“Who was Narcissa Niblack Thorne?” by S.M. O’Connor

A philanthropist and patroness of the arts, Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882-1966), wife of Aaron Montgomery Ward’s nephew James Ward Thorne (1874-1947), donated the Thorne Rooms to The Art Institute of Chicago (A.I.C.). [1]  She had commissioned their construction and craftsmen built them to her specifications.  Her husband, James Ward Thorne, was the son of George Robert Thorne, the brother-in-law and business partner of the aforementioned retail mail-order kingpin A. Montgomery Ward (1844-1913),[2] and he was Vice President of Montgomery Ward & Company.[3]  He also sat on the Board of Directors by 1913.[4]  [Three of his brothers – William, Charles, and Robert – held the corporate presidency.[5]]  On formal occasions, Narcissa Niblack Thorne preferred to be called Mrs. James Ward Thorne.

The family into which Narcissa Niblack married had made a substantial fortune in Chicago selling products to farmers who lived far away from Chicago’s department stores and they were civic-spirited people who gave much to the city where they made their fortune.  Her husband’s uncle was born in Chatham, New Jersey and in 1865 came to Chicago to work for Field, Palmer, & Leiter (which evolved into Marshall Field & Company), a job he held until 1867.[6]  By 1870, he was a traveling salesman for a dry goods wholesaler.[7]  In his travels, he noticed there was a wide disparity between the prices wholesalers charged retailers and the prices shop owners charged farmers and residents of market towns.[8]   Ward determined he would need to accumulate capital (cash) and stock (goods) at a railroad hub to launch his mail-order retail business, so he moved back to Chicago, where he worked as a buyer for C.W. & E. Pardridge Company, which was both a wholesaler and a retailer.[9]  He suffered a major setback with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which consumed his stock, but the next year he went into business with two colleagues from Pardridge and put out a one-page dry goods catalogue.[10]  The firm was the first retail business to sell general merchandise exclusively by mail.[11]  He also received support (financial and otherwise) from the family of Elizabeth J. Cobb, whom he wed in February of 1872.[12]  Within two years, he bought out his original two partners; replaced them with his friend and brother-in-law George Robert Thorne, who was a businessman in Chicago; and quit his outside job at Pardridge.[13]  By 1876, the catalogue was 150 pages long and sales reached $1,000,000 per year.[14]  In 1889, sales exceeded $2,000,000 per year and profits reached $115,000.[15]  That year, Ward and Thorne incorporated their firm as Montgomery Ward & Company with capitalization of $500,000.[16]  Ward Tower, a twenty-five story building that was the tallest structure west of the Allegheny Mountains, was completed in 1899.[17]  Sales at Montgomery Ward & Company reached $40,000,000 by the death of Aaron Montgomery Ward the man in December of 1913.[18]

Aaron Montgomery Ward is remembered now for having sued the City of Chicago to clean up Lake Park (later renamed Grant Park).  The one building he allowed to be constructed in Grant Park was the Italian Renaissance-style structure at the west end of Lake Park along Michigan Avenue, designed by Charles A. Coolidge (1858-1936) with the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, which housed the World’s Congress Auxiliary during Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and afterwards housed the A.I.C. [The “Congresses” (international conferences and symposiums) were the brainchild of Chicago lawyer, judge, teacher, author, and orator Charles Carroll Bonney (1831-1903), and covered such topics as women, labor, medicine, education, finance, temperance, evolution, religion, philosophy, literature, architecture, and art.[19]]  The A.I.C. building was erected on the former site of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition Building.[20]  While the A.I.C. project was underway, Coolidge was also awarded the contract to design the Chicago Public Library, the city’s first purpose-built public library building, which opened in 1897, and in 1977 became the Chicago Cultural Center.[21]   [Coolidge also designed the Georgian Revival style mansion for Chicago Tribune publisher and post-Great Fire Mayor of Chicago (1871-73) Joseph Medill (1823-1899), built in 1896, which was later enlarged in the 1930s by Medill’s grandson and Chicago Tribune publisher Colonel Robert R. McCormick (1880-1955) and is now the McCormick Museum at Cantigny Museum and Gardens in Winfield, IL.]  In 1897, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld Ward’s lawsuit against the City of Chicago to clean and improve Lake (now Grant) Park, and prevent the City from building a civic center there, but exempted the A.I.C. in Lake Park and the library in Dearborn Park, where Lincoln once spoke. Ward spent $50,000 on lawsuits to protect Grant Park.[22]  He used his status as an owner of property on Michigan Avenue that overlooked the park to block plans to erect buildings for The John Crerar Library and The Field Museum of Natural History in Grant Park.

As recounted by Ron Sims, Special Collections Librarian at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Galter Health Sciences Library, Aaron Montgomery Ward left the bulk of his estate to his widow, Elizabeth J. Ward, and his daughter, Marjorie Montgomery Ward, and in 1923 Elizabeth donated $3,000,000 to Northwestern University to build a medical center on the Streeterville Campus she knew Northwestern’s trustees wanted to build to house professional schools.  The next year, she donated an additional $1,000,000 to endow the medical center.  In 1926, she donated $4,000,000 “for the improvement of teaching of Medicine and Dentistry in the Medical and Dental Schools…”  James Gamble Rogers designed the new campus in the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture.  The tallest building, the nineteen-story Aaron Montgomery Ward Memorial Building, opened in 1927.  It housed the Medical and Dental Schools, clinics, and laboratories.

Born to William Niblack and Frances (Caldwell) Niblack in Vincennes, Indiana on May 2, 1882, she was the eldest of three children.[23]  Her younger sister, Lydia Niblack, wed Alden Swift, while their brother, Austin Niblack, wed an heiress from another meatpacking family, Helen Cudahy.[24]  Her early education was imparted by her governess.[25]  At age eleven, she entered a public school.[26]  Subsequently, she went to a private school.[27]  During her girlhood, her family traveled to the East Coast and to Europe.[28]

As a little girl, Narcissa Niblack had been encouraged in collecting miniatures by her uncle, Rear Admiral Albert Niblack, who dispatched her miniatures he collected as the U.S. Navy sent him all around the world.[29]  In 1890, the Niblacks moved to Hyde Park, which had been a southern suburb of Chicago and had become a neighborhood on what we now call the South Side of Chicago, when her father accepted a post with the Chicago Title and Trust Company.[30]  In Hyde Park, Narcissa Niblack attended Kenwood Institute.[31]  This was a finishing school.[32]  She later recalled, “The trouble with my childhood was that I was given no education.  Knowing how to put my hat on straight was supposed to be enough.”[33]

On May 30, 1901, at the age of nineteen, Narcissa Niblack wed her childhood sweetheart, James Ward Thorne (1874-1946) in Trinity Episcopal Church.[34]  The Thornes had two sons: Ward Thorne (1902-1996) and Niblack (“Bill”) Thorne (1906-1997).  Mrs. Thorne’s chauffer worked for her for forty-five years.[35]

In Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, Bruce Hatton Boyer remarked, “By the time she married, Narcissa Niblack had achieved all the success to which a young lady of her background could aspire.  She was beautiful, gracious, and well-liked.  By all accounts, she was delightful company – warm and open-hearted.  Her marriage to James Ward Thorne gave her both wealth and social connections.  It is no surprise that she quickly became prominent in Chicago society, giving her time to cultural institutions like The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Historical Society, and to various charities like the Woman’s Exchange and several hospitals.”[36]

In 1910, Mr. & Mrs. James Ward Thorne commissioned Edwin Clark (1878-1967) and William Otis to design a country house for them in north suburban Lake Forest, Illinois.[37]  This chateau-esque house with formal gardens and Beaux-Arts style pool was to be a retreat where they would reside during summertime and over weekends.[38]  [Clark is best known for his work on behalf of the Chicago Zoological Society in the design of the original buildings for Brookfield Zoo in the early 1920s and early ‘30s.[39]  He also worked in the 1930s on the Thorne Miniature Rooms.  Furthermore, he designed the Lincoln Park Administration Building and the Winnetka Village Hall.[40]  His brother, Alson S. Clark (1876-1949), who studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, became a noted Impressionist painter in California.]  In 1916, the Thornes commissioned Clark to design their library in another residence, their condominium in the building at 1200 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.[41]  This was a building designed by Benjamin Marshall (1874-1944).[42]  Marshall & Fox also designed the South Shore Country Club (now Chicago Park District’s South Shore Cultural Center),[43] the Drake Hotel, and the Blackstone Hotel.

