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Unique Crocker Family Stories Come to Light in Exhibition
George C. Shreve and Company, Gold and Silver Tablets presented to Margaret Crocker on May 6th, 1885 by the Sacramento Society of California Pioneers, May 6, 18 85. Gold, silver and velvet, 11 3/4 x 8 in. Crocker Art Museum, bequest of Jennie Fassett Learned. Photograph by Jay Lensch.

SACRAMENTO, CA.- A new exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum pays tribute to the Museum’s founders and shares the stories of philanthropy, eccentricity and high style that made the Crockers the epitome of the Gilded Age. Breathtaking jewelry, dramatic gowns, china, furniture, personal letters, paintings and photographs tell the lesser-known side of the Crocker family’s story in Treasures, Curiosities and Secrets: The Crockers and the Gilded Age, opening November 6.

“With the expansion nearing completion, the Museum is preparing to enter a new era in its history,” comments Scott A. Shields, associate director and chief curator, Crocker Art Museum. “The Crocker will also celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2010. At this pivotal time, it seemed appropriate to look at our history and the Crocker family’s legacy in Sacramento.”

More than 75 objects will be on display to tell the story of California’s premier early art patrons, Edwin Bryant and Margaret Crocker, and the era in which they lived. The exhibit also encompasses the lives and mementos of their children, including the notorious Aimée Crocker, who became an international social success, receiving widespread press for her dramatic costumes, travels to the Far East, extensive tattoos and five controversial marriages, twice to Russian nobility.

Edwin Bryant and Margaret Crocker settled in Sacramento in 1852 and worked as merchants until Edwin was appointed to the California Supreme Court in 1863. Seven months later, Edwin left the bench to serve as legal counsel for the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which ultimately made him a millionaire.

With their newfound wealth, the Crockers became deeply concerned with bringing culture to California. A paralytic stoke in June 1869 forced Edwin to retire but allowed him and his family to pursue other interests, including commissioning an art gallery building and embarking on a Grand Tour to Europe. Overseas for the next three years, the Crockers purchased more than 700 paintings and 1,300 drawings that became the core of their museum. Following their return, Edwin and Margaret actively commissioned new works by California artists.

The family’s opulent gallery building, completed in 1872, showcased their collection and allowed them to entertain splendidly in a world in which social duty was combined with breathtaking display of the finest jewelry, fashions, personal mementos, furnishings and silver. Today, the gallery building is considered one of the finest examples of Victorian Italianate architecture in the United States.

In May 1885, Margaret Crocker presented the art gallery building, the grounds and the E. B. Crocker Collection “in trust for the public” to the public-private partnership of the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association, now the Crocker Art Museum Association.

Crocker Art Museum | Edwin Bryant | Margaret Crocker | California Museum Association |

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