|Although a work of fiction, Rachel Field did base Hitty, Her First Hundred Years on some facts. First and foremost, of course, is the doll itself. Rachel, and Dorothy Lathrop really did find Hitty in a New York City antique shop, and they took her to the Cranberry Isles while working on the book. Hitty currently resides at the Stockbridge Library Museum, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Also, in the book, the family that Hitty first stays with, and their house, in which she was carved, does actually exist, and Rachel Field knew of them.
|On Great Cranberry Island, Maine, there still stands today a large white clapboard house, with lilacs out front, and a tall tree on the side — the Preble house. This house was once owned by William P. Preble and his wife, Abigail. We believe Rachel Field had them and their house in mind when she wrote Hitty.||
the Preble house
|It is certain that Rachel Field knew of the Prebles and their house because another book of hers, God’s Pocket, relates the life and adventures of Captain Samuel Hadlock, Jr., who built and lived in that very house, before the Prebles. When Hadlock died, frozen while seal hunting in Canada, his sister Abigail inherited the house, and it came to be called the Preble house when she married William Preble.
Later, Lucy Field, Rachel’s mother, owned “Bunchberry Bungalow,” a summer cottage on Sutton Island, one of the five Cranberry Islands. As a young woman, since at least 1919, Rachel spent many summers at her mother’s cottage, and often took day trips to the other islands. One day while raspberrying on Great Cranberry Island, in “a place ‘way down by the shore” near Preble Cove, she met Sammy Sanford, who lived in a cabin there, and learned from him the story of his grandfather, Capt. Sam Hadlock Jr., which she eventually turned into God’s Pocket,published 1934.
(It came out five years after Hitty because Rachel researched for many years before starting to write it — and the writing took two years.)
There can be no doubt that Rachel had these Prebles in mind when she wrote Hitty because the existing house and the fictional one are so similar — although Rachel did add touches of her own imagination in some details.
Sam Hadlock Jr.
Wm. P. Preble