It was during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that many of Philadelphia’s great private collections of the fine and decorative arts were developed. The names of the ambitious individuals who formed these collections—Albert C. Barnes, George W. Elkins, John H. McFadden, and P. A. B. Widener, to name just a few—remain familiar today thanks to the generous benefactions they made to cultural institutions in this city, most prominently the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The activities of collectors deserve far more attention than they have received to date not only because they constitute a fascinating chapter in the history of the development of a cosmopolitan culture in this country, but also because the gifts of these individuals left an indelible stamp on the character of the organizations they supported.

The Gilded Age was a fascinating period in the history of this city, one marked by rapid civic expansion, the creation of great personal wealth, and the founding and development of many of Philadelphia’s most cherished civic institutions. The subject of this publication—John G. Johnson and the remarkable collection he assembled with both care and delight over the course of more than four decades—stands at the intersection of these stories. Judged by any criterion, his accomplishments as one of the leading corporate lawyers of his day, his involvement in many important civic enterprises, and his acumen and adventurousness as a collector all merit a closer and more detailed examination than they have previously been given…

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