A Wall Street Journal article published March 23, 2021, “The Staying Inside Guide: Big-Deal Art in Plain-Spoken Venues” by Judith H. Dobrzynski, celebrates New Deal works of art across the country.
The reporter highlights Coit Tower in San Francisco as one renowned example.
“The New Deal murals inside Coit Tower in San Francisco are also well-known. Painted by some two-dozen artists in 1934, they are social realist panels about life in California during the Depression, with titles like “Banking and Law” and “Meat Industry.” Their story, with a detailed layout, is available in a San Francisco Recreation and Park Department brochure.”
Judith H. Dobrzynski for WSJ
The reverse ratio is evident here: Gloucester selected four artists who completed scores of masterworks* for specific public buildings. Monumental stunning mural cycles were commissioned under the auspices of Federal Arts PWAP and WPA-era programs from 1935-42 for Sawyer Free Library, City Hall, the High School on Dale Ave (now Central Grammar apartments), Hovey, Maplewood, and Forbes elementary schools. As schools were closed, disposed, or repurposed, murals were rescued and resited within City Hall and later O’Maley.
The City of Gloucester artists were significant muralists and painters. In truth, venerated. They captured stories of Gloucester and became a celebrated part of our history and artistry. When considered as a whole, the Gloucester murals rival WPA era collections completed in big cities. The density of murals are as concentrated as any found in larger cities, like Coit Tower in San Francisco, though spread out among buildings rather than one tower, or one structure, as with Harlem Hospital. Gloucester’s post office nearly landed a commission, but fate intervened. I’ll save that for the Part 2 post.
Gloucester and greater Cape Ann artists were commissioned for murals beyond Gloucester and Massachusetts and served key roles on selection panels and planning.
In recent years thanks to a CPA award, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, established in 1978 to help museums with conservation, evaluated the condition of the city’s historic Depression era collection to help with important restoration. Gloucester’s impressive collection itself is the museum and the city a work of art that continues to inspire generations of artists.
*The quantity of murals is 68 if one includes the five O’Toole murals from the 1940s. Note: because the Gloucester murals are multi-piece or series, the sections tally up to a whopping 75-90 count.
Selection of some murals on view (when open).
Gloucester’s murals at Sawyer Free
Within Sawyer Free Library are the city’s only New Deal works painted directly on plaster walls. Frederick Stoddard’s designs throughout the Saunders house encompass the first floor entryway, two story stairwell, and 2nd story wrap around stairwell hall. He described this two-story “decoration” above wainscotting upstairs and down as “a conventionalized treatment of the Gloucester region”. Familiar scenes include Dogtown “Moors”.
Marine scenes wrap around the former children’s space on the top floor.
A Gloucester Daily Times article from 1934 mentions a trifecta opening honoring the architectural overhaul for the building, new murals, and Rachel Webber’s retirement:
“July 25, 1934- “The public reception at the Sawyer Free Library yesterday afternoon was for three purposes: to observe the 50th anniversary of the occupancy of the present building, to give a public showing to the mural decorations recently completed by Fredercik L. Stoddard and to the entirely restored and renovated building, and to recognize 44 years of service by Miss Rachel S. Webber, librarian who is to retire in the fall…The building has been completely repaired and largely restored. The three story tower which had been built on the front of the building has been removed*, as has the old porch which extended across the front of the house, leaving only an entrance porch. A bay window facing Dale avenue which the architects decided spoiled the character of the building has been sliced off. Everything has been painted and repaired and new lights have been installed.”
*all work near murals!
Howard Curtis assisted Stoddard with some repair work as a result (and was brought back again in 1953, 1974, and 1976-1980). In 1935, Curtis was busy completing his original “The Creation of Light” commission for the Methodist Episcopal Church on Prospect Street (now apartments).
Within O’Maley Innovation Middle School are a complete though out of order Frederick Mulhaupt series (originally at Maplewood); a partial and crucial section from a 2nd immersive series (originally at the High School); and “Our Daily Bread” by Frederick Stoddard, cropped. There are important works by Larry O’Toole commissioned by Ben Pine for the Gloucester Fishermen Institute and YMCA that were painted in the 1940s. Ron Gilson, Gloucester native, author and local historian, helped with the attribution and remembered the completed art being carried out the door. Gilson was great friends with Ben Pine, his first boss, and knew O’Toole.
above: sections from Mulhaupt’s fantastical “Landing of the Viking Thorwald in Vinland” 1935; and central panel “Gloucester harbor” 1936 | below: DPW inspecting the O’Toole 1940s murals (photo 2015)
Within City Hall, there are 10 monumental New Deal murals by four artists: Charles Allan Winter, Frederick Stoddard, Frederick Mulhaupt, and Oscar Anderson. Three are multi panels so the collection in this building seems much greater than 10 murals. The Winters in the lobby and Kyrouz were site-specific for City Hall.
One is a small Stoddard panel from a triptych spanning 65 feet for Eastern Avenue School!
I’ll follow up with posts detailing more biographical information about the artists.
Does a pair of Gloucester Forbes school murals jog your recall?
The City of Gloucester murals have the potential to be listed among the nation’s most concentrated holdings of New Deal art from the 1930s and 40s on public view anywhere today. However, they are not all on view. Historic murals not on display await further conservation treatment.
Frederick Stoddard set up a studio in an unused room of the Point Primary School in East Gloucester to paint a variety of panels for the Forbes school. African animals by a waterhole, “the only liberty was animals all close to each other and peaceful,” accompany scenes of wild animals & birds and domestic animals. An underwater scene of local fish and vegetation is missing. I imagine every child and adult found it impossible to settle on just one favorite animal.
The largest composition stretched almost 20 feet. Joseph Nunes helped Stoddard with the installation.
This pair from the series were set over the doorways leading to classrooms. Each measures 5′ x 5′, so tall ceilings. Do they look familiar?
Did you attend or are you related to someone who was enrolled at the Forbes elementary school in 1935? Perhaps you visited one of the special viewing days set aside for the public. Fun fact: There have been seven Forbes school locations if we include the two modulars from the 1920s.
Oscar Anderson painted seven soft hued and dreamy murals for Hovey School including three panoramas. Four smaller works from this school are missing since ca.1972 or later. Does seeing a few of them together help you picture the Hovey school interior?
WPA District Briefs – 1930s
Beyond art, Gloucester benefited from multiple New Deal projects big and small. The Jodrey State Fish Pier was a Public Works Administration (PWA) biggie. Emergency funds allocated through the Treasury department paid for new public buildings like Gloucester’s post office.
The WPA helped Gloucester finally cap off the new track and field on Centennial. For years Gloucester residents were asked to dump their trash to build up landfill. The recreation space (now New Balance Field at Newell Stadium) was recognized nationally and dubbed, “Gloucester WPA Centennial Avenue Athletic Field”.
“The benefits of men working has changed unsightly, unhealthy Gloucester dumping ground into a modern fully equipped athletic and recreation field.”
Super complimentary letter from Colorado in response to the Gloucester story:
GHS Football players- recognize anyone?
The field also gained coverage with other WPA football projects
Stage Fort Park
WPA salvage work helped to build a new seawall at Stage Fort Park for flood and erosion control – “More than 3500 tons of stone set in cement were required in the construction of this 1100 foot WPA sea wall at Stage Fort Park, Cressey Beach, Gloucester. The wall preserves the beach area by preventing water and driven sand from flooding the park property.”
“At City Home, Gloucester, WPA razed a dilapidated wooden structure and built an all-stone garage and storage shed. These buildings will be used jointly by the City Home and the Welfare Department.”
Contributions in support of murals needing treatment can be sent to the “City of Gloucester”, note for mural conservation, City Hall, 9 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930
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“…an around-town stroll to the many houses and scenes painted by Edward Hopper on his five extended painting journeys here. They’re captivating, and in one case, crushing: The spectacular mansard-roofed captain’s house perched high on a Rocky Neck cliff that Hopper painted in 1924 now shares its view of Gloucester Harbor with a sprawling McMansion next door whose aesthetic might best be described as haute Florida strip mall.”
Register for Cape Ann Museum upcoming walks like Feb. 20 (Spiritual history) and Feb. 27 (Edward Hopper) HERE
Happy to see the Cape Ann Museum guided walking tours featured!
