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

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Finding aid for the French & Company records, 1910-1998, bulk 1950-1960

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.

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