In 1926, at the age of fifty-three, James Ward Thorne retired from Montgomery Ward & Company.[44]  With more free time on his part, the family began to travel to Europe more frequently.[45] James Ward Thorne was an amateur photographer and he visually documented their visits to French chateaux in Normandy and Brittany and English country homes.[46] They also saw Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, recently completed, in Windsor; the architectural model collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum; and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) is Paris.[47]

The Thornes commissioned Clark in 1928 to design another residence for them, this times a Beaux Arts-style villa in Santa Barbara, California.[48]  A vacation home, Mountjoie was a 10,000-square-foot estate that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.[49]  The wood in the library came from a monastery in Tuscany.[50]  The mixture of styles and periods included an 18th Century Parisian dining room and 18th Century Viennese ballroom.[51] The home was profiled in the magazine House and Garden.[52]

In 1930, Mrs. Thorne purchased two small bronze chandeliers with semi-precious stones in Rome that inspired her to make her first shadow box.[53]  Before Mrs. Thorne ever exhibited her shadow boxes at The Art Institute of Chicago, she exhibited her collection of 18th and 19th Century color-plate books and the original water color paintings from which the prints were made.[54]  Significantly, at the same Mrs. Thorne was building the Thorne Miniature Rooms, her girlhood friend Frances Glessner Lee was building eighteen dioramas called the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” which are still used by the Harvard Associates in Police Science.[55]

Boyer explained that some of the upheavals of the 20th Century were fortuitous for Mrs. Thorne.[56]  “The shifting economic order left many a once-wealthy family in need of money.  Precious artifacts, including miniatures which had once graced elegant dollhouses and private collections in Europe, came onto the market at prices undreamed of ten years earlier.  Mrs. Thorne was not one to let such opportunities pass.  By 1930 the Thornes’ apartment on North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago was so overflowing with miniatures that she rented a studio on Oak Street, a few blocks away, to relive the crush.”[57]

Mrs. Thorne began the construction of the first twelve miniature rooms or shadow boxes in December of 1931.[58]  Architects Edwin Clark and Herbert Banse of Edwin Clark & Herbert Banse, Inc. designed the first twelve rooms to Mrs. Thorne’s specifications.[59]  Francis W. Kramer Studios in Chicago built the rooms.[60]  To benefit the Architects Emergency Relief Fund in 1932, Mrs. Thorne exhibited ten of the twelve shadow boxes completed by June of 1932 at the Ackermann Galleries at 408 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago and the Ackermann Galleries at 50 East 57th Street in New York City.[61]  Over 2,200 people paid twenty-five cents each to see the rooms in Chicago, including Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and Mrs. J. Ogden Armour.[62]  Mrs. Armour recreated some of the rooms at her Melody Farm residence in north suburban Lake Forest, Illinois.[63]


      Mrs. Thorne was an active supporter of the Woman’s Exchange, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Historical Society (C.H.S.), Passavant Hospital (now Northwestern Memorial Hospital), and Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago).[64]  The Woman’s Exchange movement started in 1832 and arrived in Chicago in 1893.[65]  It enabled women who were unable to work outside their homes to derive income from the sale of handmade goods they placed on consignment at Woman’s Exchange shops.[66]  Affluent women like Mrs. Thorne would volunteer in the shops and donate items to sell.[67]  She was a patroness of the organization who variously served as president, volunteered for the organization, and donate funds for most of her life until the Woman’s Exchange chapter in Chicago closed in 1960.[68]

In 1922, while she was Vice-President of the Woman’s Exchange, Mrs. Thorne testified at the trial of Fred Mader, President of the Chicago Trades Council, that she had to pay $1,418 to avert a strike that would have delayed construction of the Drake Hotel.[69]  According to The New York Times, “Mader and Orrington C. Foster, an architect who was in charge of the erection of the hotel, are charged with conspiracy to hinder construction.”[70]  [Foster was due to be tried separately.[71]]  Trouble began with Mader over the fact that members of the Woman’s Exchange had fabricated 2,000 lamps for the Drake Hotel, so they were not made by members of a labor union.[72]  Foster told Mrs. Thorne that a strike would be called, and to mollify the two men (neither of whom demanded she pay them) she offered to pay to have union men re-wire the lamps.[73]  In court, she identified a receipt from Hinkle & Best Company for $1,418.[74]  Mr. Thorne gave Mrs. Thorne the money to pay this bill.[75]

Mrs. Thorne donated a Georgian dollhouse she completed in 1932 that was placed in the window of the Woman’s Exchange shop, where it drew crowds of spectators, to drum up interest in the Christmas Bazaar.[76]  She donated such dollhouses for more than fifteen years, as well as the interior of the residence from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” that was complete with Goldilocks in Baby Bear’s bed.[77]  Mrs. Thorne also furnished some of the dollhouses that were built by draftsmen with the firm of Delano & Aldrich in New York City.[78]  [These were no ordinary dollhouses as they were replicas of real life homes designed by the firm’s architects.[79] Dollhouse construction gave the draftsmen work during the (Second) Great Depression (1929-1940).[80]]  Mrs. Thorne commissioned Delano & Aldrich to build these special dollhouses when she could not meet demand for dollhouse construction herself.[81]  Christmas Bazaar revenue empowered the Woman’s Exchange in Chicago to feed destitute families.[82]

In a similar vein, Mrs. Thorne arranged the “Things in Miniature” exhibition at the Ackermann Galleries, which benefitted Children’s Memorial Hospital, in May of 1933.[83]  Mrs. Thorne utilized her collection of bronze miniature sculptures to create dioramas with the “Peter Rabbit house” being the “a particular favorite.”[84]

Mrs. Thorne displayed twelve miniature rooms at A Century of Progress in 1933 and twenty-six miniature rooms in 1934.[85]  Approximately 300,000 people paid twenty-five cents each to see Mrs. Thorne’s recreations of English, French, Spanish, Italian, and American rooms at A Century of Progress.[86]  In 1933, the rooms were displayed at the “Streets of Paris” attraction and in 1934 they were displayed in the former Edison Building situated on the shore of the South Lagoon.[87]  Mrs. Thorne was disappointed when her twelve rooms were on display at the “Streets of Paris” attraction to have them in such close proximity to risqué concessions that were meant to evoke the red light district of Paris.[88]  In August of 1933, the Thornes traveled to England and France, and she promised her family that she would stop collecting miniatures, but it was not a promise she could keep.[89]

In London, she visited every museum with dollhouses or collections of miniature furniture on display.[90]  She did not like to reveal to the general public where she acquired miniatures, but one source she divulged was Arthur Punt in London.[91]  A salesman at Aspreys on Bond Street escorted her to a certain store of which she had heard and while there a saleswoman who was helping her brought out a brochure from A Century of Progress and suggested she visit the display of twelve miniature rooms.[92]  A young man in the shop told her he had seen the Thorne Rooms while they were on display at the Ackerman Galleries to benefit Architects Emergency Relief Fund.[93]  Mrs. Thorne identified herself as the woman who had made the rooms and they shared a laugh.[94]

