Skip to main content

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

More Information

Catherine S. Gaines and Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
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Writings by Dorothy Liebes include notes, drafts, and manuscripts of published and unpublished writings, including an autobiography, speeches, and drafts for an unpublished book on weaving.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.
Gift of the Estate of Dorothy Liebes through Relman Morin, 1972, and Ralph Higbee, 1973-1974.
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.
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.