Wallace Nutting Was Here

Nutting Image

If you are familiar with the Colonial Revival style then you should be familiar with Wallace Nutting. He could be referred to as the father of the Colonial Revival movement. His photographs of historic sites with people, mainly women, dressed in colonial inspired dress working or sitting in colonial style settings in historic homes were exceptionally popular during the first decades of the twentieth century. A minister and antiquarian, as well as a photographer and furniture maker, Nutting lectured, taught, wrote books, and was an antiques expert. His reproduction furniture is so good that it can pass as original. But he is most well known for his photographs and at a young age I was taught about these photographs. It was my Father actually who noted quite a few years ago now that this image you see here is a Nutting – we have several of this image in the collection. I do not know who the woman is but she is standing on the back porch of Mitchell House at the entry to the 1825 Kitchen. Not much has changed although you can see that the shingles were once painted – we still have the remnants of this paint on the east side of the house if that lets you know how long those shingles have lasted! So the Mitchell House also got the Nutting treatment at one point. He was here on the island – and lived in Massachusetts where most of his subjects were found. There is at least one other print I know about of an island building – 99 Main Street – though I am sure there are more.

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

July 29 {1873}. En route to St. Petersburg and we are told that we keep this car right through. We have sleeping car thus. The lady’s toilette is round and into that the Conductor locked me this morning . . . . I found I could open the window and get air and there was a very comfortable arm chair, but I was distressed about Willie who could not know where I was.

After an hour I put my head out of the window just as Willie did the same. He was delighted as I was. When the next stopping place came the Conductor was at hand at once and let me out. Willie had been much alarmed . . . .

On her second trip to Europe in 1873, Maria traveled with her sister Phebe Mitchell Kendall, Phebe’s husband, Joshua, and their son, William Mitchell Kendall – the family always referred to him as Willie. At one point, Maria and Willie struck out on their own, visiting the Observatory at Pulkova. I came across this amusing entry that I had not read before and laughed as I imagined Maria stuck in the bathroom – haven’t we all been there before – but also her sixteen or seventeen year old nephew panicked that his aunt was missing and in a foreign country and on a train to boot!

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Denmark

Danish Journal on medal

Not exactly so, but 167 years after she spotted the comet that helped to bring her worldwide fame and her receipt of a medal from the King of Denmark for her discovery, Maria’s medal is still noteworthy. There is an organization in Denmark that celebrates these medals and a recent journal article featured Maria’s gold medal. It turns out that her medal is the only one that has the awardees’ name engraved on the edge! My first thought was, “Is that because she was the first woman to receive the medal?” but of course we don’t know exactly but it is a nice thought and maybe it actually is the case.

In any case, they asked for permission to use images of the medal and Maria Mitchell on the publication for which the MMA Archives and Special Collections receives a free and a copy of the publication for the Archives. This one is all in Dutch but I am happy to say that Maria made the cover – as you can see.

JNLF

A Pony in the Pony Lot

Ham Pony Field

This is the Eleanor Ham Pony Field on Mill Street; sometimes referred to as the Ham Pony Lot (at least in my book – not literal book mind you). What struck me as nice when I saw this is that horses had a stop-over there one morning as I was heading in to work. Horses and ponies and other farm animals do not frequent this lot much anymore. The land was given to the Nantucket Historical Association about 1979. At one point around Town, there were open spaces that were communally used for grazing. William Mitchell had a plot of land further up Vestal Street near the Quaker cemetery on what is now Quaker Road. There he kept his horse and did a small bit of farming; though the family joke was that he grew more flowers than edibles because he loved bright colors and as a Quaker, bright colors were frowned upon.

JNLF

Painting Has Begun on the Library Wing!

Sanding the porch and steel windows

Sanding the porch and steel windows

Now that the masonry is complete on the MMA’s Former Library – soon to become the EcologyLab – the painters have moved in. The first order of business is the original steel windows. A few will need repairs at a later time but in order to stop the rust from growing, we have gone ahead and painted the windows. The painter, Jim Tyler, and his crew began with a special primer paint for steel. It’s a lovely warm brown color and we all toyed for more than a few moments about keeping the windows brown. But historically, they were white so the crew applied several coats of white to the window sashes and trim. Next up will be painting the gutters and downspouts and finally the stucco. The stucco will be returned to its more grayish brown color which it was originally. The stucco we all see today does not appear to be the original final coating – a new layer of stucco was applied at some point in the mid-20th century. The paint on the stucco will be a mineral paint which is environmentally friendly and will also allow the stucco to breathe and release moisture, not trap it and cause humidity and water issues for the building.

You may have noticed some re-shingling on the east side along the street as well. This was done by carpenter Matt Anderson who works on historic structures. We noted that the building had only been re-shingled one time before on this elevation. Anderson also repaired and replaced gutters and downspouts on the wood portion of the building.

The special steel primer coat on the steel windows.

The special steel primer coat on the steel windows.

So keep your eyes open as you come up Vestal Street and stay tuned because we continue to plan for the interior. We have had the building cleaned by a professional company from off-island in anticipation of the natural science collections moving in when all work is completed. Currently, we are working with Landmark Facilities Group – an environmental engineering group that has worked on Mitchell House and on a system for the Archives and Special Collections – to develop an appropriate HVAC system for the collections and lab spaces. So while there might always be a lot of activity on the building – we are still working on it!

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

1875, June 20.

A meeting of the Officers of Congress was called at the house of Mrs. Hanaford, 5 Summit Ave, Jersey City. The weather was intensely cold . . . It was a question who should preside. Mrs. Hanaford thought the Chairman of the Executive Committee should and I had been told that I should, etc. The question was settled by non-arrival of Chairman of Ex. Com . . . . I made many blunders, as I have never presided before, but I continued for 4 hours. We did a few good things . . . . The most serious question in my mind was the looseness in regard to membership . . . . I spoke for a tight rule in this respect, and begged for high-toned character in our papers, and for a very very high toned morality in our membership. I was amused to find myself talked of as so “decidedly conservative . . . .”

