Collections on Display
Portrait of Diantha Atwood Gordon
This oil on panel portrait was painted c. 1832 in Fairfield, Maine, and is attributed to A. Ellis. The rather stiff pose and expression apparently suited the woman. More than a century later, in a letter to Mrs. Little, a granddaughter who had been left in the aging woman’s care as a child recalled her guardian’s strictness, and recounted with great satisfaction how she had locked both her grandparents in an outhouse, where they remained until evening.
Storytelling pictures such as this one, circa 1850, were favorites of the Littles. Here the ship Dredenot [sic] is leaving Lands End, England, for America. On board was Thomas Wildey who, in 1817, was the first Odd Fellow to reach America. The history of the founding of the Odd Fellows in America is written on the four sheets of paper at the bottom of the painting. The five carved figures at the left represent the original members of the first lodge, which was organized in 1819 in Baltimore at the Seven Stars Tavern, represented by the building on the right.
This flat-topped high chest dates to the middle of the eighteenth century, and was found in private possession in Maine, where it probably originated. Its simply designed skirt and lack of ornamentation suggest the hand of a rural joiner. Although most grain-painted eighteenth century furniture received such decoration at a later date, this highboy exhibits its first painted surface, discovered intact beneath the original brasses, and intended to disguise the maple wood by simulating a more expensive burled-walnut veneer.
Redware Plate, Temperance Health Wealth
The slip used to decorate redware, made from white pipe clay, allowed potters not only to personalize pieces with names, but also to send political or social messages, as seen on this plate from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. With their typical humor and keen eye for display, the Littles hung the Temperance plate in the pantry, where cocktails were prepared before dinner.
Apple Tree Farm Rug
One of the most admired rugs at Cogswell’s Grant has come to be known as Apple Tree Farm, a shirred rug dating to the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Shirred rugs are made from strips of gathered fabric, typically wool, sewn close together on the front of a heavy backing, in this case a coarse linen grain bag marked “J.D.P.”
This tape loom, 1668-1700, which Nina Fletcher Little referred to as one of the oldest and rarest objects in the house, was made by Thomas Dennis, a carver and joiner from nearby Ipswich, Massachusetts. Tape looms were used by women to weave bindings and edging for fabric, holding the loom between their knees. As such, they were very personal objects, and were sometimes carved with flowers, initials, or dates and given as a wedding gift from a husband to his bride.
Ezekiel Hersey Derby Farm
This Salem, Massachusetts, scene, painted c. 1800 by Michele Felice Cornè, pictures the country estate of Ezekiel Hersey Derby, located on the road to Marblehead now called Lafayette Street. Cornè includes details such as the Derby family coach, with coat of arms painted on the door, and holding a group of five ladies, perhaps Mrs. Derby with friends arriving for a pleasant day in the country. The gentleman standing by the stone wall holding a roll of plans is thought to be Samuel McIntire, the well-known Salem architect hired by Derby to embellish the house. Beside him sits the artist, Cornè, recording his view on the sketchpad held on his knee.