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Bradstreet, John Scott (1845–1914)

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Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet ca. 1900.

John S. Bradstreet ca. 1900.

John Scott Bradstreet was a key tastemaker in early twentieth century Minnesota. As a designer of objects and interiors, he shaped the aesthetic tastes and parlors of the Twin Cities. Beyond his retail operations, Bradstreet’s work as an organizer and booster of the fine arts in Minneapolis was central to the development of art exhibitions and societies, and eventually led to the founding of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Bradstreet was born on December 14, 1845, in Rowley, Massachusetts. In 1873, he moved to Minneapolis and began working for the furniture firm Barnard, Clark, and Cope. At the time, local decorative tastes tended toward the complicated flourishes of late Victorianism. Within a decade, Bradstreet would strongly influence these tastes and position himself at the center of the art world of Minnesota.

The furniture sold by Barnard, Clark, and Cope was too old-fashioned and too ordinary for Bradstreet’s growing aesthetic vision. Bradstreet opened his own furniture store in 1875, selling furniture and decorations more in line with his interest in the Gothic Revival and English Arts and Crafts styles. After closing his store, he opened another in 1878, with Edmund Phelps, and another with different partners in 1884.

Bradstreet split from his partners in the 1890s and started the solo operation John S. Bradstreet and Company in 1901. By then, Bradstreet’s interests had turned decidedly to the arts of Asia—Japan in particular. In 1903, Bradstreet’s showroom moved to an Italian-inspired residence on South Seventh Street. The building didn’t remain Italian inspired for long.

Japan was the inspiration for the remodeled building, called the Minneapolis Crafthouse. The Crafthouse was Bradstreet’s gallery, sale floor, and museum. Aesthetically-minded Twin Citians crowded the rooms, and soon it became a tourist destination and cultural center for lectures and exhibitions. By the end of the decade, it was a large operation, with about eighty employees handling imports and creating objets de art, furniture, ceramics, and lighting fixtures.

Visitors entered the Japanese-inspired grounds through a Japanese-style gate. The walls of the main hall were covered with Japanese frescoes, draped with imported gold textiles, and hung with paintings, prints, and carvings. The showroom next door was massive (fifty-six feet long) and stuffed with Bradstreet’s own pieces, reproductions of antiques, and imported Moorish, Middle Eastern, European, and Asian antiques.

Of all that was displayed in the Crafthouse, Bradstreet is best known for his favorite and most distinctive product, a line of Japanese-inspired furniture and decorative objects called jin-di-sugi. His jin-di-sugi work was a synthesis of a Japanese carving technique with the American Arts and Crafts style, resulting in a distinctive curvilinear look based in natural forms. Today, many of the objects that once crowded the Crafthouse are recognized as part of American art history.

Bradstreet was also a major player in the development of public art in Minnesota. In 1878, a hotel in Minneapolis hosted the city’s first real art exhibition. Bradstreet, enthusiastic about spreading the gospel of art and able to levy his relationships with the city’s elite, was involved with organizing and putting on the exhibition. His collection even provided an entire room filled with Asian art.

Acting as a promoter, an organizer, a lender, and a donor for art in Minneapolis continued to be central to Bradstreet’s life. He was involved with the founding of the Minneapolis Fine Arts Society in 1883, with the many exhibitions put on by the Society, and, in 1915, with the founding of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Bradstreet didn’t live to see the opening of the Institute. On August 10, 1914, he died in Minneapolis. Five months later, the John Scott Bradstreet Memorial Room opened with the rest of the Institute on January 7, 1915.

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John S. Bradstreet Collection, 1886–1994
James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Public Library, St. Paul
Description: Materials documenting Bradstreet’s life and career.
http://www.hclib.org/~/media/Hennepin%20Library/Programs%20and%20Services/Finding%20aids/1994-10-bradstreet-john-s.pdf

Conforti, Michael, and Jennifer Komar. “Bradstreet’s Crafthouse: Retailing in an Arts and Crafts Style.” In Art and Life on the Upper Mississippi, 1890-1915: Minnesota 1900, edited by Michael Conforti, 63–91. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1994.

“Fine Collection in Its New Home.” Minneapolis Journal, January 30, 1904.

