Calder Foundation


Life period

Chronology 44

See highlights from 1898–1925 on the timeline Early Development

22 July or 22 August 1898

Calder is born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, to Nanette Lederer Calder, a painter, and Alexander Stirling Calder, a sculptor. I always thought I was born—at least my mother always told me so—on August 22, 1898. But my grandfather Milne’s birthday was on August 23, so there might

have been a little confusion. In 1942, when I wrote the Philadelphia City Hall for a birth certificate, I sent them a dollar and they told me I was born on the twenty second of July, 1898. So I sent them another dollar and told them, “Look again.” They corroborated the first statement.

Calder 1966, 11
The Calder home (1898)
The Calder home, Lawnton, Pennsylvania, 1898
The Calder home, Lawnton, Pennsylvania, 1898


Before 20 January 1902

Calder poses for his father’s sculpture, Man Cub, in Philadelphia. Calder sculpts his own clay elephant.

Calder 1966, 13
Alexander Stirling Calder, Man Cub (c. 1901)
Alexander Stirling Calder, Man Cub, c. 1901
Alexander Stirling Calder, Man Cub, c. 1901


Spring 1905

Stirling Calder contracts tuberculosis. Calder’s parents move to a ranch in Oracle, Arizona, leaving Calder and his sister Peggy in the care of Dr. Charles P. Shoemaker, a dentist, and his wife, Nan.

Calder 1966, 15; Hayes 1977, 18
Photographic postcard of Calder (1905)
Photographic postcard of Calder, sent to his parents in Oracle, Arizona, for Christmas 1905Calder Foundation, New York
Photographic postcard of Calder, sent to his parents in Oracle, Arizona, for Christmas 1905Calder Foundation, New York


End of March 1906

Nanette picks up Calder and Peggy and they rejoin their father in Oracle. Calder befriends Riley, an elderly man recuperating at the ranch who shows him “how to make a wigwam out of burlap bags pinned together with nails.”

Calder 1966, 16
Calder and his sister (1906)
Calder and his sister, Margaret "Peggy" Calder, Oracle, Arizona, 1906
Calder and his sister, Margaret "Peggy" Calder, Oracle, Arizona, 1906
Fall 1906

The Calders move to Pasadena, California. At that time, on Euclid Avenue in Pasadena, I got my first tools and was given the cellar with its window as a workshop. Mother and father were all for my efforts to build things myself—they approved of the

homemade . . . My workshop became some sort of a center of attraction; everybody came in.

Calder 1966, 21
Calders at home in Pasadena (c. 1908)
The Calders at home in Pasadena, c. 1908
The Calders at home in Pasadena, c. 1908
Fall 1906

My sister had quite a few dolls for which we made extraordinary jewelry from beads and very fine copper wire that we found in the street left over by men splicing electric cables.

Calder 1952, 37
25 December 1906

Peggy once gave me a very nice pair of pliers at Christmas. I made her a little Christmas tree, completely decorated, out of a fallen branch. So she wept because my gift was homemade.

Calder 1966, 21


1 January 1907

Calder attends Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses, where he experiences the four-horse chariot races.

Calder 1966, 22


Spring 1909

The Calders move to a new house on 555 Linda Vista Avenue. Calder’s workshop consists of a tent with a wooden floor. Calder attends fourth grade at Garfield School.

CF, Nanette to Trask, 30 March; Calder 1966, 26–27
Fall 1909

The Calders return to Philadelphia. Calder attends Germantown Academy for two or three months while his parents search for a house close to New York City.

Calder 1966, 28; CF, Calder 1955–56, 7
Winter 1909

The Calders move to Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Calder has a cellar for his workshop and attends Croton Public School.

Calder 1966, 28–29
December 1909

For Christmas, Calder presents his parents with a dog and a duck that he trimmed from a brass sheet and bent into formation. The duck is kinetic, rocking back and forth when tapped.

Sweeney 1943, 57; Hayes 1977, 41


Before 11 January 1910

For his father’s birthday, Calder makes Animal Zoo Puzzle, a game consisting of five painted animals—a tiger, a lion, and three bears—and a wooden board with nails divided into six pens. The challenge is to move the animals from their pens without having two animals in the same pen at once.

Hayes 1977, 42



The Calders move to Spuyten Duyvil, New York. The cellar becomes Calder’s workshop. Calder and Peggy attend Yonkers High School. Stirling rents a studio in New York City on 51 West Tenth Street.

Calder 1966, 34–35
14 August 1912

Stirling is appointed as the acting chief of the department of sculpture of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He writes the introduction to The Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition, published in 1915.

Calder 1966, 36
Calder in front of Alexander Stirling Calder’s Fountain of Energy (1915)
Calder in front of Alexander Stirling Calder's Fountain of Energy, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915
Calder in front of Alexander Stirling Calder's Fountain of Energy, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915


June 1913

The Calders move to San Francisco. Calder has a workshop in the cellar and attends Lowell High School.

Calder 1966, 36–37; Hayes 1977, 43–44


Spring 1915

Stirling and Nanette move to Berkeley to be near Stirling’s next commission, the Oakland Auditorium. Calder stays with the architect Walter Bliss and his wife to graduate from Lowell High School.

Calder 1966, 37–38; Hayes 1977, 52–53; CF, Calder 1955–56, 14
August 1915

The Calders move back to New York City on Claremont Place.

Calder 1966, 39; Hayes 1977, 55
September 1915

Calder begins his studies at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, where he takes courses that include chemistry, mechanical drawing, shop practice, and surveying, among others.

