Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb was one of the earliest collectors of American folk art. She bought her first folk art sculpture—a cigar-store figure from Stamford, Connecticut—in 1908, when only nineteen years old. Mrs. Webb traveled throughout New England in search of folk art, and was, by the 1940s, buying from such prominent dealers as Edith Halpert at the Downtown Gallery in New York City. Halpert’s gallery, and ultimately Mrs. Webb’s collections, were an important point of intersection between American folk art and American modernism.
Shelburne Museum’s pioneering collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American folk art is one of the finest in the nation. Weathervanes, whirligigs, cigar-store figures, trade signs, ship’s carvings, and scrimshaw are on view, as are exceptional paintings by artists including Erastus Salisbury Field, Edward Hicks, Ammi Phillips, William Matthew Prior, and Joseph Whiting Stock.