Gallery Guide | The Melancholy Museum


Using over 700 items from the Stanford Family Collections, artist Mark Dion’s exhibition "The Melancholy Museum" explores how Leland Stanford Jr.’s death at age 15 led to the creation of a museum, university, and—by extension—the entire Silicon Valley.


to THE






With contributions by Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, Mikaela Berkeley,

Julie Cain, Jack Carney, Susan Dackerman, Paula Findlen,

Christina J. Hodge, Laura Jones, Juliana Nalerio, Alexander Nemerov,

Liv Porte, María Gloria Robalino, Astrid Johannah Smith, Taylor Spann,

Murphy Temple, Mitch Therieau, Anna Toledano, Mahpiya Vanderbilt,

Alexander Veitch, Megan Rhodes Victor, Richard White, and Meagan Wu




3 The Melancholy Museum: A Mark Dion Project

6 First Inhabitants: The Ohlone of the Peninsula

8 Timeline of the Stanfords and Their Museum

15 Melancholy Museum Objects

Ohlone Mortar and Pestle; Shovel and Detonator; The Last Spike;

Horse Hoof Inkwell; E. E. Rogers, Electioneer; Renaissance Revival

Clock; Watercolor Paint Set; Leland Jr.’s Camera and Photo Album;

Roman Cattle Horns; Alabaster Fruit; I. W. Taber, Leland Jr.’s Nob

Hill Museum; Leland Jr.’s Death Mask; Porcelain Cup and Saucer;

Black Ostrich Feather Fan; Banquet Menu; Wage Receipts; Flowerpot;

Salviati Mosaic Workers; Bourbon Bottles; Jane’s Jewelry; Spirit

Photograph; Poison Bottle

26 Leland Stanford Sr. and the Central Pacific Railroad

28 Immigrant Labor on the Stanford Estate

30 The Palo Alto Stock Farm

31 Horse Relics

33 Palo Alto Spring: The Martyrdom of Time

36 The Damkeeper’s Grief

37 A Boy’s Cabinet: Origins of the Leland Stanford

Junior Museum

40 Spiritual Afterlives

43 Who Killed Jane Stanford?

45 The 1906 and 1989 Earthquakes

48 Credits and Acknowledgments

front cover: Museum, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California,

c. 1900. Cantor Arts Center

opposite: Leland Jr. Death Mask, 1884. Stanford University Archives

The Melancholy Museum:

A Mark Dion Project


John and Jill Freidenrich Director, Cantor Arts Center


Stanford in memory of their son, Leland Jr., is celebrating its 125th

anniversary this year, it has only been in active operation for a portion

of that time. In the wake of the fifteen-year-old’s tragic death, his

parents founded both Leland Stanford Junior University and the

Leland Stanford Junior Museum, the latter of which opened in 1894

and was expanded in 1900. When it was built, its grandeur and scale

were rivaled only by its East Coast contemporaries—the Metropolitan

Museum of Art in New York, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Twelve years into its life, however, the

1906 San Francisco earthquake catastrophically toppled the majestic

museum, and much of its collection was lost to the collapse and the

looting that followed. Because Jane Stanford, the museum’s most vocal

advocate, died in 1905, when it reopened in 1909 only a quarter of the

former building was salvaged, and part of that space was given over to

classrooms, laboratories, and storage rather than display. In 1945 the

building closed for further renovations and did not reopen again until

1954. During this time a much-needed inventory of the art collection

was conducted, and much was determined to be lost.

During that half century of the museum’s closure and instability,

most other art museums across the nation were building their

collections and developing their educational missions. Thus, from the

1950s through the 1980s, Stanford’s museum curators and art history

faculty made up for lost time, heroically working to revitalize the

institution into a worthy center for exhibitions, research, and teaching.

But while lightning never strikes twice, earthquakes do, and in 1989

the Loma Prieta quake again critically damaged the building and its

collections. The museum’s first century of existence was steeped in

sorrow and destruction.

Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois (1852–1923),

Portrait of Leland Stanford Jr., 1884. Cantor Arts Center


When the renamed Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts

reopened in 1999, with a new addition on its southwest quadrant, it

included galleries dedicated to the display of objects from the Stanford

family’s original collection. The Stanfords’ idea to found a museum

had emerged from their son’s capacious collecting and museological

inclinations. At home he collected and displayed toys, Native American

mortars and pestles, photographs, and taxidermied birds and animals,

to which he added Egyptian and Mediterranean antiquities, relics of

warfare, and other artistic and natural curiosities from his European

travels. After the boy’s death in Florence in 1884, his parents continued

to supplement his collection with objects from around the world—as

he would have done himself had he lived. Born of love and grief,

the collection kept their son’s dream of a museum, as well as his

acquisitive nature, alive.

What happens when a museum is erected to contain all that love

and sorrow? Although Leland Jr.’s death precipitated the founding

of one of the most illustrious universities in the world, which in turn

prompted the emergence of Silicon Valley and globe-changing

technological innovations, his art museum continues to be the site

of his mourning. While the proximate Stanford Mausoleum holds

the eternal remains of father, mother, and son, their ghosts inhabit

the museum. These apparitions take the form of memorial paintings,

mundane objects that Leland Jr. and his parents gathered and held in

their hands, goods of the indigenous people who originally populated

the region, mementos of the Chinese workers who labored for the

Stanfords, as well as artifacts of the family’s businesses, their Palo Alto

home, and their deaths. How can a museum present a collection that

embodies so much history and emotion?

All that grief, love, and mourning have found a new home in

The Melancholy Museum, an installation created by artist Mark Dion.

To house the objects Leland Jr. amassed, and the stuff his parents

accumulated to remember him, Dion has created a mourning cabinet.

The grand Victorian case houses the boy collector’s earthly and

otherworldly sepulchral goods as well as his parents’ heartache,

anguish, and hope. Through the past year, Dion has sorted through

the remains of the Stanfords’ lives and dreams. He has examined with

his own collector’s eye young Leland Jr.’s collection and identified

those materials that best tell his and his museum’s story. Assembled

on the cabinet’s shelves and drawers, the stuff narrates the boy’s life

and death through

images and objects

related to the four

elements—earth, air,

fire, and water—and

ether, his final resting

place. Individually

and collectively these

aggregated materials

give Leland Jr. and his

parents an afterlife

within the museum.

Dion also has

excavated other

Stanford histories,

of both family and

place. Digging through

Special Collections

Émile Munier (1840–1895), Leland Stanford Jr. and the Archaeology

as an Angel Comforting His Grieving Mother,

Center, he found

1884. Cantor Arts Center

assorted letters,

ledgers, and objects

to describe the lives and deaths of others whose lives and labor made

possible the university and the museum and its collections. These

causalities and tragedies are also represented in The Melancholy

Museum in the form of fragmented pots, tools, and bodies.

Through objects alone, Dion’s installation tells the story of how

one family’s rush West to sell hardware to prospectors resulted in the

accumulation of vast wealth and power. The furniture, photographs,

Native American objects, menus, and other artifacts of material life at

the turn of the twentieth century that comprise the artwork show how

the family upgraded its business interests to politics, the railroad, and

a horse farm, and how those interests were enabled by land previously

inhabited by the Ohlone people and the labor of Chinese and other

immigrants. Finally, the grand Victorian mourning cabinet, the heart

of Dion’s work, demonstrates how one teenage boy’s death resulted

not in the creation of the nation’s largest museum but in a museum

where love, grief, and mourning are forever entwined, The Melancholy




First Inhabitants:

The Ohlone of the Peninsula


Academic Curator and Collections Manager, Archaeology Center, and


Director of Heritage Services and University Archaeologist

with contributions by


Muwekma Ohlone Tribe


This deep and ongoing story belongs to the Ohlone people and the local

Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, who explain

that Ohlone people have been here since time immemorial. Their tribe

represents “all the known surviving lineages aboriginal to the San

Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions

Dolores, Mission Santa Clara, and Mission San Jose; and who were

also members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of

Alameda County.” Ohlone ancestral, un-ceded territories comprise

much of the lands surrounding the San Francisco Bay, including those

of Stanford University.

With this declaration, the tribe members constitute themselves

through place and family. These twin anchors held fast through

colonial violence and systematic attempts at eradication that began in

the late eighteenth century. With the tribe’s help, Stanford University

has grown in understanding this history and its own accountability.

Today, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe has become one of the institution’s

most important partners.

In the deep past, indigenous Bay Area communities lived in dozens of

distinct villages across a productive landscape, which they understood and

managed. Each group had recognized homelands, but each village was

also multicultural, as young people were required to marry partners from

outside their home villages. Over thousands of years, ancestral Ohlone left

tangible signs across their homelands through artifacts, buried features,

and changes to the land itself. Stanford University cares for many such

sites. Alongside tribal knowledge, archaeological evidence contradicts the

notion that European and US occupiers found a western “wilderness.”

They entered a dynamic world susceptible to violent disruption.


In 1769, Spain claimed California lands by sending Catholic missionaries

and invading armies, inaugurating a catastrophic era of compulsory labor,

disease and deprivation, and the imposition of Christianity. The Ohlone

were among those forced to labor for Crown and Church in missions,

in presidios, and on Ohlone lands seized and granted by the Crown to

its faithful soldiers. The Ohlone people maintained a forceful resistance

against Spanish occupation for decades. Even as their situation grew more

perilous under Mexican and US rule in the nineteenth century, leading

them to eventually hide their Indian identity, language, and customs, they

survived, returning to ancestral lands and forming new communities. The

largest of these was in Pleasanton in the East Bay hills, where hundreds of

Ohlone and their relatives from neighboring tribes gathered at the Alisal

Rancheria and made a valiant attempt to regain their independence at the

turn of the century. But their land claims were not respected. They were

evicted and the village was burned to the ground.

