Historic N E W E NG L A N D
Building the Irving and Cassonâ€“ A. H. Davenport Archive
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Our members encourage us to cultivate an appreciation of heritage in young people. One way to do that is to consider the recent past. Rooms and objects familiar to me, raised in the 1950s and ’60s, are antique to those born in the 1990s. Students recognize that there is much history to be shared from the twentieth century. For our March 2014 conference, Directions in Twenty-First Century Preservation, we invited students to present topics they feel will be of importance in the years ahead. This issue features a story on post–World War II school buildings by Clarissa Carr, a PhD student at the University of Florida who presented at the conference. The twentieth century is a strong focus as we build Historic New England’s collections. From design sources used to create Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, to contemporary Maine portraits, to the extraordinary furniture archives of Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport, Historic New England is working to save objects and images that will help future generations understand our times. Contemporary technology allows more people to access our collections in one year than in the entire first century of the organization. During 2013, Collections Access on the web reached 255,000 page views. Sharing our collections online allows people worldwide to find, research, interpret, and enjoy the rich resources Historic New England cares for on behalf of the public.
Historic N E W E NG L A N D Fall 2014 Vol. 15, No. 2
Building the Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Archive 22
Floorcloths: Revered, Reused…Then Forgotten 26 1
EMER G ING VOICES
Learning to Love Postwar Design 2
BIOG R APHY
Halfdan M. Hanson: The Making of an Architect 5
Inspiring Beauport EVERYONE’S HISTORY
Collecting the Recent Past
MAKING LEAR NING FUN
Fun with Fiber Arts
Moving Down Main Street SPOTLIG HT
—Carl R. Nold, President and CEO
Plumbing Curiosities YOUR SUPPORT AT WOR K
Where Life Takes Place
Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956 HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit our website, HistoricNewEngland.org, or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Please call Kris Bierfelt, editor. Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Kris Bierfelt Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Jennifer Pustz, Museum Historian; Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: DeFrancis Carbone
North by Downeast ONLINE ACCESS
A Renowned Collection Expands Its Reach “Brinded Cats”: A Yankee Whaleman-Artist and His Scrimshaw LAND SCAPES
Reclaiming Castle Tucker’s Historic Waterfront ACQUISITIONS
A Rare Boston Sofa
Watercolor of an unidentified interior elevation by A. H. Davenport Company, c. 1900 (detail). COVER
© 2014 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
E M E R G I N G
V O I C E S
Learning to Love
Photo courtesy of the author
irections in Twenty-First Century Preservation, a symposium presented in March by Historic New England at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, was a daylong look at the state of preservation. As part of the events, I was among several emerging preservationists who shared their work. I was excited to present a poster about documenting sites on Nantucket, Massachusetts, through 3-D laser scanning, as well as a pecha kucha talk on the preservation of post–World War II public schools. A pecha kucha talk is a fun and fast-paced presentation where each speaker shows twenty slides for twenty seconds each. Sounds simple enough, but once you are up at the podium, twenty seconds can seem like a flash or an eternity. Over several years of working with my mentor at the University of Florida, Marty Hylton, I developed a soft spot for researching, documenting, and advocating for postwar public schools. They comprise a large portion of our built environment and represent the changing values of our nation. The enrollment needs of the post–World War II baby boom challenged building technologies and the traditional form of schools. Now schools were designed for children to have an enriching experience and become democratic citizens, learning through activities instead of recitation. Although the builders of these new schools had good intentions, not every design feature has stood the test of time. Accordion walls, asbestos tiles, air conditioners, and the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines changed the way schools are retrofitted, oftentimes unsuccessfully. The dirty reality of postwar designs is that roofs leak, paint peels, and rebar rusts. As built resources reach the fifty-year guideline for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, there are more forces determined to demolish these perceived eyesores. The average user of a school does not know who the architect was, let alone consider someone like architect Paul Rudolph as dreamy as other preservation nerds and I do. My next step in the plan to evaluate postwar schools is to develop a methodology to understand the intangible values the students, teachers, and school board members associate with the buildings they spend so much time in. Our memories may play a strong role in preserving modern sites that don’t fit a certain style and can’t boast of George Washington stepping over the threshold. I am ever grateful for my experience at this symposium, and although writing from Florida, I hope to continue to work with Historic New England in the future.
A classroom exterior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida, designed in 1958 by Paul Rudolph, shortly before demolition in 2009. The window walls originally opened to allow air circulation, but became inoperable with the addition of wall air conditioning units. RIGHT The author presenting her pecha kucha talk at the Directions in TwentyFirst Century Preservation symposium. ABOVE
—Clarissa Carr PhD student in Design, Construction, and Planning at the University of Florida
Fall 2014 Historic New England
B I O G R A P H Y
Halfdan M. Hanson: The Making of an Architect
espite his humble beginnings and the adversities he endured in his lifetime, Halfdan Hanson became a prolific and versatile architect who worked on more than one hundred commissions across the United States. He tackled a wide range of projects including luxurious homes, churches, a synagogue, and a lavish movie theatre. Two of his most significant achievements, both in Gloucester, Massachusetts, are National Historic Landmarks: the iconic Our Lady of Good Voyage Church and the everfascinating Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House.
Historic New England Fall 2014
Born in 1884 in Tønsberg, Norway, Halfdan “Dick” Hanson reached the United States at age two. He joined other relatives who had already settled in Gloucester and made their livelihoods as woodworkers, riggers, and fishermen. Young Dick and his four siblings were required to learn woodworking and carving at home in the evenings to supplement the family income. By the age of twenty, Hanson was a practicing architect, thanks in part to his talent, single-minded determination, and an enthusiastic approach to challenges, and also to the goodwill of others who recognized his abilities and were in a position to further his career. For a young immigrant like Hanson, pursuing an education in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s architecture program was out of the question. Fortunately he came to the attention of a patron, Winthrop Sargent, while he was doing woodworking, carpentry, and maintenance on Sargent’s summer cottage in the Bass Rocks section of Gloucester. Hanson’s daughter, Phyllis Ray, writes, “Sargent apparently recognized Hanson’s abilities, and with foresight and generosity made it possible for him to take the necessary architectural courses from the International Correspondence
Schools of [Scranton, Pennsylvania].” An ICS brochure from 1908 proclaimed, “[I]t is always kept in view that the reason the student is taking one of our courses is that he desires to put the knowledge obtained into immediate practical use,” which is precisely what Hanson did. In 1908, at age twenty-three, Hanson married his lifelong sweetheart Annie Olsen. That same year he was introduced to Henry Davis Sleeper, who had recently purchased land on Gloucester’s Eastern Point. They immediately began collaborating on the design of Sleeper’s cottage, “Little Beauport.” Sleeper, like Hanson, lacked a formal education, but they shared an inspired aesthetic sensibility that developed into a twenty-seven-year collaboration. The relatively modest house grew, one room at a time, to more than
forty rooms. Now known as Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, it is one of Historic New England’s most visited properties. Hanson’s association with Sleeper and his introduction to Sleeper’s Eastern Point friends and neighbors, particularly Caroline Sinkler and A. Piatt Andrew, were the catalysts for many other projects throughout Gloucester, the North Shore area, and Boston. With this flood of work, and with Sargent’s patronage, Hanson was able to establish a small architectural firm in downtown Gloucester where, according to a biographical sketch by
While in Colorado, Annie Hanson slipped on ice and suffered a hip fracture that was set improperly. She walked with crutches thereafter. FACING PAGE
“Without Hanson, Sleeper would probably never have achieved Beauport or anything remotely resembling it. For Sleeper’s domineering but erratic genius the catalyst was Hanson’s craftsmanship, his sense of honor, duty, and adventure. […] It was Sleeper’s imaginative appeal and Hanson’s good-natured receptivity to it that made Beauport possible. —Paul Hollister Jr., The American Art Journal, Winter, 1981
Hanson’s c. 1920 proposal for alterations to the John B. Drake House, Bass Rocks, Gloucester, Massachusetts, shows him to have been a gifted freehand drafter.
