From Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,762142,00.html
Monday, Dec. 25, 1939 Article ToolsPrintEmailReprints Famed for her parties was the late Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice. Until she dropped dead two years ago while shopping in Paris, her tennis-week ball was the No. 1 social event of the Newport season. Lavish was the word for her entertainments at her other mansions in Palm Beach, Paris, Manhattan. But in one of her Manhattan drawing rooms Mrs. Rice never dared to give a party. Reason: she feared for its furnishings, all 18th-Century French, valued at about $3,000,000.
Last week there was a party in Mrs. Rice's forbidden room. The room had been moved to Philadelphia's Museum of Art (to which Mrs. Rice willed it), but the goings-on might well have furrowed Mrs. Rice's brow. For 500 socialites crowded in among the priceless bric-a-brac, to munch chicken a la king and sip punch. No damage was done. But ordinary visitors will not be allowed to scuff across the room's Savonnerie carpet, made for Louis XIV, or sit in its superbly upholstered chairs. From behind ropes the public will view these and the Sevres porcelain, the Boucher tapestries, the rich Louis XVI paneling, the rock-crystal chandeliers, the china figures so delicate that dust is not wiped off them but whiffed away by a gently pumped bellows.
Appropriate was it that Mrs. Rice's most prized possession should go to Philadelphia. From Philadelphians she inherited two fortunes, totaling some $60,000,000–one from her father, Oilman William L. Elkins, the other from her first husband, George D. Widener, who with her elder son went down with the Titanic in 1912. In memory of her son she gave the Widener Memorial Library to Harvard. At its dedication in 1915 she met Explorer Rice, himself a millionaire. Four months later they were married.
Though the Philadelphia Museum of Art welcomed Mrs. Rice's drawing room, it would welcome still more warmly a gift from her brother-in-law, Joseph Early Widener. A leathery, meticulous Philadelphia patrician, Joe Widener inherited his father's great art collection, has made it even greater by ruthless pruning. In Lynnewood Hall, Widener's vast Georgian mansion at Elkins Park, Pa., now hang 105 paintings–all good, some masterpieces.
Joe Widener has long let it be known he would leave his collection to the public. It had always been assumed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art would get it. But this autumn the art world has buzzed with a rumor that the Widener art would go instead to the Mellon-endowed National Gallery of Art, now abuilding in Washington. Joe Widener has kept mum.
No secret is it that Andrew Mellon, before he made his gift to Washington three years ago, spent much time trying to persuade his friend Joe Widener to join him, since their two collections were perhaps the world's finest in private hands. Last time the two met, Mellon vowed, "I'll have you in with me yet." The addition of the Widener paintings and the fine Italian collection presented last summer by 5-10-25Â¢ Storeman Samuel Henry Kress (TIME, July 24) would make Washington's National Gallery one of the great galleries of the world.