Christmas with the Huntingtons

By Nancy Armitage

The Christmas Tree with sparkling lights, fancy French ribbons, & extra large Christmas ornaments and beautifully wrapped gifts underneath. The Huntington tree was probably as grand as this one with lots more red & probably French fancy ornaments. A guard at the Huntington Library once told me that Mrs. Huntington collected huge round Christmas ornaments “as big as grapefruits”. This is actually the gorgeous tree in the foyer of the Miramar Hotel In Santa Barbara, CA. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Where do I start? I have a lot of Christmas information with the Huntingtons!! The Huntington Family loved Christmas & the New Year’s holidays! Mrs. Arabella Huntington favorite thing was to shop; to give cash money to her staff, also gold coins, & Christmas presents to family & friends & her work staff and their children, too . She had numerous mansions & work staffs from 12-30 house servants. Between 1919-1920, 110 in-house servants and ranch employees worked at the San Marino Ranch. The payroll was filled with painters, electricians, and builders because they were building the Huntington Library Building in those years.

At the San Marino Ranch, “Extra help” was brought in during Christmas for baking & entertaining. The Huntingtons loved to entertain & have houseguests to their home during the Thanksgiving & Christmas & New Years holidays. One can see Mrs. Huntington’s love for the Christmas story in her very large collection of Madonna & Child paintings. These Master oil paintings depict the Madonna & Child – the Virgin Mary at the Nativity scene after having Baby Jesus. The family call these paintings – “the primitives”.

In 1907, Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington bought this painting: “Virgin & Child” by Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish). She purchased this special painting (13″ x 20) & many others art objects & furniture from Kahn Collection in Paris. These purchases put her on the map as a serious art collector, even though years before she & Collis Huntington were collecting important pieces of art by Hals, Rembrandt, etc.. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage/ original painting at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Christmas Locations: The Huntingtons spent Christmas usually either at the Huntington Mansion at No. 2, E. 57th St. New York City, or Paris France (1903), & later the San Marino Ranch (H. E. Huntington & Arabella D. Huntington) in 1922-1926.

Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Mr. & Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) enjoyed Christmas at their mansion at No. 2 East 57th St. in New York City between 1884-1900. New York City is a fun place to be during the holidays, and the weather is wintery & snowing & great for ice skating. After Collis Huntington died in 1900, Arabella was very sad and probably lonely in her large NYC Mansion. To cope with her grief she spent many years in Paris, France. Often, Arabella would come home for the holidays from France & spend Christmas at “No. 2”. I know for sure, in 1903 she was in Paris for Christmas; Archer & Helen & Arabella Huntington were in Paris in 1903 together. There could have been other years too, but in 1904, I’ve seen the ship documents. The 3 of them with Miss Carrie Campbell & her large entourage (Butler, 2 valets & 2 ladies maids), sailed on the steamship, “S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II” on January 13, 1904, to sail to American after the New Year, so we know they were in Paris over Christmas.

Christmas in Paris is very magical. We know that Mrs. Arabella D.. Huntington was located in Paris at Christmas in 1903; maybe more years then that. In 1903, she was with her son, Archer & his 1st wife, Helen Huntington probably staying at the Ritz Paris or the Hotel Continental. We know she stayed at the Ritz Paris in 1901 & 1902. But in 1907, she bought a mansion in Paris on l’Elysee & rue Gabriel & stayed there on the top floor while renovating it. She also loved to stay at the Hotel Bristol in Paris later on.

When Arabella married Henry “Edwards” Huntington the tradition of celebrating Christmas & New Years continued at “No. 2” in NYC. From 1913, the year they got married to 1921, Arabella “Belle” & Edwards” often took a week train trip in January from NYC to San Marino Ranch. In 1922 & 1923, we know that Belle & Edwards celebrated Christmas at the San Marino Ranch, which was unusual.

The Front Entrance to the Huntington Mansion on the San Marino Ranch with the Loggia on the left.; which is now the Huntington Library San Marino, CA. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

But In 1922, Edward’s son, Howard died & it was a tough year for the Huntingtons. That is probably why they were at the Ranch at Thanksgiving and Christmas; to be with the Howard’s family in Oak Knoll, Pasadena. After Arabella died in September of 1924, Edwards celebrated Christmas & New Years at his beloved San Marino Ranch & years to follow, 1924, 1925, & 1926.

