Making Morristown's Community Museum
W. Parsons Todd (1877-1976) purchased Macculloch Hall from George Macculloch's great-grandson, Henry Wise Miller, in 1949. Todd paid $10,000 for the 20-room mansion and its three-acre garden. Todd invested more than $100,000 into the site's restoration from 1950 to 1955.
Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) was incorporated as a nonprofit museum for public benefit in 1950. Todd, an avid private collector, installed his collections of American and British fine and decorative arts. Todd filled the museum with antique carpets, porcelain, presidential material, and the work of political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902).
Todd was dedicated to preserving local and New Jersey state history through his collections. He kept some of the area's Gilded Age past in Morristown through his purchase of several fine works of art from Florham at the auction of the Twombly Estate in 1955. In MHHM's Historic Archives, Todd preserved what we know about life at Macculloch Hall in the letters, journals, receipts, and photographs left behind by generations of the Macculloch family who lived in the house from 1810 through 1949.
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.
W. Parsons Todd
W. Parsons Todd was born in Brooklyn on November 18, 1877. He moved to Morristown with his family at age five, received his education at the Morris Academy, now Morristown Beard, and for more than 72 years commuted to his job as the President of the Quincy Mining Company in midtown Manhattan.
Todd was a good friend of Phyllis Bard McVickar Langstaff, a great-granddaughter of Mary Louisa Macculloch and her husband Jacob Miller. The Langstaffs lived for a short time at Macculloch Hall before moving next door to The Kedge, the house built by Phyllis's great-uncle Hal in the 1870s. When Macculloch Hall was listed for sale by descendants of the Macculloch family in 1949, Phyllis Langstaff convinced Todd to buy and preserve the historic site.
Todd loved Morristown and served the town and community faithfully throughout his life. He was a member of the Board of Education, the Board of Aldermen, and mayor twice. Todd was also a vestryman of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Redeemer; a board member of All Souls Hospital, the Morris County Urban League, the Salvation Army, and the Morristown Library; and president of the Morris County Easter Seal Center. He also commissioned three monuments in Morristown to honor veterans of the the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Todd was affectionately known as "Mr. Morristown" until his death in 1976.