firm active: 1907-1921

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Biographical and Historical Research Manuscripts

An extensive essay written by Purcell for architectural historian Jean Bangs, this manuscript was intended to form the basis of an article in a mainstream architectural review such as Architectural Forum.  While some portions of this text reiterate information that appears in earlier draft works, there is much insight into the workings of the firm.  By the time he wrote this Purcell had not only completed the Parabiographies, but had also acquired many comments from Elmslie about their practice as those manuscripts were reviewed.  Unfortunately, no article is known to have resulted from his effort here.

Brief texts about Purcell, George Feick, Jr., and George Grant Elmslie that evolved to be the "standard" biographies for those who inquired or had need.

Purcell completed the essential core of whatever autobiographical book he might have written as a response to reviewing the content of the doctorial thesis written by David Gebhard in the early 1950s. This draft, written in the first person, extends to more than 150 typescript pages and is clearly in a finished state in most places, much more so than the Parabiographies. Purcell touches on all aspects of his own development including his childhood, family background, education, apprenticeship experiences, and practice as an architect. He also provides significant biographical sections on George Grant Elmslie and John Jager before turning his attentions on the work of Purcell & Elmslie as a firm. Taken in context with his correspondence with Gebhard and other architectural historians, this work represents a full historical treatment by Purcell of his life and works, as he saw them.

A short but poignant view of the twists and turns in life, particularly how hard things got for both Purcell and Elmslie in the early 1930s.

This manuscript is most notable as an important discussion by Purcell of how the Team reigned in lyrical excesses by Elmslie in the design of ornament. As indicated by the indented note at the top, this draft was prepared by Purcell for architectural historian Wayne Andrews as part of research correspondence conducted for Andrew's book Architecture, Ambition, and Americans, which appeared in 1955.

This is one of a very few autobiographical manuscripts from the hand of George Elmslie. Here, Elmslie covered the deep impressions of his youth in the Scottish Highlands; the training of his lifelong intellectual appetite at the Duke of Gordon Schools; experience in the course of his architectural practice, especially his relationships with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright; his general literary and artistic interests; and his views about architectural practice including his own preferences.


research courtesy mark hammons