Then she hunted down the cabinet maker who made items for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House and Sir Neville Wilkinson’s dollhouse-castle Titiana’s Palace.[95]  She commissioned him to design three rooms that would fit in at three different English country homes and a library from a townhouse in London’s Berkley Square.[96]  The library would include a marble-sized globe she had purchased at a dime store in Chicago, an idea that intrigued him.[97]  He suggested Queen Mary would like such a globe in her collection of miniatures in Buckingham Palace.[98]  Mrs. Thorne sent Queen Mary one of these globes upon her return home.[99]

In Canterbury, Mrs. Thorne visited the shop in the Close of the Cathedral where she had purchased the Rockingham lamb in the Victorian Parlor, pictures of which she showed the proprietress.[100]  After whiling away an afternoon there, Mrs. Thorne purchased several more miniatures.[101]  In another shop, close to the Salisbury Cathedral, she purchased multiple medallions which inspired the creation of an English dining room in the style of Robert Adam.[102]

In Exeter, Mrs. Thorne was able to see Titania’s Palace, which was on display to raise funds for a local charity.[103]  She found the dollhouse-castle impressive in some respects but was disappointed in other ways.[104]  She noted, “In the arrangement of the rooms, there is absolutely no attention paid to scale, and the most incongruous placing of articles destroys the charm of the general effect.”[105] They explored museums and historic homes in Normandy and Brittany.[106]  Mrs. Thorne had long dreamt of making a Breton kitchen.[107]  She acquired many pieces of miniature furniture at Le Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy.[108]  However, she was disappointed by Quimper in the Finistère department of Brittany, which was famous for its miniatures, because there were none to be had when they visited.[109]

To get all these miniatures home, it was necessary to purchase additional trunks.[110]  In December of 1933, Mrs. Thorne hired several out-of-work artisans to build fourteen new miniature rooms.[111]  These were completed on May 22, 1934, just four days before A Century of Progress re-opened for a second season.[112]  The twenty-six rooms were a mixture of European and American rooms and ranged chronologically from the 17th Century to the 1920s.[113]  They were now labeled “Mrs. Thorne’s Miniature Rooms.”[114]

In 1935, Mrs. Thorne received a request from Queen Mary to fabricate a room for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.[115]  [Victoria Mary (1863-1953), Princess of Teck, was Queen Mary of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Empress of India from 1910 to 1936 and thereafter Queen Dowager until her death.[116]  She was the consort of George V (1865-1936), King of the United Kingdom, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas and Emperor of India (1910-1936).  George V and Mary were the parents of two British kings: Edward VIII (lived 1894-1972, reigned 1936) and George VI (lived 1895-1952, reigned 1936-1952).  Through George VI, and his consort, Queen Elizabeth (1900-2002), Queen Mary was the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.]  With a collection of 2,300,000 objects that span 5,000 years of history, the Victoria & Albert Museum – often abbreviated as the V&A – is the world’s largest museum on the decorative arts.  It is located in the Brompton district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  The V&A stands with the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and Imperial College London in a cluster of cultural institutions called “Albertopolis” in honor of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria.[117]  What Queen Mary wanted was a replica of the Georgian Library in the style of William Kent and James Gibbs shown at A Century of Progress.[118]

It was not possible to produce an exact replica because the original contained real antiques even Mrs. Thorne’s artisans could not duplicate.[119]  The room they did produce featured a doorway that replicated the doorway of an 18th Century townhouse at 22 Hatton Garden[120] (a street in the Holborn district of the Borough of Camden in Inner London within Greater London).  The Georgian Library also includes a mantel in the manner of William Kent, replicas of Chippendale furniture, replicas of Gainsborough paintings, a Chinese-made Coromandel screen, and a needlepoint rug produced by the Needlepoint and Textile Guild of the Art Institute.[121]  A. Reeves, a 6’2” former police constable who had started a second career fabricating miniature furniture for Alfred Punt in London, produced most of the furniture for the Georgian Library.[122]  He also produced most of the furniture for the European Rooms in The Art Institute of Chicago.[123]  Before she gave the Georgian Library to the Victoria & Albert Museum, Mrs. Thorne displayed it at the C.H.S. in early 1937.[124]

The Thornes had intended to go to London to attend the coronation of King Edward VIII (lived 1894-1972, reigned 1936) in May of 1937, but he abdicated in December of 1936 to wed his American fiancée Wallis Simpson (1896-1985), a divorcée.[125]  Consequently, the Thornes went to Westminster, where they took up residence in a house on Sloane Court, and they sat in a grandstand where they viewed his brother, King George VI (lived 1895-1952, reigned 1936-1952), and other members of the British Royal Family enter Westminster Abbey for the coronation and afterword return to Buckingham Palace.[126]  After the coronation, Mrs. Thorne presented the Georgian Library to the Victoria & Albert Museum and offered to pay to have it installed, but the V&A declined to accept that offer because a case for the miniature room could be built in the workshop.[127]

Later, Mrs. Thorne drew on inspiration from the townhouse at 22 Hatton Garden and the Victoria & Albert Museum when she had the English Drawing Room of the Early Georgian Period (E-7) made amongst the European Rooms.[128]  It also included a Chinese-made Coromandel screen, an architect’s table, a needlepoint rug produced by the Needlepoint and Textile Guild of the Art Institute, and a Gainsborough painting.[129]

Between 1937 and ’38, Mrs. Thorne had a set of thirty-one miniature rooms – the second set of European Rooms – completed and displayed at the C.H.S.[130]  The Needlework and Textile Guild of the Art Institute of Chicago produced the rugs in the European rooms.[131]  Impressed by the bronze gates Marie Zimmerman (1879-1972) designed for the mausoleum of the Aaron Montgomery Ward and George Thorne families at Rosehill Cemetery, Mrs. James Ward Thorne had her design the wrought iron, lighting fixtures, and altar fitments for Our Lady Queen of Angels, the English Roman Catholic Church in the Gothic Style, 1275-1300 (E-29).[132]   The English Dining Room of the Georgian Period was in the style of the 18th Century architect Robert Adam.[133]  The landscape painting in the room was in the style of Claud Lorrain.[134]

Mrs. Thorne made the two Asian Rooms completed around 1937.  She commissioned a craftsman in Hong Kong (then a British colony) to carve the screens and fretwork for the Chinese Interior, Traditional.

The Thorne Rooms exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago was profiled in LIFE Magazine in November of 1937, by which time she had corrected flaws she had discerned in the original shadowboxes she had displayed at A Century of Progress.  On November 29, 1938, Potter Palmer II (1875-1943),[135] President of the Board of Trustees of The Art Institute of Chicago, wrote a letter to thank Mrs. Thorne for the exhibit.[136]


The Art Institute of Chicago

November 29, 1938

My dear Mrs. Thorne:

In summing up the activities of the Art Institute for the year, the Trustees wish to thank you for your very generous contribution in making the Exhibit of Miniature Rooms possible.  It was one of the most memorable shows we have had, both from the standpoint of public interest and of attendance, and it will be long remembered.

The energy and devotion you contributed, and the financial assistance you gave in getting the project started are deeply appreciated.

