My first encounter with Dudley Godfrey was a phone conversation regarding a late seventeenth-century Massachusetts table that Sumpter Priddy and I had for sale when we were in the antique business in the late 1980s. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the person at the other end of the line as being tall and thin with compulsively groomed gray hair and a somewhat gruff personality. When I met Dudley and his wife Constance a couple years later, I discovered I was wrong on all accounts. He was a robust 5' 10", follicly challenged, and had a big smile and hearty handshake that made the newest of acquaintances feel like old friends. Over the next few years, I came to discover that many of the people who knew Dudley, myself included, considered him their best friend.
To many who will turn the pages of this volume, Dudley is remembered as a collector of colonial American furniture and early English pottery, silver, and needlework. Although he and his wife Constance assembled one of the finest collections in this country, their contributions to the decorative arts field and their community went much deeper. As a trustee of the Chipstone Foundation from 1966 to 2004, Dudley was instrumental in the development of its collection and educational initiatives, including American Furniture and Ceramics in America. He and Constance were also major donors to the Milwaukee Art Museum and generous supporters of publications, exhibitions, and conservation projects at other institutions. Most of the Godfreys’ gifts were made anonymously, but their impact on decorative arts scholarship is substantial and continues today. Their philanthropy was not solely limited to the arts, however, and extended to providing numerous college scholarships and medical care to those in need and supporting a broad range of social service organizations.
The trustees and staff of the Chipstone Foundation dedicate this issue of American Furniture to Dudley Godfrey in recognition of the many contributions he and Constance have made to our field and to us personally.