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Gail-Oxford Collection

Thomas H. Oxford (1927–2008) and Victor Gail (1929–2014) began their decades-long commitment to American art in 1968 when they purchased a handsome high chest of drawers made in Salem, Massachusetts, in the mid-1700s. In 40 years, they amassed one of Southern California’s finest collections of early American decorative arts. They gave much of that collection—more than 130 examples of painting, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles—to The Huntington as a bequest. It is now exhibited in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art as the Gail-Oxford Collection. By Gail’s own account, he was the more acquisitive of the two, whereas Oxford was the true historian. As Gail stated in 2011, “Tom loved to research each piece, particularly when it involved provenance—the history of ownership. Even to this day I find little pieces of paper tucked away in drawers, notes recording Tom’s observations on the piece and its history.” Gail and Oxford lived with these objects in a modest home in Long Beach, California, where they regularly augmented, refined, and rearranged the collection. Their gift to The Huntington was as much a celebration of the 60 years they spent together as a reflection of their shared values and priorities. Among the highlights of the Gail-Oxford Collection are a high chest of drawers, thought to have been made in New York around 1710; a blockfront desk-and-bookcase made in Massachusetts around 1775; another high chest made in Wethersfield, Connecticut, between 1780 and 1790; and a needlework sampler by Anne “Nancy” Moulton from 1796.