As a prominent California family, the Crockers supported many social and civic causes. Judge Edwin B. Crocker (1818-1875) practiced law and served on the State Supreme Court. He was the brother of Charles Crocker, one of the "Big Four" railroad barons, and acted as legal council for the Central Pacific Railroad. In 1885, his widow, Margaret (1822-1901), fulfilled their shared vision of creating a public art museum when she presented the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery and collection to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association, "in trust for the public."
Personal belongings of the Crockers, including photographs, correspondence, jewels, oil portraits, furniture, and ephemera, are on view on the Museum's second floor.
Judge Edwin B. Crocker (1818-1875)
Edwin Bryant Crocker was the eldest of five children born to Isaac and Elizabeth Clark Crocker. He grew up in Troy, New York, and attended the Rensselaer Institute (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) where he earned a degree in civil engineering. He later studied law in South Bend, Indiana, where he established an impressive practice and a reputation as a staunch abolitionist.
His first wife, Mary Norton, died in the late 1840s, leaving him with a young daughter. He married his second wife, Margaret Rhodes, on July 8, 1852 in New York. The ceremony was performed by Henry Ward Beecher and took place only a few days before the newlyweds booked passage to California, via the Isthmus of Panama. They arrived in San Francisco and made their way to Sacramento.
Once established in their new home, Edwin resumed his legal career. In 1854, he became the chair of the newly formed Republican Party, which was committed to promoting national unity, opposing the spread of slavery, and encouraging a transcontinental railroad. Party victory came with Lincoln 's election as President and Stanford's election as California governor in 1861. Because of his expertise in common law and his prominence in party politics, Edwin was appointed a State Supreme Court Justice in 1863. During the seven months of his service, he handed down a record number of opinions.
In 1864, Crocker accepted an offer to serve as legal counsel for the Central Pacific Railroad Company, a company organized by Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington and Edwin's brother, Charles Crocker.
In June of 1869, Edwin suffered a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. He retired from the railroad business and pursued other interests. These interests included renovation of the family's new home, commissioning an art gallery building, and embarking on a Grand Tour to Europe with his family from 1869 to 1871. The family moved into the new home in 1872, and installation of the galleries was completed in late 1873. Unfortunately, Edwin was not able to enjoy his collection or magnificent gallery for long, as he died on June 24, 1875.
Margaret Eleanor Rhodes Crocker (1822-1901)
Margaret, the youngest of twelve children, was born shortly after the death of her father. When her mother also passed away, Margaret went to live with a married sister, Anne Bender, in South Bend, Indiana. Here she sang in the local choral group, which is where she met Edwin and Mary Crocker. Following Mary's death, Margaret accepted Edwin's marriage proposal and joined him in the treacherous voyage to California.
During most of her married years, Margaret's activities were devoted to family, church and the community. Like her husband, she was an ardent abolitionist and devoted time and money to charitable causes. After her husband's death in 1875, Margaret emerged as a social and civic leader. Her most significant philanthropic act was to present the "Crocker Art Gallery" and the bulk of its collections to the City of Sacramento and the newly formed California Museum Association in May 1885. She maintained an active interest in the Gallery through membership on the CMA Board, and she provided scholarships to students attending art school in the Crocker galleries.
During the next several years, Margaret maintained residences in Sacramento, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and New York. In 1900, she donated her Sacramento home to the Peniel Rescue Mission, her last public gift to charity. She died on December 1, 1901 in New York, and her ashes were returned to Sacramento to be placed in the family plot at the City Cemetery.
Mary Norton Crocker Walker (1848-unknown)
Edwin's daughter by his first wife was born in 1848 in South Bend, Indiana and named after her mother. She joined her father and stepmother, Margaret, in Sacramento sometime after 1852. In November 1864, she married Charles Scudder, a bookkeeper in Sacramento. Edwin entrusted the management of his art collection to Charles, and in 1873 commissioned a home to be built for his daughter and Charles at the corner of Third and P Streets. They later divorced, and Mary married Myron P. Walker in 1878 and moved to New York.
Kate Eugenie Crocker Gunn (1854-1874)
Kate (left), the eldest child of Edwin and Margaret, was born in 1854 in Sacramento. She pursued an active interest in art and was a student of Charles Christian Nahl. Her paintings were included in the prestigious San Francisco Art Association exhibitions. She married James O. B. Gunn in February 1874, but died soon after on October 26, 1874.
Edwin Clark Crocker (1856-1856)
Edwin Clark, only son of Edwin and Margaret, was born in 1856, but died 16 days later of whooping cough.
Nellie Margaret Crocker (1857-1879)
Correspondence exchanged between Nellie and her beau, William A. Beck (Deputy of Secretary of State), reveals a more personal view of the Crocker family than any other surviving source. The letters, invitations and telegrams, written in 1879, refer to family visits to Lake Tahoe, dinner parties at the Crocker home, and Nellie's trip East to visit her half-sister Mary in New York City, her sister Jennie in Elmira, and family friends in Baltimore. Nellie, who never enjoyed robust health, died suddenly on December 27, 1879 in New York.