Very sincerely yours,

Potter Palmer


Mrs. James Ward Thorne

1500 Lake Shore Drive

Chicago, Illinois


On January 12, 1938, named Mrs. Thorne an honorary member of the American Institute of Decorators.[137]  The next year, she displayed the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the World’s Fair in San Francisco, the Golden Gate International Exposition, and, in 1940, at the New York World’s Fair.[138]  Mrs. Thorne and her sister Mrs. Alden (Lydia Niblack) Swift traveled to San Francisco to supervise installation of the exhibition in an airplane hangar on Treasure Island.[139]  The San Francisco Chronicle reported the Chicago Historical Society’s Blanche Sudlow came to San Francisco to clean the Thorne Miniature Rooms with “tiny brushes and cloths.”[140]

Over 1,000,000 people waited in lines of up to thirty minutes or more to see the miniature rooms.[141]  After he saw the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Golden Gate International Exposition, Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966) started to collect miniatures while he traveled in Europe.[142]  Famed stage-and-screen actress Helen Hayes (1900-1993) commented, “They are like a stage setting.  The remarkable fidelity is unique.  I have never seen anything like them in my whole life.”[143]

The exhibition was also a hit in New York City.[144]  The World’s Fair in New York City, known as the New York’s World’s Fair 1939-1940, which was held in Flushing Meadows in the Borough of Queens.  Mrs. Thorne published an exhibit catalog, Architectural Models: Miniature Rooms by Mrs. James Ward Thorne | World’s Fair of 1940 in New York.  After the World’s Fair, the exhibition went on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and then toured other art museums on the East Coast.[145]  At the suggestion of the University Senate, on June 14, 1941, Northwestern University conferred a degree of Doctor of Fine Arts on Mrs. Thorne.[146]

In 1940 and ’41, Mrs. Thorne completed a third set of Thorne Miniature Rooms, thirty-seven American Rooms, and exhibited them in The Art Institute of Chicago’s Allerton Wing.[147]  Eugene J. Kupjack, who had taken art classes for a decade between ages eight and eighteen and attended Crane College, made thirty of the American miniature rooms. [148]   In 1937, he had read in the magazine Life about Mrs. Thorne making the European rooms using antiques and unsolicited sent her a miniature chair with a cane seat and plastic plate and goblet he had made, which prompted a phone-call from her. [149]   She inquired how he had known she was having difficulty finding canework and where he had purchased the glass plate and goblet.  His reply that they were made of Lucite plastic, not glass, by him, led to a job offer. [150]   The Middletown Parlor, which is a reference to a town in Mrs. Thorne’s home state of Indiana, has a miniature copy of the Chicago Tribune donated by Mrs. Thorne’s friend Col. McCormick.[151]   It also has a miniature steam locomotive that was a gift from Mrs. Thorne’s movie star friend Colleen Moore (1902-1988).[152]

Kupjack recommended Mrs. Thorne hire his cousin Lee Meisinger, who made the needlepoint rugs.[153]  Born in 1919, Miss Meisinger was fresh out of high school when she went to work for Mrs. Thorne.  She trained with the Needlework and Textile Guild.[154]  Miss Meisinger would have to transfer a pattern for a rug to cotton mesh, which took thirty stitches per inch with two pieces of silk thread.  Silk mesh, which took her no little effort to master, required forty stitches per inch with one piece of thread.  Mrs. Thorne designed many of the rugs Miss Meisinger made.[155]

The other artisans on Mrs. Thorne’s staff by 1939 included Alfons Weber, who had worked as a window designer for Marshall Field & Company and Claus O. Brandell (1877-1953), who carved miniature furniture (in the course of which he sometimes invented tools).[156]  A German immigrant, Weber was a master-carver who had trained as an apprentice carver in Hamburg before he found work in the Marshall Field & Company window display workshop.  Mrs. Thorne counted the Fields amongst her friends and through them found Weber.  Initially, she hired him to carve a window frame for one of the miniature rooms.  Gratified with the outcome, she commissioned him to carve wood molds for the decorative gesso molding A Swedish immigrant, Brandell was an autodidact of an engineer and inventor who had founded a tool and machine manufacturing company in Cincinnati, Ohio, only to see if fail during the Great Depression.  He subsequently went on to find work with Kramer Studios, a window display company in Chicago, where Mrs. Thorne found him in 1933.  Brandell worked for Mrs. Thorne for seven years.

Shortly after the completion of the American Rooms, the U.S.A. entered the Second Great World War, and Kupjack set to work building orthopedic instruments for the Office of Naval Research and Mrs. Thorne began to work with the Red Cross.[157]  Kupjack rose to the rank of commander in the U.S. Navy.  Thirteen of the medical instruments he invented received patents.  In the postwar years, he resumed work with Mrs. Thorne bur also began to receive outside commissions.[158]

The American Rooms became a traveling exhibit like the two older sets of miniature rooms and were displayed in major American museums, for the most part on the East Coast.[159]  A technical assistant, Mrs. Ladusca Wilson, accompanied the exhibit, unpacking each item when it arrived at a museum and re-packing it when it was time to move onto the next one.[160]  She would unpack one room at a time.[161]  The process of unpacking and installing the exhibit would take her two-to-three weeks.[162]

While the American Rooms were touring museums on the East Coast, Mrs. Thorne worked with the Red Cross and she continued to work with the Woman’s Exchange.[163]  While the window display continued to have the usual assortment of handmade goods, James Ward Thorne donated a set of items Sally Sexton Kalmbach described as “air raid essentials: a bucket, tin hat, garbage pail, and shovel.”[164]  [J.W. Thorne was air raid warden for building at 1500 North Lake Shore Drive, where the Thornes had an apartment since the 1930s.[165]]  To these air raid essentials, Mrs. Thorne added “a few necessary items for comfort in case the Exchange customers had to take cover: robe, comfortable slippers, knitting bag, and for reading matter, a book written by Dr. Edward S. Collins entitled Don’t Be Afraid![166]

Mrs. Thorne donated all three sets of Thorne Miniature Rooms to The Art Institute of Chicago in 1941.[167]  She also donated funds to maintain the Thorne Miniature Rooms.[168]  John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949), Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist (and President of the Chicago Zoological Society from 1921 to 1948), honored Mrs. Thorne with a front-page cartoon entitled “A New Art Joins the Old Masters at the Art Institute of Chicago” that the Tribune published on January 12, 1941.[169]  McCutcheon also wrote a letter to congratulate Mrs. Thorne, dated December 12, 1941.[170]

In 1942, The Art Institute of Chicago sold the first set of Thorne Miniature Rooms to International Business Machines (I.B.M.),[171] which is how they ultimately ended up in other museums.  I.B.M. purchased twenty-nine of the miniature rooms.[172]  Sally Sexton Kalmbach placed this acquisition in context.  “During the 1930s, IBM had been busy compiling a substantial art collection, including contemporary art from 79 countries, art of the Americas, watercolors from 48 United States, historic costumes of the Americas and the great Leonardo da Vinci models.  In 1948, the XVIII ARTNEWS ANNUAL recognized IBM for its great American public collection ‘where Education is a Way of Life.’”[173]   Initially, I.B.M. exhibited the “Thorne Period Rooms in Miniature” at the I.B.M. Gallery at 16 East 57th Street in New York City.[174]  The company then sent the miniature rooms on a tour around our federation for twenty years.[175]

In 1943, James Ward Thorne wrote I.B.M. to convey that his wife was willing to setup the Thorne Miniature Rooms I.B.M. had acquired when they were to go on display.[176] One interesting thing about the letter is that Mr. Thorne referred to his wife several times as “Mrs. Thorne” rather than “my wife.”


James W. Thorne

30 North Michigan Avenue


March 11, 1943

International Business Machines Corp.,

590 Madison Avenue

New York, N.Y.


With respect to the miniature rooms created by Mrs. Thorne recently acquired by Mr. Watson; Mrs. Thorne is very anxious to have the installation of the numerous small items made with extreme care and judgement.

