Monday, July 22, 2013


This week we have another offering from Architecture and Design Magazine from 1937.  Here are J.D. Toloff's photos of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Egon Lederer of Winnetka, Illinois:

According to the 1937 Winnetka City Directory, Jack Egon Lederer lived at 474 Sheridan Road, in Winnetka.  Jack was an immigrant from Czechosolvakia, and was a "women's apparel salesman."  Very few women's apparel salesmen could afford a house like this.  Lederer's obituary from 1972 said that he was vice president of The Rothmoor Corp., a clothing manufacturing firm, and that his wife Greta owned Greta Lederer, Inc., a house building company.  They had two daughters, Jacqueline and Linda.   

Here's the front of 474 Sheridan Road in 1937:

and here it is in 2007:

Looks like they took out the long entry walk and put in a circular driveway.  Still looks pretty good to me.  Thanks to the artistry of J.D. Toloff, we have a snapshot in time of this beautiful home.

Monday, July 15, 2013


For this week's Toloff selection we will accompany him to the wedding of Martha Elisabeth Pape and Charles Joseph Bleidt on May 11, 1921. Charles was a widower but this was Martha's first marriage so they pulled out all the stops.  And who better to memorialize the day than the premier photographer of the North Shore, J.D. Toloff:

I think it is interesting that in so may of the "posed" photographs of the era there are ferns in the background.

Here's the bride in front of two fern arrangements:

Obviously there was a lot of money spent on this wedding, and everything had to be perfect.  J.D. Toloff certainly did his part to make the day unforgettable.

How did things turn out for Charles and Martha?  Pretty well, from the looks of it.  They had two children: Mary Jane (1924-1965) and John (1929-1973).  Charles died in 1959 at the age of 89; Martha died in 1981 at the age of 90.

Special thanks to Amanda Pape and Bill Parker for allowing me to use the Toloff photos of their family for this article.  Amanda has a fascinating blog about her family that is a must-read for anyone interested in Evanston history.  You can find it at:  

Monday, July 8, 2013


This week we have another offering from Architecture and Design Magazine from 1937.  Here are J.D. Toloff's photos of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Platt of Winnetka, Illinois:

According to the 1940 Census, the Platts lived at 221 Winnetka Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois.  Mr. Platt was the Director of an advertising company.  The Platts had four sons:  Robert, John Jr., James and William, and a live-in servant Letitia Ward.  The put the value of their house at $35,000.00 (!!!).  

Here's the front of the house again from 1937:

and here it is today:

I'm glad to see that not much has changed.  Thanks to J.D. Toloff for another masterpiece.

Monday, July 1, 2013

TED SHAWN as "Pan" by J.D. Toloff

Several weeks ago I featured J.D. Toloff's photos of noted dancer Ruth St. Denis as "The Peacock".  In my writeup I mentioned that Ruth St. Denis was 1/2 of Denishawn.  Denishawn was a School of Dancing and its Related Arts, and also a Dance Company.  This week's Toloff feature is from the other 1/2 of Denishawn - Ted Shawn.  Ted Shawn was, without a doubt, the greatest male dancer who ever lived.  A short biography of Ted Shawn can be found here:

Here is a vintage advertisement for Denishawn (photos not by Toloff):

And here for your enjoyment from 1914 is Ted Shawn as the god '"Pan" by J.D. Toloff:

Ted Shawn as "Pan" by J.D. Toloff

I have also seen the photo in black and white:

I don't know if Toloff added the tinting, or it was added by someone else.
The glory that was Denishawn lives on today at Jacob's Pillow, in Becket, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires.  Jacob's Pillow is a dance school, retreat, and theater founded by Ted Shawn.  There is a good writeup on Jacob's Pillow here:
J.D. Toloff has left us many fine examples of the versatility of his work.  His photos are superb whether taken indoors or out.  The man was truly an artist.

Monday, June 24, 2013


For this week's Toloff selection, we will return to the Architecture and Design Magazine from 1937 (Volume I, No. 2) featuring homes from the North Shore by J.D. Toloff, F.R.P.S.

This time we will offer photographs of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Lou G. Kailer, in Evanston, Illinois.

According to the 1940 Census, the Kailers lived at 2030 McDaniel Avenue in Evanston.  

Here's the front of the house again in 1937:

and here's how it looks today:

According to the Census, Mr. Kailer was an automobile dealer.  Further research shows that Louis G. Kailer was a co-founder of the Kailer-Youngquist Oldsmobile dealership, 4925 N. Broadway, in Chicago.

Good taste is always in style at:

Monday, June 17, 2013


I have mentioned before that J.D. Toloff photographed the famous, and "just plain folks".  This week's selection fits in both of those categories: Charles Gates Dawes of Evanston, Illinois.  Dawes was the Vice President of the United States (1925–1929) under President Calvin Coolidge.  He was also the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. An excellent summation of the life and works of Charles Gates Dawes can be found here:

But to the people of Evanston, Illinois he was just another citizen who they saw on the street, at church or Evanston civic events.  So it was not unexpected that Dawes should approach the "Photographer De Luxe for the North Shore" J.D. Toloff to have his portrait taken.  Here is the result:

If you take a close look at the photo you can appreciate Toloff's photographic talents.   Parts of the photo are soft focus, some are sharply clear.  Part of Dawes' face is in shadow, part in a light that is almost harsh.  But through it all, you are drawn to the sharp, non-wavering gaze of his piercing eyes.

Toloff has left us a piece of history, and a work of art.

