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Fit for a Pilgrim


ABOVE Sudbury Cupboard, a reproduction by Wallace Nutting, 1920-30. This recent acquisition will be featured in SPNEA's forthcoming exhibition "Cherished Possessions," previewing this summer and touring nationally through 2005.

A key figure in the Colonial Revival, Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) promoted the country's past with all the energy and determination of a Bible-thumping zealot, urging an alternative vision to what he called "the horror and savagery of the twentieth century." Retiring from the ministry in 1904, he soon founded a thriving business producing and selling nostalgic hand-tinted photographs depicting "colonial" domestic scenes. Taking advantage of the large customer base that existed for his photographs, Nutting founded a furniture studio in 1917 and hired a number of skilled woodworkers to make reproduction furniture.

The Sudbury Cupboard, a faithful copy of a seventeenth-century cupboard Nutting had purchased from a member of the Parmenter family in Sudbury, Massachusetts, was one of the largest and most spectacular pieces in his line. He advertised it in Antiques magazine, noting that an original cupboard of this quality would likely cost some $25,000. Nutting's own catalogue listed the price of the reproduction as $645, available only by special order. (By comparison, Nutting's Windsor chairs cost from $25 to $30.) From the number that survive, it seems likely that no more than a dozen cupboards were made. SPNEA's cupboard was owned by Washington & Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, where Nutting served as a trustee for many years; the cupboard was very likely a gift to the college from him. The piece complements SPNEA's holdings of more than two hundred Wallace Nutting photographs, many of them given to SPNEA by Nutting soon after they were produced.

-Nancy Carlisle

Fit for a Pilgrim