Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Art

“Enjoy That Dallas, Texas Hospitality”

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by Paula Bosse

…Or else!

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“Easy to reach … hard to leave.”

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Sources & Notes

Images from a great 1950s matchbook, found on eBay — like these.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Merry Christmas from Dallas Artist Bud Biggs

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The bright lights of Christmas in downtown Dallas…

by Paula Bosse

An evening in downtown Dallas at Christmastime — alive with traffic and lights and energy — by Dallas artist Bud Biggs.

The painting appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 issue of The Shamrock, a magazine published by the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corporation. The magazine’s description:

On the sidewalks, shoppers dart to and fro. On the street, autos dash by, leaving streaks of light in their haste. Gay lights and laughing Santas swing gayly overhead, festooning the area in a holiday glow. Above all this man-made madness, stars twinkle in contrast, reflecting a serenity reminiscent of a night nineteen hundred years ago. This is what The Shamrock staff sees in this vivid water color of Downtown Dallas at Christmastime by Artist Bud Biggs.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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Sources & Notes

This work by artist Bud Biggs appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 edition of The Shamrock; this magazine is part of the Southwest Collection, Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University — the entire issue has been scanned and may be viewed as a PDF here.

My guess is that the title of the original painting is “Main Street, Christmas Night” and that it was one of the 12 paintings produced by Biggs in the mid 1950s as cover art for Dallas Magazine, a Dallas Chamber of Commerce publication. These paintings of Dallas scenes appeared as cover art for the monthly issues of 1956, in honor of the city’s centennial. The series won the “Best Covers of 1956” award from the American Association of Commerce Publications, and in 1958 all 12 of the original watercolors were purchased by Southwest Airmotive Company to be displayed in their new Love Field terminal. The 12 covers featured Biggs’ depictions of the following Dallas scenes and landmarks:

  • “Aerial View of Downtown Dallas”
  • “Ervay Street”
  • “Ground-breaking, Dallas University”
  • “Midway, State Fair of Texas”
  • “Trinity Industrial District”
  • “Central Expressway”
  • “Commerce Street”
  • “City Auditorium”
  • “Looking Up Pacific”
  • “Main Street, Christmas Night”
  • “SMU Legal Center”
  • “The Katy Round House”

More on this series of paintings can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Art & Artists: Biggs Series Bought by Firm” by Rual Askew, Feb. 20, 1958.

Dallas native Bancroft Putnam “Bud” Biggs (1906-1985) attended Forest Ave. High School, SMU, and the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. He was primarily a commercial artist, working first for Dallas artist Guy Cahoon before opening his own advertising studio. He produced fine art as well, specializing in watercolors, and was a respected art instructor.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Happy Halloween from Karl Hoefle — 1955

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Getting ready for the big day, polishing her broom… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Before Karl Hoefle entered the consciousness of most Dallasites with his fun phone book covers, he was a hard-working commercial artist. This 1955 Halloween-themed drawing was done for a magazine cover, and, like those phone book covers, he rewards the observant viewer with lots of little jokes. It might help to zoom in and look at some of the details.

The first one is a little fuzzy, but the calendar is from the A-1 Witchcraft Supply House: “Everything for the discriminating witch. See the all-new ’56 jet broom with ‘floating ride.'”

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The witch has some handy-dandy Bonson’s Broom Polish (“with added anti-sliver compound”).

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Her bookshelf contains works such as My Ghoul in Life, the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft (Standard Revised Edition), and Haunting Melodies. And the smiling ghost portrait adds a nice homey touch.

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A crumpled-up note on the floor reads “Call Merlin.”

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Mice are scaring each other, and the V8 Jet Broom appears to be revving.

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Thank you, Karl!

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Happy Halloween!

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Sources & Notes

This illustration by Karl Hoefle was drawn for the September-October, 1955 issue of Among Ourselves, a local publication for the Pollock Paper Corporation Employees. I found this image in an old post on the website of the fab establishment in Lakewood, Curiosities. The post from 2014 is here — it includes two more Among Ourselves covers by Hoefle.

I’ve written only one Karl Hoefle post so far: “1971 Yellow Pages Cover: SMU Gets the Karl Hoefle Treatment,” here.

More Halloween posts can be found here.

