Happy Birthday Paul Klee

Today is the 135th birthday of the artist Paul Klee.   His work is the type that I am organically drawn to.  I still remember the first time I saw his art:  It was on the beginning of every chapter of a textbook my first year of college.  I flipped ahead through the entire book, just looking for his next piece.  I have no memory of the class, it was either and English or a Sociology and I am only really sure of that because of the building it was in.  But his art has stuck with me all along.  It made me understand that there is skill in being simple, that making things seem easy is quite technical.  I am sure that has been adopted into my everyday life to some extent.  The world is a better place because Paul was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.


NAME
: Paul Klee
OCCUPATION: Educator, Painter
BIRTH DATE: December 18, 1879
DEATH DATE: June 29, 1940
PLACE OF BIRTH: Münchenbuchsee bei Bern, Switzerland
PLACE OF DEATH: Muralto, Switzerland

BEST KNOWN FOR: Paul Klee is a Swiss and German painter whose highly individual style is best known by an often childlike perspective and spidery hieroglyph-like symbols.

Paul Klee (18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci‘s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

A museum dedicated to Klee was built in Bern, Switzerland, by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Zentrum Paul Klee opened in June 2005 and houses a collection of about 4,000 works by Paul Klee. Another substantial collection of Klee’s works is owned by chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi and displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Klee suffered from a wasting disease, scleroderma, toward the end of his life, enduring pain that seems to be reflected in his last works of art. One of his last paintings, “Death and Fire”, features a skull in the center with the German word for death, “Tod”, appearing in the face. He died in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, on 29 June 1940 without having obtained Swiss citizenship, despite his birth in that country. His art work was considered too revolutionary, even degenerate, by the Swiss authorities, but eventually they accepted his request six days after his death. His legacy comprises about 9,000 works of art. The words on his tombstone, Klee’s credo, placed there by his son Felix, say, “I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is as much among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, But still not close enough.” He was buried at Schosshaldenfriedhof, Bern, Switzerland.

Today, a painting by Klee can sell for as much as $7.5 million.

 

Happy Birthday Ford Madox Ford

Today is the 141st birthday of writer, critic and publisher Ford Madox Ford.  I remember coming across his name back when I was heavy into my Lost Generation phase.  I was always so fascinated by the people who supported and promoted the struggling writers of the time.  The benefactors.  Ford sought out good writers to put in his literary reviews, writers who became friends.  He championed their work and was instrumental in their success.  I have always found those who take pride in their friend’s success and promote them unselfishly to be the best sort of people.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Name: Ford Madox Ford
Born: 17 December 1873
Place of Birth: Merton, Surrey, England
Died: 26 June 1939 (aged 65)
Place of Death: Deauville, France

Ford was born to Catherine and Francis Hueffer, the eldest of three; his brother was Oliver Madox Hueffer. His father, who became music critic for The Times, was German and his mother English. His paternal grandfather Johann Hermann Hüffer was first to publish the fellow Westphalian poet and author Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, a Catholic aristocrat. He used the name of Ford Madox Hueffer and in 1919 changed it to Ford Madox Ford (allegedly, in the aftermath of World War I because “Hueffer” sounded too German) in honour of his grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown, whose biography he had written. In 1894 he married his school girlfriend Elsie Martindale and together they had two daughters Christina (born 1897) and Katharine (born 1900). Between 1918 and 1927 he lived with Stella Bowen, an Australian artist twenty years his junior. In 1920 they had a daughter, Julia Madox Ford.

One of his most famous works is The Good Soldier (1915), a novel set just before World War I which chronicles the tragic lives of two “perfect couples” using intricate flashbacks. In the “Dedicatory Letter to Stella Ford”, his wife, that prefaces the novel, Ford reports that a friend pronounced The Good Soldier “the finest French novel in the English language!” Ford pronounced himself a “Tory mad about historic continuity” and believed the novelist’s function was to serve as the historian of his own time.

