Corcoran, William W.


Signature and unsigned CDV of the Washington DC banker, philanthropist, and art collector


Autograph ID: 5178
Condition: Very good, slight stain at lower right corner of card
Description: “(1798-1888) American banker, philanthropist, and art collector. Georgetown-born, his well-to-do father twice was chosen as DC mayor. He took control of a large amount of real estate from his father in 1828. In 1835, he married the daughter of Commodore Charles Morris and in 1837, established a brokerage firm which became very successful and soon entered into partnership with George W. Riggs. The firm of Corcoran and Riggs prospered and bought the United States Bank in 1845. Corcoran retired in 1854 with an immense fortune and devoted himself to philanthropy and art. In 1848, he purchased land for the Oak Hill Cemetery, overlooking Rock Creek Park, and organized the Oak Hill Cemetery Company incorporated by Act of Congress March 3, 1849. Corcoran paid for construction of the Gothic Revival chapel there known as the Renwick Chapel. He established a $10,000 fund to purchase firewood for Georgetown’s poor and gave many gifts to universities, including George Washington University, Maryland Agricultural College, the College of William and Mary, and Washington and Lee University. He also contributed to the purchase of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, after the family could no longer keep it up and the US government refused to purchase it. He assembled one of the first important collections of American art and by the mid-1850s his pictures and sculpture were overflowing his Lafayette Square mansion. He hired James Renwick, foremost architect of the day, to build a Second Empire style gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue. However, when the Civil War began, Corcoran, a Southern sympathizer, left for Paris, where his son-in-law was a CSA representative. Back in Washington after the War, he had trouble reclaiming all his property and in 1869 gave his gallery building and much of his collection to the government. The Corcoran Gallery opened in 1874 and the Corcoran College of Art and Design and the Gallery remain important DC cultural centers. The Gallery and school moved to a new building in 1897; the old building, the Renwick Gallery, is a Smithsonian museum. Other bequests to the people of Washington were the Louise Home for Women, several departments of the Columbian University (now George Washington University), and the land and ½ construction costs for what is now the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes. Corcoran was also President of the Columbian University Corporation. The bank he co-founded was Riggs Bank (Lincoln had an account) until 2005, when it was taken over by PNC Bank.

1 ¾ x 3 ½ card signed “W. W. Corcoran” with unsigned 4 x 2 ½ bust portrait carte-de-visite photograph by R(obert). W. Addis, McLees Gallery, Washington. In 1867, A. Zeno Shindler took over the Robert W. Addis Photographic Gallery, previously owned by James Earle McClees, in Washington, D.C. Addis died in 1874.”
Type: signed card

Product Search

Product categories

Quick Links