Fall 2014 Historic New England
ABOVE The rebuilding of Our Lady of Good Voyage took less than fifteen months from design to dedication.
his daughter, he had “four draftsmen working night and day.” Despite the good fortune that marked Hanson’s professional life, he achieved all that he did in the face of hardship and even deep sorrow in his personal life. In 1909, a son, Stewart, was born, but he died three years later of a sudden and virulent infection. What impact Stewart’s death had on Hanson’s enormous productivity during those years is uncertain, but Hanson continued to drive himself hard. In February 1914 a fire ravaged Gloucester’s 1893 Our Lady of Good Voyage Roman Catholic church, leading to one of Hanson’s most prominent commissions. According to the church’s centennial booklet, “The ashes of the disaster were hardly cooled when plans were being made to rebuild.” A. Piatt Andrew called on his friends, including Sleeper and Isabella Stewart Gardner, to help raise funds for its reconstruction and they turned to Hanson to draw up the plans. Construction of
the Mission-style church, inspired by one in the Azores, from which much of Gloucester’s Portuguese immigrant community hailed, began in April 1914. The new church was dedicated a little more than a year later in May 1915, shortly after the birth of the Hansons’ daughter, Phyllis. Hanson was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1918 at the age of 34 and was eventually appointed to the Ordnance Department in Washington, D.C. He continued to do private architectural work, and his daughter came to believe that the relentless pace he kept during these years contributed to his falling ill with tuberculosis. Sleeper and Hanson shared a bond over their mutual struggles with frail health. “No one can empathize more than I with you in your present problem,” Sleeper wrote to Hanson from his own room at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in March 1921. Sleeper was instrumental in encouraging and even helping to finance the
“I can truthfully tell you that we never passed your house without eagerly looking for your husband; if he waved to us from the hammock, we felt really happy.” —Caroline Sinkler’s niece, Emily (Sinkler) Roosevelt, to Annie Hanson in 1952 4
Historic New England Fall 2014
Hansons’ journey to Colorado, where the fresh mountain air was thought to be conducive to treating tuberculosis. Not wanting Phyllis to become ill, too, they left her in the care of her aunt and uncle. No one in the family could have predicted that the couple would spend the next eleven years in Colorado. During his time in Colorado, Hanson continued his prolific output via correspondence. He and Sleeper remained close. Hanson continued to work on plans for Beauport, and also designed for clients across the country, including famous actors Frederic March and Mary Pickford. He kept in contact with Eastern Point residents such as Sinkler, who was so fond of the Hansons that she remembered them in her will. Hanson’s illness was inactive by the time he returned to Gloucester, but he was nearly incapacitated. He died in 1952 at the age of sixty-eight, having left an enduring mark on the landscape of Gloucester and beyond. ——Linda L. Brayton and Jennifer A. Holmgren, granddaughter and greatgranddaughter of Halfdan M. Hanson
Hanson made a painstakingly detailed dollhouse for his daughter during his long convalescence in Colorado. The five pieces of dollhouse furniture that survive include this grand piano, built to scale. ABOVE
P E R S P E C T I V E
Inspiring Beauport: The Design Source for Henry Davis Sleeper’s Summer Cottage
The house that inspired Beauport, called Restalls, still exists in the village of Steep, County Hampshire, England. This watercolor drawing by Walter Tyndale depicting the home of British Arts and Crafts architect William F. Unsworth first appeared in print in a special winter 1906–07 issue of The Studio entitled “Old English Country Cottages,” edited by Charles Holme. Fall 2014 Historic New England
The original set of plans for Beauport, dated 1907, closely follows the look of Restalls. RIGHT Beauport mimics the published house in key details, including the distinctive saltbox roofline, clipped end gable, and curious T-shaped window grouping on the south end. Exterior wall surfaces of shingle, brick, and stucco were copied faithfully. The low wing at far left matches Restalls. ABOVE
orwegian-born Gloucester architect and builder Halfdan M. Hanson delivered the first set of plans for a summer cottage to Henry Davis Sleeper in 1907. They included elevations, floor plans, and designs for foundations, framing, plumbing, wiring, and miscellaneous details—everything required to render the house in three dimensions. Architect and client made subtle changes to the plans before breaking ground in the fall. The owner welcomed his first guests to the house then called Little Beauport in August 1908. Credit for its design rests with both men, whose fruitful collaboration continued until Sleeper’s death in 1934. But like every designer, neither man worked entirely in a vacuum. Beauport was in truth inspired by a design in an English magazine. The Studio, an influential monthly publication promoting Arts and Crafts taste, was founded in 1893 by British textile manufacturer Charles Holme and enjoyed a healthy circulation in both England and America. The profusely illustrated winter 1906–07 special issue focused entirely on one topic: old English country cottages. Among its color plates were views of an unidentified house to which Hanson’s subsequent plans for Beauport conform in almost every detail. Oriented with their ridge poles running north to south, both dwellings possess the same long, low profile of one-and-ahalf stories with steeply pitched roof, overhanging eaves, and small gabled dormers of casement sash. The English cottage’s sweep of russet clay roofing tiles, undulating from centuries of settling, is dutifully imitated in Beauport’s wood-shingled version. A massive central brick chimney with arching flue 6
Historic New England Fall 2014
caps in the published house finds identical expression at Beauport, as does a smaller secondary stack, down to its decorative terra-cotta chimney pot. Unique window arrangements in the south elevation of the English model also appear in Beauport, while the westward-facing fronts of both residences feature the same entryway flanked by projecting bay windows opening onto matching paved terraces. Known today as Restalls, the model for Beauport was long associated with the family of that name. It served first as the local priest’s dwelling, then as a private residence, a public house, and finally a tenement before architect William Frederick Unsworth (1851–1912) acquired and renovated the property for his home in 1905. Its debut in the pages of The Studio arrived on newsstands and bookstore shelves in both journal and hardcover editions just as Sleeper resolved to build his summer cottage. The magazine was exactly the sort of publication to attract Sleeper’s attention and aesthetic sensibilities. The tower library at Beauport contains dozens of books and journals on English, European, and American design, including a single surviving issue of The International Studio, the American version of the magazine, from 1913. Young architects like Hanson would have found The Studio fertile ground for inspiration. Indeed, a check of the other pages of the 1906–07 issue reveals striking similarities to Beauport’s later additions, suggesting that Sleeper and Hanson relied on the volume again and again for design ideas. One or the other of the two men must have known the work, although which is not clear. A top-to-bottom search of Beauport failed to produce a copy of either the magazine
or the hardcover edition, and Hanson’s private library was dispersed following his widow’s death. The English cottage style enjoyed a kind of vogue at the turn of the century, projecting the Arts and Crafts ideals of handcraftsmanship and honesty of materials favored equally by promoters of New England’s popular Colonial Revival taste and widely imitated throughout this country. Magazines like The Studio helped transmit the new fashion to patron and architect alike, just as pattern books and journals had done in the past. Beauport was no exception. Its original exterior drew inspiration from an English Arts and Crafts cottage, while its interiors recycled eighteenth-century paneling and European and American decorative arts in new and playful ways that early visitors misconstrued as colonial in taste. Over time, the resemblance to Restalls and the role of The Studio in its early design faded as Beauport’s fame grew and as Sleeper and Hanson continually reworked the house into something distinct and altogether original.
