Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/2318805749/

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum exists today because of the vision of Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt. In 1897, a longtime dream of the sisters was realized when they formally opened the galleries of The Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration to the public. The collection they established for that museum is the foundation of Cooper Hewitt's collection today. Sarah (1859–1930) and Eleanor (1864–1924), also known as "Sallie" and "Nellie," were two of six grandchildren of industrialist and educator Peter Cooper, and daughters of Abram and Sarah Hewitt. An upbringing that prioritized education and philanthropy shaped the women's creative and spirited personalities, inspiring them to pursue charitable interests of their own. Eleanor wrote, "Love of beautiful and exquisite workmanship was an inheritance from two practical and artistic grandfathers . . . producing . . . a natural interest in the arts of decoration." In the early 1890s, Sarah and Eleanor began designing a museum for the arts of decoration within The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the public school founded by Peter Cooper in 1859. The purpose of the museum was not only to inspire good American taste through a study of historical decorative arts, but to offer a path to professional employment in the field of design. The sisters called their museums "modern," and planned galleries, collections of objects, and reference materials to be freely accessible to students and a broad public. This exhibition marks the 125th anniversary of The Cooper Union Museum and celebrates the Smithsonian Institution's 175th year.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18097201/

  • etching and drypoint on gampi [japanese] paper
  • Bequest of George Campbell Cooper

George Campbell Cooper was the nephew of Peter Cooper and Sarah and Eleanor’s cousin. In 1896, he bequeathed to the young museum a large collection of engravings and woodcuts by celebrated Renaissance and Baroque printmakers, including Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn and Albrecht Dürer. This major gift launched the museum’s now-vast collection of historical drawings, prints, and graphic design.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18109287/

  • pen and brown ink, brush and brown, gray wash, graphite on cream laid paper
  • Museum purchase through gift of various donors

Sarah and Eleanor pursued purchases from important European collections, including those owned by Giovanni Piancastelli and Jean Léon Decloux, to expand the museum’s holdings of works on paper. These rich collections represented not only the work of influential artists, but also depictions of decorative arts and architecture valuable to the study of design.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18128103/

  • Designed by Robert Adam
  • graphite on paper
  • Museum purchase through gift of various donors

Sarah and Eleanor pursued purchases from important European collections, including those owned by Giovanni Piancastelli and Jean Léon Decloux, to expand the museum’s holdings of works on paper. These rich collections represented not only the work of influential artists, but also depictions of decorative arts and architecture valuable to the study of design.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18130725/

  • warp; s-spun linen. wefts; s-spun linen. s-spun wools
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan

A chance dinner between Abram Hewitt and financier J. P. Morgan resulted in the purchase of rare examples of textiles. Morgan inquired what Sarah and Eleanor were interested in, and Abram informed him they were trying to purchase the Miquel y Badía collection of textiles. Shortly after, Morgan wrote that he had purchased the Badía collection, in addition to two others. The impressive gift included more than 1,000 rare Italian Renaissance velvets and Coptic, Mamluk, early Islamic, and Hispano-Moresque silks, all spanning the 13th to 18th centuries.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18137009/

  • embossed leather, painted, gilded
  • Gift of George Arnold Hearn

Sarah and Eleanor collected embossed leather wallcoverings, antique wallpapers, and American bandboxes (lightweight boxes for carrying clothing accessories), amassing nearly 500 items, including over 100 gilt-leather pieces, such as the one on view here. Cooper Hewitt now holds the largest wallcoverings collection in North America.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18142217/

  • bronze, gold
  • Gift of Jacob H. Schiff

Hardware such as furniture mounts and locks and keys were collected as examples of ornamental as well as functional embellishments of furniture.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18142539/

  • bronze, gold
  • Gift of Jacob H. Schiff

Hardware such as furniture mounts and locks and keys were collected as examples of ornamental as well as functional embellishments of furniture.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18142641/

  • bronze, gold
  • Gift of Jacob H. Schiff

Hardware such as furniture mounts and locks and keys were collected as examples of ornamental as well as functional embellishments of furniture.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18166919/

  • bronze, gold
  • Purchased for the Museum by the Advisory Council
  • decorative
  • protection
  • leaves
  • rocaille
  • foliate
  • security