All pictures are larger when clicked/tapped.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Triple Underpass” by Florence McClung — 1945

mcclung_triple-underpass_1945_david-dike-fine-art“Triple Underpass” by Florence McClung (photo: David Dike Fine Art)

by Paula Bosse

The word “iconic” is used way too much these days, but I suppose Dallas’ triple underpass is something that truly deserves to be described as “iconic.” Aside from the beauty, the engineering, and the usefulness of the underpass/railroad bridge, it is also, of course, known around the world for its cameo appearance in the Kennedy assassination.

Built in 1936, after years of back-and-forth planning and negotiating, the triple underpass was open in time for the Texas Centennial Exposition. It finally opened up a straight shot from Fort Worth to Dallas via Highway 1, and it and the concurrently-built Dealey Plaza served as Dallas’ welcoming “gateway” into the city for visitors approaching from the west.

The 1945 painting seen above — “Triple Underpass” by Dallas artist Florence McClung (1894-1992) — may be one of the first depictions of the structure in a fine art context. This painting goes up for sale this weekend, as the featured lot in the David Dike Fine Art Texas Art Auction. The estimate is $75,000-$175,000. Florence would be shocked by that, as her original price — which she wrote on a checklist for a show at the then-Dallas Museum of Fine Arts was $300 (which would, today, be about $4,000). (UPDATE 10/27/18: The painting sold for $252,000 — which, I assume, includes the buyer’s premium.)

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As a fan of Texas art — and especially of the Dallas regionalist group, the Dallas Nine (with which McClung, though not a member, was closely associated) — I hope this wonderful piece of Dallas art (and you can’t get much more quintessentially Dallas than this!) goes for much more than the gallery estimate. (I wrote about McClung previously, here, with images showing a couple of other Dallas “cityscapes” done around the same time as “Triple Underpass.”)

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Below is a photo from 1945 showing an aerial view of the scene captured by McClung that same year. (A photo from a little later, with a view to the west, is here.)

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Dallas, 1945 (click for larger image)

A few things are interesting to me:

  • McClung neglected to include the ever-present billboard atop what was then the Sexton Foods building (later the School Book Depository) — in the photo above, U. S. Royal tires are being advertised.
  • I love that little oval, landscaped island, which is also seen in McClung’s painting.
  • Those four obelisk-y pillars, seen in both the photo and the painting, two on either side of the roadway, west of the underpass — what are those?
  • Is that large white building in the lower middle of the photograph Pappy’s Showland? Maybe the Sky-Vu Supper Club (which I have meant to write about for years)? (No! It’s the Chicken Bar, at the northeast corner of Commerce and Industrial. A photo of it under construction in 1945 is here.)

See here for as close to the angle of McClung’s view as I could get, from a 2014 Google Street View. (The painting shows the Dallas County Courthouse as it was then, without its now-replaced tower.)

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Good luck to the bidders this weekend. It’s a great painting!

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Sources & Notes

Image of Florence McClung’s painting “Triple Underpass” is from the David Dike Fine Art catalog, which is illustrated with the works to be auctioned on Saturday, October 27, 2018; the catalog can be viewed in its entirety, here (this painting and its description are on p. 45). The website of David Dike Fine Art is here. The prices realized for this auction can be found here — McClung’s painting is Lot 163.

I am unsure of the source of the 1945 aerial photo — I saved it years ago and did not make note of the source, although I highly suspect it is from one of the many fine collections held by SMU.

See McClung’s application for the DMFA show where “Triple Underpass” was shown, here; her checklist of works to be shown is here (both documents are from the Dallas Museum of Art’s Exhibition Records, via UNT’s Portal to Texas History).

The earlier Flashback Dallas post “Dallas Scenes by Florence McClung — 1940s” (with two other paintings from the same period as “Triple Underpass”) is here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

David Bates — “Corny Dog” (1986)

bates-david_corny-dog_litho_tyler-museum-of-art_1986“Corny Dog” by David Bates, 1986

by Paula Bosse

First day, y’all. Here’s how David Bates, one of my favorite contemporary Texas artists, sees it. Click it to see that corny dog real big.

