Founders’ Day (March 1st) at Huntington Library, CA

by Nancy Armitage

The Large Drawing Room of the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch. Which became the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. This was a happy room for the Huntingtons, which they enjoyed together, also with family & friends. This room as other rooms in their mansion show a lovely mix of some of both of their beautiful art collections and treasures.

A couple month ago, I saw a Youtube video about Founders’ Day at the Huntington Library. The video was about changing the tradition of the former Founder’s Day to Founders’ Day; because there was two founders & not just one. On the video, I saw the Huntington Library’s, President Lawrence talk about it. So we are now going to celebrate the contribution of both the founders of the Huntington Library, Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Edwards & Arabella). I’m very excited about this change because Arabella never seems to get the credit for the things she did. Or paintings & French furniture she bought on her own with her own money. Or the numerous charities Mrs. Huntington gave money; or the land or buildings to gave to museum, parks, library & hospitals.

The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA used to celebrate “Founder’s Day: appreciating Mr. Henry E. Huntington. Founder’s Day used to be on his birthday, February 27 every year. The Huntington Library has change the name to “Founders’ Day”, because there were 2 founders of the Huntington Library. It was in 1919, when both the Huntingtons signed that important document. To give their many treasures to the State of California. They generously gave their Huntington Mansion (Huntington Art Gallery,): their art, their paintings, sculptures, their beautiful gardens, & massive library to the state of California. At that time, Mr. Huntington stated that if Mrs. Huntington didn’t want to sign that document, that the whole deal was off. That the Huntingtons would donate their whole estate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. We are all so fortunate to enjoy this amazing museum at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.

Things have changed for the better to include Mrs. Arabella Duval Huntington as a founder which she was!! What a great idea, to celebrate Arabella’s contributions to the Huntington Library! This is a short list of massive collections of Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella), but its a start to give her credit, where credit is due.

Think Paris when you think about Arabella Huntingtons contributions to the Huntington Library or how she decorated all her Huntington mansions. Almost all of the French items at the Huntington Library were once purchased by Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) in 1907. When she bought a portion of the Rudolph Kahn Collection in Paris after Duveen showed her the Kahn Estate. There were many pieces of Louis XVI/Marie Antoinette in that collection which she loved. Photo & Illustration credit: Nancy Armitage

Contributions of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington to the Huntington Library

This elegant photograph of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington is located at the Hispanic Society Museum in NYC.

The French Art, French paintings (Boucher) and French sculpture (Large Diana the Huntress upstairs)

The French Furniture (Louis XVI/Marie Antoinette chairs & chandeliers, couches, desks, buffets, tea tables, & Boucher chairs

5 French tapestries in the large library, Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) & Duveen pick them out in 1905 in Paris, but HEH paid for them

French, Sevres pink tea plates

About 15 “Primitive Paintings” (Italian all titled “Madonna & Child” paintings- upstairs on the 2nd floor). This Madonna and Child paintings are created by master painters: Rogier van der Weyden dated 1460, Cosimo Rosselli dated 1475 (5 angels surrounding Mother Mary with backgrounds of red, Bastiano Mainardi (n.d.),Bernardino Pinturicchio dated late 15th century (Child is sitting on a pillow, Madonna had a blue cape), Giovanni Bellini date 1489 (the Madonna had white head covering & black cape with reddish brown under cape/ Child is holding her neck), by Bastiano Mainardi n.d. (2 angels at the bottom of painting looking up at Madonna & Child, Madonna & Child with St. John by Master of the Castello Nativity date mid-15th Cent. to late-15th Cent. (a child kneeing to baby child & Mother Mary with gold halo & folding her hands in prayer), Madonna & Child by Unknown French 16th Century artist description “Madonna del a latte (Mother Mary has a crown standing in from of Gothic church window and nursing baby Jesus). Then their was “Madonna & Child with Angels by possibly Girolamo di Giovanni da Camerino n.d. (8 angels surrounding the Madonna & Child & Madonna & Child with St. John attributed to Francesco Granacci date 16th century, Madonna & Child with St. John by Master of the Brucianesi n.d (Palladian-shaped frame with “Ave Maria Gratia” written on the bottom of frame, Madonna & Child with St. John pseudo Pier Francesco Fiorentino no date, Madonna & Child with Bishop date: n.d. (Bishop had a red cloak, Bishop St. Nicholas?) by Imitator of Filippino Lippi. “Madonna & Child with St. Jerome, St. Sebastian & 2 Angels” by Matteo di Giovanni date mid 15th Century. “Madonna & Child with St. Anthony & St. Francis” by Francesco Francia date 1490-1505,

It states in that all these primitives paintings (Madonna & Child) came to the Huntington Library in 1926 which they did. In 1924, Archer Huntington after Arabella Huntington died, took the Madonna & Child paintings out of the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch. But Archer Huntington sent them back to H. E. Huntington in 1926. But originally, Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington bought the primitives/ Madonna & Child paintings in 1907 in the Rudolph Kahn Collection.

