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George Washington Wells had started with a modest central Massachusetts "spectacle shop" in the late 1840s and built it into a major firm by the turn of the century. They also developed in their different ways a passion for collecting that would ultimately result in the founding of Old Sturbridge Village. Wells (as he was almost always called), unable to play golf with three of his friends, accompanied them instead on an expedition in search of "antiques." He had dabbled in collecting before, but that afternoon he became hooked on the ordinary objects of New England's past - "my primitives" as he often called them.

One decisive moment came on a rainy day in Vermont in 1926. From that day on he would incorporate this passion into the busy life of a prominent industrialist.

B., along with his brothers, other members of the family, and trusted associates, incorporated the Wells Historical Museum. recalled, "that the historical value of the things I'd been collecting was tremendous, provided that it could be put to proper usage....

A nonprofit educational corporation, the Museum took title to the collections and became responsible for their care and public display. had a proposal in mind and he began the meeting with it: the Museum would move a number of typical early New England buildings to the extensive family-owned site on Main Street in Southbridge, arrange them in a horseshoe shape around a common, and use them as galleries to display the collections. full of holes" by George, who had a very different notion in mind. He suggested that to make this material valuable it would be necessary to have a village, a live village, one with different shops operating ...

If they were ingenious in design, unusual in appearance, or even bizarre, so much the better.Telephones, automobiles, electricity, and motion pictures were changing American life along with flappers, jazz, and Prohibition.One of the era's stories of industrial success was the American Optical Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts. All three inherited the family's New England ethic of hard work and became successful owner-executives in a fast-growing, technically-complex industry.By the early 1930s there were more than 45 rooms full of New England "primitives" in the Southbridge house, and the question of what to do with this extraordinary profusion of ordinary things could no longer be avoided.The collection had become too significant not to be shared with the public. B.'s son George Wells put it, they "were too big and too numerous to be simply one man's hobby." In 1935 A.Old Sturbridge Village traces its beginnings to the remarkable collection amassed by industrialists Albert B. The family later dedicated itself to the idea of displaying the collections within a working village, where visitors could better understand how the items were originally crafted and used. The Wells family brought together a wealth of early New England artifacts, including tools, utensils, furniture, glassware, and clocks.He delighted not only in wooden bowls and painted country furniture, scythes and hayrakes, redware pots and butter churns - but also a mouse trap with a guillotine-like double deadfall, an example of Wood's Patented Portable Washing Machine, and devices for breaking cheese curd and crushing apples. Cheney Wells (usually called Cheney), took up collecting as well.Reserved, precise, and methodical, he found an interest to match his temperament and began to amass a significant collection of early American clocks and timepieces.The largest and most famous was Skansen, in Sweden outside Stockholm.The resonance of Skansen can be seen in their conceptions of the "live village" and "model village." Just as important was a particularly American notion, that of learning by doing and direct experience - a belief that activity, engagement, sensory stimulation, and participation were vital parts of education, and particularly, a museum experience.

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