Courtesy of the author © 2014
—Philip A. Hayden Philip A. Hayden is a cultural resources consultant based in Cranbury, New Jersey, and an expert on Sleeper and Beauport.
Hanson seamlessly integrated Sleeper’s requested changes to the original plans, including the diminutive two-story wing projecting toward the harbor from the north end of the house. BELOW Built in the late sixteenth century, Restalls today is listed on England’s equivalent of the National Register (Grade II) and is still in private hands. ABOVE
Post-Unsworth changes include alterations to the T-shaped window grouping at right and a perpendicular two-story wing at left, eerily similar to the one at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House.
Fall 2014 Historic New England
E V E RY O N E ’ S
H I S T O R Y
This bench was made in 1922 by Irving and Casson– A. H. Davenport under the direction of architect Charles Donagh Maginnis for the front hall of the architect’s Brookline, Massachusetts, home. Maginnis is one of the most prominent figures of American ecclesiastical architecture. Among his commissions are the chancel at Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square and the high altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. This piece represents the collaboration between architect and furniture manufacturer that typifies high quality, Boston-made furniture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. LEFT
Collecting the Recent Past
istoric New England has been collecting items from the twentieth century almost since its founding in 1910, when William Sumner Appleton headed to Boston’s North End neighborhood to purchase pieces fresh from the kilns of the Paul Revere Pottery or gathered contemporary automobile advertisements and train schedules for the Library and Archives. As the century recedes, we have an increased focus on building our twentieth-century collections. Following Appleton’s lead, we look for those things that have stories. We are less interested, for instance, in an assembled collection of lunch boxes from the 1950s, than we are in the lunch box your uncle carried to school each day. If there’s a photograph of him holding his lunchbox, so much the better! And of course, the items we collect must be connected to New England. See if this sampling of some of the twentieth-century objects we have added to the collections over the last few years brings to mind any stories of your own. —Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections, and Laura Johnson, Associate Curator
Historic New England Fall 2014
Few objects speak to the youth culture of the 1950s better than a poodle skirt. After the end of World War II and fabric rationing, Christian Dior introduced the “New Look” in women’s fashion, emphasizing skirts with slim waists and yards of swirling fabric. Poodle skirts are one variant of the circle skirt, which could also be decorated with flowers or vignettes. This exuberant example was purchased at Filene’s Basement for the donor’s sixteenth birthday in 1956. She remembers wearing the skirt for special occasions, often paired with a cashmere sweater. RIGHT
Gabrielle Rousseau lived in a threedecker in the Salem, Massachusetts, area known as “the Point,” which had been completely destroyed in the 1914 Salem Fire. The neighborhood was rebuilt in 1917–18 and settled by French Canadians. Many of the homes are still owned by the descendants of the original owners. Miss Rousseau moved into her house in 1918 and spent the rest of her life there, leaving in place the things that had belonged to her parents. When she died in 2012 at the age of 104, she left behind a home filled with decadesold appliances, food and pharmaceutical items, sewing and embroidery supplies, kitchenware, and ephemera. RIGHT
ABOVE When Dorothy Januševi´c married Jacob Stekionis in 1924 in a double ceremony with her brother and his sister, she expected that the two couples would live near each other in their native Lithuania. Instead, within a year, Dorothy and Jacob realized their homeland was too politically unstable, and they decided to move to New England where Jacob had already worked. They spent the next sixty years raising a family and working the land at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts. This handwoven linen table runner, given to Dorothy when she emigrated, embroidered with the initials of the friends who gave it to her, is one of the few items the couple saved from their former home.
Fall 2014 Historic New England
Can you help? New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee has been attracting visitors escaping the summer heat of New York and Boston for more than a century. The Williams family traveled from the Bronx to their camp on the northwestern shore of the lake beginning in the late 1940s. This armchair, made by the O’Hearn Manufacturing Company of Gardner, Massachusetts, as part of its “Antique Sugar Maple Furniture” line, was purchased for one of the family cottages in 1954. Its maple frame and upholstery fabric, decorated with crowing roosters and women churning butter, offered the kind of nostalgic imagery appropriate for people escaping the cares of the modern world. RIGHT
Kathleen Carr made this dress for her daughter Susanna’s ninth-grade dinner dance in 1988. Susanna chose the pattern because she liked the strapless bodice. It was at this dance that she and her classmates received their school yearbooks. They wrote notes in each others’ books, giving them “something to do during the ‘slow’ songs if you weren’t dancing!” The following December Kathleen altered the dress to give it a more wintery feel, adding a black velvet bow and trim for Susanna to wear to the “Snowball Dance.” Kathleen donated the dress along with the McCall’s pattern used to make it, and Susanna wrote up her memories of wearing the dress and shopping with her mother for the fabric. RIGHT
Historic New England Fall 2014
Rival introduced the new Crock-Pot slow cooker in 1971, aimed at working women who found themselves with little time to cook regularly for their families. Rival used the slogan: “Cooks all day while the cook’s away.” The woman who purchased this Crock-Pot around 1974 in Bangor, Maine, remembers being very excited to try the new technology as it promised to give her family “old-time” dinners that she did not need to tend. She also donated the original recipe booklet, inscribed with her notes next to certain recipes that were either “good!” or “o.k.” ABOVE
We continue to look for items that speak of the lives of New Englanders in the twentieth century. Themes such as technology, youth culture, and immigration can be reflected in the items with which we have clothed ourselves or furnished our homes. For instance: • The first television on the block. We’re especially interested in finding one that comes with photographs of the family gathered around it. • Bell-bottom trousers from the sixties, perhaps haphazardly ornamented with psychedelic patches. • Items from a bar or bat mitzvah—an invitation, cards, gift lists, photographs, video, the bar mitzvah suit or bat mitzvah dress. • Items from a same-sex wedding—announcement, photographs and/or video, wedding clothes, etc. • Studio craft items. New England has a rich tradition of training artisans and supporting studio crafts. • A lunch box. With a history of who used it, where, and when. The range of possibilities is almost endless. If you are considering donating a twentiethcentury item to Historic New England please contact collections@ historicnewengland.org.