Mrs. Thorne has found out from experience that this cannot always be safely delegated to others.  Her precise touch often means the difference between having everything just right or all wrong.  So, if installation has not been made, Mrs. Thorne asks the privilege of directing it herself, or if installation has been made she wishes to come east and check the work.

Her interest is to have the rooms appear to the best advantage and she is quite willing to give her time and assume the expense.

Will you please advise on the above so that Mrs. Thorne can make her plans.


James W. Thorne


The late Mrs. William Redd (Gertrude Hollon) Mahoney, a founding member of the National Association of Miniaturist Enthusiasts, reflected, “My favorite of the three sets of rooms has always been the first series.  It was especially beguiling for an antique toy collector because it contained many of the toys and treasures from her earliest collections.  The furniture in the Victorian Parlour came from an old English dollhouse.  The stove and many accessories in the Summer Kitchen were toys.  Mrs.  Thorne recognized their imperfections as architectural models but was sad when the Art Institute sold them to IBM.  She had given all three sets with no constraints, so she could not object.  I asked if money was needed for upkeep or installation; she said she had provided for that.  I rejoiced when some of the first set were rescued by her son and installed in the Phoenix Art Museum.”[177]

In 1942, the French and English Rooms were on display in The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey.  The exhibit catalog, which looked very similar to the one for the New York World’s Fair, was entitled English and French Miniature Rooms by Mrs. James Ward Thorne | September-November, 1942 | The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey. The rooms, which covered the medieval period to the twentieth century, included a hall from the reign of King Louis XII, a Victorian parlor, an early American kitchen, and a Hepplewhite drawing room.[178]  The Colonial bedroom was a copy of a chamber from an old house in Salem with replicas of antique furniture pieces from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[179]

The Art Institute of Chicago named Mrs. Thorne a Benefactor of the Art Institute in 1942.[180] The next year, the A.I.C. added Mrs. Thorne to the Committee on Decorative Arts.[181]  In January of 1944, The American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) bestowed an honorary membership on Mrs. Thorne.[182]

Passavant Hospital

      Mrs. Thorne was a member of the Woman’s Board of Passavant Hospital (now the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital).[183]  In 1944, Mrs. Bryan S. (Margaret Brittingham) Reid became President of the Woman’s Board and plans developed for Mrs. Thorne and her sister Mrs. Alden (Lydia Niblack) Swift to superintend a gift shop, which opened in 1947.[184]  Mrs. Thorne frequently donated shadow boxes to the gift shop to be sold.[185]

James Ward Thorne died on Wednesday, August 21, 1946.[186]  He left an estate of $2,168,140, of which he left $348,982 to Narcissa; $922,154 to Ward, who was a resident of Westport, Connecticut; $385,167 to Niblack, who was a resident of Phoenix, Arizona; $47,003 each to granddaughters Judith and Ann; and $25,000 to Passavant Hospital in Chicago.[187]  He also set aside $50,000 to go to the charity of Mrs. Thorne’s choice.[188]  There were several (relatively) small bequests for other individuals, too.[189]  Beyond the estate, Mr. Thorne had an “insurance trust” worth $652,556.[190]  Back then, federal inheritance taxes were punishingly high.[191]  The federal inheritance taxes amounted to $1,003,907, and the state inheritance taxes were $51,243.[192]    The attorney and executive fees accounted for another $75,000.[193]

Passavant Hospital had a nursing school from 1898 until the Great Depression in the 1930s, and its closure caused a nursing shortage that became acute by 1948, so Mrs. Thorne donated $75,000 to (re)open the nursing school.[194]  In 1949, the James Ward Thorne School of Nursing opened at Northwestern University’s Passavant Memorial Hospital.[195]  It was open from 1949 to 1972.  To honor Mrs. Thorne, the library for student-nurses was named the Narcissa Niblack Thorne Library.[196]

Miss Shirley Green, President of the Senior Class at the James Ward Thorne School of Nursing reflected on June 12, 1952, “Our greatest debt is to our benefactress, Mrs. Thorne, because to quote an old phrase, ‘Without her we would be nothing.’  She, through her generosity and sincere concern, answered the dire need for nurses in the present shortage.  We also couldn’t possibly forget all the thoughtful things she has done for us in the last three years, such as decorating the lounge at Christmas with prized ornaments, and giving us dinners on holidays when we couldn’t go home.  And all the parties, and formals, she will never know how much it was appreciated.”[197]

Mrs. Thorne and the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the 1950s

      In 1954, a gallery dedicated to the Thorne Miniature Rooms opened at The Art Institute of Chicago.[198]  When Queen Elizabeth II; her consort Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; and Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (1895-1979) visited Chicago in July of 1959, Mrs. Thorne personally gave the monarch a tour of the Thorne Miniature Rooms gallery.[199]  In October of 1960, Mrs. Thorne also gave a tour of the gallery for (Prince Philip’s cousin) Frederick IX (1899-1972), King of Denmark (1947-1972), and his consort, Queen Ingrid (1910-2000).[200]

In 1959, the Board of Trustees of The Art Institute of Chicago voted unanimously to appoint Mrs. Thorne Honorary Curator of Decorative Arts.[201]  In a letter dated November 4, 1959, to William McCormick Blair (1884-1982), President of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Hans Huth (1892-1977), Curator of Decorative Arts, argued other benefactors of The Art Institute of Chicago should not be so honored.[202]

Dr. Huth wrote, in part, “In view of the possibility of some persons making efforts to have the same title conferred on them I would like to state how unique the situation concerning Mrs. Thorne was, and that a constellation of the same kind can hardly be expected again. In my opinion there is a great difference between the donor, however large his gifts of money or objects may be, and the person who not only offers ideas but carries them out and also takes care to improve them in many ways.  However intelligently a donor may have built up a collection he gives, or however splendid the ideas devised by a bequest under certain conditions (such as Winterbotham, e.g.), it is a very different thing from what a creative mind may suggest and then carry out.  I think too many people now take Mrs. Thorne’s rooms for granted and accept them as something any wealthy lady could have done.  But that shows a lack of understanding, as Mrs. Thorne conceived something for which there was no precedent.  True, there have been dolls’ houses, and I know some magnificent ones dating far back.  But Mrs. Thorne’s creation is something entirely different.  Her ideas was not to make up some kind of doll rooms to amuse the public, as all the others I know.  Instead she visualized the manner of life in the past and did so as precisely as she knew how.  First she realized that everything would have to be in scale and that nothing could be invented.  Therefore she studied all the sources and made a careful selection of topics.  She then had to make up her staff, and direct its work.  All this might have been done to the point, but altogether boring.  The fact this might have been done to the point, but altogether boring.  The fact that this did not happen, but that the rooms are admired by young and old, as well as by professionals, is due to the fact that they are done full of taste, imagination and, one might say, in a dramatic fashion.  Many of them look as if the actor has just left the stage and that now it will be the task of the visitor to imagine what has just happened, or indeed might happen next.  Among other reasons, I believe this illusion is due to certain light effects and those outlooks from one room into another or into a garden.  Sometimes a slight indication, a hat, a pair of spectacles, though hardly visible, conveys a certain mood to the onlooker.  In short, aside from the extreme correctness of the ensemble, there is inherent in it an atmosphere which is inimitable.”[203]

According to Sally Sexton Kalmbach, “From the mid-1940s until her death in 1966, Mrs. Thorne worked in her studio concentrating on miniaturized garden scenes, storybook settings, and caricatures in diorama or shadow-box form to be given as gifts or sold at the Woman’s Exchange.  Periodically the items were sold by art dealers who made donations to Mrs. Thorne’s favorite charities, such as Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Visiting Nurses Association at Passavant Hospital.  These original whimsical creations, using treasures she had collected all over the world, were labelled ‘Architectural Fantasies’ by Mrs. Thorne.”[204]

For years, Mrs. Thorne had a studio inside the Woman’s Exchange at 902 North Michigan Avenue.[205]  While there, in addition to the construction of her miniature rooms, she also designed dresses, bonnets, and coats for girls, pillows, tea cloths, and table runners.[206]  She made shadow boxes sold at the Woman’s Exchange and designed the window displays.[207]  When the Woman’s Exchange closed in 1960, Mrs. Thorne moved her studio to an apartment in the building that then stood at 900 North Michigan Avenue (which is now the address of a skyscraper occupied in part by a mall called 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops).[208]

image (44)Figure 1 Caption: In 2014, Ampersand, Inc. published Sally Sexton Kalmbach’s book Mrs. Thorne’s World of Miniatures.  She is also the authoress of The Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Chicago.

