Aline Bernstein

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Aline Bernstein (December 22, 1880 – September 7, 1955) was an American costume designer. She and Irene Lewisohn founded the Museum of Costume Art.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

She was born in 1880 in New York City to Rebecca and Joseph Frankau, an actor. Joseph was a cousin of London cigar importer Arthur Frankau and thus, by marriage, of novelist and art historian Frank Danby, whom Aline recalled visiting as a child when Joseph Frankau was performing in London.[2] By the time she was 17, both of her parents had died and she was raised by her aunt, Rachel Goldsmith. Goldsmith had a theatrical boarding house on West 44th Street in New York City. Aline married Theodore F. Bernstein, a Wall Street broker, on November 19, 1902.[3] Bernstein and her husband had two children: Theodore Frankau Bernstein (1904–1949), and Mrs. Edla Cusick (1906–1983).[4][5] She died on September 7, 1955 in New York City, aged 74.[6]


Bernstein was a theater set and costume designer for the Neighborhood Playhouse and in 1926 became the first female member of the Designer's union.[7] She also became a writer, with two books published by Knopf.[8] She was personal friends with Arthur and Blanche Knopf.[8]

  • "Three Blue Suits" (collection of short stories), 1933
  • The Journey Down (over her relationship with Wolfe), Knopf, 1938
  • Miss Condon, Knopf, 1947
  • An Actor's Daughter (memoir), 1940
  • The Martha Washington Doll Book, 1945
  • Masterpieces of Women's Costume of the 18th and 19th Centuries, 1959 (published posthumously)

Thomas Wolfe[edit]

From 1925 to 1929, Bernstein was romantically linked to Thomas Wolfe, who based the character Esther Jack on her, in his novels Of Time and the River, The Web and the Rock, and You Can't Go Home Again (1940). At the time of his death in 1938, Bernstein possessed some of Wolfe's unpublished manuscripts.[8]


  1. ^ "1944". Playbill. Retrieved December 16, 2008. Philanthropist Irene Lewisohn died today in New York City. She and her sister Alice built and endowed the Neighborhood Playhouse. With Aline Bernstein she founded the Museum of Costume Art on Fifth Avenue in 1937 
  2. ^ Bernstein, Aline (1941) An Actor's Daughter, A. A. Knopf – Ch. 7 passim
  3. ^ Biography of Bernstein in Notable American Women: The Modern Period : a Biographical Dictionary, Volume 4, edited by Barbara Sicherman, Carol Hurd Green on Google books
  4. ^ "T. Bernstein, Partner in Brokerage House". New York Times. March 12, 1949. Retrieved December 16, 2008. Theodore F. Bernstein, a partner in the brokerage house of Carl Loeb, Rhoades Co., 61 Broadway, died yesterday in his office of coronary thrombosis 
  5. ^ "Aline Bernstein". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved December 16, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Aline Bernstein, designer, Dead. Creator of Costumes and Scenes for Stage Wrote Novels and Life Story". New York Times. September 8, 1955. Retrieved December 16, 2008. ... a sister, Miss Ethel Frankau, and two grandchildren. A son, Theodore Frankau Bernstein, died about seven years ago. 
  7. ^ Stage Designers in Early Twentieth-Century America: Artists, Activists, Cultural Critics, By Christin Essin, 2012 on Google books
  8. ^ a b c Mauldin, Joanne Marshall (2007). Thomas Wolfe: When Do the Atrocities Begin?. University of Tennessee Press. p. 229. ISBN 1-57233-494-0. 

External links[edit]