Hardware such as furniture mounts and locks and keys were collected as examples of ornamental as well as functional embellishments of furniture.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18169057/

  • cast and engraved iron
  • Purchased for the Museum by the Advisory Council
  • decoration
  • floral
  • protection
  • mechanical
  • movement
  • security
  • trophy
  • iron

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18172205/

  • pen and black ink, brush and watercolor, graphite on white laid paper
  • Purchased for the Museum by the Advisory Council

Sarah and Eleanor pursued purchases from important European collections, including those owned by Giovanni Piancastelli and Jean Léon Decloux, to expand the museum’s holdings of works on paper. These rich collections represented not only the work of influential artists, but also depictions of decorative arts and architecture valuable to the study of design.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18187025/

  • painted wood, bent metal wire, metal
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt
  • architecture
  • decoration
  • home
  • exhibition
  • bridges
  • vista
  • colonnade
  • birds
  • scrolls
  • stairs
  • birdkeepers
  • hobbyists
  • cages
  • leisure
  • decorative
  • walkway
  • miniature
  • Rialto Bridge
  • doors

When the Hewitt sisters travelled to Europe in pursuit of objects for the museum they were creating (see photo of Sarah, Eleanor, and Amy Hewitt in a Venetian gondola), they collected items that, today, might not seem immediately relevant to a design museum—like birdcages. The European-focused Hewitt sisters acquired birdcages in various media, such as ceramics and glass. Others represent specific architecture from various locations.

This object is currently on display in room 113 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18187635/

  • tin-glazed earthenware, metal wire, metal
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt
  • decoration
  • container
  • arches
  • landscape
  • animals
  • birds
  • birdkeepers
  • cages
  • nature
  • brightly colored
  • protection
  • pastoral
  • geometric
  • security
  • windmills

When the Hewitt sisters travelled to Europe in pursuit of objects for the museum they were creating (see photo of Sarah, Eleanor, and Amy Hewitt in a Venetian gondola), they collected items that, today, might not seem immediately relevant to a design museum—like birdcages. The European-focused Hewitt sisters acquired birdcages in various media, such as ceramics and glass. Others represent specific architecture from various locations.

This object is currently on display in room 113 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18187781/

  • glass, silver-plated metal, metal, gilt wood
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt
  • birds
  • metalwork

When the Hewitt sisters travelled to Europe in pursuit of objects for the museum they were creating (see photo of Sarah, Eleanor, and Amy Hewitt in a Venetian gondola), they collected items that, today, might not seem immediately relevant to a design museum—like birdcages. The European-focused Hewitt sisters acquired birdcages in various media, such as ceramics and glass. Others represent specific architecture from various locations.

This object is currently on display in room 113 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18189307/

  • brush and oil paint on canvas
  • Gift of Charles Savage Homer, Jr.

While the primary focus of the museum was pre-19th-century European decorative arts, an exception was made for sketches from American artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, Robert Blum, and Frederic Edwin Church. The Women’s Art School requested that the museum acquire figural drawings. “As quickly as they can be acquired,” Eleanor wrote, “leaves from the note and sketch books of artists of the last half of the 19th century, and the present day, are being placed [on the walls of the corridors and staircases].”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18189943/

  • brush and gray wash, graphite on cream-colored wove paper
  • Gift of Thomas Moran

While the primary focus of the museum was pre-19th-century European decorative arts, an exception was made for sketches from American artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, Robert Blum, and Frederic Edwin Church. The Women’s Art School requested that the museum acquire figural drawings. “As quickly as they can be acquired,” Eleanor wrote, “leaves from the note and sketch books of artists of the last half of the 19th century, and the present day, are being placed [on the walls of the corridors and staircases].”

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18197699/

  • brush and oil paint on cardboard
  • Gift of Louis P. Church

While the primary focus of the museum was pre-19th-century European decorative arts, an exception was made for sketches from American artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, Robert Blum, and Frederic Edwin Church. The Women’s Art School requested that the museum acquire figural drawings. “As quickly as they can be acquired,” Eleanor wrote, “leaves from the note and sketch books of artists of the last half of the 19th century, and the present day, are being placed [on the walls of the corridors and staircases].”

