Cape Ann Museum CAM Connects
Wood regularly makes a starring appearance in the Cape Ann Museum’s collections, and in today's issue of CAM Connects we log just a few!

November 17, 2022

Gabrielle Barzaghi, Stump, 2012, pastel and charcoal. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the artist, 2012 [Acc. #2012.101.3].

Dear Friends,

As we approach the holiday season and look toward the beginning of 2023, we're grateful this past year has been one of great collaboration and engagement with each of you. Thank you!

Your collective support and engagement with the Cape Ann Museum is essential to our operations, and with many dynamic exhibitions and creative programs underway and planned for the coming year, please join us even more frequently in the months and years ahead. Recently, you will have received the CAM 2021/22 Report detailing the Museum’s dynamic activities, while invitations to renew your membership and provide support via the 2022 Dotty Brown Annual Fund have also been shared. 

There are lots of things to see and do with the Museum during these next weeks, and while this is the final issue of CAM Connects for 2022, we have so enjoyed this year bringing to you issues dedicated to artists’ colonies, Cape Ann neighborhoods, regional botany, transportation, Jewish heritage, the Folly Cove Designers, and now this current issue exploring the use and influence of wood.

If you haven't visited of late, the new Designed & Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers exhibition, as you can see from the Boston Globe's recent review, warrants a visit, and there are many new items available in the CAM store to see in person or by visiting the CAM Online Store. Last but certainly not least, please mark your calendars for CAM's annual Pop! Fitz! Clink! CAM members' gathering on December 17. Looking forward to seeing you there!

With gratitude and all best wishes,

Oliver Barker, Director

Wood in the CAM Collection

The transition from fall to winter calls particular attention to a humble material found in our homes, forests, and even museums: wood. Whether you’re enjoying the warmth of a crackling fire or gathering around a table for a holiday meal, wood is essential to our comfort and enjoyment in many forms. 

In the Cape Ann Museum’s collections, wood makes a starring appearance in the Furniture and Decorative Arts in the presence of finely crafted sideboards, grandfather clocks, and ornate chairs. It is the medium of choice for sculptors like James T. McClellan and woodblock printers like Don GorvettIt inspires awe when assembled as a vessel such as those sailed by Howard Blackburn and Alfred “Centennial” Johnson in the Fisheries & Maritime Galleries. Even in the CAM Library & Archives, every piece of paper—the books and archival documents—all came from trees! But before we branch off to highlight a mysterious wooden head, a skilled woodworker, a unique musical instrument, and the restoration of prized pieces, we begin today's issue of CAM Connects with the history of lumber on Cape Ann.

Lumber on Cape Ann

By Isabel Melton, CAM Library & Archives Intern

Childe Hassam, The Spar Shop, Gloucester, n.d. Lithograph on paper. Gift of Mr. Harold Bell, 2003. [Accession #2003.51.1]

Since the mid-19th century, citizens of Cape Ann have relied on the lumber trade to provide quality wood products after the popularity of local timber depleted surrounding forests. Wood such as white oak and longleaf yellow pine was brought from Georgia, Maryland, and Virginia, while spruce and white pine came from the neighboring states of Maine and New Hampshire. Logs from Maine and New Hampshire would be floated down the Merrimac River to Newburyport, MA, where it would be divided up and transported to various companies.

Schooner "Grace L. Fears" at David A. Story Yard in Vincent's Cove. Print from bound volume of Gloucester scenes sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, 1876. Photograph by William A. Elwell. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Throughout the 19th century, a healthy amount of lumber brought into Cape Ann was designated for the shipbuilders in Essex and Gloucester. Some wood was bought in random lots with varying degrees of quality while wood for specific parts of a vessel were picked by hand. Master shipbuilders would then work their magic, transforming these chunks of wood into maritime vessels through a labor-intensive process.  

Continue reading here.

A Mysterious Wooden Head

(Left) Barbara Erkkila Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.
(Right) Unattributed, Wooden Head with Crown, undated, carved and painted wood. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Deane Hancock French, 2016 [Acc. #2016.72.1].

During a 1985 visit to the Lanesville studio of sculptor Walker Hancock, a Gloucester Daily Times photographer snapped a photograph (above) of a gleaming marble bust placed in front of the sculptor’s fireplace. The marble is clearly centered in the shot, along with Hancock’s small bronze sketches of basketball players jumping across the mantle behind it. But the photo reveals another sculpture too: a modest wooden head drawing far less attention to itself. From its high perch on the granite wall, it feels as much a part of the room as the neatly bundled kindling below. 