The Muwekma Ohlone still struggle today with the consequences

of US colonial policies that ignored their land claims and encouraged

assimilation. Their continuing solidarity and resilience as a community

are remarkable. The tribal government continues to advocate for their

rights with local, state, and federal government agencies. While living

fully modern lives in our Bay Area cities, Ohlone people gather and

prepare traditional foods, teach the children their traditions and the

Chochenyo language, and advocate for the preservation of sacred sites.

Stanford’s reeducation about Muwekma history began in the 1980s

with difficult conversations about the return of thousands of ancestral

human remains and funerary objects excavated by Stanford faculty

and stored in the basement of the former Leland Stanford Junior

Museum (now the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts).

Stanford repatriated the human remains and funerary objects to the

Ohlone in 1988 for reburial. This history makes the museum a powerful

place in Ohlone memory. Today, the university and tribe are strong

partners in community-led archaeology, historic interpretation, and a

Native plant garden.

Former Muwekma tribal chairwoman Rosemary Cambra stresses

her tribe’s survivance: “Our people, the Muwekmas, the East Bay

families, have never left their lands. They have always been here for

generation after generation.” Today, tribal members remain connected

to their homelands—including Stanford, which has dedicated

residential space for indigenous students known as Muwekma-Tah-

Ruk—The House of the People.


Timeline of the Stanfords

and Their Museum

1824 Leland Stanford Sr. is born on

March 9 outside of Troy, New York.

1828 Jane Eliza Lathrop is born in

Albany, New York, on August 25.

1848 Leland Sr. passes the

New York bar exam and opens

a law office in Port Washington,


1850 Leland Sr. returns to Albany to

marry Jane on September 30.

1852 After fire destroys his law

office, Leland Sr. travels to California

to join his brothers’ mercantile

business in El Dorado County in

gold country. Jane stays in New York

to tend to her dying father.

1853–55 With his brothers’ financial

support, Leland Sr. operates a

mercantile store with partner Nick

Smith, while his brothers open a

mercantile in Sacramento.

1855 Leland Sr. brings Jane out to

California and buys the Sacramento


1856 Leland Sr. helps found the

California chapter of the Republican


1861 The Big Four—the others are

Collis Potter Huntington, Mark

Hopkins, and Charles Crocker—

form a committee, with Leland Sr.


Curatorial Assistant, Cantor Arts Center

as president, to build the Central

Pacific Railroad eastward from


Leland Sr. is elected governor of


1863 Leland Sr. breaks ground on

the new railroad. The “Governor

Stanford” locomotive is built

in Philadelphia and Lancaster,

Pennsylvania, and shipped around

Cape Horn to San Francisco.

It makes its first run in November.

1865–68 Leland Sr. hires several

thousand Chinese men to help

build the transcontinental railroad.

An additional group of Chinese

laborers will work at the family’s

private residences in San Francisco,

Sacramento, Palo Alto, and

Washington, DC, until his death in


1867 After a farewell tea party, Jane

begins several months of secluded

rest, per doctor’s orders, to prepare

for childbirth.

1868 Leland DeWitt Stanford Jr.

is born on May 14. His parents

allegedly announce his arrival at

a dinner party by presenting him

nestled in a bed of blossoms on a

silver platter.

1869 The driving of the Golden

Spike on May 10 commemorates the

completion of the transcontinental


Leland Sr. purchases his first racing

trotter, Occident.

1872 Leland Sr. meets the

naturalist Louis Agassiz in

Sacramento in October. Agassiz

encourages the founding of

institutions of learning on the West

Coast, including museums of natural

history and art.

Leland Sr. commissions famed

photographer Eadweard Muybridge

to photograph his horses in motion.

1874 After nineteen years in

Sacramento, the Stanford family

moves its primary residence to

San Francisco.

1876 The Stanfords move into their

Nob Hill mansion and purchase the

Palo Alto estate as a country home.

Leland Sr. purchases a second

horse, Electioneer, for $12,000,

along with twelve mares costing

an additional $29,200, planning

to breed world-record-breaking


The Stanfords travel to the

Philadelphia Centennial Exposition,

where they display two Thomas

Hill paintings, Donner Lake and

Yosemite Valley. Hill wins a medal

for landscape painting.

1877–78 Leland Sr. commissions

Eadweard Muybridge to photograph

the completed Nob Hill mansion,

known as “millionaire’s mansion.”

1879 The Stanford family purchases

twelve hundred trees and shrubs

from an establishment in Flushing,



New York, and transports them

to their Palo Alto estate via the

transcontinental railroad.

1880 The Stanfords take Leland

Jr. on a two-year trip to Europe.

They acquire family portraits in

Paris, sculptures in Rome, and early

modern paintings in Florence.

Chinese gardeners begin to lay out

the Palo Alto arboretum.

1881 While in Pompeii in March

1881, Jane allegedly advises Leland

Jr. to make a piece of broken Roman

mosaic glass the foundation of his

future museum.

The Stanfords purchase land near

Vina, California, planting more

than one million grapevines and

employing around three hundred

mostly Chinese laborers.

1882 The Catalogue of Leland

Stanford’s Collection of Pictures,

listing 181 paintings in the Nob Hill

mansion, is printed.

Leland Jr. dreams of making his

burgeoning collection the nucleus

of a great West Coast museum. He

arranges a room of his treasures

on the third floor of the Nob Hill


1883 French vintners improve the

quality of Vina Ranch wine, though it

is more successful with brandy and

sweet wine than dry French wine.

1884 The Stanfords embark on

a second trip through Europe.

Leland Jr. collects everywhere they

go. In Naples he begins showing

signs of illness, later diagnosed as

typhoid fever, probably contracted in

Constantinople en route to Athens.

The Stanfords call in the best

doctors in Rome, then take him to

Florence. Leland Jr. dies in the Hotel

Bristol in Florence on March 13,

aged fifteen years and ten months.

Awaiting the completion of their

Palo Alto mausoleum, the Stanfords

travel with Leland Jr.’s body to Paris

and New York. They acquire five

thousand duplicates of Cypriote

antiquities from the Cesnola

Collection at the Metropolitan

Museum of Art.

The family buries their son in Palo

Alto on November 27. A public

service takes place in Grace

Cathedral in San Francisco on

November 30.

1885 On November 11, Leland Sr.

and Jane file for a grant to establish

a university in honor of their son.

Leland Sr. is elected to serve as a

US senator from California.

1886 Leland Jr.’s former tutor

Herbert Charles Nash publishes The

Leland Stanford, Jr. Museum: Origin

and Description, describing the

current state of the collection.

1887 The Stanfords contemplate

San Francisco’s Twin Peaks as the

site for their future museum, after

deciding against Golden Gate Park.

Jane sets a cornerstone marking

the edge of the future university on

May 14.

1888 Jane and Leland Sr. embark

upon their first trip to Europe

following Leland Jr.’s death, amid

rumors that Leland Sr. will become

the Republican presidential


1890 The Stanfords finalize their

decision to build a museum on their

Palo Alto land.

The approximately two hundred

laborers at Vina Ranch, whose

numbers swell to around one

thousand at harvest, are now mostly

European immigrants or white US

Americans because of growing anti-

Chinese sentiment.

The racehorse Electioneer dies on

December 3.

Leland Sr. steps down as president

of the Central Pacific Railroad

and is elected to a second term

as senator.

1891 Jane and Leland Sr. establish

the Leland Stanford Junior Museum.

Ground is broken on February 18.

Breeder and Sportsman reports on

June 27 that Electioneer’s skeleton

is “mounted and ready to be placed

in the museum at Palo Alto.”

Occident’s skeleton has been in

Stanford’s stable since 1886. There

are now approximately 750 Stock

Farm horses.

Stanford University opens its doors

in October to five hundred students,

and hires Chinese cooks to feed


Newspapers report that Jane “blazed

with diamonds” at a Washington, DC,


1892 The Stanfords make their

last trip to Europe together. In an

interview, Jane declares her intent

to make their museum “the finest

art gallery that any school or college


1893 Leland Sr. dies on June 21

and is buried on June 25. Jane

burns their correspondence and

becomes the Stanford estate’s sole

trustee. She transfers works of

art from San Francisco to Palo Alto

in August.



Timothy Hopkins, son of Mark

Hopkins, and his wife, May, give

the museum Reverend Henry G.

Appenzeller’s collection of Korean


Jane bequeaths the Stanford

family mansion in Sacramento to

the Roman Catholic Church as a

home for orphaned children. The

family home in Albany becomes

the Lathrop Memorial, a home for

orphans supervised by the Albany

Orphan Society.

Jane approves Maurizio Camerino’s

designs for mosaic panels of

History and Ancient Art, but finds

the Salviati & Co. director’s image

of Modern Art better suited to “a

botanical collection, but not for an

Art Museum,” preferring instead an

image of ancient Abyssinia.

Jane purchases Henry Chapman

Ford’s twenty-four watercolors of the

California missions. They become

part of the museum’s collection

related to the missions and early

California history.

Jane announces to the board of

trustees on February 11 that she has

deeded her San Francisco home to

the university.

1899 The first shipment of art and

antiquities from the Stanfords’

Washington, DC, mansion arrives

on July 3, along with David Starr

Jordan’s gift of seal furs and a

stuffed panther.

Jane purchases John Daggett’s

collection of Native American curios,

especially baskets from the Yurok,

Karok, and Hupa tribes near the

Klamath River, which have been on

loan to the museum since 1893.

Jane travels to Europe in the

summer and fall.

1900 Two new brick wings of the

museum are completed, making

it one of the largest in the world

at three hundred thousand square

feet. Jane’s elaborate directions

regarding how the inscription on

the facade should commemorate

her son are ignored. Harry Peterson

becomes the first director, holding

this position until 1917.

