The untold story how John H. McFadden "willed" the Philadelphia Museum of Art into existence.
John H. McFadden (1850–1921) was America’s “Cotton King,” overseeing a multimillion-dollar empire of cotton, from its baling in Memphis to its immensely lucrative sales in Liverpool. In his native Philadelphia, he was the city’s undisputed “cultural czar.” In his spare time, he was a museum administrator and hospital trustee, a property developer and a philanthropist, and he even financed an exploration of the Antarctic. Then McFadden got serious—
His collection of English art, the largest of his age outside of the British realm, situated McFadden as a key player in the founding of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The John Howard McFadden Memorial Collection was offered as a tantalizing donation to the city of Philadelphia, with one major caveat: that a building must be constructed to hold it. This provision ensured that the museum in progress would indeed open to the public.
Ranging from sweaty sales rooms in Memphis to posh sales offices in Liverpool, from the life of luxury and high culture in London to the domestic life of Philadelphia’s rich and privileged, this book explores McFadden’s world in fascinating detail.
John H. McFadden and His Age, the first full-length biography of the Philadelphia cultural titan, adds McFadden’s often-forgotten name to the pantheon of great nineteenth-century art collectors.
In every way, John H. McFadden was a “Proper Philadelphian”—from his silk top hat and his ivory-handled walking stick to his mansion on Rittenhouse Square. But he was also among the most beguiling improper Philadelphians as well.
Praise for John. H. McFadden and His Age
"In this contemporary moment, when impact feels so transient, Richard Carreño's John H. McFadden and His Age reveals the inside story of the creation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and how through guile, vision, insistence and persistence, McFadden, Philadelphia's 'cultural czar,' literally willed the place into existence. Through McFadden's story, meticulously researched and narrated, Carreño has focused a much needed lens on a cast of characters whose cultural and social impact remains yet dominant today."
—Sam Katz, executive producer of History Making Productions and a former candidate for mayor of Philadelphia.
“Finally, through Richard Carreño's engaging book, John H. McFadden is transformed from a credit line on the walls of the British galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to a three-dimensional portrait of a major art and rare book collector, philanthropist, and international businessman.”
- David R. Brigham, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
About the Author
Richard Carreño is a longtime art critic in England and the United States. For many years, he was a journalist and university lecturer in London.
He is also the author of Clotheshorse: A History and Guide to Riding Apparel, Lord of Hosts: The Life of Sir Henry "Chips" Channon, Museum Mile: Philadelphia's Parkway Museums, and A Flâneur at Large: Cultured Shock. He lives in Philadelphia.