Maria Mitchell was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Women and president for a term. Its congresses were held yearly in various places, typically in the Northeast. The Mrs. Hanaford she refers to is the Rev. Phebe Coffin Hanaford, a Quaker daughter of Nantucket, who would become the first woman ordained as a Universalist minister in New England.

I, too, find it amusing that Maria was talked of as conservative but I can also see that as the women’s movement grew that there were more women involved whom Maria would feel were not as “high-toned” or were not as “moral” as others. Schisms occurred within the women’s rights movement and while Maria’s first and foremost push for women was women in education, she did believe and fight for women’s rights. But did you know that she turned down a speaking engagement offered to her by Susan B. Anthony? I would say that well illustrates where Maria’s thoughts and allegiance were at.

JNLF

Our First Astronomer’s Family

Harwood Siblings

In mid-May, the great nephew and great-niece of our first MMA Astronomer and Director of the Observatory, Margaret Harwood, came to Nantucket for a visit. They had not been here since she was our astronomer and then they were young teenagers. I gave them a tour of the Observatory and chatted with them about what I knew of Miss Harwood – known as Marnie to her family and close friends – and they regaled me with some stories of their own. It was a nice visit and it was amazing to see just how strong genes are – Miss Harwood’s nephew looks just like her! At the end of his visit, Miss Harwood’s nephew pulled an envelope from his pocket and presented to me a sterling silver bracelet that belonged to her and which will now become a part of the MMA collection. I suspect it was given to her upon her retirement – I need to go back and look in the annual reports to see. Engraved on the small plate is: M. Harwood/ Observatory/ Nantucket, Mass. Coupled with her Radcliffe Graduate Chapter Medal and all her papers, astronomical glass plates, and other pieces, this makes a wonderful collection to better represent Miss Harwood, her time at MMA, and all she did fir this organization and Nantucket. Thank you to her nephew and niece!

JNLF

Masonry Complete!

MMA Library Masonry Complete

For the first time in many, many months, we can finally see the Library/EcologyLab building without any sort of scaffolding or tenting! The masonry work is now complete! A huge thank you to island mason Wayne Morris and his mason tender daughter, Andrea, for their wonderful work. Steel was replaced, cracks filled, a large area of the southeast corner rebuilt. It was much more complicated and required much more work then I just mentioned here but I have detailed much of it in previous posts. The carpenter is wrapping up some re-shingling and gutter and downspout replacement and repair. Next up, the painting of the stucco portion, the original steel windows, and the original gutters and downspouts on the building. Island painter Jim Tyler and his crew will be painting the building with a mineral paint – environmentally and stucco friendly building.

And we are currently at work on planning the interior work so stay tuned!

JNLF

The Power in This Child’s Hand

Atheneum Card

In this child’s hand, he holds power. The power to unlock doors, worlds, and the universe. At age one, he got his first library card. A card that will unlock many doors for him throughout his life – those that are real, those that are imaginary, those that someday could be.

At this library, our Atheneum, Maria Mitchell was the first librarian. It saw the first anti-slavery convention on Nantucket. Its Great Hall and attendees witnessed Frederick Douglass’ first speech to a mixed race audience. Numerous other luminaries came before Douglass – from island-born Lucretia Coffin Mott to Emerson, Thoreau, and William Lloyd Garrison. It was a space filled with books that opened the door and the world to Nantucket’s daughters and sons – always thirsty for knowledge. It was a repository for fantastic finds from around the world brought back by island whalemen, travelers, visitors, coastal traders, merchant ships, and fishing vessels.

He may not remember when he got his library card since he is so young. I acquired mine a few years older but remember that day. I still have my paper Atheneum card from when I was a child and when the children’s room was down in the basement. People screw up their faces remembering that dank space – I remember the wonder it held – and the orange/red carpet and being closed if it flooded. But that didn’t stop me – we were there several times a week. I also still have my library card from the town I grew up in in Connecticut – another place we were always visiting. As the daughter of a former English teacher who is also a voracious reader, books have always been a part of my world and have let me escape to other places and learn about new things. Now, my son will know the wonder of a book – the wonder of a library – and the treasures it holds and the history the Nantucket Atheneum has witnessed as well.

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

May 27. {1857} There is this great difference between Niagara and other wonders of the world, that is you get no idea from descriptions or even from paintings. Of the Mammoth Cave you have a conception from what you are told, of the Natural Bridge you get really a truthful impression from a picture. But Cave and Bridge are in still life, Niagara is all activity and change. No picture gives you the varying form of the water of the change of color; no description conveys to your mind the ceaseless roar. So too the ocean must be unrepresentable to those who have not looked upon it.

Maria Mitchell would tour the Mammoth Cave and the Natural Bridge during her trip to the southern United States as Prudence Swift’s chaperone – I have written of these travels and Prudence before. Niagara Falls is a place she likely saw on her way to visit her younger sister Phebe Mitchell Kendall, who once lived with her husband in Pennsylvania. I was a bit surprised that she feels the way she does about the Cave and Bridge being well-represented by images but I do kind of see her point. However, Niagara, the ocean, any moving body of water – she is right. You don’t fully comprehend it until you hear it, touch and taste it, see its colors, and feel it splash, sprinkle, or mist across your face. Niagara certainly mists across your face – sort of like a breezy day at the beach and the salt mist that slowly builds across your face and coats the beach grass so that it shimmers in the sunlight.

JNLF