In the Main Gallery:

Thomas Nast: Unknown Works and American Icons

In the exhibit Thomas Nast: Unknown Works and American Icons Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) displays an important collection of rarely exhibited, virtually unknown works by the man whose art defined many of America’s most popular icons: Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant. Previously unpublished oil paintings and watercolors, rarely seen pencil sketches, pen and ink drawings, and original architectural elements from the artist’s home are among the objects presented in the exhibition. In addition to these and several never-before-exhibited pieces, some of Thomas Nast’s best-known characters are also on display.

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) is one of the most recognized names in the world of political cartoons. Often called the father of American political cartooning, Nast’s images remain popular today.  His well-known depictions of the Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant, conceived more than 130 years ago, continue to represent both parties. Uncle Sam and Columbia, two of his favorite figures to draw, are still recognized as symbols for the United States of America. His spirit lives on through his iconic representations of Santa Claus. The classic images which Nast popularized of the jolly old elf still appear on a variety of surfaces each year during the holiday season, and Nast’s Civil War images of the battlefront and home front were powerful tools for bringing the war into people’s homes.

Pencil sketches of Thomas Nast’s family from his early years as well as paintings he created toward the end of his life around 1900 are on display.  Nast worked with a variety of mediums as well as producing images not just of political life, but social as well.  He drew images of famous people of the time as well as his own family. He even enjoyed putting his own image down on paper as can be seen by the variety of self-portraits exhibited. Among the objects featured from Nast’s home are his personal glass ink well and a testimonial silver canteen presented to him by his “Friends in the Army & Navy of the U.S.” MHHM holds the largest collection of original works by Thomas Nast, which has expanded through donations and acquisition since its last major exhibit of Nast material. This exhibit will be open through June 25th 2015.

In the Nast Gallery:

The Civil War through the Eyes of Thomas Nast 

Before radio, TV, or the internet, there was political cartoonist Thomas Nast.  Nast illustrated battles, Union and Confederate troop movements, and their activities throughout the Civil War. He also captured the poignancy of those back home, who worried about their family members in combat. Nast covered both the home and battle fronts; his work was the main source of information about the war for many people. His illustrations in publications like “Harper’s Weekly” brought the information about what was happening into the homes of the American public, the way mass media does today. Mounted to commemorate the final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), this second floor exhibit will be on view through August 23, 2015.  Print a flyer for this exhibit…

Case Exhibit featuring Lincoln mourning badges

One hundred and fifty years ago in April, 1865, the sixteenth President of the United Sates was assassinated.  To honor the memory of President Abraham Lincoln, who was shot on April 14th 1865 and died the following day, MHHM presents a case exhibition display of mourning and memorial badges that were produced to remember the fallen President.

The case, located in the Center Hall, will be available for viewing through June 2015.

Currier & Ives 

Currently on display through June is the Museum’s small collection of “Currier & Ives” prints.  The 19th century lithography firms of “N. Currier” and “Currier & Ives” produced images of America that remain as popular today as when they were made.  Nathanial Currier and James Merritt Ives brilliantly tapped into an enthusiastic desire for affordable art for a myriad of applications.

MHHM has three “Currier & Ives” pieces by Thomas Nast from 1863 and N. Currier lithographs from the series “The Life of a Firemen”, the Museum has four of a set of six made in 1854. These were purchased by the Museum founder W. Parsons Todd who was was an avid collector of a range of decorative art, including paintings and prints. Todd also purchased a large collection of work by Thomas Nast directly from the artist’s son, Cyril.

Now open in our Upstairs Gallery 

Canals of New Jersey

Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) is partnering with the Canal Society of New Jersey (CSNJ) to present their traveling exhibit Canals of New Jersey. The exhibit was created in 1985 in part to commemorate the Society’s 25th anniversary. The display consists of panels that tell the story of New Jersey’s two towpath canals, the Morris and the Delaware and Raritan. In 1824 the Morris Canal & Banking Company was chartered to build a canal that would carry coal to developing markets along the eastern seaboard. The Morris Canal would pass through the heart of New Jersey’s iron district and provide the long-needed transportation system that would promote commercial activity and enable rustic settlements to grow into thriving industrial towns. The canal extended 102 miles from Pennsylvania, across varied terrain through New Jersey, ending at Newark. By the early 1900’s the canal had become obsolete. Today, the Morris Canal Greenway, a partnership between local communities and the Canal Society of New Jersey, seeks to preserve the surviving historic remains of the canal, interpret canal sites, and offer recreational opportunities to the public.

For the installation at MHHM, the CSNJ have given the exhibit a face lift, with new titles and new art work. The CSNJ’s display will be supplemented by objects including some from MHHM’s collection and information about Macculloch Hall founder George Macculloch who had the idea for the Morris Canal.  In the early 1820’s George Macculloch had a vision of a waterway to connect the Delaware River to the Hudson River in Northern New Jersey. This exhibit celebrates Macculloch’s part in the vision and the impact that the Morris Canal had on New Jersey.   The canal used locks and inclined planes to climb the elevation differences in the land.  The canal was a technical marvel of its time and helped to spur the economy in New Jersey by allowing goods to reach further afield than ever before. The exhibit shares some of the stories of the workers and families who lived and worked on the canal, as well as other details about its construction using photographs and drawings, as well objects including model canal boats and images. The Canals of New Jersey exhibit will be on display in the second floor gallery during touring hours beginning March 15th through October 30th.

