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Dorothy Liebes papers, 1850-1973, bulk, 1922-1970

Dorothy Liebes papers, 1850-1973, bulk, 1922-1970

Liebes, Dorothy, 1899-1972

Weaver, Textile designer

Collection Information

Size: 21.4 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of weaver, textile designer, and businesswoman Dorothy Liebes are dated circa 1850-1973 (bulk 1922-1970), and comprise 21.4 linear feet. Biographical information, subject files, correspondence, writings, artwork, financial records, scrapbooks, textile samples, printed material, sound recordings, and photographs document Liebes' career and personal life. Her second husband, Associated Press Reporter Relman "Pat" Morin, is also represented in the collection, although to a much lesser extent.

Biographical material consists of awards, biographical notes, membership and identification cards, passports, and a will. Dorothy Liebes' correspondence documents her personal life and career, including the operation of her studios in San Francisco and New York City.

Subject files contain correspondence, printed material, photographs, and miscellaneous items in varying combinations. They relate to businesses, organizations, individuals, and topics of interest to Liebes.

Writings by Dorothy Liebes include notes, drafts, and manuscripts of published and unpublished writings. Artwork by Dorothy Liebes consists of designs, feather weavings, a small hooked composition, and tapestry samples. Financial records are comprised of financial summaries, investment statements, and personal and business tax returns. Thirty-three bound scrapbook volumes contain printed and publicity materials, photographs, and a small number of documents relating to Dorothy Liebes' professional achievements.

Samples consist primarily of textile swatches designed by Dorothy Liebes and printed material includes articles, exhibition catalogs, press releases, and reproductions about or mentioning Dorothy Liebes and her work, as well as reproductions of artwork.

Also found are calendars, a transcript of a 1945 interview with Liebes on Nancy Craig's radio show "Woman of Tomorrow" and a circa 1956 sound recording on 5" magnetic tape from the Milwaukee Journal Radio Station.

Photographs are of artwork (not by Liebes), people, including Liebes, Relman "Pat" Morin, and Frank Lloyd Wright, places and textiles.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy Liebes is a weaver and textile designer in New York, N.Y. and San Francisco, Ca. Liebes was married to Relman Morin. She also operated Dorothy Liebes Design, Inc., NYC.


Donated 1972-1974 by the Dorothy Liebes estate via Relman Morin, widower of Liebes, and Ralph Higbee.

A Finding Aid to the Dorothy Liebes Papers,
circa 1850-1973
(bulk 1922-1970)
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Weaver, textile designer, and businesswoman Dorothy Wright Liebes 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.
Born Dorothy Wright in Santa Rosa, California, she 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 studio for weaving and textile design in San Francisco; Dorothy Liebes Design, Inc. was established in 1934, and eventually employed a staff of weavers.
Her first client in the industry was Goodall-Sanford Mills, with whom she 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.
Her 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' other notable activities included her work as Director of Decorative Arts for the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair, and 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 show weaver tribes that horizontal looms were more advantageous than vertical ones.
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.
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1934-1970 (Box 1, OV 22; 6 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1922-1973 (Boxes 1-3; 2.4 linear ft.)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1896-1971 (Boxes 3-10, 19; 7.2 linear ft.)
Series 4: Writings, 1920-1969 (Boxes 10-11; 1.25 linear ft.)
Series 5: Artwork, 1938-1963 (Boxes 11, 19, OV 22; 0.35 linear ft.)
Series 6: Financial Records, 1947-1968 (Box 12; 0.25 linear ft.)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1933-1970 (Box 20, BV 24-56; 3.7 linear ft.)
Series 8: Samples, circa 1850-1855, circa 1930s-circa 1970 (Boxes 12-14, 20; 2.1 linear ft.)
Series 9: Calendars and Interviews, 1945-1971 (Boxes 14-15; 1.45 linear ft.)
Series 10: Printed Material, 1897-1970 (Boxes 15-16, 20-21, OV 23; 1.05 linear ft.)
Series 11: Photographs, 1897-1970 (Boxes 16-18, 21, BV 57; 1.5 linear ft.)
Donated 1972-1974 by the Dorothy Liebes estate via Relman Morin, widower of Liebes, and Ralph Higbee.
Processing Information
This collection was processed to a minimal level by Catherine S. Gaines in 2006.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Dorothy Liebes papers, 1850-1973, bulk, 1922-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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