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18435483/

  • Manufactured by Mühlbacher et fils
  • graphite, pen and india ink on bristol board
  • Transfer from the Cooper Union Picture Library

The sisters often traveled in a touring car, driven by a chauffeur, with room for luggage and purchases in a rack on the top. This vintage photograph shows the 1905 Renault Town Car owned by Sarah Hewitt. The plaque on the dashboard reads: “Miss Sarah Cooper Hewitt, 9 Lexington Avenue”; the reverse side reads: “Miss Sarah Cooper Hewitt, Hôtel du Rhin, Place Vendôme, Paris.” The French importer’s plaque reads: “Mühlbacher & Fils, Paris.” The drawing was possibly produced for the Hewitts and intended to be installed on a Renault frame.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18710245/

  • metal foil, silk, thread, paillettes (sequins), paper (book)
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt

Sarah and Eleanor avidly collected buttons as examples of artistry. Eighteenth-century button makers were inventive in their choice of materials, using gold, porcelain, ivory, glass, shell, metallic threads, and other enhancements of fashion.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805750/

  • graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805751/

  • ink on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805752/

  • ink on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

In 1885, Sarah and Eleanor organized the Ladies Amateur Orchestra, which played for at-home and charity events. The orchestra was dubbed “the Musical Maids” and “Swelldom’s Belles” by the press, with Sarah performing as first violinist and Eleanor playing the viola.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805754/

  • ink on bound paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

In 1919, Eleanor was invited to speak about The Cooper Union Museum before the Wednesday Afternoon Club, a women’s literary and social club. She recounted anecdotes about how “two little girls with pigtails” envisioned an educational museum and the building of its collection. The speech, subsequently published as The Making of a Modern Museum, described the philosophy and practice of their museum as a “modern” space of use, in contrast to traditional museum experiences of quiet, static galleries.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805755/

  • ink on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

This receipt details a shopping visit by the Hewitts to Maison Worth in Paris. Once they established the museum, Worth gifted textile samples from the fashion house to be used for study.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805757/

  • ink on paper
  • Ringwood Manor

Eleanor appears on the cover of Once a Week in her costume from the Vanderbilt Ball. The publication described her: “One of the most attractive and popular girls in New York society is Miss Eleanor G. Hewitt. Rarely gifted by nature and most carefully educated, there are few women of her age better suited to take their place in life.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805759/

  • ink on paper
  • Ringwood Manor

Sarah and Eleanor continued the tradition of their parents, hosting weekly gatherings for lively conversation. These cards served as reminders as to when the Hewitts were receiving guests. In 1922, author and socialite, Emily Post, known for her advice on etiquette wrote: “There are a few old-fashioned ladies … where on a certain afternoon of the week, if you come in for tea, you are sure to meet not alone those prominent in the world of fashion, but a fair admixture of artists, scientists, authors, inventors, distinguished strangers—in a word Best Society in its truest sense” (Etiquette in Society).

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805761/

  • silk
  • Ringwood Manor

This evening stocking, from the late 19th century with its rich color preserved, was likely owned by Sarah and worn with a black satin slipper.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805762/

  • ink on paper
  • Ringwood Manor

Sarah and Eleanor’s mother, Sarah Amelia, spent as much time developing the gardens and grounds at Ringwood Manor as she did the home itself. She used to say that she could not paint a picture, but she could make one—and every year she did. She shared her love of landscape and garden design with Eleanor, and together they laid out formal gardens behind the home. Author and friend Elizabeth Duer wrote in 1902 that there was “[a] mysterious charm about the pleasure-grounds of Ringwood. You can find surroundings to fit every mood.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805764/

  • facsimile
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, F142.P2 R564

Four volumes of guestbooks, dating from 1884 to 1932, document the lively activities at Ringwood Manor. Full of signatures, messages, poetry, and colorful artwork, the pages reveal the humorous personalities of guests. Caroline King Duer—poet, editor for the fashion magazine Vogue, and friend of Sarah and Eleanor—made numerous contributions to the guestbooks, including this amusing illustration.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805766/

  • ink on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, SIA Record Unit 267, Box 14, Series 10

