A History of the Medical Book

An 18th-century reader inscribed her name in a copy of a small manual about domestic medicine titled Family Physitian: or every man or woman their own doctor, by D.E. Doctor of physic . . . [London]: Tho Norris, 1721.The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

When we analyze an early-modern medical book nowadays, we often read it on Early English Books Online (EEBO), Google Books, or a similar platform. While such digitization has opened up all kinds of scholarly opportunities, it has also meant that we less frequently encounter a historical medical book as a material object. I’m convening a conference called “The History of the Medical Book” from Nov. 16–17 at The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall to prompt us to think about the medical books that we study as material objects—in other words, to bring together the history of medicine and the history of the book. I want to ask what the medium might tell us about the message and vice versa.

This 19th-century obstetrics textbook used fold-out flaps to help a student envision the processes of delivery. Obstetric Tables, by George Spratt, Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., No. 253 Market Street., 1848. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

I joke that I always know when “my” books come up to the front desk in a research library. They are the small, brown, plainly-bound, rather battered-looking ones. Much of my scholarly work has been on medical works meant for non-medical readers: what I call “vernacular medicine.” These books, printed in small format to keep costs down (ditto the plain binding), seem to have been read a great deal; they are invariably well-worn; sometimes one of the few illustration pages is missing; and owners may have inscribed their names on the flyleaf, or, in some cases, practiced their penmanship as they wrote their name repeatedly. Occasionally a reader will have marked a text, but the elaborate humanist writing practices that decorate fancier books are rarely to be found in mine.

Those marks of use tell us something about the history of readers’ encounters with the book, and the knowledge it contained, as reading is a material practice. Kathleen Crowther, one of our speakers, recently wrote about the Renaissance use of pop-up books, now the stuff of childhood, to teach scientific and mathematical concepts; anatomy texts continued to use such devices into the 19th century. Readers touched and moved these books in order to grasp (pun intended) new concepts about the body and natural world.

A flyer for a 19th-century course of lectures on phrenology, including a promise to examine some of the attendees phrenologically! “Know Thyself, Lectures on Phrenology, by Daniel Jerome Ager.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Our conference brings together an array of scholars who approach the materiality of their texts in a range of ways. Some of the books we’ll consider are canonical: Vesalius’s ground-breaking anatomical work; or the 19th-century textbook Gray’s Anatomy. Others are less canonical, such as works on phrenology or home-birth newsletters, mimeographed and distributed by feminist activists in the 1970s.

We’ll hear about the unusual red ink used to print spell-books in South Asia; and the surprising absence of illustration in some Renaissance anatomical works. We’ll eavesdrop on how readers interacted with texts, for example exploring where and how early 20th century men and women read Aristotle’s Masterpiece, the long-lived vernacular manual about sex and reproduction.

The Huntington collection includes very rare woodblocks used to create images in an early 19th-century edition of Aristotle’s Masterpiece. This image of a monstrously hairy child was reproduced in various forms for centuries. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

There is nowhere better to consider the material nature of the works we study (and the ways in which those material qualities might tell us new things about those works) than in a major research library such as the one at The Huntington, which curates and cares for a magnificent collection of medical books. We’ll also be doing break-out sessions, where small groups of participants can engage with the materiality of books by exploring medieval manuscripts; folding paper to understand how early-modern books were put together; touring the conservation department, and other related activities. My hope is that our conference will help us to better appreciate the complex relationships between the material forms of medical books and the texts they contain.

You can read more about the conference program on The Huntington’s website.

Funding for this conference has been provided by Dr. Cindy and John Carson.

Mary E. Fissell is professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University, with appointments in the history of science and the history departments. Her most recent book, Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England, is available from Oxford University Press.

The Spirit of Party

Washington’s farewell address to the people of the United States, Philadelphia: Devereux & Co., ca. 1858. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Few documents of the Founding era were more admired in the United States before the Civil War than George Washington’s Farewell Address. Americans liked to think of themselves as the same nation to which its first president appealed in 1796—patriotic citizenry with “reflecting and virtuous minds” whose “love of liberty” was interwoven “with every ligament” of their hearts and who held dear the “unity of government” that made them “one people.”

However, the American public could not help but see the chasm between this ideal and reality. Nowhere was this contrast starker than in the United States Congress. Rife with all possible vices—from hard drinking to physical violence—Congress had long provided fodder for ridicule and outrage.

When 16-year old Irving S. Vassall moved to the nation’s capital from his native Oxford, Massachusetts, he found the political scene in Washington, D. C. disappointing. Congressmen looked nothing like wise statesmen, and the town was awash in rumors and gossip about congressional shenanigans, which Vassall gleefully reported to his Massachusetts relatives.

On May 15, 1858, Vassall related one such rumor to his uncle. It seemed that a majority of congressmen had developed “a very singular habit of going home to their dinners and then sauntering slowly back at their leisure,” much to the annoyance of the “working members” of Congress. On the afternoon of May 14, having found “a great many members” missing in action, they sent the sergeant-at-arms and his deputies into “the city after his stray sheep.” The congressmen were yanked from dinner parties (including one hosted by President James Buchanan at the White House) or pried from the arms of many “a pretty lady” and delivered to the House, where they were fined “two dollars each.”

The incident was duly recorded by the Congressional Globe, although less colorfully than in Vassall’s letter. Quite a few members from both sides of the aisle had indeed made themselves scarce before the speaker called the session adjourned, rendering the rest of the House unable to proceed without a quorum. As the sergeant-at-arms brought in fugitive congressmen, the excuses piled up, prompting an occasional outburst of hilarity. A large portion of the Pennsylvania delegation called in sick, save William Stewart, who, according to his fellow Pennsylvanian Republican John Covode, was “in perfect good health, and in order to preserve his health, I presume he had gone to dinner.”

