Maine native Dana C. Estes (1840–1909) was a founding partner of a prominent Boston bookseller and publishing house, Estes & Lauriat (est. 1872), which later operated as Dana Estes & Co. (1898–1909). Estes is known to have travelled widely, including trips to Asia, Africa, and Europe. As a bookseller, though, he most frequently stopped in London on the hunt for European titles to import for his American customers. As the success of his firm grew, Estes would have had increasing means to spend on himself as well; he likely pursued Mediterranean antiquities and European art as a mark of his education and sophistication, important traits in the publishing world. Like E.P. Warren (1860–1928), Estes was also a benefactor to institutions beyond Bowdoin, including the Peabody Museum at Harvard.
Many—maybe even most—of the antiquities owned by Estes and gifted to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art were once part of the Lawrence-Cesnola collection. This collection grew out of finds from the late nineteenth-century excavations of Alessandro Palma di Cesnola, amateur archaeologist and Sardinian-American diplomat (and younger brother of Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the famous first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Many of Alessandro’s finds went originally to his father-in-law, E. H. Lawrence, a London stockbroker who financed Alessandro’s excavations. In turn, Lawrence sold off much of the Lawrence-Cesnola collection in a series of London sales between 1883 and 1892. While it remains uncertain, Dana Estes likely attended one or more of the sales of the Lawrence-Cesnola Collections during his travels to London.