Ethel Bliss Platt

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Ethel Bliss Platt
Born Ethel Bliss
October 25, 1881
Englewood, New Jersey
Died June 1971
Englewood, New Jersey
Citizenship United States
Known for U.S. National Tennis Champion (1906) and art collector
Spouse(s) Dan Fellows Platt

Ethel Bliss Platt was an American tennis player and art collector. Ethel was born and spent most of her life living in Englewood, New Jersey. She had an active juniors tennis career and was the 1906 U.S. National Tennis Champion in Doubles with Ann Burdette Coe. She married Dan Fellows Platt in 1900 and was his companion through many trips to Europe to collect art. When her husband died in 1937, she inherited one of the largest art collections in America and sold some pieces, gave some to friends and gave thousands to Princeton University Art Museum. She died in 1971 following a stroke.


Ethel Bliss Platt was born Ethel Appleby Bliss to Delos and Emily Bliss on October 25, 1881 and grew up in Englewood, New Jersey.[1]

Tennis career

Ethel Bliss had participated actively in the junior tennis tournaments around New Jersey as a youth. In 1894, The New York Times wrote about the Englewood tennis club which included Helen Homans and other standouts. In the article it highlighted that "there is a little girl of about thirteen who will surpass them all if her tennis ability is properly developed. The phenomenon is Miss Ethel Bliss whose backhand and forehand drives are worthy of a veteran."[2]

The highlight of her playing career was the championship in the 1906 U.S. National Championships in doubles with Ann Burdette Coe, 6-4, 6-4 over Helen Homans and Clover Boldt

Doubles titles (1)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Winner 1906 U.S. National Championships Grass United States Ann Burdette Coe United States Helen Homans
United States Clover Boldt
6–4, 6–4

Marriage and art collection

In 1900, she married Dan Fellows Platt, a Princeton University graduate who dedicated his life to the study of Renaissance art. They lived in Englewood for the rest of their lives but with regular trips to Europe for art collection and travel. Dan and Ethel built an Italian Palazzo house named Ambercrof.[3] Dan Platt built one of the largest art collections in the United States with 400,000 photographs of art relics, 1,600 drawings spanning the 1500s until the 1900s, and many key pieces from the renaissance period, mostly from Siena.[3]

Ethel inherited the significant collection and sold some prominent works and gave much the rest to Princeton University. One notable piece was a Giovanni di Paolo panel with Madonna surrounded by Saint Margaret the Virgin and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. She gave it as a loan to the Princeton University Art Museum. However, after finding the photograph collection of her husband in disrepair she demanded to get the di Paolo piece back and sold it.[4] She sold some of the collection but upon her death in 1971, the remainder was provided to Princeton University as per Dan Fallows Platt's will.[3]

Because of this art collecting, she was connected with many of the prominent intellectuals in New Jersey and Europe including friendships with Hannah Arendt and George Santayana amongst others.[4]

In fall of 1970, she reportedly saw a firefly in the meadow behind her house and, because it was not the season for fireflies, went outside to investigate. Upon leaving her house she had a mild stroke and died in June the next year.[4]

Ethel Bliss Platt is one of the six people highlighted in James Lord's 1998 book A Gift for Admiration: Further Memories.[5] Lord, who knew Ethel for much of his life, wrote "It was not necessary in her company to become acquainted with painters or men of letters, because she herself so admirably embodied what was most precious in the works and pleasures of the men and women who sustained our companionship. They were the rare, great spirits of Western culture, and she was very like many of them."[4]


  1. ^ Frank, Michael. "Poignant Portraits of Collectors, Lovers of ArtBook Review / Memoirs; A GIFT FOR ADMIRATION, Further Memoirs, by James Lord, Farrar, Straus & Giroux $22, 198 pages", Los Angeles Times, June 26, 1998. Accessed November 2, 2012. "Yet even he seems surprised by Ethel Bliss Platt, the widow of an Italian art collector who lived near his parents in Englewood, N.J."
  2. ^ "It Will Be a Difficult Task to Name This Year's Champion". The New York Times. July 23, 1894. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Ross, Barbara T. (2000). "A Prime Teaching Collection at Princeton: The Platt and Mather Drawings". Master Drawings. 38 (3): 303–310.
  4. ^ a b c d Lord, James (1998). A Gift for Admiration: Further Memoirs. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  5. ^ "A Gift for Admiration: Further Memoirs. By James Lord. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22". The New York Times. June 7, 1998.
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