The first two pages of a letter by the 16-year-old Irving S. Vassall to his uncle regarding congressional absenteeism, May 15, 1858. (Click the image above to see a larger version of it.) Vasall writes that a majority of congressmen developed “a very singular habit of going home to their dinners and then sauntering slowly back at their leisure.” Clara Barton correspondence. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Congressional Globe reported the incident as a bipartisan affair. Vassall, however, described the roundup of the malingerers as “chiefly the work of the Republicans and done no doubt to break up Jimmy Buchanan’s dinner party.”

It was little wonder that Washington gossips would see it this way. There was no love lost between President Buchanan, a pro-slavery Democrat, and the members of the new Republican Party, which had included opposition to slavery in its official platform.

The May 14 incident came just four months after the scandal over the admission of Kansas to the Union—an event in which congressional absenteeism played an important part.

In his annual message to Congress in December 1857, Buchanan endorsed the Lecompton Constitution, which defined Kansas as a slave state. Determined to ram the proposal through Congress, the President sent it for ratification on February 2, 1858. For three days, the debates between the pro-and anti-Lecompton factions raged in the House, producing an impasse.

At the end of the business day on February 5, the Republicans discovered that a large chunk of the pro-Buchanan Democrats had decamped for dinner and, seizing on their temporary majority, tried to force the vote. Alexander H. Stephens, who was then Buchanan’s floor manager, stalled while messengers labored to round up pro-Buchanan congressmen all over Washington and herd them back to the House.

The proceedings dragged on into the night, as the House, according to a Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper reporter, descended into a scene of “mental and physical fermentation.” The “Western delegates” napped, hanging “over the backs of their chairs, displaying open mouths and giving utterance to dreadful sounds.” Others sustained themselves with “private drinks,” innumerable “plugs of tobacco,” and “vile cigars.” In the side-galleries, newspaper reporters were engaged in “pelting each other with spit balls, the solid contents of which were the President’s Kansas message.”

James Buchanan, ca. 1844–1856. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Just before 2 a.m., Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania, the Republican whip, crossed the aisle to confer with some anti-Lecompton Democrats. Laurence Keitt a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina, took exception and advanced on Grow, calling him a “black Republican puppy.” Grow refused to yield to a slave driver who would “come up from his plantation and crack his whip about my ears,” at which point Keitt grabbed him by the throat.

In an instant, some “forty or fifty Republicans” came dashing across the floor, including Cadwallader C. Washburn of Wisconsin who “pitched into the ring, causing an immense rolling over on the floor of numerous specimens of the collected wisdom of the nation.”

As United States representatives bashed at each other with their fists and, in the case of John Covode of Pennsylvania, a heavy stoneware spittoon, the Speaker of the House pounded away with his gavel, battering his desk “into mincemeat.” The sergeant-at-arms seized the Mace of the Republic, topped with a silver eagle, but could do little more than wave this “emblem of the valorous critter” over the heads of the warring parties.

The fight reached its climax when John Fox Potter of Wisconsin, a Republican, seized William Barksdale of Mississippi, a Democrat, by what he thought was “the hair of the head.” To his horror, the hair came off in his hand. It turned out that the Barksdale wore a wig—a fact that he had carefully concealed from his colleagues. The hall convulsed in laughter, which brought an end to what the Frank Leslie’s reporter characterized as a “pre-eminently disgusting” scene.

Such scandals were vivid examples of what Washington had called in his Farewell Address “the spirit of party.” Washington had warned that “party passions,” rooted in the basest instincts of human nature, would cause “riot and insurrection,” and he implored his countrymen to exercise “a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame.”

Sixty years later, the warning looked like a prophesy fulfilled. The “spirit of party” was now rampant.

Some Americans thought that this spike in partisanship was merely due to a lack of patriotic restraint and an unwillingness to compromise. This danger could be contained, they thought, by cultivating the civic virtues of putting country above party and by the mitigating “force of public opinion.”

“Congressional Row, in the U. S. House of Representatives, Midnight of Friday, February 5th, 1858.” Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, Volume 5, Number 16 (Feb. 20, 1858), page 176. (Click the image above to see a larger version of it.) In the lower left part of the image, the illustrator has captured the moment when John Fox Potter of Wisconsin, a Republican, seized William Barksdale by what he thought was “the hair of the head,” only to find himself holding aloft the Mississippi Democrat’s wig. Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, Volume 5, Number 16 (Feb. 20, 1858), page 176. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Many others, however, saw this new partisanship as part of a battle for the very soul of the Republic. There was little room for compromise. Abolitionists were determined to rid the nation dedicated to liberty of the sin of human bondage. Antislavery politicians fought to check the power afforded to the Southern “slaveocracy” at the expense of free states. The pro-slavery establishment, insisting that slavery was a God-ordained “positive good” and the foundation of the nation’s prosperity, demanded that it be federally protected.

The struggle, which had fractured the political establishment, could no longer be contained by the lofty conventions of parliamentary civility and stately procedure nor checked by increasingly divided public opinion. While some citizens saw the Republic in chains, groaning under the yoke of “Slave Power,” others beheld the Founders’ legacy of (to use the words of a prominent Southern preacher) “regulated freedom” assailed by wild-eyed, extremist “black Republicans,” as well as by “atheists, socialists, and communists.”

Americans liked to invoke Washington’s warning against “the spirit of party,” but only as long as it applied to the opposing camp. While professed to be disgusted by resurgent partisanship, a portion of the public, including the young Irving Vassall, could not help but relish the spectacle, especially as it played out in Congress.

In three years, Vassall—sick with consumption and unable to enlist in the Union army—joined the staff of Colonel Gardiner Tufts, the military agent for the state of Massachusetts and inspector of hospitals and prisons. As Tufts’ chief clerk, Vassall inspired his aunt, Clara Barton (1821–1912), the pioneering nurse who later founded the American Red Cross, to take up the cause of missing soldiers and prisoners of war. Vassall died at the age of 24, on April 9, 1865—on the very day that Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.

