The Hargrove Family History by Tara Hargrove

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Introduction

Every family has a story. These stories can contain elements that are fascinating, inspiring, and humorous. Other elements can be confusing, embarrassing, and illegal. Many times, we are tempted to highlight some elements, and conveniently forget to mention the others.

One of the elements that binds the Hargroves together is their love of collecting beautiful and interesting items. Since my great-great-great-great grandfather, Perry Hargrove, came to this country at age six, every generation of the Hargrove family has had a member that represented an interest in art: collecting, importing, dealing, creating, authenticating, preserving, and even forging it. At every turn, the Hargroves exemplified their time in the evolution of the American museum, from personal collection, to Cabinets of Curiosities, to securing items for the permanent collections of major museums, to advocating for the rights of Native peoples to retain ownership of their cultural heritage.

Setting out to record my family's history wasn't a journey that I was 100% sure I wanted to go on. I knew there were scoundrels in our past, even a convict and a murderer. I wanted to discover the truth about myself and my heritage, and I wanted to be able to speak it plainly, but I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. I'm a storyteller by trade; would I be able to separate fact from fiction, and personal prejudices from the simple tale?

What I discovered is that, by and large, people are just people. They do the best they can. The scoundrel was in love with fantasy. The convict couldn't handle his feelings of worthlessness, and the murderer... well, the murderer shot his brother in cold blood. I can't defend that. Still, it's part of the truth, part of my family's history, and so, it's part of me.

Sometimes, the stories of my family are dark and troubling. Sometimes, they are entertaining and illuminating. They are all Hargrove though, and together, they wend their way toward creating a passionate history of believing in the power of art to transform lives, and the world.

My biggest thanks and deepest love for my multi-talented brother, Bryan, for all his help on this book. Thanks, also, for handing me tissues when I cried, and a beer when I laughed. You're the best, bro.

Tara Hargrove

Perry Hargrove

Perry Hargrove

1776-1825
Born on July 4, 1776, Perry Hargrove loved everything American. He was a noted collector and early authority on the American Revolution who knew many of our founding fathers personally. He taught history at the University of Pennsylvania before suffering a tragic and ironic end.

Edgar Hargrove

Edgar Hargrove

1809-1854
Edgar was a collector of fine art and peculiar oddities who traveled the Atlantic seaboard performing feats of magic and seducing women. He was killed in a disagreement with his older brother over the issue of slavery.

Mortimer Hargrove

Mortimer Hargrove

1840-1898
Mortimer worked as a janitor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from when it opened in 1872 until his death from solvent fumes.

Gilbert Hargrove

Gilbert Hargrove

1870-1940
Gilbert was the renowned explorer and art collector who traveled the Old West and China. He worked with antiquities dealers in Shanghai and was part of Johan Gunnar Andersson's famous archeological expedition in Mongolia. He wrote several adventure books for children and later retired to Kansas City. He is said to have inspired the character of Indiana Jones.

Patrick Hargrove

Patrick Hargrove

1905-1947
Patrick was a failed artist who became an art forger and made headlines in the 1930s after his twin brother revealed he was a fraud. He died from alcoholism after a brief prison term.

Benjamin Hargrove

Benjamin Hargrove

1905-1983
Benjamin was a professional art authenticator who pioneered efforts at art preservation and restoration in post-war America. His work took him all over Europe and he traveled frequently to Africa and South America. He was a good friend of the Nelson-Atkins Museum's second director, Laurence Sickman.

Roger Hargrove

Roger Hargrove

b. 1947
Roger was an activist and publisher of the influential San Francisco journal No Art. Throughout his life he questioned the role of art in civic life, pushed for diversity in museums, and currently advocates for the indiginous Northwest people.

This website is a companion to the "The Hargrove Family History" exhibit by Tara Varney and Bryan Colley at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which runs from December 2012 to March 2013. You can find out more about the artists at www.jupiterkansas.com.