President Grover Cleveland Promotes Art Collecting in His Last Days in Office

In a letter to the American Diplomatic Corps, he asks U.S. diplomats to aid noted collector Edward R. Bacon, who Cleveland identifies as “one of my oldest and best friends”

In late February 1897 Cleveland was preparing to leave the presidency for the final time, and on February 20 had but 12 days of his two terms left to serve.

Edward Bacon was a Buffalo, New York, attorney who formed a friendship with Grover Cleveland before either rose to fame and fortune....

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President Grover Cleveland Promotes Art Collecting in His Last Days in Office

In a letter to the American Diplomatic Corps, he asks U.S. diplomats to aid noted collector Edward R. Bacon, who Cleveland identifies as “one of my oldest and best friends”

In late February 1897 Cleveland was preparing to leave the presidency for the final time, and on February 20 had but 12 days of his two terms left to serve.

Edward Bacon was a Buffalo, New York, attorney who formed a friendship with Grover Cleveland before either rose to fame and fortune. Cleveland became governor of New York and then President of the United States, while Bacon went on to become a railroad tycoon who partnered in American business deals with J. Pierpont Morgan. Bacon was also a noted collector of European art, and lived with his brother and sister-in-law Virginia Bacon, one of the first important women art dealers in America. The website devoted to “Prominent American Art Collectors” states of Bacon: “He traveled often to Europe, which is where he purchased many of the works that made up his extensive art collection.” His collection included works by notable artists like Rubens, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Joshua Reynolds, Franz Hals, and Jan Steen.

Autograph letter signed, as President, on Executive Mansion letterhead, two pages, February 20, 1897, addressed “to the Diplomatic and Consular Representatives of the United States”, asking them to assist Bacon wherever he may be. This would surely have been for one of Bacon’s art purchasing trips to Europe, as any key connections Bacon could make with local artists or dealers would have been valuable to him. “This will introduce Mr. E.R. Bacon, a prominent business man of New York City, a gentleman of excellent social position and one of my oldest and best friends. Mr. Bacon contemplates an extended trip through foreign lands and I think to commend him…to the good offices and confidence of his countrymen everywhere.” The original Executive Mansion envelop is still present, and on it Cleveland has written “From the President”, and addressed it “To the Diplomatic and Consular Representatives of the United States, introducing Mr. E.R. Bacon of New York”.

So one of Cleveland’s last acts in office to to help an old friend, and thereby to encourage American art collecting.

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