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French & Company records, 1910-1998 (bulk 1950-1960)

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Title: French & Company records
Dates: 1910-1998 (bulk 1950-1960)
Number: 990051
Creator/Collector: French & Company (New York, N.Y.)
Extent: 6.0 linear feet (17 boxes, 3 flat file folders)
Abstract: The French & Company records document some of the activities of the art dealership and primarily date from the period of Spencer Samuels's directorship, ca. 1950-1960. Papers relate to legal and business operations, financial matters, the board of directors, business deals, artwork sales, exhibitions, and publicity for the firm.
Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record for this collection. Click here for the access policy.
Language: Collection material is in English
Repository: The Getty Research Institute
Special Collections
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
(310) 440-7390
Author: Finding aid prepared by Rina Vecchiola.

Biographical/Historical Note

An art dealership based in New York City, French & Company bought and sold decorative arts, as well as paintings and sculpture. For over half a century after Mitchell Samuels co-founded the firm in 1907 in New York, French & Company was considered one of the largest art dealerships in the world. Under Mitchell Samuels' directorship, French & Company worked with many wealthy American collectors eager to develop collections in decorative art objects and paintings of European provenance. Among the firm's clients were J. Paul Getty, William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, and the Rockefellers. During this period, the firm also served as agents and decorators for the Huntingtons, Fricks, Mellons, and Astors. The French & Company building on East 57th Street housed more than 50 showrooms, eight fireproof vaults and a 10,000 volume art reference library.

Spencer Samuels, Mitchell's son, took over as president of French & Company in the 1950s. During his presidency, Spencer Samuels collected sales records from major worldwide art auctions dating to as far back as the 1700s in order to provide complete documentation for the artwork the firm sold. After his father's death, Spencer sold the firm to City Investing in 1959 and went to work for Duveen Brothers. In 1968, City Investing sold the firm to Martin Zimet. Much of the French & Company remaining stock of decorative arts objects was sold at auction in 1968. The firm continued under the same name after the 1950s, but with a changing inventory and clientele.


Scope and Content of Collection

The French & Company records document some of the activities of the art dealership and are drawn mainly from the period of Spencer Samuels' directorship in the 1950s. Papers relate to legal and business operations, financial matters, the board of directors, business deals, artwork sales, exhibitions, and publicity for the firm. One videotape records the opening of French & Company on Madison Ave., New York City. Specific subjects include the reorganization of French & Company, audits of the firm, relations with J. Paul Getty, tapestry sales, appraisals of artworks, and art market research. Several boxes of clippings, and some photographs, document French & Company exhibits (including in Mexico and Cuba), as well as art market news. Much of the documentation is in the form of correspondence: typescript, handwritten, or copied. Other types of records include ledger sheets, photographs, transparencies, photocopies, and newspaper and magazine clippings.

The bulk of the firm's records were lost in a fire. The Getty Research Library holds French & Company stock sheets and ledgers in a separate acquisition (Accession no. 840027). The photographic archive of the firm was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1971, and is now part of the Getty Research Library's Photo Study Collection (Accession no. 71.P.1 and 97.P.7).

Arrangement note

The papers are organized in 7 series:
Series I. Legal and business operations, 1922-1998, bulk 1953-1960;
Series II. Financial, 1915-1959;
Series III. Board of directors, 1954-1959;
Series IV. Business dealings and correspondence, 1944-1960;
Series V. Sales records, 1927-1998, bulk 1950-1998;
Series V.A. Getty correspondence and appraisals, 1960-1998;
Series V.B. Records relating to clients other than Getty, 1945-1972;
Series V.C. Artwork inventory and sales records, 1927-1971;
Series VI. Exhibitions and publicity, 1930-1967, bulk 1956-1967;
Series VII. Architectural drawings, 1910-1950


Restrictions

Access

Open for use by qualified researchers.

Publication Rights

Contact Library Rights and Reproductions.


Indexing Terms

Subjects - Names

Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976

Subjects - Corporate Bodies

French & Company (New York, N.Y.)

