On July 4, 1902, Henry Clay Frick, one of America’s greatest industrialists and art collectors, hosted President Theodore Roosevelt and 20 other gentlemen at a luncheon at Clayton, the Frick family home in Pittsburgh’s East End. The president visited Pittsburgh for a day-long celebration that included a parade, a speech in Schenley Park, a lavish dinner, and fireworks in the evening. This exciting day in Pittsburgh history is being commemorated at the Frick Art & Historical Center this summer with a special tour of Clayton, the immaculately restored house museum on the Frick’s 5.5-acre museum site.
Offered through October 4, 2009, Entertaining the President: A Household at Work is a docentled tour of Clayton that highlights behind-the-scenes preparations undertaken by the Frick family’s domestic staff in anticipation of President Roosevelt’s historic 1902 visit.
Henry Clay Frick was part of an executive committee that invited President Roosevelt to come to Pittsburgh for the Fourth of July in 1902. The president’s visit was a major event for the Frick family, and it had many implications for their domestic staff. In addition to arduous daily household duties, the butler, chef, maids, coachman, and gardeners worked to prepare the house and grounds. Visitors who take the Entertaining the President: A Household at Work tour will learn about what took place in the days leading up to the visit, when the Fricks’ domestic staff was getting ready for this momentous occasion. Throughout the house will be displayed see examples of domestic staff at work: linens stacked in anticipation of a grand table setting, roasters and serving platters awaiting a meal fit for a president, dresses in Mrs. Frick’s closet that required care by her lady’s maid, and Mr. Frick’s bed stripped for its daily airing. Outside, laundry dries in the sunshine and patriotic bunting hangs to welcome the famous visitor.
This tour of Clayton is very rich in detail and archival documentation. Newly discovered newspaper articles tell the story of how the city invited the president to Pittsburgh, formed committees to plan the day, and made arrangements for everything from building a grandstand in Schenley Park to hiring a tightrope walker and other entertainment. Receipts, letters, menus, and souvenirs kept by the Frick family provide the details that enrich the story; from them we know that Mr. Frick hired the chef from the Hotel Schenley to assist his staff with the luncheon at Clayton, that he tried to purchase “Hail to the Chief” music for the orchestrion but could not get it in time, and that the Fricks spent more on flowers for Clayton than on any other part of the luncheon.
President Roosevelt’s lunch at Clayton was one part of a larger celebration for the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. It was a day of civic pride and patriotism in which Clayton played a very important role.