One day when she was one hundred and three years old, Mrs. Alma Field Duckworth called the man who was her executor and asked him if he thought she was too old to buy a piece of Paul Revere silver. "Certainly not," he replied. So, Mrs. Duckworth and some friends drove to an auction, where she purchased a silver tankard attributed to the renowned silversmith. On the way back, the group celebrated the event with this centenarian's first visit to a McDonald's restaurant.
Alma Rose Field was born at Cold Brook Farm in Montague, Massachusetts, in 1899, married, and lived much of her life in nearby Springfield. With her husband, Harold G. Duckworth, she was an avid collector of antiques, especially of glass, silver, and lusterware. At the age of eighty-eight, Mrs. Duckworth bought the c. 1792 Daniel Carr House in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, in 1987 and lovingly restored it with the help of her sister, Rebecca Field Jones, an artist. They took particular care to preserve the Rufus Porter murals and other decorative finishes throughout the house, whose period architecture provided the perfect setting for Mrs. Duckworth's collections.
Concerned about the long-term preservation of her home, Mrs. Duckworth contacted the Stewardship Program at SPNEA, (now Historic New England) in 1995. Upon her death, she left the house and its contents to SPNEA. The house was sold, following her wishes, with preservation restrictions administered by Historic New England's Stewardship Program, and the bulk of the collection was sold at auction. The sale of the house generated $375,000 for Historic New England's general endowment, while the sale of antiques raised more than $200,000, designated for the Alma Duckworth Fund for Collections.
Our work often brings us in contact with people devoted to preserving New England's cultural heritage. One of the most remarkable of these individuals was Mrs. Duckworth, who lived in three centuries, enjoyed a life-long enthusiasm for New England's past, and acted energetically and generously to preserve it.
-Shantia Anderheggen, Preservation Team Leader
-Richard C. Nylander, Senior Curator