Henry Gurdon Marquand

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Henry Gurdon Marquand

Henry Gurdon Marquand (April 11, 1819 – February 26, 1902) was an American financier, philanthropist and collector.

Early life[edit]

Marquand was born in New York City on April 11, 1819. The second youngest of the 11 children of Isaac and Mabel Perry Marquand, Henry began working for his family’s prestigious jewelry business, Marquand & Co., at the age of fifteen.[1] At the time, the business was headed by his older brother Frederick (1799–1882), a liberal benefactor of Yale College and of the Union Theological Seminary. Following the death of their father in 1838, Frederick sold the business and took up real estate investment and other financial ventures, and Henry his brother's agent.

Career and philanthropy[edit]

Henry established himself as a banker on Wall Street, became Director of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, and made eventually a fortune speculating on foreign currency exchange and railroads. In 1867 Henry and his brother-in-law, Thomas Allen, bought a chief interest in St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway which ran from St. Louis to southeast Missouri and to Arkansas and Texas. The two were ultimately pushed out of their investment by Jay Gould, whose monopoly on the southwestern railroad system forced them to sell. With a profit of one million dollars, Marquand effectively retired from the business world in 1880 and focused his energies on the acquisition of art and the management of the fledgling Metropolitan Museum of Art.[2] He was also the first honorary member of the American Institute of Architects.

Marquand was a member of the Provisional Committee of fifty men assembled in 1869 to establish a museum of art in New York City. He witnessed the physical growth of the Museum from various temporary quarters to its permanent home on the eastern edge of Central Park. Marquand, a personal friend and client of museum architect Richard Morris Hunt, was in large part responsible for the realization of the project to extend and reorient the distinctive Beaux-Arts façade entrance east to Fifth Avenue, pushing for the plans to be carried out by Hunt’s son after the death of the renowned architect.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died in New York City at the age of 82. His varied, and valuable art collection and rare books were sold in 1903. He was a benefactor of Princeton University and other institutions. His son, Allan Marquand (b. 1853), graduated from Princeton University in 1874, and in 1883 became professor of archaeology and art.

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