A Brief History of the Chipstone Foundation

In 1946 Polly and Stanley Stone began collecting early American furniture and historical prints, as well as seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British pottery. The collection was housed in a colonial revival brick home in the residential neighborhood of Fox Point, Wisconsin. By the early 1960s their collection was impressive enough to capture the attention of Charles Montgomery, then Senior Research Fellow and former Director of the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum. At Montgomery's urging the Stones established the Chipstone Foundation with the purpose of preserving and interpreting their collection and stimulating research and education in the decorative arts. Following Stanley Stone's death in 1987, the foundation was activated by an initial endowment provided by Mrs. Stone.  Polly Stone remained closely involved in the Foundation until her death in 1995 at the age of 97.

In line with our stated mission, the Chipstone Foundation is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the objects collected by the Stones as a living collection. Building upon the donors’ deep interest in education and in forwarding the field, we remain more focused than ever on actively expanding the parameters of decorative arts/material culture scholarship. Through original research, innovative educational programs, important publications and online initiatives, and substantive collaborations with other scholars, artists, and institutions the Foundation strives to move beyond the traditional historical and aesthetic narratives that have long shaped the field. Since 1999 the Foundation has partnered with the Milwaukee Art Museum to share with the broader public our collections and research through innovative installations, with a strong interest in historical African American material culture as well as an emerging program in Native America research and curation. We also have developed strong working and teaching relationships with the University of Wisconsin–Madison, along with many other local and national museums and arts institutions. Our Think Tank program seeks to work with other museums, historic houses, foundations, and university programs that are interested in scholarship that seeks to be more inclusive, diverse, and in line with contemporary trends within the Humanities at large. Finally, our on-site programs such as Object Lab seek to open up curatorial practice to newer ideas and younger scholars.

Jonathan Prown, June 2020


Life Begins at Fifty
from American Furniture at Chipstone by Oswaldo Rodriquez Roque, 1983

The origin of the name Chipstone
Stanley Stone’s affectionate name for his wife Polly was "Chipmunk." Merging this term with their last name created the word Chipstone.