M A K I N G
L E A R N I N G
F U N
Kelly Kane, Ella Visconti, and Nieve Morrissey smiled throughout the process of designing and sewing, even when they had to use the seam ripper! BELOW Kelly works on laying out her quilt squares. In the foreground is a complete quilt top by one of the other participants. LEFT
Fun with Fiber Arts For hundreds of years farm families have gathered with neighbors to sing and sew. That tradition lives on in the weekly Fun with Fiber Arts after-school program at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts. Projects range from felted soap to stuffed animals, but in the frigid winter months, quilting was a natural choice. Most of the participants were novices for whom the process was both intimidating and exhilarating. Kelly Kane, now in sixth grade, shares what she learned.
At first I was going to base the quilt on my heritage, which is Chinese, but I did not find fabric I liked, so I based it on myself, all fun and crazy. On one part I did connect to being Chinese: the snowflakes in the quilt are like my middle name XueZhen, which
means twinkling light on snow. Picking out fabric in all different cool colors and patterns was my favorite part and once I picked out the fabric I was excited to design my quilt, because I did not know what it was going to come out looking like. It
ended up looking totally different than I imagined it but I still love it! The hardest part about working on my quilt was being patient, especially when I did things wrong and had to pull out a seam ripper and start over! I learned through doing it that no one is perfect and that we all work at different speeds. I also learned how well all of us could come together as one, even though we did not know each other. From the quilting itself I learned to be patient, stick to it, and have fun. â€”Kelly Kane, beginning fiber artist
Fall 2014 Historic New England
PA R T N E R S H I P
Moving Down Main Street
hen the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives in western Massachusetts began planning for the upcoming renovation of their 1864 building, they had to consider how to provide public access to their resources during the yearlong project. The reference and circulating collections were moved to a former train depot in town, while the staff offices and selections from the more than 1,000 objects in the museum collection moved just a few blocks down Main Street to Historic New England’s Merwin House.
Historic New England Fall 2014
Tranquility, as the house was named by the Merwin family, is a handsome building and presents a typical summer home in the Berkshires. Yet with so many other historic sites nearby that have rich stories and notable architecture or associations with more well-known people, Merwin House has always had difficulty finding an audience. So when we learned about the library’s need for temporary office and exhibition space, we jumped at the chance to help out a sister organization while breathing new life into the c. 1825 house. This spring we moved some of our Merwin House collections
into storage to make room for our new housemates, and within the week, library staff began moving in. “We wanted to be sure the most important and most often requested pieces remained accessible to the public,” says Museum & Archives Curator Barbara Allen. Collection highlights now on view at Merwin House include the desk that belonged to Jonathan Edwards, an influential missionary who first came to Stockbridge in 1751 to preach to the local Mohican tribe that lived along the Housatonic River. Also on view is a scale model of a Mohican wigwam, a bronze statue of
Abraham Lincoln by local sculptor Daniel Chester French, and an architect’s model of the famous “shed” at nearby Tanglewood. One of the most beloved pieces in the collection is a small wooden doll named Hitty. Originally purchased by local author Rachel Field in the 1920s, Hitty served as the inspiration for her book, illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. The book won the 1930 Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature and has been reprinted in numerous languages. Today, Hitty has a sizeable fan base, and for the upcoming year she can be visited at Merwin House, along with copies of the famous book about her. The exhibition of Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives collection highlights opened to the public in July. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the history of Stockbridge while providing year-round access to Merwin
House for the first time since Historic New England acquired it in 1966. Several rooms inside Merwin House remain furnished as the family left them, including the parlor, which is filled with European and American furniture and art. What will happen at Merwin House once the library moves back to its renovated building next year? We are currently working with the Stockbridge community to explore new creative uses for Merwin House that will engage the public and help us become an even more active part of the town center. —Peter Gittleman Team Leader, Visitor Experience
Visit the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives exhibition at Merwin House year-round on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Moving day at Merwin House. ABOVE The tiny doll named Hitty is among the most visited objects in the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives’ collection. LEFT Visitors enjoy the temporary exhibition installed at Merwin House. FACING PAGE
Fall 2014 Historic New England
S P O T L I G H T
Plumbing Curiosities Curious features of an old house sometimes reveal themselves in the process of investigating questions on the construction history of the house for a Historic Homeowner member. With more and more information publicly available digitally, detailed descriptions, often from advertisements, give a fascinating picture of the inventions in home design and operation. Shallow sinks were often placed in pantries, where dirty dishes could be cleaned following meals. FACING PAGE BOTTOM The first residential showers served a largely therapeutic purpose as a stimulant. FACING PAGE TOP Multipurpose fixtures like this sink/tub reflected social reformers’ efforts to extend middle-class concepts of cleanliness to workers’ housing. ABOVE
Historic New England Fall 2014
wo-bowl kitchen sinks are something we take for granted in the twenty-first century, but in the early twentieth century the “double pantry sink” was something of a novelty. Often made of metal, copper, or “German metal” (a compound of copper, tin, and nickel), these sinks were quite shallow by current standards. Most notably, the double pantry sink’s two bowls were separated by a distinctive, S-shaped wall. Intended exclusively for washing dishes, the sink was installed in the pantry, not the kitchen. One side presumably held the soapy wash water and the other, the hot rinse water. A 1911 advertisement noted that the E. B. Badger & Sons Company of Boston was a “manufacturer of pantry sinks and wash boilers.” By the early twentieth century, as the germ theory of disease became established and public health norms were standardized, progressive reformers
From the collection of Ohio State Library
began to advocate for sanitation improvements in all classes of housing. Innovators looked for ways to include features that were universal in high-end housing by the 1880s, such as bathtubs, hot water, and flush toilets, into other housing types. Two space-saving plumbing inventions that never made it to the mainstream were the folding shower and the combination kitchen/laundry sink and bathtub. Both had their genesis in the desire, according to the September 1911 issue of Commercial America, “to provide for the moderate-priced apartment, fixtures which only a few years past were found almost exclusively in high-class apartments.” The folding shower was designed to fit into a closet as little as five inches deep and consisted of a receptor (or tray) that folded down to the floor, a curtained shower ring with an attached shower head that extended up from a tiled back wall of the closet, and a mixing valve and drain plumbed into that wall. The whole thing collapsed flat behind a closet door, like a Murphy bed. The combination sink and bathtub appeared in several formats. In one version, a kitchen sink made of lightweight steel and its associated wooden drainboard lifted out of a much deeper double laundry sink of the type still found in many basements. In another version, pictured above, the kitchen sink and drainboard were hinged at the back and could be raised up and locked into place on the wall, leaving the laundry tubs accessible. The laundry tubs facilitated clothes washing but also provided a place for children to be bathed. In some versions, an “absolutely water tight” partition in the tub could be removed for adult bathing. Separate sink and tub outlets maintained each in sanitary condition. The Spacesaver Appliance Company of New York pioneered both designs, though we don’t know how successfully the market received either. The combination sink/tub, however, found an immediate application in the Shively Sanitary Tenements in New York City, the philanthropic gift of Anne Harriman Vanderbilt. This beautifully constructed and architecturally attractive housing development originally built for “needy tubercular families” still stands, as the Cherokee Apartments, on the city’s Upper East Side. In its earliest incarnation the “needle and liver spray shower bath” was an intimidating metal cage of pipes and valves that surrounded the bather and rained water down from directly overhead, like the one pictured at left at Barrett House in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. The perforated “rib-cage” pipes projected a fine, needle-like spray while smaller, adjustable shower heads at waist height provided the “liver spray.” In form and function, the technical complexity of these early showers revealed their original therapeutic use in hospitals and psychiatric institutions and the “rib-cage” shower was the domain of the less healthy and more wealthy. Fall 2014 Historic New England
been relocated to the side wall and angled so it was “not necessary to wet the hair,” sparing the bather a drowning deluge from above. In an era of weekly appointments at the hair salon, Speakman noted “women especially appreciate this feature.” Looking back at the history of even mundane features of an old house, such as its plumbing, and placing those features into their original context helps us understand how buildings continually respond to shifting living standards and changing building technologies, and shows us that many things we now take for granted—a daily shower— were once novelties, and others, like the combination kitchen sink and bathtub, have long since yielded to progress.