Thorne Rooms at Other Institutions

      At the suggestion of Niblack (“Bill”) Thorne, in 1960, Mrs. Thorne refurbished sixteen of the twenty-nine miniature rooms from the first set of Thorne Miniature Rooms I.B.M. had acquired from The Art Institute of Chicago in 1942 and donated them in 1962 to the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.[209]  She recruited Eugene Kupjack, who had been at work on a project for the American Institute of Decorators, to help restore these miniature rooms.[210]  They were English, French, and Spanish rooms.[211]  Mrs. Thorne donated them as a memorial for Marie Gaetge Thorne, the late wife of Niblack Thorne.[212]  [According to the Phoenix Art Museum, it was Niblack Thorne who donated twenty of the miniature rooms to the Phoenix Art Museum in 1962.[213]]  They are also called the Thorne Miniature Rooms.[214]  His third wife, Suzanne, wrote a booklet on them that was entitled Miniature Rooms by Mrs. James Ward Thorne in the Permanent Collection of the Phoenix Museum of Art, which was published in 1972.

In 1962, I.B.M. gave nine of them to the Dulin Gallery of Art, which evolved into the Knoxville Museum of Art.[215] This exhibit of nine of the miniature rooms is also called the Thorne Rooms.[216]  They have been on display since 1965.[217]  Sherri Lee recently paid to have the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Thorne Rooms exhibit in honor of Mrs. McAfee Lee.[218]

According to Susen Taras, the Heron Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana also received Thorne Miniature Rooms.[219]  This is now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in downtown Indianapolis.  This is the Miniature Massachusetts Dining Room.  Mrs. Thorne donated the Miniature Massachusetts Dining Room in 1944 in honor of her paternal grandparents William Ellis and Eliza Sherman Niblack.  It is in the Decorative Arts collection, but is not currently on display.

Mrs. Thorne donated shadow boxes to two hospitals: Children’s Memorial Hospital and Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital.[220]  [Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital merged with Rush Medical College in 1969 to form Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.  It moved out of its old complex of buildings, which are now occupied by condominiums.  In 2003, the organization became Rush University Medical Center.]  In 1962, Mrs. Thorne gave miniature rooms to Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital to place on display in the children’s ward.[221]  The next year, Mrs. Thorne sold thirty shadow boxes through the Russell Button Gallery to raise money for charity.[222]

In 1985, an institution the Chicago Tribune’s Anita Gold identified as “a major Midwestern museum that wishes to remain anonymous but that is not the Art Institute” offered seven miniature rooms made by Mrs. Thorne for sale.[223]  They were on consignment with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, which was then located at 225 West Ohio Street (in Chicago’s River North neighborhood in the Near North Side Community Area and is now located at 1338 West Lake Street in the Near West Side Community Area).[224]

Currently, according to the Phoenix Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago has sixty-eight of the miniature rooms, the Phoenix Museum of Art has twenty, the Knoxville Museum of Art has nine, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has one, and the Kaye Miniature Museum in Los Angeles has one.[225]  However, in 2000 the L.A. Times reported that Carole & Barry Kaye had announced they would close their 14,000-square-foot Carole & Barry Kaye Museum of Miniatures, which has stood on the Museum Row stretch of Wilshire Boulevard on January 1, 2001 and sell its contents after they decided to move to Boca Raton, Florida and were unable to reach an agreement with Los Angeles County.[226]  Furthermore, the miniature room at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which depicts the museum as how it would have looked when it began operations in 1925 in the Carriage House of The Indianapolis Propylaeum club, shortly after patroness of the arts Mary Stewart Carey (1859-1938) founded it, was made by Eugene Kupjack,[227] but I find no connection to Mrs. Thorne, so it is related to the shadowboxes dubbed “Thorne Rooms” at The Art Institute of Chicago, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Knoxville Museum of Art, but it may not be one of them per se.  According to Mrs. Thorne’s biographer, Sally Sexton Kalmbach, there are five museums with Thorne Miniature Rooms: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel, Indiana.[228]

Mrs. Thorne’s Final Days

      With her health in decline, she closed her studio and donated the last items on hand to charity in March of 1966.[229]  She donated items to Eugene Kupjack, including a German Hallway Thorne Room.[230]  This room can be seen on Page 108 of Mrs. Thorne’s World of Miniatures.

On Saturday, June 25, 1966, Mrs. Thorne died at her residence at 232 East Walton Street in Chicago on the Near North Side at the age of eighty-four.[231]  She was a great-grandmother by 1953, when her granddaughter Anne Thorne Weaver had a daughter named Wendy, so she had lived a full life.[232]  Her funeral was held in the Westminster Chapel of Fourth Presbyterian Church,[233] which is located on the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue.  Mrs. Thorne was buried in the family mausoleum in Rosehill Cemetery.[234]


[1] U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

This obituary incorrectly stated she donated the Thorne Rooms in 1954.

[2] Alan R. Raucher, “WARD, Aaron Montgomery” in American National Biography, Volume 22, p. 620

[3] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

See also U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

[4] “Montgomery Ward Stock,” The New York Times, 27 January, 1913, p. 14

[5] Raucher, p. 620

[6] Raucher, p. 619

See also The Dictionary of American Biography.  Edited by John S. Brown. Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press (1995), p. 769

[7] The Dictionary of American Biography, p. 769

[8] The Dictionary of American Biography, p. 769

[9] Raucher, p. 619

[10] Raucher, p. 619

See also The Dictionary of American Biography, p. 769

[11] Raucher, p. 620

[12] Raucher, p. 619

[13] Raucher, p. 620

[14] The Dictionary of American Biography, p. 769

[15] Raucher, p. 620

[16] Raucher, p. 620

[17] Raucher, p. 620

[18] The Dictionary of American Biography, p. 769

[19] Stanley Appelbaum, Spectacle in the White City: The Chicago 1893 World’s Fair. Mineola, New York: Calla Editions, an imprint of Dover Publications, Inc. (2009), p. 138

[20] Joseph M. Siry, The Chicago Auditorium Building: Adler and Sullivan’s Architecture and the City. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press (2002), p. 32

[21] Donald F. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster (1996), p. 385

See also Chicago’s Famous Buildings. Ira J. Bach, editor. 3rd edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press (1965, 1969, 1980), p. 389

See also Cathleen D. Cahill, “Chicago Public Library,” Encyclopedia of Chicago (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/261.html) Accessed 03/10/09

[22] Lois Wille, Forever Open, Clear, and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press (1972, 1991), p. 71

[23] Bruce Hatton Boyer, “Creating the Thorne Rooms.” In Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Susan F. Rossen, editor.  © The Art Institute of Chicago. New York, London, and Paris: Abbeville Press (1983), p. 10

Sally Sexton Kalmbach, Mrs. Thorne’s World of Miniatures.  Chicago and New Orleans: AMP&RSAND, Inc. (2014), p. 25

See also Susen Taras, “Thorne, Narcissa Niblack.” Rima Lunin Scultz and Adele Hast, editors. Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (2001), p. 880

According to Ms. Taras, there was a brother who died before Narcissa was born.  She makes no mention of Austin.