Not to worry! The historic house on Clarendon is gorgeous. Edward Hopper customized his take on Gloucester vistas, as did artists before him.
Here is the Gardner Wonson home (built circa 1873) in horse and buggy days, a scene cropped for commercial keepsake photographs published by the Procter Brothers who were flying high in the 1870s [collection New York Public Library].
This home was an architectural attraction Hopper may have seen before he stepped foot off the train for his first visit to Gloucester.
In 1846 entrepreneurial publishing dynamos and developers, brothers Francis with George H. Procter, set up a book and printing shop. By 1850 they moved to Main Street. As the business grew, their news dispatch morphed from “Procter’s Able Sheet” to “Gloucester Advertiser” to “Cape Ann Advertiser”, and then in 1888 to “Gloucester Daily Times”. By 1892 the printing press for the newspaper branch alone could churn out 4000 papers, eight pages long, every hour (see Pringle). Any small business operating for decades and successive generations will suffer its share of adversity. Procter Brothers was leveled not once but twice by fire, and rebuilt. They published or were the go to printers for all manner of media: books, periodicals, photographs, lithographs, even a circulating library from their headquarters in 1874; building back and then some after that 2nd conflagration. The Wonson home was featured in a tourist photograph series, “Cape Ann Scenery”.
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Happy New Year’s day! While thinking about 2021, I was looking back. 1900 seemed as good as any to share a fresh new chapter “then” story.
Let’s just say fasten your seat belts; reading about Mayor Merchant’s term is a bumpy ride for the entire year as reported in the Boston Globe. Heated exchanges dominate. Smaller items about conservation and deed issues related to Dogtown, Good Harbor Beach, and Briar Neck real estate development are detailed. I knew some details about Mayor French’s terms but did not run into Mayor Merchant before. I recognize the surname Merchant/Marchant as Gloucester history. Prior to this post I mostly associated Merchant with the street that was one of so many in Gloucester to inspire work by American artist, Edward Hopper.
On some lists of Gloucester Mayors, he’s (conspicuously) not there. (Biographical details unroll at the end. Also, photographs of all the Mayor portraits.)
All heads south immediately following the swearing in, and I mean immediately. The Mayor address advanced to the paper is standard, rosy and prickly, not uncommon.
New Year’s Day, 1900 – Mayor Merchant of Gloucester
Gloucester, Jan. 1- Establishment of a City Workhouse, and Investigation of Assessing and Fire Alarm Systems Urged
The inauguration exercises of the city government for 1900 took place this morning in city hall. As usual, a large number were in attendance, the especial point of interest being the reading of the inaugural. Those who expected to hear a plain and straightforward statement of certain facts were not disappointed, as the inaugural certainly treated certain matters in a trenchant manner.
The chapters in relation to the administration of highways, the debt of the city, revaluation, the need of better discipline in the police force, recommendations in regard to an equitable reduction of water rates were received with especial favor. The inaugural made a distinctly favorable impression.
In considering the finances, he said that the city’s liabilities were $829,243.72. The net debt is $368,211.04, an increase of $77,713.72. The reserve amount which the city now can borrow is $22,496.78.
The following recommendations were made: The appointment of a special committee to investigate and report to the city council as to the present system of valuation of the city by the assessors, and what action, if any, is needed to secure more equitable taxation; an investigation and report by the committee on fire department as to the needs of an improved fire alarm service and the probable cost; the abolishment of the public library fund, a special committee to consider carefully the question of the scale of the poor farm property, and what may be done toward the establishment of a city workhouse, which would be such in fact as well as in name; the appointment of a joint special committee upon water, to act with the water commissioners upon all matters relating to the purchase of the work, the improvement of sources of supply, and to suggest in what manner an equitable adjustment of the rates may be made; that no claim made against the city be paid without first having had a reference to the proper department and report thereon in accordance with the advice of the law department, and the appointment of a special committee of the city council to investigate all matters relating to the collection of taxes, and to suggest how best a way may be found for better service in this connection.
The mayor advocated a gradual revaluation of the city, saying he believed it to be the duties of the assessors to look carefully into the matter. Under the subject of highways, the mayor took occasion to criticize adversely those having them in charge the past year, while those officials who were brought in close contact with the work performed were roundly scored. The schools, fire department and trust funds were kindly criticized in the interest of advanced ideas and business judgement. Regarding the police and the matter of license, the mayor emphasized the statement that while not looking for any difficulty in this line the police must do as they were bidden and observe discipline.
City clerk Somes administered the oath to the Mayor elect Merchant, after which the keys of office were delivered to him by Mayor French. Mayor Merchant administered the oath to the following aldermen: Ward 1 Alphonso Davis; ward 2 Osborne Knowles; ward 3 Levi J. Hotchkiss; ward 4 Edward H. Quigley; ward 5 Albert H. McKenzie; ward 6, William J. Sleep; ward 7, William L. Allen; ward 8, James W. Ingersoll.
The following members of the common council were also sworn in: Ward 1, Austin F. Coombs, Addison W. Bailey, John W. Gaskell; ward 2, John F. Riley, Samuel J. Somers, Melvin Parsons; ward 3, John J. Cunningham, Frank W. Lothrop, John A. Stoddart; ward 4, Ernest S. Parsons, John J. Sullivan, Ray S. Friend; ward 5, James E. Tolman, Samuel W. McQuinn, Thomas Hodge; ward 6, Addison G. Stanwood, Samuel P. Favor, James A. Lawrence; ward 7, William Stephens, Charles C. Smith, Thomas F. Wherty; ward 8, Ephraim R. Andrews, James M. Chadbourne, Howard T. Bray.
After the reading of the inaugural the boards proceeded to their respective chambers for organization.”
– From “For Year 1900: Recommendations Made by Bay State Mayors. How Government of Cities Can Be Improved. Necessity of Practicing Economy Where It Can be Done Without Detriment to the Public Good. Questions of Finances, Schools, Water. Lighting and Sewage in Various Municipalities of the Commonwealth.” , Boston Globe, New Year’s Day, 1900
MUNICIPALITIES INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE: SOMERVILLE. HAVERHILL. LAWRENCE. EVERETT. MEDFORD. SALEM. GLOUCESTER. FITCHBURG. BROCKTON. LYNN. BEVERLY. MARLBORO. WOBURN. NORTHAMPTON. SPRINGFIELD. NORTH ADAMS. NEW BEDFORD. QUINCY. WALTHAM. HOLYOKE. PITTSFIELD. TAUNTON. MALDEN. WORCESTER. BEVERLY CITY FATHERS. FOR THE SECOND TIME.
Jan 1 Day one whiplash- Council upends Mayor’s first day.
At the organization of the government today there were two unusual incidents.
“Mayor Merchant read a communication from ——-, protesting against administering the oath of office to Councilman elect Thomas Whearty, announcing that Chairman should contest the election. Mayor Merchant decided that there was nothing for him to do but take the returns of the election as they were rendered to him, and accordingly swore Mr. Whearty in.
“This had an important bearing on the contest of the presidency of the common council. When that body proceeded to elect as president James E. Tolman, who was a candidate for re-election offered an order that Mr. Whearty be not allowed to take part in the deliberations of the board until his case was finally settled. After several points of order had been made it was decided, to sustain chairman Lawrence, in adding Mr. Tolman’s order out of order. Councilman William Stephens was elected president of the council…In the afternoon Mayor Merchant announced his committees…
“Immediately on their announcement Alderman Sleep moved that the communication of the mayor be laid on the table. Mayor Merchant made no reply. Alderman Sleep insisted that his motion be put. Mayor Merchant contended that the committed announcement was simply a communication from the Mayor.
“Alderman Sleep produced the rules that urged that the aldermen by the rules could elect their own committees. Alderman Hotchkiss offered and order, if the mayor would entertain it, that the whole matter be referred to the city solicitor for his opinion as to the right of the aldermen to appoint the committees.
“Alderman McKenzie said there were committees to which he was appointed on which he did not care to serve.
“Mayor Merchant, after asking for further business, stated that he did not care to appear in the light of bulldozing the aldermen and should give them every opportunity to act except in the illegal expenditure of money, and then he should interfere. He therefore withdrew his nominations, and an order previously introduced by Alderman Hotchkiss that the aldermen reassemble at 7:30 in the evening and ballot for committees was passed.