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Sources & Notes

“Corny Dog” by David Bates (lithograph, 1986), shown at the Tyler Museum of Art this summer in the show “David Bates: Selected Works From Texas Collections.” More on that exhibition is here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

1971 Yellow Pages Cover: SMU Gets the Karl Hoefle Treatment

hoefle_yellow-pages_1971_smuUniversity Park gets Hoefle-ized… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Karl Hoefle’s wonderfully detailed (and painstakingly rendered) Yellow Pages illustrations were pretty much loved by everyone who saw them. As a kid, I loved searching for the hidden jokes — the dinosaurs, the cowboys, the rocket ships. I’ll try to write something in-depth about Karl someday. But, in the meantime, here is one of his covers from 1971, showing the SMU campus, Hillcrest, Snider Plaza, that water tower on Northwest Highway, and, heck, even an observatory. And possibly an elephant (although it might just be an elephant-ish-looking mustang…). (Click the image!)

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Fred Caropresi’s Mid-Century-Modern Illustrations for SMU’s 1951 Yearbook

smu_1951-yrbk_people-places_caropresiLife on the SMU quad, 1951… (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’m not sure why I happened across the artwork of Fred Caropresi (1921-1985), but I must have been looking for something in the 1951 SMU yearbook, The Rotunda — Caropresi’s work is all over it! Caropresi (or as he was known to fellow students, “Freddy”) had attended SMU in the 1940s, before and after World War II. His degree was in mechanical engineering, but after the war, he returned to study art as a grad student and eventually opened his own advertising firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Below are some examples of his work from the 1951 SMU annual — his drawings are reminiscent of the silkscreen process with their off-kilter, off-register areas of flat vibrant color. This type of 1950s “mid-century modern” commercial art is definitely one of my personal favorites. 

Here they are (click pictures to see larger images).

Peppy Mustangs:

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The packed “Hi-Park SMU” streetcar (which ran along Hillcrest  — see a photo here):

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Bulletin board — pipes and the Arden Club:

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Post office (this is great — I’d love to see a photo of the real thing:

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Relaxing with a drink and TV:

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Cokes al fresco and another college boy smoking a pipe:

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The drawings below — also from the 1951 Rotunda — show a completely different style. The first one (“Beauties”) is fantastic. (Click a thumbnail image to open a slideshow.)

Like I said, Caropresi’s work was ALL OVER the 1951 Rotunda!

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New York native Frederick V. Caropresi (1921-1985) grew up in the Bronx with his parents (his father, a pharmacist, had immigrated from Italy), his grandmother, and his older brother Gregory. For some reason both Fred and Greg decided to attend SMU in Dallas. Fred originally studied mechanical engineering, receiving his degree in 1944. He returned to Dallas after his service in the navy during World War II, and took post-graduate art courses. He was busy around Dallas as a both a fine artist (his first one-man show was in 1952) and as a very busy commercial artist, working in local theater, industrial design, and advertising. He was an active president of the Dallas Print Society in the early 1950s, at the same time he was designing college yearbooks. He left Dallas in the 1950s and settled in a suburb of Pittsburgh where he established his own advertising agency. I hope he continued his own art, because I’m a fan.

caropresi_fred_smu-1942Fred Caropresi, 1942, SMU yearbook photo

He is represented in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art with this silkscreen/serigraph, a view of Reims Cathedral from about 1948.

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Dallas Museum of Art

Fred Caropresi died in in 1985 in North Hills, Pennsylvania.

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North Hills (PA) News Record, April 2, 1985

Thank you, Fred.

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Sources & Notes

All artwork by Frederick V. Caropresi from the 1951 edition of SMU’s yearbook, The Rotunda, is from the Southern Methodist University Yearbooks collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, SMU; all editions are fully downloadable in PDFs, here.

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The silkscreen print “Reims Cathedral” (23/30, signed “F. V. Caropresi”) is from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art; a Dallas Art Association purchase, it was accessioned in 1948.

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Year-End List! My Favorite Images Posted in 2017

jimi_wfaa_hamon_smu-1Love Field was never cooler… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Another year is ending — time for lists! This is the first of three year-end “favorites” lists — this one contains favorite photos and artworks posted over the past year. To see the post they originally appeared in, click the title of the post, and to see a larger image of the picture, click the picture. They’re in no particular order, although, the one above is my favorite of 2017.

