History and Legacy

The Founders’ Legacy and Impact

The Americana Foundation was established by Adolph and Ginger Meyer to support, through philanthropy, their varied personal interests. A Detroit area industrialist, Adolph Meyer believed in the American ideals of hard work and self-reliance and held a deep respect for early American farmers, craftsmen, and artists. Ginger Meyer was an avid gardener, award-winning floral arranger, and an active contributor of time and funds to a variety of charitable causes.

Together, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer appreciated the outstanding craft and beauty of early American furniture and decorative arts. Over their lifetimes, they acquired and treasured one of the greatest private collections ever assembled. Their knowledge of and appreciation for authentic early American furniture and decorative arts enabled them to make a nationally significant contribution to the conservation and appreciation of American craftsmanship by donating important pieces to the White House and the U.S. State Department in the 1960s.

The Meyers’ exquisite private collection, which over the years grew to more than 200 pieces, was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1996 for a record-breaking sum.

The Meyers were deeply dedicated to preserving agriculture and natural resources. In the late 1970s, they donated Tollgate Farm, their 160-acre historic farmstead in southeast Michigan, to Michigan State University for public agricultural education. The Meyers acquired the farm in 1951 from the family of Samuel Basset, a veteran of the War of 1812, who had purchased the acreage from the U.S. government in 1831. Mr. Meyer loved the natural beauty and scenic topography of the land, which features rolling woodlands of beech, ash, oak, and birch trees, and expressed his appreciation for the historic farm buildings by restoring them in the 1950s and 1960s to look much as they did in the 1800s.

Adolph and Ginger Meyer J.B. Freund, "Masterpieces of Americana: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Henry Meyer" (Sotheby's Books, 1995), p. 5.
Early American kneehole desk, visible through front door or Meyer home. Photo Credit: From D. Dempsey, Beauty, Country, History: Adolph and Ginger Meyer's Bounty of Excellence (published by Encore Impressions, 2012)

Evolution of our Program Areas

18th century looking glass with gilded phoenix detail (from the original collection of Adolph and Ginger Meyer) J.B. Freund, "Masterpieces of Americana: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Henry Meyer" (Sotheby's Books, 1995), p. 68

The Meyers' passions formed the basis for the Foundation's original programs. The Meyers' original purpose in 1960 was to "make contributions of funds or authentic objects of American art to other exempt charitable, educational, or scientific organizations, or the United States of America, a state or possession, for exclusively public purposes, all in the interests of aiding in the preservation of American art." When they incorporated the Americana Foundation in 1979, the Meyers expanded the Foundation's charitable purpose to include "the support of educational and advocacy programs that address the preservation of Michigan's natural resources, the conservation of American agriculture, and the American heritage."

The Americana Foundation has evolved since its inception. In the late 1990s, the Board of Trustees reviewed the lives of the Meyers, their various interests, and their philanthropic activities to articulate early program areas. In the early 2000s, the Foundation convened a group of outside experts to identify issues of concern in art and historic preservation and to help identify impactful funding opportunities in the American Heritage program area. In 2007, the Foundation expressly recognized that American Heritage includes "the diverse actions, decisions, and creativity of the American people" and that national heritage is found in artifacts, works of art, classic furniture, structures, cultural landscapes, people, and many other forms. In 2016, the Foundation engaged stakeholders through a facilitator to help refine and update program priorities in the Agriculture and Natural Resources program area. In 2023, the Foundation engaged a facilitator to articulate a set of values, identify updated opportunities and funding priorities, and optimize Americana's impact in its program areas.

18th century carved giltwood wall mirror (from the original collection of Adolph and Ginger Meyer). J.B. Freund, "Masterpieces of Americana: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Henry Meyer" (Sotheby's Books, 1995), p. 70.

Throughout its history, the Foundation has supported many programs to educate, preserve, and present "the diversity of American Heritage" and "to help all people discover, understand and appreciate it." The Foundation has also invested in various projects and programs that protect agriculture and natural resources throughout Michigan, demonstrating its commitment to its core values and its founders' vision.

Note: The Meyers' full story is reflected in "Beauty, Country, and History: Adolph and Ginger Meyer's Bounty of Excellence," a book by David Dempsey (published by Encore Impressions, 2012). Contact us if you are interested in learning more.

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