William K. Bixby Supported History Museum; Short Biography Looks at Philanthropist's Collection; BOOKS

Article excerpt

In 2010, the Missouri History Museum was casting about for a name for the new restaurant in its extensively remodeled building. Museum president Robert Archibald came up with one that stuck: Bixby's. The name honored a man who, perhaps more than anyone, contributed his time, money and treasure to the museum in Forest Park.

"William K. Bixby was that nearly legendary character, a self- made man," Archibald said recently. In 1874, in the thick of the first Great Depression, the out-of-work 17-year-old Michigander finally found a job as a baggage handler and night watchman on a small Texas railroad. He quickly rose within the ranks of the rapidly expanding railroad industry, and in 1889, at 32, he became the head of American Car & Foundry, a St. Louis corporation that manufactured railroad cars.

He and his wife, Lillian, moved into the Central West End and the largely self-educated Bixby became a collector of art and rare books. His art collection included a Rembrandt, several Corots, a Gainsborough, and a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. …