So who was Robert H. Rucker?

The Met’s Mito Tokugawa Goto collection mentioned in the earlier unboxing post lists its provenance as “Ex. coll.: Robert H. Rucker, New York.”  So who was he?  A quick check of my library and online searches turned up the following. 

George Cameron Stone mentions him in his acknowledgements in A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor: in All Countries and in All Times saying  “Mr. Robert H. Rucker who has placed his unequaled knowledge of things Japanese at my disposal and who has given me valuable suggestions and most helpful criticism.” 

In his introduction to the 1999 Dover edition of Stone, the Met’s Donald LaRocca mentions “Robert H. Rucker (d. 1944), a noted collector of Japanese arms.”

While not mentioned often today, Rucker’s 1924 catalog of the Goda Collection shown above takes a deep dive for the time into terminology, materials, methods and a survey of schools. In his introduction to that book Bashford Dean calls Rucker “a learned and judicious amateur in this field.”

The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum says  “There is now in press a catalogue of our Japanese sword furniture (Goda Collection, 1917), the manuscript of which was prepared by Robert Hamilton Rucker and embodies his researches of the past decade.”

An even less well known book with contributions by Rucker is the exhibition catalog shown above. Each guard is illustrated and described, and while the paper has not held up well, the images are actual photographic prints that are tipped in and are in perfect condition with excellent resolution. I will probably post some later (update – one added below).

According to Financier, New York, Vol 108 , (Sept 9, 1916) and The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, vol 103 “Mr. Rucker is a certified public accountant at 27 Pine Street, New York City.”

Club Women of New York, Vol 6, Parts 1910 – 1911 Lists Robert Hamilton Rucker, 119 East 19th St. as treasurer of the National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, Manhattan.

Asia and the Americans, Volume 21, part 1 reports that “Robert Hamilton Rucker has traveled extensively in the Orient for the purpose of studying eastern art and religions.”

Dean’s “learned and judicious amateur” assessment seems spot on and intended in the most positive sense of the term.

What I have not found yet is anything that suggests when and where Rucker might have acquired his collection of Goto fittings. The accession date to the museum is 1945, and LaRocca records his date of death as 1944. Given the published dates of his professional activities early in the century he would presumably not have been a young man during the second world war. Daimyo families were sometimes inclined by necessity to part with family treasures in the early decades of the last century and that may be the case here. I will update as any additional information comes to light.

Update – a request for the closeup view of the giant Shingen tsuba toward the middle of the display board:

Half of a page from the NY Armor and Arms club exhibition catalog

Update – Thanks to Pete K. for mentioning that Rucker worked with Alexander Mosle on his collection catalogs. Pete once had a copy of the 1909 Berlin catalog with extensive handwritten annotations by Rucker.

A Goto unboxing at the Met

Thanks to Markus Sesko, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The New York Token Kai, a group of fifty or so sword students were invited to a lecture and viewing at the museum on the swords of Echizen Yasutsugu and the Shimosaka school.

Visitors to the Japanese arms gallery at the Met will be familiar with the Mito Tokugawa collection of Goto kodogu on permanent display. There are mitokoromono from each of the first 15 mainline generations along with additional kozuka and menuki. (Ex. coll. Robert H. Rucker, NY, Rogers Fund, 1945).

Seldom (never?) seen on display are the lacquer boxes that originally housed the collection. Markus retrieved these from deep storage and brought them out for study along with the above mentioned swords.

Markus looks on as Edward Hunter removes the lid of the outer storage box
Setting aside the outer storage box. The lacquer inner box is wrapped in furoshiki.
Unwrapping the box holding the menuki collection
The inner box lid removed. The box for the mitokoromono collection is on the right.
The top tray holding the Goto origami is removed and unwrapped.
The set of drawers is removed and one opened. The name of each generation is written in lacquer.
Menuki from the last five generations remaining in storage inside the box.
The wrappers containing the origami

See also from Markus Sesko:

Further details on the attribution of the various items and some photos can be found by searching on “Goto” at the Met Museum site:!?q=goto&orderByCountDesc=true&page=1