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June 17, 2008

Illinois donor contributes folk art, furniture to CW

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has received a major private collection of rare American folk art and other antique objects through the generosity of Juli Grainger of Winnetka, Ill. The objects, created in various parts of the United States during the 19th century and conservatively valued at $1.7 million, include 11 portraits and a townscape, painted signs, a fraktur, two tall case clocks, a small blanket chest and a rocking chair.

“We are honored that Juli Grainger has chosen to place her extraordinary collection of American folk art at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum where these splendid objects will provide immense enjoyment in that wonderful setting, and educate and inspire visitors for generations to come,” said Colin G. Campbell, president and chief executive officer of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Over many years, Juli and David Grainger and The Grainger Foundation have been among Colonial Williamsburg’s most thoughtful and generous friends. The gift of Juli’s collection creates a permanent legacy commemorating her passion for this most American of art forms.”

Three of the paintings dating from about 1845 are being installed in current exhibitions at The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. A painting by Sheldon Peck (1797-1868) entitled “Double Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan” and a Sturtevant Hamblin (1837-1856) painting entitled “Girl in Rocking Chair” will join the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum exhibition, “We The People: Three Centuries of American Folk Portraits,” currently on view in the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation Gallery. The third portrait, “Girl With Cat” by William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) will be on view in the Introductory Gallery to The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

“Juli Grainger’s gift represents an important addition to the folk art collection,” said Ronald Hurst, Carlisle H. Humelsine curator and vice president of museums and collections for Colonial Williamsburg. “Previously, we had none of Sheldon Peck’s folk art. Now, we have one of his best works.”

The Grainger Foundation and David and Juli Grainger have a long history of philanthropy in support of Colonial Williamsburg. The Grainger Foundation is recognized at Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center Courtyard of Philanthropy for total gifts of more than $5 million.

David Grainger is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, with a degree in electrical engineering. He is president of The Grainger Foundation and senior chairman of W.W. Grainger, Inc., a major national and international distributor of industrial products founded by his father, William W. Grainger.

Juli Grainger is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a degree in economics. She is a Life Trustee of the Art Institute and the Field Museum, both in Chicago.

Other objects in the Grainger gift include:

  • A second portrait by Sheldon Peck – “Portrait of a Man,” circa 1845,
  • Two portraits by Joseph Davis (1822-1865) -- “The Hayes Family,” circa 1835, and “The Barrett Sisters,”
  • Two portraits by J. Evans – “Boy With Whip,” circa 1832, and “Woman and Child,” circa 1838,
  • Two portraits by J. A. (probably Jane Anthony) Davis (1821-1855) – “Portrait of Ellen Augusta Smith,” both circa 1835,
  • A portrait by Justus Da Lee (1793-1878) – “Pair of Unidentified Sitters,” circa 1844,
  • Two Awards of Merit presented to Julia Ann Wilmore Fowler in 1848, artist or artists unidentified,
  • A townscape painting by Joseph Shoemaker Russell (1795-1860) – “View of Union or Main Street in 1812,” circa 1850,
  • A circa 1815 fraktur, a type of elaborately illuminated folk art drawing created during the 18th and 19th centuries by Pennsylvanian Germans, entitled “Four Tradesmen,” artist unknown,
  • An early 18th-century band sampler by an unknown artist,
  • A rocking chair, circa 1815-1830, maker unknown,
  • A small blanket chest, circa 1820-1830, maker unknown,
  • A tall case clock by Riley Whiting, circa 1810-1825,
  • A Seth Thomas tall case clock, circa 1809-1813,
  • An eagle signboard, circa 1841, artist unknown,
  • “G. Maxwell Farrier’s Sign,” circa 1890-1900, by an unknown maker,
  • A hat box, circa 1830-1840, and
  • a painted box, circa 1810-1825.

    The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made in America during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and embracing most categories of American folk art by well-known artists.

    Contained within the same facility since February 2007, The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are comprised of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724. Admission is by any Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Annual Museums Pass or Good Neighbor Card.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” -- a daily dramatic street theater presentation -- is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Jim Bradley
    (757) 220-7281

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