Why was Wallace Nutting a household name in the 1920s?

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Example of a Wallace Nutting Photograph (Historic New England)

Wallace Nutting 1861 – 1941 – Promoter of Antique Furniture

Wallace Nutting was a Congregational minister who lived from 1861 to 1941. In the 1920s, he was a household name because of his calendars, greeting cards, and museum houses. He preached to college students, women’s groups, and audiences on the idealised values of Old America. (Denenberg, 2003) The “prints” that Nutting is most famous for are hand-coloured photographs of landscapes, flowers, Colonial interiors, the exteriors of buildings, and other scenes.

Wallace Nutting Biography

Nutting opened a workshop in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1917 to make close copies of the antique furniture he had bought to fill the rooms in his photographs. He did this because he thought the furniture in his photographs would sell. Although some motor-driven machinery was used, the old-fashioned method of making nutting pieces was used. Up until 1922, Wallace Nutting used paper labels to label his furniture. From 1922 to 1924, a branded script signature was used, and from 1925 to 1941, a branded block signature was. The primary materials used to create nutting furniture were oak and maple, frequently in seventeenth-century design. Additionally, he produced some mahogany furniture and 18th-century Windsor chairs, tables, and cupboards made of pine, walnut, and maple. There were over 250 different designs. (Kovel, 2007)

Wallace Nutting Expert on Early American Life

As World War II was getting closer, Nutting was known as an expert on life in early America. His books are still used as standard sources of information. Throughout his life, Nutting was a great example of “New England” because of how hard he worked, how funny he was, and how much he loved his region’s unique place in American history. Right to the end, Nutting worked.

Wallace Nutting was a remarkable man who, in the first half of the 20th century, had a significant impact on American taste. When fashion was very “modern,” Nutting almost single-handedly brought back interest in and appreciation for 18th-century American decorative arts and furniture. He was also smart enough to take advantage of the situation by buying many cheap pieces that were undervalued. So, Nutting collected early American items, wrote about them, and made a market for them. (Nutting, 2012)

Nutting never experienced financial success with his furniture company. Although he sold many pieces, the prints were the most lucrative. In the 1950s, the Drexel Furniture Company bought the rights to use the name, Wallace Nutting. Wallace Nutting Furniture, made of cherry, was produced in several collections.

Sources

Denenberg, T. A. (2003, February 4). Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America. https://doi.org/10.1604/9780300096835

Kovel. (2007). Kovelsโ€™ American Collectibles, 1900-2000โ€ฏ: Kovel, Ralph Mโ€ฏ: Free Download, Borrow, and Streamingโ€ฏ: Internet Archive. Internet Archive. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://archive.org/details/kovelsamericanco0000kove

Nutting, W. (2012, November 9). Windsor Chairs.

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