Ann Butler


was the foremost decorative painter in the successful tin shop established about 1824 by her father, Aaron Butler (1790–1860), in Greenville, Greene County, NewYork. Butler’s father came to Greene County from Connecticut in 1799, and by 1811 he married Sarah Cornell. Ann was the oldest of their eleven children, nine of whom survived and attended Greenville Academy, founded in 1816. Ann Butler may have learned flower painting and other artistic skills at this academy, asornamental arts were often deemed an essential aspect of a young woman’s education in the early decades of the nineteenth century. She was conversant with all phases of production of her father’s tinware business at a young age, and accompanied him on trips to as far away as New York City. According to family history, Annwas in charge of the decorating, or “flowering,” of tinware produced by the shop by the time she was fourteen or fifteen. She later taught her sisters Minerva, Marilla,and Harriet to decorate tinware as well, and their work follows her own closely in design and technique. Ann Butler’s involvement in the family business effectivelyended when she married Eli Scutt, a union arranged by her father. Thereafter she moved to nearby Livingstonville, where she raised her own family of three children,and is buried in the Scutt family plot.It has been possible to identify specific motifs and styles as the work of Ann Butler, based on several pieces signed with her full name or with a heartshaped deviceenclosing her initials that have survived to the present day. Dense decoration of roses, rosebuds, tulips with turned-back petals, diamondpatterned baskets, and delicatefiller elements are brightly painted against dark surfaces. Flowers are painted in reds, sometimes with the addition of blue, with lean overlays of white to give definition.Fine ink work appears around the outlines or tendrils, and as crosshatching in flower openings. Fancy pieces, such as an English tea caddy and a Battersea-typeshaped trinket box, were among seven pieces that were part of the Butler family legacy until the 1930s. These were probably made for relatives and friends. Unlike thetinware produced for the general trade, which was typically painted Japan black, these are decorated with white bands on the lids or upper portions. The bands haveeither straight edges or are scalloped in a swag design. On dome-top trunks, the white band follows the curve of the lid on each short end.Butler’s short professional life highlights one of the few artistic occupations sanctioned for young women at the time. Painting on tin, clock faces, and other household decorative arts provided an opportunity for the practical application of skills that girls had learned in school. Butler’s bold signature, inscribed on several pieces, is evidence that she clearly took pride in her work. Her impact on the aesthetics of tinware produced by the Butler shop helped to determine the popularity of its wares. Ann Butler’s experience, however, typifies that of many young women who were expected to cease such activities after marriage and the establishment of their own homes.
See also
Decoration; Tinware
Brazer, Esther Stevens.
Antique Decoration: Twenty-seven Articles Reprinted from The Magazine Antiques.
Uxbridge, Mass.Coffin, Margaret. “The Fabulous Butlers of Brandy Hill.”
The Decorator,
vol. 18, no. 2 (spring 1964): 5–11.Martin, Gina, and Lois Tucker.
American Painted Tinware: A Guide to Its Identification,
vol. 1. North Berwick, Maine, 2000.Wright, Walter Herron. “The Butlers of Brandy Hill.”
The Decorator,
vol. 7, no. 1 (1952): 9–10