For many visitors, the highlight of the museum is the third-floor ballroom, which holds more than 600 pieces of ceramics and glass. This was where Alice’s collection began; like many middle- and upper-class American women, she was caught by the china-collecting craze at the turn of the 20th century. She was undoubtedly influenced by her friend Emma Blanxius Hodge who (with her sister, Jene Bell) would donate a large collection of American and English pottery and porcelain to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Most of the pieces in the collection are of English and French origin and date from the late 18th through mid-19th centuries. Although we don’t know exactly how Alice acquired most of her collection, she was in contact with a network of antique dealers in the Chicago area and in New York and New England. The guest books of Heart’s Delight Cottage record that Hodge and Bessie Bennett (curator of decorative arts at the Art Institute) visited in January 1915 for a china-hunting excursion that encompassed both sides of Lake Champlain.
Image at top: Commemorative jug, James and Ralph Clews, Staffordshire, ca. 1825