Following the example of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Eleanor created encyclopedic reference charts, which classified in detail architecture and decorative arts into centuries, countries, and periods. Volunteers helped compile almost 1,000 scrapbooks with images of many aspects of the decorative arts by 1902. These visual references had “practical instructive value” and enriched the holdings of the museum and library.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805767/

  • ink on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, SIA Record Unit 267, Box 14, Series 10

Sarah and Eleanor continued the tradition of their parents, hosting weekly gatherings for lively conversation. These cards served as reminders as to when the Hewitts were receiving guests. In 1922, author and socialite, Emily Post, known for her advice on etiquette wrote: “There are a few old-fashioned ladies … where on a certain afternoon of the week, if you come in for tea, you are sure to meet not alone those prominent in the world of fashion, but a fair admixture of artists, scientists, authors, inventors, distinguished strangers—in a word Best Society in its truest sense” (Etiquette in Society).

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805771/

  • ink on paper in metal binders
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, E664 .H5234H49

Eleanor maintained diaries of her travels in Europe and the United States, 23 of which still exist. Each diary documents one city or country and contains facts about cities, notable homes and gardens visited, sketches, photography, and practical travel advice.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805772/

  • ink on paper in metal binders
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, E664 .H5234H49

Eleanor maintained diaries of her travels in Europe and the United States, 23 of which still exist. Each diary documents one city or country and contains facts about cities, notable homes and gardens visited, sketches, photography, and practical travel advice.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805773/

  • ink on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, NC1872 .C66

The Cooper Union Museum’s postcard collection (now held by Smithsonian Libraries and Archives) was amassed by museum staff and volunteers from 1897 to 1990 and ultimately grew to approximately 10,000 cards. This postcard shows the historic Hôtel du Rhin on the Place Vendôme in Paris where the sisters usually stayed.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805774/

  • ink on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, E664 .H5234H49

This map, found between pages of a Paris travel diary, identifies how to travel out of Paris. “Outlets of Paris” was intended to define the major routes by which to exit the city and eliminate “complete disorder” with respect to automobile drivers and cyclists, so that “every mode of transportation adopts the route that is proper to it.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805776/

  • gilt and stamped leather
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, PR2883 .S28

"To give his children pleasure and occupation, [Abram Hewitt] placed within their reach his personal library, delightful histories and historical fiction to fill the minds with the manners and customs of olden times and countries." —Eleanor Hewitt, The Making of a Modern Museum Edward Hewitt wrote in Those Were the Days (1943), “Our mother had an obsession about education. She felt we should waste no time during the whole year but have lessons in the summer.” One of the many ways their father supported this was through giving books to his children covering a range of topics from the arts to the sciences.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805777/

  • engraving on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, PZ7 .C45

"To give his children pleasure and occupation, [Abram Hewitt] placed within their reach his personal library, delightful histories and historical fiction to fill the minds with the manners and customs of olden times and countries." —Eleanor Hewitt, The Making of a Modern Museum Edward Hewitt wrote in Those Were the Days (1943), “Our mother had an obsession about education. She felt we should waste no time during the whole year but have lessons in the summer.” One of the many ways their father supported this was through giving books to his children covering a range of topics from the arts to the sciences.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805779/

  • graphite on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, SIA Record Unit 267, Box 14, Series 10

Eleanor was meticulous and organized in all her endeavors, including this list of instructions for proper packing of purchased objects for the museum’s collection.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805780/

  • hand-colored engraving, brush and watercolor on paper
  • Smithsonian Libraries, QL405 .A213

"To give his children pleasure and occupation, [Abram Hewitt] placed within their reach his personal library, delightful histories and historical fiction to fill the minds with the manners and customs of olden times and countries." —Eleanor Hewitt, The Making of a Modern Museum Edward Hewitt wrote in Those Were the Days (1943), “Our mother had an obsession about education. She felt we should waste no time during the whole year but have lessons in the summer.” One of the many ways their father supported this was through giving books to his children covering a range of topics from the arts to the sciences.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805781/