Subjects - Topics

Art dealers--New York (State)--New York
Art galleries, commercial--New York (State)--New York
Art--Collectors and collecting
Tapestry--Collectors and collecting
Tapestry--Exhibitions

Genres and Forms of Material

Architectural drawings (visual works)
Black-and-white prints (photographs)
Color photographs
Color slides
Transparencies

Contributors

Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976
J. Paul Getty Museum
Samuels, Spencer A.
Spencer A. Samuels & Company

Related Material

The following related collections are part of the Getty Research Library, Special Collections and Visual Resources:

French & Company photographic archive of fine and decorative arts, 1920-1968. Special Collections accession no. 71.P.1. French & Company (New York, N.Y.). Stock sheets and ledgers, 1909-1968. Special Collections accession no. 840027. Study photographs of tapestries, 1914-1995. Special Collections accession no. 97.P.7. (The bulk of the photographs in this collection are from the French & Company photographic archive.)

One box of monographs was separated from the archive. Books have been cataloged and placed in the Getty Research Library.


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

French & Company records, 1910-1998, bulk 1950-1960, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 990051.

http://hdl.handle.net/10020/cifa990051

Acquisition Information

Collection acquired in 1999 from Spencer A. Samuels Company, New York. Additional portions received in 2002, 2003.

Processing History

Collection processed by Rina Vecchiola in April 2001. Additions received in 2002 and 2003 were integrated into the collection in Dec. 2003. One box of books was separated to the Getty Research Library.


