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Ethel Dean papers

Identifier: KA-0075-01


The collection includes class notes and a clipbook of decorative styles compiled by Ethel Epstein (who later used the surnames Dean and Evans) when she attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (later Parsons School of Design) in the Interior Architecture and Decoration Department, around 1925. Also includes textile samples, circa the 1950s, and costume designs for the Broadway play "The Laughing Woman" (1936).


  • probably 1925 - circa 1950s



1.9 Cubic Feet (1 box, 1 oversize box, 11 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection consists of Ethel Epstein/Dean's student work in the form of notebooks, a clip book of decorative styles and photographs of French cathedrals, and samples of her professional work in the fields of costume and textile design.

Of particular interest in the Student work series are class notes from lectures titled “Business Practices in Interior Decoration” given by famed interior decorator Eleanor McMillen Brown. The clip book illustrates decorative styles with postcards and clippings, accompanied by handwritten annotations about French and Italian architecture, furnishings, and artists. It also includes a hand-written bibliography.

Professional work is primarily composed of textile design drawings, prints, and samples. Notations on the backs of some prints -- primarily prints of floral designs, although several depict abstract motifs -- indicate that Dean sold the designs to manufacturers such as A. H. Jacobs, Thibaut, and Wall Trends. Costume design drawings are rendered in ink, pencil, and watercolor. Although many drawings feature descriptions of the outfits, there is no identifying information regarding the production for which Dean created it. The exception is three folders of costume design drawings for a production of Gordon Daviot's (pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh) "The Laughing Woman." The production, staged by a possible relation, Alexander Dean, ran for 23 performances at the John Golden Theater, New York, in the fall of 1936.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

A resident of Yonkers, New York, Ethel Epstein was born in 1908 and attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now, Parsons The New School for Design) from 1924 to 1926. She studied Interior Architecture and Decoration. Her third year coursework was completed in the school's Paris Ateliers. She later worked as a textile designer, creating wallpaper designs for such firms as Thibaut.

Sometime after attending the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, she changed her surname, as did her cartoonist brother Abner, from Epstein to Dean. At other times in her life, she was known as Ethel Evans, the surname used by another sibling who worked for Radio City Music Hall, and by their widowed mother. Ethel Epstein/Dean/Evans lived in New York City and died May 30, 1971.


Organized in 2 series: 1. Professional work, probably 1936, circa 1950s; 2. Student work, probably 1925-1926

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection was donated by Abner Dean to Parsons School of Design prior to the establishment of the New School Archives. Transferred to the New School Archives, 2004.

Related Materials

A collection of Ethel Dean's work is held by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

External Support

The processing of this collection was supported in part by a grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Guide to the Ethel Dean papers
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
August 24, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note