Treasures and factoids from the C&C Archives abound during our Centennial year. Learn something new about our historic, groundbreaking and always interesting school. Come back often… we’ll be digging into our past and looking at the future with new tidbits.
William and Marguerite Zorach were known for their pioneering work in early American Modernism and their children attended C&C in its earliest years, recruited personally by Caroline Pratt. William also became the School’s founding Art Teacher and his daughter Dahlov Ipcar (’31) is known and celebrated for her work in painting, design and children’s book illustration.
William Zorach also taught at the Art Student League, as did famed regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. Benton’s children attended C&C and the family became close to Caroline Pratt and her partner Helen Marot, with whom they were neighbors at their summer homes on Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, Pratt sat for a panel, City Activities with Dancehall, of a well-known Benton mural, America Today, 1930–31. Pratt can be seen on the bottom right attending to a child. The Pollock brothers studied with Thomas Hart Benton, and Jackson was also a close personal friend of Helen Marot. See below “Did You Know” on the Pollocks at C&C.
In the 1920s and 1930s, City and Country published a series of nonfiction books on topics related to everyday life through time. For instance, “The Story of Bread” opens with the experiences of early colonists in the Americas, and concludes with a description of mechanized breadmaking in the modern 1920s. Below is a description of the series, as well as images of the books we have in our collection. There are many more we don’t have however, such as the stories of Music, Iron and Steel, Light, and the Water Supply.
“Several hundred parents who thought they were combining a good deed with a little harmless fun suffered a rude shock yesterday when the fair of the Parents Association of the City and Country School, one of the best known progressive, experimental private schools in the country, was raided by the police.”
– New York Times, May 20, 1946. Read the full article here.
The Fair’s purpose was to raise funds for scholarships, and was known for a true party atmosphere, with performances by the writers and stage actors of the time, “Pratt’s Bar,” and late night gambling (losses going to the scholarship fund) including roulette and slot machines—confiscated by the police! Tuition costs ranged from $275-$525 annually. The Fair usually raised around $2,000.
In the early 1930s, Jackson Pollock and Sanford Pollock worked at City and Country as janitors, while their brother and fellow artist, Charles Pollock, taught art. The Pollock brothers had studied with C&C parent and famed muralist Thomas Hart Benton, and Jackson was also a close personal friend of Caroline Pratt’s partner, Helen Marot.
Pratt wrote to Jackson Pollock after the sudden death of Helen Marot in 1940, which affected them both deeply. Read the letter here. She also sent a congratulatory note to him during his solo show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York in 1943. Read it here. The letters are made available digitally by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984.
Read more about the Pollocks and their relationships with C&C and Helen Marot in Jackson Pollock: A Biography By Deborah Solomon here, and Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s By Michael Leja here.
“The first essential for this development is a rich and full program. The second is ample time, quiet and freedom. Time, quiet and freedom to paint, model, dance, sing and dramatize so that the child may bring to fruition an emotion or fleeting image which may have started yesterday in the classroom discussion or the week before while on a trip to the river with its whistling tugs and strange excitement.”
– Charles Pollock, Art in an Experimental School
Pratt’s excerpt in the “honor roll” of 1939: “Caroline Pratt, founder of the City and Country School, whose devotion to the principles of progressive education won their acceptance in the reorganization of a number of public schools in New York State.” She was listed alongside First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and writers John Steinbeck and Carl Sandburg, among others.
JBMK, the C&C Yard favorite, stands for Jail Ball Max Kostow, and is named for its inventor!
In 1997, Max’s IXs Group was frustrated with traditional Jail Ball, in which each person in jail has to free themselves. The result was a game that dragged out for the entire Yard period, with half of the kids stuck in jail the whole time. Max suggested changing the rules, so that everyone in jail was freed when just one person pegged an opposing team member from jail. Max writes:
Within a week…every single time we were in Yard we voted for JBMK. Morning Yard, Yard, Afterschool Yard; we couldn’t wait to play JBMK!… It’s really amazing to me that JBMK has lasted this long. Being passed down from class to class for 16 years, it’s probably one of my greatest contributions to the world at this point in my life.
Max, we couldn’t agree more!
Read Max’s full recollection of the evolution of JB to JBMK here.
“A child can put them together in an almost unlimited number of combinations and make them express his most complex inspiration.”
Read the full article here.
During the War, there was a scarcity of materials and labor. C&C students formed repair squads to fix home appliances during Shop. The work of the C&C student repair squads was documented in this WWII newsreel in 1942. Click the arrow on the video to view this fascinating footage!
Attention: Alumni! Email us at email@example.com if you know anything about the repair squads or someone who was featured in the film.
Until 1925, there was in fact a river that ran through the River Yard!
Children helped design and build this canal with their science teacher in 1921. They built models of cities along its shores, and sailed their handmade wooden boats from end to end.
From 1917 until 1923, the School owned a farm in Hopewell Junction, NY. Children worked the farm, studied science, and enjoyed time outside the city.
The tradition continues today with the IXs Country Trip.
Caroline Pratt developed unit blocks in 1913 for her students at the Hartley Settlement House. They formed the core of the program when she opened the Play School the following year. As she was developing ideas for her new school, she envisioned a community of children who could reproduce the world and its functioning and she sought a flexible and adaptable material that children could use to do it.
Wooden unit blocks are one of the basic materials used every day by children in Lower School Groups at City and Country School and in homes and classrooms around the world. Read more about the C&C Blocks Program here.
After getting her degree from Teachers College, Pratt taught woodworking and shop to other teachers, as well as to children at Hartley House, a settlement house on the West side.
Working with wood has always been central to the C&C program, allowing children to reinvent their world and studies through the design and construction of useful and creative objects.
Read more about C&C’s commitment to woodworking here.
14 MacDougal Alley, the site of the School from 1916-1921. “PLAY SCHOOL” is seen in paint at the front entrance to the School. The name changed to City and Country School around 1921, at the request of the children.