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Meeting the Morris School: Arnold de Mille in London

by Faye Daigle, Student Intern


Letter from N.F. Cimaglia to Sydney Morris about Arnold de Mille’s visit, 1974.
Letter from N.F. Cimaglia to Sydney Morris about Arnold de Mille’s visit, 1974.

On March 21, 1974, Nicholas F. Cimaglia, president of Milady Publishing Corporation in New York, penned a brief letter to Sydney Morris, technical director of the Morris School of Beauty in London. In it, he tells his British peer to anticipate a visit from Milady photographer and writer Arnold de Mille. Having previously contributed to publications such as Newspic (1940-1942) and to the Federal Writers Project (1937-1939), de Mille developed an interest in beauty culture when he joined Milady in 1944. Though he is primarily known for his photography and journalism, for Milady de Mille also took on the roles of public relations advisor and course lecturer. A feature in a 1983 Milady Publishing Program reads, “Arnold de Mille has been a member of the ‘Milady Family’ for over 35 years. For the past 30 years, he has been working mainly with cosmetology school owners and teachers. His philosophy is that better trained teachers produce better-qualified cosmetologists.”


Morris School advertisement feature, 1970.
Morris School advertisement feature, 1970.

With his focus set on beauty education, de Mille travelled to London in 1974 to investigate the London Institute and Morris School of Hairdressing. In his letter to Sydney Morris, Cimaglia mentions that de Mille planned to take pictures of the Institute for a story set to run in the National Beauty School Journal. The London Institute claimed to be the largest private beauty school in Europe, as well as an international school where over forty different languages were spoken by students. De Mille would find the school and its founders to be as impressive as he had anticipated, attracted primarily to the diversity of students in its classrooms.


Arnold de Mille, circa 1970s
Arnold de Mille, circa 1970s

De Mille wrote a letter to Morris directly on March 28, 1974, in which expressed his hope that he might take a day or two at the school, observing some of the new ideas and techniques they were employing. He set his arrival date for April 5, mentioning that he will be staying at the Tavistock Hotel in Bloomsbury. In a set of notes written on stationery from the Tavistock, de Mille planned his interview with Sydney’s father and the school’s founder, Alfred Morris. His questions point to his fascination with the school’s appeal to aspiring cosmetologists from around the world. “In order to attract so many foreign students, as well as England students,” he wrote, “what is your key to success?” In another note, he wondered, “What does the Morris School have that motivates people from the four corners of the earth to find their way here and not consider the schools in their own cities and countries?” These questions also reveal his keen interest in teacher training and qualification. “What about teachers,” he wrote. “Do they, too, take an examination? If so, what types of exams do they take? Are they licensed?” Though the interview centered around Alfred Morris, de Mille provides an in-depth record of the entire hairdressing family in his final draft. Alfred Morris, affectionately known by students as “Mr. Albert,” believed that a salon owner could take anyone off the street and start them as an effective apprentice, regardless of schooling, training or ambition. His sons, Sydney and Kenneth, adopted their father’s philosophy directly, working in odd jobs around the world before returning to London to take part in Alfred’s vision.


Arnold de Mille’s interview notes taken on Tavistock Hotel stationery, 1974.
Arnold de Mille’s interview notes taken on Tavistock Hotel stationery, 1974.

After his interview and tour of the school, de Mille wrote to Kenneth Morris, Sydney’s brother, on May 8, 1974, informing him that one of his duties with Milady is to conduct teachers’ workshops at the annual conventions of three national beauty organizations. He noted that he has decided to feature the slides he took of the Morris School in his upcoming workshop as part of a presentation on the European beauty school system. Additionally, he asked for the identification of the students in the photos—their names, countries and how they came to the school. This request appears again in another letter to Kenneth from June 2, alongside his rough draft of his proposed article for the August issue of the National Beauty School Journal. On September 11, 1974, de Mille sent a third letter to the Morris consultant stating he and Milady are reluctant to run the nearly complete article until they are given a complete list of the students’ countries. In these persistent inquiries, de Mille demonstrates his thorough approach to the subjects of his photography and a dedication to international representation. A document included in this collection reveals that de Mille finally received the list he wanted for this project. In it, the London students are noted to have come from Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, England, Barbados, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, South Africa, Tanzania, the United States and France. With this record, de Mille completed his article by October 7, 1974. His report was glowing, naming the London Institute a “mini United Nations” where students from around the world could perfect their craft.



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