This thesis is an analytic in-depth examination of the private art gallery added to the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, South Carolina in 1858. The goal of the work is to imagine, understand, and contextualize the gallery, delving deeply into the lives, travels, and ambitions of its owners, William and Harriet Lowndes Aiken. Exploring all aspects of the gallery's inspiration and design, as well as the provenance and significance of works of art housed in it, the paper poses two questions: why a gallery; and why this gallery. Answers to these questions are located in socio-historical analysis that focuses on the private gallery as a means of attaining the highest social position. A thorough investigation of the Charleston gallery, comparing it to its inspiration in Europe and to its contemporaneous New York counterparts, yields a clearer understanding of the gallery and a cogent sense of what it represented in its own epoch. Drawing from myriad sources an attempt has been made to create a coherent picture of how the Aikens' art gallery derived from and reflected the society in which they lived; and how it served their ambition to occupy its highest stratum.