The House that Welcomes the World

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the past month I have met two sisters from Ireland, a family from the Czech Republic, a couple from New Zealand, and students from Japan and China. Although it sounds like I was visiting the United Nations, I was volunteering at the Dana-Thomas House. From the beginning, the house has welcomed visitors from around the world, and Susan’s first international visitor was especially interesting.

I note in her biography, Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House, that the first recorded social event in the Lawrence House was described in the October 3, 1904, issue of the Springfield News when Susan hosted a dinner party for out-of-town guests. The diners included visitors from Madison, Mississippi; Springfield, Ohio; Oakland, California; New York, New York; and Vienna, Austria.

According to the newspaper story, the gentleman from Austria was “Dr. Paul Cohn of Vienna, Austria, editor of the Vienna Die Zeit, and chairman of the jury of awards, group 13 of the Fine Arts Building at the St. Louis Fair.” I could find no connection between Dr. Cohn and Die Zeit in my Google search for him, but I did find that he was a man of many other interests. For example, one of the events at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was an International Congress of Arts and Sciences, and the American Library Association (ALA) hosted a library section within that Congress from October 17 to 22, 1904. The ALA “Papers and Proceedings” of that conference reported that the president of ALA appointed Dr. Paul Cohn, a professor of the Technical Industrial Museum of Vienna, Honorary Vice President of that Congress along with other foreign dignitaries.

Furthermore, an article in the June 9, 1906, New York Times discusses two papers which Dr. Cohn wrote after he returned to Austria from the St. Louis Fair. One was a study of the educational system in the United States, and the other was a report to the Austrian Minister of Commerce on the state of the chemical industry in this country. Click here for his conclusions. Finally, I found that Dr. Cohn was a life member of the yacht club in Nice, France. In 1907 he owned two sloops and a yacht and claimed his own private signal (a horizontally divided red and black flag).

This journalist, art critic, librarian, educator, chemist, and mariner has to be one of the most intriguing individuals to have visited the Lawrence/Dana-Thomas House from any country. Perhaps it’s just the current James Bond resurgence that is infecting my imagination, but I am conjuring up visions of a wealthy international spy. Susan certainly had interesting men in her life.

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