Creation of the Historical Museum
W. Parsons Todd (1877-1976) purchased “the Old House” from George Macculloch’s great-grandson, Henry Wise Miller, in 1949. Todd paid $10,000 for the twenty-room house on three acres and put more than $100,000 into the site’s restoration.
Mr. Todd incorporated Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) as a nonprofit museum in 1950. An avid private collector, he actively built his collections of American and British fine and decorative arts, which included carpets, porcelain, presidential material, and the work of political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Todd also sought to preserve local history through his collections. At the auction of the Twombly Estate in 1955, built by Florence Vanderbilt Hamilton Twombly in the 1890s, Todd acquired two easy chairs, three chandeliers, a rug, a pair of urns, more than sixty pieces of Crown Derby porcelain, and the monumental painting Landscape with Fowl.
Todd’s strong business background and foresight insured Macculloch Hall Historical Museum’s longstanding success. In the 1950s he advocated for a museum membership program to encourage public involvement. When a Board-appointed committee developed a furnishing plan based on recommendations from curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. Todd was prepared to “accept the decision of experts and resell or place whatever pieces were discarded.”
Today, in addition to its historically significant house and grounds, MHHM stewards the collections developed by Todd. Not only do these collections offer a window into how people lived during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they bear witness to the conscious preservation of our history by twentieth-century collectors active in the Colonial Revival movement. Todd collected European and American fine and decorative art, including works and wares made in New Jersey, and he amassed the largest collection of work by New Jersey artist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast, whose family house is located just across Macculloch Ave. MHHM interprets New Jersey and by extension American history through these collections both in their display throughout the historic mansion and in several exhibitions each year.
Over the course of his life Todd, a Morristown resident since age 6, was the town’s mayor (twice), an alderman, a Board of Education member, and prominent civic leader. He celebrated Morristown’s past and present taking care to publicly commemorate residents’ national service. Todd donated two of Morristown’s historic monuments including the Spanish-American War Veterans Monument in 1948 at the corner of Elm and Morris Streets and the World War I and II and Korean Conflict Monument circa 1960 at the corner of Madison and South Streets. Todd recognized the importance of preserving New Jersey’s rich history, which is why he endowed MHHM as a public museum and began actively collecting Nast’s work. In addition, he preserved the papers of the Macculloch-Miller family permitting a window into the lives of a civically engaged family for more than ten generations.