Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Great War: Christmas 1917

In past years, in the days preceding Christmas, Gossips has often featured images, ads, and holiday shopping guides that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register a hundred years before. In 1917, however, with the war being fought in Europe, the attention to Christmas and gift shopping in the newspaper doesn't seem to have been quite so lavish as in previous years. The advertisement below, which appeared in the Evening Register one week before Christmas, caught my attention, because it recommends gifts for the "boys over there."

The "Pictures of Home" advocated in this advertisement were hand-colored photographs. Wallace Nutting (1861-1941), a former Congregational minister, was the best known exponent of the genre. In 1917, Nutting had a studio and home in Framingham, Massachusetts, he called "Nuttingholme," where he employed as many as 200 colorists, working at hand-painting photographs. David Davidson (1881-1967) was one of several photographers who worked with Nutting and went on to establish their own careers.

In an article that appeared several years ago in Antique Trader, Mary Manion provides this information about Nutting and Davidson:
In his day, Wallace Nutting was among the most popular and prolific artists working in America. By his own estimation, millions of his fanciful photos were produced into what became a cottage industry for the man who started out as a preacher. . . .
Nutting is regarded as being the influence behind the early 20th century revival of the American Colonial style. Typical of his interior scenes would be a woman seated by a fireplace, dressed in colonial attire, crafting needlework with the warm fire burning nearby. Cozy and inviting were the prevalent themes in these popular images. Another mark of interest for Nutting was exterior depictions of colonial facades of homes, with a woman and child posing outside the front door, dressed in fine period fashion, welcoming the viewer into their home, and perhaps into the world in a quieter time. . . .
Davidson opened the David Davidson Studio in 1907 in Rhode Island and also produced millions of hand-colored photographs until its closing in the mid-century. Similar to Nutting in style and technical skill, he has been called second only to Nutting.

Both the images accompanying this post are attributed to Wallace Nutting. It's interesting, given that Kodak had introduced the first Brownie camera in 1900, the pictures touted as "the best prevention against homesickness" during the Great War were not snapshots of family and friends but hand-painted photographs meant to evoke colonial America. 

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