Container List

Series I.
Legal and business operations, 1922-1998, bulk 1953-1960 1.5 box(es)
Legal and business operations are documented in reports and descriptions of company practices and policies; in records relating to the reorganization of the firm; in company stock purchase, sale, and exchange agreements; in loan financing claims; and in real estate agreements. These papers are arranged chronologically in two groupings. The first group gathers together general operational papers and the second group is comprised of more specific legal documentation. See oversize at the end of the collection for architectural drawings for French & Company's offices and galleries.
Box Folder
1 1 Overview of French & Co., 1936-1998, bulk 1959-1960
1 2 Managers' report, 1924
1 3 Corporate by-laws, 1922-1955
1 4 Company practices and policies, 1955
1 5 Moving procedure, 1957-1958
1 6 Analysis of operations, 1959
1 7 Reorganization, 1922
1 8 Reorganization, , 1923 1941
1 9 Title to Widener art collection, 1942
1 10 Financial situation and City Investing Co. loan, 1953
1 11 Corporate stock, 1953-1955
1 12 Corporate stock sales, 1953-1957
1 13 Corporate stock, 1954-1955
1 14 Corporate stock purchase agreement, 1955
1 15 Corporate stock divisions, ca. 1955
1 16 Corporate stock exchange with City Investing, 1955
1 17 Wolchok claim, 1955
1 18 Loans and claims, 1955-1960
1 19 Bank loan, 1955-1956
Box Folder
2 1 Corporate stock financing, 1956
2 2 Corporate stock financing, 1956
2 3 Legal matters, 1956-1960
2 4 Real estate agreements, 1957-1959
2 5 Corporate stock sales, 1958
2 6 Legal matters, 1958
2 7 Corporate stock sales, 1959
2 8 Loan, 1959
Series II. Financial, 1915-1959 0.5 linear feet ca. 1 box
The financial papers are arranged chronologically and include financial statements, balance sheets, profit statements, projected budgets, and audits, with the latter materials gathered together in a separate chronological grouping. The bulk of the papers cover the 1950s.
Box Folder
2 9 Financial statements, 1915-ca. 1959
2 10 Profits for thirteen years, 1926-1938
2 11 Financial statements, 1934-1937
2 12 Financial statements, 1938-1954
2 13 Balance sheets, , 1938-1953 bulk 1938-1946
2 14 Analysis of financial accounts, 1953
2 15 Net worth, 1953-1958
2 16 Financial statements, 1956-1959
2 17 Financial statements, 1957-1958
2 18 Balance sheet, 1957
2 19 Statements and balance sheets, 1957
2 20 Projected budgets, 1959
Box Folder
3 1 Annual audit, 1954
3 2 Annual audit, 1955
3 3 Audit, , 1945 1955
3 4 Audit, 1956
3 5 Audit, 1957
3 6 Audit, 1959
3 7 Audit, client inventories, and policy regarding records management, 1957-1958
Series III. Board of directors, 1954-1959 0.25 linear feet ca. .5 box
These papers document the activities of the board of directors through agendas, meeting minutes, and memoranda arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
3 8 Meetings and agendas, 1954-1959
3 9 Final meeting minutes, 1955-1959
3 10 Memoranda to board of directors, 1955-1959
3 11 Meetings, 1956
Box Folder
4 1 Drafts of meeting minutes, 1957-1959
4 2 Drafts of memoranda to board of directors, ca. 1958-1959
4 3 Drafts of meeting minutes and memoranda, 1959
4 4 Meeting minutes, 1959
4 5 Officers' meeting minutes and agendas, 1959
4 6 Executive committee, 1959
Series IV. Business dealings and correspondence, 1944-1960 0.25 linear feet ca. 1 box
Correspondence with individuals and organizations is arranged chronologically. Correspondents include City Investing Company, J. Ilinski, R. Dowling, S. Semenenko, and Eastman Dillon Union Securities. Business matters addressed include Riethof Productions, exhibitions, and real estate.
Box Folder
4 7 Mitchell Samuels Correspondence, 1944-1954
4 8 Correspondence regarding Riethof Productions, , 1949 1952-1954
4 9 City Investing Company board of directors, n.d.
4 10 Correspondence with City Investing Company, 1955-1958
4 11 Correspondence with Hutchison of City Investing Company, 1955-1960
4 12 Correspondence with J. Ilinski regarding exhibitions, , 1955-1956 1959
4 13 Correspondence with R. Dowling regarding investments, 1955-1960
4 14 Correspondence with Eastman Dillon Union Securities, 1958
4 15 Correspondence with S. Semenenko regarding real estate, 1959
4 16 Draft of business agreement with H. Bloom, Van Zedwitz, and Pierre, 1960
4 17 List of books, n.d.
Series V. Sales records, 1927-1998, bulk 1950-1998 1.0 linear feet 2 boxes
Papers comprised of correspondence, clippings, and appraisals dealing with artworks such as the Esther Tapestries and clients such as J. Paul Getty, S. Rubinstein, M. Rheims, F. Weiss, and R. Heine. Subseries group documents relating to J. Paul Getty and the Getty Museum, to clients other than Getty, and to artwork inventory and sales.
Series V.A. J. Paul Getty correspondence and appraisals, 1960-1998 0.25 linear feet
Records of correspondence between French and Company and J. Paul Getty (and others associated with Mr. Getty). Also documentation related to several appraisals for Getty, and newspaper and magazine clippings on Getty. All materials are arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
5 1 Correspondence with Getty, 1960-1965
5 2 Correspondence with Getty, 1966-1976
5 3 Appraisal for Getty, 1967
5 4 Appraisal for Getty, 1967-1973
5 5 Correspondence with Getty, 1970-1991
5 6 Appraisal for Getty, 1972-1973
6 1 Clippings on Getty, 1973-1987