Olga Tsapina is the Norris Foundation Curator of American History at The Huntington.

Beatrix Farrand at The Huntington

Portrait of landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959), by Jeanne Ciravolo.

Documentary filmmaker and six-time Emmy Award-winner Karyl Evans will present a screening of her film “The Life and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. In anticipation of the screening, we have invited historian Ann Scheid to write about the work and life of Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959), including her time at The Huntington. 

When Beatrix Farrand moved to California in 1927 with her husband Max, newly appointed as the first director of The Huntington, she was one of the most well-known and experienced landscape architects of her time. As the only woman among the 11 founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects, she had an impressive list of commissions to her credit, including both private gardens and campus designs. Born into New York society (Edith Wharton was her maternal aunt), she counted Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan among her clients. Her campus work included designs for Princeton, Yale, the University of Chicago, Vassar, Hamilton, and Oberlin colleges.

Beatrix Farrand, standing in front of the director’s house at The Huntington. She and her husband, the historian Max Farrand (1869–1945), who was the first director of The Huntington, lived in the house during all but the first three years of his tenure, which lasted from 1927 to 1941. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Max Farrand, a well-known Yale professor specializing in constitutional history, had been selected by Huntington trustee and solar astronomer George Ellery Hale as the best candidate for the director position. The Hales and Farrands became close friends, and Beatrix designed her first California garden for Hale’s solar observatory on Holladay Road, just north of the Huntington estate.

When the Farrands first arrived, they lived on South Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, but by 1930, they were living in the director’s house off Orlando Road on The Huntington’s grounds. A guest cottage located north of the original Library building had been moved to the site and remodeled into a residence. It is likely that Beatrix helped determine the siting and designed the landscape features around the house. Following the principle of her teacher and mentor, Charles Sprague Sargent of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, to “make the plan fit the ground and not twist the ground to fit the plan,” she sited the house on a knoll, reached by a curving drive from Orlando Road.

South facing exterior and “office” of the director’s house. Beatrix Farrand designed the paths and plantings around the office in the 1930s, using mostly hedges and flowers. Her original plans called for calla lilies, narcissus, iris, and freesias. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Respecting the symmetry of Myron Hunt’s original design for the house, which had a centered entrance portico, she created a garden featuring a patio overlooking the lawn bordered by a garden wall. On axis with the patio, she mounted a fountain on the wall to serve as a focal point for the view from the house. At the west end of the garden, she asked Hunt to design a small office/studio linked to the main house by a pergola. Beyond the office was an intimate flower garden in raised beds. An allée of native oaks led from the east end of the property into The Huntington’s grounds, a path that Max probably strolled on his way to the office. It is remarkable in the ephemeral world of landscape design that the basic elements of the garden still survive, although the flower garden has been replaced by a swimming pool.

Farrand continued working for her eastern clients through the 1930s, including Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. Their estate, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., is her most celebrated work and is now open to the public. Farrand also did some work for Caltech, including the design of Dabney Garden on the campus.

Beatrix Farrand’s landscape design for the director’s house at The Huntington, 1934. (Click the image above to see a larger version of it.) This revision of her original landscape design comprises carnations, pansies, roses, petunias, irises, and chrysanthemums, among others. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

However, her most significant work in Southern California is her campus redesign at Occidental College. Working closely again with Myron Hunt, she transformed the hilly campus accessed by a road into a series of gentle terraces, creating at one stroke a walkable horizontal campus with a quadrangle marked by mature oak trees that she personally selected in the wild and had moved into place. This reorientation of the campus incorporated the existing buildings and placed the new auditorium, Thorne Hall, on the west, balancing the existing library building on the east. She did additional work in Santa Barbara on the Bliss estate, Casa Dorinda in Montecito, and on the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

When the Farrands announced their retirement to their home, Reef Point, in Maine in 1941, Beatrix wrote to a friend: “Although this house [at The Huntington] has only been our official home and therefore not as closely rooted in our hearts as Reef Point, it is rather a tug at the heartstrings to leave its pleasant surroundings and the implication of all the friendly hours we have enjoyed it.”

Beatrix Farrand sent condolences to her friend Grace Hubble, the wife of astronomer Edwin Hubble, after his death in 1953. Her note begins: “Dear Grace, it must be a comfort to you in your pain to know that Edwin crossed the river at the height of his powers . . .” Edwin Hubble Papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Besides the Hales, the Farrands counted as close friends astronomer Edwin Hubble and his wife, Grace. Another friend, feminist Clara Burdette, wrote of the Farrands: “Your presence has always given me an inward rejoicing that you were a living example to this community of two people who could each exercise a vital interest of his own and yet remain in unity—the high purpose of living.”

Following the screening of “The Life and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12 in Rothenberg Hall, filmmaker Karyl Evans will discuss the restoration of Farrand’s work at Yale University.

The program is presented as part of the California Garden & Landscape History Society Lecture Series. Free; no reservations required.

Ann Scheid is the curator of the Greene & Greene archives, which are part of the Gamble House and housed at The Huntington.

“Nightwalk” in the Chinese Garden

The Garden of Flowing Fragrance at The Huntington is the inspiration for playwright Stan Lai’s new site-specific work, Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden, which is having its sold-out world premiere through Oct. 26, 2018. Photo by Martha Benedict. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

It was an auspicious omen. At dusk, during a mid-September rehearsal of Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden—The Huntington’s first-ever, site-specific, evening theatrical production—“these huge wild geese came in formation and they flew down and sort of circled us and left,” says playwright-director Stan Lai. “That felt so wonderful. Sort of like they were blessing us.”

Lai, an acclaimed figure in contemporary Chinese-language theater in China and Taiwan, has staged Nightwalk (the sold-out run ends October 26) in collaboration with The Huntington and CalArts’ professional Center for New Performance. The piece is inspired by The Peony Pavilion, a romantic tragicomedy by 16th-century Chinese dramatist Tang Xianzu about a maiden who dies of love for a man in her dreams; the dream man is given real-life existence, and the couple’s fated love trumps death.

