Henry Clay Folger (June 18, 1857 – June 11, 1930) was president and later chairman of Standard Oil of New York, a collector of Shakespeariana, and founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Born in New York City, Folger was educated at Adelphi Academy, Brooklyn, New York. He then attended Amherst College where he was member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1879. After Amherst, he attended Columbia Law School from 1879 to 1881, and was admitted to the bar in 1881. Folger married Emily Clara Jordan in 1885.
Beginning in 1881, he worked for the Standard Oil trust of John D. Rockefeller, getting his start in the oil business at Charles Pratt & Company. After the break-up of the trust, Folger became president and later chairman of Standard Oil of New York. He retired as president in 1923 and as chairman in 1928.
Folger was an avid collector of Shakespeariana, including the largest collection of legendary First Folio editions. Toward the end of World War I, he and his wife began searching for a location for his Shakespeare library. They did not make their choice of a site on Capitol Hill public until 1928. Soon afterwards, Congress passed a resolution allowing use of the land on East Capitol Street where the Folger Shakespeare Library now stands.
The cornerstone of the library was laid in 1930, but Henry Folger died soon afterward. The bulk of his fortune was left in trust, with Amherst College as administrator, for the library. With the help of additional funding from Emily Folger, the library opened on April 23, 1932, the date traditionally believed to be Shakespeare's birthday. Folger's collection of Shakespearean works is considered one of the most important resources for scholars of the playwright.
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Originally laid in A Unique First Folio by H.C. Folger, Jr. PR2900 F6
Accession number 1597
Preferred Citation:Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections
Scope and Contents: 1914: April 21. Typed letter signed from Folger to William K. Bixby expressing thanks for privately printed books and accompanying a copy of an article by Folger on the Shakespeare First Folio. 1 page