Ford was involved in British war propaganda after the beginning of World War I. He worked for the War Propaganda Bureau, managed by C. F. G. Masterman, with other writers and scholars who were popular during that time, such as Arnold Bennett, G. K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, Hilaire Belloc and Gilbert Murray. Ford wrote two propaganda books for Masterman, namely When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture (1915), with the help of Richard Aldington, and Between St Dennis and St George: A Sketch of Three Civilizations (1915).

After writing the two propaganda books, Ford enlisted at 41 years of age into the Welch Regiment on 30 July 1915, and was sent to France, thus ending his cooperation with the War Propaganda Bureau. His combat experiences and his previous propaganda activities inspired his tetralogy Parade’s End (1924–1928), set in England and on the Western Front before, during and after World War I.

Ford also wrote dozens of novels as well as essays, poetry, memoirs and literary criticism, and collaborated with Joseph Conrad on three novels, The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903) and The Nature of a Crime (1924, although written much earlier). During the three to five years after this direct collaboration, Ford’s best known achievement was The Fifth Queen trilogy (1906–1908), historical novels based on the life of Katharine Howard, which Conrad termed, at the time, “the swan song of historical romance.” His poem, Antwerp (1915), was praised by T.S. Eliot as “the only good poem I have met with on the subject of the war”.

Ford’s novel Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911, extensively revised in 1935) is, in a sense, the reverse of Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In 1908, he founded The English Review, in which he published works by Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, May Sinclair, John Galsworthy and William Butler Yeats, and gave debuts to Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence and Norman Douglas. In 1924, he founded The Transatlantic Review, a journal with great influence on modern literature. Staying with the artistic community in the Latin Quarter of Paris, he befriended James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Jean Rhys, all of whom he would publish (Ford is the model for the character Braddocks in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises). As a critic, he is known for remarking “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” George Seldes, in his book Witness to a Century describes Ford’s recollection of his writing collaboration with Joseph Conrad, and the lack of acknowledgment by publishers of his status as co-author. Seldes recounts Ford’s disappointment with Hemingway: “‘and he disowns me now that he has become better known than I am.’ Tears now came to Ford’s eyes.” Ford says, “I helped Joseph Conrad, I helped Hemingway. I helped a dozen, a score of writers, and many of them have beaten me. I’m now an old man and I’ll die without making a name like Hemingway.” Seldes observes, “At this climax Ford began to sob. Then he began to cry.”

Hemingway devoted a chapter of his Parisian memoir A Moveable Feast to an encounter with Ford at a café in Paris during the early 1920s.

During a later sojourn in the United States, he was involved with Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter and Robert Lowell (who was then a student). Ford was always a champion of new literature and literary experimentation. In 1929, he published The English Novel: From the Earliest Days to the Death of Joseph Conrad, a brisk and accessible overview of the history of English novels. He had an affair with Jean Rhys, which ended acrimoniously.

Ford spent the last years of his life teaching at Olivet College in Michigan, and died in Deauville, France, at the age of 65.

Happy Birthday Dick Van Dyke

DICK-VAN-DYKENAME: Dick Van Dyke
OCCUPATION: Writer, Talk Show Host, Television Actor, Comedian, Television Producer
BIRTH DATE: December 13, 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH: West Plains, Missouri

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dick Van Dyke is an American actor and comedian best known for hosting The Dick Van Dyke Show. He’s also known for starring on Diagnosis Murder and for roles in films like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Night at the Museum.

By high school Dick Van Dyke knew he wanted to be on stage, but he was unsure whether he wanted to be an actor or a Presbyterian minister. After a stint in the Army Air Corps, he worked in advertising, then became a radio announcer, and within a few years he was hosting a TV talk show in New Orleans. His big break came when he was hired to replace Johnny Carson as host of CBS’s Monday-Friday The Morning Show in 1955.

