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Lewis Mumford

Autograph Letter Signed - 1945

Autograph Letter Signed to prominent New England architect William Roger Greeley, from Amenia, New York, dated 29 August 1945. In full:

Dear Roger:

Your words would even melt the iron heart of a Civil War statue; but alas! Mine is surrounded by asbestos and so I must resist your blandishments — and herewith do. You find me finishing up a collection of political & educational essays I will publish next spring and preparing, when I get back to Hanover in October, to write the first draft of Vol. IV. That leaves me no time for talking till next spring. Please convey JD Leland my grateful appreciation & tell him I had to summon up all my reserves of adamancy to resist you.

With warm greetings,
Ever yours

Lewis Mumford

LEWIS MUMFORD (1895-1990) was an American historian and philosopher of technology and science. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a tremendously broad career as a writer that also included a period as an influential literary critic. Mumford was influenced by the work of Scottish theorist Sir Patrick Geddes. Mumford was also a contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, Frederic J. Osborn, Edmund N. Bacon, and Vannevar Bush.

Mumford believed that what defined humanity, what set human beings apart from other animals, was not primarily our use of tools (technology) but our use of language (symbols). He was convinced that the sharing of information and ideas amongst participants of primitive societies was completely natural to early humanity, and had obviously been the foundation of society as it became more sophisticated and complex. He had hopes for a continuation of this process of information "pooling" in the world as humanity moved into the future.

Mumford's earliest books in the field of literary criticism have had a lasting impact on contemporary American literary criticism. The Golden Day contributed to a resurgence in scholarly research on the work of 1850's American transcendentalist authors and Herman Melville: A study of His Life and Vision effectively launched a revival in the study of the work of Herman Melville. Soon after, with the book The Brown Decades, he began to establish himself as an authority in US architecture and urban life, which he interpreted in a social context.

In his early writings on urban life, Mumford was optimistic about human abilities and wrote that the human race would use electricity and mass communication to build a better world for all humankind. He would later take a more pessimistic stance. His early architectural criticism also helped to bring wider public recognition to the work of Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.


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