Rufus Porter School of Folk Art

In federal period New England, between the years 1778 and 1840, the plain plastered walls in hundreds of homes were made cheery and bright with the lively folk art that sprang from the humble paint brushes of travelling artisans. Below, I detail many of the historic New England homes whose walls were stenciled with the iconic patterns attributed to New Hampshire farmer and artisan, Moses Eaton, Jr.

Maine

This home was built in 1775 by Abijah Waterman, in the small coastal town of Waldoboro. The stately white Federal home sits atop a lovely hill, surrounded by verdant fields and lush woodlands. The stenciling, attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr., is found in the home’s main entry way and in the stairwell reaching up to the second floor. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Maine Pineapple, Oak Leaf Cluster, and Four Fan Flowers with Leaves.


The stenciling in this Kennebec County circa 1783 home is attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. Stenciling attributed to Eaton is also found in the neighboring town of Vassalboro. In the 1800’s Sidney was a farming community, with its main crop being hay. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Maine Pineapple, Large Flower Spray, and Maine Flower Basket.


This Cape Cod style home was built along the Sebec River in 1785. In the late 1700’s this home served as a “portage” house. For 25 cents a night, this house offered weary river travelers a place to sleep. The stenciled walls were found in a part of the house that was built in the 1820’s. The stenciling is attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. and was most likely done between the years of 1828-1835. Records indicate that the stenciling was done during a snowstorm, and took the stenciler, most likely Moses Eaton, Jr., a week to complete. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Large Flower Spray, Small Flower Spray, Weeping Willow, Maine Flower Basket, Oak Leaf Cluster, Four Fan Flowers, and Maine Pineapple.

 
 


On one of his trips Down East, sometime between the years of 1820-1840, Moses Eaton, Jr. traveled along West Kennebunk Road and arrived at the c1750 David Thompson House. Here, he offered to stencil the walls in the home with his colorful repertoire of folk art designs. The designs and patterns Eaton chose for this home are, in my opinion, some of his most beautiful offerings. He covered the walls with cheery folk art designs that spoke to the beauty of nature, and the coming of spring. The pineapples, maple leafs, flower sprays and sunflowers that graced the walls in the David Thompson house surely brought joy to the families who lived there, reminding them of warmer days in the midst of the long Maine winters. Unfortunately, the David Thompson house was destroyed in the early 20th century, but not before some of the early researchers had the opportunity to view, photograph, and document the walls. A section of a stenciled wall from this house was saved, and it is now displayed at the Brick Store Museum, in Kennebunk, Maine. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Small Flower Spray, Sunflower, Maple Leaf with Wreath, and Feather Flower.


Deacon Increase built this home in 1815 using the lumber he cut and planed from his own saw mill. The stenciling in this home is attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. Motifs found in this home include: Large flower spray, asymmetrical weeping willow, and Maine flower basket.


Around 1820, Peter Dunn built a tavern in the Kennebec County area once known as “Washington Plantation” and later incorporated as Mount Vernon. Mr. Dunn not only ran the tavern, but also operated the General Store and Post Office in town. Stenciling attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. Motifs found in this tavern include: Maine Pineapple, Oak Leaf Cluster, Large Flower Spray, and Four Fan Flowers motif.


On one of his trips Down east, Moses Eaton, Jr. traveled along the Buxton Road in North Saco and arrived at the c1728 Grant House. Here, he offered to stencil the walls in the home with his colorful repertoire of folk art patterns. In a hallway of the home, Eaton chose a “three big oak leaves” frieze to run along the tops of the walls, and a graceful green leaf design to top the chair rail. He then divided the walls into “panels” with the use of a “diamond and petal” vertical design, and finished by placing pineapples, and oak leaf clusters within the panels. Undoubtedly, the proud red and green pineapples stenciled by Eaton 200 years ago have cheerfully “welcomed” all who entered this lovely and historic home. Motifs found in this home include: Small Flower Spray, Maine Flower Basket, Oak Leaf Cluster, Four Fan Flowers with Leaves, Traditional Pineapple, Sunflower, and Maple Leaf with Wreath.