“The mayor stated that the appointment of the committees had always been a prerogative of the mayor and he had proceeded in the matter as did former mayors.
“This is the first time in the history of the city that a mayor’s committee appointments have been protested or withdrawn. The incident caused somewhat of a sensation, and resulted in some animated conversation after the board adjourned.
“At 7:30 all the aldermen but Allen were in their seats. Mayor Merchant not putting in an appearance, President Sleep presided.
After the adjournment a conference was held, and a committee list satisfactory to the aldermen was arranged. The aldermen then, for the first time in the history of the city, proceeded to elect their own committees…Alderman Knowles offered an order that the city solicitor give his opinion in regard to the legality of the action of the aldermen in electing committees after the mayor had announced the appointment of committees. This was not seconded.”
Apparently this balking at Mayoral appointments was trending as Haverhill was in the same boat. Unsurprisingly, by the ides of March the Mayor and council are
by March 17 At Loggerheads
Gloucester Aldermen on their Mettle. Render Useless Several Vetoes of Mayor Merchant. Mr. Sleep Proves a Sharp Critic of His Honor.
“The session of the board of aldermen this evening was one of the most sensational for some time. The old feud between Mayor Merchant and Alderman Sleep again broke out.
The mayor when “communications from the mayor” was reached, resigned the position of presiding officer to chairman Sleep and departed from the chamber. The chairman then proceeded to read the three vetoes to the aldermen and two presented in the council, which came up for action.”
Boston Globe March 17, 1900 excerpt
VETO TOPIC 1- conflicts of interest and spite
“The order adopted in relation to the payment to Sleep Bros. for certain services on Beacon Street was vetoed by the mayor on the ground of illegality and that it was work done on private land…Mr .Sleep said that despite the veto, the mayor had paid the bill of W.R. Cheves for stone and E.H. Griffin for cement, but objected to that of Sleep Bros. for labor ($97.50) on the same job because the members of the firm were unfortunate enough to bear the same name as the speaker…the action of the mayor was simply a matter of spite against him for certain matters which had occurred on inauguration day…The order to pay the money was carried…”
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
Veto topic 2- PROTECTING GOOD HARBOR BEACH
“Some sharpshooting occurred on the veto of the mayor of the order that signs be placed at Good Harbor Beach by the committee on police and that all persons be prohibited from taking sand and ballast from the beach. The mayor informed the board that the proper way to proceed in this matter was for the committee on public property…Sleep denied there was any politics in this measure, and said the committee on public property attended to its work, but as it received no pay it was not its duty to lay around Good Harbor beach all the time and protect the property.”
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
VETO TOPIC 3 – Protecting Dogtown
The order that the mayor and city register the land known as Dogtown commons, under the provision s of the Torrens law, was vetoed by the mayor on the ground that it was not the duty of the mayor but of the committee on public property.
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
Veto topic 4- pay Raise for Firemen
“…The mayor vetoed the order for an increase in the salaries of firemen because he said that the city was not in a financial condition to make the raise…Sleep stated that some of the business men are raising money to put through the defeated charter which the mayor favors and which provides for salaried commissioners and clerks. Money for their friends was all right, but when it came down to the firemen it was a decidedly different matter…”
Governor Crane named ex-Mayor French to Gloucester Police Court
september 1900 Briar’s neck free for all origin story continues
And the Mayor is in the story.
“Gloucester has had a little Oklahoma boom. The place in question where this excitement has occurred is at Briar neck. The strip of land has for many years been vacant, with the exception of one (shack)…although it is claimed by two capitalists, who assert that they have deeds…
“Early in the season an attorney inserted a small item in a local paper to the effect that there was no valid title, and that anyone who settled down on the property could hold it. Mayor Merchant was the first one to squat down on the property and his example was followed by others, and there was a veritable rush for the place for several days. All the available sites were staked out and the names of those who had located claims were written on the stakes. There was a rumor circulated that the mere staking of the land was unavailing and that nothing less than the erection of a building of some sort would hold the land. A nondescript settlement immediately sprung up, and the sound of the hammer and saw was loud for several days…”Seashore Boomers“
“There has been a great hunting up of old deeds and a revamping of family genealogies, …The Parsons of Joppa do not believe that the present squatters can hold the land, but eventually will be ousted. Mayor Merchant, by the way, claims descent from the Parsons.” Two capitalists of the city, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr assert ownership of the tract, and have taken measures to protect their property…”
-excerpts from wild story about Briar Neck origins in the Boston Globe (Thacher is spelled Thatcher’s Island in this one)
Assuming its veracity, how did this Briar Neck business sort out? Two years earlier, a Boston Globe report stated Mayor Davis had plans for Briar:
Long standing Briar Neck controversy –
The controversy as to the ownership of Briar Neck property, between the street railway company and Mayor Davis, resulting in the company acknowledging the city’s rights in an old road there, has become further complicated. Today two of Gloucester’s wealthiest capitalists, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr, entered the fight, and served papers on the street railway company. The plaintiffs claim that they own 36 acres of land at Briar Neck, which extends from the stone wall to the beach, including the fresh water pond, lowlands and uplands traversed by the street railway company. Meanwhile Mayor Davis has something up his sleeve in regard to ownership of the property which will be developed later.
The Mayor was limiting the amount of the council’s loan request.
“A long and tedious period of silence, lasting over 40 minutes, followed. Mayor Marchant holding his chair through fear that his seat might be usurped by Alderman Sleep, who is president of the board. In the meantime two of the aldermen had gone out in search of legal advice…”
“…Alderman McKenzie: “Since the mayor refuses to entertain my appeal, I appeal to you.” Mr. Sleep put the motion and Mr. McKenzie was sustained by the unanimous vote of the board…the portion of the loan not approved by the mayor was then passed over his veto by a unanimous vote…Having accomplished their purpose the board adjourned.”
Boston Globe October 24, 1900
Mayor French is back in the saddle. (The prior November, ex-Mayors Cook and French, Alderman Hotchkiss and ex-Alderman Barrett vied for the nomination.)
1899 New Year’s message for the Boston Globe by Mayor William French — who was back in as Mayor for 1901.
and his 1902 address published in the Gloucester Daily Times. I had read about French before.
photo caption: Gloucester Daily Times archives retrieved at Sawyer Free November 2018. Read more about 1902 and Haskell Dam in my prior post here on GMG, .
Honorable George E. Merchant Fast Facts
He was described as a modest man from a well known and well regarded “old Cape Ann family”, and endearing accounts about his enthusiasm at reaching his 50th wedding anniversary milestone suggest a loving one, too. (Gloucester Daily Times obit)
Prior to serving as Mayor, he served a term as an alderman 1886-87 (and many appointments/commissions before. Waterways after Mayor).
Adult – Printer/printing since 1870 when he began his career at John S.E. Rogers, owner and printer Gloucester Telegraph, various newspaper jobs. And printing press from his home at advanced age after retirement. Boyhood 1870 census- 16 years old, working as a fisherman (family lore he was the cook on father’s boat; father in business with his sons) giving it a go for 8 years like generations of his family. Education unknown, presumed self-taught. Prior to Mayor-1886-87 served as city councilor (overlapping with his father) and more since 1870s. After Mayor, appointments, too. Master gardener. Family historian-writer. Photography.
George Merchant Master mariner, fisherman, owner; founded seine net repair business 1873; fisheries advisor; served years as city councilor Ward 1 Affinity & skill for art- studied painting with FH Lane; fisheries display models, etc. (And his father was an incredible violinist.) Full & busy life, family man. 31 Main Street family residence See Shute & Merchant
Mary Douglass Merchant (1832-1923) Oak Grove Cemetery
Siblings Parents had 9 kids
Mary Jane 1851 – 1944 George Edward 1853 – 1929 Orlando 1856 – 1930 Flora Estelle died at 2 1858 – 1860 Eugene Howard died at 2 1861 – 1863 Robert Clifford 1864 – 1936 Joseph Carleton 1867 – 1961 unnamed son 1870 – 1870 Percy Washburn
Charlotte E. Lufkin (1857-1945)
twins died at 8 days and 9 days Ernest H (16 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS 1904) –buried in Santa Barbara– George E. Jr. (14 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS)
1900 33 Eastern Avenue family compounded variously split up before/after eventually 31 Eastern Ave where Charlotte remains
Obit both “well known member of old Cape Ann family”
George E. Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
George Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
George Merchant, grandfather, fisherman and accomplished violinist
Such creative, multi-talented family members! George E.’s photograph and family historian piece on the occasion of his grandfather’s 90th birthday was published in the Boston Globe
Portraits of many Gloucester Mayors are exhibited in Gloucester City Hall. These are photographs of (most of the) Mayor portraits I took back in 2017, after another inauguration. Paintings, photographs and drawings of Mayors have been commissioned or gifted then installed after the term(s) years of service.