The Morning Show was of course flattened in the ratings by Dave Garroway‘s Today Show. After the program was cancelled Van Dyke was still under contract to CBS, but the network was unsure what to do with him. He found himself hosting CBS Cartoon Theater for kids, then playing sidekick to singer Andy Williams in The Chevy Showroom, and he was a frequent panelist on To Tell the Truth while it was on CBS. Van Dyke’s best early reviews came for two appearances onThe Phil Silvers Show in 1957 and 1958.

When his CBS contract ended, Van Dyke hosted two quickly-cancelled game shows, Mother’s Dayand the comedy-themed Laugh Line, which featured regular panelists Mike Nichols and Elaine May. On Broadway, he appeared in the musical review The Girls Against the Boys with an ancientBert Lahr and a young Nancy Walker. The play ran only two weeks, but Van Dyke won a Theater World Award for his performance. In 1960, he won a Tony starring in the hit Bye Bye Birdie, as a rock’n’roll singer drafted into the military.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Van Dyke, comedian Carl Reiner had created, written and starred in a pilot for an autobiographical sitcom, Head of the Family. Reiner had scripted comedy for TV pioneer Sid Caesar, and in the pilot he played a comedy writer for a Caesar-like TV star. Network executives liked the script and concept, but thought Reiner was wrong for the role of, basically, himself. So the show was retooled with Van Dyke as comedy writer Rob Petrie, the young Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam as Van Dyke’s fellow comedy writers, and a small supporting role for Reiner as the Van Dyke character’s obnoxious boss. Of course, Van Dyke was perfect in the role, sometimes tripping over the ottoman and sometimes sidestepping it, as The Dick Van Dyke Show became one of America’s most enduring comedies.

His first film was an adaptation of his Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie, but with the script rewritten to shortchange his character and instead spotlight Ann-Margret. His most successful film was Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews, but his attempt at a British cockney accent was so awful, the term “Van Dyke accent” is still used to describe failed American attempts to sound British. His other films include The Comic, a drama about comedy with Mickey Rooney; Cold Turkey, a comedy about nicotine withdrawal with Edward Everett Horton; the charming children’s musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (based on Ian Fleming‘s non-Bond novel); and Warren Beatty‘s Dick Tracy, where Van Dyke played a delightfully corrupt district attorney.

He made several attempts to recapture the magic of his Dick Van Dyke Show on TV, and occasionally came close. In the early 1970s he starred in The New Dick Van Dyke Show with Hope Lange as his wife, and the program had its moments — most hilariously in an episode where Van Dyke’s character was in a quandary about attending an awards dinner at a whites-only nightclub. He hosted a short-lived variety show in 1976, Van Dyke and Company, with the expected skits and songs, but the show also featured Van Dyke’s endearing and genuinely funny pantomime segments, and provided Americans’ first prime time glimpse of Andy Kaufman, who stole every segment he was in. In the late-1980s comedy The Van Dyke Show, he played a retired Broadway star who amusingly made life miserable for his son, played by Van Dyke’s real-life son Barry Van Dyke.

Van Dyke has often said that his favorite comic was Stan Laurel, and like Laurel he had exquisite timing, an innate likability on-screen, a rubber face, and a mastery of pratfalls and slapstick. Van Dyke rarely wrote his own material while Laurel wrote more than a dozen of Laurel & Hardy‘s best films, but as a performer Van Dyke may have been Laurel’s equal. Van Dyke and Laurel once met, in the early 1960s, while The Dick Van Dyke Show was growing very popular. Shaking his hero’s hand, he told Laurel his work had inspired him, and that he had honed his comedy technique from watching Laurel’s films. According to Van Dyke, Laurel chuckled and said, “I’ve noticed that.”

It is sad, then, that younger audiences probably know Van Dyke only from his last long-running series, Diagnosis: Murder. Abandoning comedy, he played it straight as Dr Mark Sloan, a folksy doctor who solved murders in his spare time. He had first played Sloan in a 1991 episode of Jake and the Fatman, and the character was resurrected in three made-for-TV movies before the series was launched in 1993. A rather stilted clone of Angela Lansbury‘s Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis: Murder inexplicably ran for eight seasons, co-starring Van Dyke’s son Barry as Dr Sloan’s son Steve, supposedly an LAPD detective.

