A Finding Aid to the Dorothy Liebes Papers, circa 1850-1973 (bulk 1922-1970), in the Archives of American Art
Portions of this collection are digitized

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.liebdoro
Creators:
Liebes, Dorothy
Dates:
circa 1850-1973
bulk 1922-1970
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
24.7 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of weaver, textile designer, and consultant Dorothy Liebes date from circa 1850-1973 (bulk 1922-1970) and comprise 24.7 linear feet. Through biographical material including a sound recording of an interview, family and general correspondence, writings including a draft of Liebes's autobiography, subject files providing detailed records of her influential consulting work, financial and legal files, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork, textile samples, and photographic material picturing a wide variety of career and personal activities, the collection provides rich and extensive documentation of Liebes's career and personal life.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of weaver, textile designer, and consultant Dorothy Liebes date from circa 1850-1973 (bulk 1922-1970) and comprise 24.7 linear feet. Through biographical material including a sound recording of an interview, family and general correspondence, writings including a draft of Liebes's autobiography, subject files providing detailed records of her influential consulting work, financial and legal files, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork, textile samples, and photographic material picturing a wide variety of career and personal activities, the collection provides rich and extensive documentation of Liebes's career and personal life.
Biographical material consists of awards, biographical notes, membership and identification cards, passports, a will, and a sound recording of a 1945 interview with Liebes.
Correspondence is personal with family and friends, and general with friends and colleagues including artists, and fellow weavers and designers. Notable correspondents include Dorr Bothwell, Daren Pierce, Beatrice Wood, and Frank and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright.
Diaries and calendars record Liebes's busy professional and personal life, with notations on daily activities and, beginning in 1952, detailed notes by staff recording activities at the studio on days when Liebes was absent.
Writings by Dorothy Liebes include notes, drafts, and manuscripts of published and unpublished writings, including an autobiography, speeches, and drafts for an unpublished book on weaving.
Subject files contain correspondence, printed material, photographs, and miscellaneous items in varying combinations, and focus heavily on Liebes's consulting work for businesses in the textile industry, including her work with DuPont, Bigelow-Sanford, Goodall, Dow, and others. The files document the importance of her work as a colorist and show how she successfully adapted craft weaving to machine methods. Furthermore, they record how Liebes used her marketing instincts and broad media appeal to rebrand the image of companies such as DuPont from one of chemistry and utility, to one that represented high style and glamor in durable and practical fabrics that were affordable and desirable in home furnishings. Other subject files document organizations, individuals, and topics of interest to Liebes, including files recording her involvement with arts and crafts organizations, her role as director for the Decorative Arts Display at the Golden Gate Exposition in 1939, her work as director of the Red Cross's Arts and Skills workshop, scattered exhibition records, and files on weavers and weaving. Files on Liebes's extensive promotional work for multiple clients are also included here, as are files documenting Liebes's relationship with Relman Morin, such as correspondence and scattered records of Morin's career as a Pullitzer Prize winning journalist.
Financial and legal records are comprised of accounting records from the 1930s-1940s, financial summaries, investment statements, personal and business inventories, personal and business tax returns, and some legal records.
Printed material includes advertisements, articles, and exhibition announcements and catalogs, recording Liebes's career. This material is supplemented by thirty-three bound scrapbooks of printed publicity material, photographs, and documents recording Liebes's career in substantial depth.
Artwork by Dorothy Liebes consists of designs, feather weavings, a small hooked composition, and tapestry samples. Artwork by others includes prints by Dorr Bothwell, designs by Lawrence J. Colwell, and painted sketches of clothing designs by Daren Pierce. Two linear feet of samples consist primarily of textile swatches primarily designed by Dorothy Liebes Studio, Inc.
Photographic material includes professional portraits of Liebes and others, photos of Liebes at events and parties, with staff and other weavers, at work in her studio, and traveling. Of note are a series of pictures taken at Taliesin West with Frank and Olgivanna Wright, Relman Morin, and others. Photographic material also provides examples of Liebes's design work in homes, hotels, offices, and elsewhere, and shows her work pictured in exhibitions and showrooms. Photographs of other subjects include portraits of unidentified women by Man Ray and Consuela Canaga.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1934-circa 1970 (Box 1, OV 23; 0.28 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1922-1973 (Boxes 1-2; 1.5 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Diaries and Calendars, 1948-1971 (Boxes 2-4; 1.5 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Writings, 1920-circa 1971 (Boxes 4-5; 1.05 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Subject Files, circa 1933-1971 (Boxes 5-13, 20, OVs 23, 59; 8.43 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Financial and Legal Records, circa 1935-1972 (Box 13, 20; 0.6 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Printed Material, 1897-1971 (Boxes 14, 20-21, OV 38; 1.1 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1933-1972 (Box 21-22, 24-36; 5 linear feet)
  • Series 9: Artwork, circa 1920s-circa 1960s (Boxes 14, 22, OVs 23, 39, 42, RD 37; 1.24 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Samples, circa 1850-1855, circa 1930s-circa 1970 (Boxes 15-16; 2.0 linear feet)
  • Series 11: Photographic Material, circa 1875, circa 1897-circa 1970 (Boxes 17-19, 36, OVs 38, 40-41; 2.0 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
California and New York weaver, textile designer, and consultant Dorothy Wright Liebes (1899-1972) was known for distinctive textiles featuring bold color combinations and unusual textures achieved through the use of materials such as glass rods, sequins, bamboo, grass, leather, ribbon, wire, and ticker tape. Her work with companies in the synthetic fiber industry to make craft weaving compatible with man-made fabrics and machine looms, produced an innovative and exciting new aesthetic in interior design that was both functional and affordable, and made Liebes a mid-century household name.
