Frank Crowninshield

Francis Welch Crowninshield (June 24, 1872 – December 28, 1947), better known as Frank or Crownie (informal), was an American journalist and art and theatre critic best known for developing and editing the magazine Vanity Fair for 21 years, making it a pre-eminent literary journal.

Francis Crowninshield
Frank Crowninshield

Personal life

Crowninshield was born June 24, 1872 in Paris, France, to the Americans Frederic Crowninshield (1845–1918) and his wife, the former Helen Suzette Fairbanks, whom he later called "poor but good" members of the well-heeled Boston Brahmin Crowninshield family.[1] His father, a man of "independent means", was a poet and a respected painter of landscape and murals. He served for two years as director of the American Academy in Rome.[1][2]

As an adult, Frank Crowninshield lived in New York City, where he was active in the high-class social life , as well as an associate of rising artists and writers. He was a member of the exclusive Knickerbocker Club and Union Club. He was also a member of the Dutch Treat Club from 1937 to 1947 and served as one of its Vice Presidents. An award given by the club in his name was given to Arthur Rubinstein in 1954.

Crowninshield never married.

Vanity Fair

In 1914, Crowninshield – who was considered "the most cultivated, elegant, and endearing man in publishing, if not Manhattan"[3] – was hired by his friend Condé Nast to become editor of the new Vanity Fair. Crowninshield immediately dropped the magazine's fashion elements and helped turn the periodical into the preeminent literary voice of sophisticated American society, a position it held until 1935. As young adults, Nast and Crowninshield had been roommates.

During his tenure as editor, Crowninshield attracted the best writers of the era. Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, Ferenc Molnár, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes, all appeared in the issue of July 1923, while some of F. Scott Fitzgerald's earliest works were published in the magazine. Crowninshield bought Dorothy Parker's first published poem for the magazine, and it was also the first periodical in the United States to print reproductions of works by artists such as Picasso and Matisse.

Crowninshield revised the magazine's policies on advertising. In 1915, Vanity Fair published more pages of ads than any other magazine in the country, but the number dwindled under Crowninshield's editorship. The magazine lost valuable revenue, especially during and following the Great Depression, when businesses purchased fewer ads in any case.

Other work

Crowninshield remained active in the arts and high society. He often advised the affluent on art investments and helped develop younger artists of the period, including Clara Tice[4] He built his own art collection as well, including a large assortment of African and modern French art.[1][5]

Crowninshield was widely published outside Vanity Fair, including in Vogue,[6] for which he later served as an editor, and The Century Magazine, where he had been an art critic.[7]

According to Sybil Gordon Kantor in her book Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art, Frank Crowninshield along with several others was a founding member trustee.[8]


After his retirement, Crowninshield began to sell most of his private art collection. In 1943, he sold a total of 1019 items, earning a total of $181,747.[1] His collection had included pieces from Impressionist and Modern artists such as Jules Pascin, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and others.

Crowninshield died December 28, 1947 at the age of 75.[9] The New York Times credited Crowninshield with developing "café society" in the United States and noted his long editorship at Vanity Fair.[3] He was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.

In popular culture


  1. ^ a b c d "Art: Mr. Crowinshield Unloads". Time Magazine. November 1, 1943. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  2. ^ "F. Crowninshield, Artist, Dies in Italy". New York Times. September 15, 1918. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Amy Fine Collins. "Vanity Fair: The Early Years, 1914–1936". Vanity Fair web site. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  4. ^ "Clara Tice", Daughters of Dada, Francis M. Naumann Website
  5. ^ "John Graham", Visual Thinking: Sketchbooks from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
  6. ^ "Charles Sheeler", Charles Sheeler letter to Frank Crowninshield, September 27, 1939, re: piece in Vogue, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
  7. ^ " 'The Part Played By Women': The Gender of Modernism at the Armory Show", University of Virginia
  8. ^ Kantor, Sybil. Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art
  9. ^ "F. Crowninshield is Dead Here at 75; Advisor to Conde Nast Firm—Introduced French Modernist Painters to This Country". New York Times. December 29, 1947. Retrieved October 29, 2010.

External links

Alfred H. Barr Jr.

Alfred Hamilton Barr Jr. (January 28, 1902 – August 15, 1981) was an American art historian and the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. From that position, he was one of the most influential forces in the development of popular attitudes toward modern art; for example, his arranging of the blockbuster Van Gogh exhibition of 1935, in the words of author Bernice Kert, was "a precursor to the hold Van Gogh has to this day on the contemporary imagination."