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Clarence Manning Falt (1861-1912) was a Gloucester poet and photographer, a son of a Canadian immigrant & fisherman and a Gloucester mother & homemaker (born and raised in a fisherman generations family herself). They had seven children. The Falt family eventually purchased 172 East Main Street; Clarence and his surviving siblings continued to live there as adults. It’s a huge home.
photo caption: 172 East Main Street, Gloucester, Mass. An Edward Hopper drawing of this Gloucester house, which I identified, was gifted to the Minneapolis Art Institute and included in a travel exhibition highlighting major drawings from this famous repository.
Clarence Manning Falt clerked for various businesses on Main Street to support his art practice.
By the 1900 census, clerk was dropped from the “occupation” category, “Author” stood alone.
Falt photographed and wrote about Gloucester, where he was born and raised during the late 1800s. His work reflects his own personal experiences including the fishing industry of his parents’ world. The best ones connect readers to this world because of his talents and an insider’s careful observations. Some of the writing relies too much on tropes and can be a chore, though never as difficult as the jobs he portrays, and may stick with you just the same because he is successful in providing such accurate and detailed examples of the business of fishing and the beauty of Gloucester. Some poems rise to evoke a full and cinematic day at the docks and ideas to mull over.
POINTS OF INTEREST: GLOUCESTER IN SONG
Falt’s book of poems and photographs, Points of Interest Gloucester in Song, was published in 1894, the year after his mother died. He dedicated the volume to her. Examples of his original and stunning photographs are from the copy held in the collection of the Library of Congress which was digitized. The pairings aren’t always successful and one might long for more photos, as I have. A few appear to be source photos for vintage postcards.
“To those who have grown up from childhood amid the grandeur and solemnity of these scenes, to the stranger who has become familiar with them, may their hearts be quickened with a keener appreciation for, and a deeper sympathy with, all that has made Gloucester and its suburbs charming and historic.”
THE BLUETSIN mosses greenA charming scene,To me a sweet surprise,In bright arrayThis fair spring dayThe bluets greet my eyes.Each dainty cup,Is lifted upWith tints of heaven’s hue; Each budding gemA diademBespangled with the dew.Like tiny shieldsAmid the fields,On bodies, slim and frail,,They wave and bendAnd sweetly sendThe Welcome Spring’s All hail!Where bright sunshineBy one divineCan reach each fragile heart,They lovely gleamLike some sweet dreamAnd Joy’s sweet pulses start.My better self(The heart’s stored wealth)Enraptured at the sightOn each sweet faceSee’s Heaven’s graceAnd life, immortal, bright.On, tiny blooms,When waking tombsLie buried ‘neath the snow,And Death doth keepGuard o’er thy sleepAnd blust’ring winds they blow,Backward apaceMy heart will trace,And bring, begemmed with dew,‘Mid mosses green The charming sceneOf you, sweet buds of blue.-Clarence Manning Falt, 1894, in Gloucester, Ma.
Bluets, photo courtesy Justine Vitale
WHARF AND FLEET
Falt’s volume of poems and photographs, Wharf and Fleet: Ballads of the fishermen of Gloucester, was published in 1902. A copy of the book held at the University of California was digitized and uploaded in 2006.
“…Ever since 1713 Gloucester has been the peculiar home of the schooner, and this is now and long has been the unvarying rig of her unrivalled fleet of deep-sea fishermen. The first entry of a schooner in Boston’s commerce occurs in 1716, — “Mayflower,” Captain James Manson, from North Carolina. As Captain Andrew Robinson was a direct descendant of John Robinson who preached to the Pilgrims at Leyden, it is conjectured that this “Mayflower” was the fist schooner, the original Gloucester craft. Be this as it may, her useful successors are numbered by the thousands,…”
and re: the 100 days War with Spain:
“At the Gloucester recruiting station, in the early summer of 1898 , 76.5% of the men examined were accepted. At Boston the percent accepted was 14.5; at New York only 6. This means that in physique and intelligence the fishermen of New England are very much superior to the merchant sailors of the great seaports. So valuable a national resource as the deep-sea fisheries cannot be suffered to decline.”
*Winthrop Lippitt Marvin – U.S. journalist, and author; Civil Service Commissioner of Massachusetts; secretary of the Merchant Marine Commission
Back to Falt
Clarence Manning Falt was clearly proud of his parents and hometown and had a linguist’s ear and aptitude for the music of words. He studied public speaking and drama in Boston and New York. This book incorporates strongly stylized dialect deliberately, heavily.
More From his intro
Gloucester’s “population at the writing of this work is about 29,000. As a fishing-port, it is the largest in the world. Here can marine life be studied in all its phases. Here, lying at their moorings, will be found the up-to-date Gloucester fishing vessels, for the modern type of fishing vessel is t he pride and delight of a Gloucester skipper’s heart. He considers his stanch craft his ocean home. Indeed, these handsome vessels are as fine as the stately yachts that daily grace the harbor, for one would immediately note their fine sheer, perfectly fitting sails, clean decks, trim rig, and crews of able-bodied seamen, marking a wonderful and almost magical development from the primitive types of the quaint shallops, pinnaces, and pinkies of the olden days.
Gloucester harbor, like some might arena of old, is terraced with impregnable bastions of rugged hills and seared and time-furrowed cliffs…At night its beauty is unrivalled. Seaward its light-towers flash and gleam…the fleets glowing to port and windward, vying landward with the city’s brilliant reflections, sparkling with the shimmering glows of the wharf lights, the anchored fleets, and the inverted spangles of the stars of heaven… The wharf life has also developed marvelously. Every up-to-date method of prosecuting this industry is employed. This development has brought many new occupations and newer characteristics of the life. ”
Clarence Manning Falt, 1902 excerpt from his introduction Wharves and Fleet
A Matter of the Ear
“Packin’ Mack’r’l” — that does sound musical, and easily missed! How it makes me smile imagining Falt enlivened by the sights and sounds all about, fishing for just the right words and photographs; all the while diligently preserving a specificity of Gloucester’s fishermen’s dialect; a language all its own, encompassing many nationalities; one in which he was fluent and could translate and that he felt through his art. I wish that there was an audio recording of his reading aloud (or under his direction).
reminder comparable- post Civil War there was an uptick of slang dialects expressed in American writing, notably Tom Sawyer published 1876 and Huck Finn 1885(US)
Falt poem & photos- Gloucester sound and “see”scapes
SELECTION OF FALT’S POEMS
Many of the poems from Wharves and Fleet include vivid definitions tagged beneath which are delightful, personal and informative.
In building a wharf, the piles are first inserted into holes made in the dock, then after being carefully inserted and put in shape, they are driven down to a certain point by a heavy iron weight suspended from the top of the scow.
“Fly an’ spider”: figuratively used when the heavy iron weight (“th’ spider”) strikes the top of the pile (“th’ fly”). An old saying, long handed down by the fisher-folk**.
Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
**have you heard this expression?
Ride stilts- “reflections of the piles at low tide. As the hawser lifts and drips and the crew hauls upon it, the phosper at night gleams most beautifully.
Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
Dryin’ time after a heavy rain or spell of easterly weather, one of the most picturesque scenes of the harbor is the hanging of hoisted and half-hoisted sails from all sorts of crafts to dry in the coming forth of the sun.
Note about “Drying Time” – Clarence Manning Falt
Some of the poems I like most helped me learn about ancillary jobs and a bigger , tender portrait of this port.
