Whitefriars: The story behind Temple Emanu-El’s windows

Read more about this project and the collection in previous posts.

Researching glass can take you in unexpected directions. Over the past two years, the Rakow Research Library has shared stories of our efforts to conserve and digitize a collection of stained glass cartoons from the Whitefriars Glass Company (also known as Powell & Sons). We added another chapter to that story recently, when we had the honor of welcoming guests from Temple Emanu-El in New York City.

Marble columns in Temple Emanu-El's ark

The Sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El has wonderful stained glass, mosaics, and beautiful marble, including these columns above the ark. It was built in two years, 1927-1929, and restored between 2003 and 2006.

Our friendship began with a letter from Warren Klein, Curator at the Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El. Klein’s colleague, Rachel Brumberg, a glass artist and enthusiast, had read about our project and wondered: Does the Rakow have design drawings for the our Whitefriars windows? A conversation began and soon the Whitefriars team was traveling to New York to visit Temple Emanu-El. There, we joined Warren and Rachel for a tour.

Temple Emanu-El holds a beautiful collection of art, including Tiffany windows and wrought iron gates, mosaics, marble of the richest and deepest colors, and, of course, Whitefriars stained glass windows. We were enchanted by Temple Emanu-El’s sanctuary, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Their Whitefriars windows are composed of richly colored glass depicting fascinating Judaic symbolism.

After touring the sanctuary, we visited their library and archives, where we were excited to see the original contracts for all of their Whitefriars windows. Eager to continue our conversation, we invited Warren and Rachel to visit CMoG and see the cartoons for the Temple Emanu-El windows, and were excited when they accepted our invitation. While here, they also had the chance to tour our glass and library collections and make their own glass at The Studio.

Rachel, Warren, and Jim looking at a stained glass cartoon

Looking at a cartoon for a window at Temple Emanu-El

Why are these visits and conversations so important? They are the most valuable and rewarding part of the Whitefriars project. Each visit speaks directly to our goal to tell the world about glass. But, more importantly, each is a conversation – we learn about their windows, and we share information about how they were designed and made.

The story of the Whitefriars glass at Temple Emanu-El is well documented in archival resources held by Temple Emanu-El, the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Rakow Library. Through these materials, we can glimpse the history of the windows from the time they were ordered through their installation.

The trail begins at the V&A, which has business records from Whitefriars. Emanu-El’s windows were designed by James Hogan, one of Whitefriars’ most notable designers, whose work is seen in many buildings across the United States. Hogan kept journals of his trips to the States, which are held by the V&A. In this entry, dated April 13, 1928, Hogan records a meeting with Stein, one of the architects, noting, “he wants a design made using in emblems of one tribes of Judah. Rich sparkling glass is wanted, and a specimen carried out in glass.”

The V&A also has Whitefriars window glass order books. One of Emanu-El’s orders is shown below. Dated August 6, 1928, the order is for three windows, including the Rothschild and Marx-Bernheim windows. The order record notes the architects, the locations of the windows, their dimensions, and the price: $13,500 each. A diagonal lines indicates the order was completed.

The corresponding receipts for each window are in Temple Emanu-El’s archives. The receipt for the Rothschild window is show below.

Receipt for the Rothschild window

Receipt for the Rothschild window

Several design drawings for these windows are at the Museum of London, keeper of the largest collection of Whitefriars materials. The following design is for one of a series of smaller windows Emanu-El ordered subsequent to the larger dedication windows.

Design drawings for stained glass windows

A design drawing for windows at Temple Emanu-El, part of the wonderful collection in the archives of the Museum of London.

Finally, in the Rakow Library, we have several cartoons, or working drawings, for the windows of Temple Emanu-El. The cartoon below was used as a reference by the artists and glaziers who installed the windows at the Temple.

Our mission at the Museum is to tell the world about glass. Often, it is less a matter of telling, than a conversation with other glass enthusiasts. One of the joys of this project has been meeting people like Warren and Rachel who share our love of art, history, and glass, and help us expand our knowledge of the history of Whitefriars glass.

Temple Emanu-El sanctuary

The sanctuary in Temple Emanu-El

Read more about the Whitefriars team’s visit to Temple Emanu-El.


The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9 am to 5 pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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