This wonderful image is new to the Hancock Shaker Village library collection. It is an important acquisition as several individuals can be precisely identified and a building can be seen in its original location.
It is a photographic negative on glass, and dates to the late 1890s. The group of Hancock Church Family sisters and brethren is standing in the center of the road (now route 20), with the unknown photographer taking the image looking east from the steps of the Brick Dwelling towards the Trustees Office.
Elders Ira Lawson and Louis Basting are in the background, perhaps raised on a carriage behind the group of twenty sisters.
The Brethren’s Shop is located to the right of the group, on the south side of the road, and the buildings on the north side of the road show the original location of the Hired Men’s Shop (once a seed shop) and behind it the Horse Barn. The Hired Men’s Shop was moved by the Shakers in 1907 to its present site.
Hancock Bishopric Blanket Chest
As part of a Peer-to-Peer Collectors’ forum and a Willis Henry Shaker Auction that took place at HSV, the museum has purchased for its permanant collection a distinctive ca. 1840 Shaker blanket chest with lift lid and unique grain-painting. The chest joins some 22,000 objects in the museum’s holdings that document Shaker values, lifestyle, innovations, crafts, trades and tools. The bulk of the existing collection is derived from the 1960 transaction with the Hancock Shakers when they sold their village to the museum.
The blanket chest acquisition is made possible through generous funding by three anonymous lead donors and assistance from others (Bernard Margolis, Amanda Beatty, and Kathleen Moriarty) who appreciate the significance of building the museum’s holdings, furthering its research and exhibition programs, and bringing unique, original pieces back to the Village.
This pine and butternut wood chest is attributed to the outstanding craftsman Grove Wright (American, 1789-1861). Measuring 43 ½ inches high by 37 inches wide, it has its original ochre yellow faux-grain finish and fruitwood drawer pulls. Its feet are cut, canted and slightly arched.
The chest may have left the West Pittsfield or Hancock Shaker community in the 1940s, well before the founding of the museum. The famous Shaker collector, Dr. J.J. Gerald McCue, purchased the piece in 1949 from A. Hamilton of Sheffield, MA. McCue’s collection was sold on Saturday, September 8, 2012, by Willis Henry Auctions here at Hancock Shaker Village with more than 150 collectors and scholars in the audience — some bidding fiercely for premier Shaker pieces.
The museum’s Collections Committee, led by HSV Trustee Michael Zak, identified the chest as the most desirable piece for the permanent collection among the 105 auction lots available. It will be on view at HSV in special exhibitions and in historic building displays, and can be referenced on page 177 of The Complete Book of Shaker Furniture by Rieman and Burks.