MHHM_Morris Canal_NJ_ Inclined Plane 6 East in Rockaway_ Sept 2, 1906_by photographer Olin Vough_Courtesy of the Roxbury Historical Society


Thomas Nast Brings Down Boss Tweed

The Brains_Thomas Nast_Engraving_Harper’s Weekly, Oct. 21, 1871_Collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum

“The Brains” Thomas Nast Engraving, Harper’s Weekly Oct. 21, 1871. Collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum

In the second floor Thomas Nast Gallery, this exhibit featured  examples of the political cartoons Thomas Nast created attacking Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. Thomas Nast (1840-1902) is one of the most recognized names in the world of political cartoons.  Often called the father of American political cartooning, Nast’s images remain popular today.  His well-known depictions of the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant, conceived more than 100 years ago, continue to represent both parties today.  Uncle Sam and Columbia, two of his favorite figures to draw, are still recognized as symbols for the United States of America.  Nast’s powerfully drawn battlefront images brought the American Civil War into people’s homes. Nast’s spirit lives on through his iconic representations of Santa Claus, which appear every year during the holiday season. The campaign that contributed most to Thomas Nast’s fame was the one he carried on so relentlessly against the Tammany Ring of New York in the 1870s.  The target of Nast’s attack was “Boss” William M. Tweed (1823-1878), the political leader of New York City’s Tammany Hall. Tweed worked his way up from ward politician to become the most powerful political force in the city and state of New York.  As head of the city’s Commission of Public Works, Tweed was in position to hand out lucrative contracts to his cronies who “kicked back” a major part of their receipts to the Ring.  By appointing his Tammany Hall associates to key public offices, Tweed was able to prevent disclosure of his fraudulent activities.

Controversies: The More Things Change…

Controversies banner imageThis exhibition explored topics that helped shape our world through local history events which had national significance, and inspired people to consider the ways in which they think about these important, frequently debated issues.  Local history events which had national significance represented the issues: the 1833 Antoine LeBlanc murder trial, public execution and post-mortem medical experimentation; the immigration issues of the late nineteenth century as depicted by political cartoonist Thomas Nast, a Morristown resident, and the 1976 Karen Ann Quinlan “right to die” case. Where most exhibits typically provide detailed information about the objects on view, Controversies offered limited information about the objects, essentially forcing personal thought, and inspiring discussion, about the areas represented.   Curator’s books of supplementary information, drawn from primary sources, were made available within the exhibit.   Visitors were encouraged to leave comments about the themes presented. See more about the speaker series which complemented this exhibit.

“Not a Creature Was Stirring” – Christmas Animals, Toys and Thomas Nast 

MHHM_clockwork_santa_christmas_exhibit_courtesy_of_stan_freenyThis exhibit featured several of the Museum’s holiday-themed Thomas Nast images, toys and ornaments from a century ago.  This was the fifth year antique dealers and local collectors assembled unique treasures to create a  charming Christmas holiday exhibit, created through generous object loans from Joe and Sharon Happle of Sign of the Tymes Antiques, Lafayette NJ , Lauren V. Rethwisch of Wooly Sheep Antiques, Robbinsville NJ, and Barbara Silverstein, a local collector and member of the museum, and was curated by Museum Curator Ryan Hyman and Mrs. Silverstein.

 American Heroes in Bronze:  The Artwork of James E. Kelly

Sheridan's Ride. James Kelly (1855-1933) American Bronze 1878. Collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, Morristown NJ. Image courtesy of Stan Freeny

Sheridan’s Ride. James Kelly (1855-1933) American Bronze 1878. Collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, Morristown NJ. Image courtesy of Stan Freeny

This exhibition is now closed, but exhibit co-curator William B. Styple’s book is still available in the Museum Shop. This recent exhibit (closed November 10, 2013) explored the work of Irish-American sculptor James E. Kelly (1855-1933). In the decades following the American Civil War, more than forty Union Generals visited the New York City studio of Kelly, who was highly respected for his artwork’s historical accuracy.  While the war heroes sat, the artist conducted in-depth interviews regarding their wartime service, and heard their very personal stories of Fort Sumter, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Appomattox.  The work resulting from these personal interviews presented a unique perspective on the famous figures and events from the Civil War.     

“Gone For A Soldier:” Jerseymen in the Civil War

The exhibition is closed – but catalogs with full exhibit text and images are still available! See below. Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in collaboration with the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee (NJCW150) presented a major exhibit, “Gone for a Soldier:” Jerseymen in the Civil War. The exhibit brought together about 200 objects from thirty museums, historical societies, and private collections. Dana Shoaf, editor of Civil War Times (April, 2012) wrote in his review: “While this is unmistakably a military-themed exposition, the war’s devastating impact on New Jersey beyond the battlefield sinks in deeper and deeper as you move through the exhibit.”  (click the image below for a readable size): In the New York Times Antiques section Eve M. Kahn wrote:  “In the sesquicentennial commemorations of the Civil War regional exhibitions so far have covered topics as narrow as battlefield doctors from Albany, and Kentucky families divided by sympathies for the North and South. Troops from the New York region are only now receiving their share of museum attention.”  Read the full article: A comprehensive collector’s catalog of the exhibit is available in the Museum Shop or you can order one online!  The catalog includes color images of nearly every object in the exhibit and retails for $20.00  $12.00!