6 2 Correspondence with, and clippings on, Getty, 1975-1985
6 3 Correspondence with, and clippings on, Getty, 1988-1998
Series V.B. Records relating to clients other than Getty, 1945-1972 0.25 linear feet
Correspondence and other documentation relating to tapestry and other artwork sales.
Box Folder
6 4 Correspondence with S. Rubinstein regarding sale of artworks, 1945-1953, 1957
6 5 Galleria Luigi Bellini tapestry sales, , , 1949-1950 1971-1972 1976
6 6 M. Rheims and Menier tapestries sale, 1959-1960
6 7 Pan American Company, F. Weiss, P. Weiss, R. Heine, and Esther Tapestries, 1953-1961
6 8 Pan American Company, F. Weiss, P. Weiss, R. Heine, and Esther Tapestries, 1960-1962
6 9 Loan agreements and payment schedules for Esther Tapestries, 1962-1965
Series V.C. Artwork inventory and sales records, 1927-1971 0.5 linear feet
Records include sales policies, inventory reports, and artwork stock sheets, sales receipts, descriptions, and photographs.
Box Folder
7 1 Artwork stock sheet, 1927
7 2 Miscellaneous correspondence and clippings relating to artworks, 1931-1971
7 3 Descriptions of artworks, 1932-1943
7 4 Artwork sales receipts, ca. 1942
7 5 Purchasing committee, 1955-1959
7 6 Analysis of inventory sale, 1957
7 7 Sales policies and inventories, 1957-1959
7 8 Report on inventory verification, 1958
7 9 European sales of artworks, 1959
7 10 Open inventory and English artworks, n.d.
7 11 Photographs of artworks, 1957-1959
7 12 Photographs of artworks, n.d.
7 13 Photographs of artworks, n.d.
7 14 Photographs of artworks, n.d.
7 15 Transparencies of artworks, n.d.
7 16 Photographs and documentation relating to appraisal of Mantegna painting, , 1940 1958-1959
Series VI. Exhibitions and publicity, 1930-1967, bulk 1956-1967 1.5 linear feet 6 boxes
This series documents publicity, exhibitions, and gallery activities. Also included are records relating to the specific program of J. Bratby paintings commissioned for a film. Clippings, photographs, and correspondence relate to exhibitions, many more clippings are about the art market. A bound volume of clippings and manuscripts records the history of Hamilton Palace: the house, the family and sales of the estate. A videocassete documents the opening the French & Company on Madison Ave., New York City. One folder holds personal correspondence.
Box Folder
8 1 Publicity, , 1930 1958-1961
8 2 Exhibition of tapestries, 1947
8 3 Strozzi and other exhibitions, 1956-1960
8 4 General projects, 1957-1959
8 5 Publicity program for opening of new galleries, 1958
8 6 Alec Guinness film The Horse's Mouth, and J. Bratby paintings, 1958
8 7 Contemporary gallery, 1959-1960
8 8 Parke-Bernet Galleries exhibition, n.d.
8 9 Clippings and correspondence on the art market, 1915-1959
8 10 Clippings and correspondence on the art market, 1916-1959
8 11 Clippings and research on the art market, 1957-1958
8 12 Correspondence regarding "Currency of Art" pamphlet on the art market, 1959
8 13 Clippings on the art market, 1959
8 14 Preliminary plan for publication on the art market, n.d.
8 15 Personal correspondence, ca. 1930
Box Folder
9 1 French & Company exhibition in Mexico, , 1953 29.0 photographs
9 2 French & Company exhibition in Mexico, , 1953 8.0 items
5 photographs, catalog, clipping, invitation
9 3 Clippings about French & Company exhibition in Mexico, , 1954 ca. 30 items
9 4 Catalogs, , , 1956 1958 3.0 items
Catalog of French & Company exhibit in Havana, Cuba, 1958 and program for celebration, Semana de Bellas Arts, 1956, Cuidad Trujillo, Dominican Rupublic (2 copies).
9 5 Clippings from French & Company exhibit in Havana, Cuba, , 1958 ca. 30 items
9 6 Look magazine, New York Times Magazine, , , 1952 1953 1955
9 7 Clippings about tapestries, ca. 1909-1958 ca. 15 items
9 8 Hamilton Palace, , n.d. 1.0 vol.
Bound volume with pasted in manuscripts and clippings about Hamilton palace, history of the Hamilton family, Beckford sale of 1823, Hamilton sale of 1882, and final sale of 1919.
Box
10 Clippings about exhibitons, art market, ca. 1952-1967 ca. 100 items
Box
11 Clippings about exhibitons, art market, ca. 1952-1967 ca. 50 items
Box
12 Clippings about exhibitons, art market, ca. 1952-1967 ca. 150 items
Box
17 Opening of French & Company on Madison Ave., n.d. 1.0 videocassette
1 videocassette (VHS) : b&w, sd., dub from 16 mm. b& print. Dub made by Filmworks for Samuels, Nov 16, 1999.
Series VII. Architectural drawings, 1910-1911, 1928, 1946, 1950, n.d. 66.0 items 4 boxes
Architectural drawings appear to be for renovations for clients, and for French & Company office and gallery spaces.
Box Folder
13 1 Residence for J. Harper-Poor, n.d. 9 drawings on tracing paper
Notes on drawings describe renovations to be done.
13 2 Residence for J. Harper-Poor, 1910? 9.0 photographs
Photographs of drawings of the original building, Howells & Stokes, Architects.
Box
14 Estate Joseph Laroque, 1911 1.0 drawing(s)
Box
15 203 E. 56th St, n.d. 6.0 blueprints
Box
16 Henry Otis Chapman, architect, n.d. 12.0 blueprints
Oversize
1** Plan for store building, 210 E. 57th St., New York, 1928 drawings 1-11
Oversize
2** Alterations to buildings, South corner of 3rd. Ave. and E. 56th St., New York, 1946 May 27 sheets 1-8
Oversize
3** Architectural drawings, , 1946 1940
3** Measured drawings for 205 E. 67th St., New York, 1950 Sep 18 9.0 drawing(s)
3** Plan of 5th floor galleries and offices, n.d. 1 drawing