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Guide to the Ethel Dean papers, probably 1925 - circa 1950s

Collection Overview

Kellen Design Archives
Creator - Designer
Dean, Ethel
Ethel Dean papers, probably 1925 - circa 1950s
3 linear ft
Class notes and a clip book documenting decorative styles compiled by Ethel Epstein (who later used the surnames Dean and Evans) when she was a student at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts (later, Parsons The New School for Design) in the Interior Architecture and Decoration Department, around 1925-1926. Textile and wallpaper samples designed by her, probably dating from the 1950s. Also, a portfolio of her costume design drawings for the Broadway production, "The Laughing Woman" (1936).

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Biographical note

A resident of Yonkers, New York, Ethel Epstein attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now, Parsons The New School for Design) from 1924 to 1926. She studied Interior Architecture and Decoration. Her third year coursework was completed in the school's Paris Ateliers. She later worked as a textile designer, creating wallpaper designs for such firms as Thibaut.

Sometime after attending the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, she changed her surname, as did her cartoonist brother Abner, from Epstein to Dean. At other times in her life, she was known as Ethel Evans, the surname used by another sibling who worked for Radio City Music Hall, and by their widowed mother. Ethel Epstein/Dean/Evans lived in New York City and died sometime before 1982.


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Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection consists of Ethel Epstein/Dean's student work in the form of notebooks, a clip book of decorative styles and photographs of French cathedrals, and samples of her professional work in the fields of costume and textile design.

Of particular interest in the Student work series are class notes from lectures titled “Business Practices in Interior Decoration” given by famed interior decorator Eleanor McMillen Brown. The clip book illustrates decorative styles with postcards and clippings, accompanied by handwritten annotations about French and Italian architecture, furnishings, and artists. It also includes a hand-written bibliography.

Professional work is primarily composed of textile design drawings, prints, and samples. Notations on the backs of some prints -- primarily prints of floral designs, although several depict abstract motifs -- indicate that Dean sold the designs to manufacturers such as A. H. Jacobs, Thibaut, and Wall Trends. Costume design drawings are rendered in ink, pencil, and watercolor. Although many drawings feature descriptions of the outfits, there is no identifying information regarding the production for which Dean created it. The exception is three folders of costume design drawings for a production of Gordon Daviot's (pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh) "The Laughing Woman." The production, staged by a possible relation, Alexander Dean, ran for 23 performances at the John Golden Theater, New York, in the fall of 1936.


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Arrangement note

Organized in 2 series.

  1. Professional work, probably 1936, circa 1950s
  2. Student work, probably 1925-1926

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives August 24, 2010

66 5th Ave./
lobby level/
New York, NY, 10011

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the Kellen Design Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Custodial History note

Collection was donated to Parsons prior to the establishment of the Kellen Design Archives. Transferred to the Kellen Design Archives, 2004.

External Support

The processing of this collection was supported in part by a grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

  • New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Interior Architecture and Decoration Dept.
  • Paris Ateliers.


  • Clip books.
  • Drawings.
  • Lecture notes.
  • Sketches.
  • Student projects.
  • Wallpapers.

Personal Name(s)

  • Brown, Eleanor McMillen


  • Cathedrals -- Pictorial works.
  • Costume design.
  • Fashion design.
  • Furniture design -- United States -- 20th century -- Pictorial works.
  • Interior decoration -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.
  • Textile design -- United States -- 20th century.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Professional work probably 1936, circa 1950s 
Title Box Folder
Costume design drawings  k_5 15
k_9 6
Costume design drawings for "The Laughing Woman," probably 1936  k_5 16-18
Design plans for lamp  k_9 8
Furniture design drawings  k_5 19
Title Box Folder
Interior design plan and rendering  k_9 7
OSx-1 4
Title Box Folder
Textile designs: Drawings  MC C 1 2
OSxxx-1 1
Title Box Folder
Textile designs: Prints and samples  MC C 1 1
OSx-1 4
OSxxx-1 2-5

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Series II. Student work probably 1925-1926 
Title Box Folder
Class notes: General  k_1 3
Class notes: Business practices in interior decoration  k_1 4
Class notes: "History and Art of the English People" outline  k_1 5
Class notes: Lectures on English and Italian periods  k_1 6
Clip book (decorative styles)  k_1 7
Photographs of cathedrals  k_1 8

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Collection guide Last Updated: 08/30/2012

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