“Temple of Love” Large Sculpture in the Rose Garden (originally was located at the Huntington Mansion at No. 2 East 57th St. NYC) Head Butler/Valet Alfonso Gomez talked Mrs. Huntington into bringing it to the San Marino Ranch & she did that.

Botanical Garden Books were alot of Arabella’s: Garden books on Roses, Violets, Orchids

French painting at the Huntington Library, San Marino CA. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

Mrs. Arabella Huntington purchased & owned most of tableware &silver ware (Gorham) tea sets, the Huntington Library has a very large tea set Mrs. Huntington purchase for the E. Burke & Caroline Huntington Holladay (Arabella & Collis Huntington’ niece).

The flatware, all pattern of plates of French Sevres, English Coalport, American Angelus all of which went to the estate, so we don’t see anything they owned such as plateware.

Stunning hot pink & white with gold Sevres plates. in the Arabella Huntington Collection. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

Where the Huntington story gets complicated is, who owned what pieces of art? who bought them? when did they buy them? Often, Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington does not get the credit she is due for being a very sophisticated & savvy art collector.

Things that were bought from 1913-1924, at that time, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Edwards Huntington (Arabella) were married. Should Arabella get credit in the provenance of owning with Mr. H. E. Huntington at the time? From 1900-1913, Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) was a widow. She took many trips to France & Europe during this time period. Even staying months at a time. She bought lots of beautiful French paintings & furniture (especially of King Louis XVI who was married to Queen Marie Antoinette) in Paris. All these French treasures she purchased went into her 2 different Paris Mansions (one on l’Elysses & the other mansion on Lubeck) & some things went to Chateau Beauregard by Versailles. But where are the receipts? Huntington Library, Syracuse University?? or the Hispanic Society?? Some of this information, the curators just don’t know. So they tend to write on the plaques : Huntington Collections, San Marino, CA.

Sculpture Diana the Huntress. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

So when Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella) died in September of 1924, her son, Archer M. Huntington inherited her things at the San Marino Ranch, CA: (the Old Mill, furniture, paintings, sculptures, etc. This all happened, I think in December of 1924 at Mrs. Huntington’s final funeral at the San Marino Ranch. Which Archer & his 2nd wife. Ana Huntington (the famous sculptress) attended & stayed in the Mansion with “Edwards” (HEH). There are photos of Ana in the Huntington family photos in 1924 at the San Marino Ranch.

So Archer took out of the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch – his mother’s portrait painting by Birley & all of the “primitives paintings (Madonna & Child) paintings. Which he rightfully under the will of Arabella Huntington, was able to do. Except for the Arabella portrait was technically bought from the artist- Birley by Mr. Henry E. Huntington. Mr. H. E. Huntington was very upset when Arabella died. Alfonso Gomez states in his interviews that Mr. H. E. Huntington said to Archer “take what you want”. It was just too much for H. E. Huntington & he probably wasn’t feeling great.

He (Archer) also inherited the No. 2 Huntington mansion in NYC, The Huntingtons “Homestead” estate at Throggs Neck, NYC, The Great Huntington Camp in the Adirondack at Camp Pine Knot & all of Mrs. Huntington items at the San Marino Ranch in Southern CA & massive amounts of land in various states of USA.

So time goes by & it takes Mr. H. E. Huntington along time to recovery after Arabella’s death. He was sad and was sick. Archer & Henry Huntington are both executors of the Arabella Huntington’s will. It took 1924,1925, &1926 (3 years) & hundreds of pages of documents later to close her estate, it was so massive!! They had to sell houses & 1000’s of acres of land all over the USA, in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, California, State of Washington, & New York, to sell her properties & objects of art.

Mr. H. E. Huntington by 1925-26 is suffering with health problems & some surgeries. He doesn’t recovery well from one of the surgeries, wounds that won’t heal in 1926. He is truly upset one day & shares his feelings with his Head Butler/Gentlemen-Valet, Alfonso Gomez. Mr. Huntington is very emotional and states to Alfonso – that he really wants the painting back of Mrs. Huntington (that he misses her so much) & to get back all of the Madonna & Child paintings back for a Arabella Huntington Collection gallery HEH wants to create. Alfonso in his true loyalty to Mr. Henry E. Huntington buys a ticket on a train to NYC to visit Mr. Archer Huntington. Archer Huntington & Alfonso Gomez always had a great relationship. In fact, Archer helped Alfonso get his job with the Huntington family. Alfonso & Archer at this unannounced meeting speak in Spanish. As Alfonso pleads Mr. H. E. Huntington’s case of wanting these paintings back. I have seen the telegram that Archer sent Henry stating that the paintings will all arrive at the San Marino Ranch soon on the train. It doesn’t seem like Mr. H. E. Huntington had to purchase these Madonna & Child paintings, which was very generous of Archer.