Born Dorothy Wright in Santa Rosa, California, Liebes was the daughter of chemistry professor Frederick L. Wright and teacher Bessie Calderwood Wright. She studied art, education, and anthropology at San Jose State Teachers College and the University of California, Berkeley. During her college years, a teacher encouraged her to experiment with weaving and textile design since many of her paintings resembled textiles.
Liebes was a teacher for several years before deciding to pursue a career in textile design. She then studied weaving at Hull House in Chicago and traveled to France, Italy, Guatemala, and Mexico to learn the traditional weaving forms of those cultures. Upon her return to the United States, Liebes opened her first professional studio for weaving and textile design on Powell Street in San Francisco; Dorothy Liebes Design, Inc. was established in 1934, and eventually employed a staff of weavers. Liebes moved her studio to 545 Sutter Street in 1942.
Her first client in the industry was Goodall-Sanford Mills, with whom Liebes worked as a consultant for more than a decade. As her client base expanded, she decided to open a New York studio and maintained both studios until 1948 when she closed her San Francisco operation and relocated to New York City.
Liebes became a color and design consultant to corporations such as DuPont, Dow, and Bigelow-Sanford and tested and promoted newly developed synthetic fibers. She advised textile chemists in the development of fibers that were versatile enough to produce many different textures and worked with engineers and technicians to develop new machines that could reproduce the irregularities of hand-loomed fabrics. Liebes became a sought-after speaker by textile industry and consumer groups, and sometimes taught workshops on color and design.
Liebes's commissions included the United Nations Delegates Dining Room, the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel and the King of Saudi Arabia's traveling royal throne room. Between 1937 and 1970, Liebes participated in more than thirty solo and group exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, de Young Museum, Cranbrook Museum, Detroit Institute of Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, and other venues. She received prizes and awards from institutions and corporations such as Lord and Taylor, Neiman-Marcus, the Paris Exposition, the American Institute of Decorators, the American Institute of Architects and the Architectural League. She was also awarded the Elsie de Wolfe Award and an honorary degree from Mills College in 1948.
Liebes's other notable activities included her work a director of the Decorative Arts Display for the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair, which she credited with establishing her as an authority in the field, and her work as organizer and director of "Arts and Skills," a Red Cross occupational therapy project that included training in weaving for soldiers injured in World War II. In the 1950s, she worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, journeying though the southwest to study Indian schools and weaving techniques.
Liebes was married to businessman Leon Liebes from 1928 until their divorce in 1940 and continued to use the name Liebes for the remainder of her life. In 1948, she married Pulitzer prize winning Associated Press special correspondent Relman "Pat" Morin.
During the last year of her life, Dorothy Liebes was semi-retired due to a heart ailment. She died in New York City on 10 September 1972.

Administration
Author
Catherine S. Gaines and Stephanie Ashley
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of the Dorothy Liebes papers was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Funding for the digitization of the collection was provided by the Coby Foundation.
Provenance
Gift of the Estate of Dorothy Liebes through Relman Morin, 1972, and Ralph Higbee, 1973-1974.
Processing Information
This collection was processed to a minimal level by Catherine S. Gaines in 2006. The collection was further processed and the finding aid updated by Stephanie Ashley in 2020-2021 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, and was digitized in 2021 with funding provided by the Coby Foundation.
Existence and Location of Copies
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2021 and is available on the Archives of American Art website. Materials which have not been digitized include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases publications have only had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages digitized. Only samples of photographs and negatives of unidentified family and friends have been digitized. Digitization of Series 3 is ongoing.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
Dorothy Liebes papers, circa 1850-1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Textile designers -- California -- San Francisco Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Textile designers -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weavers -- California -- San Francisco Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weavers -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art consultants -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women artists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women textile designers Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Morin, Relman, 1907-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940 : San Francisco, Calif.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Textile Fibers Department Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/