-heavy plants from too much watering and fertilizing from otherwise sound ideas. Had Lee's writing been digested by two-thirds its bulk, he might have been a great power. His "Crowds" was cut two-thirds and republished. It should have been cut another two-thirds.
His Mt. Tom magazine - a sort of personal "house organ" pamphlet, was excellent because the cost of printing kept his swarming words inside the school yard.
At the same time that he sent Lee's book, G.G.E. wrote me about "Angels' Wings," and I sent for a copy. Still revolving in a geared world filled with Lee's locomotives, opening this volume I was translated into fascinating realms of the spirit, and thus spent the month of August with Edward Carpenter, while he analyzed that great Nineteenth Century triad, Wagner, Whitman and Millet, and revealed his intuitive, exfoliating, non-intellectual approach to an existence as articulate as machinery, but dealing with the power and tools of the spirit.
From these two books and a continuity of books that hang upon their stem, have I surcharged most of the thinking and writing and speaking on Art and Architecture that I've done from that day to this. A list of the most important of these books and articles will be found at the end of this year [it isn't].