News

DYER LIBRARY AND SACO MUSEUM ACQUIRE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS, TEXTILES

The Dyer Library and Saco are pleased to become the stewards of several historic artifacts, all acquired for the library and museum collections via purchase in November 2011. These objects include four important hand-written volumes relating to Sacoís Colonel Thomas Cutts (1736-1821), and a hooked rug and a burlap hooked-rug pattern connected to entrepreneur Edward Sands Frost of Biddeford.

"The Dyer Library and Saco Museum are the perfect home for these artifacts," said Executive Director Leslie Rounds. "The Cutts papers provide amazing insight into the home of a well-to-do gentleman of the Federal era, and Edward S. Frost pieces add valuably to our understanding of textile industries connected to this area."

Colonel Thomas Cutts Manuscripts
Colonel Thomas Cutts (1736-1821) is one of the most important figures in Saco's early history. A native of Kittery, Maine, Cutts came to Saco in 1758 at the age of 22. Within a year he had begun to buy up portions of what would become known as Cutts Island, in the middle of the Saco River between two growing towns. Bridges, ferries, factories, shipbuilding, and stores became Colonel Cutts's most successful ventures on this key piece of real estate. Some time after his marriage to Elizabeth Scammon in 1762, he built a large two-story mansion on the islandís highest point, where he could keep an eye on the harbor and his businesses. The founder of Saco Bank and Saco Iron Works, Cutts was also a Selectman, the town Treasurer, a Representative to the General Court, Councillor of Massachusetts, and a Revolutionary War officer.

The papers related to Colonel Cutts were purchased from Carmen Valentino, a dealer of rare books and manuscripts based in Philadelphia. They consist of four separate handwritten volumes: 1) an account book dated 1796-1800, including entries on goods exported to the West Indies on several of Cuttsís ships (lumber, shingles, masts, coils of rigging, whale oil); 2) an 1801-1803 account book for Cuttsís store, including detailed sales and business accounts for a wide variety of goods to named individuals; 3) a letter copybook dated 1840-1850 used by Thomas Cutts, Jr. (1810-1870); and 4) an 1821 volume entitled "An inventory of the Estate of Thomas Cutts late of Saco in the county of York Ö," containing a full descriptive inventory of Colonel Cutts's estate including debts owed to him by named individuals, and a detailed inventory and valuation of all household furnishings and personal effects organized by room. The inventory itemizes individual pieces of furniture, a long listing of silverware, books by title, crockery, glassware, pewter and tinware, cooking and kitchen utensils and pots, articles of clothing, linens, pictures, and the contents of cellar, outhouse, store and barn, as well as miscellaneous real estate and land holdings both in Maine and New Hampshire.

The newly acquired Cutts papers will greatly enrich scholarship on early Saco, Colonel Cutts, and Federal-era Maine. These topics were a foundation for the seminal exhibition and publication "Agreeable Situations: Society, Commerce, and Art in Southern Maine, 1780-1830" (1987). The Saco Museum (then known as the York Institute Museum) was a collaborator for that exhibition, which was organized by Laura Fecych Sprague and also highlighted the collections of the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk; the Maine Historical Society, Portland; and the Museums of Old York, York (then known as the Old York Historical Society). The papers will be housed in the Archives of the Dyer Library, where they will be accessible to researchers in the Maine History Room.

Edward Sands Frost Rugs
Hooked-rug entrepreneur Edward Sands Frost (1843-1894) of Biddeford, Maine has become one of the most recognized names in 19th-century folk art. He will be the subject of a major exhibition at the Saco Museum opening January 13, 2012: http://www.sacomuseum.org/mus_upcoming_exhibits_temp.shtml?id=EFElVElukAtdPxZyqR. Drawing from his early career as a tin peddler, Frost developed a process in which he created metal stencils that were used to produce burlap patterns for hooked rugs. The patterns proved to be so successful that in 1870 Frost sold his peddling business and went into the business of producing colored rug patterns. The business grew rapidly, from just Frost himself to ten employees. Frost continued printing patterns on burlap until poor health forced him to sell the business in November of 1876. At that time, Frostís catalogue included about 180 different patterns, including animal, floral, geometric, and "Turkish" designs.

The Dyer Library and Saco Museum recently acquired both a historic hooked rug and a burlap pattern created from Frost designs. The rug was purchased at auction at Gould's Auction in Gardiner, Maine on November 19. It is made from Frost pattern #6, which was one of Frostís more complicated floral patterns, featuring a "chain-link" border. It is rare for historic hooked rugs to have both a known date and a known creator, but this rug has both: it bears a label noting that it was "Hooked by Ambella Stiles before her marriage to George Austin Philbrick June 4, 1878." (Ambella, known as "Bell," was from Strafford, NH, the daughter of Joseph and Hannah Stiles. George Philbrick was from Seabrook, NH, the son of Joseph and Clara Philbrick.) The burlap pattern was purchased at the Wiscasset Antique Mall, also on November 19. It is also a floral design, Frost pattern #57, the same pattern featured in a completed hooked rug already in the Saco Museumís collection (acquired by purchase at Saco River Auctions in 2010). All three items, and more, will be featured in the special exhibition "Rugs All Marked Out: Biddefordís Edward S. Frost," on view at the Saco Museum January 14 through March 24, 2012.

Image caption: An inventory of the Estate of Thomas Cutts late of Saco in the county of York, 1821, ink on bound paper, 43 pages, collections of the Dyer Library and Saco Museum