Henry Walters bigraphy, stories - American businessman

Henry Walters : biography

1848 - 1931

Henry Walters (1848 – 1931) was president of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad until he retired in 1902. He was founder of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Art collection

When his father died in 1894, he bequeathed his collection to his son, Henry, who greatly expanded the scope of acquisitions, including his astounding purchase of the contents of a palace in Rome that contained over 1,700 pieces. In September 1900, Henry bought the three houses adjoining the property in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore his father had owned to house and display his collection. He had the site transformed into a palazzo-like building, which opened to the public in 1909 as The Walters Art Gallery. He died in 1931, leaving the building and its contents to the mayor and city council of Baltimore "for the benefit of the public." The Walters Art Museum opened its doors for the first time as a public institution on November 3, 1934.

He also donated four public bath houses to the City of Baltimore one of which, Walters Bath No. 2, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Collection highlights

Henry Walters envisaged a museum that would fulfill an educational role within the community, but initially only made modest additions to his father's collection. In 1897 the purchase of a 15th-century Koran, originally thought to be Persian, but now regarded as Indian, may have initiated the manuscript collection.

In 1900 Henry bought Raphael's , which had passed through both the Borghese and Bonaparte family collections. The USPS featured this painting on their 2011 Christmas stamp.

In 1902 Henry undertook an acquisition on a scale unprecedented in the history of American collecting: he bought the contents of the Palazzo Accoramboni in Rome. The collection abounded in works of significance, many of them by masters other than those to whom they had been ascribed, and others by artists not in fashion at that time. In the latter category fell El Greco's painting, . Among the collection's archeological treasures were seven magnificent sarcophagi from a burial chamber associated with the Calpurnii Pisones family. Henry agreed to buy the collection for the sum of five million FF or $1,000,000.

He enhanced the breadth of the 19th-century holdings with such early works as , bought in 1903. Although he did not find French Impressionism to his liking, he agreed in 1903 to buy two examples from Mary Cassatt, including Monet's .

Henry Walters continued to augment his holdings, buying both in New York and abroad. He collected Egyptian, ancient Near Eastern, and Islamic art, as well as a number of key classical and western medieval objects, including a pair of limestone heads of Old Testament rulers that had come from the abbey church of Saint-Denis.

Beginning in 1903, Henry Walters served on the executive committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1913 he became second vice president, a position he retained for the rest of his life. His experiences on a number of museum committees may have resulted in a change of direction in his collecting after World War I, at which point Walters was less concerned with acquiring works representative of various fields and more committed to objects of major historical and artistic significance.


He was born in 1848 to William Thompson Walters. He graduated from Georgetown University in 1869 and went on to enroll in the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University from 1869–72.His sister, Jennie Walters, also graduated from the Georgetown Academy of the Visitation (now Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School). In 1889 he moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, to serve as general manager of his father's railroad. Following William's death in 1894, he was elected president of the Atlantic Coast Line Company and transferred the line's headquarters to New York. Under his leadership the railroad experienced rapid growth until World War I. In 1902 he took control of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

In New York, Henry lived with Pembroke and Sarah Jones, a couple he had met in Wilmington, North Carolina. Seldom did Walters return to Baltimore other than to attend board meetings of the Safe Deposit and Trust Company. Three years after Pembroke Jones' death in 1919, Henry married Sarah and they continued living in the Manhattan house surrounded by their art collections.William and Henry Walters, The Reticent Collectors Johns Hopkins Press, 1999

He died in 1931.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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