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The image above is not a photograph but a video screen-capture of newly unearthed WFAA-Channel 8 news footage of Jimi Hendrix and The Experience, on the Love Field tarmac, being interviewed by a charmingly agog Channel 8 reporter. This short interview is one of the coolest things I’ve seen all year. Watch the video — it’s in the post “Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Tiny Tim — In Dallas (…Separately), 1969.”

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Above, the Whittle Music Co. building, 1108 Elm Street, around 1956. It was built in 1892 and originally housed the A. Harris department store (until 1914). Whittle’s occupied this beautiful building from 1941 until 1965, when it moved to Oak Lawn. The building was bulldozed soon afterwards in order to  begin construction of One Main Place. Read more about all of this at the post The Whittle Music Building — ca. 1956.”

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This is actually a detail of a larger 1953 photo by Squire Haskins (seen here), showing the intersection of Main and Stone Place, looking northeast. The building on the left is still standing and is one of the oldest buildings downtown. See more at the post “The Praetorian Building and Its 19th-Century Neighbors.”

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I love this photo from the George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library. More at “The Dallas Clippers: Early Dallas Baseball.”

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One of my favorite still-standing buildings in Oak Cliff. More about it can be found in the post “West Jefferson and Tyler — 1913.” 

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Fantastic lithograph by Dallas artist Ed Bearden — this view from Stemmons looks a lot different now. More info in the post “‘Dallas Skyline: Late Afternoon From Stemmons Freeway’ by Ed Bearden — 1959.”

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This photo was one of the most-shared photos I posted this year — it kind of surprised me, but it’s a great photo of “The Baker Hotel.”

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I love this. “The Neiman-Marcus Shoe Salon — 1965.”

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Campus security at “Bishop College — 1969.” Fantastic.

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You’ve got to post the occasional photos of the alma maters. I love this photo of Lakewood-area schools J. L. Long and Woodrow Wilson, mainly, I think, because of the surprising sight of White Rock Lake in the background. See the present-day shot, submitted by a drone-owning reader at “Long and Woodrow From Above — 1965.” 

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Speaking of familiar sights seen from unusual perspectives, I can’t get over how much I’m fascinated by this postcard of the JFK memorial in its earliest days. From the post “Aerial View of the JFK Memorial — 1970.”

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This is without a doubt my favorite Dallas art discovery of the year! “‘Dallas/The Big D’ by William E. Bond — ca. 1962.”

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Had to make this one small so it wouldn’t overwhelm the page. Click it1 Lots of info on all the buildings seen in this photo is in the post “The ‘Akard Street Canyon’ — ca. 1962.”

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Okay, so this is Fort Worth, but, hey — close enough! Let the cuteness-overload wash over you as you look at adorable animals big and small in the post “Cowtown Extra: Fort Worth Zookeeper Ham Hittson and His Forest Park Friends.”

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The more I see of Ed Bearden’s work, the more I love it. Here he captures George Dahl’s always-cool mid-century-modern sleekness. “The WFAA Studios, Designed by George Dahl, Rendered by Ed Bearden — 1961.”

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This postcard view of the Adolphus block at night is one of my all-time favorite photos of downtown Dallas. It would be nothing without that heart-palpitatingly wonderful Walgreens neon at the corner of Commerce and Akard. More at “Nighttime on Commerce Street — 1957.”

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The image-quality of this newspaper photo leaves a lot to be desired, but this is the photo that most excited me this year. I spent an incredible amount of time researching the Gill Well, and I was really surprised by how few photos I could find. Finding this 1907 photo of the Gill Well Bath House was pretty damn thrilling. Thank you, Clogenson! From the post “The Gill Well.”

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I actually took a few photos myself, and there are a couple I really love — like this one which captures five of Dallas’s most recognizable buildings in one shot. Architecture-a-rama. It is from the post “Downtown Dallas, Last Week,” which also includes the photo below — a view of the Wilson Building you might not have seen before.

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And lastly, two more of my own photos, taken at the St. Jude Chapel, which is filled with mosaics. The one above shows a detail of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the one below shows a detail of St. Martin de Porres (mice!). More at “Mosaic Restoration at Downtown’s St. Jude Chapel.”