Jessika Van as the Maiden, Chenxue Luo as the Opera Singer, and Christine Lin as Fragrance. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

“Isn’t that wild?” Lai asks. “I’ve always thought the 16th-century Chinese playwrights were so avant-garde. If you see [the 2010 film] Inception, you say, wow, that’s cool. I say, well they did it long ago.”

In Nightwalk, performed in English, a Ming dynasty playwright is tormented by his love for the maiden of his creation; in a parallel story, a 1920s Latino artist is smitten with the portrait of a girl who has died, and with her ghost. The play is about “dreams and reality and the border between them,” Lai says. “It’s about life and death and the border between them, about borders and immigration, and the abstract borders between people.”

Sarah Schulte as the Curator, Adam J. Smith as Mr. Huntington, Peter Mark as the Artist, and Lizinke Kruger as Bella. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

Audiences in separate groups follow lantern-bearing guides through the Chinese Garden, viewing scenes on bridges, in the graceful pavilions, and on pathways through shadows cast by massive limestone rocks. One group first sees the play in the setting of 16th-century China; the other group’s perspective is 1920s Southern California. (Henry Huntington, portrayed by CalArts faculty member Adam Smith, appears; Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, The Huntington’s iconic painting, is a haunting element.) At the halfway mark, the groups change places. “You see all the scenes in their entirety,” Lai notes, “no matter which direction you go, but in a different sequence. It really is a journey.”

Reggie Yip as the Maid. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

Lai and Travis Preston, dean of CalArts’ School of Theater and artistic director of their Center for New Performance, credit mutual friend Judy Yin Shih with sparking Lai’s idea for a theater piece in the Chinese Garden. Shih, a member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers, “brought me into the Garden,” Lai recalls, “and said, ‘would you think of doing a piece in here?’” Lai flashed back to his production of Six Plays of Samuel Beckett, staged decades ago in a garden in Taipei, Taiwan. “It was quite a memorable performance under candlelight at night,” he says. Lai’s response to Shih: “Yes! I can foresee something here.” A year later, in 2016, Lai came to CalArts to shape Nightwalk with Preston and the Center for New Performance, a process that culminated in a workshop production.

“The Huntington was very receptive to our ideas,” but “a little cautious,” Lai says. “We had long discussions about what we can and can’t do in the Chinese Garden, and they have been wonderful. We’ve been careful not to abuse that trust.”

Hao Feng as the Playwright, Jessika Van as the Maiden, and Reggie Yip as the Maid. Photo by Rafael Hernandez. Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance.

The play’s large cast encompasses Los Angeles-area theater professionals, CalArts second-year MFA students, musicians, and a luminary of China’s kunqu opera: singer Luo Chenxue of the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, as the Opera Singer. CalArts alumna Aubree Lynn designed the sets. Costumes are by E.B. Brooks, and lighting is by Christopher Kuhl; both have extensive credits in regional and local theater.

Nightwalk, says Phillip Bloom, the June and Simon K. C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden and director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies, is “a perfect expression of one of our Chinese Garden’s primary missions—to inspire creative expression that is rooted in the past but speaks to the present.” Bloom notes that Nightwalk draws on both the operatic traditions of Ming-dynasty China and the early history of The Huntington, “but does so to treat universal concerns with art, love, and borders—particularly the seeming borders between times, cultures, and realities.”

Playwright Stan Lai in the Chinese Garden at The Huntington. Photo by Angel Origgi. CalArts Center for New Performance.

For Lai, the concept of The Huntington “in its entirety” is inspirational. “It’s like a collection of beautiful things in its own unique configuration,” he says. The Chinese Garden “has a real life of its own, a real character, a real soul of its own. The pavilions and the bridges are so beautifully conceived to be unique, and yet they fit into the whole. I guess that’s the philosophy of the Chinese cosmology and just the whole outlook of the universe: the harmony of everything, but also the diversity of everything.”

Lynne Heffley is a freelance writer and editor based in South Pasadena, Calif.

Hungering for Power

James Gillray, The Plumb-Pudding in Danger–or–State Epicures Taking un Petit Souper, 1805, London. This caricature depicts the imperial powers of Britain and France, represented here by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Emperor Napoleon, carving the globe between them and preparing to devour it. Fittingly, the subtitle notes, “‘the great Globe itself, and all which it inherit’ is too small to satisfy such insatiable appetites.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Many today are familiar with Ireland’s Great Potato Famine, the ecological and social calamity (exacerbated by misguided British policies) that resulted in mass starvation and an exodus of immigrants to the United States in the 1840s. What is considerably less well known is just how prominently hunger, food shortages, and other problems related to food and drink figured in earlier Atlantic history, from the first colonization attempts in America to the upheavals of the Age of Revolutions. While the leading European powers eagerly sought to consume or capitalize on the abundant natural resources of their newly acquired territories, those who actually labored on the frontiers of empire often faced much hardship and suffering.

Starvation was nearly the downfall of Jamestown and Plymouth as ill-prepared settlers struggled to survive, in the process alienating the Native people with their demands for corn. During the 1730s, a severe drought in Antigua caused enslaved African workers to endure famine; amidst rumors of a planned slave revolt, their well-fed masters resorted to a campaign of terror to reassert their dominance. When the American Revolution disrupted Northern food shipments to the West Indies, hungry slaves once again threatened resistance, prompting sugar planters to cling more tightly to imperial protection. In the 1780s, weather disruptions caused by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano resulted in crop failures across the western hemisphere; the ensuing bread shortages sparked the peasant protests that culminated in the French Revolution. Whatever the specific situation, controlling access to food and drink was critical to controlling populations, both within European nations and in their colonies abroad.

