Wayland Historical Society

Alfred Wayland Cutting Photographs

Uncle Al Cutting
Detail from: Uncle Al Cutting
Alfred W. Cutting (1860-1935), although born and educated in Boston, had a deep connection to Wayland. Five generations of Cuttings had lived in Wayland since the arrival of his great-great-great-grandfather in 1713. His father, Charles Cutting, owned considerable property along Old Sudbury Road and the family was often there despite the fact that both Alfred and his father worked in Boston (Charles as a stationer and Alfred as a bank teller). Alfred got to know many people in his neighborhood of Old Sudbury Road and Glezen Lane and frequented the home of his childhood idol, Lydia Maria Child -- the noted abolitionist and author -- and her husband David Lee Child. Later he and his sister, Marcia, lived in her former home.

Cutting’s contributions to Wayland are lasting. He served as Wayland’s unofficial historian in the early 20th century, giving speeches and writing pamphlets on its past. For many years he served as a trustee of the Wayland Public Library and was active in the First Parish Church. In 1905, he founded the Society of Wayland Arts and Crafts. But, it is with his dedication to photography that his true talent emerges. While considered a “semi-professional,” his works have received many honors and awards. Historic New England is the primary repository of his photographs and papers, but the Wayland Historical Society has a fine collection of over two hundred items (mostly photos of Wayland) that were donated primarily by Wayland residents.

The photographs offered in this collection encompass three genres:
  1. Historic events, buildings, or sites. The buildings serve as a useful reference for the study of changes to existing structures or as a catalog of buildings that were removed or demolished later.
  2. Portraits. Many of his portraits are of family members. Two of his nieces married into the Sears family and they are well represented in the collection. Cutting remained a bachelor throughout his life. Reportedly, he found portraits his least favorite photographic activity, yet one cannot imagine more flattering depictions of his family and friends. They beautifully capture someone at a particular age and setting.
  3. Landscapes and natural history. This is where his artistry shines through. He sought to capture Wayland at its loveliest during a time of transition. His photographs mainly span the years from the early 1880s, when the dry plate was first introduced, to the 1910s. He preferred horses and carriages to automobiles (he himself had a horse cart) and few cars can be found in his photos, although he does feature trolley line tracks that led from Cochituate to Wayland Center. He preferred quiet scenes untroubled by the rush of traffic, the unadulterated whiteness of winter, and the abundance of flowers and trees in spring and summer. He developed his own photos in a studio on his property. As he said, he “had absolutely no knowledge of photography” but instead used “plain common sense or good judgment...a fair amount of manual dexterity, sticking to one lens, one plate, and one printing medium.”
He brought Old Time Wayland (the title of one of his booklets) to life for many Waylanders.

Locations in this Collection: