YOU MUST NOT TOUCH!
Arthur John Elsley
Signed and dated 1895
Oil on canvas
30 by 23 in. or 76 by 58.4 sm.
The history of ownership of You Must Not Touch! is one of the classic American stories of wealth and bankruptcy which played out in the rich oil fields of the mid-west shortly after turn of the economy. Ernest Whitworth "E.W." Marland was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 8 1874. Shortly after graduating from law school at the tender age of nineteen, Marland set of to seek his fortune in oil. His first fortune was gained in the oil fields of West Virginia, but he was to loose it all in the panic of 1907. In 1908, Marland, and his first wife Virginia, moved to Oklahoma with not much more than belief in himself and a letter of credit. In 1911, he struck oil and began to quickly amass a great fortune. By 1922, Marland had gained control of at least one tenth of the world's oil, while more than third of Ponca City's population were employed by the Marland Oil Company.
With their new found wealth, Mr. And Mrs. Morland travel extensively, and on one of their many "buying" trips they discovered the Davanzati Palace in Florence. The Davanzati Palace became the inspiration for Marland's own "Palace on the Prairie", for which construction began in 1925. It most likely that during this period Morland with advice of his master architect John Duncan Forsyth, acquired You Must No Touch!.. Marland now an oil baron, avidly collected beautiful works of art which were to fill his expanding 43,561 square foot mansion complete with 55 rooms. The Marland's shared their wealth with Mrs. Marland's nephew, George, and niece, Lydie, whom the couple adopted. The mansion took three years to complete, but Virginia never lived to see it's final completion in 1928, dying after a long illness.
The same year the mansion was finished, Marland and his adopted daughter, Lydie, traveled in his private railway coach to Flourtown, Pennsylvania where he had her adoption annulled and subsequently married her. So the girl who was once his niece by marriage, and then his daughter, became his wife and the new "first lady" of Marland Estate Mansion. But their grand lifestyle was not to last, and on November 1928, Morland Oil Company was bought-out in a hostile takeover by J.P. Morgan & Co. Marland lost his company, job and most of his fortune; and was forced to move out of his mansion and into the chauffeur's house because he could not afford the utility bills of the mansion. Frustrated and embittered by the so-called "money trust", Marland went into politics. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1932, and was later elected Governor of Oklahoma in 1934. In 1939, the couple moved back to Ponca City, and back to chauffeur's house. But by 1941, Marland was forced to sell his beloved home for $66,000 to the Carmelite Fathers, a mansion, which had cost $5.5 million dollars to build. "E.W." Marland died six months later.
Lydie Marland lived of and on for the next 46 years in the chauffeurs cottage. In 1953, she made a dramatic exit from Ponca City, disappearing and presumed dead, for 22 years. The Saturday Evening Post, in a September 22, 1958 issue, chronicled the fascinating Marlan story and the mysterious disappearance of Lydie Marland. The article, stated. "She drove away in a rattletrap 1948 green car that bleached clouds of black smoke. The belongings piled up on the rear seat of the car Included six framed oil paintings, measuring from three inches to perhaps three by four feet, which she planed to sell." It is very possible that You Must Not Touch!… was one of the paintings Lydie planned to sell. For this time, the painting was acquired by Mr. Walter Ranson, an art dealer, and frequent high stakes poker player, known to Lydie in Oklahoma City. Mr. Ranson You Must Not Touch! To the present owner. Lydie dramatically reappeared in 1975, destitute and rags, and lived as a recluse in the chauffeur's house with a white Persian cat as her only companion, until her death in 1987.
The Marland Estate Mansion is now national Historic Landmark and was featured by the Arts and Entertainment channel in their series entitled America's Castles.
Governor Ernest Whitworth "E.W." Marland, Ponca City, Oklahoma
Mrs. Lydie Marland, Ponca City, Oklahoma, Wife of the above, by inheritance in 1941
Mr. Walter Ranson, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, acquired from the above 1953-4
Acquired by present owner from the above by 1954
Source: Sotheby's Catalog "La Belle Époque including The Age of Innocence: A 19th Century Childhood", 2000, Page 78.