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French & Company LLC

active 1940s

P.W. French & Company


French & Company's origins date to 1840 in the form of a furniture store known as Daniel Marley & Company. In 1866, an employee of this firm, Obadiah Lum Sypher (1833-1907), took over the business and renamed it Sypher & Company. The firm began to acquire a stock of antiques and decorative arts, most notably from the San Donato (1880) and Hamilton (1882) sales as it moved away from manufacturing. In 1907, tapestry collector Charles Mather Ffoulke consigned a number of pieces to Sypher & Company and shortly thereafter, gave financial backing to Mitchell Samuels to buy out the company.This he did with the additional backing of Percy W. French. Thus in 1908 the firm became known as "French & Company", with Percy W. French and Mitchell Samuels as partners. The recession of 1920-1921 lead the firm to the brink of bankrupcy, and in 1922 it was reorganized as a corporation. In the late twenties and early thirties, Samuels was able to buy out French and the shareholders, and from that point forward the company was operated by the Samuels family. In 1942 French & Company was one of three firms hired to appraise the Widener collection prior to its donation to the National Gallery of Art (the other two being Knoedler and Duveen). By 1958, the company had five principals: Mitchell Samuels; his two brothers, Robert and Milton; Robert's son, Robert Jr., then Vice-President; and Mitchell's son, Spencer, then President. In 1959 Spencer Samuels sold the company to a public investment firm, from whom it was bought by Martin Zimet in 1968. The French & Company photographic archives and stock sheets were sold to the Getty Research Institute in 1971, with additional records donated in 1999.


"World's Fanciest Second-Hand Furniture Dealer." Life 43, no. 6 (5 August 1957): 38-48.
French & Co., Inaugural Exhibition, October 1958.
Stretch, Bonnie Barrett. "The French Connection - French & Company." Art & Auction 7, no. 4 (November 1984): 116-120.
Bremer-David, Charissa. "French & Company and American Collections of Tapestries , 1907-1959." Studies in the Decorative Arts XI, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 2003-2004):38-68.

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