Huntington Mansion “Pate de Foie Gras in Aspic”. The Huntington’s served this delicious pate at a Christmas party in their mansion in New York City. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

A Christmastime Dinner Party at No. 2 on 57th in New York City (1915)

A Christmas Dinner Party at the Huntington Mansion in New York City. H.E. “Edwards” Huntington hosted on Thursday night, December 16, 1915. He was hosting his favorite club “The Hobby Club of New York” at his home & showing his book collections. By December 16th, the Huntington Mansion would have been grandly decorated with Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, Christmas candles, & Christmas Creche. This Christmas time dinner had a elegant 12-course menu that was saved in the Huntington menu archives. The menu was designed by Tiffany & Co. with the menu & illustration of Huntington Library Books. These book authors & menu were on the very large 15″ x 20″ menu: Shakespeare, Spenser, Swift, Defoe, Thackeray, Dickens, Bacon, Fielding, Goldsmith, Merrick, Lamb, Milton, Burnes, Lincolniana, Washingtoniana, Holmes, Bryant, Poe, Hawthorne, Lowell, Irving, The Federalist,1786, Cruikshank, 1725 New England Primer, Franklin MS Autobiography 1171-1790.

A lovely touch to a tablescape is beautiful elegant gold plates with a charger underneath. Above they took a a silver or pewter goblet & put a little flower arrangement in it with red roses, red berries, & pine tree foliage for Christmas.

Hobby Club Dinner December 16, 1915

at H. E. Huntington Residence at No. 2 57th St. New York City, New York

1st Course: Caviar on Toast [with chopped egg, onion, and baby chives]

2. Soup Course: Consomme Royale *

3. Fish Course: Terrapin

4. Chicken course: Chicken Mousse with Truffle Sauce

5. Punch: Roman Punch*

6. Entree Course: Saddle of Lamb

7. Vegetable course: Peas, Potatoes, & Currant Jelly

8. Salad Course: Pate de Foie Gras in Aspic*

9. Fruit Salad: Fruit Salad [Exotic fruits or Waldorf Salad]

10. Ice Course: Macaroon Ice Cream [French Macaroon crushed on ice cream with berries]

11. Dessert Course: Cake [Assorted Fancy Cakes, Christmas Petit fours with holly leaves candy on top]

12. After Dinner Coffee: Coffee [Brandy & Liqueurs]

Document: HEH Coll. HEH Bio File MS 17/1 (uncat) [Hobby Club Menu Portfolio (15×20 menus in huge portfolio]

*Recipe for pate is above

Consomme Royale (Soup) (1917)

A super simple but delicious soup served at the Huntington Mansion at No. 2 in New York City. It is a beef broth soup with royal custard cubes. One could use firm tofu & cut it into petit cubes.

Consomme Royale can be served hot of cold.

3 cans Campbell’s beef broth

garlic powder

4 pkg. Knox gelatin, unflavored

pinch white pepper

Royal Custard, diced fine (below) or Firm Tofu

Heat beef broth, add gelatin, garlic & white pepper. Heat until gelatin is dissolved. Ladle into small soup bowls with lids & serve to guests. Serve hot. To serve Consommé Royale cold & jellied, at this point, pour this mixture into a mold. Add the diced royal custard or tofu cubes. Let cool & place in the refrigerator for 2 hours until until firm. Unmold on a plate & serve in sliced with a lemon wedge & a piece of parsley or herb on the side.

Royal Custard (Savory) (1917)

This recipe was adapted from the 1917 Malone Cookbook of New York, it was under the name Consommé Royal. The Huntington’s Kitchen had special Royal molds or “Roy” molds the cook called them to put the custard in. Dessert royal custards are usually sweet & have sugar added.

2 eggs, slightly beaten

garlic powder

pinch of salt

3 T. consomme (beef or chicken)

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch mace

Whisk eggs & add consommé. Add garlic, cayenne & salt. Pour into a small pan. Place the same pan in a pan of hot water, until the custard hardened & is set. Let it completely cool, then dice up the custard into petit cubes. Add cubes to consommé to make Consommé Royale. Adapted recipe: Nancy Armitage

Iced Roman Punch is served in a fine porcelain punch bowl.