Courtesy of Speakman Company
—Sally Zimmerman Senior Preservation Services Manager
But in the early twentieth century, the shower bath began to be promoted as a more hygienic (“you use the water once and it runs off”), less wasteful, quicker, and stimulating way to bathe. The shower bath, as a curtained ring and overhead spray added on to an existing bathtub, gained wider use and acceptance. The Speakman Company of Wilmington, Delaware, an early manufacturer of shower bath fixtures, endorsed the broader domestic use of the shower in a 1922 advertisement, urging readers to “wash and bathe in running water” and to experience how “the impact of scores of sparkling sprays of clean, fresh water renews jaded nerves and relieves fatigue.” By 1932, when Vipont and Edward Merwin installed a builtin Speakman Mixometer Shower and Needle Bath in their summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the shower bath had evolved from a vaguely menacing, free-standing tubular contraption to a sleek series of shower nozzles arrayed within a modern tiled enclosure. The Mixometer controls allowed the shower to be accessed and adjusted from outside the enclosure, while the force of the shower and its sidemounted needle sprays, which could be independently operated, were regulated with valves above the Mixometer. The showerhead had 16
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An early advertisement from the Speakman Company suggests the public had to be sold on the concept of bathing in running water. ABOVE The Mixometer shower at Merwin House predates the widespread adoption of the shower stall. TOP LEFT
Y O U R
S U P P O R T
W O R K
Read about recent and upcoming Preservation Maintenance Fund projects and make a donation today at www.HistoricNewEngland.org/PMF.
Where Life Takes Place
oof repairs. Those two words can send a chill down any homeowner’s spine, and we at Historic New England are no different. Water penetration is one of the leading threats to the integrity of historic buildings, and harsh New England winters make it even more crucial to be proactive about roof maintenance. In the past eighteen months, we’ve embarked on major roof work at three properties. Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut; Arnold House in Lincoln, Rhode Island; and Merwin House in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, all received much-needed but costly repairs. None of the work would have been possible without generous grants from state and private funders, and matching grants from our Preservation Maintenance Fund. Our preservation philosophy demands that we work with contrac-
tors who are sensitive to the challenges posed by historic buildings. Olde Mohawk Historic Preservation in Melrose, Massachusetts, is one such contractor. Owner Ward Hamilton developed a passion for old buildings at a young age. Boardman House in Saugus, Massachusetts, was a fixture in his childhood and inspired his fascination with preservation. “Too many people want to tear down the old,” he says, “but buildings are important. They are where life takes place.” Olde Mohawk was awarded the bid for all three of our recent roof projects, which involved replacing wood shingle and flat-lock copper roofing at Merwin House, applying a lime-based stucco waterproofing treatment called harling to the massive stone chimney at Arnold House, and hand-cutting more than 13,000 cedar shingles at Roseland Cottage. Recently, Hamilton has gotten even more involved with Historic New
England by becoming a Young Friends Patron, our most committed membership category for supporters ages 21 to 50. As someone who is actively involved in the historic preservation community, he says, “I understand that there are limited resources to devote to maintenance, especially preventative maintenance. That’s why it’s important to me not only to provide high-quality work, but also to be involved with Historic New England as a supporter.” Consider making a gift to the Preservation Maintenance Fund to help us provide the proper care for our historic buildings and landscapes for generations to come. —Kimberlea Tracey Vice President for Advancement Ward Hamilton (right) and his staff repair a roof pinnacle at Roseland Cottage. ABOVE RIGHT The cast-stone chimney pots at Roseland Cottage. ABOVE LEFT
Fall 2014 Historic New England
Historic New England Fall 2014
P O R T F O L I O
Basketmaker, Temple, 2006
M North by
Downeast Historic New England gratefully acknowledges photographer Edwin Martin’s recent donation to the Library and Archives of more than one hundred prints from his People of Maine series. View more of Mr. Martin’s work at www. edwinmartin.com.
Dance Tonight, Bangor, 2004
ost of my photographs have a documentary motive. Before moving to Maine in 2001, I had published books of photographs describing circus life and the people of Harkers Island, North Carolina. It was natural to think I might do something similar in Maine, and I set about photographing the architecture and land and people I found. Six years ago I started concentrating almost exclusively on making portraits of Mainers. My efforts were guided by those of some great photographers. One thinks of German photographer August Sander’s early twentieth-century collection of portraits, for example. But I was more captivated by Irving Penn’s pictures of people in small trades. Penn had made studio portraits of people wearing the uniforms of their occupations accompanied by the tools of their trades. I have tried to do something similar, though instead of photographing in a studio, I have traveled to the places where the activities take place. Thus in addition to the faces and uniforms and tools, we see the habitat. I began by thinking about what is special to Maine, and so sought out fishermen, potato farmers, and hockey players. In time I moved on to teachers, police officers, and physicians—the kinds of professions found everywhere. When I stopped, I had about seven hundred portraits. These are of course only a sample of the people and activities in the state. What I hope is that it is representative of how people look and the things that they do in the early part of this century. —Edwin Martin Fall 2014 Historic New England
Veterinarian, Bangor, 2010
Judge, Bangor, 2010
Cooks, Bangor, 2012
Object Maker, Bangor, 2002
Historic New New England EnglandFall Fall 2014 2014
Cheesemaker, Brooksville, 2012
Potato Farmer, Aroostook County, 2011
Islamic Leader, Orono, 2011
Bakers, Bangor, 2011 Fall Fall 2014 2014Historic Historic New NewEngland England
“Their works will follow them”:
Building the Irving and Casson– A. H. Davenport Archive
F R O M
T H E
A R C H I V E S
The firm offered its customers a wide range of cabinets, including this one in the Chinese Chippendale style. RIGHT This intricate advertisement emulating Arts and Crafts movement book design includes the company’s Latin motto, which translates as “their works will follow them.” BELOW Craftsmen work on sculptures intended for one of the many churches whose interiors the firm executed. FACING PAGE
n 1914 a tastefully designed and printed pamphlet announced the merger of two longtime Boston firms specializing in furniture making and interior decoration. A. H. Davenport Company and Irving and Casson would become Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Company. From its new and modern showrooms at 573–579 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston, and 601 Fifth Avenue in New York, the consolidated business would continue to offer the ser-
