Listen to Frank–”The past always hangs to the future by a thread”

Frank Lloyd Wright, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1954. World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Frank Lloyd Wright, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1954. World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

“… Remember this, that society always continues. That the past always hangs to the future by a thread. And organic architecture and the thought behind it and the philosophy it represents is going to be that thread. I am sure of it. …” –Frank Lloyd Wright

Recently, while sifting through hundreds of reel-to-reel recordings of past lectures, our Audio Visual Librarian Beret Balestrieri Kohn stumbled upon a lecture labeled “Historical Master: Reel #93 Frank Lloyd Wright 1940-50 – Lecture at Episcopal at Nashotah.” We sent the recording away for professional transfer and, upon its return, settled into a quiet office to listen to a lecture we thought would be about the work of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1940-1950.

To our astonishment, and even though the introduction and opening portions of the lecture are not intact, we knew immediately that the booming voice filling the room (imagine Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments), was the voice of the master architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.


(Transcript: see opening quotation)

“You can only experience a building,” we heard next. “Now what experience comes to you when you do see a building? How many of you know what is happening to you? How many of you feel the atmosphere of truth, the majesty of simplicity? Quality is the word, isn’t it? Quality is what we look for and what we want to feel in everything we come into contact with today if we can. And, in architecture most of all, because architecture is the basis, the foundation of your culture …”

Needless to say, our curiosity has been piqued. When did he give this lecture? To whom was he speaking? What is the true title or intent of the lecture?

The only clues to its true origin are contained in a short statement from a radio announcer who closes the segment with the following:

“You’ve been listening to a talk by the noted Wisconsin architect Frank Lloyd Wright on Education and Culture. The talk was recorded last week in the Theater of the Wisconsin Memorial Union where Mr. Wright spoke under the auspices of the Union Forum Committee. The program was rebroadcast today as an Encore feature. Encore will return next Sunday afternoon with another outstanding program from your state station schedule.”

So put on your thinking cap and spread the word: the hunt is on for more answers! If you know anything about this lecture, we would be pleased to hear from you. Comment here or email us at the Library.

With the Museum’s 125th anniversary quickly approaching in 2013, we are learning that our rich history of archival material holds as many questions as it does answers. And we hope you’ll continue to join us as we share more stories and ask more questions. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved a good mystery!

Heather Winter manages and oversees the Museum’s George Peckham Miller Art Research Library, the institutional archives and the rare books collection.
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