GITTIN’ UNDERWAYIn th’ early dawn ere th’ doors unlock,Then it’s crick, crick, crick, an’ it’s crock, crock, crockAn’ it’s ho an’ hi fer th’ blocks ter talkIn th’ early dawn e’er th’ doors unlock.Then it’s ho na’ hi fer th’ dreams ter die,Fer th’ crews an’ th’ bunks ter say good-by,Fer th’ yawn an gape, fer th’ stretch an’ sigh,In th’ early dawn ere th’ cocks crow highThen it’s ho fer doublin’ th’ Woolsey smocks,An’ twicein’ th’ toes in th’ home-knit socks,An cuddlin’ th’ ears up under th’ locks,An’ haulin’ down tighter th’ souwes’ chocks.Then it’s ho fer housin’ th’ rubber boots,An’ firmin’ th’ heart in th’ stiff oil suits,W’ile the cuddies blaxe, an’ th’ coffee goots,An’ th’ windlass creaks, an’ th’ horn it hoots.Then it’s ho fer grubbin’ an’ hi fer drink,Then shadder th’ gangway an’ meet th’ brinkTer shape out th’ course an ter careful thinkIn th’ early dawn w’ile th’ stars still blink.
“Block ter talk”: the hoisting of the sails.
“Woolsey smocks”: flannel shirts.
“Souwes’ chocks”: the flannel-line lappets
that are attached to the sou’westers.
“Housin’ th’ rubber boots”: pulling them on.
“Windlass”: it is located forward the foremast,
and is used in weighing up the anchor.
“Horn”: the hand foghorn.
“Shape out th’ course”: making the grounds
by chart and compass.
“Sou’wester”: a broad-brimmed oil-cloth hat
with ear-lappets lined with flannel.
Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902, Gittin’ Underway, p. 37-38
TH’ NIPPERWOMANI SEE her black shawl mid th’ buttsClutched tight erpon her breast,I see her black cloud full uv rutsEr shamin’ off its best,I see her pinched an’ wrinkled faceEr quizzing uv th’ crew,An’ this ter-nigh is ole Mart Place,
That once wuz Marthay True.I see her lookin’ down th’ deckTer git some welcome nod,Or still perchance th’ courage beckTer put her feet erboard.I know her arms are tired outEr holdin’ uv th’ string,Fer ev’ry one is knitted stoughtTer pace th’ haddickin’. Oh, Marthay True uv long ergo,Could you have looked ter seeYer rosy cheeks an’ eyes erglow Come cryin’ back ter thee,Could you have looked ter see each braid Thin twisted stran’s uv snow,I know yer would ter God have prayed Fer ankrige long ergo.Oh, Marthay True that bird-like sang,An’ twined th’ red rose high,An bade my boyhood’s heart ter hang Er love-light in thine eye,Could you have known th’ years would flingYer, stranded wreck uv Time, Ter sell with ev’ry knitted ringEr dead heart’s silent chime,Er Nipper woman in th’ cold,Unnoticed an’ forlorn,Mid fisher faces sad an’ bold, With hearts bruised like yer own,I know yer would ter God have prayedFer ankrige long ere this,Than rather been by Fate errayed Er thing fer chance ter kiss.O, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo, An’ twine th’ red rose high,
An prate, an’ tell what we will do, With laughter in our eye;But way down in our hearts we know Time’s but er fickle thing,An’ ere life’s winds begin ter blow Come grief an’ sufferein’.Oh, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo,An’ twine th’ red rose high,An prate, an’ tell what we will do,With laughter in our eye;But soon, too soon, our castles fall,Our gay ships drink th’ sea,An’ what should been joy’s merry callJest tears fer memory.Oh, Marthay True, God wot that thouMeet luck with all th’ fleet,An if er kind word will endowI’ll speak it quick an’ neat.I know er fisher’s tender spotIs ankered in his heart,Fer once with Christ they threw th’ lot,An’ hauled er goodly part.Oh, Marthay True, yer tale is told.Th’ hearts are tried an’ staunch,An, they have trawled er sum uv goldTer speed yer in joy’s launch.God wot that thou mayst happy be.Jest keep yer sad heart bright,An’ He will steer yer down Life’s seaTer find Hope’s port erlight.
Nipper woman: one of a class of women who knit
and sell to the crews of the fleet the woolen
nippers worn to prevent chafing of the fishing lines.
It is an industry pursued in the winter
and sold to the firms and the crews in the
early spring, at the fitting out or in the fall
at the “shifting of voyages.”
Nippers: when the trawl gets caught,
--“hung up,” in fishing vernacular,
--mittens are removed and the trawls
are hauled in with a pair of nippers,
bracelets of knitted wool or
cloth held in the palm of the hand,
creased to allow of a better hold of the line.
------Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902 Th’ Nipper woman, p. 37-38
Woolen nippers from Gloucester on view at the Smithsonian were exhibited in the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. I think of Falt’s poem, Th’ Nipper Woman, above, when I see this display, and find it all the more poignant now picturing the women & men working the dock and sea and seasons at port. Intimate and full. Gentle and rough.
GAFFIN' FISHW’EN th’ tide is out er flirtin’,An’ fergits ter shut its door,An’ th’ happy clams are squirtin,Playin’ injine with the shore, An th’ kids are ripe fer junkin’,An’ fer skippin’ rocks an’ shells,An fer woodin’ an’ fer punkin’Bobbin’ bottles in th’ swells,An’ yer hear th’ rats er squalin’Frum th’ black cracks in th’ walls,An’ yer quiz th’ tomcats stealin’ Nearer, nearer ter th’ calls, An’ yer mark some ole trap histid,Like er giddy thing on cogs,With its body kind uv listidT’ward th’ black spiles an th’ logs,All togged up in robes uv coal tar,Yaller oaker, sash’s an’ bo’s,P’r’aps er crimson-pintid five-starSunburs’in’ its puggy nose,Like some poor, ole primay donnay Thet has wobbled all her say,Now shoved further ter th’ corner W’ile th’ daybute works her lay,P’r’aps er ole T.D. er puffin’ Frum er drollin’ mouth er stern, Use ter bluffin’, use ter cussin’, Use ter words I know yer’v hern,Then yer know time’s ripe fer gaffin’An’ fer puntin’ roun’ th’ docks,Fer it’s then th’ crews git chaffin’An’ er rattlin’ th’ pitchforks,Fer it’s then th’ strays go slippin’Frum th’ ole caps with er thud,An’ th’ guick gaffs raise ‘em drippin’Ter th’ sly punts frum th’ mud.Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ sneakin’Uv th’ puntin’ through th’ spiles,Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ peekin’Uv th’ gaffers an’ th’ wiles,Fer it’s thievin’ pure an simpleAn’ it’s skittish work at bes’,Though th’ cheek may wear th’ dimple,An th’ eye stan’ heaven’s tes’.Oh, it’s risky work er gaffin’, Full uv duckin’s, fights, an’ jaws,Full uv skuddin’, full uv chaffin’,Full uv haul-ups, full uv laws.Fer if caught, as sure as Moses,Yer’ll be chucked deep in th’ dump,W’ile th’ smells uv sweet June roses Won’t c’logne up th’ homeward slump.
When the trips are being taken out,
often many fish slip from the pitchforks
and sink to the docks. A class of young
men and boys then row around in little boats,
called punts, and gaff up the fish beneath
the wharves and sell them. It is an illegal
business, and if caught, they are subjected
to a fine and imprisonment.
It is operated at low tide.
“Ole trap histid”: the old-fashioned shore
boats that haul up on the dock flats for repairs.
"Pintid five-star”: an old-fashioned emblem
For decorating ends of bowsprits.
------Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Gloucester Fishermen, 1902
Gaffin’ Fish, p.39-41
For me, this one is a compelling balance: he carries water for the skippers and (less) for the gray market hustlers. It’s messy. His dad’s guiding hand on this one. Scroll back up and look at the “Th’ spider an’ th’ fly” photograph, the pilings and surface of the water. The images and words flow and force, back and forth. The pairings aren’t so cut and dry.
