Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2014 Issue

Remnants of One of the Wealthiest Estates Ever Formed Has Been Sold

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William A. and Huguette Clark, a century ago (from Christie's catalogue).

An auction at Christie's last month brought to a conclusion a story very long in the making. The collection was remarkable, though not as remarkable as the history behind it. This was a story of superlatives – enormous wealth, great eccentricity, and a very long amount of time.

 

The items sold came from the estate of Huguette Clark, but the story begins with her father, William Andrews Clark. That name probably doesn't mean a lot to people today, but at one time it had a ring as familiar as the names Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. They came to dinner at his mansion. William Andrews Clark was a man of extreme wealth.

 

Clark was born in a log cabin in Pennsylvania in 1839. We need to stop to answer the immediate question that jumps out – how could we be talking in 2014 about the estate of a woman whose father was born in 1839? Has this estate been in probate for a hundred years? This is where the part about a very long time comes in. Clark was 67 years old when his daughter, Huguette, was born. Huguette died in 2011, two weeks shy of her 105th birthday. That was two generations spanning 172 years. The number of people who live to see a parent's 172nd birthday must be small indeed.

 

Mr. Clark moved to Montana in 1863 during the early mining boom. He first sought gold, but became the most notable of Montana's “copper kings” in the 1880s. Like California and Colorado, Montana had gold, but it was the copper that filled the Montana hills that became its source of riches. The metal that once would have elicited limited interest was now in high demand. First the telegraph, and now electricity and telephones created a huge demand for copper transmission lines, rapidly being strung across the country. He made an enormous amount of money in mining, and parlayed that into other interests, such as banking and railroads. Everything he touched turned to gold. He personally paid for a rail line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Las Vegas was created as a water stop for his trains, and Clark County, in which the city is located, was named for him. By the turn of the century, William Andrews Clark was second only to Rockefeller in terms of personal wealth.

 

Clark wished to be a senator and his wish was granted. He bribed his way into a seat in the days when senators were appointed by the state legislature. As he famously pointed out, “I never bought a man who wasn't for sale.” It is said that the 17th amendment, which provided for direct election of senators, was passed in his honor. However, if not everything about Clark was wrapped in glory (Twain despised him), he was unusually generous in terms of pay and benefits for his miners. That was a huge exception to the rule of his day.

 

Clark's first wife died in 1893. He remarried a French woman, having two daughters, Andrée and Huguette, with his second wife, Anna. Huguette was born in 1906. Clark moved to New York and built his family a 121-room mansion (Andrée and Huguette did not have to share a bedroom). It had 26 bedrooms, 5 art galleries, and 31 bathrooms. It's always nice to have one of those close by in an emergency.

 

Clark died in 1925, which takes us to the second superlative of this story – extreme eccentricity. Clark's second family was never close to the children of his first. Mother and daughters of the second, however, were extremely close to each other. That may have been Huguette's downfall. Andrée died in 1919 at the age of 16. Huguette was devastated. When her father died, it was just she and her mother, left with a 121-room mansion. She did come out long enough to get married in 1928. However, that did not work, with claims that it was never consummated. Huguette was a shy woman who had trouble emerging from the childhood she shared with her beloved sister. In 1930 she divorced. There are no known photographs of Huguette taken after 1930, the last 81 years of her life. She and her mother moved to a more modest 42-room apartment where she lived until moving to a hospital room many years later.

 

She and her mother did some socializing over the years, including throwing lavish parties. They even had two country estates, one in California and the other in Connecticut. However, as her mother aged, socializing decreased. After her mother's death in 1963, it stopped entirely. While Huguette had these two beautiful estates, both meticulously cared for until the day she died, she hadn't visited either in over 50 years. Her last trips came in the 1950's.

 

If her father was like Rockefeller and Carnegie, Huguette became more like another wealthy man – Howard Hughes. She was a recluse in the extreme. All of her half-siblings save one had died by the 1930's, but she had little contact with the one who survived nor any of her nephews and nieces. Outside of a close aid/companion, and to some extent her lawyer, she saw almost no one. Even most of those people who worked for her had only indirect contact, or occasionally speaking through a closed door. However, she was a collector. Her estate included numerous books, though these were left from a different era. What she actively collected was dolls. Huguette apparently lived her life in her childhood, even as she reached the age of 104. From the 1960's on, she seems to have lived in the past.

 

In 1988, Huguette determined she was ill and needed to go to the hospital. She never left. She did not need to stay. Her health was fine for her age. Huguette preferred the even more secure environment of a hospital room (a very private one). She lived with her doll collection and a very few contacts, even as her three homes were kept waiting for her to arrive on a moment's notice. For the next 23 years she remained in her hospital room, until she died in 2011 at the age of 104.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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