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 Petra (Emma Mearns) Cabot  (1907 - 2006)

About: Petra (Emma Mearns) Cabot


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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: mural painting, designer

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BIOGRAPHY for Petra Cabot
1907 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
2006 (Woodstock, New York)

New York

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mural painting, designer

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An artist whose first love was painting, Petra Cabot, however, is best remembered for her 1950s design of the 'Skotch cooler', an insulated, airtight, four gallon cooler with three layers of insulation covered with plaid fabric.   It was copyrighted in 1952, and was revolutionary for keeping ice cream firm, and picnic food fresh for several hours without ice, and for serving fishermen well by keeping freshly-caught fish cold.

Before this invention, from 1938 to 1950, Petra Cabot worked as a designer with Russel Wright, "who brought modernism to the American home with his inexpensive, mass-produced dinnerware, furniture, appliances and textiles."  In 1939, Cabot received national acclaim for her work with Wright at the food pavilion in the 1939 World's Fair.

Cabot was born in Philadelphia in 1907 with the name Emma Mearns, and was an only child.  She later changed her name to Petra.  She showed early art talent, and her parents provided her with training in arts and crafts and fine arts.  By the time she was a teenager, she was winning design prizes.

She spent a year in Europe, and then did costume design and stage-set production.  During the Depression, she taught at the City and Country School in Manhattan, participated in federal arts projects including the WPA, and also joined the arts scene in Woodstock, New York where she ultimately settled.

In 1945, she did a mural design for the Manhattan offices of the National Maritime Union, and the work, a montage of photographs and newspaper clippings, covered 840 square feet of wall space.

At age 19, Petra Cabot married Laurence Jordan, a poet, from whom she was divorced in 1931.  Six years later, she married Blake Cabot, a publisher and medical writer, and they remained married until his death in 1974. 

Petra Cabot died in Woodstock, New York on October 13, 2006.

Douglas Martin, "Petra Cabot, Artist, Dies at 99", Obituaries, The New York Times, October 29, 2006, 26A

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