Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ulmus Campestris

It is a little late, but spring is finally bursting out all over, including at the Conway Public Library, where you will find the bees busy around the many flowering trees and shrubs. However, you won't find any of the original English Elms planted in 1900.

However, you can find out about the long history of landscaping and gardening at the library starting in the red room with our original Nursery-Man, Jacob W. Manning, of Reading, Mass.

There you will find his portrait and a caption that reads, ...

I find it particularly interesting that they documented the provenance of the trees, "The English elms were raised from seed in Orleans, France, in 1884. They were carried to a Philadelphia (Pa.) nursery in 1886 and to Conway, October 1900."

Jacob Warren Manning and his five sons were prominent in New England horticultural history.  

According to one of their period trade catalogs, the price for an English elm would have been 75 cents.

Our nursery-man's house has even been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Jacob Manning House is a historic house at 140 High Street in Reading, Massachusetts. Built in 1877 for garden nursery owner Jacob Manning, this 2.5 story wood frame house is an excellent local example of Stick style architecture. It has a steeply pitched roof, multiple gables, tall thin windows, and decorative half-timber woodwork. The owner, Jacob Manning, owned one of the largest nurseries in the area, and was responsible for the landscaping of the Massachusetts pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

Landscape architecture is an ephemeral and mercurial practice. Over the years there have been many changes in the landscape around the library.

The original rendering for the building shows only low shrubs.

A photo taken in 2000 during the 100th anniversary of the library (see the banner over the north entrance) shows pair of trees flanking a walkway (all of which has changed now). 

Like any form of artistic expression, landscape architecture is influenced by changes in fashion and style. The specification for an English elm harkens across the pond to the world wide 18th century phenomenon of the seemingly "natural" English country gardens of Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton and his famous "red books" as opposed to more formal, symetrical and fancy French gardens of the 17th century.  

At one time there was a a proposal for a skating rink or tennis court in the library park.

Detail (click on image to enlarge)

The granite plaque near the entrance of the library indicates the landscape design for the expansion was led by John Wacker and Associates.

Most recently there has been the addition of food gardening in raised beds. It is interesting to think how the landscaping will change and where it will go in the future. Personally I am looking forward to the addition of an indoor heated pool and hot tub complete with a waterfall, slide and open atrium so patrons can float in the pool while gazing at the stars and of course, an open pit fireplace and grill for s'mores.

For those visiting the Conway Public Library, there is always the eternal spring garden at the entrance to the Children's Room. (Gift of the Marshall and Lucy Family)

The scene transforms the columns into tree trunks. A careful observer may notice a tree frog climbing on the bark.

The artist makes it look like the donor plaque is hanging from a branch and has a bird's nest on top of it. An emergency light has been turned into a bird house. 

Be sure to look beyond the canopy and not miss the whimsical hot air balloon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bridging the Span of History

Recently we added a number of bridge pictures to our online history database. See this link. We are still adding items to the list. Our collection covers the afghan coverlet seen above as well as paintings, photographs, post cards, maps, financial records related to bridges, technical books comparing different types of trusses and explaining stresses and many other items.

We have pictures of bridges that have burned and no longer exist...

... and ones that have been restored and repaired.

We have pictures of ice flows that threatened the bridges...

... stone bridges

... metal bridges

... and even a floating foot bridge

Recent outreach events we have been involved with include an OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program and field trip to nearby covered bridges, working with Kennett High School to document moving the Stoney Morrill covered bridge from Heritage NH to the High School, (we were also involved in the original program in 1999 when that bridge was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C.), working with the Conway Historical Society on a display of bridge building tools, bridge models and artwork that included a presentation by the famous Graton bridge and timber framing company, a program by Michael Callis on the railroad bridge near Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch and an upcoming program that features the infamous Chocorua rustic bridge.

To schedule an outreach program for your school or community group contact us at the Conway Public Library... and please visit our website and surf our collection ...