  • reproduction
  • Collection of Edward Parmee

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805782/

  • reproduction
  • Collection of Edward Parmee

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805784/

  • reproduction
  • Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

The Cooper-Hewitt family lived together at 9 Lexington Avenue near Gramercy Park in New York City. The house contained 35 rooms, including a large library and gymnasium. In 1883, architect Stanford White renovated the mansion to include a new music room and private theater. The Hewitts appeared in the newspapers and magazines for their at-home musicales, clever costume suppers, and dances with imaginative themes. Sarah and Eleanor were strongly influenced by their family, following similar passions in education, philanthropy, and art. They also shared the family's anti-women's suffrage stance in the decades leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the same right to vote as men.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805785/

  • gelatin silver print
  • Collection of the Museum of the City of New York, X2010.11.10183

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805786/

  • reproduction
  • Ringwood Manor

Ringwood Manor, the Hewitt country home in New Jersey, was located on 22,000 acres in the Ramapo Mountains. From June through the fall of each year, the family hosted friends, artists, politicians, and other distinguished guests for weekends of sport, festivity, and relaxation. The Ringwood guestbooks (presented in this gallery) are testimonials of the lively times experienced with the Hewitts. Ringwood Manor is open today as part of Ringwood State Park and administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805788/

  • reproduction
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805789/

  • reproduction
  • Collection of Edward Parmee

The Vanderbilt Ball, planned by Alva Vanderbilt in 1883, was a defining event of Gilded-Age New York. The Washington Post called the event “A Bewildering Display of Wealth and Bizarreric.” Sarah appears in a Persian princess costume, wearing a blue brocade robe trimmed with fur and pearls, crimson girdle, belt, and turban. Costume balls of the Gilded Age were lavish events for the wealthy, and costume stereotyping of cultures was common. This practice is considered harmful today because it can diminish the meaning of cultural dress.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805791/

  • silk
  • Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the Princess Viggo in accordance with the wishes of the Misses Hewitt, 1931, 2009.300.635a,b

This evening gown was designed for Eleanor for a formal evening event. In a 1931 Vogue article titled “The Undying Quality of Style,” friend Caroline King Duer described the Hewitts’ fashion collection: “In the Hewitt family, their costumes were carefully preserved: opera-cloaks, ball-dresses, dinner gowns, outdoor costumes of all kinds—the wardrobes of these New York Ladies were all put away, year after year, to make the very interesting collection left by the Misses Hewitt to their niece, Princess Viggo, for distribution to various museums.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805792/

  • monitor
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives and Ringwood Manor

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805793/

  • reproduction
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, also known as Cooper Institute, was founded by Peter Cooper in 1859 as a free school for young men and women of all backgrounds and “forever devoted to the advancement of science and art, in their application to the varied and useful purposes in life.” Peter Cooper, who grew up poor with little formal education, amassed great wealth as an inventor and industrialist and devoted his life to education and philanthropy. Sarah and Eleanor cared about women’s education and employment opportunities and carried this thinking into the mission of the museum, making it free and accessible to students, professionals, and the general public.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805794/

  • reproduction
  • © MAD, Paris - Christophe Dellière

These photographs were a gift from Sarah and Eleanor to thank the Directors of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for their advice. A note from the Hewitts, found tucked in a volume in the Union Centrale Arts Décoratifs archive stated, “The Misses Hewitt beg to tender their sincere thanks to the Directors of the Arts Décoratifs, for having kindly allowed them to model the New York Museum after it, and also for having given necessary information and documents, we are most grateful.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805795/

  • reproduction
  • © MAD, Paris - Christophe Dellière

These photographs were a gift from Sarah and Eleanor to thank the Directors of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for their advice. A note from the Hewitts, found tucked in a volume in the Union Centrale Arts Décoratifs archive stated, “The Misses Hewitt beg to tender their sincere thanks to the Directors of the Arts Décoratifs, for having kindly allowed them to model the New York Museum after it, and also for having given necessary information and documents, we are most grateful.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805796/

  • reproduction
  • © MAD, Paris - Christophe Dellière

These photographs were a gift from Sarah and Eleanor to thank the Directors of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for their advice. A note from the Hewitts, found tucked in a volume in the Union Centrale Arts Décoratifs archive stated, “The Misses Hewitt beg to tender their sincere thanks to the Directors of the Arts Décoratifs, for having kindly allowed them to model the New York Museum after it, and also for having given necessary information and documents, we are most grateful.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805798/

