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Handicraft Vol. III, No. 11 -"How They Do It In Deerfield"

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The National League of Handicraft Societies published the monthly periodical "Handicraft" at the turn of the 20th century, and included in its February 1911 edition an article about the handcraft industries of Deerfield, Massachusetts. In the article, author Mary Allen of Deerfield recognized the town as a pioneer in the Arts and Crafts Movement sweeping the nation at that time. The desire to revive and preserve preindustrial crafts arose from an increasing concern among many middle- and upper-class Americans about the social costs of industrial growth and technology, and revealed also an unease about the workers who were part of that new industrial order. The same ambivalence about the nature of American industry and labor imbued the Colonial Revival during this period. In this article, Allen talked about the "marked individual initiative" of the Deerfield industries, characterizing them as more spontaneous and democratic than most arts and crafts societies, which were often "promoted, developed and governed by a few leaders quite outside of the working members." She observed that "having each man a law unto himself has its advantages and its disadvantages," most notably in terms of the product design and quality that were central to the Arts and Crafts movement, but she concluded that a "spirit of self-reliance, guided by a sense of honor and responsibility, will in the long run produce better results than a chastened obedience to the dictates of an absolute authority." Mary Allen, together with her sister Frances, pioneered early artistic photography and played an essential role both in Deerfield's Arts and Crafts Movement and its Colonial Revival.


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