Roman Punch a la Huntington (Cold) from a 1907 recipe

The original Roman Punch was served as a frozen or iced punch. A Roman Punch with champagne or rum or both & fruit juices. This recipe is adapted recipe from 1907 cookbook by Paul Richards called Breads, Cakes, Pastries, Ices. The recipe states to blend ingredients in a blender & place in punch bowl; but I don’t think that is necessary.

1 large crystal or fine china punch bowl (no silver)

1 (12 oz.) can frozen limeade

1 (16 oz) can frozen orange juice

1 (12 oz.) can frozen pineapple juice

1 bottle French champagne, chilled

1 bottle Jamaican rum

1 bottle chardonnay white wine

2 lb. ice cubes

Slices of limes, & oranges or lemons

Add all ingredients to a large punch bowl. Float lime & orange slices on top. Serve in punch cups. Recipe adapted by Nancy Armitage

Huntington Christmas Plateware

So what plate ware did the Huntingtons at Christmas time. Maybe elegant Spode Coalport or Royal Crown Derby or these gorgeous Italian Capodimonte plates. Maybe fine porcelain in red & gold plates, or gold & white, or green & gold? Maybe for this Hobby Club Fancy Dinner they use Armorial Plates like below?

Capodimonte Italian Armorial Plates from Naples. Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington owned them at the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch, CA; later the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

I found this pink & gold fine bone porcelain plate (below) with the Huntington coat of arms at the top of the plate. In the center, the grand hawk of the plate, which often are seen flying around the Huntington’s San Marino property. There are red & yellow roses are on left & a cornucopia of fruit is on the right,

A Armorial plate of pink & gold with the Huntington Family Coat of Arm at the top. I found this plate on the internet with no information attached, It was made by Copeland & Garrett fine china (Spode). Mrs. Arabella Huntington “Best” fine bone china was gold & white made by Copeland & Garrett also. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage
A festive Christmas tea party or Open House with beautiful crystal & polished silver. enjoying tea, Christmas cookies, champagne, chocolates bonbons or See candy and red roses for Christmas. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Huntington Christmas Tea or Open House (at the Huntington Mansion)

Huntington Tea Blend(NY & SMR): Orange Pekoe (combination of India & Ceylon tea) or Huntington Hotel Pasadena “Christmas Tea” Blend: Black tea with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel & allspice

Christmas Punch: Roman Punch, Bishop Punch (Bishop St. Nicholas Day – Dec. 6th) Champagne Punch, Apple Cider Punch, Christmas Wassail, Gingerale Punch with Hawaiian Punch, Root Beer or Sarsaparilla, Ginger ale

Sinterklass Hot Dutch Cocoa (for the children) especially on Dec.6th

Passed Hors d’oeuves: Cheese or Crab Puffs, Caviar Canapes, Roquefort Puff, Dutch Cheese Twists with cayenne pepper “Sables”, Roquefort Puffs, Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

French Charcuterie Trays: Gouda and Edam Dutch Cheese, Brie Cheese, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Pont l’Levesque, Nuts and Dried Apricots, Queen Olives & Relish, Dill Pickles, Pate de Foie Gras in Aspic, Roquefort and cheese ball with toasted almonds

Hot Dishes: Lobster Newburg or Lobster Thermidor, Jambalaya or Gumbo, Potato au Gratin, Chicken Croquettes,

Salad: Chicken Salad, Waldorf Salad, Lobster Salad, Crabmeat salad,

Tea Sandwiches: Roast Beef, Deviled Egg, Lobster or Crab, Salmon with Dill, Chicken Salad, Pimento & cayenne, Cucumber sliced in vinegar with cream cheese, McClaren’s Canadian cheese (Roquefort & Sharp Cheddar), Bread & Butter sandwiches

Cream Scones or Buttermilk Beated Bisquits: with Ranch Raspberry Jam, Ranch Loganberry Jam, San Marino Ranch Orange Marmalade, Tuttie Fruittie, Brandies Peaches