Cpt. Walter M. Falt (b. Canada April 18, 1823- d. Glouc. 1904) emigrated in 1845; fish dealer aka fish merchant 1870 census; skipper; master fisherman 1880 census; day laborer 1900 census misspelled as “Fault”, Cpt and Master Sea Foam 1878
Mary Carlisle Robinson (b. Glouc. 1826 – d. Glouc. 1893) parents married Nov. 30, 1847 “keeping house”
Resided family home
172 East Main Street, he and his siblings with their parents Edward Hopper drawing of this house in the collection of the Minneapolis Art Inst.
clerk for downtown businesses (drugstores on Main)
studied oration and acting
“clerk” and “apothecary clerk” on earlier census “author” on 1900 census
dates on family headstone Marion, (1849 -1931) 1848? Walter P. (1851-1877) laborer 1870 census Julia Procter (1852-1924) Clarence M. (1861-1912) author 1900 census Austin C. (1866-1915) stevedore 1900 census Roland H. (1868-1870) Mary Taylor (1876-1917) 1874?
1894- Points of Interest: Gloucester in Song 1902- Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Fishermen of Gloucester
family plot, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery
Under a Banner of Many Nations
Note from the author: Over the past week, I’ve shared Boston Globe Gloucester stories about immigrants: Swedish, Canadian, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese , Irish, Scotch and so on. I thought of Falt’s books with each post.
Nations jump from the page when scanning vital stats documents, too- like this one from Gloucester birth registry 1868 – scroll over to the right through Occupation / place of Birth of Father/ place of Birth of Mother.
(To get the full experience, go big! The wordpress format reduces the size, however all photos in this post can be clicked, double clicked through, or pinch & zoomed to enlarge)
Captain Thomas Bohlin #3 “king pin among the halibut fishermen” (born in Sweden)
Captain Charles Harty tie for #2 mackerel “as a seiner his reputation has been made.”
Captain Solomon Jacobs #1 OG “widest known fisherman this country has ever produced…having started out as record beater, has had to live up to his reputation and has succeeded…” codfishery then mackerel seining – global expansion, lost everything & came back again “at the foot of the ladder. His old time luck had not forsaken him…” (born in England, brought to Newfoundland when a baby)
Captain Alex McEachern #7 high lines, particularly Grand bank codfisheries beat all records in 1897 (born Cape Breton)
Captain John W. McFarland tied for #2 “the only one to make two newfoundland herring trips, and marketed them in New York, on one season” (born in Maine)
Captain Andrew McKenzie #8 Iceland halibut and Newfoundland herring (born in PEI)
Captain Lemuel F. Spinney #5 “high line halibut catcher who is in the first flight of the “killers.” (born in Yarmouth, N.S.)
Captain Charles Young #6 halibut fleet -1895 record for most trips in one year (born in Copenhagen)
Captain Richard Wadding #4 halibut (born in England)
A June Morning – arch yes to my ear, and interesting catalogue of flora and fauna then
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A classic Edward Hopper inspired by Gloucester will be sold at Sotheby’s auction this morning*. Architectural and natural elements in the drawing remain recognizable today. The scene overlooks the same house on East Main, Capt. Joe & Sons, and Cripple Cove (see then/now comparison photos below). The Gorton’s factory building there burned down. Cripple Cove playground is the green on the right of the Hopper image.
The drawing last changed hands in 1989 when the Horchows purchased the drawing from Kennedy Galleries in New York. Will it land in another private collection or an institution?
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Gloucester Factory and House, 1924, watercolor and pencil on paper, 14″ x 20″, from the Carolyn & Roger Horchow collection (Dallas,TX) They purchased the drawing in 1989 from Kennedy Galleries, NYC.
Lot 8 estimate $800,000-$1,200,00 currently at $600,000 bid before the auction opens
*Update- With just 56 lots to sell and two withdrawn ahead of sale, Lot 8 came up quickly with a few competing bids and a hammer price of $700,000 ($867,000 with fees), below estimate.
Many lots before and after were short of estimate or passed (unsold) including a Winslow Homer watercolor which was “reoffered” by pausing the bidding on the final lot #56 to return to Lot #16 (which sold for 2 million hammer price) before moving back to the final lot, an Edward Willis Refield (which sold for $250,000). That whoopsie “reoffer” is highly unusual**. The auction house scrambled to bring that phone bidder forward before the close of the sale. A second Homer watercolor passed at 850,000.
The Sotheby’s December 11, 2020 auction offered a variety of American art from various collections. The sale results were a mixed bag of purchases, passes, and pulled works. Only one work sold far above estimate, thanks to a bidding war, a western scene by John F. Clymer. Scroll below the Hopper and Gloucester images to see the Homer.
above photo: Catherine Ryan
above: page from Edward Hopper all around Gloucester by Catherine Ryan, 2010
above: Sotheby’s catalogue entry page
In 2017, Christies sold a Rockefeller Hopper painting, Cape Ann Granite, also in December, which I wrote about here: Bring it Home.
**December 11, 2020 Winslow Homer Lot 16 sold at Sotheby’s after passing first in the live sale and then “Reoffered” before the close of sale. For both the first and second offer window, the bid opened at 1.8 million. In the first round the bidding went back and forth, but “passed” at 2.2 million, presumably failing to meet reserve or presale estimate (2.5 – 3.5 million). Before the final lot of the sale, the auctioneer annouced a “re-offer” for Lot 16 after the audio went silent for a brief time. The drawing was sold to a buyer placing a phone bid for 2 million hammer price (2,440,000 after fees), less than the “pass” of the first time through. This move is nearly an aftersale during the sale. Perhaps the first time around the buyer was late to the call or there was confusion determining the “up to” amount, factoring in the fees.
Property from a Prominent Private Collection
1836 – 1910
Two Girls on the Beach, Tynemouth
signed Winslow Homer and dated 1881 (lower left)
watercolor and pencil on paper
14 1/8 by 20 inches
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Esteemed conservationist and bird and insect authority, Chris Leahy discussed recent multi-year surveys of Essex County islands for Mass Audubon and Mass Fish & Wildlife with humor and depth as only he can having resided on the North Shore, in Gloucester, and championed this Important Bird Area for some 50 years.
The islands range in size and offer different kinds of nesting habitat. There are great shoals for fishing. Islands include familiar names like Tinkers, Straitsmouth, Thacher, Children’s, Kettle, House, Eagle, Ram, Cormorant and Ten Pound. Leahy recalled visiting some in the 1960s-70s for the first ever field counts with Dorothy “Dottie” Addams Brown, Sarah Fraser Robbins & others, and readily compares data then and now.
Some of the bird species making the count: gulls, egrets, herons, cormorants, harlequin duck, geese, loon, coots, purple arctic sandpiper, common eiders, and snowy owls. There are not a lot of songbirds due to restricted habitat although so many song sparrows he quips, “it almost feels like they’re going to attack.” Predators do and did. Gulls and rats stuck in my mind, and our ruinous plume hat trade. At that time “Snowy egrets– in FLA and elsewhere south– were slaughtered for plumage developed solely at breeding time, leaving any young to die and rot.”
Climate is partly a factor and population dispersement in the birds they find. Sometimes there are great “fallout” of migratories which are unpredicatable and awesome. Various species are easier to count especially those perched amid low tree shrubs. Guess which ones? Forgot the burrowers! Forecasts are exciting. He predicts we might see Manx shearwters maybe nesting here in the coming years.
Kindness of organizations and people with boats helps make this happen. And one steel hulled sailboat that makes access to these rocky isles a bit more possible.
Chris Leahy presented Treasure Islands for Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library. Mary Weissblum has endeavored to host evenings for Leahy’s numerous publications and projects, so many that she’s lost count. “Always a treat to be educated and charmed by his incredible store of knowledge,” she writes. Look for Chris Leahy’s next talk.
Learn more about Thacher Island Association (Paul St Germain) here
We snapped a wiper scraping snow off our car windshield. I headed downtown to Consumer Auto Parts, Whistle Stop Way, Gloucester, Mass. for replacements. They were happy to re-attach them if I ran into trouble which was nice to hear. I especially enjoyed the view of St. Ann’s framed through the window at nearly the approximate orientation of vistas depicted in Gloucester works by artist, Edward Hopper.
