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Kate S. Buckingham

Kate S. Buckingham


Kate Sturges Buckingham was born in Zainesville, Ohio in 1858 into a family with tremendous wealth.  As a result of being raised in a wealthy family; she became very invested in the arts.  Her family money came from her grandfather and father who invested in grain elevators and Chicago banks.  Kate would spend her summers in Massachusetts where her father built a fifty-five-room cottage.  Kate’s mother passed away in 1889 while her father passed away in 1912.  A year after her father passed, her brother also died.  With the deaths of all of her family members, she was left with a significant amount of wealth, making her one of the wealthiest woman in America.  This wealth was not welcomed by Kate, so much in fact that she had her name removed from the Social Register, never threw or attended expensive parties, and scorned at the idea of anyone thanking her for her service.  Instead, with all her family’s wealth she accumulated she became a huge philanthropist.  She became involved with the Art Institute of Chicago when she was around thirty years old.  Kate passed away at the age of seventy-nine in 1937.


Her interest in art, along with her wealth, allowed her to donate many works to the Art Institute.  These works included collections of Chinese pottery, Japanese etchings and prints, along with many Italian silver and English lusterware.  There were also a lot of Asian paintings from different China dynasties.  One collection of paintings was given to the Art Institute in memory of her sister as the Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection.  Kate also was responsible for the Gothic room in the Institute by giving furniture, art, and sculptures, all from the fifteenth and late sixteenth centuries.  Another room erected from her generous donations was the Jacobean Room.  She helped furnish the room with paintings by many famous artists, and beautiful ceiling ornaments, all in the name of her parents that passed away earlier in her life.  The most famous contribution Kate made to the cultural life of Chicago was the commission of the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park.  She donated about 750,000 dollars for the initial construction of the fountain, and left about 300,000 dollars for the up keep after she passed away.  When she did eventually pass away, she left about 40 million dollars in today’s money value to anyone who helped her, such as butlers, maids, and chauffeurs.  She also left money to the Art Institute to help establish a memorial for Alexander Hamilton.


The impact that Kate Buckingham left on the city of Chicago was massive.  She helped the Art Institute maintain and become a well-known museum.  Her efforts in giving back to the city helped make the city beautiful and welcoming to many people who are visiting, and especially for the people who live in the city.  The construction of the Buckingham Fountain was the result of her funding the whole project, and it was to help welcome people into the city and show off its beauty.  Her impact is ever lasting because everyone who roams the city of Chicago sees and experiences her donations everyday.



Works Consulted:

“Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America.” Buckingham, Kate S., D. 1937. N.p., n.d.  Web. 01 July 2014.


“The Art Institute of Chicago.” Case 2: Kate Sturges Buckingham. N.p, n.d. Web. 01 July 2014


Ownes, Carole. Pittsfield: Gem City in the Gilded Age. Charleston, SC: History, 2007. 41-42. Print.


— Stephan Falbo

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