1900–1901 Jane travels to Europe

and Egypt and collects antiquities

for the museum.

1903 The Palo Alto Stock Farm

closes and the horses are sold.

Assistant curator E. A. Austin ’05

collects minerals above Sutter Creek

to build the museum’s mineralogical


Salviati & Co. donates two hundred

pieces of Venetian glass, followed by

a gift of an additional eighty items

in 1904, for the museum’s Venetian


1894 The Leland Stanford Junior

Museum opens its doors in the fall.

John Milton Oskison, a young Anglo-

Cherokee student, recalls being told

around this time that the museum

possessed a replica of Leland Jr.’s

last breakfast.

1897 Jane fails to sell her jewels

in London during Queen Victoria’s

Diamond Jubilee, but is still

determined to sacrifice them to

support the university. She has them

photographed and painted in oils.

After admitting San Mateo

teachers to the museum gratis and

expressing willingness to extend the

same courtesy to “all invitees and

distinguished visitors,” Jane denies

David Starr Jordan’s proposal to

admit all visitors free, claiming that

“there would be no discipline, order,

or restriction after a few years of

such freedom.”

Jane’s brother, Henry Lathrop, dies

on April 3. Jane commissions a

sculpture in his honor, The Angel of

Grief, and has it placed next to the

family mausoleum.

1902 Jane travels to Hawaii, Japan,

and other parts of Asia to collect

Asian artifacts. By then Hill’s Donner

Lake and Yosemite Valley are on

display. She considers the museum

“necessary and appropriate to a

university of high degree.”

Jane hands over control of university

affairs to the board of trustees.

En route to Japan and other parts

of Asia she visits her brother-inlaw

Thomas Welton Stanford in


1904 Jane attends the St. Louis

Exposition and purchases the Ikeda

collection of Japanese and Chinese

art. She justifies the cost of the



museum expansion, reminding

everyone that all her collectibles

will end up there upon her death:

These things that have been placed

in the Museum by myself are never

to be moved.” She chairs the newly

formed Committee on the Museum.

1905 In January, rat poison is

found in a bottle of water on Jane’s

nightstand. On February 28, Jane

dies in her room at the Moana Hotel

in Honolulu. The coroner declares

strychnine poisoning the cause. A

murder investigation begins March 1.

Harry Peterson celebrates Jane’s

fifty years of lace collecting with a

feature article in the Ladies’ Home



1906 On April 18, three-quarters

of the museum building is

destroyed during San Francisco’s

great earthquake. Over some

months, Harry Peterson salvages,

reorganizes, and inventories what is

left of the collection.


1863: Governor Stanford Locomotive Entering Stanford Museum, 1916.

Stanford University Archives

1868: Portrait of Leland Stanford Jr. as an Infant, Original Carte de

Visite in Leland Stanford Photograph Album, n.d. Stanford University


1877–78: Photograph of the Art Gallery in the Stanford Family’s Nob Hill

Mansion, SF, Stanford Residence (San Francisco) Photograph Album, Picture

Gallery, n.d. Stanford University Archives

1881: Three Laborers Standing Outside the 1906 Earthquake Damage to

Exterior of the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum, c. 1906. Cantor Arts Center

1884: Display of the Cesnola Collection at the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum

after the 1906 Earthquake, 1906. Cantor Arts Center

1893: A Partial View of Ten Panel Folding Screen (ch’aekkori), c. 1890.

Cantor Arts Center; California Missions: San José de Guadalupe, 19th

century. Cantor Arts Center

1897: Mrs. Stanford’s Jewel Collection, 1898. Cantor Arts Center

1900–1901: Photograph of Mrs. Leland Stanford and Party Taken at Gizeh,

near Cairo on Jan 1, 1904, 1904. Stanford University Archives

1903: A Table of Recovered and Damaged Salviati Glass after the 1906

Earthquake, 1906. Stanford University Archives

1906: Two Figures, One Wearing Asian Armor, Outside of the Leland

Stanford Jr. Museum after the 1906 Earthquake, early 20th century.

Cantor Arts Center



Stanford University Archaeology Collections

Leland Stanford Jr. was captivated

by ancient cultures of

Europe and Africa, but he

grounded his museum—literally—in

the local. A photograph

of his nascent collection shows

bowl-like mortars and long pestles

arranged on a floor. Used to

grind everything from spices

and nuts to medicines and meat,

the mortar and pestle was part of the essential tool kit for many cultures,

including the Muwekma Ohlone who originally inhabited the Bay Area and

continue to live here today. Jane Stanford took pains to attribute the discovery

of these artifacts to her son, writing on a surviving label: “[A]ll these Pestles

and Mortars [were] collected by Leland Stanford [Jr. him]self. They were

all plowed [an]d dug up on the Palo [Alto] Ranch.” From the boy’s tutor, we

know the child “would scour the farm” and “spend the day in the fields among

the laborers” collecting what ancestral Ohlone women left behind, such as

this stone set made between 6000 BCE and 1800 CE. Because stone tools

were heavy to carry, they often were cached at seasonal sites to await the

community’s return—or, in this case, to be uncovered centuries later by laborers

and an acquisitive boy.

Megan Rhodes Victor, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Archaeology


Oakland Museum of California

In 1848, gold nuggets were found

unexpectedly in a stream near

Coloma, California. Despite efforts

to maintain secrecy, the discovery

captured the attention of three hundred

thousand eager fortune seekers,

who used tools like this shovel

and detonator to search for the

precious metal. Leland Stanford Sr.

sought to exploit the business opportunities engendered by the Gold Rush by

selling such equipment to miners, starting in late 1852 or early 1853. These

tools also helped build the Central Pacific Railroad that he cofounded with his


Sacramento business partners. The influx of multiethnic European Americans,

Chinese, and South American migrant laborers as well as free and enslaved

Black Southerners who traveled to participate in the Gold Rush drastically

changed California’s demographics. At the same time, the local Native Americans

who were the land’s original inhabitants were starved, displaced, and

murdered. The opportunities and tragedies of the Gold Rush and the industries

it spawned invigorated California’s economy, making statehood possible in the

Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to enter the Union and raised

pertinent questions regarding the slave industry across the country.

Liv Porte, Curatorial Assistant, Cantor Arts Center


Cantor Arts Center, gift of David Hewes

The “last spike” has a way of multiplying. The golden railroad spike that

Leland Stanford Sr. drove at Promontory, Utah, in 1869, symbolically uniting

the Union Pacific and Central Pacific into one transcontinental railroad, is at

the Cantor. But there is also the ordinary iron spike that replaced it at the end of

the ceremony, which Union Pacific fireman David Lemon promptly pocketed

as a memento. To add intrigue, the Stanford Golden Spike has an identical

twin, secretly commissioned

and kept in

obscurity by businessman

David Hewes, who

ensured that the telegraph


conveyed the joining of

the two railroad lines.

And to make counting

all but impossible, an uncertain number of miniature spikes have been made

from excess bits of the gold from the Stanford original; Hewes distributed

them as gifts to friends and family. All are equally historical relics and tourist

souvenirs, each imbued with some degree of authenticity from this transformative

moment in the history of the West.

Mitch Therieau, PhD candidate, Modern Thought and Literature


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

This lavishly decorated silver inkwell set within a horse’s hoof, made circa

1878, commemorates a stallion with a muddled history. In recollections of his

childhood published in 1945 by his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Franklin

Delano Roosevelt fondly recalled Gloster as his father’s record-breaking

trotter, sold to Leland Stanford Sr. for $15,000 in 1873. One story goes that

Gloster died in a train wreck while being shipped to California in spring

1874, and a stable hand removed and mounted his tail and, many years later,


presented it in 1930 to Roosevelt, who

hung it in the governor’s mansion and

subsequently his White House bedroom

as a memento of his Hudson

Valley boyhood. In reality, Roosevelt’s

father, James, sold Gloster to another

New York horse breeder, Alden Goldsmith,

who sent the horse out West

to race against Stanford’s prize horse

Occident. Gloster died of lung fever

in San Francisco on October 30, 1874,

after a private contest but before the

public race. Thereafter, the Golden

Gate Agricultural Association had one of Gloster’s hooves mounted and

adorned with precious Western metals. But they neglected to pay the jeweler,

and so the jeweler sold the item to a Richard T. Carroll in 1879, who in turn

returned it to Goldsmith. How or when Leland Sr. acquired it, or whether this

is a different hoof, similarly mounted, remains unknown.

Mikaela Berkeley, Stanford ’20 and Paula Findlen, Ubaldo Pierotti

Professor of Italian History


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

A dark bay horse with white pasterns on the hind legs, measuring about 15.2

hands (roughly five feet) tall at the withers, Electioneer (1868–1890) was a pillar

of Leland Stanford Sr.’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. Stanford purchased the virtually

untested Electioneer for $12,000 in 1876. The horse, described by trainer

Charles Marvin as “the perfection of driving power,” became foundational to

the growth of the Stock Farm. Using Electioneer purely as a stud horse, Stanford

experimented with different breeding and training techniques to produce

the world’s fastest trotters. As a result of the “Palo Alto system,” even today

Electioneer’s descendants hold virtually all trotting and pacing speed records.