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Sources & Notes

It’s been a visually-satisfying year!

See all three 2017 “Best Of Flashback Dallas” lists here.

See all Flashback Dallas Year-End lists — past and present — here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

Neiman-Marcus Welcomes You to the Fair with Jeweled Mementos and Picasso Paintings — 1948

n-m_picasso_1948_fair_jewelryN-M’s 1948 “mementos of Texas…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

For many who come to Dallas from all across the state to visit the State Fair of Texas, a trip downtown to see the legendary Neiman Marcus department store is a must-see item on the itinerary. This was perhaps more the case years ago when the store was still owned by members of the Marcus family who were eager boosters of the annual event and placed several ads each year which graciously welcomed State Fair visitors to the city. For many years Neiman’s offered “souvenirs” for the tourists, ranging from relatively inexpensive Texas-centric knick-knacks to very expensive Texas-centric knick-knacks.

The 1948 N-M offerings can be seen below in an ad that boasts “A 14K gold welcome to Dallas and the State Fair!” (Click the ad below to see a larger image — to see an image of the ad copy alone, click here.)

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Here are the trinkets which no doubt wowed them back home in the nicer neighborhoods of Houston and Midland. (I’ve included ball-park prices in today’s money– according to the whiz-bangy Inflation Calculator — in parentheses.)

  • Texas Seal containing circular knife and file: $55 (about $550 in today’s money)
  • Gold belt buckle, made to order: $325 ($3,300)
  • Hand-tooled belt: $5 ($50)
  • Scarf clip, horse with ruby eyes and ruby studded collar: $500 ($5,100)
  • Hand-carved scarf pin, gold steer head with ruby eyes: $500 ($5,100)
  • Pocket key chain with Texas charm: $45 ($450)
  • Texas chain and Texas seal cuff links: $80 ($800)

For the cheap monogrammed hats, giant sunglasses, and salt water taffy, you’d have to head to Fair Park.

Another attraction at Neiman’s during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was an art exhibit: the first showing in Texas of original works by Pablo Picasso. The exclusive show was specifically scheduled to coincide with the State Fair and was prominently displayed on the 4th Floor of the store, in the Decorative Galleries. Twelve canvases — some never before seen in the United States — were “secured directly from Picasso’s studio at Antibes in Southern France,” via Samuel M. Kootz, Picasso’s rep in the U.S. Think about that for a second: in 1948 Pablo Picasso was the world’s most famous living artist, and there was an exhibit of his recent works — some never before seen in the United States — in a department store. In Texas. That was, as they say, a pretty good “get” for the soon-to-be President of the company, Stanley Marcus.

The Picasso exhibit was an early example of Neiman-Marcus’ dedication to bringing international arts and culture to Dallas — an idea which later manifested itself in the store’s Fortnight celebrations (which also ran to coincide with the State Fair in order to maximize publicity, foot traffic, and sales).

Stanley Marcus was an experienced buyer of art, and his relationship with Mr. Kootz was obviously warm — how else might one explain the inclusion of redrawn Picasso paintings (all of which appeared in the N-M show) in a store advertisement? Pretty ballsy. (Click ad below to see a larger image — the text alone can be seen larger here.)

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For those who might be interested, these are the first Picasso paintings ever publicly shown in Texas:

  • “Seated Woman” (1929)
  • “Sailor” (1943)
  • “Still Life with Mirror” (1943)
  • “Head” (1944)
  • “Still Life with Skull and Pitcher” (1945)
  • “Cock and Knife” (1947)
  • “Woman” (1947)
  • “Still Life with Coffee Pot” (1947)
  • “Owl and Arrow” (1947)
  • “Concierge’s Daughter with Doll” (1947)
  • “Blue Owl” (1947)
  • “The Glass” (1947)

Another art-world highlight in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was the showing of Salvador Dali’s painting “Spain” at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park (from the collection of Edward James, loaned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York). A Dallas Morning News headline — “Fair Interest to Divide Over Picasso and Dali” — seemed to imply that culturally-inclined Dallasites and/or fair-goers would have to choose one over the other in the battle of which famous Spanish artist-celebrity was most worthy of their attention: “Team Pablo” vs. “Team Salvador.” In regard to Dallas and its (somewhat late-blooming) openness to modern art, the first sentence of the article is interesting:

The simultaneous presence in Dallas during the period of the State Fair of Texas of original works by two of the world’s best-known living artists underscores heavily the swift progress toward cultural maturity in local thinking and planning. (Rual Askew, DMN, Oct. 3, 1948)

“Cultural maturity” and planning — both were in evidence in Dallas in the fall of 1948.

