Wallace Nutting, a Congregational minister turned furniture maker, produced reproductions of early American pieces that today are themselves valued as antiques.Nutting retired from the pulpit in 1904 at age 43 because of ill health, according to an article in the current issue of Country Living, and bought and restored an old Connecticut farmhouse.
He went into the business of making hand-tinted photographs, hiring local women to do the watercoloring to his specifications, and as his business grew Nutting continued to purchase and restore additional New England houses. He also began collecting original American antiques.
Nutting in 1917 began applying his expertise in American furniture to the manufacture of a high-quality line of accurate reproductions.
A visitor to his workshop in Saugus, Mass., would have been alarmed to see Nutting and one of his woodworkers dismantling an original 18th century Windsor chair.
But Nutting was intent on designing Colonial replicas that were authentic in internal construction as well as appearance, and he believed that only by taking apart a piece could he know exactly how it had been made.
The furniture Nutting's craftsmen produced was of such high quality that during his lifetime and after - he died in 1941 - examples occasionally were sold with the implication they were authentic 17th and 18th century antiques.
Production at the workshop was small - which accounts for the scarcity of Nutting furniture today - and the quality workmanship and materials pushed the prices beyond the budgets of prospective middle-class clients.
In 1920, Nutting purchased an old factory building in Ashland, Mass., and remodeled it for both his furniture-manufacturing and print-coloring businesses.
The furniture produced under Nutting's supervision between 1917 and 1922, when he sold the company and first retired from that business, was marked with a large paper label.
The new owners had also purchased the right to use the name "Wallace Nutting" and branded it in script into the furniture they produced. Ironically, the script signature was not Nutting's, but was provided by one of his former employees.
Nutting was disturbed by the declining quality of the furniture being sold under his name and in 1924 he decided to buy back his company.