The little-known artist E. E. Rogers created this somewhat inaccurate painting

of Electioneer in 1889. The

actual horse did not have spots

on his shoulder, and his hooves

were all the same color. Most

likely these mischaracterizations

resulted from the painting

being based on an imperfect


Mahpiya Vanderbilt, Stanford

’19 and Alexander Veitch,

Stanford ’19



Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

The Stanford family’s Renaissance Revival clock

was made in France around 1876. While sold by

Tiffany & Co., such a fine, elegant piece was

likely the work of multiple individuals, with the

maker controlling the overall quality. In 1876,

Tiffany & Co. made a dramatic impression on

Victorian crowds with a dazzling display of jewels

and silver goods at the Centennial Exposition

in Philadelphia, where Leland Stanford Sr.

bought Jane an exquisite Tiffany diamond necklace

and earrings for their tenth wedding anniversary.

This massive clock sat atop the mantel

of the receiving room, or India Room, in the Stanford family’s palatial Nob Hill

home, flanked by a pair of decorative urns and electric candelabras. In furnishings

as in jewelry, every object and decorative embellishment in any one

of the mansion’s fifty rooms was carefully arranged to represent the perfect

mix of antique and modern treasures of the finest quality. Like so many other

San Francisco residences, the Stanford mansion was lost in the 1906 earthquake,

but the clock remains.

Astrid Johannah Smith, Rare Book and Special Collections Digitization

Specialist and Stanford MLA candidate


Cantor Arts Center,

Stanford Family Collections

This late nineteenth-century paint

set is composed of thirty different

color cakes, four ceramic holders,

and two small paintbrushes.

Housed in a Victorian wooden box,

it bears the logo of the London

company Winsor & Newton. This

set of “school colors” was most likely used by Leland Stanford Jr. when he

was learning to paint, perhaps during the summer of 1876 in White Harbor,

Maine, when he sketched the various ships on the water. Commercial in origin,

the color cakes were most likely fabricated industrially and therefore are

smooth and consistent. Watercolors are known for the ethereal, atmospheric

tones they can achieve, mostly through the layering of translucent washes of

diluted pigment. This particular paint set is a fitting palimpsest for the short

life of Leland Jr., whose death suspended an atmosphere of grief over his

household as well as the museum and university built in his honor.

María Gloria Robalino, PhD candidate, Comparative Literature




Cantor Arts Center,

Stanford Family Collections

Around 1880, Leland Stanford Jr.

acquired a device of technological

wonder to record his travels and other

interests. The Stanford family had for

years been acquainted with Eadweard

Muybridge, who is well known for his 1877–78 experimental images of the

Stanford horses in motion. The famed photographer’s presence at the Stock

Farm and Nob Hill mansion no doubt inspired young Leland’s interest in the

relatively new medium. The boy’s own camera was a cutting-edge marvel

comprised of a wooden frame and accordion body that allowed its user to

regulate the distance between the lens and interior glass negative, producing

greater clarity and depth of field than earlier models. Leland Jr.’s photographs

express the creativity and whimsical qualities typical of a young man exploring

the world. Mounted on the lined pages of notebooks, the inexpertly processed

photographs depict such subjects as the Nob Hill mansion, architectural elements

of a French cathedral, foreigners he encountered while touring Europe,

and a dog. The front cover of his 1880–81 Cahier de Photographies à Leland

Stanford (Book of Photographs by Leland Stanford) is decorated with a charming

drawing of a young boy composing a photograph under the camera’s cover.

Taylor Spann, Stanford ’21 and Susan Dackerman, John and Jill Freidenrich

Director, Cantor Arts Center


Cantor Arts Center,

Stanford Family Collections

These horns are from a mature chianina bull, an

Italian cattle breed famous for its immense size

and stark white coloring. Its muscular frame and

classical origins probably satisfied the Stanfords’ desire for grandeur and

interest in Roman antiquity. When the family toured Europe in the 1880s,

they might have seen the chianina performing the role of a draft animal,

assisting the peasants who still endured a medieval sharecropping system.

Not only are the horns a piece of natural history, their high polish gives them

an artistic quality. They also may have appealed to the Stanfords as a symbol

of the burgeoning agricultural potential of the West: the Central Pacific

Railroad transported cattle hundreds of miles from the West and Texas to

butchers in the industrial cities of the Midwest and East. Thus, the horns are

both resonant of the rugged and awe-inspiring qualities of California, and

also have deep connections to the Old World and Victorian ideas of culture.

Jack Carney, Stanford ’21



Cantor Arts Center,

Stanford Family Collections

During Leland Stanford Jr.’s first trip to

Europe in 1880–81 he acquired some alabaster

fruit, perhaps in Nice. In the nineteenth

century, alabaster—an easy-to-carve, translucent gypsum that absorbs

color well—became a preferred medium for reproducing small antiquities and

architectural forms. Artisans could readily mimic the dull hue and fuzzy texture

of a peach, the brightly dappled skin of citrus, or the yellow-red sheen of

French apples. Carved bits of wood simulated the stems. It made great Victorian

food art, and the markets were flooded with alabaster souvenirs, even

though the prestige of the form was waning by the time the Stanfords were

traveling. Early visitors to the Nob Hill mansion described the fruit as sitting on

a marble platter, possibly arranged with other fake food, in Leland Jr.’s designed

display. After his death it became part of the museum’s collection, leading to

jokes about why Leland Jr.’s last breakfast was on exhibit.

Paula Findlen


Stanford University Archives

After Leland Stanford Jr. died in 1884, his mother, Jane Stanford, commissioned

photographs of her son’s burgeoning museum, then located on the top floor of

their Nob Hill mansion. The images document not only Leland Jr.’s vast collection

of arms and armor, stuffed birds, antiquities, and other curios, but also

his fastidious curatorial decisions. The collection eventually made the journey

from San Francisco to Palo Alto to take its rightful place in the Leland Stanford

Junior Museum, and the photographs provided a template for the new galleries

dedicated to the boy’s museological vision. Much as the Palo Alto Stock Farm

was transformed into a site of public education, Leland Jr.’s collection evolved

from a private cabinet into a fullfledged

public museum. Today, the

static photograph serves as a death

mask of sorts for this personal collection,

an indexical representation of a

child’s cabinet of wonders.

Anna Toledano, PhD candidate,

History of Science


Stanford University Archives

This death mask captures the visage of Leland Stanford Jr. on March 13,

1884, upon his passing at the Hotel Bristol in Florence. Created just after

the fifteen-year-old boy succumbed to typhoid fever while traveling with


his parents on their second European trip, it

nonetheless seems like a sleeping portrait of a

beloved child. The softness of the lips and chalky

whiteness of the plaster create an eerie youthfulness

that affirms the very idea of the death

mask as a memento of mortality. Because the

cast of the face is a literal imprint of its model,

it captures an uncanny degree of detail: delicate

wrinkles around the eyes, individual hairs of the

brows and lashes, even the slightest protrusion

of a forehead vein. This realism is what makes the death mask so haunting,

reminding us of the lasting presence of a boy whose life ended too soon.

Meagan Wu, MA in Art History ’19


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

This nineteenth-century cup and saucer

were most likely part of a dinner service

belonging to the Stanford family. Made of

porcelain and covered in a shiny black

glaze, their style is opulently art nouveau.

The intricate gilt pattern on the lip of the

cup and edge of the plate, and the black

and gold colors, are likewise characteristic

of the style. Their excellent condition suggests that they were part of the

special dinner service for the funeral of Leland Stanford Jr. in 1884, or for

mourning occasions in general. Were they purchased by Jane and Leland Sr.

after their son’s death? Because of their funereal character, it is also possible

that this cup and saucer belonged to an afternoon tea set that Jane used after

her husband and son were entombed in the Stanford Mausoleum in 1893.

María Gloria Robalino


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

A cursive monogrammed S marks the verso of this fan as a Stanford family

possession. The twirling, textured black ostrich plumes and incandescent

mother-of-pearl ribs suggest a combination of delicacy and strength that well

defined Jane Stanford. During her extensive travels she

collected hundreds of fans that accompanied her at

social functions and became part of her elaborate

wardrobe (but most of the others are missing

the Stanford monogram). Such an accessory

suggests opulence, excess, and decadence, and

the fan itself something of feminine affectation.


In the hands of such a woman, of course, fanning would have been a feigned

delicacy that dissimulated her power. While Jane often deferred to her husband

publicly, she was the matriarch who, after the death of her son in 1884,

took charge of the creation of a museum in Leland Stanford Jr.’s memory.

After her husband’s death in 1893, she controlled the university as well.

Juliana Nalerio, PhD candidate, Modern Thought and Literature


Stanford University Archives

Celebratory banquets in the Gilded

Age were extravagant but frequent

affairs for members of high society.

This banquet, held in honor of

Leland Stanford Sr. and Republican

representatives of Congress elect,

took place at the Palace Hotel in

San Francisco on November 21,

1888. In typical period fashion, the

meal consisted of multiple courses,

each highlighting luxurious or sought- after ingredients such as oysters,

turtle, foie gras, and capon. Diners would take a beverage break during the

middle of the feast, pausing to imbibe punch, a rum-based drink served at

ceremonial events. The surfeit of food and alcohol offered at these gatherings

reinforced the social positions of all in attendance, both demonstrating the

host’s ability to source and provide such a lavish affair, and allowing guests

to be waited upon by extremely attentive staff. As the meals might last up

to five hours, these events of purported leisure often ironically turned into

drawn-out performances of conspicuous consumption.

Aleesa Pitcharman Alexander, Assistant Curator of American Art,

Cantor Arts Center


Stanford University Archives

The Stanfords hired both a permanent and

a seasonal labor force to maintain their

eight-thousand-acre Palo Alto estate. Wages were disbursed monthly, on Saturday

mornings at the pay table, in the form of gold and silver coins. Workers

preferred coins, as most people did not bank their earnings and had to pay a fee

to get a check cashed. They signed receipts indicating amounts received. Head

horse trainer Charles Marvin earned $250 per month, while cook Ah Joe and

China Boss of Garden and Grounds Ah Jim earned $50 per month. In the 1880s

the average estate worker at Palo Alto earned anywhere from $1 to $1.33 per day,

working seven days per week, twelve hours per day. To defray payroll and other

costs of running the university, Leland Stanford Sr. routinely wrote checks out of


his personal funds. After Leland Stanford Sr.’s death in 1893 there was a massive

layoff of estate workers, and the remaining estate and university employees took

a steep pay cut that persisted for another seven years.

