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Biltmore House Staff

Biltmore's Earliest Employees

A great deal of information about Biltmore’s earliest employees has been gleaned over the years from their descendants, our archives, and genealogical resources. Research efforts continue as we seek to gain a more complete picture of those who worked and lived at Biltmore House.

Head Housekeeper

The head housekeeper, the top position within servant hierarchy in upper-class American homes, oversaw all female staff and was responsible for the upkeep of the house. She paid household bills, hired and fired employees, reviewed daily plans with the Vanderbilts, and much more.

Biltmore’s head housekeepers:

  • Laura Barker, 1895-1897 (White, believed to be English)
  • Emily R. King, 1897-1914 (White, English)
  • Martha Louise Andrews, 1914-1915 (White, English)
  • Laura Howard, 1915-1921 (White, English)
  • Bessie Donahue, 1921-1929 (White, American)
Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
Mrs. King would meet with George and Edith Vanderbilt in their private Oak Sitting Room to go over daily plans. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).


The butler’s main responsibility was to ensure all meals in Biltmore House were served smoothly. He also supervised male staff—including footmen and houseboys—created floral arrangements for the dining table, maintained china, crystal, and silver, and oversaw storage, decanting, and serving of wine.

Some of Biltmore’s butlers:

  • Walter Harvey, 1897-1899 (White, English)
  • John Burdett, 1899-1906 (White, English)
  • Charles Spicer, 1914-1921 (White, English)
  • Arthur Charles Hopkins, 1921-1925 (White, English)
  • Herbert Noble, 1930-1939 (White, English)
Recreated butler clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
The butler would ensure the tables were properly set for each meal, including measuring the placement of every dish and utensil. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).

Lady’s Maid

On call day and night, the lady’s maid was Edith Vanderbilt’s personal attendant. She assisted Mrs. Vanderbilt with dressing and undressing several times a day, fixed her hair and makeup, and cared for her clothing: cleaning, sewing, storing and packing. She traveled with the family when they went abroad, and speaking multiple languages was a highly desirable qualification.

Some of Edith Vanderbilt’s lady’s maids:

  • Madeleine Henry, 1901-1904 (White, French)
  • Laurette Delaplace, 1907-1910 (White, French)
  • Martha Laube, 1913-1915 (White, German)
  • Emma Storey, 1920-1923 (White, American)
  • Emily Curtis, 1920-1925 (White, American)
A key responsibility of the lady’s maid was maintaining the many pieces of her employer’s wardrobe, as well as carefully packing it for the family’s frequent travels.


George Vanderbilt had a personal valet who assisted him with dressing several times a day, drew his bath, maintained his clothes and shoes, made travel arrangements, and managed the family’s luggage while abroad. This was no small feat considering the size and number of trunks required for a several-month-long stay.

Some of George Vanderbilt’s valets:

  • Wilfred Shackley, 1899-1906 (White, English)
  • Ernest Carrington, 1904 (White, English)
  • Horace Pridmore, 1911-1912 (White, English)
  • James Pompe, 1913 (White, English)
Recreated Valet clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
The valet, shown here as if preparing George Vanderbilt for a drive across his estate. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).

Chef & Kitchen Staff

The chef oversaw a team of kitchen workers, including cooks, kitchen maids, and pastry cooks. Biltmore House’s Main Kitchen, Rotisserie Kitchen, and Pastry Kitchen would have been bustling spaces all day long, not just preparing multi-course meals for the Vanderbilts and their guests, but also for the house’s small army of servants.

Biltmore’s kitchen staff:

  • Beck L. Vivian, chef, ca. 1900 (White, English)
  • James Ceperlean, cook, ca. 1900 (White, French)
  • Esther Anderson, cook, ca. 1904 (White, Swedish)
  • Patience Randall, cook, 1915 (Black, American)
  • Cordelia Curtis, pastry cook, ca. 1904 (White, American)
  • Annie Scarborough, kitchen maid, 1898-1900 (White, American)
Recreated Kitchen Staff & Chef clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
A chef and kitchen maid were just two of the large team who would be working in the Main Kitchen on a daily basis. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).


Different types of maids were employed at Biltmore House. Chambermaids cared for bedrooms while parlormaids cared for communal spaces. Their jobs included more than cleaning: they laid fires, refreshed linens, and prepared rooms for the evening. Maids also supported laundry and kitchen work and served meals in the staff dining room.

Some maids at Biltmore:

  • Sarah Auld, ca. 1900 (White, Canadian)
  • Mary Curtis, ca. 1900-1904 (White, American)
  • Emily Curtis, ca. 1904-1920 (White, American)
  • Annie Moore, ca. 1904 (Black, American)
  • Louise Anderson, ca. 1910-1920 (White, Swedish)
Recreated maid clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
Kitchen maids were just one type of maid doing essential work across Biltmore House. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).


Footmen, also known as underbutlers, carried out their duties under the watchful eye of the butler. These duties included serving meals in formal livery, polishing the silver collection each day, answering the door, and acting as valets for visiting male guests.

Some footmen at Biltmore:

  • William McCellend, ca. 1900 (White, Irish)
  • Hall West, 1910-1914 (White, American)
  • Sefton Patrick, 1921-1924 (White, English)
  • James Reekes, 1923-1926 (White, English)
Recreated footman clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
Footmen donned their formal livery to plate and serve the Vanderbilts’ multi-course dinners. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).


Despite advances in technology that facilitated their work, Biltmore House laundresses had one of the most demanding jobs. The multi-day process of washing clothes and linens required knowledge (how to treat any fabric, use chemicals to preserve or restore color, and formulate garment-specific starch recipes) and physical labor (multiple scrubbings with lye soap rinsed with boiling water, pressing using irons heated by a stove). A 1908 report documented a day in which two Biltmore House laundresses processed hundreds of linens while two others ironed hundreds of stockings, handkerchiefs, towels, napkins, pillowcases, petticoats, skirts, and more.

Some laundresses at Biltmore:

  • Inga Bohberg, ca. 1900 (White, Swedish)
  • Frances Collins, ca. 1900 (Black, American)
  • Bonnie Alexander, ca. 1920 (White, American)
  • Sarah Scott, ca. 1928-1932 (Black, American)
Recreated laundress clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).
After washing and wringing linens, laundresses would hang sheets in the electric drying racks. Recreated clothing from exhibit A Vanderbilt House Party (2019).

Treasured Glimpses

Photography of domestic staff is quite limited. This is due to the fact that part of staff’s responsibilities was to remain unseen. Additionally, cameras were largely inaccessible to the working class.

The few identified photographs of Biltmore’s early employees in our archives have been donated by their descendants. Extremely rare, these images provide treasured glimpses of daily life for those who worked in America’s Largest Home®.