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Nicholson (Grace) Papers and Addenda
mssNicholsog  
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Description
This collection contains the papers of Grace Nicholson (1877-1948), a collector and dealer of Native American and Asian arts and crafts in Pasadena, California, with much of the collection relating to her work in the fields of Native American and Asian art.
Background
Grace Nicholson (1877-1948), was a collector and dealer of Native American and Asian arts and crafts. Nicholson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 31, 1877, the daughter of attorney Franklin Nicholson (1851-1891) and Rose Dennington Nicholson (1855-1878). At the age of thirteen, following the death of her parents, Nicholson went to live with paternal grandparents, William Nicholson and Mary Nicholson. After graduating from the Philadelphia Girls' High School in 1896, Nicholson worked as a stenographer and in other jobs in Philadelphia. In 1898, Nicholson met Mr. Carroll S. Hartman (1857-1933); she began working for Hartman in 1900, first as a promoter for "The Battle of Manila" cyclorama, and later in an amusement parlor on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In late 1901, with money from a small inheritance, Nicholson moved to Pasadena, California. In early 1902, she began purchasing Native American baskets and artifacts, opening a store at 41-43 South Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. Within a few years, she moved her combined home, store, and gallery to nearby 46 North Los Robles Avenue. Carroll Hartman had also relocated to Southern California, and Nicholson employed him as a buyer for her store. Nicholson traveled throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington studying and purchasing Native American arts and crafts and establishing relationships with the artists, whom she often interviewed and photographed. Hartman often accompanied her on these expeditions, taking photographs as well. Nicholson kept extensive diaries and notes on her buying trips through Native American territory, especially of the Karok, Klamath, and Pomo Indians. Her subjects included Native American legends, folklore, vocabulary, tribal festivals, basket making, the art trade, and living conditions. Native American artists with whom Nicholson established long-term business and personal connections included Pomo basket weaver Mary Benson (1878-1930) and her husband William Benson (1862-1937), as well as Elizabeth Hickox (1875-1947) of the Karuk tribe. Because of her ethnographic work, the American Anthropological Association elected Nicholson to membership in 1904. She facilitated the purchase of artifacts by museums such as the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In the 1910s, as the market for Native American artifacts declined, Nicholson began expanding her work as an Asian art dealer. In 1912, Nicholson purchased additional land next to her Los Robles Avenue property and, in 1924, hired architects Marston, Van Pelt, and Maybury to renovate the property and construct a Chinese-style palace. Completed in 1929, it became known as the "Grace Nicholson Treasure House of Oriental Art." Following a 1929 trip to China and Japan, Nicholson dealt almost exclusively in Asian arts and craft. In 1943, facing financial difficulties, Nicholson entered into an agreement with the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Art Institute that transformed her Los Robles building into the Pasadena Art Institute. In 1954, the Institute was renamed the Pasadena Art Museum; it occupied the building until 1970, when it moved to a new Pasadena location and became the Norton Simon Museum. The Pacificulture Foundation founded the Pacific Asia Museum in the "Treasure House" in 1971. Nicholson continued to live at 46 North Los Robles, but she moved her shop to a smaller building at 45 South Euclid Avenue in Pasadena in 1944, and her assistants Thyra H. Maxwell and Estelle Bynum assumed growing responsibilities for it. Nicholson died on August 31, 1948. Following Nicholson's death, her Native American Indian art collection was left to Maxwell and Bynum, the executors of her estate; her 12,000-item Asian art collection was auctioned by the Curtis Gallery in November 1950 and purchased by Los Angeles businessman Edker Pope. In 1968, Maxwell donated Nicholson's papers and photographs to The Huntington Library and sold Nicholson's collection of baskets made by the Bensons, as well as a large collection of correspondence and myths from William Benson, to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, of New York City (now part of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.).
Extent
40.88 Linear Feet (30 boxes, 9 oversize folders, 3 volumes, 1 roll)
Restrictions
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
Availability
Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.