Allen Hendershott Eaton


was a promoter of immigrant art, Southern and Northeastern rural art, and Japanese American folk art, primarily under the auspices of the Russell Sage Foundation,described by Eaton scholar Sharon Lee Smith as “a charitable organization dedicated to sociological study and amelioration with a broad philosophical andorganizational connection to the settlement house movement.” He was born and lived as a child in Union Oregon, located in the Grande Ronde Valley of northeastOregon. A 1902 graduate of the University of Oregon in Eugene, he opened a book and art store there, on Willamette Street. According to his friend Ellis Lawrence,dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Oregon, Eaton and his wife were enthusiastic about crafts.Allen Eaton quickly adopted a distinctive approach to folk art promotion and exhibition that matured during his career: to encourage a better understanding of and tostimulate social and civic cooperation between diverse immigrant, geographic, and racial groups; to show folk artists engaged in their crafts, to demonstrate both their aesthetic sense and their cultural and social context; and to define folk artists as members of cultural communities and to value their points of view. His career spannedthe coasts of America; included election to public office; academic and curatorial art assignments; authorship of three primary folk art texts; and a brief, life-changing pacifist controversy.Eaton was elected to the Oregon State Legislature on the Republican ticket in 1906, and served until 1918. He was a strong advocate of higher education, and wasinstrumental in the establishment of Oregon University’s School of Architecture and the appointment of its first dean. He was also a part-time instructor at the school,teaching art appreciation and directing exhibitions. He created the Oregonian Art Room, made of native materials and displaying native folk art and craft, for thePanama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco in 1915. At the exhibition he met and began a long educational association with Lydia Avery CoonleyWard, who invited him to be the director of her Summer School of Arts and Life at “Hillside,” in Wyoming, New York (near Buffalo).In September 1917, after the United States had become involved in World War I, Eaton attended a meeting of the People’s Council of America for Democracy andTerms of Peace, a peace group that received wide support from the working population, including many New York labor unions. Eaton’s attendance created an uproar in Oregon, and he resigned from the university in October 1917; not long after that he withdrew from elected politics after being defeated in the May 1918 primary. Hemoved to New York City, and through his friendship with Robert W.DeForest, a social reformer, board member of the Russell Sage Foundation, and president of theMetropolitan Museum of Art, Eaton was appointed field secretary of the American Federation of Arts, and was later hired by the Russell Sage Foundation. For theremainder of his career, Eaton promoted the folk arts through exhibitions and his writings.
See also
Asian American Folk Art.
Eaton, Allen H.
Handicrafts of New England.
New York, 1949. ——.
Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands.
New York, 1937. ——.
Immigrant Gifts to American Life: Some Experiments in Appreciation of the Contributions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens to American Culture.
New York,1932