History of the Toledo Society – The Early Period (1917-1941)



The annual Bulletin of the AIA for December 1917 (vol. 8, p. 23) says:


the General Secretary [Mitchell Carroll]...made two trips, one in the fall and one in the spring, visiting some of the smaller societies, and starting promising branches in Oberlin and Toledo.”

A year later the AIA Bulletin (December 1918, vol. 9, p. 104) identifies the Toledo chapter as a ‘branch’ of the Detroit Society:

The ‘branch’ designation continued in the next several issues of the Bulletin and only beginning in 1925 (vol. 16) did it refer to the chapter as the ‘Toledo Society’. It was a common practice of the AIA in the early 1900’s to attach each newly created chapter to the nearest well-established society and then after a probationary period allow it to become an independent society.


In contradiction to the language in the AIA Bulletin, the 1917 issue of American Art Annual (vol. 14, p. 237) already referred to the chapter as the “Toledo Society”:


The creation of the Toledo Society was anticipated as early as 1913 as indicated in an editorial in the Toledo-based American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal (October-November 1913, vol. 35, no. 4, p. 263):


"Toledo is organizing a branch of the Archaeological Institute of America. Those interested are George W. Stevens of The Toledo Museum of Arts [sic], Dr. Chas. A. Cockayne, President of Toledo University, the Editor and others. Prof. Mitchell Carroll [of the AIA] will deliver a lecture at the Museum and organize the branch."


Given that first phase of the Toledo Museum of Art’s (TMA) current building was completed in 1912 and also that George Stevens, the TMA’s first director, was involved, it may be that the establishment of the Toledo Society was originally envisioned by Mr. Stevens at the same time he was installing the museum’s collections in its new home.


The known founding members of the Toledo Society were Sidney Spitzer (President of Spitzer & Co., a Toledo investment bank), Blake-More Godwin, PhD (Curator and later Director of the Toledo Museum of Art), and Caroline R. (Ransom) Williams, PhD (the US’s first female Egyptologist, and one time Assistant Professor of Egyptology at Bryn Mawr, Assistant Curator of Egyptian Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Honorary Curator at the Toledo Museum of Art from 1918 to 1952). For more information on Dr. Williams go to the following Brown University website: http://www.brown.edu/Research/Breaking_Ground/results.php?d=1&first=Caroline%20Louise&last=Ransom%20Williams. For another account of Dr. Williams' life in Egyptology, see the book by Kathleen L. Sheppard, "'My dear Miss Ransom...': Letters Between Caroline Ransom Williams and James Henry Breasted, 1898-1935" (Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd., 2018). Dr. Breasted taught at the University of Chicago, where he founded the Oriental Institute, and was North America's first Professor of Egyptology.


Caroline Ransom (later Williams) in 1908


The 1941 issue of the AIA Bulletin (vol. 32, p. 14) describes the Toledo Society as “disbanded.” Two letters from Mariam C. Canaday, the chapter’s secretary, in early 1941 to the AIA (and now in its archives) cite low membership as the problem and blame this on the war. She concluded that “we may have to suspend until there’s something like peace.” Ms. Canaday remained steadfast in her devotion to the idea of the Toledo Society through the war years and then in 1953 was instrumental in reestablishing the chapter.


Toledo Society Officers, 1917 to 19411






Sidney Spitzer


Blake-More Godwin

Caroline R. Williams2


Blake-More Godwin


Blake-More Godwin

Caroline R. Williams








Alice F. Baker Mills3



Sidney Spitzer?

Blake-More Godwin?

Alice F. Baker Mills?


Sidney Spitzer

Blake-More Godwin

Alice F. Baker Mills

with Assistant Secretary Lawrence S. Bellman5





Carl B. Spitzer?6

Blake-More Godwin?



Carl B. Spitzer6

Mariam C. Canaday7

with Assistant Secretary Lawrence S. Bellman


Blake-More Godwin 8


Mariam C. Canaday


Mariam C. Canaday

with Assistant Secretary Lawrence S. Bellman



Mariam C. Canaday



1 There are no known trustees-at-large for the Toledo Society during this period.     

2 Dr. Williams is identified in the AIA literature as either Mrs. C. R. Williams or Mrs. Grant Williams. Her husband, Grant Williams, was a real estate developer in Toledo.

3 Ms. Mills was the wife of the nationally-known Toledo architect George Stratford Mills. She is identified in the AIA Bulletin only by her husband’s name.

4 The AIA Bulletins for 1928 and 1933 do not list the society officers.

5 Mr. Bellman was a Toledo architect and a partner in the architectural firm founded by George Stratford Mills.

6 Sidney Spitzer died on January 25, 1933 and was replaced as Society president by his cousin, Carl Bovee Spitzer, who was President of the Spitzer Building Company in Toledo.

7 Mariam Coffin Canaday was originally a Latin teacher in Newark, NJ and later an archaeology advocate, especially for ancient Greece. She was married to Ward Murphy Canaday, Chairman of the Board for the American School of Classical Studies in Greece but best known as the CEO of the Willys-Overland Corp., the original maker of Jeep vehicles. The couple were avid patrons of the Toledo ‘Arts’ and ‘Letters’ with their donations financing both the Canaday Gallery in the Toledo Museum of Art and the Canaday Center at the University of Toledo. Ms. Canaday is identified in the AIA Bulletin only by her husband’s name.

8 The AIA Bulletin lists J. Arthur MacLean (the Curator of Asian Art at the Toledo Museum of Art) as the Toledo Society treasurer for 1940 but this was denied by Mr. MacLean. In letters in the AIA archives, it is clear that the treasurer was still Blake-More Godwin.