The back story of Mrs. Arabella Huntington things (art, paintings, rugs, & sculpture) went up for sale. Remember Archer Huntington in 1924 now owns her things & needs money for his own museum: Hispanic Society of America in New York City. Arabella Huntington items were from No. 2 & Throgg’s Neck estate went up for sale at Anderson Galleries in New York City, a auction house in 1926.

English Royalty porcelain plate ware set made in Chelsea, England in 1763. To the order of King George III & Queen Charlotte & presented to Grand Duke of Mecklenberg Stelitz in 1763. This set of plate ware was once owned by Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella) and used at Huntington Mansion at No.2 E. 57th St. NYC. It was purchased thru Duveen in Oct/Nov 1923 by H. E. Huntington (probably a Christmas gift to his wife. I found the information in the Andersen Galleries catalog of 1926, info below.

I found the Catalog 1926, Anderson Galleries auction at the Huntington Library. Pages & pages of Arabella’s things: silver, rugs, chandeliers & Royalty Chelsea plateware (above) and alot of Marie Antoinette items went up for sale. 100’s maybe 1000’s of items, that Mr. Henry E. Huntington actually had to buy back of Mrs. Arabella Huntington. Those items make up the “Arabella Huntington Collection” at the Huntington Library because they were originally bought by Arabella herself. Most of the French items were bought in 1907, by Mrs. Collis Huntington (Arabella). They were all part of Arabella’s portions that she personal purchased of the Rudolph Kahn Collection in Paris, France. But this information gets lost in translation & the general public really doesn’t get informed of who purchased what.

Check out the “Provenance” of Huntington paintings : Bequest of Collis P. Huntington or donation by Archer M. Huntington (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

Often, some of these piece of art, paintings where actually Arabella Huntington’s purchase. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) there is a collection of paintings (40) in Bequest of Mr. Collis P. Huntington. A lot of those paintings were bought by Arabella & Collis Huntington, but he wrote the check & he gets credit for the art. But on a couple of those Huntington paintings, check out the Provenance about the painting: Some will state “Duveen then Mrs. Arabella Huntington (1907)” and sometimes mentions “Rudolph Kahn Collection”. Those are paintings bought by Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington/Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, bought on her own, with her own money.

In the mansion, Mrs. Worsham (Arabella) owned on 54th Street (which she & her mother and family lived) there was many paintings, which we know if she purchased or not. She does get credit for the construction of that property with the Rockefeller-Worsham show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art though.

Old source book/Directory of paintings of the Huntington Library are better at stating some of the history/dates of items. But sadly these books are in black & white.

Mr. Henry “Edwards” Huntington

Mr. Henry “Edwards” Huntington with a top hat & looking very dapper. Original photograph: Huntington Library San Marino, CA (in Metcalf Collection photographs -HEH’s grandson.)

Contributions to the Huntington Library from Mr. Henry E. Huntington:

Purchase of the San Marino Ranch, Los Angeles County in California in 1903

The Buildings of the Huntington Mansion on the Ranch (1908-1911) but HEH moved into the Huntington Mansion in 1910 with a small servant staff.

Purchase of 1000’s trees, roses, bulbs, orchids, herbs thru his head gardener: Mr. Wm. Hertrich

All the books at the Huntington Library: His collection started right in his own Large Library & grew larger. Until 1919-1920, he had to build the Library Building to house his massive collection of books & manuscripts.

Purchase of Japanese garden and tea house (1911)

“the Blue Boy” by Gainsborough with other master oil paintings and sculptures in the Huntington Gallery, Huntington Library San Marino, CA Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

“Blue Boy” painting by Gainsborough (originally located in the Large Drawing Room on the north wall) in 1921, Arabella & Henry were married at the time, does she get credit? Painting was delivered in 1922.

English Landscape paintings

Romney portrait paintings -9 large paintings (They used to be located in the Dining Room all together) now are in various rooms in the Huntington Mansion/Huntington Library.

All items about George Washington were purchased by HEH. Photo and Illustration: Nancy Armitage

Washingtoniana and Lincolniana Collections and Ben Franklin Collections

Hoe and Wallace Collection and numerous other collections

This menu is from the New York Public Library- Buttolph Collection. But in the Huntington Library Menu Ephemera Collection there are numerous menu of the Southern Pacific Company which H.E. Huntington was the Secretary to the President of the Company who was his uncle Collis P. Huntington.