vices of “Cabinet Making, Architectural Woodwork and Church Interiors, Ecclesiastical Wood Carving, Designing and Making of Furniture to order, Wall Hangings, Floor Coverings and Decorative Painting, as well as Upholstery and Draperies.” Its workshop would remain in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although each company was already nationally known, their merger created a design powerhouse that would remain active and influential for years to come, appealing to both titans of industry and middle-class consumers desirous of showing off their good taste and discernment. Albert H. Davenport was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1845. In 1866 he went to work for the Boston furniture maker Ezra H. Brabrook. After purchasing Brabrook’s business in 1880, Davenport turned it into one of the most successful all-purpose design firms in the country. His projects included the Iolani Palace in Honolulu and the White House. Henry Clay Frick, F. W. Woolworth, George Eastman, and Cornelius Vanderbilt were among his clients. Architects such as H. H. Richardson; McKim, Mead, and White; Peabody and Stearns; and Little and Browne turned to him and his firm for the execution of their designs. Working together, Davenport and his chief designer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology–trained architect Francis H. Bacon, oversaw the Fall 2014 Historic New England
creation of a wide range of furniture types and interiors in a variety of styles, all produced with exceptional craftsmanship. The partnership of carpenters Charles R. Irving and Robert Casson started in 1874. Beginning with the production of wood mantels and interior finishes, the firm expanded to include furniture and upholstery. Like Davenport, Irving and Casson worked with well-known architects such as Ralph Adams Cram and began to supply these architects with furnishings, particularly for church interiors. Starting with A. H. Davenport and continuing after the merger, the firm built an extensive reference library that contained books about American, British, and European furniture and numerous scrapbooks containing thousands of pages filled with clippings and photographs that served as sources of inspiration and guidelines for accuracy for the designers. The company also took great pains to organize more than 1,500 original design drawings in albums by furniture type. Employing photography as a documentary tool, the firm created nearly two hundred albums consisting of more than 15,000 pages, also arranged by furniture type, that track the company’s prodigious output. As the firm declined in the mid-twentieth century, items from its archive began to appear on the market. Given
The firm was responsible for most of the furniture in
the lavish Noyes-Buick dealership on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston (now Boston University’s College of Fine Arts), including this clock and the accompanying panels depicting the history of transportation. RIGHT The collection includes thousands of pencil sketches illustrating a wide variety of furniture designs, such as this one for a cabinet in the Jacobean Revival style. 24
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Historic New England’s international reputation as a leading source of primary materials for the study of interiors and New England craftsmanship, it made sense for us to acquire some of the items. Through generous donations, we received original design sketches, company correspondence, items of ephemera, and albums of photographs. We also purchased items including a collection of more than 136 exquisite watercolor renderings of furniture designs that were created to impress clients. In 2012 we learned that the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, was deaccessioning collections that no longer related to its current mission as the National Museum of Play. Among these collections was a vast archive of Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport material that The Strong had acquired in the 1980s. The Strong wanted the collection to remain intact and go to an institu-
Designs for a sofa of neoclassical design, a Chinese-inspired couch, and a cocktail and coffee table in English oak are beautifully rendered in watercolor. They were meant to entice customers and showcase the firm’s virtuosity and craftsmanship. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT
Data and Discovery
tion where it would be preserved and made accessible to the broadest public. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous foundation and individual donors, we were able to acquire the collection, thus increasing our Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport holdings by almost 3,000 percent. But we did not stop there. Recently, we were the high bidder on a group of seventeen drawings of designs for furniture and interiors offered on eBay. The collection of Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport artifacts is also growing. Recently we acquired a hall bench executed by Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport according to designs by architect Charles Maginnis (see “Collecting the Recent Past,” page 8) and a center table designed by Francis H. Bacon. Numerous examples of the firm’s wallpaper patterns and architectural elements are also among our holdings. Today, again thanks to an anonymous foundation and additional individual donors, we are cataloguing and digitizing our Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport holdings, which will bring the unparalled richness of the collection to audiences across the globe. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives
As we catalogue the Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Collection, we are creating detailed records, including high-resolution photographs, of all the watercolors, design drawings, and sample book photographs. We are creating a database of information about the order dates and details, customers, salespeople, and furniture makers. The accumulation of this data in one place will greatly enhance our understanding of the work of this important firm. When we’re finished, more than 8,000 digital images, a finding aid, and the catalogue records will all be available on our website. Designers, architects, historians, and anyone interested in American decorative arts will be able to search the collection online by subjects including furniture type and style, building, customer, and location. This undertaking has been a voyage of discovery. One day I may write detailed descriptions of intricate drawings of table designs, the next day I may select photographs of finished tables for digitization, then I may scour the journals for data about the customers who purchased those very tables and the workers who made them. I never know what I will find when I turn a page in an album or open a folder of drawings. I hope everyone using the website will be as enthusiastic about the discoveries they make. —Lynne Paschetag Project Archivist, Irving and Casson– A. H. Davenport Collection
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P R I M E R
Roller-printed Rococo patterns, like this graceful acanthus leaf on a luminous sea-green ground found in the Sarah Orne Jewett House in South Berwick, Maine, were popular for a long period in America, outlasting concurrent mid-nineteenthcentury styles. LEFT
Revered, Reused… Then Forgotten Historic New England’s remarkable collection of floorcloth fragments offers a kaleidoscopic look at one of the ways nineteenth-century Americans decorated and protected the floors in their homes. The collection covers a wide range of periods and styles from geometric patterns dating to the early nineteenth century to a small piece of printed varnished cloth created for a twentieth-century dollhouse to imitate a factory-made floorcloth.