Van Dyke has spent his recent years in the company of Michelle Triola, who was famous for suing her former lover Lee Marvin, demanding and winning alimony — “palimony” — although they had never married. His brother is comedic actor Jerry Van Dyke, a sitcom staple who starred in the anti-classic My Mother the Car and had a supporting role on Coach with Craig T. Nelson. Van Dyke’s son, as noted above, is wooden actor Barry Van Dyke, whose best-known work withoutsharing the screen with his father was Galactica 1980, a short-lived revival of Battlestar Galacticawith Lorne Greene.

Emmy 1964 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1965 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1966 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1977 for Van Dyke and Company (shared)
Grammy Mary Poppins soundtrack
Hollywood Walk of Fame 1992 at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Tony for Bye-Bye Birdie
Endorsement of Kodak 1978
unknown detox facility
Visited Disneyland Candlelight Procession (Dec-1965, Dec-2005)
Dutch Ancestry
Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Smoking

TELEVISION
Diagnosis Murder Dr. Mark Sloan (1993-2001)
The Carol Burnett Show various (1977)
The New Dick Van Dyke Show Dick Preston (1971-74)
The Dick Van Dyke Show Rob Petrie (1961-66)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (24-Apr-2009) · Himself
Murder 101: New Age (14-Jan-2008)
Murder 101: If Wishes Were Horses (9-Aug-2007)
Murder 101: College Can Be Murder (29-Jan-2007)
Night at the Museum (21-Dec-2006)
Curious George (10-Feb-2006) [VOICE]
Murder 101 (7-Jan-2006)
The Gin Game (4-May-2003)
Dick Tracy (15-Jun-1990) · D.A. Fletcher
Drop-Out Father (27-Sep-1982)
The Runner Stumbles (16-Nov-1979)
The Morning After (13-Feb-1974)
Cold Turkey (19-Feb-1971) · Rev. Clayton Brooks
The Comic (19-Nov-1969)
Some Kind of a Nut (1-Oct-1969) · Fred
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (16-Dec-1968) · Caractacus Potts
Never a Dull Moment (26-Jun-1968)
Fitzwilly (20-Dec-1967) · Fitzwilliam
Divorce American Style (21-Jun-1967) · Richard Harmon
Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (29-Jun-1966)
The Art of Love (30-Jun-1965)
Mary Poppins (27-Aug-1964)
What a Way to Go! (12-May-1964) · Edgar Hopper
Bye Bye Birdie (4-Apr-1963) · Albert Peterson

Happy Birthday Frank Sinatra

Today is the 99th birthday of Frank Sinatra.  For some reason, I have always been fond of his version of “Stormy Weather” above all others.  It is from the decade he was with Columbia Records in 40’s and early 50’s and just so perfect.  The world is a better place because Frank was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Frank Sinatra
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Singer
BIRTH DATE: December 12, 1915
DEATH DATE: May 14, 1998
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
NICKNAME: The Voice, The Sultan of Swoon, Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, forging a career as an award-winning singer and film actor.

Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra was born December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey. The only child of Sicilian immigrants, a teenaged Sinatra decided to become a singer after watching Bing Crosby perform. He dropped out of high school, where he was a member of the glee club, and began to sing at local nightclubs. Radio exposure brought him to the attention of bandleader Harry James, with whom Sinatra made his first recordings, including “All or Nothing at All.” In 1940, Tommy Dorsey invited Sinatra to join his band. After two years of chart-topping success with Dorsey, Sinatra decided to strike out on his own.

Between 1943 and 1946, Sinatra’s solo career blossomed as the singer charted 17 different Top 10 singles. The mobs of bobby-soxer fans Sinatra attracted with his dreamy baritone earned him such nicknames as “The Voice” and “The Sultan of Swoon.” “It was the war years, and there was a great loneliness,” recalled Sinatra, who was unfit for military service due to a punctured eardrum. “I was the boy in every corner drugstore who’d gone off, drafted to the war. That was all.”