Monday, June 10, 2013


This week's selection is a little different from the Toloff works I have posted so far.  In addition to photographing weddings and portraits of the citizens of the North Shore, Toloff also photographed the famous. Here are two photos of noted danseuse Ruth St. Denis from "The Peacock":

The Peacock Dance is based on an Indian legend of a woman who is turned into a peacock because of her extreme vanity.

Here is a brief biography of Ruth St. Denis from the Jacob's Pillow website (

A cigarette poster changed Ruth St. Denis' (1879-1968) life in 1906, an unlikely event which eventually altered the course of modern dance in America.  She was then an eccentric showgirl named Ruth Dennis, touring through Buffalo in David Belasco's theater company.  When she spotted an advertisement for Egyptian Deities in a Buffalo drugstore, the image of the goddess Iris conjured up the idea of a new kind of dance-theater which might tell the entire story of a civilization through movement.

Within a few months, she had emerged as Ruth St. Denis in a solo concert on Broadway, inaugurating a decade of triumphs in various exotic dances fashioned from the folklore of Japan, China, and India. Although these dances sprang from a deep spirituality, St. Denis later confessed, "I knew that all the time I was dancing about God and Faith and the Spirit, most of the audience was only looking at my bare feet and my revealing costume."  She was sketched by Rodin, courted by Stanford White, admired by Martha Graham (who would become her student) and pursued by Ted Shawn (who became both her partner and her husband).

Any performance by "Miss Ruth" was distinguished by her remarkable stage presence.  Her solos are difficult to reproduce, as they demand charisma, deft manipulation of costumes and props, and a profound belief in the mystical power of the dances.  Through Denishawn (1914-1929), the company and school she founded with Ted Shawn, St. Denis made her greatest impact on audiences and on a generation of disciples including Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.  The visions stimulated by that cigarette poster were allowed to take shape in the elaborate spectacles staged by Denishawn.

The dissolution of Denishawn led St. Denis deeper into her spiritual nature and into long periods of artistic oblivion, resulting in such desperate measures as working the graveyard shift in an aircraft factory.  Her long life accommodated a number of declines and resurgences, with most of the latter supplied by Shawn through regular stints at Jacob's Pillow, beginning with a revival of Radha in 1941. She continued to dance well into her eighties, characterizing her later performances with an unusually modest self-assessment: "I move with remembered beauty."  St. Denis died in 1968, and her portrait still hangs beside the proscenium in the Ted Shawn Theatre.  

Monday, June 3, 2013


This week's Toloff photo is another ebay find, which means that I know nothing about the subject of the photograph:

The image is 5 3/4" x 7 3/4", and it is printed on a 10" x 13" heavy stock paper with a matte finish.  The photo has been signed in the lower right corner by J.D. Toloff as was his custom.

Here is a closeup of the image:

From the makeup and hairdo of the subject, I would guess this photo was taken in the late 1940s or early 1950s.  J.D. Toloff retired in 1955.

As always, if you know anything more about the photo or the subject, please let me know.

Monday, May 27, 2013


In 1937, J.D. Toloff was approached by noted North Shore home builder Clarence A. Hemphill, who was based in Evanston, Illinois. Hemphill had been told that Architecture and Design magazine was going to do a complete issue about Hemphill homes in suburban Chicagoland and since Hemphill wanted nothing but the best, he asked J.D. Toloff to do the photography for the magazine.  Toloff was delighted.

The result was Archiecture and Design magazine (Volume I, No. 2): 

with "Photographs by J.D. Toloff, F.R.P.S.":

Many deluxe homes from Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka and Kenilworh were featured, with the largest spread devoted to Hemphill's own Kenilworth home.  Toloff's photos of Hemphill's home are the photos I will feature this week:

 Another set of Toloff Masterpieces!

Monday, May 20, 2013


This week's Toloff selection is another photograph of a private individual, but unlike last week's entry, we know who the subject of this week's photo is.  Her name is Martha Elisabeth Pape, and she lived in Evanston, Illinois.  She decided to have a formal photo taken - perhaps for a beau? - so she went for a sitting with the premier photographer of the North Shore, J.D. Toloff.  The person who provided these photos said that they were taken around 1916, so Toloff would have been in his studio at 1623 Orrington Avenue.

Toloff often advertised that he would take photos "On your grounds" but it is obvious that these photos were taken in his studio in front of an artificial backdrop - looks like a tapestry.  So, here are the two photos of Martha by J.D. Toloff:

These photos are just as crisp and beautiful as new, although they were taken almost one hundred years ago.

Martha must have liked the results because she used Toloff again as a photographer - this time for her wedding.  However, we'll save those photos for another time.

Special thanks to Amanda Pape and Bill Parker for allowing me to use the photos of Martha Elisabeth Pape for this article.  Amanda has a fascinating blog about her family that is a must-read for anyone interested in Evanston history.  You can find it at:

Monday, May 13, 2013


This week's Toloff photo is an ebay find, which means that I know nothing about the subject of the photo.  The image is of a man with a mustache and wearing glasses.  The photo itself is 4 1/4" x 6 1/4", printed on  9" x 12 3/4" heavy mat, with a tissue-paper covering.

On the back of the photo is inscribed in pencil: "Happy Birthday Howard, From Clinton"

This photo came with the original J.D. Toloff envelope, containing Toloff's monogram:

That is all I know about this Toloff photo.  Many of the photos I will be featuring on this blog I will have to post with little or no information known about them.  If anyone reading this has any more information about this photo, please contact me, and I will add it to the blog.