Though Hancock kept this wooden head on his studio wall for decades, very little is actually known about it. In 2016, Hancock’s daughter donated the head to the Cape Ann Museum and shared that Hancock had received it as a gift from painter Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942). But where did she get it? And what is it exactly? These are intriguing questions that may yet go unanswered.

Continue reading here.

CAM Video Vault – 55 Years of Woodworking and Design with Jay McLauchlan

VL39 - 55 Years of Woodworking and Design with Jay McLauchlan - 01-14-2012
Video still from VL39 – 55 Years of Woodworking and Design with Jay McLauchlan. Speaker: Jay McLauchlan. Date: 1/14/2012. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Click here for transcript.

During his long career as a woodworker, Jay McLauchlan has designed and built more than three hundred and fifty pieces of art furniture, sculpture, and staircases. McLauchlan’s interest in working with wood began with a childhood spent around boats and continued with an introduction to the studio craft movement while a student at the University of California at Berkeley. He subsequently sharpened his skills under the tutelage of Alejandro de la Cruz at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen in Concord, New Hampshire, before moving to Gloucester in 1962. Over the years, McLauchlan has continued to develop his design talents while contributing to the local arts and cultural communities on Cape Ann. This lecture at the Cape Ann Museum in 2012 that was offered in conjunction with an exhibition of his work highlights the art and creativity behind his craftsmanship.  

Kuehne Conservation

(Left) Max Kuehne (1880-1968), Folding Screen, c.1930s, wood, incised gesso, tempera, silver leaf. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the Estate of Richard Kuehne, 2013 (2013.18.2).
(Right) Max Kuehne (1880-1968), Chest, c.1930s, wood, incised gesso, tempera, silver leaf. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the Estate of Richard Kuehne, 2013 (2013.18.3).

In the summer of 2022, the Cape Ann Museum received a generous anonymous gift of funds to stabilize two pieces of furniture in the collection made by Max Kuehne: a folding screen and chest of drawers (pictured above). This conservation work is being undertaken by decorative art conservators Christine Thomson and Wenda Kochanowski in the curatorial workroom at the Museum's Janet & William Ellery James Center. The project will be finished by the end of the year. 

Max Kuehne (1880-1968) was a man of many interests and talents. Born in Halle, Germany, he came to this country with his family in the 1890s. As a young man, he found work as an assistant in a dental laboratory, as a patent law clerk and as a printer's apprentice. In 1907, Kuehne began his formal art training, studying under William Merritt Chase and Kenneth Hayes Miller at the New York School of Art. The following year, he enrolled in the National Academy of Design.

Conservator Wenda Kochanowski works on the bottom of a lacquered screen created by Rockport artist Max Kuehne. Photograph by Michael Cronin. Image courtesy of the Gloucester Daily Times.

Kuehne made his first visit to Cape Ann in 1912, painting around Gloucester's busy harbor area. Although he is known primarily as a painter, over the years, Max Kuehne had a successful career as a wood carver, making picture frames, furniture, and sculptures. During the 1930s, he also created a series of etchings, learning the art from fellow Rockport artists Bill McNulty and Gifford and Reynolds Beal.

For more on the conservation process, read this Gloucester Daily Times article

The Babcock Piano

By Paul Romary, CAM Docent

A century ago, Music Trades magazine called the wood framed “pianoforte” that now sits in the back parlor of the Captain Elias Davis House (c. 1804) the centerpiece of a Cambridge showroom that sold Poole Pianos.

The piano on display in the Capt. Elias Davis House’s back parlor in 2017 at the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA.

That story profiled Ava Poole, whose success with the firm he inherited from his father enabled him to buy a home on Eastern Point. When Ava died in 1942, his heirs loaned Ava’s prized possession to CAM before selling it to the Museum in 1975. While no longer playable, the piano retains an antiquarian elegance. It is a reminder of the Republic’s fitful survival in its early decades and its explosive growth during the 19th century.

Built around 1827 in the Boston workshop of Alpheus Babcock (1785-1842), this instrument would have cost his customers about $200 -- less than the price of an English import but still a small fortune. By comparison, Capt. Davis paid only $1,260 to build his entire house twenty-some years earlier. 

Pianos were the preserve of the wealthy until economic and societal forces democratized them over the course of the 1800s. They eventually found their way into hundreds of thousands of homes as a result of industrialization, consumerism and Victorian culture.

Continue reading here.

And for more about the individual who lived in the historic house where the piano now resides, check out a new book in the CAM Store edited by Paul McGeary and researched, transcribed, and compiled by an industrious group of CAM Volunteers:

Ships logs of Capt. Elias Davis of Gloucester.