In the cold of a New England winter, it is easy to feel sorry for one’s self as the grey clouds of January barely dissipate in the low light of February’s early gloam. Some believe that the best way to tackle winter is to embrace it, and so the Graphic Arts department offers for your enjoyment selections from the collection that reflect how our ancestors dealt with the snow and ice of winter by singing, sleighing and skating. We chose optimistic images on purpose – leaving the broadsides and songs about blizzards and frostbite and lost cattle for another day!
J.Henry Whittemore, composer, Footprints on the Snow, Detroit: Calvert & Co. Lithographers, 1866. The first stanza of this song records a young man stepping out after a snowfall and finding a woman’s footprints in the snow outside his door. Naturally, true love ensues! He sings: “I gazed with admiration on the trim and tiny marks, and felt within my bosom kindling love’s bewitching sparks,”
Tintype of skaters, three unidentified women on ice skates in the studio, no photographer given, c. 1875. These three women thought an ice skating scene would make for an amusing photographic memento. Not so cold as shooting it outside on the real ice!
Scene of Boston Commons in the snow, no photographer given, albumen on card, carte de visite, c. 1860. The city of Boston frequently trucked snow from the city streets to the Common. Here horses pull carts loaded with snow through the gates of the park.
Stop Thief. For Aquila Cook of Bellingham, Massachusetts. Woonsocket, Rhode Island: Patriot Press, 1848. Question: Who would steal a sleigh, horse, harness and blankets in the middle of February? Answer: Someone with really bad cabin fever, perhaps!
Locomotive in a drift, March 29, 1881, stereophotograph. Winona, Minnesota: Elmer & Tenney. The upper Mid-West trumps New England (or maybe this year we should say it trumps even the mid-Atlantic) when it comes to snow fall totals, but western-themed stereocards such as this one were very popular in New England homes. Schadenfreude, perhaps?
Ice crystals, c. 1870, stereophotograph. Littleton, N.H.: Kilburn Brothers. Scientists used cameras to study ice, snow and frost patterns starting in the early 1850s.
A Winter Scene, reward of merit for Miss Lucy Draper, engraving, c. 1840. This reward of merit was found in an 1837 grammar book.