Manuel Swartz Roberts photograph
Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898–1995)
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Chris and Sheila Morse
Renowned Life magazine photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt first came to Martha's Vineyard in 1937 and returned every summer for the rest of his life. During his summers on the Vineyard, Eisenstaedt stayed at the Menemsha Inn, and over the decades he became part of the community.
Eisenstaedt may have been on vacation, but he never stopped taking photographs. He explored the whole Island, camera in hand, and gathered striking images of its people and places. Sometimes he even found reasons to return during the off-season. In the winter of 1952 he recorded the lives of people who lived here year-round. Published in the January 1953 issue of Life magazine in a photo essay titled "Summer Resort in Winter," the article featured women making hooked rugs, chicken farmer Peter Mitchell, potter Tom Thatcher, cartoonist Denys Wortman, weathervane maker Lawrence Winterbottom, fisherman Dave Vanderhoop and his wife, and Edgartown boatbuilder Manuel Swartz Roberts.
Catboats were his specialty, and Manuel Swartz Roberts built plenty of them during his lifetime, including the Museum's own Vanity. This portrait shows the boatbuilder, "Old Sculpin," in his shop, a former sail loft, near the Chappaquiddick ferry in Edgartown. Close to retirement, he was busy making small pieces of furniture, having launched his last catboat in 1948. The following year he sold the shop to the Martha's Vineyard Art Association, which still uses it as their gallery. It is now owned by the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust.