Nutting, American (1861 - 1941)
Wallace Nutting was born in
Rockbottom, Massachusetts, on Sunday, November
17, 1861. The second child to Albion and Elizabeth (Fifield)
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
Infantry, M.V. and mustered on August 18, 1862, for a three
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
family North to Industry, Maine, to live with her brother, "Uncle
He started school at age four. At age eleven he attended a
School and at age twelve was at Augusta, (Maine) High School.
years he worked clerking and keeping books. He entered Phillips
Academy and in 1883, continued his studies at Harvard University,
Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary. Whitman
conferred Pastor Nutting with a Doctor of Divinity in 1893.
In 1938 he was
honored with a Doctor of Humanities from Washington and Jefferson
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
clergyman in giving the benediction. At age eight it was a custom
a home service in which he officiated to a congregation consisting
sister Edith and cousin Mamie. "As early as my going to
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
On June 5, 1888 he married Mariet Griswold, whose birthplace
is listed as
"the Old Griswold homestead, erected of brick..."
Massachusetts. They had no children.
Wallace Nutting was forced to retire from the pulpit at age
because of poor health. He describes this experience as, "The
sorrow of my life, almost a killing sorrow, to cease from the
duties of a pastor". This becomes evident throughout his
life and work.
Some of his pictures can be found with scriptural titles. No
pictures that had significant meaning to him.
Wallace Nutting started taking pictures in 1899 while on long
rides in the countryside. In 1904 he opened the Wallace Nutting
Studio on East 23rd Street in New York. After a year he moved
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
colorist. Only a few of whom were authorized to title and sign
photographs. In fact, Wallace Nutting signed very few of the
sold. Because of the sheer number sold, ten millions by his
It would have been difficult in light of ill health and his
publishing and furniture making for him to sign them all. This
for the various signature styles that can be found. Collectors
learned to recognize an authorized signature as well as Wallace
own. Signature styles can date a picture and the combination
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,
also, around 1917 he started to reproduce antique furniture.
He list his
first book published as "Windsor Chairs, 1917", however,
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,
Nutting says "lost around a hundred thousand dollars making
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
marked with a paper tag which would either fall off or be intentionally
removed. In 1922 he sold his photography and furniture business
retired. The new owners used the Wallace Nutting name in script,
into the furniture as a mark of authenticity. After two years,
decline of quality in production and the demise of his good
Nutting exercised his rights to buy back both businesses to
public and his own name. The money needed was realized from
the sale of
his collection of five antique houses and their contents. At
Wallace Nutting burned his name, "in plain capitals"
into all the
furniture that he made. Disavowing any responsibility for the
In the 1920's he authored the first edition States Beautiful
books describing his travels to eight states and two foreign
also authored several books on period furniture. In 1935 he
publishing second editions to his States Beautiful series and
Book. In 1936 he wrote and published his biography because,
hard times and I have sold it."
He traveled extensively. To take pictures; to buy period furniture;
to lecture on old American houses. On the latter subject he
with its abundant materials everywhere for dwellings that might
the ages will fail disgracefully unless she can learn that the
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,
Saturday, July 19, 1941, at age 79. Services were held in the
Congregational Church, Framingham, MA. Pastor Rev. Roswell F.
officiated with Rev. William A. Knight assisting. The body was
Augusta, Maine for burial.
Ever the minister. Reluctant to be called an artist. In such
period of time he recorded America as it was. As it will never
He taught an appreciation for the beautiful. And labored more
character than wealth. Truly a remarkable man.