B The thirteen stars and eagle on this manufacturer’s stamp found on the reverse of an early block-printed fragment attest to the floorcloth’s American origins. ABOVE
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rilliantly colored in complex patterns, floorcloths were thick, pliable, reflective, and water-resistant floor coverings popular throughout the nineteenth century. Most floorcloths were factory produced in impressive widths with patterns imitating carpet, stone, encaustic tile, or embossed leather. They were often purchased with coordinated patterned borders. Laid wall to wall, the block-printed, varnished
surfaces were easy to clean and cool to live on in summer. They blocked cold drafts in winter while the glowing designs embellished hallways, stairs, and dining rooms in every style and class of home. When worn or when tastes changed, cloths were rolled up and sent out for reprinting or cut up for reuse in secondary rooms. Likely due to the strength of fiber, linen was favored as the base fabric, although cotton and hemp were also
An opulent fragment found in a house owned by the Webster family in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, illustrates the fashion for intricate Moorish design during the Aesthetic period (1870–95). The blockprinted design resembles finely tooled, painted, and burnished leather. Newspaper was often laid under floorcloths as padding material. This fragment is backed with newspaper dated July 27, 1894. BELOW
This thin, rigid, hand-stenciled cloth fragment illustrates the Federal vernacular. The fragment was found as backing within a framed sampler made by Mary Woodward, dated 1805–06. Similar patterns labeled basket weave with foliate border are seen stenciled on floors, bedcoverings, women’s clothing, walls, and boxes of the era. ABOVE
used. Some floorcloths were homemade, but few of this type survive; Historic New England owns only one such fragment (pictured at upper right). Factory-made cloths were far superior, although they had high costs and wait times for delivery. By 1820 customers could draft plans of dimensions and send their orders to known floorcloth manufacturers operating in Boston, Hartford, and Philadelphia, as well as Frederick, Maryland, and
These two fragments were nailed to the exterior of a shipping crate inscribed with an address: V. E. Sibley/Baldwinville/Mas/BMRR (Boston and Maine Railroad). Baldwinville was renamed Templeton in the 1850s, indicating the cloth was made twenty to thirty years earlier. This unusual repurposing of a worn floorcloth shows that it was appreciated even as a fragment. ABOVE
Fall 2014 Historic New England
Lexington, Kentucky. The viscous primers, paints, and varnishes required long drying periods. Manufacturers urged customers to order early. As with all household consumer goods, increased demand for floorcloths led to increased production. Manufacturers continually refined technologies, with attention given to reshuffled styles of Empire, Gothic, Rococo, and Renaissance Revival. New cloths were priced according to pattern, number of colors, and quality in printing; installed coverings were included in probate inventories and
Courtesy of Historic Deerfield Library, Deerfield, Massachusetts
Historic New England Fall 2014
handed down or sold secondhand. Although dearly priced in the eighteenth century, by the later half of the nineteenth century the coveted factorymade floorcloth was imitated by less expensive roller-printed tarpapers and even varnished wallpapers. Laid on floorboards, they served as cheap but colorful alternatives. By the turn of the twentieth century, the floor coverings were worn and grimy from as many as forty to eighty years of use. They had lost appeal and were largely discarded. While the preceding two centuries saw a steady increase in production of floor coverings of all types, the early twentieth-century popularity for Colonial Revival taste had homeowners now praising the warm glow of bare pine floors. To them, varnished boards of knotty pine symbolized the rustic romance of days gone by. Receiving scant appreciation, floorcloths were rarely considered worthy of collecting. This is only one reason why Historic New England’s collection is exceptional.
Accumulated grime and layers of old varnish have darkened and yellowed the jewel-like colors on this midcentury Gothic Revival floorcloth. The reproduction floorcloth hand painted by the author, now in Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, shows its original bright and lively pattern. David Dempsey, Smith College associate director for museum services, and students in his program on art conservation used an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine that Prussian blue, vermilion, red, and white lead were used in the original. ABOVE
An engraving from the Illustrated Exhibitor and Magazine of Art (London, 1852) of the drying room at Nathan Smith’s floorcloth manufactory shows wide goods including border patterns hanging to cure before rolling and shipping. LEFT
—Marylou Davis Conservator and decorative painter Marylou Davis, along with intern Margaret Kean, recently re-created a c. 1860 canvas floorcloth for the downstairs hallway of Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts.
O N L I N E
A C C E S S
A Renowned Collection
Expands Its Reach
istoric New England’s newly expanded wallpaper database makes one of the country’s largest collections of historic wallcoverings more accessible than ever. Thanks in part to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we’ve been able to catalogue, photograph, and re-house 6,000 samples from woodblock prints to William Morris designs to more than 2,000 items from the Waterhouse Archive of Historic Wallpapers. “The new photography we’re able to share is better than ever before,” says Wallpaper Cataloguer Peggy Wishart. “You can zoom in to see every detail, even the writing on the selvedge.” The collection spans three centuries and is the most comprehensive collection of wallpapers used and produced in New England. Highlights include early imported papers, such as a stenciled wallpaper from the 1750s with an English tax stamp on the reverse,
Explore www.wallpaperhistory.org and to learn more about the papers depicted here by entering their accession numbers in the search box:
used in the Whipple House in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and gilt-figured samples from 1860–70, used in a home in Keene, New Hampshire. Historic New England’s collection includes not only wallpaper samples, but also scrapbooks, borders, bandboxes, fireboards, and scenic panels, many of which are accessible online for the first time. The new website encourages users to browse and discover even if they don’t have a specific research focus or aren’t familiar with decorative or art historical terms. “The collection is searchable not only by date, location, and manufacturer, but also by keywords like color and type of pattern,” says Wishart. Whether you’re a scholar looking for specific documentation or a homeowner envisioning your dream décor one Pinterest board at a time, our expanded wallpaper website provides specific search results and serendipitous discovery alike.
Clockwise from upper right: 2001.281.1155, 2011.281.641, 2001.281.862, 2001.281.1042, 2001.281.874, 2001.281.116E, 2001.281.902, 2001.281.229AB.
O B J E C T
L E S S O N
Thrice the brinded Cat hath mew’d.—Macbeth.
Canary bird tooth by Andrew P. Jenney. New Bedford Whaling Museum.
“Brinded Cats”: A Yankee Whaleman-Artist and His Scrimshaw
crimshaw refers to artworks and utilitarian objects made on shipboard (primarily by whalemen) out of the sperm whale ivory, walrus ivory, and baleen byproducts during the Age of Sail, in the era of Moby-Dick. Admirers have regarded much of it as “charming” and “magical.” Given the small scale of the artworks and the amateur status and comparative youth of the sailor-artists who produced it, there does seem to be something elusive and uncanny about the best work, perhaps analogously to medieval Flemish wooden miniatures, monastic illuminations, and Fabergé eggs. The allusion to Shakespeare’s Witches of Endor in the Scottish Play seems apt: Double, double toil and trouble Fire burn, and cauldron bubble Fillet of a fenny snake In the cauldron boil and bake. The arduous, “double toil and trouble” of the capture and cuttingin—filleting a whale at sea—is followed by the “fire burn, and cauldron bubble” of boiling down blubber to render the oil in the great iron tryworks cauldrons amidships; and only then, after the oil is stowed down, may the sailors turn their attention to making art out of the hard byproducts that remain. By brinded the Bard means “marked as by burning or branding”—that is, “Of a tawny or brownish colour, marked with bars or streaks of a different hue…” (OED, I:1106); and truly, scrimshawed whale ivory, walrus ivory, and bone are marked and branded “with bars or streaks of a different hue.” Okay, so perhaps it’s not art on a par with Shakespeare; but it is an authentic, historically poignant occupational genre illustrative of the mainstream interests and concerns of an authentic labor class of the Young Republic, worth examining for its aesthetic endearments and potentially bewitching powers
Historic New England Fall 2014
