Stephen H. Grant (Author)
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Dual biography of Emily (1858–1936) and Henry (1857–1930) Folger, founders of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

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Interview with Stephen Grant : "The Secretive Couple Behind DC's Folger Shakespeare Library"
Program WAMU 88.5 Metro Connection, April 11-12, 2014
Length: 10 min.
Click to listen.

Amherst College has selected COLLECTING SHAKESPEARE as the June Book of the Month by an alum.
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Ten Cameos from the Folgers' World


1. In 1879, Henry and Emily both graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college (Amherst and Vassar). Each needed financial assistance to finish college. None of their parents had ever been to college.

2. Henry served over forty years as an executive at the Standard Oil Company. John D. Rockefeller called him a “just and good man, tenderly loved by his associates.”

3. Emily kept a play diary, noting in it details of the 125 Shakespeare performances she saw: elocution, eye contact, mobility of face. Was the play cut? Were costumes historically accurate?

4. When Henry returned to his Brooklyn home at the end of his work day, Emily handed him the British auction catalogues marked up with her suggestions for Shakespeare items to bid on.

5. Henry wrote, “I started collecting Shakespeare expecting that it would prove an agreeable recreation; it soon become a delightful hobby, but of late I find it a rather tyrannical master.”

6. Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” published in 1623, became Henry’s obsession. He acquired 82 copies, about one third of those in existence today. They are all different in some way.

7. To purchase land on which to build the Library, Folger discreetly bought over a nine-year period fourteen of the most elegant row houses one block from the Capitol.

8. Before settling on Washington, DC to build the Shakespeare Library, the Folgers considered alternative sites: New York, Chicago, Princeton, Stratford-on-Avon, and even Nantucket.

9. While the Folger Library is located in the Nation’s capital, it is administered under the auspices of Amherst College, as stipulated in Henry’s will. This came as a surprise to Amherst.

10. Henry died in 1930. The Folger Shakespeare Library was inaugurated in 1932. President and Mrs. Hoover attended the ceremony. Emily died in 1936.


©2008 Stephen H. Grant.
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