Thousands of Texans had their very first in-the-flesh glimpse of a Picasso canvas or a Dali painting in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas — either at a tony department store that sold $500 gold-and-ruby scarf pin “souvenirs,” or amongst the hot-dog-eating and roller-coaster-riding hoi polloi in Fair Park. That’s a pretty good reach for fine art.

It’s not all about the automobile shows!

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Sources & Notes

Ads from October, 1948.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Historic Neon: The Super-Cool Sigel’s Sign

sigels-neon-sign_greenville-ave_072717One of Dallas’ favorite neon signs… (photo: Paula Bosse)

by Paula Bosse

I stopped by Sigel’s liquor store the other day (as one does…) and saw this legendary Sigel’s sign, recently installed in its new home in the parking lot of the Sigel’s store on Greenville Avenue, between Lovers Lane and Southwestern Boulevard, across from the Old Town Shopping Center. I love this neon sign. (See a very large image of it here.)

The sign’s design can be traced back to Dallas artist Marvin M. Sigel (whose great-uncle Harry Sigel founded the business in 1905) — this Fabulous Fifties design was created around 1953 specifically for the then-new store at 5636 Lemmon Avenue (at Inwood). When that store closed in 2009, the sign was refurbished and moved up to the company’s Addison location until that store fell victim to the company’s bankruptcy and was closed. Here’s a video of the fabulous sign when it was in Addison, with close-ups of its flashing neon and dancing bubbles:


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Marvin Meyer Sigel was born in Poland in 1932 and settled in Dallas in 1937 with his immigrant parents, both of whom had been doctors in Poland (his mother a dentist, his father an M.D.), although only his father continued to practice medicine in the United States. He lived in the vibrant Jewish enclave of South Dallas and went to Forest Avenue High School where he seems to have been a popular kid, interested in art, drumming, and ROTC. Below, a photo from the 1949 yearbook with the caption “Marvin ‘Hot Drums’ Sigel plays with the Swing Band.”

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His Forest Avenue High School senior photo, from 1949:

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And his 1953 senior photo from the University of Texas:

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After studying art at both SMU (under Ed Bearden and DeForrest Judd) and the University of Texas and receiving his B.F.A. from UT in 1953, Sigel served a stint in the Eighth Army in Korea. Back in Dallas, he was remarkably active in the local art community — for decades — as both a fine artist and as an art instructor. He also worked for a while at Peter Wolf Associates, in advertising (on projects for companies like Braniff), and he even did a lot of the tedious paste-up work for Sigel’s ads (back when every picture of a bottle of wine or spirits had to be cut out individually and pasted into one of those huge ads!). But his passion was art, and at the same time he had those regular-paycheck gigs, he also managed to maintain a furious pace of painting new pieces to exhibit at a dizzying number of art shows. Below is an example of one of his watercolors, from 1957 (which was recently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art). The title? “Cocktail Abstraction” — appropriate subject matter for a member of the Sigel family!

sigel-marvin_cocktail-abstraction_1957_david-dike-fine-art_jan-2016
“Cocktail Abstraction” by Marvin Sigel (1957)

When the Sigel’s Liquor store No. 7 opened at Lemmon & Inwood, it was suggested by family members that, hey, we have an artist in the family, let’s get Marvin to design a sign for us. According to Marvin, his cousin Sidney Sigel, who ran the company, probably just wanted a “rectangular sign with block letters,” but other family members wanted something newer and more exciting — something modern that would jump out of a sea of boring rectangular signs with block letters and draw attention. And it certainly did just that. If, as reports have it, that dazzling neon sign was designed in 1953, Marvin Sigel was only 21 years old!