In the Kennebec County town of East Vassalboro there is a home with stenciling attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. In this Cape Cod style home, the extant stenciling was discovered under five layers of wallpaper. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Maine Flower Basket, Asymmetrical Weeping Willow, Maine Pineapple, Oak Leaf Cluster, Four Fan Flowers, Zinnia, and Maple Leaf with Wreath.



This 1.5 story Cape Cod style home was built by Tobias Ricker in 1824. The stenciling found in this home is attributed to Moses Eaton, Jr. One of the walls in this home includes an all-over design that featured five different motifs. Motifs found in this home include: Oak Leaf Cluster, Maine Pineapple, Zinnia, Feather Flower, and Maple Leaf with Double Wreath.

Massachusetts


In the lovely coastal town of West Newbury, Massachusetts a circa 1823 Greek revival home has beautiful stenciling in one of the upstairs bedchambers. Red and green motifs and designs are striking against canary yellow walls.  Eaton stenciled around the top of the walls with his interesting “acanthus leaf” frieze, and he chose the pretty “rose and leaf” border for the baseboard and overmantle. The room was divided into panels by an unusual vertical stencil called “lighted candle”.  The panels were filled with flower sprays and oak leaf clusters. The overmantle included primitive flower baskets, and Eaton stenciled two lone weeping willow trees in the space between the front windows. Years ago, the stenciling was authenticated by Historic New England/SPNEA as the work of Moses Eaton, Jr. I had the opportunity to see the stenciling while the home was up for sale. It is my hope that the new owners enjoy the historic stenciling found in the little bedchamber, and that the timeless tradition brought to this home by Moses Eaton, Jr. endures. Motifs found in this home include: Primitive Flower Basket, Oak Leaf Cluster, Large Flower Spray, and Weeping Willow.


In the spring of 1815, newlyweds Dolly and Caleb Wheeler, Jr. became the proud owners of a home located in the heart of Bolton, Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, it is believed that the Wheelers hired itinerant stenciler, Moses Eaton, Jr. to brighten their plain plastered walls. He filled several rooms with gay patterns and designs that spoke of the hope and promise of spring. Like the home in West Newbury, Moses Eaton, Jr. chose the “acanthus leaf” frieze for one of the rooms. Stenciled hearts, cheery and red, along with sweet flower sprays, dance beneath the wonderful “pine tree and crossed boughs” frieze in the front hallway, greeting all who enter the big colonial home with homespun warmth. The front parlor sports a seldom seen frieze of small star-like flowers with delicate leaves. Surely, the hearts that Eaton incorporated into two of his well-known designs, and stenciled in the hallway and parlor, were symbolic of the love and devotion of the recently wedded couple. Motifs found in this home include: Large and Small Flower Spray, Primitive Flower Basket, Four Fan Flowers, and Feather Flower with Heart.


Along Great Road in Acton, Massachusetts, a stately hip-roofed colonial home, known as the John Robbins House, was visited by Moses Eaton, Jr. It is believed that Eaton traveled along Great Road sometime around 1830, and at the John Robbins house he left in his trail several walls full of cheery folk art design. This home has a very interesting history, as it was one of the four “Lottery Houses” built in Acton around 1800. In 1794, Harvard sponsored a lottery in order to raise funds for a new dormitory. Four neighbors from Acton purchased the winning ticket, and some of the winnings were used to build this home. Originally, the stenciling filled the center hallway and continued up the stairs and around the second floor landing. However, due to the poor condition of the walls, most of the stenciling has been painted over. At the top of the stairs, two panels of the extant stenciling remain. Like the homes in West Newbury and Bolton, Eaton chose the interesting “acanthus leaf” frieze to top the walls in the John Robbins House, and he placed bold red medallions amongst the leaves. Eaton stenciled a baseboard of large green leaves, and divided the walls into panels with his “diamond and petal” vertical. Filling the panels, we find a circular “four fan flowers” motif and oak leaf clusters with hearts. Eaton incorporated hearts into the oak leaf clusters, perhaps in celebration of a new bride beginning her new life in the John Robbins House. Closely inspecting the wall, it appears that Eaton washed the walls in raspberry or salmon-pink before stenciling his signature red and green motifs. Motifs found in this home include: Oak Leaf Cluster with Heart, and Four Fan Flowers motif.

