Currier and Ives

One of the iconic winter scenes from Currier & Ives, lithographs made popular during the 1860s onwards.

Growing up, I’d seen a variety of bucolic New England views in prints hanging on walls to transferware dishes from the late 19th Century. Like the hand-tinted, antique photographs of New England from the early 20th Century by Nutting and Sawyer, a certain utopian aesthetic displayed a unique beauty.

For Currier & Ives, they focused on the homes and unique village life of people, capturing different life scenes from the ever-changing landscape during all four seasons. There’s a kind of American identity of a people depicted, whose ties to the early colonies were inextricably bound up in New England and national history.

Nutting and Sawyer, in contrast, focused more on the natural features of New England without people, so their photography showcase autumn foliage, lakes, mountains, gorges, rock formations, and trees. Their art affected my imagining of New England as strongly as Currier & Ives, but I think my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder made the latter more vivid.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder in particular remains in my memory. Almanzo sliding on the horsehair sofa in the parlor and the importance of the foot warmer (stone heated by the fireplace) by one’s feet in a horse-drawn sleigh during the freezing winter. Currier & Ives captured visually the kinds of scenes Wilder wrote with word pictures.

An iconic sleigh scene from Currier & Ives.

How funny it is that I now find myself living in a kind of Currier & Ives illustration.

Hillcrest Farm, facing towards the field and orchard.

Like the Christmas cards, dishes, or bookplates, a winter idyll of a farm happily appears with a history tied to the Revolutionary War.

When I first saw the farm, I knew it would be my forever home. I just knew, in my bones.

The oldest part of the farm, with an original section affectionately called “the shed.”

The rich history of the building and land give the farm such character, such personality. Sure, owning an old house carries with it more work and expenses, but the charm and cultural value are priceless.

And when deer graze or wild turkeys roost, red-tailed hawks soar above or foxes dart over a stone wall, I’m reminded of the nature captured by American transcendentalist writers.

In a sense, I feel tied to this farm and its landscape the way the Brontës felt tied the Yorkshire moors.

Vintage photograph of the farm from a 1930s pamphlet from when it operated as a dairy farm and boarding house.

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