To investigate the historical contexts and significance of food in the early modern period, we are convening a conference, “Empowering Appetites: The Political Economy & Culture of Food in the Early Atlantic,” to be held Oct. 12–13, 2018 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall.

Nicolao Visscher, map entitled Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accuratissima Tabula, 1658, Amsterdam. This image includes the depiction of a procession of enslaved Africans delivering America’s bounty to the English king. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As we will discuss in the opening session, “The Politics of Food,” throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, possession of bountiful, high-quality foods served as a key signifier of personal status as well as a vital measure of national prosperity. Contrariwise, any form of dearth could quickly undermine social order and contribute to internal and external strife. Settlers, merchants, and government officials assessed and debated how to address the interconnected problems of preventing hunger and managing food supplies that often reverberated across the Atlantic world—from Jamaica to Quebec to Sierra Leone.

The imperative to ensure sufficient, reliable sustenance and thereby minimize social unrest prompted efforts to streamline the distribution of provisions, agricultural innovations to increase and diversify food production, and experimental methods to regulate the diets of such varied groups as soldiers, sailors, slaves, prisoners, and the poor. However, as speakers in the following session, “Provisioning Empire,” will address, these priorities were complicated by factors such as overreliance on imported provisions, wars, demographic shifts, health crises, and natural disasters.

At the same time, colonial and metropolitan elites tended to prioritize their immediate self-interest over the general welfare, profiteering when possible, while always maintaining their own extravagant levels of consumption. Disparities such as these, especially in times of crisis, in turn, gave rise to popular protests that imperial powers strove to quell.

As speakers in the session “(Mis)managing Food Supplies” will highlight, misunderstandings, disagreements, and even violent clashes could stem from the different values and meanings that various people attached to particular foods, especially if there was any threat of scarcity. But even apart from times of crisis, procuring, cooking, and consuming food and drink crucially shaped a range of both intimate and geopolitical relationships in the early modern period. Papers in the final session, “Changing Appetites: Cultural Meanings of Food,” will explore how encounters among Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans were mediated through eating and drinking, such as in gift-giving or trading of edibles, transfers of culinary knowledge, retentions or adaptations of foodways, and, perhaps most important, in the cultural rituals associated with sharing meals and eating (or avoiding) certain ingredients or beverages.

James Gillray, A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, London, 1792. This satirical image of an obese George, Prince of Wales and later King George IV, evokes the indulgence of the metropolitan elite during the late 18th century. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

By bringing together historians, historical geographers, and literary scholars at The Huntington, we expect a lively interdisciplinary conversation focused on the rhetoric and realities surrounding the contested politics of food. “Empowering Appetites” will give us an opportunity to reflect on the existing scholarship in order to generate new questions about the many ways in which social and cultural relations were mediated through the manipulation of food supplies, and what those interactions reveal about changing power dynamics throughout the greater Atlantic World. Ultimately, by critically examining neglected aspects of the increasingly globalized appetites that developed during this period, we hope to emphasize their enduring legacies.

You can read more about the conference program on The Huntington’s website.

Jennifer L. Anderson is associate professor of History at Stony Brook University, located on Long Island, New York. She is the author of Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America (Harvard Univ. Press, 2012). More recently, her article “A Laudable Spirit of Enterprise: Re-Negotiating Land, Natural Resources, and Power on Post-Revolutionary Long Island,” Early American Studies (Spring 2015), received the John M. Murrin Prize.

Anya Zilberstein is associate professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal. Her first venture into food history, “Inured to Empire: Wild Rice and Climate Change,” William & Mary Quarterly (January 2015), was awarded the Sophie Coe Essay Prize by the Oxford Symposium on Food History. Her recent book, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America (Oxford University Press, Fall 2016) received the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize.

Architects of a Golden Age

Edward Warren Hoak (1901–1978), chief designer, Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, ca. 1935. John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), architects. Charcoal on tracing paper, 16 x 29 5/8 inches. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Between World War I and World War II, Los Angeles experienced rapid growth, attracting new, talented architects both locally and from other parts of the U.S. The exhibition “Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection,” opening in the West Hall of the Library on Oct. 6, captures this innovative period in 21 original drawings and plans. (The show continues through Jan. 21, 2019.)

The exhibition marks the first general survey of this collection. Started around 1978, the collection coincided with a preservation movement launched in response to the threat that redevelopment posed to major Los Angeles buildings.

Roger Hayward (1899–1979), renderer, Los Angeles Stock Exchange, façade, ca. 1929. Samuel E. Lunden (1897–1995), architect, John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), consulting architects. Watercolor over graphite on illustration board, 39 x 25 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Dr. James and Mrs. Miriam Kramer, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“Dozens of significant buildings fell to the wrecking ball, and the downtown skyline was forever changed,” says Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture and photography at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition. “The curators at The Huntington sought out and salvaged as much of the architectural record as possible.”

Through “Architects of a Golden Age,” visitors can discover the people who created elegant, powerful, whimsical, and iconic buildings in Los Angeles in the early to mid-20th century. The visitor may recognize the work of Wallace Neff, whose Spanish- and Mediterranean-style residences exerted a strong influence on architects of Southern California homes. The names of some of the other architects represented in the exhibition have faded from general consciousness, even though their buildings may be well known landmarks that still stand.

Roger Hayward (1899–1979), renderer, Los Angeles Stock Exchange, interior of trading room floor, ca. 1929. Samuel E. Lunden (1897–1995), architect, John Parkinson (1861–1935) and Donald Parkinson (1895–1945), consulting architects. Watercolor over graphite on illustration board, 25 1/2 x 39 inches. © Courtesy of Dr. James and Mrs. Miriam Kramer, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For example, a charcoal rendering of Union Station’s facade represents the work of Edward Warren Hoak; he spent countless hours refining such details as the clock tower, doors, arcades, and exterior ornamentation of the Mission revival-style Los Angeles icon.