Cavendish Club

The Cavendish Club was a prestigious contract bridge club founded in 1925 by Wilbur Whitehead in association with Gratz M. Scott and Edwin A. Wetzlar. Initially located at the Mayfair House (65th and Park Avenue) in New York City, it relocated several times with a final address in a townhouse on 73rd. St. It ceased operations at the end of May 1991 as a result of rent escalations and falling membership.The Cavendish had reciprocal arrangements with Crockford's in London, the Golfer's in Paris and the Savoy in Hollywood, California.

In 1975, the Club inaugurated the Cavendish Invitational Pairs, now one of the strongest and most prestigious invitational contract bridge events in the world.

Condé Nast (businessman)

Condé Montrose Nast (March 26, 1873 – September 19, 1942) was an American publisher, entrepreneur and business magnate. He founded Condé Nast, a mass media company, now a subsidiary of Advance Publications, who published and maintained brands such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The New Yorker.

Crowninshield family

The Crowninshield family is an American family that has been prominent in seafaring, political and military leadership, and the literary world. The founder of the American family emigrated from what is now Germany in the late 17th century. The family is one of several known collectively as Boston Brahmins.

Frederic Crowninshield

Frederic Crowninshield (1845–1918) was an American artist and author.

Frederick Bradlee

Frederick Josiah Bradlee, Jr. (December 20, 1892 – April 29, 1970) was an American football player. He was a first-team All-American while attending Harvard University in 1914. He was the father of American journalist Ben Bradlee.

George M. Cohan

George Michael Cohan (July 3, 1878 – November 5, 1942), known professionally as George M. Cohan, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and theatrical producer.

Cohan began his career as a child, performing with his parents and sister in a vaudeville act known as "The Four Cohans". Beginning with Little Johnny Jones in 1904, he wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals. Cohan published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards "Over There", "Give My Regards to Broadway", "The Yankee Doodle Boy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag". As a composer, he was one of the early members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He displayed remarkable theatrical longevity, appearing in films until the 1930s, and continuing to perform as a headline artist until 1940.

Known in the decade before World War I as "the man who owned Broadway", he is considered the father of American musical comedy. His life and music were depicted in the Oscar-winning film Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and the 1968 musical George M!. A statue of Cohan in Times Square New York City commemorates his contributions to American musical theatre.

Ilka Chase

Ilka Chase (April 8, 1905 – February 15, 1978) was an American actress of stage, television and film, radio host and novelist.

June 24

June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 190 days remain until the end of the year.

Knickerbocker Club

The Knickerbocker Club (known informally as The Knick), is a gentlemen's club in New York City founded in 1871.

The name "Knickerbocker", mainly thanks to writer Washington Irving, was a byword for a New York patrician, comparable to a "Boston Brahmin."

Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield

Louise Evelina du Pont Crowninshield (August 3, 1877 – July 11, 1958) was an American heiress and preservationist, who was the great granddaughter of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is a 1994 American biographical drama film scripted by screenwriter/director Alan Rudolph and former Washington Star reporter Randy Sue Coburn. Directed by Rudolph, it starred Jennifer Jason Leigh as the writer Dorothy Parker and depicted the members of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers, actors and critics who met almost every weekday from 1919 to 1929 at Manhattan's Algonquin Hotel.

The film was an Official Selection at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. The film was a critical but not a commercial success.

Peter Benchley, who played editor Frank Crowninshield, was the grandson of Robert Benchley, the humorist who once worked underneath Crowninshield. Actor Wallace Shawn is the son of William Shawn, the longtime editor of The New Yorker.

Peter Benchley

Peter Bradford Benchley (May 8, 1940 – February 11, 2006) was an American author, screenwriter, and ocean activist. He is known for the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its subsequent film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for both cinema and television, including The Deep, The Island, Beast, and White Shark.

Later in life, Benchley came to regret writing such sensationalist literature about sharks, which he felt encouraged excessive fear and unnecessary culls of such an important predator in ocean ecosystems and became an outspoken advocate for marine conservation.

