Presented to the author of the book judged the year’s most distinguished contribution to the study of American decorative arts published in the English language. This prize is also named after the eminent scholar Charles Montgomery.
2015 Montgomery Prize and Award
By Wendy Cooper, DAS Montgomery Prize and Montgomery Award Committee chair
The 2015 recipient of the Montgomery Prize is In Plain Sight, Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould, by Kemble Widmer and Joyce King, et al., published by the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA) in association with D. Giles Ltd. (London, England 2014. Widmer is an industrial engineer who examines early furniture in Boston and Essex County, MA. King, is an 11th-generation resident of Salem, MA, and an expert in genealogical research. They have worked together on issues of provenance that have enabled attributions of furniture to Gould.
The survival and subsequent discovery of any 18th-century cabinetmaker’s daybooks or account books is exceedingly rare, so when Widmer and King found Nathaniel Gould’s two daybooks and one account book at the Massachusetts Historical Society in 2006, it opened a new window on the past.
Widmer has been studying northeastern Massachusetts furniture for years. With an engineer’s meticulous mind, he was the perfect person to take the interpretation of these remarkable survivals to a high level of understanding not only illuminating the maker, but also the specific forms of furniture, the clients, the places they inhabited, and the exported pieces that were sent to far-reaching ports as venture cargo.
Widmer’s detailed analysis of these documents, with the notable team of experts who contributed supporting essays, has given collectors, curators and scholars a much broader and comprehensive understanding of both the cabinetmaking profession in 18th-century Salem and the entire context that supported it.
Perhaps the most valuable and lasting contribution of this publication is found in the Client List and five Appendices. Gould’s patrons, drawn from all economic levels and professions, are noted with life dates, places of residence and occupations. In finely detailed Appendix tables, Widmer and King list (with additional information) Objects by Form, Journeymen and Apprentices, Orders for Export, Orders associated with Weddings, and Orders associated with Children and Childbirth. Such a comprehensive synthesis looks holistically at not only a craftsman, but also the entire context of his work and society.
Glenn Adamson, Daniel Finamore, Dean Thomas Lahikainen and Elisabeth Garrett Widmer contributed essays.
The 2015 recipient of the Montgomery Award is Woodenware and Wooden Toys of Hingham: Bucket Town, Massachusetts, 1635–1945, by Derin T. Bray, published by the Hingham Historical Commission (MA) (2014). Bray is an art and antiques dealer (Portsmouth, NH).
Totally fascinating and brilliantly researched, written (including the wonderfully detailed endnotes) and produced, Bray’s publication illuminates a craft that pervaded and supported Hingham for well over two centuries. It also elevates the making of important utilitarian objects – necessities from the very first years of settlement to the mid-20th century—to a more respected and fully understood craft.
The coopers and eventually wooden-toy makers of this early town quickly focused on their surrounding natural resources and a specific type of small wooden product that led to their leadership and economic survival in pre- and especially post-revolutionary Massachusetts.
Key to this study, and the impetus for it, is the surviving physical evidence of one of the most important family of makers—the Herseys—whose shop, tools, products and numerous pieces of written documentation have been preserved through the insightfulness of generations of descendants. Bray has combed the country for documented objects made by a wide number of Hingham’s more than 400 coopers and 70 toymakers through the centuries, from buckets and boxes, to churns, canteens and a “Dumb Betty” – one of the earliest types of washing machines.
Who would have thought that objects so mundane and thoroughly useful and used could be so interesting? Set within the context of the community, country and the centuries, this is a most engaging picture of people and place.
Previous Montgomery Prize and Award Recipients
2004 Donald Fenimore, Iron at Winterthur (Winterthur, DE: Winterthur Museum, distributed by University Press of New England, Lebanon, NH, 2004).
1998 Patricia E. Kane, ed., Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers (New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, 1998).
1997 Ronald A. Hurst and Jonathan Prown
1996 Nancy Goyne Evans and Edward S. Cooke, Jr.
1995 Martha Gandy Fales
1994 Charles L. Venable
1993 Betty Ring
1992 David L. Barquist
1991 Graham Hood
1990 Elisabeth D. Garrett