French drawing room at Hillwood


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Marjorie Merriweather Post: The Life Behind the Luxury

For the annual Frederick J. Fisher Lecture, author Estella Chung presents The Life Behind the Luxury, the new biography of Marjorie Post, illustrated with a wealth of historical photographs, archival documents, exquisite works of art, and other souvenirs of an extraordinary life. 

As owner of Postum Cereal Company, and later a director of General Foods Corporation, Post wielded financial oversight of mansions on multiple estates, a yacht, fabulous jewelry, and an impressive art collection, capably creating and managing a twentieth-century life of luxury, complete with a butler, footmen, gardeners, and personal maids. But it was not Post’s ability to read a spreadsheet for which she was often noted in newspapers and magazines. While her good works made the news during times of war and economic crisis, her social gatherings, clothes, four marriages, four divorces, and her father’s suicide got more ink. Her life—in all its honorable, glamourous, and painful moments—was syndicated news, and not a private matter.

Post’s life was indeed opulent. In The Life Behind the Luxury we accompany her on an excursion aboard her yacht, the Sea Cloud, and travel to Camp Topridge on her plane for a “little weekend.” Author Estella Chung goes further, however, in revealing Post to be an astute business executive, a deeply caring and generous humanitarian, and a committed philanthropist.


5:30-6:30 p.m. | Mid-Century Master, mansion, gardens, and greenhouse open for self-guided touring.
6-6:30 p.m. | Wine and cheese reception 
6:30-7:30 p.m.| Lecture
7:30 p.m. | Book signing. Marjorie Merriweather Post: The Life Behind the Luxury is available at the museum shop.


Estella Chung is a curator, co-chair of exhibitions, and director of collections at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. Joining Hillwood in 2007, for over a decade she’s had a ball clicking along Post’s garden paths, reading her mail, and snooping about her cereal bowl collection. All of this is done in service to a greater understanding of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s personal history, abundant good works, and the inner workings of her many estates. She is the author of Living Artfully: At Home with Marjorie Merriweather Post, detailing Post’s extraordinary three-estate lifestyle. Now, in The Life Behind the Luxury, Estella adds an array of delightful details, including the “Travel Luxe” chapter of journeys by private railcar, personal yachts, and customized aircraft. Post’s life was indeed one of luxury. Estella goes further, however, in revealing Post not only to be an elegant public figure, but also an astute business executive, and a deeply caring humanitarian and philanthropist.

When not writing, Estella serves on Hillwood’s management team as the director of collections, overseeing collections management, the special collections library, and the archives. Additionally, she is head of oral history, capturing the recollections of people that knew Post and visited Hillwood during her lifetime. With degrees in American Studies from the University of Michigan and Brown University, Estella Chung has also served as curator at the Autry National Center, and the Chinese American Museum, both in Los Angeles.


This is the eighth annual lecture honoring the legacy of Hillwood’s former executive director, Frederick J. Fisher, who served for twenty years (1990-2010).