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.