Shared passion for 'The Land'

The Baltimore Sun

It's only natural that a literary journal would become the point where their worlds meet -- he with his literary bent and love of the land, and she with her love of drawing and art.

The culmination of their respective passions was The Land, a quarterly publication that focused on conservation of the soil, water, and man. Russell Lord edited and wrote much of the magazine, and his wife Helen "Kate" Kalkman Lord drew the illustrations.

"Russell Lord's original concept for The Land was to do for rural issues what Atlantic Monthly did for urban issues," said Mary Corddry, 83, who worked with the Lords for five years.

Next Sunday, a retrospective of their work called Forever the Land: The Art and Writings of Kate and Russell Lord, will open at the Gallery at the Liriodendron, in Bel Air. The exhibit will include original copies of The Land, oil paintings, and hundreds of small black-and-white drawings.

"This exhibit is designed to show people that this is not just about an artist who lived in Bel Air, these two people were known nationally and internationally," said Maryanna Skowronski, the gallery coordinator for the Liriodendron Foundation, and the director of the Historical Society of Harford County.

Composed of writings and detailed illustrations created by the Lords, most of the art in the exhibit appeared in The Land, a 130-page agriculture journal that ran every quarter for about 12 years . The publication was divided into sections that included nonfiction stories, poetry, essays, letters, and other writings.

"The magazine became a chronicle of the farm tours, speeches, and events involving 'Friends of the Land,'" Corddry wrote in a history in conjunction with the exhibit for the county Historical Society.

Although he received submissions from famous writers such as E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web and The Elements of Style, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Louis Bromfield, an American author and conservationist, Russell Lord also included the works of farmers, mechanics, merchants and students in the publication, Corddry said.

Lord penned about a third of the magazine each month, said Corddry, who worked as the Eastern Shore reporter for The Baltimore Sun for 17 years, from 1969 to 1986.

When Russell Lord started The Land, his career merged with Kate Lord's. Putting her career aspirations second, she illustrated the publication, as well as several books. Some were written by her husband, others by Bromfield.

"She had a whimsical way of capturing animals such as may be seen in the cow kicking up its heels, the cats waiting at a mouse hole, a sow and nursing piglets and a wistful dog," Corddry wrote in the history. "Some work is very graphic arts-oriented, such as the image of typewriter, books and briefcase and the stylized hen. Today such renderings would probably fall under the heading of 'clip art.'"

After her death in 1960, Kate Lord's friends organized a memorial exhibition of her work, Corddry wrote in her history.

"They discovered a trove of over 4,000 of the black and white spot drawings used to break up the solid type on the pages of the books she illustrated and The Land magazine," Corddry wrote. " Some of them subsequently went to Johns Hopkins Press and Rutgers University Press. Others were saved by family members and friends."

Hundreds of the pieces found in the attic will be exhibited in the show, including oil paintings of farm scenes, as well as pen and ink drawings. One drawing is a rendering of Bromfield and his boxer.

The drawing was created for Malabar Farm, a book by Bromfield, that was named for his Ohio farm. Malabar Farm was made glamorous after actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there. It is now an Ohio State Park.

The story of The Land begins with Russell Lord, who grew up in Baltimore County and attended Sparks Agricultural High School. He left Maryland to attend the University of California, and then transferred to Cornell University.

He took a hiatus from college to serve in the U.S. Army in 1917, during World War I, as a sergeant in the 110th Field Artillery, 29th Division. Upon completion of his tour of duty, he finished his studies at Cornell and took a job at Ohio State University, where he also served as extension editor at the school's College of Agriculture.

Kate Lord was also raised in Baltimore County. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, and upon completing the design course in 1916, she moved to New York City where she became a nationally-known artist and illustrator.

In addition to her freelance art work, she taught fashion design at the New York School of Design for Women. She also took a break from her civilian work to volunteer for military service during World War I. She served as a captain in the U.S. Army and supervised art instruction for wounded men who were hospitalized in France. After the war, she returned to New York and was offered a job with Lazarus department store in Columbus, Ohio.

Although the Lords were raised in Baltimore County, their paths never crossed until Ohio. After they married in 1924, they moved to New York City. Russell Lord worked a short stint as managing editor of the New Yorker, while Kate Lord did freelance illustrating and studied art.

In 1934, the couple moved to Churchville.

Corddry became associated with the Lords and their conservation publication in 1946 when she saw an ad Russell Lord placed in the newspaper for a secretary, she said.

Although she had no experience, she went to his office and he hired her on the spot. But her secretarial days were short-lived, she said. About two weeks later, he saw her writing her own version of shorthand, and he promoted her to assistant editor, she said.

In March 1940, Russell Lord helped found a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Land. The magazine was part of membership in the Friends of the Land, which at its peak included about 10,000 people.

Russell Lord was on the ground floor of efforts to preserve the land, said Harriet Iglehart, his niece.

"In the Saturday Review, Russell was called 'the premiere American writer on agriculture and problems of the soil,'" Iglehart said. "The impact of this writing can be seen any time when you drive through our farm country."

Corddry agreed and said Russell Lord's writings were for the progressive, conservation-minded farmers.

"The members of the Friends of the Land belonged to a national pioneer movement that drew attention to worn-out soil, and protection of the land," Corddry said. "You can see the result of their efforts reflected on the rural landscape."

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