By Nancy Armitage
In Spring of 1926, Mr. Henry E. Huntington hosted a lecture/tea reception for 180 guests. Spring was such a lovely time to visit Mr. Huntington’s property called the “San Marino Ranch”. Now, the the Huntington’s ranch is called the Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA.
On Tues. March 2nd or Tues. March 9th, 1926, was one of the largest Huntington “entertainments” held at the Huntington Mansion on the San Marino Ranch, CA. The Huntington Ranch was located in Southern California, just south of Pasadena.
The historic event was called “Cosmic Rays”, a scholarly lecture with the California Associates of “Cal Tech” of Pasadena, CA. Dr. Robert Milliken (Noble Prize winner for Physics in 1923) & Dr. Robinson gave the lecture; at the time, Milliken was the chief executive officer of Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology) & both were friends of Mr. Henry “Edwards” Huntington’s. The California Associates were a club of men & women that supported California Institute of Technology. The speakers that day were also: George Patton [Sr.] & Henry O’Melveny with a tea reception that followed.
Mr. H. E. Huntington was widowed at the time (his 2nd wife, Arabella sadly died in 1924). In his generous way, he invited this club to his residence, 180 guests. Mr. Huntington had invited 100 members & their wives of the California Institute Associates of California Institute of Technology to his home at the San Marino Ranch & lovely gardens.
Several days later….Henry “Edwards” Huntington wrote a letter to his favorite sister, Carrie Huntington Holladay who must have been out of town: “…..I wish you had been here for the reception of the California Technology Associates last Tuesday. About 180 were here & everything passed off very well. It did not seem best for me to go down [stairs].” [Mr. Huntington did not get to attend his own party, because he was upstairs recovering from surgery, wounds that would not heal]. He & his doctor& friend Dr. Ernest Bryant thought it best to stay in bed. Document: HEH Coll. MS 669 (Box 180 Correspondence) written on March 13, 1926
Mr. Huntington also treated his guests to a lovely “reception” tea after the lecture. The reception would have most likely been served “Service a la Françoise” (buffet style) in the Huntington Mansion Dining Room. For the huge amount of guests invited to this lecture, this style of serving food would have been the most practical. The Butlers or Footmen would have helped guests with their tea and serving the food.
The Huntington guests were welcomed to tea savories & tea sandwiches with yummy sweet dainties. Mr. Huntington’s Head Cook & his special Dessert Chef (Mrs. Kley) & their kitchen staff would have made elegant fancy cakes & cookies served with tea & coffee. Grand displays of Mr. Huntington’s oranges, exotic fruits, berries & nuts from the Ranch. They would have showcased the ranch fruit in fruit tarts & pecan tarts (Southern “pecan tassies”). Of course, a large colorful flower and rose arrangement in the middle of the table to showcase the Huntington’s Garden.
Also, the guests were invited to tour the large library of Mr. Huntington’s rare books & the lovely Huntington botanical gardens. In Springtime, all the assorted theme gardens look just fantastic! In March, the Huntington roses & spring flowers are huge & stunning in the California sunshine. In fact, the “winter roses” in Southern California are huge, 3 times the size of normal roses.
The guest list of 180 people with the clubs members & their wives all came to this scholarly affaire. The impressive list of who who’s in Los Angeles (social & business leaders). In the Huntington archives, it gives us information about who was invited: Wm. H. Allen Jr., John Willis Baer (President of Occidental College), John E. Barber, (V-Pres. CalTech Assoc.) Russell H. Ballard (Pres. of Cal Tech Assoc.) Harry Bauer (Bauer Pottery), C. F. Braun (Engineer & Pres. of C.F. Braun & Co.), Harry Chandler (American Newspaper Publisher- LA Times), Geo. L. Cochran (Anthropologist & Author), John S. Cravens (Pres. Edison Electric Co.), Mrs. Jas. Culbertson, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Dadney, Edward L. Doheny (miner, driller, oil), Robert N. Frick, Freeman A. Ford, John Gaffey, Chas. W. Gates, Geo. E. Hale (American astronomer/telescope), Irving H. Hellman (Hellman Commercial Trust & Saving Bank), W. I. Hollingworth, Francis W. Kellogg (U.S. Representative & Author), A. N. Kemp, H. H. Kerchhoff (Hipolito Screen & Sash Co.), Wm. Lacy Sr. (architect, innkeeper, banker, oil, gold miner, fireman, & owner of Lacy Manufacturers. Co. LA/Lacy Park), John Barnes Miller, (Pres. of Southern Calif Edison Co. LA, CA) Robert Andrews Milliken (Scholar & Nobel prize winner for Physics in 1923) & Ernest Milliken, Alan E. Morphy, R. H. Moulton, Seeley W. Mudd (Ray Consolidated Copper Co.), Daniel Murphy, Walter M. Murphy (Murphy Coach Builders Co.), Donald O’Melveny (Tres. of Caltech Assoc.) Henry & Stuart O’Melveny (Henry- founder of O’Melveny & Myers), Benjamin Page, Geo. S. Patton (Atty. & Mayor of the City of San Marino), Mr. & Mrs. Francis Prentiss (Cleveland Twist Drill Co. & Philanthropist & Pres. of St. Luke Hospital, Pas.), Dr. Louis P. Ricketts (Scientist & Banker), Dr. Henry M. Robinson, Mrs. George O. Robinson, M. H. Sherman (Pasadena Railway & Sherman Gardens), Thos. Warner, W. L. Valentine, & many others.
A wonderful book called Henry E. Huntington – a Biography by James Thorpe states that even Albert Einstein was also in attendance. And that everyone was seated in the Large Drawing Room. Einstein yes, but everyone could not have fit in the Mr. Huntington’s Large Drawing Room, not 180 people. Most likely, they had the lecture in the Large Library, They probably had the double doors open leading to the Huntington Mansion terracotta-tiled “Terrace” outside. Then, they would have been able to fit all 180 people.
Document: HEH Coll. MS 669 (Box 180 Correspondence) written on March 13, 1926 (HEH letter to sister Carrie Holladay about the event) HEH Coll. (List of People invited) ; HEH Collection MS 8/9 uncat (San Marino Ranch papers & grocery lists)