Sinatra made his movie acting debut in 1943, in Higher and Higher. In 1945, he won a special Academy Award for The House I Live In, a 10-minute short made to promote racial and religious tolerance on the home front. Sinatra’s popularity began to slide in the postwar years, however, leading to a loss of his recording and film contracts in the early 1950s. In 1953, he made a triumphant comeback, winning an Oscar for his portrayal of the Italian-American soldier Maggio in From Here to Eternity. Although this was his first non-singing role, Sinatra quickly found a vocal outlet when he received a new recording contract with Capitol Records in the same year. In his music, the Sinatra of the 1950s brought a more mature sound with jazzier inflections in his voice.

Having regained stardom, Sinatra enjoyed continued success in both film and music for years to come. He received critical acclaim for his performance in the original film of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and an Academy Award nomination for his work in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Meanwhile, he continued to chart Top 10 singles. When his record sales began to dip by the end of the 1950s, Sinatra left Capitol to establish his own record label, Reprise. In association with Warner Bros., which later bought Reprise, Sinatra also set up his own independent film production company, Artanis.

By the mid-1960s, Sinatra was back on top again. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and headlined the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with Count Basie’s Orchestra. This period also marked his Las Vegas debut, where he continued on for years as a main attraction at Caesars Palace. As a founding member of the “Rat Pack,” alongside Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, Sinatra came to epitomize the hard-drinking, womanizing, gambling swinger—an image constantly reinforced by the popular press and Sinatra’s own albums. With his modern edge and timeless class, not to mention hits like 1968’s iconic “My Way,” even the radical youth had to pay Sinatra his due. As Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “No one can touch him.”

After a brief retirement in the early 1970s, Sinatra returned to the music scene with the album “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back” (1973) and also became more politically active. Having first visited the White House in 1944 while campaigning for Franklin D. Roosevelt in his bid for a fourth term in office, Sinatra worked eagerly for John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960 and later supervised JFK’s inaugural gala in Washington. The relationship between the two soured, however, after the president canceled a weekend visit to Sinatra’s house due to the singer’s connections to Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. By the 1970s, Sinatra had abandoned his long-held Democratic loyalties and embraced the Republican Party, supporting first Richard Nixon and later his close friend Ronald Reagan, who presented Sinatra with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 1985.

Frank Sinatra married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy Barbato, in 1939. They had three children together—Nancy (born in 1940), Frank Sinatra Jr. (born in 1944) and Tina (born in 1948)—before their marriage unraveled in the late 1940s.

In 1951, Sinatra married actress Ava Gardner; after they split, Sinatra remarried a third time, to Mia Farrow, in 1966. That union, too, ended in divorce (in 1968), and Sinatra married for a fourth and final time in 1976, to Barbara Blakely Marx, the widow of comedian Zeppo Marx. The two remained together until Sinatra’s death more than 20 years later.

In October 2013, Mia Farrow, made headlines after stating that Sinatra could be the father of her 25-year-old son, Ronan, in an interview with Vanity Fair. Ronan is Farrow’s only official biological child with Woody Allen. Also during the interview, she called Sinatra the love of her life, saying, “We never really split up.” In response to the buzz surrounding his mother’s comments, Ronan jokingly tweeted: “Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.”

In 1987, author Kitty Kelley published an unauthorized biography of Sinatra, accusing the singer of relying on mob ties to build his career. Such claims failed to diminish Sinatra’s widespread popularity. In 1993, at the age of 77, Sinatra gained legions of new, younger fans with the release of Frank Sinatra Duets, a collection of 13 Sinatra standards that he rerecorded alongside the likes of Barbra Streisand, Bono, Tony Bennett and Aretha Franklin.

Sinatra performed in concert for the last time in 1995 at the Palm Desert Marriott Ballroom in California. On May 14, 1998, Frank Sinatra died of a heart attack at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 82 years old and had, at last, faced his final curtain. With a show business career that spanned more than 50 years, Sinatra’s continued mass appeal can best be explained in the man’s own words: “When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.”

