In the Bleak Mid-winter

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,”

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,”

skating photo

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.

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.

StopThief

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 when it comes to snow fall totals, but western-themed stereocards such as this one were very popular in New England homes. Schadenfreude, 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.

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.

A Winter Scene, reward of merit for Miss Lucy Draper, engraving, c. 1840. This reward of merit was found in an 1837 grammar book.

3 thoughts on “In the Bleak Mid-winter

  1. Pleun Bouricius

    Thank you! Such is what I needed after alternating working and shoveling all day to get rid of 22-24″ of the heavy wet stuff. We make an enemy of snow where we might be working with it. E.D.E.N Southworth (1819-1891) frequently used both outings in the snow and girls (young ladies, really) fighting their way through serious snow storms and rescued by faithful dogs as a plot device. More snow then than now. My hometown Plainfield MA did not start plowing snow until at least the 1940’s — before then the snow was compressed with a roller — as a result, it was sometimes easier to get out of town in the winter than in muddier seasons.

    Reply
    1. Joanne Riley

      Wonderful images! Interesting about the snow rollers in Plainfield, Pleun – I bet that as soon as the roller passed through the young folks headed for the sleighs!

      Reply
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