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

Collection Overview


Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier


Creator - Designer

Dean, Ethel, 1908-1971


Ethel Dean papers, probably 1925 - circa 1950s


3 linear ft


The collection includes 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 Art (later, Parsons School of Design) in the Interior Architecture and Decoration Department, around 1925. Also includes textile and wallpaper samples designed by Dean, probably dating from the 1950s, and a portfolio of her costume design drawings for the Broadway production of "The Laughing Woman" (1936).

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Ethel Dean papers, KA.0075, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical note

A resident of Yonkers, New York, Ethel Epstein was born in 1908 and 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 May 30, 1971.


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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

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Ethel Dean papers, KA.0075, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection was donated by Abner Dean to Parsons School of Design prior to the establishment of the New School Archives. Transferred to the New School 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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Related Materials

A collection of Ethel Dean's work is held by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

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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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Other Finding Aids note

For selected item-level description and images from the Ethel Dean papers, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA0075.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Professional work probably 1936, circa 1950s 

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
Interior design plan and rendering 
k_9 7
k_OSx-1 4
Textile designs: Drawings 
MC C 1 2
OSxxx-1 1
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 

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: 02/28/2017

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