  • reproduction from cellulose nitrate negative
  • Collection of the Museum of the City of New York, X2010.7.5793

“The fame of the Encyclopaedic Scrap Books . . . now numbering over one thousand volumes” is well known for “its practical instructive value,” and the fact “that both rare and expensive books had been taken apart and remade in a new order to render them more available for study,” Eleanor explained. Scrapbooks of images were available to visitors throughout the galleries to serve as further visual reference. Their organization was informed by Eleanor’s encyclopedic charts and developed from books the sisters purchased abroad.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805800/

  • Designed by House of Worth
  • silk, metal
  • Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the Princess Viggo in accordance with the wishes of the Misses Hewitt, 1931, 2009.300.1708

Sarah’s elegant opera cloak was designed for her by Maison Worth. The textile, titled Tulipes Hollandaises and created by A. M. Gourd & Cie, won a grand prize at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805803/

  • reproduction
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Photographs show students actively engaging with the collection, studying and sketching from works on view. Textiles, which could not be handled, required the invention of display cases with interior sliding panels. The museum primarily served students, professionals, and the general public, and its proximity to the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union meant that many of these student visitors were women.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805804/

  • reproduction
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Photographs show students actively engaging with the collection, studying and sketching from works on view. Textiles, which could not be handled, required the invention of display cases with interior sliding panels. The museum primarily served students, professionals, and the general public, and its proximity to the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union meant that many of these student visitors were women.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805805/

  • reproduction
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

Morris de Camp Crawford, an editor at Women’s Wear Daily, was an advocate for the study of museum collections to forge a new identity in American design, a campaign he called “Designed in America.” In 1916 he responded to a letter from Eleanor indicating alignment with the Cooper Union Museum’s mission: “With you I thoroughly agree that the ancient models of fabric decoration should receive careful consideration by all students of design and the technique of expression be carefully studied.”

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805806/

  • reproduction
  • Ringwood Manor

Founded in 1906 by William Sloane Coffin, the Arts-in-Trade Club was a men’s organization which produced exhibitions of furniture and industrial arts.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805807/

  • reproduction
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

This library, pictured on the cover of the Chronicle, was installed in The Cooper Union Museum in 1932 in memory of Sarah and houses rare books, including the Decloux collection of books of design. The design of the room was based on one in the Versailles Bibliothèque and was originally erected in the Hewitt home at 9 Lexington Avenue.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805808/

  • reproduction
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Photographs of the sisters are rare, but here they are captured by their brother on a family trip to Venice, with their sister Amy, in a gondola.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805809/

  • monitor
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

These photographs were taken after both Sarah and Eleanor died (Eleanor in 1924 from pneumonia and Sarah in 1930) and after their brother Erskine bequeathed 3,300 objects to the museum in 1938. Without access to European interiors and collections, the best way for 20th-century American designers and decorators to learn the history and traditions of their profession was by visiting a museum like the one at Cooper Union.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805810/

  • reproduction
  • Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805811/

  • reproduction
  • New-York Historical Society

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805813/

  • ink on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Town Topics (1885–1937) was a weekly periodical offering gossip, literary reviews, short fiction, sporting news, and financial advice.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805814/

  • reproduction
  • New-York Historical Society

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805815/

  • reproduction
  • New-York Historical Society

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805816/

  • reproduction
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The New Jersey press described Sarah as being “an extremely busy person. She manages a 2,000-acre farm near Tuxedo [Park]. She can shoe her own horses and rides well. She is a practical road builder and has written a book on the subject. She also manages the restaurant in Cooper Union”—evidence of her broad interests and entrepreneurial spirit.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805818/

  • wool, silk, cotton, leather
  • Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brookln Museum, 2009; Gift of the Princess Viggo in accordance with the wishes of the Misses Hewitt, 1931, 2009.300.640a–g

As accomplished equestrians and design enthusiasts, Sarah and Eleanor were always attired in fashionable riding habits.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805820/

  • reproduction
  • Ringwood Manor

Sarah is photographed in a walking suit designed by Maison Worth. The sisters were practical when attending fittings. Maison Worth had a stepladder available so that Sarah and Eleanor could test out the garments they would be wearing during their work in the museum.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805821/