[24] Kalmbach, p. 25

[25] Boyer, p. 11

[26] Boyer, p. 11

[27] Boyer, p. 11

[28] Boyer, p. 11

[29] Boyer, p. 11

See also Taras, p. 880

See also Kalmbach, p. 25

[30] Kalmbach, p. 28

[31] Kalmbach, p. 28

[32] Taras, p. 880

[33] Boyer, p. 11

[34] Kalmbach, pages 28, 29, and 114

See also Boyer, p. 11

[35] Kalmbach, p. 48

[36] Boyer, p. 11

[37] Taras, p. 880

See also Kalmbach, pages 33 and 114

[38] Kalmbach, p. 33

[39] John T. McCutcheon, Drawn from Memory: The Autobiography of John T. McCutcheon.  Indianapolis and New York City: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1950), p. 423

See also Andrea Friederici Ross, Let the Lions Roar! The Evolution of Brookfield Zoo.  Chicago Zoological Society (1997), pages 18, 20-23, 25, 39, 95, 96, 98, and 228

See also Boyer, p. 19

[40] Boyer, p. 19

[41] Kalmbach, p. 33

[42] Kalmbach, pages 33 and 34

[43] Millions of people around the world have seen the South Shore Cultural Center without realizing it because the scenes depicting the exterior of the Palace Hotel in The Blues Brothers (1980) were filmed there.

[44] Kalmbach, pages 37 and 114

[45] Kalmbach, p. 114

[46] Kalmbach, p. 38

See also Boyer, p. 14

[47] Kalmbach, p. 38

[48] Kalmbach, pages 42, 43, and 115

[49] Kalmbach, p. 43

[50] Kalmbach, p. 43

[51] Kalmbach, p. 43

[52] Kalmbach, p. 43

[53] Kalmbach, pages 38-40, and 115

[54] Kalmbach, p. 49

[55] Kalmbach, pages 32 and 33

[56] Boyer, p. 11

The upheavals of the first third of the 20th Century included the Mexican Revolution (1910), the Mexican Civil War (1910-1920), the Chinese Revolution (1911), the First Great World War (1914-1918), the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Turkish Empire at the end of the First Great World War, the coup d’état that overthrew the German imperial monarchy and subsequent revolutions in Germany’s federated kingdoms in 1918, the Armenian Genocide (1915-1917), the Russian Revolution (1917) and Russian Civil War (1917-1922), the Spanish Flu pandemic (1918-1920), and the Cristero War (1926-1929) in Mexico.  [Boyer did not refer to all of these tumultuous events, because they did not all have a direct impact on Mrs. Thorne’s pursuit of miniatures.  However, it is important to remember she lived through one of the most turbulent eras in history and that was the background during which she tried to preserve a certain dimension of cultural history for her contemporaries and future generations.]  Boyer also cited the rise of three new art movements: Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism.

[57] Boyer, p. 11

[58] Kalmbach, p. 51

[59] Kalmbach, p. 47

[60] Kalmbach, p. 47

[61] Kalmbach, pages 51, 53, and 115

[62] Kalmbach, p. 51

[63] Kalmbach, p. 51

[64] Taras, p. 880

See also Kalmbach, pages 29 and 91

[65] Kalmbach, p. 91

[66] Kalmbach, p. 91

[67] Kalmbach, p. 91

[68] Kalmbach, p. 93

[69] “$1,418 to Avert Strike,” The New York Times, 16 June, 1922, p. 16

[70] Ibid

[71] Ibid

[72] Ibid

[73] Ibid

[74] Ibid

[75] Ibid

[76] Kalmbach, pages 91 and 92

[77] Kalmbach, p. 92

[78] Kalmbach, p. 93

[79] Kalmbach, p. 93

[80] Kalmbach, p. 93

[81] Kalmbach, pages 29 and 30

[82] Kalmbach, p. 93

[83] Kalmbach, p. 93

[84] Kalmbach, p. 93

[85] Kalmbach, pages 114 and 115

[86] “Period Rooms in Miniature Are Exhibited at Chicago art Institute,” Life, 29 November, 1937, p. 38

[87] Kalmbach, pages 54 and 57

[88] Kalmbach, p. 54

[89] Kalmbach, pages 54-57

[90] Kalmbach, p. 54

[91] Boyer, p. 18

[92] Kalmbach, p. 54

[93] Kalmbach, p. 54

[94] Kalmbach, pages 54 and 55

[95] Kalmbach, p. 55

[96] Kalmbach, p. 55

[97] Kalmbach, p. 55

[98] Kalmbach, p. 55

[99] Kalmbach, p. 55

[100] Kalmbach, pages 55 and 56

[101] Kalmbach, pages 55 and 56

[102] Kalmbach, p. 56

[103] Kalmbach, p. 56

[104] Kalmbach, p. 56

[105] Kalmbach, p. 56

[106] Kalmbach, p. 56

[107] Kalmbach, p. 56

[108] Kalmbach, p. 56

[109] Kalmbach, p. 56

[110] Kalmbach, p. 56

[111] Kalmbach, p. 57

[112] Kalmbach, p. 57

[113] Kalmbach, p. 57

[114] Kalmbach, p. 57

[115] Kalmbach, p. 71

[116] Born in Kensington Palace in England, Princess Mary of Teck, was part of the princely House of Teck, a cadet branch of the royal House of Württemberg.  Her father was Count Francis von Hohenstein (1837-1900), known after 1863 as Francis, Duke of Teck.  He was a poor aristocrat, but he was closely related to the royal families of Württemberg, Great Britain, and Hannover, as well as the imperial family of Russia.  His antecedents were sufficient to wed, in 1866, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and, thus, a granddaughter of George III (1738-1820), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1760-1820) and King of Hanover (1814-1820).

[117] Albert (1819-1861), Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the consort of Victoria (lived 1819-1901), Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901) and Empress of India (1876-1901).  [The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is a cadet branch of the House of Wettin.]  In 1917, the British Royal Family changed its name to the House of Windsor to give the illusion they were not German due to anti-German sentiment during the First Great World War.

[118] Kalmbach, p. 71

[119] Kalmbach, p. 71

[120] Kalmbach, p. 71

[121] Kalmbach, p. 71

[122] Kalmbach, p. 71

[123] Kalmbach, p. 71

[124] Kalmbach, p. 71

[125] Kalmbach, p. 72

[126] Kalmbach, pages 72, 74, and 76

[127] Kalmbach, p. 76

[128] Kalmbach, p. 71

[129] Kalmbach, p. 71

[130] Kalmbach, pages 61, 77, and 115

[131] Architectural Models: Miniature Rooms by Mrs. James Ward Thorne, 1940, p. 3

[132] Kalmbach, p. 110

[133] The Art Institute of Chicago, “E-10: English Dining Room of the Georgian Period, 1770-90,” (https://www.artic.edu/artworks/43714/e-10-english-dining-room-of-the-georgian-period-1770-90?department_ids=Thorne+Miniature+Rooms) Accessed 01/03/18

[134] Ibid

[135] Potter Palmer II was the son of Potter Palmer (1826-1902) and Bertha Honoré Palmer (1849-1919).