Among the most striking images in the exhibition are two watercolors of the Stock Exchange by Roger Hayward: the first depicts the towering exterior of the 12-story granite building, designed by Samuel E. Lunden; the second, the Exchange’s vast trading floor, featuring Native American and Near East motifs, designed by Julian Ellsworth Garnsey. The preserved structure on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles now houses a popular, four-level nightclub. Lunden made many other contributions to the city’s built environment, including USC’s Doheny Library and the 1928 wing of the Biltmore Hotel.

Erle Webster (1898–1971) and Adrian Wilson (1898-1988), architects, Buildings for Mr. You Chung Hong, Los Angeles Chinatown, East elevation facing Broadway, ca. 1936–37. Colored pencil and pastel on tracing paper, 17 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Jane Wilson Higley, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In the early 1930s, Chinese community leaders decided to rebuild Chinatown in a new location, the old site having been seized for the construction of Union Station. Eminent immigration attorney You Chung Hong was part of a coalition of business owners that hired Adrian Wilson and Erle Webster to create designs that blended traditional Chinese architecture with American influences. Three exhibition items show such structures—including the East Gate or Gate of Maternal Virtue—and neon lighting enhancing curved rooflines and octagonal windows.

Developer A.R. Fraser envisioned the world’s largest pleasure pier, extending 1,000 feet into the ocean in Santa Monica. He contracted architects A.W. Eager and Frank Eager to design a dancing pavilion for the extravaganza. An ink drawing in the exhibition preserves their ornate, Islamic-revival-style concept.

Eager & Eager, Architects, Dancing Pavilion to be Constructed on Fraser’s Pier, Santa Monica, Cal., East Elevation, 1910. Ink on tracing cloth, 32 3/4 x 47 1/2 inches. © Courtesy of Donald and Sally Kubly, on behalf of Eager & Eager, Architects, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A.W. Eager, who happens to be curator Erin Chase’s great-great-grandfather, also designed the historic O’Melveny House in Hancock Park and the Raymond Hotel in South Pasadena. As a child, Chase viewed drawings by him in her great-grandmother’s garage at just about the time that The Huntington was negotiating with the family about acquiring his papers.

The Wallace Neff most people know is seen in his elevation drawing of the Libbey Stables on the Ojai estate of glass tycoon Edward Drummond Libbey. Another Neff design, his Airform house, never built, for film producer Manuel Reachi, may come as a surprise. Neff addressed the housing shortage during and after World War II with this new construction method of inflating a balloon over a slab foundation and spraying it with concrete. The so-called “bubble houses” proved more popular in Third-World countries than in the U.S.—though one still exists in Pasadena.

Elizabeth Calovich (active ca. 1945), renderer, Airform residence for Manuel Reachi, Ensenada, Mexico, ca. 1945. Wallace Neff (1895–1982), architect. Matte opaque paint on cardboard, 10 5/8 x 17 5/8 inches. © Courtesy of Mr. Arthur M. McNally Neff, on behalf of Wallace Neff, 2018. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“No architectural precedent restrained the designers working here,” observes Chase. “The between-the-wars period was ripe for trying new things. The clients, sometimes driven by commercial considerations, wanted something different.”

All of the exhibition works were produced by hand on paper, in contrast to today, when renderings are, for the most part, produced by computer. A remarkable pool of architects thus made individual expressions of their designs—creating what viewers can now appreciate as the artifacts of a golden age.

“Architects of a Golden Age: Highlights from The Huntington’s Southern California Architecture Collection” is made possible by the Robert F. Erburu Exhibition Endowment and the Tracy H. and Kenneth S. McCormick Endowment for the Study of Architecture and Design.

Spotify Playlist: “Architects of a Golden Age.” A free Spotify account is required to access this playlist, a musical companion to the “Architects of a Golden Age” exhibition inspired by architecture and the golden state of California. Enjoy the sounds and share the playlist with your friends.

You can watch an interview of Erin Chase and learn more about the exhibition on YouTube.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Artist Carolina Caycedo

Carolina Caycedo stands in front of the presentation screens on which she has arranged black-and-white photographic copies gathered from her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

In March 2018, The Huntington announced that it was partnering with East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) for the third year of The Huntington’s /five initiative, inviting noted Los Angeles artists Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. to create new work in response to The Huntington’s collections around the theme of Identity. The project will culminate in an exhibition that will be on view at The Huntington from Nov. 10, 2018 to Feb. 25, 2019. Carribean Fragoza, a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California, focuses in this post on Carolina Caycedo.

“Qhip nayr uñtasis sarnaqapxañani” is an aphorism of the Aymara people, an indigenous nation that spans Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The saying, which roughly translates to “looking back to walk forth,” has served artist Carolina Caycedo as a guiding mantra as she works on her installation pieces for this year’s /five artist residency. Instead of relegating history to a graveyard of the obsolete, Caycedo sees the past, including our deceased ancestors, as existing constantly in the present.

For a segment in Caycedo’s video, dancers drape their bodies over reading tables in the Ahmanson Reading Room. Photo by Kate Lain.

In fact, she sees the past as an active entity that can transform us and the way we perceive reality. “The past is a rebel agent that haunts any certainty of our dominion,” proposes Caycedo, for whom history is never over. The dead remain present to remind us of who we are.

Caycedo’s video installation, a central piece in her project, features performances of hauntings in which dancers evoke the American history of colonization in gardens, galleries, and library reading rooms at The Huntington. The video is accompanied by a presentation screen that consists of three large upright panels that display images and text from Caycedo’s research at The Huntington and beyond.

Dancers move as if entranced on the rocks of a waterfall in The Huntington’s Japanese Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Choreographed by dance artist Marina Magalhães and shot by videographer David de Rozas, the video is centered on brown, black, and queer bodies as they interrupt the pristine spaces of The Huntington in a series of choreographed and improvised movements. The dancers were guided by a few instructions, informed by rituals of work—such as the repetitive actions of tilling the land—and by rituals of spiritual possession.