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I don’t suggest that the treacherous bridge needs to be “preserved” or want to impede progress. However, I believe there is still time to repeat my pleas (since 2012). Great design impacts future investment. Is there a small way that the design can tip its hat to Edward Hopper, Gloucester, and New England for this landmark and beacon for Cape Ann, this cherished vista across the Great Marsh?
The 1929 painting, Chop Suey, by Edward Hopper, sold for $91,875,000 (including auction and buyer premiums) on November 13, 2018. It was the premiere lot at Christie’s November sale of American art, and provided quite a return for the heirs dispensing the Barney A. Ebsworth marquee collection. A native of St. Louis, Ebsworth made his fortune in the travel industry (Royal Cruise Lines). He maintained ties with museums across the country because of his stellar collection. Reportedly, Ebsworth promised to gift the painting to the Seattle Art Museum about 2007 and contradicted those statements in later years. Even if it’s spelled out directly, wills and contracts can be broken.
The hammer price for Chop Suey was 85 million net which fell squarely within its presale auction estimate range of 70 million to 100 million. The buyer is unknown. There was a bidding war, and initial rumors suggest it was acquired for a public collection.
Hopper’s prices have raced since 2000. Hopper’s former record at auction was 40.5 million- also at Christie’s– for East Wind Over Weehawken, a 1934 oil painting sold on November 26, 2013. That sale toppled Hopper’s prior record of $26.9 million (for Hotel Window). Just ten years ago, the Cincinnati art museum purchased one of Hopper’s masterpieces, Prospect Street Gloucester, 1929, for 2 million from yet another Christie’s sale. That selection was one of the countless smart acquisitions led by a superb curator, Jane Glaubinger. Hopper’s 1934 oil painting of Sun on Prospect Street had been part of the museum’s collection as a result of the Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial since 1959. (At 8.4 million, Cape Ann Granite was a savvy purchase from the sales last spring.)
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Last spring a Homer image of Gloucester boys in a dory fetched $400,000. Relatable, though not Gloucester: Life Brigade is expected to fetch 4x that amount at Sotheby’s; another classic motif , Gathering Wild Blackberries, is estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000. There is a smashing Marsden Hartley of Dogtown.
Besides Stuart Davis, artists featured include Jane Peterson, Martha Walters, Hayley Lever, and George Bellows. There’s a classic Nahant work by William Stanley Haseltine and a marine themed WPA mural study by Lyonel Feininger.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge the photo and see descriptions. I’ll post results after the sales.
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Haskell’s House, 316 Main Street, is one of more than 110 homes and vistas in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that inspired artist, Edward Hopper (1882-1967).
Gloucester merchant, public official (city councilor / state representative), and Master Mariner, Melvin Haskell (1848-1933), commissioned the house in 1884.
Hopper and artist, Jo Nivison (1883-1968), were married in 1924. They nicknamed the fancy house high atop the hill the Wedding Cake House. The famous drawing was originally purchased by American master painter, George Bellows (1882-1925), from a sensational Hopper solo exhibition held in the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery in 1924. The watercolor changed hands and was eventutally gifted to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert A. Goldstone in 1996. Hopper depicted the house in two other works, both side views from Prospect street rather than this view from Main Street.
The house was listed for sale at $830,000 throughout the spring and summer of 2018. Landscaping today involved major brush and tree removal. The result will be a scene closer to the one experienced by artists Edward Hopper and Jo Nivinson in the 1920s. The scenic locale is a power spot: down the block from the Crow’s Nest and across the street from Gloucester’s Inner Harbor, Beauport Hospitality’s Cruiseport and Seaport Grill venues, Cape Ann Whale Watch, and Gorton’s.
Archival documentation of a federal grant awarded to Gloucester and nationally recognized for its innovation at the time: reclaiming the City dump for an atheletic field at the High School. Photographs of the project included a sweeping vista from atop Hovey Street.
Shared projects and working together are a focus for a new 2018 NEH grant opportunity.
Contact Mayor Romeo Theken’s arts & culture hotline email@example.com by Febraury 28 to add to a list of potential projects for Gloucester for this NEH Deadline, March 15, or to consider as other funding opportunities arise.
Mayor Romeo Theken shares the 2018 press release from the Commonwealth:
Activities supported by National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant funds include: capital expenditures such as the design, purchase, construction, restoration or renovation of facilities and historic landscapes; the purchase of equipment and software; the documentation of cultural heritage materials that are lost or imperiled: the sustaining of digital scholarly infrastructure; the preservation and conservation of collections; and the sharing of collections.
The grant below is a new grant from NEH and could be a great opportunity to enhance your local cultural or historical organizations. Please share it far and wide. And let us know if we can provide a letter of support for an application from your community. Regards, Rick Jakious
Good afternoon, The National Endowment for the Humanities has just announced a new grant program to support humanities infrastructures. Cultural institutions, such as libraries, museums, archives, colleges and universities, and historic sites, are eligible to apply for grants of up to $750,000. These challenge grants, which require a match of nonfederal funds, may be used toward capital expenditures such as construction and renovation projects, purchase of equipment and software, sharing of humanities collections between institutions, documentation of lost or imperiled cultural heritage, sustaining digital scholarly infrastructure, and preservation and conservation of humanities collections. The application deadline for the first NEH Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grants is March 15, 2018. Interested applicants should direct questions about grant proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org 202-606-8309. Please consider sharing this exciting new funding opportunity with cultural institutions in your district. Thank you,Timothy H. Robison Director of Congressional Affairs National Endowment for the Humanities 400 7th Street, SW 4th Floor Washington, D.C. 20506 (202) 606-8273
Innovative and worthy contemporary Gloucester possibilities abound: shared Archives (NSAA, Rocky Neck, Sargent House, City Archives, CAM, Legion, Libraries, Wards historical societies, etc); Digitize City Archives; Digitize Gloucester Daily Times archives; building and historic landscape projects city owned (City Archives, City Hall, Legion, Fitz Henry Lane, Fire Station, Stage Fort, beaches, etc) or in partnership; DPW work; on and on.
“What was an important early personal acquisition?
“The Hopper painting. It’s called “Hodgkin’s House.” I was really nervous about it. It was at the time certainly the most expensive thing by far I had ever bought. It belonged to David Geffen. It’s one of the things that’s skyrocketed in value. There are just so few in private hands.”
Hodgkin’s House was one of nine Gloucester paintings included in the 1933 Museum of Modern Art Edward Hopper retrospective. The eight other paintings were: Cape Ann Granite, Houses of Squam Light, Haskell’s House, Marty Welch’s House, Adams’s House, Freight Cars at Gloucester, Italian Quarter, and Box Factory Gloucester
Christie’s auction house has released more information about one of the upcoming Rockefeller sales. It includes a good reproduction of Cape Ann Granite.
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Several European museum shows in 2018 contain examples or are devoted to American 20th century artists and modernism like the ones curated for the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the Royal Academy, Tate Modern and British Museum.
Massachusetts loans boast the Edward Hopper painting Manhattan Bridge Loop from the Addison Gallery of Art collection, Phillips Academy, Andover, selected for America’s Cool Modernismat Oxford. Three Hopper etchings (The Cat Boat, Night Shadows, and The Railroad) are on the checklist. Hopper depicted Gloucester in over 110 works of art. Besides Hopper, notable artists and writer with various Gloucester connections selected are: Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, e e cummings, and Louis Lozowick.
Forgot the cry of gulls and the deep sea swell
Upcoming at Turner Contemporary –“Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ a major exhibition (Sat 3 Feb – Mon 7 May 2018) considering Eliot’s watershed poem through visal arts, and Margate. I hope they turn to Gloucester and Cape Ann, unspoken in the final poem yet approachable (and specified in excised iterations). From the museum’s press release:
“Presenting artworks from the 19th century to the present, including film, photography and artefacts, the exhibition explores how contemporary and historical art can enable us to reflect on the T. S. Eliot poem, The Waste Land, and its shifting flow of diverse voices, references, characters and places.
If Not, Not (1975-6), R.B. Kitaj, National Galleries of Scotland
In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work. Building on Turner Contemporary’s extensive experience in participation and engagement, the exhibition is being co-curated with a research group of 30 volunteers from the community, supported by the programme team at Turner Contemporary and external curator Professor Mike Tooby. Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ is being funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the John Ellerman Foundation.”