New Hampshire:


The circa 1782 Moses Eaton Jr. House is a cape style home, with an attached barn. An ancient maple tree, 200 years old, stands proudly in the front yard. Behind the house, the fields that used to bloom with the crops that Eaton, Jr. grew still remain. Ancient stone walls lining the property complete the pastoral setting. When Moses Eaton, Jr. was 39, he bought this farm in Harrisville, NH just down the road from his childhood home in Hancock. He married Rebecca Plant of Dublin, NH, and they had two daughters and a son. He stenciled the soft raspberry walls in the front parlor of his home with beautiful red and green patterns and motifs. In his later years he farmed his land and on occasion continued his stenciling journeys around New England. In 1886, at the age of 90, Eaton died at his home in Harrisville. His descendents continued to live in this home until the year 2002. Motifs found in this home include: Small Flower Spray, Primitive Flower Basket, Four Fan Flowers Motif.


The Freese House was a big white center-chimney colonial. It was built in Deerfield around 1805 by Andrew Freese. Moses Eaton, Jr. traveled through the small farming town of Deerfield, and stenciled the walls in several establishments, including this home. The patterns and designs created by Eaton Jr. often reflected the brilliance of nature. In the parlor of this home, Eaton stenciled patters that reflected the splendor of New England in the summer. Motifs found in this home include: Large Flower Spray, Primitive Flower Basket, Oak Leaf Cluster with Heart, and Weeping Willow.


At some point in the early 1800’s it is believed that Moses Eaton Jr. traveled through the small farming community of Epping, New Hampshire. In the 1970’s Margaret and Edward Fabian recorded and documented the lovely folk art stenciling found in this home. Motifs found in this home include: Small Flower Spray, Primitive Flower Basket, Feather Flower, Oak Leaf Cluster, Four Fan Flowers Motif, and Weeping Willow.


In the little town of Temple, NH, there is a rambling old farmhouse just visible beyond an ancient stonewall. This is the house that Elias Colburn built in 1781 for his wife and four children. Around 1824 when Elias’ son was to be married, a small bedchamber in the attic was made ready for his new bride, Jane Parker. Moses Eaton, Jr, from the nearby town of Hancock, stenciled the walls of this bridal chamber with his cheery red and green designs and motifs. I just love the motifs and patterns that Moses Eaton, Jr. chose for this tiny attic room. I think that some of his most beautiful designs are found here. Eaton Jr. stenciled the baseboard with a pattern of large leaves, and topped the walls with his festive “arch and candle” frieze. The pretty “rose and leaf” pattern was also used as a border along one edge of the wall. The walls were divided into panels by his diamond and petal verticals. Primitive Flower Baskets, Moses Eaton Wreaths, Oak Leaf Clusters, Four Fan Flowers Motifs and darling little flower sprays with heart accents filled the panels in a lively display.



In the town where Franklin Pierce, fourteenth President of the United States was born and raised, Moses Eaton, Jr. stenciled his trademark folk art motifs. At the c 1815 Withington Home, red and green motifs were stenciled directly on gray plastered walls. Motifs stenciled in this home include: Small Flower Spray, and the Moses Eaton Wreath.

 

© Copyright 2010 Vintage New England Stenciling • All rights reserved.
All work shown on this site is the property of Vintage New England Stenciling
This site designed by Valentine Design