author and preservationist, established the Fruitlands Museums in Harvard, Massachusetts. Born into a family of wealth and privilege with deep New England roots, she built four museums on the grounds of "the Pergolas," her country estate on Prospect Hill in the rural Worcester County town. Assembled over several years following her initial purchase of land in 1910, the property commanded impressive views across the Nashua River valley to Mount Wachusett.
Among the properties acquired by Sears was the site of Fruitlands, the home of an 1843-1844 experiment in communal living that Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) and other New England transcendentalists founded. Alcott's daughter, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), lived at Fruitlands. Her book Transcendental Wild Oats (1876) was based on her experiences in the short-lived "ideal" community. Sears arranged for the preservation of Fruitlands, opening its doors as a museum in 1914. The following year she published Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands, an account of the communal living experiment and its members.
The town of Harvard had been the site of a Shaker village since 1791, and Sears established friendships with Eldresses Annie Walker (1846-1912), Josephine Jilson (1851-1925), and other members of the dwindling religious community. A pioneer in the study of Shaker history and the collection and documentation of Shaker material culture, Sears was especially impressed by the spiritual traditions that the Believers maintained. With the cooperation of the Shakers, who had sufficient confidence in her to grant her access to the community's rare books and archives, she published Gleanings from Old Shaker Journals in 1916, two years before the old Shaker village closed its doors forever. Sears arranged to move one of the Shaker buildings to Prospect Hill, adjacent to the Fruitlands farmhouse, and installed within it a broad-based collection of furniture, crafts, and historical artifacts-the first museum devoted entirely to the Shaker heritage in the United States.
Sears was tied by family connection and personal conviction to the traditions of New England and the tales of its old ways. Among her fourteen fiction and non-fiction books, she chronicled the story of William Miller and the first Adventists in Days of Delusion (1924). The discovery of Indian arrowheads on Prospect Hill resulted in the building of a Native American collection and the creation in 1930 of an Indian museum on her property. Her important collection of early folk portraits not only prompted the publication of her trailblazing Some American Primitives: A Study of New England Faces and Folk Portraits (1941), but the establishment of a picture gallery on Prospect Hill, where she also exhibited her collection of Hudson River School paintings.
Remarkably creative to the end of her long life, Sears, who never married, closely supervised the growth and development of her museums. They stand today as monuments to her passionate commitment to the history and culture of New England and its intellectual, religious, and artistic heritage.
See also Adventist Chronological Charts; Painting, American Folk; Shaker Furniture; Shakers.
is the only artist in the northern Midwest of the United States known to have worked as a painter of farm and house portraits (essentially landscapes that prominently featured one's home or farm). He was born in Dresden, Germany, in June of 1846, the son of a university professor, and was raised in an affluent household. Seifert attended university and is believed to have received a degree in civil engineering. He fled Germany in 1867 to escape the Austro-Prussian War and arrived in the United States, settling in Richland County, Wisconsin. Seifert befriended the German speaking Kraft family, and married their daughter, Elizabeth Ann Kraft, in 1868. The couple purchased land near Richland City and together nurtured a truck garden whose produce Paul marketed in nearby towns. They had four daughters.
Family records hold that Seifert learned taxidermy in his youth from a groundskeeper employed by his father. This may also explain the origin of Seifert's knowledge of horticulture that he applied to raising and selling flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and planting orchards. Beginning in the late 1870s, he began painting farm portraits on site in oil and watercolor for farmers in the Richland, Sauk, and Iowa counties