Jennie Louise Crocker Fassett (1860-1939)
Jennie Louise Crocker married attorney/businessman J. Sloat Fassett in February 1879 and moved to Elmira, New York. A champion of the fledgling gallery, she contributed $10,000 in 1911 toward the City’s purchase of the former Crocker family home to provide additional gallery and office space. Her many excursions abroad with her husband included a 1912 visit to Korea, where they were among the first westerners welcomed by the Royal Court. These travels inspired Jennie to collect Korean ceramics, fine jade, ivory and sculpture, all later gifted to the Museum’s permanent collection.
Amy Isabella Crocker Galitzine (1863-1941)
As the most colorful member of the Crocker family, Amy (later Aimée) enjoyed an exotic and indulgent lifestyle. Her audacious autobiography, entitled And I'd Do It Again, shocked readers when it was published in 1936. She married five times, including a union with the European Prince Galitzine. She had one daughter with her first husband R. Porter Ashe and later adopted Yvonne and Reginald while married to Jackson Gouraud. She died in New York in February 1941.
Elwood Bender Crocker (1870-unknown)
Born in Reno, Nevada to William S. and Elizabeth Day Bender, relatives of Margaret Crocker, Elwood was adopted by Edwin and Margaret following the death of his parents. He later went to live with Jennie Fassett in Elmira, New York.
The Crocker Art Museum is dedicated to promoting an awareness of and enthusiasm for human experience through art. To fulfill its mission, the Crocker Art Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets outstanding works of art that are the product of human ingenuity and creativity. We measure our success by our ability to enrich the intellectual and cultural life of the communities we serve.
On May 6, 1885, Margaret E. Crocker presented the Crocker art gallery building, the grounds, and the E. B. Crocker Collection "in trust for the public" to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association (now the Crocker Art Museum Association). In doing so, she established a precedent-setting structure of a public-private partnership to oversee the Museum and its collection.To thank Margaret for this gift to the people of Sacramento, city leaders planned a Floral Festival on the day the gallery and collection were presented. The Festival drew a reported 20,000 visitors from within the region and abroad.
The Museum continues to build upon the Crocker family legacy by collecting and exhibiting work representing all media, time periods and cultures. This furthers the spirit of the Crockers' love of art and their intention to develop a center for its appreciation in California.
In 1869, Judge Edwin B. and Margaret Crocker assembled a collection of more than 700 paintings and 1,300 master drawings during their family's 1869-71 trip to Europe. Following this sojourn, the Crockers acquired numerous paintings by contemporary Californian artists, forming the core of a Californian collection that has evolved until the present day and is now considered one of the finest in the United States. The collection was installed in the family's gallery building by 1873.
Although the Crockers frequently opened the gallery building to the public, it remained a privately held collection until Margaret Crocker presented the building and collection to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association (now the Crocker Art Museum Association) in 1885.
The Association continued the collecting emphases of its founders. Jennie Crocker Fasset's donation of Korean ceramics in 1927 formed the basis of both an Asian art collection and a collection of ceramics that now represents myriad eras and cultures. More recent donations of African and Oceanic art established a new collecting focus.
In 1868, Judge Edwin B. Crocker purchased the property and existing buildings on the corner of Third and O Streets. He then commissioned local architect Seth Babson (1830-1908) to renovate the home into a grander, Italianate mansion. In addition, Crocker asked Babson to design an elaborate gallery building adjacent to the mansion to display the family's growing art collection.
Babson envisioned the home and gallery as an integrated complex, unique in design and built from the finest materials. The gallery building included a bowling alley, skating rink, and billiards room on the ground floor; a natural history museum and a library on the first floor; and gallery space on the second floor. Completed in 1872, the Crocker family mansion and art gallery are considered the masterpieces of Babson's career.
The family mansion went through several uses and reconstructions until a 1989 renovation restored the historic façade and created a modern gallery interior. The original buildings, now connected, as well as the cast concrete Herold Wing addition of 1969, were renamed the Crocker Art Museum in 1978. The gallery building is a California Historical Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2000, the Crocker appointed a selection committee comprised of elected officials, community leaders, CAMA Board members, City staff, and potential donors to search for an architect that would lead the Museum through master planning. After a comprehensive review of all of the major museum architects in the world, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (GSAA) was chosen to guide the process because of their design aesthetic and past experience. GSAA designed the expansion of the Crocker after conducting a thorough master planning process. Many voices from the community were involved in a collaborative process to ensure that the new building and the internal reconfiguration of the existing structures would work together as a whole.
On October 10, 2010, the Crocker opened the 125,000-square-foot Teel Family Pavilion. The contemporary design of the Pavilion complements the historic structures. The New Crocker Art Museum: The Making of a Masterpiece is an in-depth look behind the scenes of the fundraising process, the design and construction of the new facility, and the building and exhibition of the Crocker's collection. Produced, directed, and edited by Laurence Campling, the DVD is available for purchase at the Museum Store and may be viewed here.
The expansion more than tripled the Museum's size, enhancing its ability to serve Sacramento and the region's many visitors. For the first time in the Museum's history, there are dedicated gallery spaces for all collecting areas. The expansion also enabled the dedication of the historic building's entire first floor as the Museum's Education Center, including four studio classrooms, space for Student & Community Exhibitions, an expanded Gerald Hansen Library, the Art Education Resource Room, and Tot Land.