away awhile

It’s been a few months since I entered a thought. It’s possible I haven’t had any recently. Seemed like a just a few days ago, but it’s now December and August was long ago. Something about the pandemic and working during it has completely distorted my sense of time.

One last thought on the Wallace Nutting book, which I completed and returned in August (seemingly eons ago). The lasting impression and what will stick with me anytime I hear his name: he burned all his business records around the same time he wrote his biography, so historians have a difficult time verifying his claims.

No doubt he ran a successful photography, real estate and furniture business – selling early American nostalgia to a growing middle class. But why burn all the records? Seems ornery. In a way it intrigues me further. Was it an act of housekeeping? A kind of Marie Kondo, records-do-not-spark-joy purge? That brings a smile to my face if it was. Or an accident? Seems doubtful. Or, and also fun to consider, why destroy the records of a life’s work – that of a successful business? Maybe there was something fun or unexpected in there.

That piece of the story, the burning of records, brings a splash of excitement when I think of Nutting. It changes my impression of the flat character – rigid New England minister making old brown furniture and old-timey photography. I work around his chairs every day in the wood shop. They now bring a smile to my face when considering the man.

Recommended: Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America by Thomas Andrew Denenberg

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