As the dancers cast themselves over reading tables, for example, Caycedo privileges female bodies, queer bodies, and bodies of color as sources of knowledge more significant than books. In a video segment, the dancers drape their bodies over reading tables in the Ahmanson Reading Room, rolling and stretching sensuously beneath the lit lamps.  “Bodies illuminate, not the books,” says Caycedo, as she presses viewers to alter their way of seeing and learning so that it includes sensuality.

Choreographed by dance artist Marina Magalhães and shot by videographer David de Rozas, Caycedo’s video is centered on brown, black, and queer bodies as they interrupt such pristine spaces at The Huntington as the North Vista. Photo by Kate Lain.

The dancers are dressed in rich marigold colors that are traditionally associated with Oxúm, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of fresh water, beauty, luxury, fertility, and sexuality. Caycedo evokes Oxúm again on the rocks of a garden waterfall, as the dancers admire their bodies and move as if entranced by their individual and collective sensuality.

Most notably, the dancers sustain their gaze at the camera. “The gaze of the dancers, or phantoms, is a way to hold the viewer accountable,” says Caycedo, something that she feels is too often missing in history and art. She notes that contemporary dancers are usually expected to perform without ever looking at their audiences, consequently disconnecting the performer from the viewer. For Caycedo, this is a lost opportunity. “There is potential in the gaze. It can shift one’s attention, and the possibility for empathy can exist.”

Caycedo, in her studio, attaching a photographic copy gathered from her research to a presentation screen. Photo by Kate Lain.

While Caycedo’s video performances of hauntings aim to challenge fixed notions of reality and history, her presentation screens continue to propel the viewer into further inquiry. She arranges black-and-white photographic copies or transcribed texts and images gathered from her research onto black display screens, where they appear like constellations of stars set in the darkness of space. Inspired by the Mnemosyne Atlas of German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg (1866–1929), Caycedo’s research images are arranged as a montage or collage that allows viewers to create their own endlessly renewed associative maps of meaning. Like the ancients who assigned characters and stories to arbitrary sets of stars, Caycedo’s Mnemosyne incites viewers to stray away from doctrines explaining phenomena by their ends or purposes to construct narratives of their own.

Dancers embrace in front of the Moon Bridge in The Huntington’s Japanese Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Caycedo notes, however, that despite the educational purpose of museums, galleries, libraries, and archives, “they do not necessarily invite you to view the past with a critical eye.” She adds that, rather than inspiring inquiry or engagement, Western traditions often organized information in ways that made everything seem clear and certain. This is precisely what Caycedo’s project aims to subvert.

Carribean Fragoza is a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California.

Project Blue Boy

Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy (ca. 1770) in normal light photography. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In an exciting “first” for The Huntington, visitors this fall will be able to watch and learn about the conservation treatment of Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic masterpiece The Blue Boy through a special installation in the Huntington Art Gallery that opens on September 22.

Project Blue Boy,” on view in the Thornton Portrait Gallery, will give visitors a fascinating glimpse into the technical processes carried out by senior paintings conservator Christina O’Connell as she works on the painting in public view in the gallery. (See below for a schedule of O’Connell’s gallery hours.) A special satellite conservation lab will be set up adjacent to the wall where the painting normally hangs. Surrounding displays, some interactive, will shed light on the famed painting’s history, mysteries, and artistic virtues as well as offer details about the conservation process. Tools of the conservator’s trade will be showcased, and specially trained docents will provide additional information.

Digital X-radiography shows a dog previously revealed in a 1994 X-ray. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The most popular painting at The Huntington, The Blue Boy has been on display almost continuously since it was acquired by Henry Huntington in 1921; and, for that reason, there have been few opportunities for conservation study or treatment. “The most recent conservation treatments have mainly involved adding new layers of varnish as temporary solutions to keep The Blue Boy on view as much as possible,” says O’Connell. “The original colors now appear hazy and dull, and many of the details are obscured.” There are also several areas where the paint is beginning to lift and flake, and the canvas is separating from its support lining. These issues and more will be addressed by the conservation treatment.

For the first three to four months of the exhibition, O’Connell will work several days a week in the gallery, performing such painstaking processes as paint stabilization, surface cleaning, and removal of non-original varnish and overpaint. The painting then will go off view for another three to four months for structural work on the canvas and application of varnish. Once these steps are complete, The Blue Boy will return to the gallery, where visitors can watch the final stages of the conservation process until the close of the exhibition in September 2019.

Infrared reflectography. Data collected during technical analysis of the painting last fall helped inform the conservation treatment plan. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Thornton Portrait Gallery, the room where The Blue Boy and other grand manner portraits are displayed, will be closed until Sept. 21, 2018 for the “Project Blue Boy” installation.

In-Gallery Work Schedule

Senior paintings conservator Christina O’Connell will conduct in-gallery conservation treatment on The Blue Boy on the following schedule.

First in-gallery period (Sept. 22, 2018–January 2019, estimated):
Opening day, Sept. 22, 10 a.m.–noon
Every Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.–noon and 2–4 p.m.
First Sunday of each month, 2–4 p.m.

Second in-gallery period (Summer 2019, estimated)
A similar schedule to the above will be in place.

Note that the in-gallery work schedule is subject to change; check for updates on The Huntington’s online calendar.

Conservation of The Blue Boy is funded by a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. Additional generous support for this project is provided by the Getty Foundation, Kim and Ginger Caldwell, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and Haag-Streit USA.

You can learn more about “Project Blue Boy” on The Huntington’s website.

And you can watch a video about “Project Blue Boy” on YouTube.

Thea M. Page is the director of marketing communications at The Huntington.

