The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age

Shelley M. Bennett. Huntington Library (Univ. of California, dist.), $40 (366p) ISBN 978-0-87328-253-6
Bennett, senior research associate at the Huntington Library, offers an engaging and unusual history of philanthropy in the U.S. The Gilded Age cast of characters is familiar; more surprising is their influence on art and tax laws. Collis P. Huntington was one of the era's “big four” railroad magnates. His nephew, Henry E. Huntington, founded the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gar-dens in San Marino, Calif. Arabella Huntington married both Collis, and, after Collis's death, Henry. Arabella's son, Archer, went on to found the Hispanic Museum. Though the men are better known, Arabella haunts the book. Often ostracized from society because of her first “marriage” to a gaming saloon operator, she survived as best she could given the times. Whether or not Collis fathered Archer while still married to his first wife, he nonetheless gave his mistress, Arabella, enough support for her to successfully invest and build her own wealth before they married. Arabella skillfully oversaw the building and decorating of the numerous Huntington estates, both in the U.S. and in France, and se-cured the family's philanthropic legacy. Filled with photographs of the family's exquisite art collection, the book expertly brings to life a remarkable family of the early 20th-century. 83 color illus., 136 b&w photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 07/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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