... or better yet drop by and explore the collection in person.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chiaroscuro: Landscapes in Light and Shade

Chiaroscuro is defined as the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting. It also applies to the early days of photography.

Did you know that some of the earliest photos ever taken in America were of the White Mountains in New Hampshire? The photo above was done around 1840 by Samuel A. Bemis of the Notch House, just north of the gate or opening of Crawford Notch. 

In 1987 the month of May was officially recognized by Congress as National Photography Month and this blog explores some of the many ways photography is used to explore the local history we preserve and share here at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

You can search just over two thousand photos by keyword on our website at this link.  We are currently processing hundreds more which will be posted online soon. In addition we can link you to thousands more photos in other collections such as the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the Boston Public Library that tie to our local history.

For decades our Henney History Room curators and other local historians have used our photo collection for a number of books on the Conways, North Conway, and the White Mountains. Items from our photo collection regularly are used in the Conway Daily Sun.

In addition to photographic prints, negatives, slides and post cards, the history room has some interesting photographs that can be found in our rare book collection. One set of photographs are particularly unique and can be found in a nineteenth century geology book.

The author experimented with different visual formats for seeing the unseen.  In this case he use a transparent overlays of color to show the underlying type of bedrock.

Here is the best match of the view I could capture today with a digital camera from the parking lot of the Red Jacket Resort.

Earlier today, Michael Callis gave a program on the photograph below, which was a copy of either a painting or a lithograph of a painting of Mount Washington at/from Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch.

We invite you to visit our collection either online or in person and we can help guide you in using photographs in researching local history. We also would welcome any volunteer help you might be willing to provide to continue posting our photos online.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Growing Clothes: Tis the Season

Did you know that spring used to be a time when people focused on growing their own clothes?

Don't get your hackles up if you don't understand. A lot of time has passed since then.

Recognize this? 

This item can be found on the top shelf of a new exhibit we installed this month near the main entrance to the Conway Public library. 

While this item may seem enigmatic to many young people today, not long ago this was a familiar item and only a generation or two before would have been used by around half the population including young boys. It has a very interesting tradition in art, literature, poetry, and song as well. We will get back to the item above in a moment, but let's turn to the seasonal cycle of life mentioned above.

In the relatively recent past, clothes were made with all natural materials: flax, cotton, wool and leather. Plant based clothing crops such as cotton and linen from flax were planted in the spring and baby animals were born in the spring and sheep were shorn in the spring and their fleece processed into wool.

These tools and processes are so unfamiliar to many of us today, they have found themselves in books about "The Forgotten Arts and Crafts" found at the library under Dewey Decimal number 680 Sey.

In this blog we will only cover a few of the tools in this small exhibit. With this display, we have teamed up with the Conway Historical Society who graciously loaned us some artifacts to help tell the story. Some of the larger items that were part of the textile process such as spinning wheels and looms are simply too large to display here.

If you would like the Curator of the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room to present a free outreach program on this subject and bring a larger collection of items to demonstrate to your school or community group please contact one of our librarians. 

The Conway Public Library and its Henney History Room have a lot of resources to help you learn on your own as well. We have hobby type books that can help you learn to do some of these practices yourself and perhaps become more self-sufficient and certainly have fun with it.

I used the phrase about "hackles" earlier. This represents the fascinating phenomenon in which a tool turns into an aphorism. This is a hackle with its cover on.

These are the hackles when they are up and the protective cover is removed.

So, you can see where the phrase comes from. Check our copy of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) for details on the word's early usage.

So what is the item in the first picture above? It too has an interesting connection too the English language. It is called a "niddy noddy." It was featured in an early folk song,

two heads
one body.
‘Tis one, tain’t one,
t’will be one soon.
‘Tis two, tain’t two,
t’will be two soon.
‘Tis three, tain’t three,
t’will be three soon.

An early painting by Leonardo DaVinci featured a niddy noddy. See this link.
In future blogs we will explore more about this exhibit and this subject.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Poetry, Place, Text and Context

What makes a person a New Hampshire poet? 

