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Harry Cooke

Profile of a Craftsman
The Scale Cabinetmaker: 2:2 (January, 1978)

How does the average husband become involved in building miniatures? The safest odds are that his wife's interest in the field preceeded his own. If that is the rule, then Harry Cooke, whose exceptiona1 craftsmanship is featured in this issue of TSC, is no exception Visiting Harry and Thelma Cooke in their home atop a wooded ridge south of Hanover, New Hampshire, it was our first question: 'When and how did you get started in miniatures?" The answer should have been plain to us for we had already seen samples of Thelma's fine needlework.

When Harry retired three years ago after a career at Kodak, he began casting about for a retirement avocation that would keep pace with his restless desire to be productive. A model ship that was built in 1932 and now rests on the Cooke mantle, suggested one direction, and he began studying books on sailing hips. After a life time of scale modeling interest that includes a boyhood fascination with model airplanes and eighteen years as a model railroader, the prospact of building ships was a natural course. At that point Thelma stepped in with a suggestion that places the rest of the miniatures world in her debt: why not explore miniatures as an avocation in which they could share their interests and activities?

With a thoroughness that characterizes his work as a scale cabinetmaker, he began by stuying the subject through books on furniture (especially 18th century styles), museums, and visits to antique shops. After he had produced his first miniature piece, a 17th century blanket chest, an article in the May 1975 issue of Antiques Magazine caught his eye: an article on the Pendleton collection of early American furniture at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design. As his fascination grew, he called the Museum and through the cooperation of Mrs. Valarie Hayden, Assistant Curator for Decorative ARts, received permission to visit the museum and to examine and measure some of the pieces in the Pendleton collection. This exceptional act of cooperation between the museum and a miniaturist, coupling the resources of the collection with the talents of the craftsman, has resulted in the pieces displayed in this issue of TSC. While Harry Cook has displayed several of his miniatures at Boston, Ashland, and other shows, a special exhibit at the Pendleton Collection in Provience, Rhode Island is now being planned, featuring side by side displays of the prototype and the miniature pieces.

Thanks to Thelma Cooke's suggestion and to Harry's willingness to share his knowlege of the craft, we are all the wiser.

Editor's note: Harry Cooke was a NAME Academy of Honor Recipient

TSC Articles Written by Harry Cooke

  • Building a Philadelphia Dressing Table: 2:2 (4-16)


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