In 1891 Jane and Leland Stanford established Leland Stanford Jr. University in memory of their only child, Leland Jr. After Leland Jr. died of typhoid fever in 1884 at the age of 15, the Stanfords decided they would use their wealth to do something for other people’s children by building a great university. A few years later, in 1894, the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum opened its doors.
By the turn of the 20th century, the Stanford museum was the largest privately-owned museum building in the world. Its archeological and ethnological holdings were a rarity on the West Coast, and by 1905 its collection of Asian materials was unsurpassed in the western United States. The museum served as a monument and memorial to Leland Jr., who had been an avid collector himself, and to his mother, Jane, who was dedicated to the educational potential of a great museum.