Julie Cain, Historic Preservation Planner at Stanford University


Stanford University Archaeology Collections

This terra-cotta flowerpot, recovered as fragments

from the site of the Stanford mansion in Palo Alto,

may appear plain at first glance, but this unremarkable

pot actually speaks to the presence of the bright

array of flowers grown at the Stanford Stock Farm

and, later, on the grounds of the university. Just as a flowerpot indicates the

presence of flower gardens, it also signals the presence of gardeners. Many

of the laborers, including gardeners, who worked at the Stock Farm and the

university during this period were Chinese, and some may have lived in the

Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters, which was active from the early 1880s

until 1925. These gardeners worked to shape the landscape of Stanford University

as it appears today. All of the now-iconic palms on Palm Drive were

planted by Chinese workers, who also dug and planted the Oval and likely

planted the gardens and orchards that adorn the Main Quadrangle.

Megan Rhodes Victor


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Museum Collections

This 1902 photograph captures artisans at work in the Venice studio of Salviati

& Co. preparing materials for Stanford Memorial Church’s glass mosaic

program. Jane Stanford had long admired the glittering Byzantine mosaics

of Constantinople and Venice, cities she visited with her husband and son in

the 1880s. After their deaths, she sought to memorialize them in grandiose

fashion, and chose the medium of mosaic to adorn the interior and the facade

of the church as well as the exterior of the Leland Stanford Junior Museum,

which is decorated with scenes related to Leland Jr.’s interests. Jane already

had a long-standing relationship with the Salviati firm when she commissioned

this massive project. Her interest in mosaics and glasswork was also

in keeping with period tastes. During the

late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,

Venice was a top tourist destination

for American elites, which stimulated

the Venetian glass revival; the glass was

brought across the Atlantic and sold at luxury

stores like Tiffany and Co., fueling market

and institutional interest in such goods.

Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander



Stanford University Archaeology Collections

Archaeologists are in the business of turning trash

into treasure. In summer 2012, Stanford archaeology

students excavated broken glass bottles from

the former site of the Searsville Dam on Stanford

lands. While the recovered bottles no longer serve

their original purpose of containing medicinal curatives,

foodstuffs, and liquor, they still play a role

in the narrative of Stanford history. Their color,

material, shape, size, and inscriptions communicate

their age and their original contents. A bottle with a deep blue hue that once

held Bromo-Seltzer, an effervescent powder that relieved stomach pain, was

shipped via cross-country train from Baltimore. The coffee-brown color of these

J. H. Cutter bourbon bottles protected the locally distributed whiskey within

from sunlight and spoilage. The bottles, most likely discarded by the damkeeper

himself, are inherently intimate objects. They were reached for in times

of pain, their curative contents ingested. All that remains is the shattered glass.

Anna Toledano


Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

A rococo brooch, two bracelets, a hair comb, and a pair of earrings—each one

a paste replica of the original—are all that remain of Jane Stanford’s prodigious

jewelry collection. At one point Jane owned thirty-four different sets, valued at

$500,000. Leland Stanford Sr. acquired the first of these extravagant pieces

for his wife in Paris in 1880. But the opulent jewels belied his railroad’s inability

to pay back government bonds. When the university fell into insolvency after

Leland Sr.’s death, Jane endeavored unsuccessfully to sell the pieces abroad at

Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee. Two years later, she hired I. W. Tabor

& Co. to photograph the collection and its “precious memories,” and she commissioned

a painting of her jewels from Astley Middleton Cooper, an eccentric

drunk who discreetly sold a copy of the painting to a gambling house. We do

not know when the paste replicas

were made—whether it was

around the time Jane was trying

to monetize her assets, or much

earlier. In any case, a few years

after her death, university trustees

sold the jewels to endow the

Jewel Fund, which still supports

library acquisitions today.

Alexander Veitch


Stanford University Archives

Surrounded by an ethereal haze, the apparition

of a beautiful young woman hovers

before a thickly mustachioed Victorian

gentleman. This “spirit photograph” was

a gift from the youngest and purportedly

most eccentric of the six Stanford brothers,

Thomas Welton Stanford, who purchased

it during a trip to Australia. He married in

1869, but his wife died only a year later; this

tragedy likely motivated his role in founding

the Victorian Association of Progressive

Spiritualists in 1870. Spiritualists believed

that they could communicate with the dead, a notion that underpinned their

religious movement. They conducted parlor séances and circulated spirit

photographs. Leland Stanford Sr. and Jane Stanford were not immune to the

appeal of communicating with the afterlife, and Jane especially was drawn

to Spiritualism. After the tragic loss of her son, she must have taken great

comfort in the idea that he was not only at peace, but perhaps still present

and even reachable in some manner.

Astrid Johannah Smith


Stanford University Archaeology Collections

This small, broken, cobalt-blue bottle manufactured by Whitall

Tatum between 1875 and 1901 is probably from the Stanfords’

medicine cabinet. Exactly what it contained is unknown, but

the distinctive color and quilted-diamond pattern indicate

that it was certainly a medicinal poison. During the nineteenth

century, poisons enjoyed a wide variety of uses; for

instance strychnine was the preferred stimulant in energy

tonics. Olympic athletes used it to enhance performance,

with predictably awful results. One could pop strychnine

pills, use strychnine-laced ointments to increase sexual

potency, or ingest small quantities for incontinence, constipation,

diphtheria, chronic bronchitis, angina pectoris, heart

trouble—even the typhoid fever that took the life of Leland Stanford Jr. It was

regarded as a potent, all-purpose lubricant for the human system. Did a similar

bottle make the voyage from California to Hawaii, where it became the

means for the sudden and dramatic death of Jane Stanford on February 28,

1905? She demonstrated the classic signs of strychnine poisoning.

Paula Findlen



Leland Stanford Sr. and

the Central Pacific Railroad


PhD candidate, Modern Thought and Literature


and ends with gold. Leland Stanford Sr. and Collis Huntington, who

directed the railroad in its early years alongside Charles Crocker and

Mark Hopkins, made their first fortunes in Sacramento selling tools to

the prospectors who flocked to California in the wake of the 1849 Gold

Rush. This prospect of wealth attracted Theodore Judah, a New York

railroad engineer fixated on the notion of building a transcontinental

railroad. After a few failed efforts to fundraise, Judah persuaded Leland Sr.

and his three associates to go into business with him. On June 28, 1861,

on the strength of the associates’ capital and Judah’s almost evangelical

enthusiasm, the Central Pacific was incorporated. The Pacific Railroad

Acts of 1862 and 1864 financially supported the completion of roughly

half of the transcontinental railroad, with the other half to be undertaken

by the newly formed Union Pacific.

In the middle of his efforts to get the Central Pacific off the ground,

Thomas Hill (1829–1908), The Driving of the Last Spike, 1881.

California State Railroad Museum


Alfred A. Hart (1816-1906), The Last Rail Is Laid. Scene at Promontory

Point, May 10, 1869, 1869. Stanford University Archives

Leland Sr. was elected governor of California. A known railroad

proponent, he rarely missed an opportunity to mention the benefits that

long-distance rail travel would bring to the state. Even in his inaugural

address, he emphasized that a transcontinental railroad would make

it easier for California to trade with Nevada, where significant gold

and silver deposits had been discovered. Of course, given his business

arrangements, such a railroad would bring significant monetary gain

to Leland Sr., too. Still, this mixing of the railroad, personal profit, and

political interests cut both ways, as he used his authority as governor

to raise funds for the Central Pacific. Gold helped foment the desire

that gave birth to the Central Pacific, and gold had a hand in shaping

its route across the West; thus, it was only appropriate that gold would

commemorate its completion.

On May 10, 1869, near Promontory, Utah, after more than six years

of brutal exploitation and unfathomable misery on the part of Chinese

migrant workers in particular, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific

were joined with a Golden Spike. Fittingly, it was Leland Sr. who gently

tapped this spike into a tie made of California laurel. Then the Golden

Spike was quickly un-driven, and an undocumented railroad worker

drove in the iron spike that would supposedly serve as the real final link

between East and West. The Golden Spike became part of the room of

Stanford memorabilia installed in 1893, the year of Leland Sr.’s death,

reminding visitors of the origins of the wealth that built this university.


Immigrant Labor

on the Stanford Estate


Director of Heritage Services and University Archaeologist


the richest people in the United States and widely known for their

audacious ambitions, job seekers often walked the long road to their

Palo Alto Stock Farm office and asked for work. The Stanfords also

sought and found workers through social clubs and trade associations,

often hiring based on national origin and ethnic ties. California’s

perceived religious tolerance and ethnic diversity made the state a

destination for European immigrants as well as immigrants from the

Pacific Rim, including settlers from Mexico, Peru, Chile, China, Japan,

and the Philippines.

In the years just before the founding of the university, the Stanfords

employed about a hundred year-round workers to tend their horses,

vineyards, orchards, crops, and gardens. Nearly half of these were

Chinese, with the rest hailing from the Stanfords’ home state of

New York and a scattering of men from Scotland, Ireland, and

England. “Gangs” of Chinese men were hired as temporary laborers

to handle special projects such as the building of Lagunita Dam and

the expansion of the vineyards. Although Chinese workers were not

welcomed by the building trade unions, they dominated agricultural

work during the construction of the university, including farming,

landscaping, gardening, and work with the horses.

