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Friday 7 June 2013 Grape Nuts on the Sèvres?

Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) liked a banana and Grape Nuts for breakfast, had her waist-length hair permed three times a year – it took a whole day – and had a pet cemetery in the garden of one of her houses. She owned a plane called the Merriweather, a yacht called the Sea Cloud, and wouldn’t put a hat on the bed in case it brought bad luck. Her limousine roof was raised an extra 5 inches above her passenger seat to accommodate her hats.

She is better known as the General Foods heiress whose fortune enabled her to amass a stunning collection of French and Russian decorative arts which she displayed and used in her well-appointed residences. She was also a meticulous and enthusiastic host whose dinner, tea and weekend parties were masterpieces of organisation, making her one of the most celebrated hostesses of mid-20th-century America.

By the time she was in her seventies, she was dividing her time between three houses – Hillwood in Washington, D.C., Camp Topridge in the Adirondacks and Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Here she hosted gatherings for the great and the good, and also for the not-so-great. Diners included ambassadors, presidents and high-school students, although not usually on the same occasion. Aside from her role at General Foods as director emerita, she devoted her time to the upkeep of her properties, and to the organisation of philanthropic and social events. Her interest in the details of these parties included preparation of the menus (including General Foods staples Maxwell House coffee and Jell-O), choice of table setting and the accurate placement of cutlery on the dining tables. The exhibition Living Artfully: At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post opens at Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens this weekend. The show aims to recreate the atmosphere of Post’s celebrated gatherings through her incredible collections of furniture, porcelain, glass, jewellery and silver. The exhibition also includes photos, guest lists, menus and correspondence that document her involvement in the macro- and micro-management of her estate.
The show runs from 8th June 2013 until 12th January next year, but if you’re not going to make it to Washington in that time, we’ve published a lovely book of the same name. Written by exhibition curator Estella Chung, the book includes beautiful photographs of Post’s residences, her collections, family and staff, and anecdotes gleaned from Chung’s many conversations with former staff which paint a fascinating picture of Post’s life and her serious and devoted approach to her social role.

Living Artfully Living Artfully At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post
Estella M. Chung

At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post

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