Wallace Nutting, American (1861 - 1941)

  Wallace Nutting was born in Rockbottom, Massachusetts, on Sunday, November 17, 1861. The second child to Albion and Elizabeth (Fifield) Nutting. His only sibling, a sister, Edith, was two years older than he. (She died in
1878 at the age of eighteen).

His father was a volunteer from Massachusetts Thirty-Ninth Regiment
Infantry, M.V. and mustered on August 18, 1862, for a three year hitch
when Wallace was nine months old. He fought in Virginia and on October 14,
1864, died in Washington, DC, in service to his country. He is buried in
Arlington National Cemetery. Wallace writes, "Not till I was grown could I
visit his grave..."

His mother was, "a Fifield (of) New Hampshire stock". In 1865, after the
death of Wallace's father, and the house he built burned, she moved the
family North to Industry, Maine, to live with her brother, "Uncle Joe".

He started school at age four. At age eleven he attended a private High
School and at age twelve was at Augusta, (Maine) High School. For three
years he worked clerking and keeping books. He entered Phillips Exeter
Academy and in 1883, continued his studies at Harvard University, Hartford
Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary. Whitman College
conferred Pastor Nutting with a Doctor of Divinity in 1893. In 1938 he was
honored with a Doctor of Humanities from Washington and Jefferson College.

Being a Congregational Minister was a way of life. At the age of three, to
his mother's shock he stood on the seat at church and competed with the
clergyman in giving the benediction. At age eight it was a custom to have
a home service in which he officiated to a congregation consisting of his
sister Edith and cousin Mamie. "As early as my going to Phillips Exeter
Academy," he writes, "my mind was set towards being a minister of the
gospel..." He graduated from Harvard with the class of 1887 and "without
commendation of my professors", he took a call from, "an old parish in
Fryeburg, Maine".

On June 5, 1888 he married Mariet Griswold, whose birthplace is listed as
"the Old Griswold homestead, erected of brick..." in Buckland,
Massachusetts. They had no children.

Wallace Nutting was forced to retire from the pulpit at age forty-three
because of poor health. He describes this experience as, "The greatest
sorrow of my life, almost a killing sorrow, to cease from the regular
duties of a pastor". This becomes evident throughout his life and work.
Some of his pictures can be found with scriptural titles. No doubt
pictures that had significant meaning to him.

Wallace Nutting started taking pictures in 1899 while on long bicycle
rides in the countryside. In 1904 he opened the Wallace Nutting Art Prints
Studio on East 23rd Street in New York. After a year he moved his business
to a farm in Southbury, CT. He called this place "Nuttinghame". In 1912 he
moved the photography studio to Framingham, MA. A home he called,
"Nuttingholme". In the peak of his business he employed about two-hundred
colorist. Only a few of whom were authorized to title and sign his
photographs. In fact, Wallace Nutting signed very few of the pictures he
sold. Because of the sheer number sold, ten millions by his own account,
It would have been difficult in light of ill health and his interest in
publishing and furniture making for him to sign them all. This accounts
for the various signature styles that can be found. Collectors have
learned to recognize an authorized signature as well as Wallace Nutting's
own. Signature styles can date a picture and the combination of other
elements can authenticate a signature. (Some examples can be viewed in an
article on signatures.

His interest in publishing blossomed when he moved to Framingham, MA. Here
also, around 1917 he started to reproduce antique furniture. He list his
first book published as "Windsor Chairs, 1917", however, his rarest
publication, Old New England Pictures is copyrighted 1913.

Wallace Nutting's mission in making reproduction furniture was to "produce
the best forms, put together in the finest manner,..", and "...to make
correct pieces of their period available." The business, which Wallace
Nutting says "lost around a hundred thousand dollars making reproduction
furniture." made furniture so correct in the old manner that on occasion
unscrupulous people would artificially age his furniture and sell it as
'period' for a hundred times the purchase price. The early furniture was
marked with a paper tag which would either fall off or be intentionally
removed. In 1922 he sold his photography and furniture business and
retired. The new owners used the Wallace Nutting name in script, branded
into the furniture as a mark of authenticity. After two years, seeing the
decline of quality in production and the demise of his good name Wallace
Nutting exercised his rights to buy back both businesses to protect the
public and his own name. The money needed was realized from the sale of
his collection of five antique houses and their contents. At this point
Wallace Nutting burned his name, "in plain capitals" into all the
furniture that he made. Disavowing any responsibility for the script
brand.

In the 1920's he authored the first edition States Beautiful series. Ten
books describing his travels to eight states and two foreign countries. He
also authored several books on period furniture. In 1935 he started
publishing second editions to his States Beautiful series and The Clock
Book. In 1936 he wrote and published his biography because, "...these are
hard times and I have sold it."

He traveled extensively. To take pictures; to buy period furniture; and,
to lecture on old American houses. On the latter subject he said, "America
with its abundant materials everywhere for dwellings that might outlast
the ages will fail disgracefully unless she can learn that the monuments
which are nearer than any other to feeding the heart and enshrining
history are old dwellings."

Wallace Nutting died at his home at 24 Vernon St., Framingham, MA on
Saturday, July 19, 1941, at age 79. Services were held in the Plymouth
Congregational Church, Framingham, MA. Pastor Rev. Roswell F. Hinkelman
officiated with Rev. William A. Knight assisting. The body was taken to
Augusta, Maine for burial.

Ever the minister. Reluctant to be called an artist. In such a short
period of time he recorded America as it was. As it will never be again.
He taught an appreciation for the beautiful. And labored more to develope
character than wealth. Truly a remarkable man.

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