In its early years the campus also had Chinese cooks and a Chinese

laundry, and faculty homes had Chinese or Japanese servants. The

Stanford family had an English butler in San Francisco and a Chinese

butler, Ah Sing, at their Palo Alto home. While none of the twenty-two

“married men with families” who were given turkeys on Thanksgiving

in 1884 were from China, at least one Chinese foreman, Jim Mock,

was able to bring his wife to live on the Stanford estate. Jane Stanford

gave engraved silver christening cups to the Mocks’ two sons and

wrote letters of support for the family as they struggled to maintain

their ties to relatives in China after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

left: Construction

Gang, c. 1880–89.

Stanford University


below: S.B. Dole


Cooking under

Difficulties after

1906 Earthquake,

1906. Stanford

University Archives

made travel between

the two countries

difficult. The restrictions

of the Exclusion Act

diminished the number

of Chinese workers in

the 1890s.

Trade unions and

newspapers monitoring

Leland Sr.’s activities

closely observed the

building of the university

and published letters demanding that he “recognize the interests of

the people of California” and not employ “foreign scabs” or “tramps” on

the campus. Nearly all the construction work on the campus buildings

was performed by union workers, with workers from particular

immigrant groups dominating particular trades, such as brick masons

from Ireland and stone cutters and carvers from Italy. Thanks to

her extensive travels Jane Stanford had long-standing relationships

with Italian craft workshops and paid experts from the Salviati & Co.

glassworks to travel from Venice to create the mosaics on the exterior

of the museum and in Memorial Church. After the 1906 earthquake,

Venetian master mosaic artist Maurizio Camerino returned to the

campus from Salviati & Co. to supervise reconstruction of the mosaics

at Memorial Church. The family’s domestic workers were nearly all

foreign born; most of the women on Jane’s long list of maids had

immigrated from Ireland, England, or Germany.



The Palo Alto Stock Farm


Stanford ’19


in 1869, Leland Stanford Sr. was exhausted. His doctor prescribed

a vacation, but instead he purchased Occident, “a little horse that

turned out remarkably fast.” His fascination with horses led to the

establishment of the Palo Alto Stock Farm in 1876, an enterprise that

eventually grew to cover more than eight thousand acres of Santa

Clara Valley land and included barns for colts and trotters in training,

a carriage house with second-floor staff residences, blacksmiths’ and

wheelwrights’ shops, dozens of paddocks, and multiple racetracks.

In winter 1876 Leland Sr. significantly expanded the operation by

acquiring twelve mares and his prize sire, Electioneer, from the New York

stud farm Stony Ford for $41,200. His objective was to set speed records

in harness racing, then the most popular racing sport, by breeding and

training the best trotters in the world. By 1882 there were more than 350

horses on the farm, and by 1891 approximately 750 horses, making it one

of the largest training facilities in the United States. At its peak the Stock

Farm employed almost 150 people, many of them Chinese immigrants,

to feed, train, and care for the horses as well as maintain tracks, farm the

land, and operate and repair equipment.

To this day, the Palo Alto Stock Farm is renowned for its creation

of a new and innovative training system to increase speed. Developed

with trainer Charles Marvin, the method involved running horses in

short bursts starting at a young age. After Leland Sr.’s death in 1893

Jane Stanford continued the farm in her husband’s memory, but she

finally closed it in 1903 and all the horses were auctioned off. Today, its

legacy lives on in the university’s nickname, “The Farm.”

Horse Relics


Stanford ’19

The Red Barn on the Palo Alto Stock Farm, late 1880s.

Stanford University Archives



precursor of Stanford University; it was the epicenter of a sporting

empire that remains unparalleled in horse racing and beyond. The

farm produced California’s first celebrity athletes—equine rather

than human—many of whose speed records stand unbroken today. In

Leland Stanford Sr.’s estimation, the success of his racing “trotters”

rivaled his achievements as a railroad magnate. Oddly enough, relics

of the Stanfords’ horses expose a great deal about the new Californian

elite of the Victorian era. As products of wealth and science, horses

projected the status of their breeders. Leland Sr. preserved traces

of his most prized horses as instantiations of his own manifest

superiority. These mementos ranged from the artistic and aesthetic to

the anatomical and macabre.

In 1891, the newly mounted skeleton of Electioneer, the farm’s

greatest sire, was readied for display to great fanfare in the Leland

Stanford Junior Museum. A horse that bred but never raced,

Electioneer stood for a perfect genomic type, one that echoed the

racial science of the era. After viewing the skeleton, one journalist


Palo Alto Spring:

The Martyrdom of Time


Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities

Ears of the Trotting Champion Electioneer (1868–1890), 1890.

Cantor Arts Center

triumphantly declared that the stallion “was born in the purple and

deserved a monarch’s care.” More than any other museum exhibit, this

one made the national news.

Other relics adorned Leland Sr.’s desk as reminders of the prowess

of his prize trotters. Electioneer’s severed ears evoked his intelligence

and personality, while Gloster’s hoof was fashioned into an inkwell, a

gift from a fellow breeder who hoped to test the speed of his trotter

against Leland Sr.’s Occidental. These objects speak to the peculiar

Victorian obsession with deathly remains, and strangely evoke the

Stanfords’ success in giving birth to a great equine genealogy, even

as the death of their only son ended all hopes for an heir to the family



representation itself. Hill made it ghostly by copying too earnestly

the photographs on which he based the figures’ likenesses. The eerie

misfortune of his method is that each face looks like a photograph

of a face. Since a photograph fixes a person like a dried butterfly on

pasteboard, the hosts and guests at little Leland Stanford Jr.’s mournful

croquet match do not enjoy the sunshine. Famous and forgotten, both

living and dead, they sit stiffly in a drawer of time.

Everyone is eerily isolated. Hill imported the privacy of the photographic

studio with each likeness, then combined all these individualities

into a great array of solitudes. Everyone in Palo Alto Spring appears

alone with their thoughts, even on this social occasion. Each appears

distracted, not quite there, as if preoccupied by memories of when their

photograph was taken. At this party, everyone is a wallflower, everyone

is awkward.

It is a social dilemma. It is also a mystery of time. Leland Stanford Sr.

wanted Hill to base Palo Alto Spring on photographs so that it would

be as realistic as possible, but the artist followed the order so

enthusiastically that he created another, more disturbing kind of

realism. The painting says that we are all of our moment—that we all

are ghosts leaving a photographic record that says, in advance of

our demise, we will have been. Not that Hill strove for such mordancy.

A poor magician, he mixed his powders and potions wrong, overpouring

the deathly stuff of photography. He spilled the vial when only

a pinch or dram was called for. Instead of life, he created a frozen echo.

The ritual feeling of Palo Alto Spring is grave. Most everyone on

the left side appears to be watching the croquet shot happening

on the right. There, two boys—one standing, one kneeling—gallantly

assist a girl preparing her shot. Although the subject is plausible

enough, the expectant moment (imagine a golf crowd hushed on

the eighteenth hole) gives the picture an eerie solemnity. Everyone



Thomas Hill (1829–1908), Palo Alto Spring, 1878. Cantor Arts Center



is poised like angels at a holy birth, like witnesses at a sacred rite—

the tenth birthday of the only son and heir. The Stanfords and their

guests call to mind a heavenly host sitting in judgment among the

clouds. Prematurely in heaven, too quickly elevated to gods, they

judge their earthly actions with the inscrutable detachment of

deities. Croquet mallets take on the gravity of Jovian scepters and

thunderbolts. Refreshments are celestial, the lemonade of Ganymede.

Mortal divinities, saints of the Olympian lawn, they have suffered the

martyrdom of time.

The Damkeeper’s Grief


Director of Heritage Services and University Archaeologist


at the newly established Leland Stanford Junior University. Leland

Stanford Sr. contracted with the Spring Valley Water Company for

water from the reservoir for the school, and a series of massive iron

pipes were laid, linking the dam to the campus four miles downstream.

The water company employed a resident damkeeper charged with

measuring the depth of the reservoir and the amount of rainfall, and

opening and closing the outlet pipes accordingly. Searsville Dam’s

second damkeeper, Edgar Batchelder, lived in a small cottage above

the dam with his wife and children. In 2012 a team of Stanford

archaeologists discovered the site of this residence, which had been

demolished nearly a century before. Excavation of a trash pit near the

cottage recovered more than eight thousand artifacts, including two

liquor bottles, which were found in layers of historic trash, lying among

charred fragments of women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, and a parasol.

In 1903 Batchelder’s wife, Emeline, died in childbirth at the isolated

cottage on the lake. The bereaved damkeeper probably placed her

belongings in the pit and set them aflame. Perhaps he stirred the

fire with one of the recovered J. H. Cutter bourbon whiskey bottles.

Eventually Batchelder remarried, wedding the local farmer’s daughter

he had hired to care for his children. The family then moved to

Burlingame to assist with reconstruction of water pipelines after the

1906 earthquake, leaving behind the buried relics of his grief.


A Boy’s Cabinet: Origins of the

Leland Stanford Junior Museum


Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History


with real and alleged Old Masters, iconic paintings of the US West,

even an onyx table made from a slab of marble cut from a column in

Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He dug up Ohlone stone mortars and

pestles on the Palo Alto farm. He enjoyed bird shooting and collected

stones. Clocks, cameras, and other gadgetry fascinated him. His

parents encouraged his curiosity. It is little wonder that he envisioned

himself a collector.

I. W. (Isaiah West) Taber (1830–1912), Leland Stanford Jr.’s Toys and

Museum Objects, n.d. Stanford University Archives


War excited him. During his first trip to Europe in 1880–81 he

acquired bullets from Waterloo, Napoleon III’s spur, and recent relics of

the Franco-Prussian War and the suppression of the Paris Commune.

