Biography: Arthur A. Houghton, Jr.

Arthur A. Houghton Jr.
Arthur A. Houghton, Jr.

Arthur A. Houghton Jr. (1906-1990) founded The Corning Museum of Glass in 1951 with his cousin Amory Houghton. Arthur Houghton was an active leader in many art organizations. He was, among other things, curator of rare books at the Library of Congress, vice chairman of the Pierpont Morgan Library, a trustee of The New York Public Library, founder of the Houghton Library at Harvard University, chairman of the New York Philharmonic, and president and chairman of the board of trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was also president of Steuben Glass for many years and is credited with reinventing the company in 1933.

The Corning Museum’s founding director, Thomas Buechner, describes Arthur Houghton as a realistic visionary. Said Buechner in a 1990 Museum newsletter, “He conceived the idea of The Corning Museum of Glass and then he shaped it - in detail - from the words of the charter and the composition of the first board of trustees to the format of the labels and the location of the drinking fountains. He even designed the logo for the Corning Glass Center, in which the Museum was to be housed.

Before a director was in sight, he oversaw the acquisition of first-rate collections of ancient, English, and American glass and persuaded Helen McKearin to catalog them; he commissioned the creation of the first special exhibition, A Century of Taste, and worked with John M. Gates on the design of the interior spaces. The development of the Library was of particular importance to him, and he not only acquired major manuscripts and incunabula of significance to the history of glass but also insisted that they be displayed at the entrance to the Museum. For Arthur Houghton, the word was always at the beginning.

In May of 1951, when all was in place, including a small staff, the Museum was opened and Arthur Houghton went on to other enterprises. He had done the best he could to establish the kind of institution he wanted. All of us on the board of trustees and on the staff of the Museum are part of his legacy. It is a proud responsibility.”