Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur


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A Daughter`s Portrait

Ruth Lord; Foreword by R.W.B. Lewis

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World renowned for its vast woodland gardens, its 175-room house, and its unrivaled collection of American decorative arts, Winterthur in Delaware is today among the most beloved museums in the United States. In its earlier days Winterthur was the family home where Ruth du Pont Lord grew up and where her father, Henry F. du Pont (1880–1969), envisioned and then brought to fruition his great museum of Americana.
In this memoir, Ruth Lord engagingly describes the development of Henry F. du Pont from a shy, lonely child, a seemingly hopeless student who had bad times at school, to a man who went on to achieve singular distinction in three disparate fields—as art connoisseur, horticulturist, and eminent cattle breeder. Based on her personal experience, and on extraordinary family archives, the author provides a behind-the-scenes view of the legendary lifestyle of the du Pont family, brings to life other family members, including her brilliant mother and irrepressible aunt, Louise Crowninshield, and tells of her father’s many additional activities, which culminated in his leadership role in Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House restoration.

Ruth Lord, the younger daughter of Henry F. du Pont, spent much of her childhood at Winterthur. She is a research affiliate of the Child Study Center, Yale University, and a co-author of When Home Is No Haven: A Casebook of Child Placement Issues, published by Yale University Press.

"Ruth Lord’s captivating book is a work of immense insight and literary grace. This is a work of originality and penetration, compassion and understanding in drawing an affectionate portrait of a complicated father and his magisterial collection of Americana. The book so plentifully and interestingly delineates the role of the du Ponts of Delaware in American life from the Jefferson Presidency to the Kennedy White House. A splendid addition to the literature on antiques collecting in the twentieth century. Its readability will insure a wide audience."—Wendell Garrett, Senior Vice President, American Decorative Arts, Sotheby’s

“Free of cant and sentimentality, written with admirable authority and balance, this book is a treat for the historian and for the common reader, a captivating record of a crowning achievement.”—Sebastian de Grazia, author of Machiavelli in Hell and A Country with No Name

"With great insight, Ruth Lord describes the personal, private family influences shaping H.F. du Pont’s achievements that became his incredibly generous gifts to the American public—Winterthur’s garden, museum, research library and the White House restoration."—Charles F. Hummel, Curator Emeritus, Adjunct Professor, Winterthur Museum

"An intimate and sympathetic memoir of the great collector and horticulturist. It is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how and why the famous museum and gardens at Winterthur came into being."—Morrison H. Heckscher, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator, Department of American Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Ruth Lord has produced a beautifully written, insightful and intensely personal study of her father, Henry Francis du Pont, who combined great wealth and exceptional visual acuity to create a place, Winterthur, that is a national treasure. This sensitive study of a private, uncommunicative man frankly confronts a sometimes awkward relationship to arrive at understanding and love. No 'Daddy Dearest’ this. An engaging, highly readable family biography."—Jules Prown, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University

"Readers may be sure Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur is not the usual all-in-the-family biography. Rather, Ruth du Pont Lord has given us a full account of Harry du Pont, beginning with his difficult youth, his felicitous marriage, and his subsequent passion for the decorative arts which led to his personal triumph in the creation of Winterthur. It is in effect a loving daughter’s tribute to her father written with honesty, deep insights, and a graceful prose style."—William W. Warner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay

"With objectivity and understanding, Ruth Lord reveals the personal side of a man awesome to most of those who knew him. Recognized as the leading collector of American decorative arts in the twentieth century, Henry Francis du Pont excelled as well in cattle breeding and horticulture, but his daughter writes as an observer of—sometimes antagonistic to—his multiple achievements. Her story places the renowned Winterthur Museum in a perspective of family history, a way of life now virtually impossible, and fierce devotion to family land inherited as a responsibility. She humanizes a legendary figure."—John A. H. Sweeney, Curator Emeritus, Winterthur Museum

"An admirable study of a highly individualistic, intensely sensitive, often querulous and demanding autocrat. . . . It is a fascinating story. . . . A fine record of [du Pont's] many contributions."—Louis Auchincloss, New York Times Book Review

"I have always been fascinated by the peculiarities and eccentricities of the very very rich. Yes, they are different from you and me. Ruth Lord has written an unflinching but affectionate portrait of her father, the fabulously rich Harry du Pont, a Groton-Harvard misfit who matured into a cultural visionary of Medici proportions through his life-long obsession with Winterthur, the masterpiece he created."—Dominick Dunne

“[This book] offers Lord’s personal insights into her father’s development as a man and a citizen in a family of wealth and responsibility. . . . [It] is an engaging narrative, much deeper in its analysis, and more moving in its affection, than the quiet title suggests.”—Robert J. Leeney, New Haven Register

"This is both a firsthand account of growing up in a remarkable family and the story of a multitalented man. It is also an inside look at the establishment and history of the Winterthur Museum"—Library Journal

"Lord’s book is not an ugly backstage peek, but a curious one—revisiting scenes from her childhood, like an adult’s recurring dream."—William L. Hamilton, New York Times

"[A] loving biography. Building on her own memories with material from extensive family archives, she details her father’s achievements as a horticulturist, cattle breeder, and art connoisseur and collector."—David Rouse, Booklist

"So informative and insightful that it is a welcome addition to the shelf."—Gary Mullinax, Wilmington News Journal

"Lord draws on letters, journals, family archives and interviews with relatives to fashion an unusually candid family portrait. . . . Her portrait of du Pont . . . successfully mingles tart wit, honest introspection and filial concern."—Publishers Weekly

"This memoir is remarkable for its tenderness and tact. . . . A daughter who can remember and cares to reconstruct her father in this fair and fond way is . . . an achievement."—Barbara Fisher, Boston Globe

"Ruth Lord, Henry Francis du Pont's daughter, has written a fascinating book about growing up on the Winterthur estate. She provides a detailed and exciting account of what it was like to live the opulent lifestyle of a du Pont. . . . Not only does she tell the story of her famous father, but she embellishes it with lively accounts of her loving mother, her aunt, and other members of the du Pont family."—Teresa Vivolo, Winterthur Magazine

"Henry Du Pont’s daughter provides a very well, even delightfully, written and concise account of her father’s life and antecedents. This is a book to read even if you don’t have to."—Charlotte Gere, Art Newspaper

"The story of the founder of the Americana museum Winterthur by one of his daughters also gives a portrait of the upper class in the 20th century."—New York Times (A NYTBR Notable Book of 1999)

"History flows through these pages, almost two and a half centuries of it, with a parade of historically potent individuals; one of the main attractions of the book is the easy interplay of the personal and contemporary with the grandly historical."—R. W. B. Lewis, from the foreword

"Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur, A Daughter’s Portrait by Ruth Lord is three books in one: biography, memoir, and social document. It is the story of her father, Harry du Pont, and a recollection of a time so different from ours it could be centuries away."—Anne Hazard Aldrich, East Hampton Star

ISBN: 9780300070743
Publication Date: March 11, 1999
322 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/14
56 b/w illus.
When Home Is No Haven

Child Placement Issues

Albert J. Solnit, Barbara Nordhaus, and Ruth Lord

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