He toured the great European museums and trolled curiosity shops

and old markets. His mother, Jane Stanford, read aloud tales of ancient

Rome and Pompeii’s destruction. By age thirteen he envisioned himself

creating a great museum for San Francisco.

In summer 1882, a room on the third floor of the Stanford mansion

on Nob Hill became the original site of his collection. Over the doorway

Leland Jr. proudly mounted “a large stuffed turkey buzzard” that glared

malevolently down upon a cannonball retrieved from Fort Sumter. An

Islamic scimitar, a Persian helmet, a Prussian foot soldier’s cap and

kit, antique muskets, pistols, swords, faux medieval armor, and many

other bellicose artifacts festooned the walls and filled the cabinets.

A panoply of stuffed birds sacrificed their lives to become mute

witnesses to this theater of war.

There were US relics on display as well: Marquis de Lafayette’s

cane, a 1799 deposit slip signed by George Washington, and minerals

from Battle Mountain,

Nevada, where

the Central Pacific

railroad serviced the

mines. A handful of

Pacific Islanders’ tools

and weapons, New

Mexican pottery and

baskets, and Alaskan

artifacts completed

the initial collection.

Thus, the Leland

Stanford Junior

Museum was born as

an eclectic Nob Hill

cabinet of curiosities

arranged, catalogued,

Stanford University Photographic Department, and labeled by a

Model of Knight of Middle Ages Armed Cap-Ateenager.

Pie, Ancient and Oriental Arms Made in Paris,

On May 26, 1883,

Arranged by Leland Stanford Jr., c. 1880.

Stanford University Archives

Leland Jr. departed

again for Europe. From London, he sent instructions home to keep his

arms and armor polished. At the Louvre in Paris he decoded Egyptian

hieroglyphs. In Frankfurt he triumphantly purchased an “iron-shod

piece of timber” allegedly from Julius Caesar’s bridge across the

Rhine. In Marseille he saw a curious late-antique cross. Salviati & Co.’s

marvelously modern technique for making mosaic glass delighted

him in Venice, and he acquired glass mosaic pieces from the Hagia

Sophia in Constantinople. In snowy Athens he reached the climax of

his invigorating and well-planned Grand Tour. German archaeologist

Heinrich Schliemann presented him with a gift of small earthenware

household fetishes from the ancient Greek community of Troad in

Anatolia. By now, Leland Jr.’s bags were bursting with antiquities.

His death in Florence on March 13, 1884, killed the young collector,

but not his collection. The Stanfords brought back everything

Leland Jr. acquired during this ill-fated trip. They filled a second

room of their mansion with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities,

including a mummified crocodile and two ancient Greek Tanagra

terra-cotta figurines. One was a startlingly lifelike depiction of a Greek

woman nursing a child that must have been especially meaningful to

his mother.

Knowing that their son had planned to collect “Chinese and

Japanese curios” and “the relics of the American mound builders,” the

Stanfords proceeded to acquire great quantities of them; for instance

they purchased hundreds of duplicates of Cypriote antiquities from the

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The museum now occupied

three rooms. Jane deposited her son’s wooden carvings of dogs, horses,

and other decorative motifs in this extension of his boyhood “cabinet.”

In 1886, his tutor Herbert Charles Nash published The Leland

Stanford, Jr. Museum: Origin and Description. Jane insisted on having

an exact replica of these rooms created in the university museum,

with artifacts displayed precisely as they were in San Francisco. The

original cabinet became the affective nucleus of a vast new institution.

Leland Jr. remains the genius loci of the museum. The Leland

Stanford Junior Museum began as an act of sublime love emerging,

like any good Greek tragedy, from a wellspring of sorrow. It begat

grandiose mourning and accidentally gave birth to an institution. Built

upon an edifice of unquestioned wealth and power, it blithely ignored

the daily travails of those who labored to make it possible. Such were

the quixotic origins of the university and museum we still enjoy today.



Spiritual Afterlives


PhD candidate, History, and


Rare Book and Special Collections Digitization Specialist

and Stanford MLA candidate


soul, as proclaimed by Jane Stanford’s inscription in honor of her

husband on the east transept wall of Stanford Memorial Church. Death

was a gateway to a new form of existence. Jane’s words, carved in

stone, suggest a desire to transcend mortality. Leland Stanford Jr.’s

death in 1884 shook the very foundations of the Stanfords’ faith that

a life well lived would reap its loving rewards. Nondenominational

Protestants, with an appreciation of Roman Catholicism from their

travels and especially from Jane’s fascination with the Spanish

missions of Alta California, they explored varied means to give their

son his immortality and keep him present in their lives.

In Paris and New York, the grief-stricken parents attended séances,

hoping to contact their beloved son’s departed soul. Former president

Slate Apport, n.d. Stanford University Archives

Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, introduced them to Doctor John

Philip Newman, a Methodist minister known for his rousing brand

of Spiritualism, and his wife, Angeline, who acted as a medium. The

Stanfords invited the Newmans to accompany them to California

to preside over Leland Jr.’s memorial service on November 27, 1884.

Leland Sr. remained skeptical that the Newmans’ séances would

permit them to communicate with their son, and Jane reluctantly

agreed that the results were disappointing. The Newmans returned

east, leaving behind rumors that the Stanfords were committed

Spiritualists who founded their university by consulting a medium.

For Leland Sr., immortality took the concrete form of a university. He

used his immense fortune to rethink education, building an institution

to prepare students—men and women, rich and poor—“for personal

success and direct usefulness in life.” He called them missionaries for a

new ideal. Late in life, his tender affection for his equine progeny struck

contemporaries as filling the emotional void created by his son’s death.

Jane’s views of how her spirit might exist in perpetuity evolved

with the university. She envisioned Memorial Church as Stanford’s

heart and soul, nurturing the spiritual lives of her adoptive sons and

daughters while memorializing her family. The sandstone, stained

glass, and inscriptions in the church—her “jewel box”—were of her own

design. While visiting her brother-in-law Thomas Welton Stanford

during a 1903 trip to Australia, she found his intense spiritualism

disturbing—a sign that she had moved beyond her early efforts to

speak with the dead by any means. Welton bequeathed an endowment

for psychic studies at Stanford with his collection of apports

(objects enabling communication with the dead). While fated to be a

perpetually grieving mother and widow, Jane remained frustrated by

Spiritualism, finding her son more readily in the church and private

home chapels, in the mausoleum, and in the survival of his collection.

In his 1906 Founder’s Day address, philosopher and psychologist

William James emphasized the university’s spiritual qualities. He

argued that spiritual life arose from the contagious effect of human

spirits imprinting themselves in the objects, places, and ideas that they

touched or fostered. While the bodies of the Stanford family rest in

their mausoleum—Jane situated eternally between her husband and

her son—their spirits still suffuse every aspect of the university around

them, including the museum, where they live on through artifacts that

evoke their own curiosity, taste, and passion for discovering the world.



Who Killed Jane Stanford?


Margaret Byrne Professor of American History


verdict on the death of Jane Stanford on February 28, 1905, “from

strychnine poisoning, said strychnine having been introduced into a

bottle of bicarbonate of soda with felonious intent by some person or

persons to this Jury unknown.”

Jane had fled one poisoning only to fall victim to another. When she

departed San Francisco on February 15 en route to Japan by way of

Hawaii, she was a shaken and frightened woman. In January, someone

had put rat poison in the bottle of Poland Water at her bedside in her

Nob Hill mansion. She told George Crothers—an advisor and trustee

whose influence sprang in part from his resemblance to her dead son—

that she feared a second attempt.

Jane died in agony in her room at the Moana Hotel. Her longtime

companion and secretary, Bertha Berner, recorded her saying, “Oh

God, forgive me my sins,” followed by, “Is my soul prepared to meet

my dear ones?” Her last words were, “This is a horrible death to die.”

One physician called to her hotel room reported that the last spasm

left her hands “firmly clinched with her thumbs bent inward. Her knees

were apart, the sole [sic] of her feet were turned up and the arch was

marked.” Her pupils were dilated and her eyes bulged. All classic signs

of strychnine poisoning.

The San Francisco poisoning investigation was still under way when

Jane died. Stanford University, wracked by five years of scandals and

controversies, did not want any more sensational and embarrassing

stories. University president David Starr Jordan, the trustees, and Jane’s

lawyers tried to suppress and then deny news of the first poisoning.

They failed. The attempted murder dominated the “yellow press” of the

era as an amalgam of speculation, fact, and fiction.

Jules Callundan of Morse Detective Agency took charge of the

investigation. Briefly a member of the San Francisco Police Department—

and no stranger to corruption himself—he had resigned under a cloud

Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat (1833–1922), Jane Lathrop Stanford, 1881.

Cantor Arts Center



ut remained well connected: a

congressman’s son-in-law who routinely

worked for the rich, which sometimes

involved concealing evidence and lying.

Callundan and the police questioned the

servants. Bertha appeared to implicate

Ah Wing, who had been in the Stanfords’

employ for years. The newspapers

suspected a British-born maid and the

Death Mask of Jane Lathrop butler. Reporters wrote that the police were

Stanford, 1905. Stanford about to make arrests. They never did.

University Archives

Bertha was the only person present

at both poisonings. Before departing

for Hawaii, she brought the bottle later found to contain strychnine to

a Palo Alto pharmacy to be filled with bicarbonate of soda. Bertha’s

brother proclaimed her innocence, even though at the time no one had

actually accused her. Her mother supposedly told reporters that she

knew who the murderer was, yet she never revealed the name.