Calder 1966, 39


Summer 1916

Calder spends five weeks in the Plattsburg Civilian Military Training Camp, New York, drilling with Company H, Fifth Training Regiment.

Calder 1966, 46


Fall 1918

Calder joins the Student Army Training Corps, Naval Section, at Stevens, where he is made guide of the battalion.

Calder 1966, 48


17 June 1919

Calder graduates from Stevens with a degree in mechanical engineering.

CF, certificate of graduation; Lipman 1976, 329

Calder holds jobs with an automotive engineer named Tracy in Rutherford, New Jersey, and with New York Edison Company as a draftsman.

Calder 1966, 48–49


Fall 1920

Calder joins the staff of Lumber magazine in St. Louis, Missouri. He stays for nine months.

Calder 1966, 48–50


Summer 1921

Calder works for Nicholas Hill, a hydraulics engineer, coloring maps for a water-supply project in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The efficiency engineers—Miller, Franklin, Basset, and Co.—hire Calder to do fieldwork for the Truscon Steel Company in Youngstown, Ohio.

Calder 1966, 49–50


Spring 1922

Calder attends night classes in drawing with Clinton Balmer at the New York Public School on Forty-second Street.

Calder 1966, 51
9 June 1922

Serving on the H.F. Alexander as a fireman in the boiler room, Calder sails from New York to San Francisco via the Panama Canal. It was early one morning on a calm sea, off Guatemala, when over my couch—a coil of rope—I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and

the moon looking like a silver coin on the other. Of the whole trip this impressed me most of all; it left me with a lasting sensation of the solar system.

Calder 1966, 53–55; CF, Patterson to ASCR, 26 April 2010
Mid-June 1922

Arriving in San Francisco, Calder takes a lumber schooner to Willapa Harbor, Washington, where he catches the bus for Aberdeen and meets his sister Peggy and her husband, Kenneth Hayes. Calder finds a job as a timekeeper for a logging camp in Independence, Washington.

I was supposed to make out paychecks for people. I also had to scale the logs as they were loaded on the flatcars.

Calder 1966, 55–56
Summer 1922

Inspired by the logging camp landscape, Calder writes home and asks his mother for paints and brushes.

CF, Calder 1955–56, 39; Calder 1966, 57–58


Spring 1923

With the help of Stirling’s introduction, Calder seeks employment with an engineer in Canada. I went to Vancouver and called on him, and we had quite a talk about what career I should follow. He advised me to do what I really wanted to do—he himself often wished he had been an

architect. So, I decided to become a painter.

Calder 1966, 59
Summer 1923

Calder writes the Kellogg Company and suggests they modify their cereal packaging, putting the wax paper on the inside rather than on the outside of the boxes. The company adopts his suggestion and sends him a note of thanks along with a case of Corn Flakes.

Hayes 1977, 76
Before October 1923

Calder returns to New York and stays with his parents at 119 East Tenth Street.

Calder 1966, 59
October–December 1923

Calder begins classes at the Art Students League of New York, studying life and pictorial composition with John Sloan and portrait painting with George Luks.

Calder 1966, 59–61, 66–67; ASL, registration records


January–April 1924

Calder enrolls again at the Art Students League, taking classes in portrait painting with George Luks, head and figure with Guy Pène du Bois, a drawing class with Boardman Robinson, and an etching class.

ASL, registration records
Before 3 May 1924

Calder begins his first job as an artist, illustrating sporting events and city scenes for the National Police Gazette.

Calder 1966, 67; Gazette, 3 May
Before 17 May 1924

Calder moves into his father’s studio, 11 East Fourteenth Street, while his parents are traveling in Europe.

Calder 1966, 66, 70; Hayes 1977, 81
September–November 1924

Calder studies life drawing with Boardman Robinson at the Art Students League.

ASL, registration records


24 January 1925

A total eclipse of the sun is visible from the northern part of Manhattan. Along with thousands of New Yorkers, Calder travels uptown, stopping at the steps of Columbia University to watch. He makes The Eclipse, an oil painting of the scene.

New York Times, 24 January; CF, object file
March 1925

Calder studies life drawing with Boardman Robinson at the Art Students League.

ASL, registration records
6–29 March 1925

Calder exhibits The Eclipse in the Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York. In the exhibition catalogue he lists his address as 119 East Tenth Street, where he periodically lives with his parents.

CF, exhibition file
Before 23 May 1925

Calder spends two weeks illustrating the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for the National Police Gazette. I could tell by the music what act was getting on and used to rush to some vantage point. Some acts were better seen from above and others from below.

Calder 1966, 73; Gazette, 23 May
“Seeing the Circus with ‘Sandy’ Calder” (1925)
"Seeing the Circus with 'Sandy' Calder," National Police Gazette, 23 May 1925
"Seeing the Circus with 'Sandy' Calder," National Police Gazette, 23 May 1925
Winter 1925

Calder makes hundreds of brush drawings of animals at the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo.

CF, object files; Sweeney 1951, 72
December 1925

Calder takes a lithography class with Charles Locke at the Art Students League.

ASL, registration records
Winter 1925

Calder travels to Florida. First he visits Miami, then Sarasota, where he sketches at the winter grounds of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I was very fond of the spatial relations. I love the space of the circus. I made some drawings of nothing but the tent. The whole

thing of the—the vast space—I’ve always loved it.

Gray 1964, 23