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Whiting, Frederic A.

    Full Name: Whiting, Frederic A.

    Other Names:

    • Frederic Allan Whiting

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1873

    Date Died: 1959

    Place Born: Oakdale, Robertson, TN, USA

    Place Died: Framingham, Middlesex, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States


    First director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1913-1930. Whiting’s father, Frederic Augustus Whiting, was iron mining executive and later writer and editor, and his mother Catherine Tracy Allen (Whiting). The family moved from Tennessee and New Jersey eventually to Massachusetts where Whiting was primarily raised, first in the mill town of Lowell, MA, 1890-1895, and then Boston. His formal education lasted only through grammar school, but he was educated additionally at home. Initially, Whiting like his brothers and father, went into business in Lowell. In 1897 he returned to his family, who now lived in Framingham, MA, to prepare for the Unitarian ministry. Ironically for someone who would later become an art museum director, he considered his eyesight too poor for this avocation. On a ship bound for England in 1898, Whiting met C. Howard Walker (1857-1936) of the Society for Arts and Crafts, Boston. In 1900, Walker offered the paid position of secretary to Whiting. The Society was an outgrowth of European societies such as that founded by William Morris to encourage craftsmanship in the industrial age. Whiting worked diligently, focusing his energies into his life’s mission, education. He founded the journal Handicraft and lectured as far afield as Minnesota. His personal connections included Lockwood de Forest (1886?-1949), brother of Metropolitan Museum of Art President Robert de Forest (1845-1924). He married Olive Elizabeth Cook, a singer, in 1903. In 1912 Whiting became director of the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, IN. Through the de Forest connection, Whiting was recommended to be director of the fledgling Cleveland Museum of Art, which was in the process of incorporating. The following year, 1913, Whiting accepted the position. The Museum opened to the public in 1916. Whiting created a collection of handicrafts for craftsmen. He instituted the annual May Show, an exhibition of local artists. Between 1921 and 1923 he served as president of the American Association of Museums. At his retirement in 1930, Whiting became president of the American Federation of Arts, another organization devoted to the promotion of arts. He was succeeded at Cleveland by William M. Milliken. Whiting was not a researcher and wrote no art histories. Like many founding American art museum directors, he had a practical appreciation for the arts and an educator’s mission for the public. His considerable administrative skills helped the museum prosper and expand to one of the most important art museums in the United States in short number of years.

    Selected Bibliography

    Whiting contributed to Handicraft in the early twentieth century. He wrote no art histories.


    “Whiting, Frederic Allen.” National Cyclopaedia of American Biography 43. New York: James T. White & Co., 1961, p. 47; Robertson, Bruce. “Frederic A. Whiting: Founding the Museum with Art and Craft.” Turner, Evan A. ed. Object Lessons: Cleveland Creates an Art Museum. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1991; Meister, Maureen. Architecture and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Boston Harvard’s H. Langford Warren. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003, pp. 94-98ff.


    "Whiting, Frederic A.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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