There was no real police investigation following the second

poisoning. Before departing for Hawaii to claim Jane’s body, David

Starr Jordan and Timothy Hopkins, the latter a university trustee and

family friend, told the press that strychnine was not the cause of death,

insisting that Jane died of natural causes. The sheriff in Honolulu

washed his hands of the case, saying that it belonged to the San

Francisco police. At Callundan’s urging, the police accepted Jordan’s

version of events and dropped the investigation. The police apparently

did not know that Jane had been planning to dismiss both Jordan and

Hopkins when she returned to San Francisco.

The 1906 earthquake destroyed the San Francisco police records.

The president of the board of trustees, Samuel Leib, destroyed

most of his correspondence with Jane around the time of her death.

Those who knew of Jane’s fears and her intention to fire Jordan and

Hopkins said nothing. University officials gave Jane a lavish funeral in

Memorial Church. They instructed the ministers giving the eulogies

not to mention the poisonings. Jordan famously celebrated Jane

Stanford as “a good woman.” His indifference to her vision for the

museum, coupled with budgetary problems and tough decisions about

rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake, all but ensured the neglect of the

museum so important to Jane Stanford and the memory of her son.

The 1906 and 1989 Earthquakes


PhD candidate, History of Science


earthquake caused earth-shattering damage to the young Stanford

University campus. The Main Quadrangle, the architectural dream of

Leland Stanford Sr., emerged largely unscathed. The Leland Stanford

Junior Museum, however, was not so lucky. While the reinforced

concrete and steel-girded main section—the first large building of

its kind—remained intact, the brick additions that Jane Stanford added

after Leland Sr.’s death to house the ever-growing collection were


B. E. Jenney, Stanford Room in the Stanford University Museum, 1906.

Stanford University Archives



Students Reassembling Pottery after the 1906 Earthquake in the Stanford

Museum Basement, 1953. Stanford University Archives

Jane had poured her heart and soul into the very cement of the

museum. With three hundred thousand square feet of exhibition space

at the time of its destruction, the building was the largest private

museum in the country. Jane died a year before the calamity hit, so she

was fortunate not to witness the decimation of the magnificent edifice.

Curiously, amid the fragmented and broken remains of priceless

antiquities, artworks, and artifacts, the memorial family galleries in the

main building survived mostly untouched.

In the wake of the destruction, the university’s president, David

Starr Jordan, privileged the institution’s educational role over its role

as a memorial, prioritizing the restoration of the badly damaged library

building over that of the museum. The board of trustees was similarly

skeptical of the museum’s academic purpose. Since the museum had

no separate endowment to sustain it after such an emergency, the

building—along with Jane’s vision—lay in ruins.

The surviving galleries reopened in 1909 to little fanfare. Over

the next few decades the university sold much of the collection

and permitted unrelated departments to occupy the building. The

museum eventually shuttered in 1945 for nine years of supposed

collections management. Prior to the 1954 reopening, spurred largely

by alumni, Stanford students and curators worked to restore some of

the fragmented items from the collection for display. Yet the museum

remained a “morgue of relics” dedicated to the Stanfords, according to

one curator in the early 1960s.

With the arrival of Lorenz Eitner in 1963 as chair of the Department

of Art and Architecture and unofficial museum director, the museum

updated its mission to one of research, teaching, and the production

of art historical scholarship. Almost three-quarters of the building still

lay in disrepair upon his arrival, but under his guidance, the collection

rebranded from the memorial museum into the Stanford University

Museum of Art. The “new” museum embraced its educational role first

and foremost.

But its rebirth was short-lived. On the afternoon of October 17, 1989,

the San Andreas fault shook again, even closer to Palo Alto than in

1906. The museum was among the 6 percent of campus buildings

condemned after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The collection

was spared from damage (save only five pieces), but the concrete

walls required extensive renovation. Interestingly, the cracks appeared

horizontally and vertically, rather than in a diagonal X shape

as engineers had expected. These unusual cracks were not new

deterioration but dated to the original structural damage from 1906.

The fault lines of the great earthquake still ran deep.

The university took advantage of the opportunity to renovate the

museum building. Another nine years of boarded-up doors resulted

in the current, expanded iteration of the museum, the Iris & B. Gerald

Cantor Center for Visual Arts. While its chief purpose remains

the production of art-based scholarship, a gallery dedicated to the

Stanford family lies at the core of the building.



Credits and Acknowledgments

Mark Dion’s project The Melancholy Museum: Love, Death, and Mourning at Stanford

is supported by the Diekman Family Contemporary Commissions Program. The

artist worked with students from Susan Dackerman and Paula Findlen’s winter

2019 course, which explored the history of the Stanford family collection. Anna

Toledano and Kate Holohan assisted in the course design and artifact selection.

We are grateful to the lenders to the exhibition: the Stanford Archaeology

Center, Stanford Special Collections, the Oakland Museum of California, and the

California Academy of Sciences. We also are indebted to our Stanford colleagues

Julie Cain, Daniel Hartwig, Christina J. Hodge, Laura Jones, Maggie Kimball,

Megan Rhodes Victor, and Emma Vossbrink. Thank you to Marc Bauer and his

team from Made for the Museum Co. for building and installing the casework.

Many thanks to our editor Lindsey Westbrook for her diligent edits and Benjamin

Shaykin for designing this guide. Finally, we are grateful to the Cantor Arts Center

team for their work on the project: Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, Kenneth Becker,

Martins Bluzma, Peg Brady, Katherine Clifford, Catherine Coueignoux, Shanna

Dickson, Camille DuPlantier, Jeffrey Fairbairn, Julie Kamiyama, Dolores Kincaid,

Albert Lewis, Brooks Manbeck, Angela McGrew, Ashley McGrew, Daniel Meltsner,

Stefanie Midlock, Clarissa Morales, and Tiffany Sakato. The contributions of the

summer 2019 interns were likewise key: Kevin Chappelle, Cole Griffiths, and

Ekalan Hou. Curatorial assistant Liv Porte expertly guided the installation and

publication to completion.

Mark Dion would like to thank Tanya Bonakdar Gallery for their ongoing support.

© 2019, Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University

All rights reserved. No part of

the contents of this book may be

published without the written

permission of the Iris & B. Gerald

Cantor Center for the Visual Arts

at Stanford University, 328 Lomita

Drive, Stanford, CA 94305.

Book design: Benjamin Shaykin

Copy editor: Lindsey Westbrook

Typeset in Lydia, Robinson, Atlas

Grotesk, and GT Alpina Typewriter

Printed by Oscar Printing Company

First edition 2019

2,000 copies printed

opposite: I. W. (Isaiah West) Taber (1830–1912), Leland Stanford Jr.’s

Toys and Museum Objects, n.d. Stanford University Archives

inside flap: Mark Dion (b. 1961), A preliminary sketch of a mourning

cabinet, influenced by the Victorian era for the exhibition The Melancholy

Museum: Love, Death, and Mourning at Stanford, 2018. Courtesy of the artist

back cover: Stuffed Owl in Frame, before 1882. Cantor Arts Center


Look deeper into the content

of The Melancholy Museum.

Point your phone camera at

the QR code and follow the

embedded link.

Credits and Acknowledgments

Mark Dion’s project The Melancholy Museum: Love, Death, and Mourning at Stanford

is supported by the Diekman Family Contemporary Commissions Program. The

artist worked with students from Susan Dackerman and Paula Findlen’s winter

2019 course, which explored the history of the Stanford family collection. Anna

Toledano and Kate Holohan assisted in the course design and artifact selection.

We are grateful to the lenders to the exhibition: the Stanford Archaeology

Center, Stanford Special Collections, the Oakland Museum of California, and the

California Academy of Sciences. We also are indebted to our Stanford colleagues

Julie Cain, Daniel Hartwig, Christina J. Hodge, Laura Jones, Maggie Kimball,

Megan Rhodes Victor, and Emma Vossbrink. Thank you to Marc Bauer and his

team from Made for the Museum Co. for building and installing the casework.

Many thanks to our editor Lindsey Westbrook for her diligent edits and Benjamin

Shaykin for designing this guide. Finally, we are grateful to the Cantor Arts Center

team for their work on the project: Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, Kenneth Becker,

Martins Bluzma, Peg Brady, Katherine Clifford, Catherine Coueignoux, Shanna

Dickson, Camille DuPlantier, Jeffrey Fairbairn, Julie Kamiyama, Dolores Kincaid,

Albert Lewis, Brooks Manbeck, Angela McGrew, Ashley McGrew, Daniel Meltsner,

Stefanie Midlock, Clarissa Morales, and Tiffany Sakato. The contributions of the

summer 2019 interns were likewise key: Kevin Chappelle, Cole Griffiths, and

Ekalan Hou. Curatorial assistant Liv Porte expertly guided the installation and

publication to completion.

Mark Dion would like to thank Tanya Bonakdar Gallery for their ongoing support.

© 2019, Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University

All rights reserved. No part of

the contents of this book may be

published without the written

permission of the Iris & B. Gerald

Cantor Center for the Visual Arts

at Stanford University, 328 Lomita

Drive, Stanford, CA 94305.

Book design: Benjamin Shaykin

Copy editor: Lindsey Westbrook

Typeset in Lydia, Robinson, Atlas

Grotesk, and GT Alpina Typewriter

Printed by Oscar Printing Company

First edition 2019

2,000 copies printed

opposite: I. W. (Isaiah West) Taber (1830–1912), Leland Stanford Jr.’s

Toys and Museum Objects, n.d. Stanford University Archives

inside flap: Mark Dion (b. 1961), A preliminary sketch of a mourning

cabinet, influenced by the Victorian era for the exhibition The Melancholy

Museum: Love, Death, and Mourning at Stanford, 2018. Courtesy of the artist

back cover: Stuffed Owl in Frame, before 1882. Cantor Arts Center


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