About Us - Mission & History
Our Mission: The mission of the League of NH Craftsmen is to encourage, nurture and promote the creation, use and preservation of fine contemporary and traditional craft through the inspiration and education of artists and the broader community.
Our History: Promoting fine craft, supporting craftspeople, educating and enriching the community
One of the oldest and most recognized craft organizations in the country, the League of NH Craftsmen grew out of efforts, in the mid-1920s, to promote craft. Mrs. Mary Coolidge opened a crafts shop in Center Sandwich and A. Cooper Ballentine started craft classes in Wolfeboro. They joined forces and ignited a craft movement that swept the state.
A crafts committee, comprised of Coolidge and Ballentine as well as other leaders in the field, approached Governor John Winant seeking official state support. Winant agreed and in 1931, he established the New Hampshire Commission of Arts and Crafts, making New Hampshire the first state in the nation to support crafts.
The League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts was founded in 1932 and opened the first official League shop in Wolfeboro. The first Craftsmen's Fair was held in 1933 in the Crawford House barn in Crawford Notch. With sales totaling $2,698, the Fair exceeded all expectations and became an annual event. During the Great Depression, the League helped craftspeople sell their work, hone their skills, and generate income. It is the oldest craft fair in the country.
Through the years, the League created many opportunities that encouraged craftspeople from all over the country to relocate to New Hampshire. The Annual Craftsmen's Fair grew in size and scope each year. The event was held in various venues throughout New Hampshire, and in 1964, the Fair moved to Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury where it has remained ever since. A standards program was established with a jury system and a set of rigorous guidelines to ensure the high quality of work. Fine craft galleries were opened around the state and wide-ranging educational programs were developed.
The League officially changed its name to the League of NH Craftsmen in 1968 by vote of the membership. Growth continued at a rapid pace and it became obvious that the League would need a more modern headquarters with additional classroom space. After an intensive search for the best opportunity and its first capital campaign, the League moved to its current location, The Craft Center at League headquarters in the SMILE! building at 49 South Main Street in Concord in 2011.
The craft industry has become a state treasure. Lovers of fine craft come to New Hampshire from all over the world. They visit the Annual Craftsmen's Fair, shop at the fine craft galleries, visit craftspeople's studios during NH Open Doors, become supporting members, attend exhibitions, research craft subjects through the archives and library, and take advantage of the League's workshops and classes.
The League of NH Craftsmen is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization. Donations, memberships, and grant funding to the organization are tax deductible under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Thank you for your support!
Joe Tucker, Blacksmith
Learn More About the League's History
The Documentary DVD: A League of Our Own: New Hampshire and the American Craft Movement
This 58-minute film, produced by Ken Browne, takes you on a journey through the League's fascinating history and introduces you to the craftspeople and leaders who made the League what it is today. Craftspeople talk about their creativity and how the League helps make it possible for them to pursue their passion in New Hampshire.
To view a preview of the DVD click here.
The cost of the DVD is $20 plus $5 for shipping and handling. To order a copy, send an email or purchase online.
The Book: 75 Years of Handcrafted Excellence; the History of the League of NH Craftsmen
Read more about the events and people who transformed the League into a remarkable organization for craftspeople and craft enthusiasts. The cost is $5 plus shipping and handling. To order a copy, send an email or purchase online.