  • reproduction
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

In 1905, Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt and their friend Constance Parsons opened a store called Au Panier Fleuri to sell decorative home accessories inspired by the museum’s collections and designed by students from the Cooper Union Women’s Art School. Its purpose was to offer employment to students who created designs for clients, such as interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe. Au Panier Fleuri was hugely profitable, and, when sold in 1922, its profits created a fund for museum acquisitions, which was used by Cooper Hewitt until 2001.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805823/

  • reproduction from brush and oil on canvas
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Bequest of Erksine Hewitt, 1938-57-737

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805825/

  • reproduction from pastel on paper mounted linen
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Bequest of Erksine Hewitt, 1938-57-890

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805826/

  • reproduction
  • Ringwood Manor

Sarah, right, is dressed in a Louis XVI-style riding jacket from Maison Worth. Eleanor is working on an intricate needlepoint project, her beloved pastime. Their close friend, Caroline King Duer, is seated next to them.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805829/

  • ink on paper
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Declaring “To Architects, Designers, Decorators and Artisans! A Free Museum for the Study of the Arts of Decoration,” this announcement, handwritten by either Sarah or Eleanor and posted at Cooper Union, proclaims the mission of the early museum. It was open Tuesday through Saturday, and in later years stayed open in the evenings to accommodate visitors who worked during the day.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805830/

  • ink on paper
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The floor plan of the museum’s galleries outlines how the space was organized for viewing and studying objects. Eleanor explained, “People come to this museum to learn . . . and the arrangement of the Museum in small sections and with a mass of objects in each . . . does invite comparison and discussion as to material, workmanship, and design.” Emphasizing the functional purpose of this museum, work tables are stationed in many of the galleries. In 1924, the open area in the center was floored over to create more exhibition space for the growing museum.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805831/

  • ink on paper
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Giovanni Piancastelli was an Italian artist and collector, as well as the first director of the Borghese Gallery in Rome. The sisters purchased more than 3,500 works from him for the museum, representing the first significant group of design drawings to enter an American museum collection. In this letter to Sarah, he describes each lot for sale from his collection of drawings.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805832/

  • ink on paper
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Through their travels, Sarah and Eleanor befriended international art collectors and dealers, such as French architect and collector Jean Léon Decloux. Decloux was charmed by the sisters’ “practical attempt to familiarize American artisans with the finest forms of French decorative art. . . . ” He invited the women to his villa in Sèvres, France, to see his collection of largely 18th-century French decorative arts, and they soon initiated a sale of several hundred valuable drawings and furniture mounts to the museum.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805833/

  • ink on bound paper
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

This ledger, maintained by Eleanor, documents purchases of books from the sisters’ travels that were then repurposed to create the encyclopedic visual scrapbooks, following the practice of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The Hewitt sisters modeled their encyclopedic scrapbooks after the Jules Maciet albums in Paris, adapting the concept of a visual library to the needs of their American museum users. Maciet (1846–1911) collected and classified images around an encyclopedic model which covered varied fields of design. When Maciet died in 1911, the library had 3,500 albums.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805834/

  • ink on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Sarah and Eleanor were amateur actresses and playwrights. This program shows the cast in a scene from Alice in Wonderland.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805835/

  • ink on bound paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist and friend of the Hewitt sisters, wrote a document in 1896 titled Proposed Plan of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. She emphasized: “It is as an educator of the public standard of taste that this museum hopes to do its best work . . . by collecting beautiful specimens of art applied to industry.”

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805836/

  • graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805837/

  • graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805838/

  • brush and watercolor, graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805839/

  • brush and watercolor, graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805840/

  • brush and watercolor, graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum

https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805841/

  • brush and watercolor, graphite on paper
  • The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections

Abram Hewitt, a successful businessman, combined business with pleasure by bringing his family on yearly trips to Europe. On these trips, Sarah and Eleanor began collecting books, prints, drawings, and rare textiles. These drawings, created during their travels abroad, depict various locations, as well as design and architectural details. They reflect the sisters’ curiosity and an early interest in the study of art and design.

This object is currently on display in room 201 in Carnegie Mansion.