History of the Nickerson Mansion: 1900

Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1900, page 1

Gift to the Art Institute
Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Nickerson Present Their Collection
Said to be second only to one of its kind in the United States — valued at $50,000 — rich in rare ivories, jades crystals, carvings, and oriental curios — includes many paintings — formally accepted by its trustees

Mr. and Mrs. Samuel M. Nickerson have given to the Art Institute their entire art collection, said to be the most valuable collection of ivories and rare Oriental carvings in Chicago, and second in value only to one of its kind in the United States. Its value not long ago was placed by members of the family at $50,000. To prevent its being stolen the basement and the first floor windows and the doors of the Nickerson residence are covered with steel bars and burglar alarms, and when, a year ago, burglars did succeed in entering the house the curios were recognized as so rare and valuable the thieves refused to carry them away.

Most of the collection was secured by Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Nickerson personally in India. It consists of silver and gold amulets, ear and nose rings, delicate ivory carvings, and rare Indian curios that could not be duplicated for many thousands of dollars. The entire collection is contained in cases in the Nickerson parlors and reception-room. It is the most valuable gift thus far made to the institute, with the possible exception of the Henry Field bequest.

Mr. Nickerson declined last night to talk of his gift, neither would he discuss the rumor that it was a step in preparation to move to New York City.
Accepted by Trustees

The gift was accepted at a regular meeting of the trustees yesterday afternoon. Rooms 41 and 42, where the special exhibit of Albert Herter has been hung, were voted to the use of Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson for their collection. They asked immediate possession. The rooms will be fitted with marble and mosaic in monumental style.

The Nickerson collection is noted among the artists and collectors of rare works as one of the finest in the world in jades and crystals. These articles were obtained in travels through Japan and China, and some of them could be nowhere duplicated. There is a large crystal worth over $5,000, second in value and size to one in the Boston museum. There is a collection of jades in New York which is said to equal that made by Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson. Mrs. Nickerson’s translation of a work on Japanese art is one of the few books on the subject.
Includes Rare Paintings

The collection includes also Chinese and Japanese porcelains, Oriental bronzes, swords and sword guards. It is large enough to make a small museum in itself. Mr. Nickerson has been a collector also of oil paintings, water colors, engravings, and etchings, all of which are included in the gift to the Art Institute.

The foundation for the Nickerson collection is said to have been a number of Belgian pictures. Many of these pictures were secured by J. Russell Jones when he was Minister to Belgium. Gustave Doré, Kukkuk, and other equally famous names are signed to several of the canvases. In the last few years Mr. Nickerson has been the purchaser of modern works that have attracted attention.

The acceptance of so large a number of art works outside the realm of painting and sculpture marks a change in the nature of the Art Institute which W. M. R. French, the director, long has had in his mind. It will branch out along the lines of industrial art and include much that has an artistic side.
W. M. R. French’s Words

“This collection,” said Mr. French, “is one of the finest gifts that has come to the institute. I am not familiar with the articles which it includes, but I know them to be most rare and valuable. When the preamble to the constitution was formed it was so shaped as to make such works one object of the institute. Our school includes all branches of art and such a collection is of value in that respect. One difficulty confronts us now. WE have not space enough for the temporary exhibits that are given. The entire north wing is now devoted to permanent exhibits, and out next plans must be for enlarging the building according to the original design.”

“Mr. Nickerson already has given a great deal to the institute, serving as a trustee for several years. Mrs. Nickerson has taken an interest in art affairs and is Vice President of the Antiquarian society, which has devoted its time to raising money for the purchase of articles for the institute.”

< Back to Timeline

Featured Program

Santa Saturdays 2017
Saturdays, December 2, 9, and 16

Art projects, lively story time, and sing-a-longs provide fun for the entire family. Don't forget to have your picture taken with Santa Claus! Read more

Featured Program

Glitter & Gold Holiday Brunch 2017
Sunday, December 10

Gather with family and friends to enjoy a lovely brunch including a Prosecco toast, elaborate buffet, and live music. In the spirit of the season, tables will be shared. Read more