In 1882 Nancy Pitt was occupied with making her new house into a home. Her husband had homesteaded in Canada Township, Labette County. There on the bank of Pumpkin Creek the couple had lived in a one-room log house with another room added later. After 10 years of marriage, Nancy Louise Steel Pitt and Snowden Menifee Pitt built a frame house nearby and moved into it.
The Pitts needed new furniture for their home. Using scrap lumber left over from the house construction a tall corner cabinet was built. With glazed doors covering the upper shelves and a closed compartment below, the cabinet was a functional piece of furniture.
During the 1870s and 1880s popular trends in home decoration prescribed a great deal of ornamentation. Women's periodicals such as Godey's Magazine (1830-1898) and books such as Household Elegancies, Suggestions in Household Art, and Tasteful Home Decorations (1875) instructed their readers in the creation of "artistic" embellishments for the home. Beads, leaves, twigs, seeds, fabric, feathers, and paper were cut, colored, waxed, and glued to decorate furniture, walls, mantels, and picture frames. Nancy Pitt, well aware of current trends chose to beautify her cabinet with cleverly applied paper ornaments. She cut and folded hundreds of squares of heavy paper into points and sewed them together in strips. The strips were then tacked all over the front surface of the cabinet. Two large multi-faceted medallions made of layers of folded paper points were added and the whole was coated with a heavy brown varnish. Finished, the cabinet appeared to be made of intricately carved wood.
For several years the cabinet kept the family's books, dishes, and other household items safe and close at hand. Its top was used to display flowers and birds made of wire, wool, and feathers. Nancy Pitt died in 1897. Her cabinet was passed onto her daughter, Pearl Nancy Pitt Bussman. Pearl Bussman carefully preserved her mother's handiwork and her children Ralph and James knew that to engage in horseplay near the cabinet was unthinkable.
Nancy Pitt was a modern woman whose artistic taste and craftsmanship was applied to her home. As did many other women homesteading in Kansas, she helped to disseminate cultural style across the young state.
Entry: Pitt, Nancy
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: December 2004
Date Modified: July 2012
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