All ephemera on Trains, Pacific Electric Co. Los Angeles, CA ,Southern Pacific Co.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella) beautiful 1920’s collection of travel books by A. C. Black. Located on 3 shelves in the Large Library at the San Marino Ranch. (now the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA)

Books at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Receipts of rare books purchased by Mr. H. E. Huntington for the “Library of Henry E. Huntington”. These receipts were framed and hung up at the 1919 exhibition at the Huntington Library San Marino CA.

Rare Books & Manuscripts, signature collection

Menu Ephemera collection

Mr. Henry E. Huntington portrait painting located at the Huntington-Langham Hotel in Pasadena, CA . Hotel Huntington he built in 1914, formerly the Hotel Wentworth. This is a stunning portrait of Mr. Henry E. Huntington, why not ask the artist to paint another painting of HEH, buy it & hang it at the Huntington Library. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

In conclusion, if we are going to give Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington credit for her contribution to the Huntington Library – it needs to be stated on the plaques next to the art (Paintings & Sculpture) for all the world to see. It might take 5-10 years to collect all Mrs. Huntington’s information: receipts, invoices about her amazing purchases. But it really should be done, I think this process would be so worth the effort.

Idea: All Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington Papers at other museums & libraries – original piece or copied, sent, & stored at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Also, in my opinion, all of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s Papers (letters, correspondences, invoices, receipts, photographs, photos of Arabella, copy of portrait paintings) all should be at the Huntington Library! So many museums across America hold Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s items: Mariners Museum -Newport News, VA, Metropolitan Mus. of Art- NYC, Hispanic Society- NYC, SF Museum of Art- SF, Syracuse University-NY, Yale University, even The Louvre Museum in Paris, (had a sweet little girl painting offering cherries that once belonged to Mrs. Arabella Huntington, & so many more museums.

Idea: New curator to collect Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s personal items:

Maybe a new curator needs to be hired to do this at the Huntington Library. To gather all information of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington: (Miss Belle Yarrington, Arabella Duval Yarrington, Mrs. B. D. Worsham, Mrs. Belle Worsham, Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington). All Arabella Huntington information or paper from any other libraries, colleges or universities, or museums should be photography or copied or buy the original. And sent to the Huntington Library, where all of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s information & personal things would be located in the same place!! Like a copy of Mrs. Collis Huntington (Arabella Worsham Huntington’s) full length portrait painting with the red dress by Alexandre Cabanel dated 1882- should be located at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.

Couldn’t the Huntington Library go to San Francisco Museum of Art (they have Arabella’s hair combs, hair brushes, & beautiful laces of Mrs. Huntingtons. Couldn’t the Huntington Library & take a snippet of all the rolls of French laces once owned by Mrs. Arabella Huntington. They have her (Belguim Lace, & French Lace) take a snippet of all the laces & frame it & hang it up at the Huntington Library.

Idea: Permanent Display of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s personal things (Huntington Library, San Marino, CA):

Couldn’t the Huntington Library make a permanent room/ exhibition of just Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s personal things? Stop all the mystery of her life, we know so much about her Arabella’s life now. All these interesting items could be on permanent display in cabinets:

Copies of the Arabella letters (Check my blog for “Arabella Letters”),

Dinner plate of all the numerous gorgeous dinnerware she had (it would take up a whole wall!),

Arabella Huntington’s dinner menus,

Southern Pacific Annual Banquet dinner menu in 1890’s (that were hosted by Collis and Arabella Huntington in their mansion on California (Nob Hill) in San Francisco,

copy of Mrs. Collis P. Huntington’s (Arabella) calling card,

copy of her Maxim’s Paris menus from 1908 from Paris France -in HEH Collection Menu Ephemera,

House of Worth dresses that Mrs. Arabella Huntington bought in Paris,

photos of Chateau Beauregard,

photos of Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s Paris Mansions,

List of her travels & grand Cunard & French ships she took to Europe & France.

The list goes on & on, interesting things about her Gilded Age life, people would love to know about Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington.


Andersen Galleries Auction 1926 Items sold of No. 2 57th St. NYC (Arabella Huntington’s Mansion on the corner of 5th Ave. & 57th St. which is now Tiffany & Co., NYC; Rare Book #425016 Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

HEH Collection HEH 37/1-18 (uncat) (Surrogates Court County of NY, Will of Arabella D. Huntington, deceased) Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

HEH Collection MS 19/1-18 uncat (Mr. Alfonso Gomez interviews) Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

HEH Collection MS 12/1-30 Chateau Beauregard’s papers at Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

HEH Collection MS 38/6 [Huntington Mansion Inventory book ?1927] at Huntington Library San Marino, CA

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