When news broke 56 years later, in 2009, that the Lemmon & Inwood store was closing, there was a concerned uproar from the public about what would happen to the sign. Mr. Sigel was a bit taken aback by how much the people of Dallas had grown to love that sign and considered it a city landmark. Marvin Sigel, then 77 years old, said in a 2009 Dallas Morning News interview, “It was clever, but I figured it would be replaced by something more clever in a half-dozen years.”

The sign was built by the venerable Dallas firm of J. F. Zimmerman & Sons (est. 1901) who for generations had installed decorative neon elements all around town and had built innumerable lighted signs for companies big and small — their work could be seen on the Mercantile Building’s wonderful tower, on the exterior of the downtown Titche’s store on Main Street, and in the instantly recognizable signs for places as varied as the Cotton Bowl, Big Town, and, presumably, various other Sigel’s stores around the city.

The sign which was moved from Store No. 7 at Lemmon & Inwood to Addison had on its pole a small plaque (seen here) which said:

This Non-Conforming Sign designed by Marvin Sigel was built in the early 1950s. It was moved from Dallas, TX at Lemmon Ave. & Inwood. After being granted a variance it was refurbished to Code and installed here in June of 2009. Sign refurbished and installed by Starlite Sign of Denton, TX.

Interestingly, the plaque on the new location of the sign has a slightly different text:

sigels-sign-plaque_greenville-ave_072717

It appears that this is a different Sigel’s sign. In 1965, there were two Sigel’s stores on Lovers Lane: Store No. 8 was along the Miracle Mile on West Lovers Lane, near what is now the Dallas North Tollway, and Store No. 12 was on East Lovers Lane at Greenville (then near Louanns nightclub).

sigels-stores_1965-dallas-directory
1965 Dallas directory

In an April 22, 2009 Dallas Morning News article by Jeffrey Weiss (“The Story Behind That Sigel’s Sign”), is this quote from Mr. Sigel’s son, David S. Z. Sigel, about the original sign at Lemmon & Inwood, with mention of another similar sign: “He created the designs for this sign, as well as a similar but smaller sign which stood outside the Lovers Lane store (where Central Market now stands) for many years.” Here’s a map from a November, 1964 grand opening ad for the new store at 5744 E. Lovers Lane:

lovers-lane_new-store_110664
Detail from a grand opening ad, Nov. 6, 1964

So is the sign currently standing in the parking lot of the Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits at 5757 Greenville Avenue the sign which originally stood only a short four-tenths of a mile away? I hope so! And if it is, welcome back to the neighborhood, cool sign!

Whichever sign this is, it is one of the greatest neon designs Dallas has ever had, and I’m so happy it’s survived for over a half-century, through phenomenal city growth, physical displacement, and even company bankruptcy.

Thanks, Marvin, for designing this wonderful sign! And thanks, Starlite Sign of Denton, for the beautiful refurbishing!

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Sources & Notes
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Top photo and photo of blue plaque taken by me on July 27, 2017 at the Sigel’s store at 5757 Greenville Avenue.

YouTube video by Andrew F. Wood, shot in Addison in 2013.

Sources for other images as noted.

The Zimmerman & Sons nameplate can be seen on the original Lemmon & Inwood sign here (click to enlarge), posted on Flickr by Tim Anderson (a detail of his photo can be seen below) (there is another Zimmerman nameplate posted in the comments on that Flickr page); what appears to be a Zimmerman plate is on the side of the sign at the Greenville Avenue location facing the store’s entrance, not on the side seen in my photo at the top.

zimmerman-nameplate_sigels-sign_lemmon-inwood_flickr-det

Please check out the Dallas Morning News article in the DMN archives titled “Sigel’s Sign Designer Surprised by Its Fame — Project for Family’s Liquor Store Wasn’t a Hit with Boss, He Recalls” by Jeffrey Weiss (April 28, 2009) in which Marvin Sigel discusses his famous sign.

Also, check out these related (online) DMN articles:

  • “Sigel’s Beverages, A 111-Year-Old Dallas Chain, Filed for Bankruptcy; Wants to Close 5 Stores” by Maria Halkias (Oct. 21, 2016), here
  • “Sigel’s Iconic Neon Sign Returning to Dallas After Years Wasting Away in Addison” by Robert Wilonsky (March 27, 2017), here

If anyone can verify that this sign is, in fact, the sign from Store No. 12 (Lovers & Greenville), please let me know!

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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