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Christies, the New York auction power house is currently marketing the Peggy and David Rockefeller art collection across the (art)world–Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles– before the spring 2018 live sale back in New York. The collection includes a painting by American artist, Edward Hopper (1882-1967), that was inspired by Gloucester: Cape Ann Graniteis one of the rare Hopper paintings remaining that’s not currently held in a museum. There are more than 110 Gloucester houses and vistas depicted by Edward Hopper.
Advance promotion of Christie’s upcoming Rockefeller auction have yet to illustrate the painting, although the artist’s recognizable name is mentioned in every press release and the painting is included in the world tour highlights exhibit. The catalogue for the sale is not ready.
Former owners of Cape Ann Granite have in common connections to Harvard, banking and art collecting
Billionaire and philanthropist, David Rockefeller (1915-2017), was a Harvard graduate and longtime CEO of Chase Manhattan bank (later JP Morgan Chase). His art appreciation began early, influenced by both parents and the Rockefeller family collections. His father was the only son of John D. Rockefeller, a co-founder of Standard Oil Corp. His mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948), helped establish the Museum of Modern Art, and the fund in her name helped secure Hopper’s Corner Saloon for the permanent collection. Several family members were Trustees. After his mother’s death, David took her Trustee seat.
Like David Rockefeller, the first owner to acquire Cape Ann Granite was a Harvard graduate, art collector and financier, about the same age as Rockefeller’s parents, and Hopper. Benjamin Harrison Dibblee (1876 – 1945) was the scion of California businessman, Albert Dibblee. The family estate “Fernhill” was built in 1870 in Ross, California (later the Katharine Branson School). Benjamin H Dibblee was a Harvard graduate (1895-1899), an All-American Crimson football player (halfback and Team Captain), and head coach (1899-1900). W.H. Lewis, a famous center rush, was the Assistant Coach. (Harvard football dominated under this coaching team. See the standings below the “read more’ break.) In 1909, Dibblee donated his father’s historic papers concerning California’s secret Civil War group “The Home Guard of 1861” including its muster roll and pledge of loyalty to Lincoln and the Union cause.Dibblee was an alternate delegate from California to the Republican National Convention in 1912. As a Lt. Col. he was listed as one of five California committee members for the American Legion in 1919. He was a big wheel investment banker at EH Rollins & Sons, a firm impacted by the Wall Street crash of 1929.
Wikipedia photo of Dibblee from The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association football guide, 1899
It’s fun to think about Dibblee possibly visiting Gloucester during his time at Harvard, like so many students and faculty; then, decades later, acquiring a major Hopper because it was both a modern masterpiece, and a Gloucester landscape.
The Hopper Cape Ann Granite painting has me itching to research all Crimson team photos– not simply varsity nor football circa 1895-97– because of the (remote) chance of another Gloucester-Harvard and athletic connection. In 1895 Dibblee was involved with sports at Harvard at the same time as author and Olympian, James Connolly. In 1899 both were involved with football; Dibblee as the Harvard coach and Connolly as Gloucester’s athletic director and football player**. Maybe they scrimmaged. Maybe they scrimmaged in Gloucester.
Hopper’s artist inventory log pages for ‘1928 oils’ itemizes Cape Ann Granite as follows: “Sent on from Gloucester September 27, 1928, 3 canvases. Cape Ann Granite, 29 x 40, Green picture on hill with rocks. Fresh green in foreground. Slanting shadows cast by rocks and boulders. Sky blue with clouds. Small tree on R. BH Mr. Dibblee 49 Wall Streeet of San Francisco (Lived near 14 miles from San Francisco. Knows Alex Baldwin in Calif. (SanFrancisco) 1500 -1/3. 1000 on June 5, 194 ”
The pencil annotation “Modern Masters EH 1933” accompanying the thumbnail sketch for the painting on the right of this entry may be mixed up. There was a “Modern Masters” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held in 1940 but it did not include this painting on the checklist. There was an Edward Hopper Retrospective held at MoMA October 30–December 8 in 1933 that did list this Gloucester painting, and the lender, Dibblee. (Incidentally, two other 1928 oils catalogued on that same inventory page, Manhattan Bridge Loop and Freightcars Gloucester, would both end up in the Addison Gallery collection at Phillips Academy.)
The Pure Landscapes
Excerpts from the 1933 MoMa Hopper retrospective exhibition catalogue:
“…When Hopper went to art school the swagger brushstroke of such painters as Duveneck, Henri, and Chase was much admired. Perhaps as a reaction against this his own brushwork has grown more and more modest until it is scarcely noticeable. He shuns all richness of surface save where it helps him to express a particular sensation…in spite of his matter-of-factness, Hopper is a master of pictorial drama. But his actors are rarely human: the houses and thoroughfares of humanity are there, but they are peopled more often by fire hydrants, lamp posts, barber poles and telegraph poles than by human beings. When he does introduce figures among his buildings they often seem merely incidental. Perhaps during his long years as an illustrator he grew tired drawing obviously dramatic figures for magazines. Hopper has painted a few pictures in which there are neither men nor houses. The pure landscapes Cape Ann Granite (9), Hills, South Truro (16), Camel’s Hump (22) occupy a place apart in his work. they reveal a power which is diconcertingly hard to analyze. Cezanne and Courbet and John Crome convey sometimes a similar depth of feeling towards the earth and nature…” Alfred Barr, 1933
“In its most limited sense, modern art would seem to concern itself only with the technical innovations of the period. In its larger and to me irrevocable sense it is the art of all time; of definite personalites that remain forever modern by the fundamental truth that is in them. It makes Moliere at his greatest as new as Ibsen, or Giotto as modern as Cezanne.” Edward Hopper, 1933
Yale owns a related watercolor by Edward Hopper, Cape Ann Pasture
Proceeds from the sale of the Peggy and David Rockefeller art collection at Christies next spring will benefit 10 selected charities. Perhaps a magnanimous collector might consider this Hopper Dogtown purchase for the Cape Ann Museum, a philanthropic twofer in this case, and needed. Cape Ann Museum does not possess a Hopper Gloucester painting and if any musuem should, it’s CAM. We need to eventually guide back the Hopper painting Gloucester Street, too.
To date Christie’s auction house has promoted primarily a Picasso and Matisse as the star lots from this collection of masterpieces because of their hefty valuation. The presale estimate for the Matisse Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923) is 50 million. The Picasso painting, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie (1905), a “Rose period Masterwork”, is estimated to top 70 million. The presale estimate for the Hopper is 6 million to 8 million.
The Picasso was diplayed in the libary of the Rockefeller Upper East Side mansion at 146 East 65th Street. Its first owners were Gertrude and Leo Stein. Gertrude Stein hated it though her brother bought it anyway. After Alice B. Toklas (Stein’s partner) died in 1965, MoMa trustees drew lots and were offered first pass on the legendary Stein collection. David Rockefeller won first pick, and selected the Picasso. I wonder how it will fare in this #metoo awakening. At the time of her death, Toklas had long been evicted from their Paris home as she had no legal standing nor benefit from any estate sales.
Reminder- Dogtown could be eligible for the National Register. A team of archaeologists began surveying and reviewing Dogtown the week of November 13. Come to a special public presentation TONIGHT – November 29th in Kyrouz Auditorium, Gloucester City Hall, 9 Dale Avenue, at 7pm.
“Presenters at City Hall on Nov 29th will include Betsy Friedberg from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, who will explain how the National Register program works and what it does and does not do, and Kristen Heitert from the PAL, who will present an initial plan for defining the boundaries of Dogtown as a National Register District. People attending the meeting will be asked to respond to that plan and to express their views about what makes Dogtown special. What should be the boundaries of the proposed National Register District, and what cultural features should be included in it? What would be the benefits of National Register status, and are there any drawbacks?”
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The Edward Hopper etching The Lonely House was the star lot going into the sale and in the live auction last night. The print sold for $310,000 vaulting past its pre auction estimate of $150,000-$200,000.
Hopper’s Les Poilus circa 1915 surpassed its $15000-$20,000 pre-sale estimate as well, selling for $42,500. I’ve sold an impression of the Lonely House before but I’ve only scene Les Poilus in the Whitney collection.
The sale featured Old Master through Modern prints by American and European artists.