It is hard to imagine a task more difficult than to convey in a single article a sense of the American Wing’s near-infinite holdings. We could, on the twelve pages allotted, have run several hundred postage-stamp-size images, an awesomely tedious—and still inadequate—solution. Would it be possible, we wondered in some desperation, to choose a representative handful of superb objects and paintings, each a unique and superlative example of its kind?
Possible, perhaps, but certainly not for any of us. And so we turned to a man ideally suited to this maddening task.
Marshall B. Davidson’s association with the Metropolitan Museum dates back nearly half a century. He joined its staff in 1935 as assistant curator of the American Wing, and later became associate curator. From 1947 until 1961 he served as the museum’s editor of publications, and is currently preparing the official guide to the collection. An old friend of our magazine and a member of our Advisory Board, he served as editor of our sometime sister publication, Horizon , before becoming a senior editor of American Heritage Publishing Company. He has written numerous books, including the distinguished three-volume American Heritage history of antiques and the magnificent Life in America , a work which helped set the standard for illustrated history in this country.
The choices on the following pages are his (and he accepts sole responsibility for the exclusion of Washington Crossing the Delaware ), and each is accompanied by his distinctive blend of scholarship and anecdote.