Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection
By Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn] (1837-1886) c. 1883-1884
The William H. Vanderbilt residence was located on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-first Street in New York City and was, at the time of its construc-tion, the largest and grandest house in America. It was also the crowning achievement of Herter Brothers. Published just after its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection was written by Earl Shinn (1837-1886) under the pseudonym Edward Strahan and documents in elaborate detail the extraordinary interiors and furnishings of the great mansion. Of Quaker descent, Shinn wrote under the name of Strahan so as not to blaspheme his ancestors who despised the visual arts. Shinn describes the Vanderbilt house somewhat facetiously as “a typical American residence, seized at the moment when the nation began to have a taste of its own…,” and when Americans had begun “to re-invent everything … especially the house.” 1
This, the Holland Edition of Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, was published in large format by George Barrie, Boston, with numerous photographs and chromolithograph illustrations. The present copy belonged to L .L. Whitman of Springfield, Massachusetts, and is numbered as #644 of an edition limited to 1000 in four volumes, with tooled leather bindings and gilt-edged pages.
1 Bolger, Doreen, Jonathan Freedman, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, David A. Hanks, Marilynn Johnson, James D. Kornwolf. In Pursuit of Beauty: Americans and the Aesthetic Movement. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Rizzoli, 1986, p. 120.