We will survey different aspects of this question in this blog and through a small display at the Conway Public Library. The display can be seen in the lower level of the library near the entrance to the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 

The exhibit shows a small sampling of the treasures shelved under the Dewey Decimal (DD) number classification 811 (American Poetry in English). You can unearth poet biographies in the DD 920 section.

A less obvious place to explore for NH poetry is DD 917.42 (NH description and travel) for guidebooks such as Thomas Starr King's The White Hills.

An outreach program on NH poetry is available for free as an outreach program from the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room for school and community groups. Contact the Henney History Room Curator for scheduling.

Does a NH poet have to live in NH? Pictured above, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's place in history  is claimed by Cambridge Massachusetts and Portland Maine through historic house museums where he lived. His person and poetry are literally "carved in stone" throughout North America. They are illustrated through sculpture along the Paul Revere trail in Boston, to Minnesota, Louisiana, Nova Scotia and all the way to the poet's corner in Westminster Abbey.

However, few people know that he staked one of his earliest claims to the poetry of place in New Hampshire on a subject not far from here. We can map it out back as early as Thomas Jefferys 1755 map of New England which can be explored in detail at this link

As your examine the map starting along the carefully detailed coastline of a seafaring culture and then head inland through the crowded names of towns usually located along rivers, you may notice that named places become more sparse as you head north and inland. Towards the northwest this map reveals vast open spaces, still unsettled country during the period. Conway is not even shown on the map, it was not even chartered until 1765 (ten years after the map was published) and it took many more years before it became populated and developed. In spite of that, Longfellow found inspiration in the nearby landscape and one of our local legends served as the basis for one of his earliest published poems. 

If you look closely at the section of the map above, with one exception, there are no place names surrounding Kusumpe Pond in Sandwich NH. That exception is shown in the picture below to the north of the pond. It is in fact  "Jackoyroays Hill" which is a phonetic spelling for Chocorua.

Seventy years after the map was published, the United States had won its independence, and an eighteen year old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had his poem Jeckoyva pubished in the United States Literary Gazette.  In this version of the story, Chocorua's death was an accident blamed on bad weather.

His first published poem had already appeared in the November 17, 1820 Portland Gazette and focused on "The Battle of Lovell's Pond." The pond and Lovell's fort on Lake Ossipee are also shown on the 1755 map.

Part of the context of this poem is the famous Chocorua Legend which has been pinned/placed in the landscape using/through a NH State highway marker. There is no mention of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow here.

A few miles southwest of this marker in the village of Tamworth can be found a relatively new landmark, the Tamworth Distillery where the recently unveiled Chocorua whiskey was made.

Printed on the bottle's label is a long poem about the Chocorua legend from 1838 by Richard Andros. If you drink the whiskey and turn the bottle around...

... and peer through as if through the looking glass, you will discover an image printed on the back of the label. 

The print is from 1830 and is from a painting by Thomas Cole based on sketches he did when he hiked to the top of Mount Chocorua in 1827 and 1828 now in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Other sketches used in his composition were based on classical Greek and Roman sculptures and costumed figures wearing Native American style clothing in life drawing classes. 

In 1859 Thomas Starr King published a guide book entitled "The White Hills, Legends, Landscape and Poetry."

In many ways it is the epitome of the integration of art, history and nature as a way to exploring the region by combining prints of scenic vistas with the correct selection of poetry to enhance one's experience. Starr King tells the reader when and where to go, where to stand, what direction to look and what to think about the view.

In 1899 a father and son teamed up to write the lyrics and music for an opera version of the Chocorua legend in which the main character was stabbed to death in a fight/duel. The author also covered such important historical events as the attack of the frogs of Windham and the story of the fountain of youth. 

We will cover more of this poetic topic in future blogs. For more on all things Chocorua the library will be hosting a program at the Freedom Historical Society on Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm. Hope to see you there.