Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2011 Issue

A Follow Up – Probate Court Examining Expenses of Wealthy Heiress

Huguetteandbill

Huguette Clark and her father at New York's Easter Parade in 1922.

This month we have an update on the case of Huguette Clark, the wealthy heiress who left the bulk of her estate, including her library and works of art, to a museum to be created to display her collection. They will be housed in Santa Barbara, California, in her 21,000 square-foot mansion, that will now become home to the museum. Ms. Clark was 104 years old when she died in May.

Huguette Clark was the last of seven children of Montana “Copper King” William Andrews Clark, once said to be second in wealth only to John D. Rockefeller. Her father was 67 years old when she was born in 1906 to the second of his two wives. He was already immensely wealthy when she was born, and she grew up in an enormous mansion he built in New York. Huguette was intensely close to her mother and older sister, Andrée, but evidently not to her four surviving half siblings from her father's first marriage. Sadly, her sister died in 1919 at age 16, a devastating blow to young Huguette. Her father died in 1925, but in 1928, at the age of 22, Huguette married William Gower, a law student who had worked for her father. The marriage was unhappy and brief. Later it was claimed the marriage was never consummated. We don't know, but the two were soon separated, and two years later divorced. She never remarried.

After that, the shy Huguette went into almost complete seclusion. There are no known photographs of her after 1930, though she lived another 80 years. She did go to social events on occasion with her mother, but by the 1950s, as her mother's health deteriorated, those became fewer, and after her mother died in 1963, she became a total recluse. By that time, all but one of her half siblings had been dead at least two and a half decades, and there seems to have been little if any contact with the one who survived to the 1970s. Nor did she have much contact with her half nephews and nieces, and grand nephews and nieces. In her final years, she apparently rejected any attempts at contact from them, or at least her advisors did. She totally withdrew into her private world, having contact only with a few advisors and caretakers, some of whom may have appreciated the shy and generous woman, others of whom may have more appreciated her money.

When she died, Ms. Clark was worth an estimated $400 million. That sounds like a lot, but her father left her around $60 million in 1925. Adjusting for inflation, that would be closer to a billion dollars today. She, or her advisors, did not manage her wealth particularly well. She owned the estate in Santa Barbara which will become the museum, but she had not visited it since the 1950s. In 1952, she also purchased another estate, closer to her New York home in Connecticut. She never even visited the place. Nevertheless, the estates have been maintained by caretakers and help in pristine condition all of these years. She also owned a 42-room apartment in New York, where she and her mother moved after her father's death. Even that she had not seen since 1988. Reportedly, she only inhabited a small corner of the apartment anyway. In 1988, Ms. Clark decided she needed to go to the hospital. She never returned. She remained in various hospital rooms the final 23 years of her life, though not suffering from any serious illness. She was just more comfortable in the small, protected surroundings.

When anyone with money dies, you can expect there will be conflicts, perhaps contesting of the will. When someone who makes Howard Hughes look like a social butterfly dies, you can expect all kinds of questions to be raised. Were the few people who had access to Ms. Clark, and managed her affairs, carrying out her wishes, or carrying out their own? They had exclusive access to a very elderly, very eccentric lady, who for her own psychological reasons, would be unlikely to ever contact a family member or other outsider on her own. Such a person would be a prime target for manipulation, but whether she was manipulated, or her wishes faithfully carried out, is something a court will have to decide.

The Probate Court demanded a complete accounting of money spent on Ms. Clark's behalf over the last 15 years of her life. She, or her representatives, spent a lot. The wife of her doctor received substantial payments over the years to manage some of her affairs, but she was also very friendly to Ms. Clark. The woman, like Ms. Clark, spoke French, and the reclusive heiress liked to speak in French, believing that would make her conversations more private. However, this woman died shortly before Ms. Clark, at the youthful age of 89.

The largest beneficiary (other than the museum) is her nurse, and also friend, Hadassah Peri. She received substantial bonuses over the years, sufficient to buy several houses and expensive cars, and is to receive another $33.6 million through the will. That immediately sounds suspicious, but perhaps not. Ms. Peri came to Ms. Clark 20 years ago, sent by an agency. Ms. Peri regularly visited her and spoke with her on the phone, practically every day over the years. There is no reason to question whether Ms. Peri, a poor immigrant from the Philippines, was not also a friend. Ms. Clark obviously took to her, and may have thought of Ms. Peri's children as something of the grandchildren she never had. For all her eccentricity, everyone who ever did get to know her spoke of Ms. Clark as a kind, caring, and generous person. She was just inordinately shy. It is not surprising she would have lavished a few million dollars over the years on Ms. Peri, considering she had so much money and no one else to leave it to.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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