Rose Cumming

Rose Cumming (1887-March 21, 1968) was a flamboyant and eccentric interior decorator whose career was based in New York.Rose Cumming was born on an Australian sheep station in New South Wales. In 1917 she came to New York with her sister, silent-screen actress Dorothy Cumming.Following advice of Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair, Cumming decided to become a decorator. She worked for Mary Buehl before opening her own shop in 1921. Cumming's shop was her decorating office and a retail shop for antiques and fabrics. She put her best furniture in the window of the shop left the lights on at night, which nobody had ever done. Her shop sold Bromo-Seltzer bottles and empty candy boxes alongside fine French furniture. As she explained, “It’s all salesmanship."She was known for chinoiserie, displayed in the Chinese wallpapers of her often-photographed drawing room, and for baroque and rococo Venetian, South German and Austrian furniture, at a time when conservative New York tastes ran to Louis XV and English Georgian furnishings. Her color sense favored saturated, dramatic tones. She brought chintz to informal dressing rooms and bedrooms, inaugurated the vogue for smoked mirrors veined with gold and extended her love of reflective and lacquered surfaces to lacquered walls, satin upholstery and the metallic wallpapers she invented.

In Cumming's own town house, the living room had early-eighteenth-century hand-painted Chinese wallpaper with a silvery background and Louis XV furniture. Conventional lamps were one of her pet hates, so black candles lighted the room. At the top of her townhouse was the infamous “Ugly Room” filled with predatory images of snakes, vultures, boars and monkeys.Her clients included Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford, and Norma Shearer.She designed and printed fabrics. Her sister Eileen Cecil carried on the fabric business after her death in 1968. Later the business was sold to Dessin Fournir. Her great-niece Sarah Cumming Cecil carried on the atelier "Rose Cumming Design", now based in Portland, ME, presenting a stripped-down simplified style.

The Blind Man

The Blind Man was an art and Dada journal published briefly by the New York Dadaists in 1917.

Henri-Pierre Roché and Marcel Duchamp, visiting from France, organized the magazine with Beatrice Wood in New York City. Mina Loy also contributed to the first, Independents' Number issue.

They published only one more issue, with the following contributors:

Walter Arensberg (Axiom, Theorem, poems),

Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia (Marie Laurencin, essay),

Robert Carlton (Bob) Brown (poems),

Frank Crowninshield (letter),

Charles Demuth (For Richard Mutt, poem),

Marcel Duchamp, "Charles Duncan" (poem), an essay about Louis Michael Eilshemius,

Mina Loy (prose),

Louise Norton (essay),

Francis Picabia (Medusa, poem),

Joseph Stella (Coney Island, picture),

Frances Simpson Stevens (1894–1976) (poem),

Alfred Stieglitz (Fountain by R. Mutt, photography; letter) and

Clara Tice (drawing)Volume 2 is best known for the group's reaction to the rejection of Duchamp's Fountain by an unjuried art show in 1917. Although the magazine had a brief life, it was influential as the first publication by Dadaists in the United States.

Union Club of the City of New York

The Union Club of the City of New York (commonly referred to as the Union Club) is a private club in New York City, founded in 1836. It is located at East 69th Street and Park Avenue in a landmark building designed by Delano & Aldrich that opened on August 28, 1933. The Union Club is the oldest private club in New York City and the third oldest in the United States, after The Old Colony Club, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which was founded in 1769, and the Philadelphia Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1834. The club is considered one of the most prestigious in New York City.

Vanity Fair (U.S. magazine 1913–36)

Vanity Fair is an American society magazine published from 1913 to 1936. It was highly successful until the Great Depression led to its becoming unprofitable, and it was merged into Vogue in 1936.

Vogue (magazine)

Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine covering many topics including fashion, beauty, culture, living, and runway. Vogue began as a weekly newspaper in 1892 in the United States, before becoming a monthly publication years later.

The British Vogue was the first international edition launched in 1916, while the Italian version has been called the top fashion magazine in the world. As of today, there are 23 international editions.

Weyhe Gallery

Weyhe Gallery, established in 1919 in New York City, is an art gallery specializing in prints. It is now in Mount Desert, Maine.

Crowninshield-Bradlee family tree
Benjamin Williams Crowninshield
Francis Boardman Crowninshield
George Casper Crowninshield
Edward A. Crowninshield
Benjamin W. Crowninshield
Alice Crowninshield
Josiah Bradlee III
Frederic Crowninshield
B.B. Crowninshield
Francis Boardman Crowninshield
Louise du Pont
Frederick Josiah Bradlee I
Helen Suzette Crowninshield
Frank Crowninshield
Frederick Josiah Bradlee Jr.
Josephine de Gersdorff
Ben Bradlee
Quinn BradleeBenjamin Bradlee Jr.

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