In 2004 the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society launched Hitty's Home, a project to inform and educate the general public, especially children, of the rich history of these islands, and the strong and lasting ties they held on author Rachel Field.
ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Rachel Field's Hitty, Her First Hundred Years was clearly written with Great Cranberry Island in mind.
A perennial favorite since its release in 1929, the Newbery award-winning children's novel tells of the actual hand-carved wooden doll named Hitty, which was once Field's, but now resides in her home town at the Stockbridge Library Museum, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Rachel Field and artist Dorothy Lathrop planned the plot and illustrations of Hitty, Her First Hundred Years while staying at Sutton Island, one of the five Cranberry Isles.
Written in Hitty's own words, the book describes her many scrapes and adventures, from when she is first carved in Maine around 1827, until she is found by Field 100 years later in an antique store in New York City.
It's clear that Field, familiar with Great Cranberry Island from her acqaintance with Sammy Sanford (of God's Pocket fame) introduced many touches and details of the island in this book.
The story has "Phoebe Preble" as the doll's first owner, and the description of her house almost exactly matches the actual Preble House on Great Cranberry Island, formerly owned by William and Abigail Preble (with its back to Preble Cove.) The Meeting House (church) and the raspberries on the back shore are also mentioned in the book.
There is still quite an interest in Hitty, with clubs, newsletters, newly-made Hitty dolls and furniture, etc. -- as can be seen by searching for "Hitty" on the internet.
To take advantage of that interest, the historical society's new HittyPreble.com web site brings out these similarities, and claims that Great Cranberry Island is, in fact, Hitty's Home -- where she was "born." Facts and photos supporting that claim are offered.
Another educational part of the Hitty's Home project is the creation of an inexpensive flat wooden "Hitty Preble" doll (made by a Maine craftsman, naturally) intended to encourage children to read the original book, and send the doll to their friends and pen pals. Serious Hitty collectors get an extra thrill because we "sleep" each doll overnight at the original Preble house.