of enchantment. In the limited space of these pages, a glimpse at a few minor creations of a single whaleman-practitioner— our “brinded Cats”—must suffice to exemplify the thousands of Yankee mariners who at one time or another tried their hands at scrimshandering and whose artworks remain for us to appreciate today. Andrew Pickens Jenney (1821–1895)—career whaleman and sometime scrimshaw artist—was the eldest son of Abisha Jenney and Phebe née Putman. He and his four brothers grew up on the 110-acre family farm in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, a substantial whaling port in its own right, across the Acushnet River from New Bedford, the boomtown hub of American whaling (it was from Fairhaven that Herman Melville sailed in the Acushnet in 1841 on the voyage from which Moby-Dick ultimately resulted). The Jenney boys, like so many in these “company towns,” grew up dreaming of going whaling. Eventually all five did—Andrew at age seventeen with kid brother John, age sixteen, in tow, as green hands in the Fairhaven ship South Boston (1838–40). Andrew was next an Ordinary Seaman in the same ship (1840–42), then went five successive outings in New Bedford vessels, steadily advancing in rank, responsibility, and pay as boatsteerer (harpooner), ship Copia (1842– 45); second mate, bark Frances (sailed in 1845, burned at Mauritius in 1846); second mate, bark Bartholomew Gosnold (1847–48); and first mate, ship Nautilus (1851–52), a berth he resigned to become first mate in the Copia (1852– 55). This led to his appointment as master of the Fairhaven bark Joseph Maxwell, in which he commanded two voyages (1855–58 and 1859–63). During a layover ashore in 1858 he married Sarah Akin of Fairhaven (born 1834). A daughter came along the following year when Jenney was at sea again, but Sarah died soon after, leaving the toddler to live with her grandparents on the Akin family farm. That voyage was Jenney’s last. He settled on his own farm in Fairhaven,
Captain Jenney engraved one of these two very different interpretations of the same uncolored fashion plate from the January 1860 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. His version is pictured at right. Jenney and Kendall Collections, New Bedford Whaling Museum. BELOW Matching oval ditty box and whale ivory pie-crimper, attributed to Andrew P. Jenney, in whose family they descended. Jenney Collection, New Bedford Whaling Museum. ABOVE
married Sarah’s older sister Lucy (1830–1913), fathered four more children, and passed thirty-six years in comfortable agrarian retirement. His daughter Bertha (born 1866) donated the scrimshaw to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 1942; son Arthur (born 1867) corroborated the attributions. —Stuart M. Frank Stuart M. Frank is senior curator emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, founding director of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory, and author of numerous monographs, articles, and chapters on maritime art, history, literature, and music. His Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum was awarded the nineteenth Historic New England Book Prize in 2013. AUTHOR’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am grateful to Dr. Jack H. T. Chang, who identified many of the original pictorial sources for scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and to Richard Donnelly, who photographed the scrimshaw for use here and in Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved.
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L A N D S C A P E S
Reclaiming Castle Tucker’s Historic Waterfront
n 2010 Historic New England commissioned a cultural landscape treatment plan for Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine. We wanted to understand what would be required to restore the landscape to its early twentieth-century appearance, in keeping with our interpretation period for the property. The report analyzed historic maps, images, and other primary sources to reconstruct the character of the landscape during these years and make recommendations for the restoration. Among other features, the report identifies and focuses attention on the industrial waterfront. During the nineteenth century the Sheepscot River waterfront at Castle Tucker was lined with wooden and brick structures. The period of greatest density started before Castle Tucker was built in 1807 and continued until 1866, when a fire caused significant damage to waterfront businesses. A second fire in 1870 destroyed almost all that remained. Among the structures that survived were a sail-making
Historic New England Fall 2014
shop, a foundry, and a small building that the Tuckers may have used as a cabana. By the early twentieth century all the buildings had been torn down. In the decades since, vegetation grew up covering the waterfront and blocking the views of the water from the house and vice versa. When we began researching how to clear invasive plants from the water’s edge, we discovered the remnants of an orchard. The orchard is significant to our twentieth-century story because, during tough economic times, homeowner Mollie Tucker sold her homemade pie fillings and chow-chow (relish) made from fruit and vegetables that the family grew on the property. We also determined that the waterfront was zoned as a very restricted natural resource protection area that permitted almost no action to clear the brush. Working with the town, we were able to reclassify the zoning in 2013 and begin clearing invasive plants so that we could inventory the actual trees and shrubs and develop a more comprehen-
sive plan for the waterfront. We continue taking small steps to carry out the recommendations of the cultural landscape treatment plan along the waterfront and elsewhere on the property. Portions of the hedge blocking the house have been removed, successfully opening up views of the house from the street. The historic tennis and croquet area is now mowed so that it can be interpreted as such. Research continues on disease-resistant elm trees that still maintain the classic V shape in the hope of future installation on the lawn. And now, with the help of the Town of Wiscasset, we are clearing vegetation along Castle Tucker’s waterfront, reclaiming this important part of Wiscasset’s industrial heritage. —Ben Haavik Team Leader, Property Care Castle Tucker is pictured at the far left of this c. 1900 photograph from a Tucker family album. ABOVE
Turn the pages of history
of New England history, architecture, and culture this holiday season. Explore the art of architectural illustration in Drawing Toward Home, linger in the nooks and crannies of Beauport, listen to the stories of domestic servants in Voices from the Back Stairs, or delve into Modernism with Walter Gropius: The Man Behind the Ideas and Ise Gropius, both 2014 honorees at the New England Museum Association publication awards. SHARE YOUR LOVE
for these and many more books by staff past and present, trusted references on preservation and historic homes, and select winners of the Historic New England Book Prize. Give a gift that engages and inspires while supporting our work to preserve our shared history. See what you’ll discover at www.HistoricNewEngland.org/shop. SHOP ONLINE TODAY
Twentieth Annual Prize Honors Two Books Since 1995 the Historic New England Book Prize has honored publications that make a significant contribution to our understanding of New England and its relation to the wider world. This year, two titles so impressed the Book Prize committee that it chose to award its twentieth annual prize to both. Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection by Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling, and Catherine Compton Swanson and “With Éclat”: The Boston Athenaeum and the Origin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Hina Hirayama paint previously unseen portraits of iconic cultural institutions and their collections. “Each of these books presents new and compelling research and is eloquently written and beautifully produced,” says Senior Curator of Library and Archives Lorna Condon. Find them both at www.HistoricNewEngland.org/shop.
141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702
Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Boston, Massachusetts Permit No. 58621
A C Q U I S I T I O N S
A Rare Boston Sofa Neoclassical sofa by William Hancock. Boston, 1825–30. Mahogany, mahogany veneer.
s the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture collaboration (www.fourcenturies.org) draws to a close, we have a chance to reflect on a recent addition to our own collection. This sofa was made by William Hancock, a successful furniture manufacturer and upholsterer working in Boston from 1819 to 1849. It is one of five nearly identical surviving examples; one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other three are in private collections. Three of the five (not ours)
are signed or labeled by Hancock. They all appear to date from the late 1820s and relate to a drawing in Thomas Sheraton’s 1805 volume of The Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer and General Artist’s Encyclopaedia. Ours had modern upholstery in poor condition and we decided to restore it using a more appropriate textile. We carefully stripped it hoping to find a thread of fabric under an original nail, but none survived. Historic New England owns a labeled William Hancock cushion of the same period.
The reproduction red damask shown here is based on that cushion. While the sofa itself offered no clues as to its original fabric, Supervising Conservator Alex Carlisle found evidence in the process that the sofa originally had springs, a very early use of what was then a new technology. See the newly restored Hancock sofa in the parlor at Otis House in Boston. —Nancy Carlisle Senior Curator of Collections
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