As a writer, I can tell you there are those moments in even a modest literary career that you never seem to forget: my first book launching party at a little pub called Fitzpatrick’s in Iowa City, my first “Antiques Across America” column that ran for ten years in Country Living magazine, my first Arts and Crafts Conference Catalog, and the first issue of the Arts and Crafts Quarterly, now known as Style 1900.
It was only eight pages long, a rather crude newsletter by today’s standards, and it is lying here beside me on my desk as I write. In his opening statement publisher and editor David Rago made clear his mission: “It is our desire to present a new voice with which to speak of the Arts and Crafts movement… we believe that if the sense of spirit is not considered, along with the physical aspects of a period piece, then the experience is incomplete.”
It was the fall of 1986, the same year that I met David Rago at one of the final Roycroft Arts and Crafts Conferences before the Roycroft Inn closed for an eight-year renovation. I immediately knew two things: first, this publication was going to open doors for Arts and Crafts collectors into rooms that only ‘insider’ East Coast dealers and advanced collectors had been allowed to enter. Second, I wanted to write for it, which I did, starting with the second issue. It didn’t matter that the little newsletter had no source of revenue and couldn’t pay its contributors. We were working together to pry open the doors to a whole new world for all of us.
The Arts and Crafts Quarterly had a profound influence on the Arts and Crafts Conference that I started at the Grove Park Inn in February of 1988. I not only used the Arts and Crafts Quarterly to publicize and promote the Arts and Crafts Conference, but I also knew from reading it that I wanted my conference to explore the “spirit” which David alluded to as much as it encouraged the collecting of Arts and Crafts furniture, art pottery, metalware, books and artwork.
Like the Quarterly and later Style 1900, the Arts and Crafts Conference began providing dedicated and enthusiastic researchers with a means of sharing their discoveries with collectors, and doing so on an equal basis with the discoveries that antiques dealers brought to sell in their booths. Seminars were and have remained at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts Conference, as we lock the doors to the exhibition hall so that collectors and dealers can sit side-by-side in the seminar ballroom, each absorbing all of the information presented by some of the foremost researchers in the field — more than 160 of them in total.
And over the course of the past 26 years I have watched a stream of antiques dealers, collectors, authors, craftsmen and craftswomen come and go at the Grove Park Inn. Some found their calling and have adjusted their schedules each February to always return. Even when David Rago decided to forego his booth in the antiques show to concentrate on his auction business, he still continued to send his staff from Style 1900 to always have a booth in the Books, Magazines & More Show.
If, as it turns out, this happens to be the final year that Style 1900 makes an appearance at the national Arts and Crafts Conference, it will be a sad day for all Arts and Crafts collectors. We can always hope that one of the other publications will expand the number of pages they allot to research and scholarship, but like all print publications they, too, are faced with the same challenges that David Rago and the staff at Style 1900 have been battling. Ideally, someone will step forward to purchase Style 1900, someone who can devote the time and attention any publication would require in order to become and remain profitable. I can state that it won’t be me, simply because it is taking all of the time and energy I have to keep the annual Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference fresh and relevant for you, and to try to keep this website in business. One more iron in the fire and my fire is likely to go out.
As our spokesman Bob Dylan proclaimed in 1964, “the times they are a-changin’.” Regardless what happens to Style 1900, the role that David Rago and his staff have played in gaining widespread national recognition and acceptance of the Arts and Crafts movement at a critical time in its revival will never be forgotten.
Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman ran for 15 years before being pulled under by a series of poor financial decisions.
David Rago’s Style 1900 has given us 26 years, and we can only hope that its run is not yet over.
Until next Monday,
“Leave no regrets behind.”