Happy Birthday Dovima

Today is the 87th birthday of the woman you didn’t know you knew, Dovima.  Her iconic images from the 50’s help set the stylized tone that it is remembered for today.  Her story is truly American:  discovered on the streets of New York City, worked with the best photographers and designers in the world, immortalized in film.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

NAME: Dovima
OCCUPATION: Model
BORN: December 11, 1927, New York City, NY
DIED: May 31, 1990, Fort Lauderdale, FL
SPOUSE: Casper West Hollingsworth (m. 1983–1986)
MOVIES: Funny Face
CHILDREN: Alison Murray

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, later known as Dorothy Horan, and best known as Dovima, was an American model during the 1950s.

Born in New York City, Dovima was discovered on a sidewalk in New York by an editor at Vogue, and had a photo shoot with Irving Penn the following day. She worked closely with Richard Avedon, whose photograph of her in a floor-length evening gown with circus elephants—”Dovima with the Elephants”—taken at the Cirque d’hiver, Paris, in August 1955, has become an icon. The gown was the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent.

Dovima was reputed to be the highest-paid model of her time. She had a cameo role as an aristocratic-looking, but empty-headed, fashion model with a Jackson Heights whine: Marion in Funny Face (Paramount, 1957).

Dovima gave birth to a daughter named Alison on July 14, 1958, in Manhattan. Alison’s father is Dovima’s second husband, Alan Murray.

She died of liver cancer on May 3, 1990 at the age of 62.

Happy Birthday Melvil Dewey

Today is the 164th birthday of Melvil Dewey.  We all know him from his categorizing of books in libraries using his namesake system.  I spent a lot of time in libraries as a kid, both my grandmothers were librarians.  Libraries were so quiet and cold.  I have fond memories of my time spent in a lot of them.  The world is a better place because Melvil was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Melvil_Dewey

NAME: Melvil Dewey
OCCUPATION: Educator, Scholar, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: December 10, 1851
DEATH DATE: December 26, 1931
EDUCATION: Amherst College, Alfred University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Adams Center, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Lake Placid, Florida

BEST KNOWN FOR: Melvil Dewey was a librarian and scholar who developed the Dewey Decimal System for cataloging books and other library materials.

Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was born in Adams Center, New York, on December 10, 1851. Dewey took an interest in education and spelling reform from a young age. He changed his name to the more efficient “Melvil” and his last name to “Dui.” He attended Alfred University and Amherst College, from which he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Immediately after receiving his undergraduate degree, Dewey was hired to manage Amherst’s library and reclassify its collections. He came up with a system of decimal numbers used to classify a structure of knowledge first outlined by Sir Francis Bacon.

Dewey copyrighted the system in 1876. This system has proved to be enormously influential and remains in widespread use.

In 1877, Dewey moved to Boston, where he founded and became editor of The Library Journal. The journal became an influential factor in the development of libraries in America, and in the reform of their administration. Dewey was also among the founders of the American Library Association.

Dewey became librarian of Columbia College in 1883. The following year, he founded the School of Library Economy—the first school for librarians ever organized. When Dewey relocated to Albany in 1889, he took the school with him. It eventually returned to Columbia in 1926. Dewey also served as director of the New York State Library from 1888 to 1906. During his tenure he reorganized the state library and established a system of traveling libraries and picture collections.

Dewey founded the Lake Placid Club with his wife, Annie, in 1895, and helped to organize the Olympic Games there. The Lake Placid Club was a private institution with a policy of excluding Jews and other minorities. Close to 10 years later, the New York State Board of Regents received a petition demanding that Dewey be removed as State Librarian because of his ties to the Lake Placid Club. The Regents issued a formal rebuke, leading Dewey to resign his position in 1905.

In 1926, Melvil Dewey traveled to Florida to establish a new branch of the Lake Placid Club. He died on December 26, 1931, in Lake Placid, Florida.