Miss Fidelia with the Profile
Woman in Sunbonnet

Colonial Revival photographs held great appeal for early twentieth-century audiences. Photographs of colonial homes, bonneted women in nineteenth-century gowns, or country folk were frequently sought as illustrations. A July 1906 The Ladies’ Home Journal two-page spread, titled “The Real Daughters of America,” is illustrated with Allen sisters, Wallace Nutting, and Jane Dudley photographs. These Colonial Revival photographs conjure an image of the pre-industrial past, when the patrimony of the American Anglo-Saxon establishment went unchallenged. The patriotic text asserts: “Here is a cluster of pictures taking us close to the native soil, to the home and hearths of the real Daughters of America. They dwelt in old elm bordered lanes where generations of their people tilled the farm or turned the spinning-wheel, and where the spirit of American pluck and patriotism had birth and is still nourished. To these as well as to the victors of our wars we owe, in their degree, the land which we call ours. Their homely precepts and wholesome lives have infused into our book the strain of self-reliance which is making us a great, united people. Where the boughs cross the home-lane in summer and the snows shut in the snug hearth of winter these quiet folk cherished the ideas which stand for America.74 Popular interest in Colonial Revival photographs was certainly encouraged by tastemakers and entrepreneurs such as Wallace Nutting.75

The Allens’ commercial successes were promoted in the press: “It would probably be no exaggeration to say that many of the most beautiful photographic illustrations to be found in our current magazine emanate from Deerfield. To this rather remote little town the publishers send up advance sheets of forthcoming stories, and the Misses Allen supply wonderful photographic illustrations promptly, photographs which are real pictures. The models are all from life, and to the manner born. Even the age-worn secretary in the background is the real thing, not the fixed-up product of an antique furniture shop.”76 While Deerfield’s impressive architecture and material culture enhanced numerous Allen photographs, seen in How dy’ do!  and Miss Fidelia with the Profile (pl. 18), such photographs may have given the misleading impression that townspeople strolled around in costumes from earlier times.

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.