Electra Havemeyer Webb

Electra Webb
Electra Webb

Time Period

1910-1940

Notable Facts

Expansive collector of folk art and "ordinary" items. Founded the Shelburne Museum in 1952. Numerous buildings were dismantled and re-constructed on the grounds of the Museum, along with the Ticonderoga. First blood donor in the State of Vermont.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

08/16/1888

Date of Death

11/1960

Primary Residence

Shelburne

Historical Significance

Electra Havemeyer Webb founded the Shelburne Museum in 1947. She was the daughter of H.O. Havemeyer, the founder of the American Sugar Refining Company and Louisine Havemeyer, both of whom were leading collectors of French Impressionist art. In 1910, she married James Watson Webb, the son of Lila Vanderbilt and William Seward Webb, the founders of Shelburne Farms. Electra and James had five children together, and had homes on Long Island, in New York City, and in Shelburne, Vermont.

During World War I, while her husband was overseas, Webb drove an ambulance in NYC, and became the Assistant Director of the Motor Corps. Then during World War II, she directed the Pershing Square Civil Defense Center and its blood bank. She was an advocate of giving blood and became the first blood donor in Vermont in order to promote the great need for blood by the soldiers.

Webb collected folk art and antiques throughout her adult life. The first piece of art she bought was a cigar store Indian that cost her twenty-five dollars in 1908. She accumulated such a wealth of items that she and her husband decided to establish the Shelburne Museum. She focused on simple objects and entire buildings, rather than impressionist art like her mother. Webb also enjoyed hunting and collected wildlife. She and her husband purchased eight acres of land in Shelburne, and the museum officialy opened to the public in 1952. The museum has the finest early carriage collection in America, and now includes 180,000 items. One of its most famous exhibits is the steamship Ticonderoga. The Ticonderoga is the last walking beam side-wheel passenger steamer in existence. It was built in Shelburne in 1906 and it operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain serving ports along the New York and Vermont shores until 1953. In 1955, the ship was moved two miles overland from the lake to Shelburne Museum, a huge engineering feat. Webb also had various buildings relocated to the grounds of the Shelburne Museum, the first of which was the Dutton House, which portrays the life of a New England family from the 1820's. Another example of Webb having an entire building moved is the abandoned lighthouse from Colchester Reef on Lake Champlain. It was dismantled in 1952 and re-constructed at the Museum. Her collections include American paintings, Impressionist paintings, folk art (which is said to be the finest collection in the nation), historic houses, and the largest U.S. museum collection of glass canes, trivets, and food molds. Other collections include quilts and hooked rugs, decoys, 19th century tools, the previously mentioned carriages, toys, dolls, Native American artifacts, miniature circus figures and circus posters. Webb died in 1960, but the Shelburne Museum remains an important part of Vermont.

Occupations

  • Assistant Director of the Motor Corps
  • Dirctor of the Pershing Square Civil Defense Center
  • Ambulance Driver
  • Antique and painting collector
  • established Shelburne Museum.

Education

  • Miss Spence's, a private girls' school in New York City, New York

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Vermont Encyclopedia

  • Those Indomitable Women

  • "Great thoughts: Electra Webb's Shelburne Museam Link

  • Electra Webb: Out of the Ordinary Link

  • Shelburne Museum Link

  • "An Ongoing Study of the Shelburn Museum by the Students of St. Michael's College Link

  • To Collect In Earnest: The Life and Work of Electra Havemeyer Webb Link

Additional Images

Electra Webb
Electra Webb
The Brick House: Home of Electra Webb
The Brick House: Home of Electra Webb
Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building
Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building