Best of the Best: The Haggin Museum in Stockton, California | Visit Stockton
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Best of the Best: The Haggin Museum in Stockton, California

Take a moment to explore some of the best features of the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, according to the docents who have the best stories.

Docent led tours add a richness to any museum visit and the Haggin Museum is no different. Stories associated with artists, specific pieces, and the individuals that established the museum all combine to create a more fascinating experience. Below you will find a few docent tales we hope add value to your next Haggin Museum visit. Note: docent-led tours at the Haggin Museum are subject to availability. It is best to call in advance to arrange a guided tour.

SNEAK PEEK: Looking to get a jump on exploring the galleries before your visit to the museum? Take a look at our Haggin Museum virtual tour right now!

The Haggin Museum is home to the largest public display of J.C. Leyendecker work in the world.

When one thinks of early 20th century Americana, a Saturday Evening Post cover may come to mind. That specific style usually recalls happiness and nostalgia for a life that moved a little slower and seemed a little sweeter. At the Haggin Museum, works by J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) are available to view in a stunningly redesigned gallery. A mentor to Normal Rockwell, Leyendecker was famous for his commercial illustrations as well as his magazine covers. A very popular series that stands out to those young and old, are Leyendecker’s Kellogg’s Kids.

Quick Fact: The Haggin collection also includes many personal items, including photographs and letters, that give visitors a personal portrait of the artist in order to better understand and appreciate his work.

Haggin-owned paintings are part of 90’s pop culture.

The Haggin Museum’s Looking Up The Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt has made numerous cameos in movies and television. It could once be seen behind Matthew Perry’s character, Chandler Bing, in the popular American sitcom Friends, a show that aired on the NBC network from 1994 to 2004. The painting was also part of the set for the 1993 political comedy film Dave, starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, and Frank Langella. One reason this painting has been featured in several motion picture sets is because the Haggin Museum loaned it to the White House, per their request, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term in office. While there, it hung in the Roosevelt Room leading to several television shows and motions pictures using it to recreate sets that included the White House.

Quick Fact: See if you can spot the William-Adolphe Bourguereau painting, Nymphaeum, in the 1999 American steampunk western action comedy Wild Wild West, starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Salma Hayek.

Stockton High School students donated nearly 300 Jeeps to the troops in WWII.

One of the most inspiring stories from Stockton’s history is that of Willy the Jeep. The students of Stockton High School purchased 275 Jeeps, at $900 each, during World War II in support of the war effort. This amounted to nearly $250,000 in the 1940’s and would equate to nearly $3 million in today’s economy. Each Jeep was fitted with a special plaque, stating the Jeep’s origin and that it was donated by students of Stockton High School. Decades later, one of these special Jeeps – Willy - found its way back to Stockton and is now on display in the Haggin’s history galleries. Willy the Jeep was made an honorary member of the American Legion and awarded an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, the first such distinction for an inanimate object.

Quick Fact: Willy also had a role in an historical dramatic short film titled Day of Independence. The film is set in a Japanese American internment camp during the World War II and it explores one family’s experience. Watch the film and let us know if you can see the Haggin Museum’s past CEO, Tod Ruhstaller as an extra driving Willy the Jeep!


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An artist featured at the Haggin Museum broke barriers for female artists.

On November 7, 1800, Paris police issued an order prohibiting woman from wearing men’s clothing in public. At this time, it was also not considered a “proper” career for women to be artists. In addition, women were not permitted to take life drawing classes as it was believed that nude figures could be dangerous to a young girl’s moral development. Due to this restriction, aspiring female artists could not develop the skills for successful careers. Choosing to be bold, in 1845, the aspiring French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) applied to the government for a special permit to wear trousers. Bonheur had determined that slaughterhouses were a place she could study anatomy, even if it wasn’t human, in order to hone her skills. In order to avoid disapproving stares and avoid standing out, she received a permit that allowed her to wear what was considered a man’s uniform: trouser suits. Bonheur became the most successful female artist of her time, in part for playing by her own rules. The Haggin currently has 3 paintings by Bonheur on public display, anchored by her famous work Gathering for the Hunt, 1856.

Quick Fact: Bonheur’s determination paid off. In 1865, the wife of Napoléon III pinned the insignia of the Legion of Honor on the 43-year-old-artist, making her the first woman to receive it.


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Stephens Bros. boat designs began in Stockton, CA.

The "Seven Seas" is an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans and there is no doubt that Stephens Brothers Boats can still be found sailing them all. Stephens Bros. is one of the most respected names in boat design and they began in the family’s Stockton, California backyard. During their 85-year history, Stephens Bros. became famous for its elegantly designed pleasure craft while also building many vessels for the United States Military. Some of their exquisite sailboats, speedboats, cruisers, and private yachts, are still in existence on the water today.

Quick Fact: In the Haggin Museum you will find a beautiful 1927 Stephens 26’ Runabout. The museum is is also home of the company’s archives.


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The Haggin family was the first to build a mansion on San Francisco’s Nob Hill.

James Ben Ali Haggin, the patriarch of the three generations of the Haggin family who amassed the museum’s fine art collection, built the first mansion on San Francisco’s Nob Hill in 1872. Haggin was soon joined by Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington, and Charles Crocker who all left the previously fashionable district of Rincon Hill, south of Market. The Haggin home took up the entire block bounded by Taylor, Washington, Mason and Clay Streets. It had a 86-foot high observation cupola and there were 61 rooms, 11 baths, and a stable in the back for 40 horses and 18 carriages.

Quick Fact: Nob Hill was named in honor of the wealthy “nabobs” named above. (persons of conspicuous wealth or high status).


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