Christmas Cookies: Huntington Mansion Honey Spice Bars (1920’s) iced with Royal Icing, Loone Doones, Gingerbread Men decorated with Royal Icing, Petit Blanc French cookies, Mrs. Kley’s Cinnamon Swirl Cookies

Small Tarts: Christmas Mincemeat Tart, Raspberry Tarts, Lemon Curd Tarts, Southern Pecan Tassies (Mini Pecan Tarts)

Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington Copeland & Garrett “Best” teapot in gold & white filigree & scrollwork. Inormation on this fine bone china, found in the San Marino Ranch papers for the Huntington Mansion. now the Huntington Library. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Sinterklass Dutch Hot Cocoa (Dec. 6th -Bishop St. Nicholas feast day)

New York City was once “New Amsterdam”, it was once peppered with delicious Dutch bakeries & stores. At Christmas time, the Dutch bakeries would be selling special cookies like Speculaas & peppernoten, great with hot cocoa. They had huge ships and images of Bishop St. Nicholas in chocolate. The Dutch make the very best chocolate & cocoa!!

1 t. Dutch cocoa (Van Houten)

1 c. milk or half & half

1/2 t. brown sugar

drop of vanilla extract

mini marshmallows or

Peppermint candy cane or cinnamon stick

heavy whipping cream

chocolate shaving or Dutch chocolate sprinkles

nutmeg, dusted on top

Mix the cocoa with hot milk & sugar. add vanilla extract. Top with marshmallow or whipped cream. Dust with nutmeg and or chocolate sprinkles. Use a peppermint candy candy unwrapped or cinnamon stick to stir. Recipe: Nancy Armitage

Above was a invoice of Mrs. H.E. Huntington at No.2 in NYC ordering a jar of traditional mincemeat for pies or tarts. Also a very simplistic recipe for Mincemeat filling; making a simple Irish dough made of butter, sugar and flour. Photo Credit: Nancy Armtiage

Christmas treats: Chocolate gold coins, Speculaas Dutch spicy cookies, Petit Mincemeat tarts, Mincement Pie, Pumpkin Pie squares, Dutch chocolate letters, Candy canes, Creme de Menthe or Peppermint Patties Chocolate Brownies, Peanut Butter Cookies with Hershey Kiss in the middle,

Christmas Cakes: Christmas Fruit Cake in small cubes, Orange Cake with cranberries, Christmas Petit Fours in small paper wrappers, Irish Christmas Cake with white fondant and tied with a thick red ribbon, Raisin Cake with Royal Icing or Powdered Sugar, Dutch Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting,

Glaces: Ice Cream molds shaped like a Train or a Teddybear or Santa Claus

Christmas Candies: Chocolate Bonbons from Huylers, Peppermint Bonbons, Candies & cakes from Louis Sherry’s NYC,

Mincemeat Mini Tarts with Stars

1 lb. ground beef

1/2 suet (ask your butcher) or use Crisco

3 lb. apples, mince

1/2 c. sugar

2 c. brandy

1 c. sherry

1/2 c. orange or lemon peel

1/2 c. raisins, currants or [dried cranraisins or dried cherries]

pinch of salt

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. mace

2 t. freshly grated nutmeg (great scent)

1 t. cloves

pinch of black pepper

1 c. walnuts

1 c. pecans

1 c. sunflower seeds

1/2 c brown sugar

2 c. apple cider

1/2 c. apricots, dried

1/2 c. golden raisins

1/2 c. citron

Sauté the suet with ground beef. add apples & cook down a bit. Add all ingredients & mix. Store mincemeat in Sterilized jars, seal & label.

To make little tartlets: Divide one recipe pie crust into mini muffin pans. Cut into large round cookie cutter and place in muffin pan. Add mincemeat to pie crust. Make stars out of pie crust & top with star. Bake 400 for 20-22 minutes & golden brown. Recipe: an Old Irish Recipe

Southern Pecan Tassies ( Mini Pecan Tarts)

Cream Cheese Dough:

2/3 c. butter

6 oz. cream cheese

2 c. flour

Let butter & cheese soften at room temperature then mix well & add flour. Mix the soft dough. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight. Using a mini tart/muffin pan with 1 1/2″ sides. Make a ball of dough the size of a walnut. Using a wooden “tart tamper”, take pieces of dough and push down in the little tart pan individually- making a little crust holder.