Turning Points in the Civil War

Battle of Gettysburg, repulse of Pickett’s charge by Thure de Thulstrupo (1849–1930), L. Prang & Co., Boston (Mass.), 1887. Color printed lithograph, overall 21 7/8 x 28 in. (55.56 x 71.12 cm). Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The American Civil War witnessed dramatic shifts of momentum. As armies contended for supremacy on the battlefield, their successes and failures profoundly shaped politics and civilian morale on the home fronts. For more than 150 years, those who have written about the conflict—from members of the wartime generation to recent historians—have argued about when and where the war turned decisively toward United States triumph. These debates, in turn, have sparked lively discussion in a reading public eager to identify the war’s most important events.

Candidates put forward as decisive moments include Ulysses S. Grant’s capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, the battle of Shiloh, George B. McClellan’s victory at Antietam, George G. Meade’s repulse of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, and George H. Thomas’s rout of the Army of Tennessee at Nashville. Titles of books such as Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War and Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam—The Battle That Changed the Course of the Civil War underscore a widespread affinity for turning points.

“This Reminds Me of a Little Joke,” Harper’s Weekly. New York: Harper’s Magazine Co., September 17, 1864. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Gettysburg looms largest in the public imagination as the war’s grand turning point, the “high water mark of the Confederacy” that ended any realistic hope for southern independence and pointed inexorably toward Appomattox. Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels, translated to the screen in the film Gettysburg in 1993, feeds into the notion of the battle’s importance. Shaara tips his hand in this regard early in the novel. As the armies march toward their collision in Pennsylvania, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, seeking to galvanize his men, observes: “I think if we lose this fight the war will be over.”

Joan Waugh and Gary W. Gallagher are convening a two-day conference on September 14-15 to address “Turning Points in the Civil War.” Their roster of leading scholars in the field takes a spacious approach to the topic, considering political and social events as well as prominent military operations. The speakers will illuminate the range, and potential for disagreement, inherent in any search for historical turning points.

Richard Carwardine, David W. Blight, and J. Matthew Gallman will explore politics, with an emphasis on the bitterly contested election of 1864. Few presidential canvasses have wielded greater impact, as Republican success guaranteed continuation of the war to suppress the slaveholders’ rebellion and ended any doubts about whether emancipation would accompany Union triumph.

The Capture of Vicksburg. Harper’s Weekly. New York: Harper’s Magazine Co., 1863. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Harold Holzer, Caroline E. Janney, and Elizabeth R. Varon also take up nonmilitary subjects, extending from press coverage of the New York City draft riots of July 1863 to the decision to establish a system of national cemeteries and postwar reactions to Reconstruction legislation. Montgomery Meigs and James Longstreet, prominent generals during the war, stand at the center of the last two of those subjects.

The remaining speakers will explore military dimensions of the conflict. Ari Kelman trains his analytical lens on the West and how Native Americans figured in the expanding war. Gallagher and Stephen Cushman highlight McClellan’s 1862 campaign against Richmond that culminated in the Seven Days battles, an operation that far exceeded in importance many more famous ones. Waugh and Ronald C. White take up the battles of Vicksburg and the Wilderness, each of which resonated powerfully on both home fronts. Gallagher and Waugh bring the conference to a close with a consideration of just how Gettysburg should fit into any assessment of great turning points.

“Turning Points in the Civil War” will be the sixth conference devoted to the conflict to be held at the Huntington since 1999, with Waugh co-convening all of them and Gallagher the last five.   

You can read more about the conference program on The Huntington’s website.

Joan Waugh is professor of history at UCLA.

Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War, emeritus, at the University of Virginia.

Abundant Harvest

Victor Gail (right) and his partner, Thomas Oxford, in 2001. Photo by Hal Nelson.

A generous bequest from Long Beach art collector Victor Gail (1929–2014) has greatly enhanced The Huntington’s American decorative arts collection while underwriting its care and interpretation. Gail’s $1.6 million gift, received this past spring, has endowed the position of the Gail-Oxford Curator of American Decorative Arts. In addition, the bequest included more than 130 works of art and funding for a handbook documenting the collection.

Gail and his life partner, Thomas Oxford, who predeceased him in 2008, spent five decades amassing one of the finest collections of early American decorative arts in Southern California. They both wanted to find a permanent home for their collection where the public could enjoy the beauty of the objects and learn from them about the nation’s past. Recognizing The Huntington’s growing commitment to American art and cultural history, the pair decided to give key pieces of their collection to the institution.

Benjamin Hill (1617–about 1670), Lantern clock, about 1650, England. Brass, steel, and rope, 
14 ¾ x 5 ¾ x 5 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The gift includes important examples of 18th- and 19th-century American furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork. Among the highlights are a brass lantern clock from 1650; a high chest of drawers from 1710; two 17th-century needlework designs; and a 1752 portrait by John Wollaston, an itinerant painter who worked in the North American colonies.

“We are delighted to recognize Tom and Victor’s generous gift by naming this curatorship in their honor,” said Catherine Hess, interim director of the Art Collections. “I also want to recognize the role of Hal Nelson in securing this gift. Hal’s long-standing friendship with the collectors and his stewardship of their collection strengthened their engagement with The Huntington.” Nelson served as curator of decorative arts at The Huntington from 2009 until his retirement in 2017.

High chest of drawers, about 1710, possibly New York. Walnut, yellow pine, eastern white pine, burl ash veneer, and brass, 57 ¼ x 39 x 20 ½ in.

Visitors can see a selection of objects from the Gail-Oxford Collection on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, in a gallery named for the donors.

In celebration of Victor Gail’s bequest, The Huntington has published the handbook Abundant Harvest: Selections from the Gail-Oxford Collection of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington. Written by Hal Nelson, former curator of decorative arts at The Huntington, it provides an overview of this notable collection and highlights 64 of the most significant objects.

Abundant Harvest: Selections from the Gail-Oxford Collection of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington. Written by Hal Nelson, former curator of decorative arts at The Huntington.

Abundant Harvest (144 pages, paper bound; $19.95) is available in the Huntington Store or online at thehuntingtonstore.org

Lisa Blackburn is senior editor and special projects manager in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.