Gihring, Tim. “His Portrait Has Been Restored. Now to Restore the Memory of John S. Bradstreet: MIA Founder, Craftsman, and the Twin Cities’ Original Tastemaker.” Mia Stories, Minneapolis Institute of Art, June 16, 2014.
http://new.artsmia.org/stories/his-portrait-has-been-restored-now-to-restore-the-memory-of-john-s-bradstreet-mia-founder-craftsman-and-the-twin-cities-original-tastemaker/

Hatler, Carrie. “John Scott Bradstreet: The Apostle of Good Taste.” Forgotten Minnesota, February 25, 2015.
http://forgottenminnesota.com/2015/02/john-s-bradstreet-the-apostle-of-good-taste

Sik, Sarah. “John Scott Bradstreet: The Minneapolis Crafthouse and the Decorative Arts Revival in the American Northwest.” Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth Century Visual Culture, 1, no. 2 (Autumn 2002).
http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/autumn02/64-spring05/spring05article/301-john-scott-bradstreet-and-the-decorative-arts-revival-in-america

Related Images

Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet ca. 1900.
Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet ca. 1900.
Black and white photograph of Phelps and Bradstreet, Nicollet between Fourth and Fifth, Minneapolis, ca. 1880.
Black and white photograph of Phelps and Bradstreet, Nicollet between Fourth and Fifth, Minneapolis, ca. 1880.
Douglas Volk. Portrait of John Scott Bradstreet, ca. 1890, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Douglas Volk. Portrait of John Scott Bradstreet, ca. 1890, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Black and white photograph of the showroom at Bradstreet, Thurber & Company, 513 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1891.
Black and white photograph of the showroom at Bradstreet, Thurber & Company, 513 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1891.
Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet and Company, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1910.
Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet and Company, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1910.
Colorized exterior view of John S. Bradstreet and Company, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1910.
Colorized exterior view of John S. Bradstreet and Company, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1910.
Oil on canvas painting of John S. Bradstreet. Painting by Edwin Hawley Hewitt, 1913.
Oil on canvas painting of John S. Bradstreet. Painting by Edwin Hawley Hewitt, 1913.
Black and white photograph of the Bradstreet House, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1918.
Black and white photograph of the Bradstreet House, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1918.
Black and white photograph of the garden of the Bradstreet House, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1918.
Black and white photograph of the garden of the Bradstreet House, 327 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, ca. 1918.
Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet and Sam Trubshaw (one of his designers) in the Crafthouse Japanese garden, ca. 1910.
Black and white photograph of John S. Bradstreet and Sam Trubshaw (one of his designers) in the Crafthouse Japanese garden, ca. 1910.
Arts and Crafts cypress cabinet designed by John Scott Bradstreet in 1904.
Arts and Crafts cypress cabinet designed by John Scott Bradstreet in 1904.
Exhibition room at the Minneapolis Institute of Art featuring objects designed by John S. Bradstreet and Company, including a green velvet window curtain with matching valance, ca. 1904.
Exhibition room at the Minneapolis Institute of Art featuring objects designed by John S. Bradstreet and Company, including a green velvet window curtain with matching valance, ca. 1904.
John Scott Bradstreet, Lotus Table, ca. 1903–1907, cypress wood, Minneapolis Institute of Art.
John Scott Bradstreet, Lotus Table, ca. 1903–1907, cypress wood, Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Color image of a Japanese bronze Amida Buddha, undated.
Color image of a Japanese bronze Amida Buddha, undated.

Turning Point

The Minneapolis Crafthouse opens in January of 1904.

Chronology

1845

Bradstreet is born in Rowley, Massachusetts, on December 14.

1873

Bradstreet arrives in Minneapolis.

1875

Bradstreet opens Phelps and Bradstreet Furniture and Upholstery on the Syndicate Block of Minneapolis.

1878

On September 25, an exhibition of art loaned by the collectors of Minneapolis is held in the Brigham House Hotel. Bradstreet is instrumental in organizing the exhibition.

1883

Bradstreet is a founding member of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, formed on January 31. The society's first exhibition of fine art opens in November.

1884

Edmund Phelps sells his interest in Phelps and Bradstreet Furniture and Upholstery. The Thurber family buys Phelps’ shares and the business becomes Bradstreet, Thurber & Company.

1893

A fire breaks out at Bradstreet, Thurber & Company. The partnership dissolves and Bradstreet begins operating under his own name.

1901

John S. Bradstreet and Company is incorporated.

1904

The Minneapolis Crafthouse opens on January 30.

1914

Bradstreet dies on August 10.

1915

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts opens on January 7. The John Scott Bradstreet Memorial Room is featured on the second floor.