Pecan Filling:

1 t. melted butter

3/4 c. brown sugar

1 large egg

1 t. vanilla

3/4 c. pecans, chopped

Mix all ingredients well, fill tart 3/4 full. Bake 350@ oven for 15 minutes, then 250@ for 30 minutes until brown. Opt.: Dust top with powdered sugar. Makes 24 tarts Recipe: Nancy Armitage

Bishop St. Nicholas, in Dutch he is called Sinterklass. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Huntington Mansion Honey Spice Bars (1920’s) with Royal Icing (Christmas time)

This special Spiced Honey Bar recipe were made especially for Mr. & Mrs. H.E. Huntinton (Arabella) at their mansion at the San Marino Ranch. They were made especially at Christmas Time, by their dessert chef Mrs. Lena Kley, perfect for afternoon tea or a Open House. They taste like a brownie & a chocolate truffle, & super rich cut into small cubes. They are iced with Royal Icing & are absolutely heavenly! Lena Kley would come help out the kitchen at Christmas time for parties, at-home teas, & holiday time to bake sweets. The Kleys, granddaughter, Chris Storey, sent me this special Huntington Mansion recipe!

2 c. walnuts, chopped (Ranch walnuts)

1 pint orange blossom honey (San Marino Ranch orange honey)

1 c. sugar

2 t. ground cloves

2 t. nutmeg

5 c. flour

1/2 lb (2 c.) ground [Dutch] cocoa

2 t. cinnamon

6 eggs (plus 2 whites for the icing)

6 t. baking powder

Mix honey, cocoa, sugar first. Pour in beaten eggs. Add flour & spices & baking powder. Grease pan & bake in slow oven [300@ for 38 mins] oven until dry. Recipe: from Mrs. Lena Kley’s Recipe (Dessert Cook for Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington -Arabella)

Royal Icing

1 box Powdered Sugar

2 egg whites

Mix powdered sugar into the 2 beaten egg whites to make a white icing that is smooth & drizzles nicely over the petit fours after they are baked & cool. [Maybe a candied flower or leaf made out of icing & red food coloring added.]

Note from Chris Story: All these years and I still don’t know how long to bake them! They can become too dry if they are overcooked.

Nancy Note: When I made these amazing Honey Spice Bars: Mix the dry ingredients first, then add walnuts. Add the eggs & the honey & mix well. Pat dough down in (2) 7 1/2″ x 11″ glass purex dish. Cook at 300@ for 38 mins. Take out of the oven & let them sit. When completely cooked, ice the bars with royal icing in the pan. Cut into small squares (they are very rich).

Royal Crown Derby elegant fine porcelain plates. We know that Mrs. Huntington owned Royal Crown Derby, but we don’t know the pattern. The Huntingtons also had many patterns of just gold & white with ornate designs plateware: Haviland, Coalport, & Copeland & Garrett . Bloomingdales has a gorgeous Royal Crown Derby 12 ” Service plate or charger called “Gold Aves”. which has elegant birds like pheasant, hummingbirds, & butterflies. This is the kind of plate, I envision Mrs. Huntington using at Christmas time in her Gilded Age Dining Rooms, We know she owned Spode Coalport : she might have had a Spode Coalport Scalloped plate bright red & gold scrollwork with white middle & flowers, & gold plate ware or maybe stunning Coalport Tiffany bright green & gold Floral scrollwork on rim with round gold beads on the edge.

Christmas Yule Log with chocolate mousse inside & chocolate frosting with French meringues mushroom & coconut grass with cinnamon sugar. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage


HEH Coll MS 38/11 (NYC No. 2 Papers & Receipts)

HEH Coll. MS 17/1 (Mr. Huntington Bio File/ Hobby Club Portfolio of menus)

HEH Coll MS 8/9 uncat (San Marino Ranch: Plants trees & receipts & grocery lists)

HEH Coll MS 12 1-8 Box 1 (Chateau Beauregard Boxes)

all documents found at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Ship: SS Kaiser Wilhelm II found on www.

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