[136] Kalmbach, p. 79

[137] Kalmbach, pages 100 and 101

[138] Taras, p. 881

Knoxville Museum of Art, “Knoxville Museum of Art: Thorne Rooms,” (http://www.knoxart.org/exhibitions/thorn/index.html) Accessed 01/12/18

See also Kalmbach, pages 78 and 115

[139] Kalmbach, p. 77

[140] Kalmbach, p. 78

[141] Kalmbach, p. 77

[142] Kalmbach, p. 78

[143] Kalmbach, p. 78

[144] Kalmbach, p. 78

[145] Kalmbach, p. 78

[146] Kalmbach, pages 100 and 101

[147] Kalmbach, p. 114

See also Neil Steinberg, “Famed Rooms House Stories,” Chicago Sun-Times, 7 January, 2011, p. 14

[148] Rita Reif, “Eugene J. Kupjack, 79, Creator of Miniature Rooms for Museum,” The New York Times, 16 November, 1991, Section 1, p. 1

[149] Rita Reif, “Eugene J. Kupjack, 79, Creator of Miniature Rooms for Museum,” The New York Times, 16 November, 1991, Section 1, p. 1

[150] Rita Reif, “Eugene J. Kupjack, 79, Creator of Miniature Rooms for Museum,” The New York Times, 16 November, 1991, Section 1, p. 1

[151] Kalmbach, p. 85

[152] Kalmbach, p. 85

[153] Kalmbach, p. 81

[154] Kalmbach, p. 81

[155] Kalmbach, p. 81

[156] Kalmbach, p. 81

[157] Kalmbach, p. 87

[158] Boyer, p. 18

[159] Kalmbach, p. 87

[160] Kalmbach, p. 87

[161] Kalmbach, p. 87

[162] Kalmbach, p. 87

[163] Kalmbach, p. 87

[164] Kalmbach, pages 87 and 88

[165] Kalmbach, pages 87 and 88

[166] Kalmbach, p. 88

[167] Kalmbach, p. 114

[168] Kalmbach, pages 88 and 100

[169] Kalmbach, p. 89

[170] Kalmbach, p. 89

[171] Kalmbach, pages 88 and 115

[172] Knoxville Museum of Art, “Knoxville Museum of Art: Thorne Rooms,” (http://www.knoxart.org/exhibitions/thorn/index.html) Accessed 01/12/18

[173] Kalmbach, p. 88

[174] Kalmbach, p. 88

[175] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, p. 88

[176] Kalmbach, p. 102

[177] Kalmbach, p. 88

[178] U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

[179] U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

[180] Kalmbach, p. 100

[181] Kalmbach, p. 100

[182] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, pages and 100, 101, and 115

[183] Kalmbach, p. 97

[184] Kalmbach, p. 97

[185] Kalmbach, p. 97

[186] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

Ms. Kalmbach is mistaken when she states James Ward Thorne died in 1948 (Kalmbach, pages 97 and 115).

[187] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

See also Kalmbach, p. 97

In 1972, Passavant Memorial Hospital, founded in 1865, and Wesley Memorial Hospital, founded in 1888, merged to form Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

[188] Kalmbach. p. 97

[189] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

[190] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

[191] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

[192] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

[193] Associated Press, “Thorne Left $2,168,140,” The New York Times, 12 February, 1947, p. 17

[194] Kalmbach. p. 97

[195] Kalmbach, pages 97 and 114

[196] Kalmbach. p. 97

[197] Kalmbach, p. 97

[198] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, pages 100 and 114

Mrs. Thorne’s U.P.I. obituary incorrectly stated, “In 1954, she presented them to the Art Institute, where they are housed in a special gallery.”

See U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

[199] Kalmbach, p. 100

Born in 1921 on the Greek island of Corfu, Prince Philip is a member of the House of Glücksburg, which is a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg, and the royal family of Greece and Denmark.  His father, Prince Andrew of Greece, was son of King George I of Greece and grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark.  Prince Andrew was exiled from Greece in 1922 after the Turkish victory the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), because he was one of several Greek leaders the military held responsible for the catastrophic defeat which cost the Greeks East Thrace as well as territorial gains in western Anatolia (also known as Asia Minor).  [On April 21, 1967, a group of colonels overthrew King Constantine II of Greece (who is also Prince of Denmark) in a coup d’état.  Subsequently, a military junta ruled Greece until 1974.  In that year, the public voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy and create the Third Hellenic Republic.  Greek conservatives, bioth in Greece and abroad, continue to refer to Constantine II as “the King” while other Greeks refer to him as “the Ex-King.”] He was Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark until 1947, when he renounced his titles to become a British subject shortly before he wed Prince Elizabeth.  His father-in-law, King George VI, gave him the titles Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron of Greenwich.  Prince Philip took the surname Mountbatten.  In 1960, the Privy Council ruled that the male-line descendants of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II would take the surname Mountbatten-Windsor when it was necessary to fill out paperwork where it was necessary to supply a surname, while other descendants of George V use the surname Windsor.  This gives the illusion they are not members of a German-Danish dynasty.

[200] Kalmbach, p. 100

[201] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, pages 100 and 114

[202] Kalmbach, pages 102 and 103

[203] Kalmbach, p. 103

Ms. Kalmbach provided a picture of the first page of the letter.

[204] Kalmbach, p. 98

[205] Taras, p. 880

See also Kalmbach, pages 91 and 109

[206] Kalmbach, p. 109

[207] Kalmbach, p. 109

[208] Taras, p. 880

See also Kalmbach, p. 109

[209] Kalmbach, pages 105 and 115

[210] Kalmbach, p. 105

[211] Taras, p. 881

[212] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, p. 105

[213] Phoenix Art Museum, “Thorne Miniature Rooms by Narcissa Niblack Thorne,” (http://www.phxart.org/collection/thornerooms) Accessed 01/12/18

[214] Phoenix Art Museum, “Thorne Miniature Rooms by Narcissa Niblack Thorne,” (http://www.phxart.org/collection/thornerooms) Accessed 01/12/18

[215] Kalmbach, p. 107

[216] Knoxville Museum of Art, “Knoxville Museum of Art: Thorne Rooms,” (http://www.knoxart.org/exhibitions/thorn/index.html) Accessed 01/12/18

[217] Kalmbach, p. 107

[218] Knoxville Museum of Art, “Knoxville Museum of Art: Thorne Rooms,” (http://www.knoxart.org/exhibitions/thorn/index.html) Accessed 01/12/18

See also Kalmbach, p. 107

[219] Taras, p. 881

[220] Taras, p. 881

[221] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, p. 107

[222] Taras, p. 881

See also Kalmbach, p. 107

[223] Anita Gold, “Thorne Miniature Rooms To Be Sold At Auction,” Chicago Tribune, 5 May, 1989 (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-05-05/news/8501280099_1_miniature-collectors-thorne-rooms-miniature-enthusiasts) Accessed 01/04/19

[224] Ibid

[225] Phoenix Art Museum, “Thorne Miniature Rooms by Narcissa Niblack Thorne,” (http://www.phxart.org/collection/thornerooms) Accessed 01/12/18

[226] Diane Haithman, “What Will Happen After These Tiny Doors Close?” Los Angeles Times, 4 December, 2000 (http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/04/entertainment/ca-60851) Accessed 01/12/18

[227] The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, “The Museum’s First Home – in Miniature!” 11 December, 2017 (https://www.childrensmuseum.org/blog/museums-first-home%E2%80%94-miniature) Accessed 01/12/18

[228] Kalmbach, p. 118

[229] Taras, p. 881

[230] Kalmbach, p. 107

[231] Kalmbach, pages 109 and 115

See also U.P.I., “Mrs. James Thorne, Designer of Period Model Rooms, Dies,” The New York Times, 27 June, 1966, p. 35

[232] Kalmbach, p. 113

[233] Kalmbach, p. 110

[234] Kalmbach, p. 110

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