Thursday, May 23, 2019

Spring Red, White and Green...

As we are heading into summer in Conway, you can see the red, white and green of Spring.

The red you see here are the Red Maples. We will come back to this. Let's start with the Spring green. It it is the lime green color seen on some of these trees (click on images to enlarge them). You can compare it to the White Pine needles that are dark green. Pines are evergreen and they don't change color much.

More Spring green can be seen across street at the Saco Valley Overlook explored in a previous blog (see this link). Further beyond can be seen the white snow that still remains on Mount Washington.

 You can read about Thoreau's views on Mount Washington from a spot further south in Conway at this link

In previous blogs we have explored Jeremy Belknap's insights into how trees were used by settlers. For example, how locust was good for fence posts and maple was used for sugaring. In this case, we are using the trees themselves to learn about the early settlers.

Spring green can help identify old farming field patterns. Look up at the gentle slope above the trees in the foreground at the foot of the Moat Mountains in the back. These fields were once open and accessed by the appropriately named "High Street." In the detail below you can see the shape of the early farm fields.

Spring green makes me think of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in Wisconsin. Taliesin is Welsh for "shining brow." According to Wikipedia "Spring green" is a color included on the color wheel that is precisely halfway between cyan and green. When plotted on the CIE chromaticity diagram it corresponds to a visual stimulus of 505 nanometers on the visible spectrum. Spring green is a pure chroma on the color wheel.

A box of crayons can help you distinguish the variations of verde. According to "" the reason for this lime green color has to do with the way foliage develops. Young leaflets' chloroplasts -- the part of the plant that contains the green pigment chlorophyll -- are still developing, so the leaves tend to be lighter. New leaves are also thinner, with fewer waxy or tough layers that can darken the green color.

When leaves start maturing they begin making additional pigments. Some of these molecules can give leaves the yellow and red colors you see in the fall.

Younger leaves generally have fewer accessory pigments, so the green of the chlorophyll that is present is not masked.

However, some new leaves, like those of the red maple, are typically tinged red in the spring. This is because lots of sugar is pumped into the small, young leaves to fuel their growth, and the sugar is sometimes converted into the red pigment anthocyanin and stored in the leaf, giving it a reddish appearance, Moore explained. As the leaves mature, the extra anthocyanin is metabolized and the leaves turn green.

The red of the maples also enhanced by the flowers this time of the year..

Meanwhile in the swamps, the beavers have been active.

The Conway Public Library has many books, maps and other resources to help you conquer cabin fever and get you out into nature.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Silloway - Out from the Shadows

Seen on the left of the massive original entrance doors to the Conway Public Library, the architectural rendering Original Drawing from which Conway Public Library was built is the second of three items to be conserved through a $4,000 grant from the Robert and Dorothy Goldberg Foundation and support from the Friends of the Conway Public Library for funding the original treatment evaluation and proposal. It was cleaned by paper conservator Marnie Cobbs and archivally framed by Louise Perry of Vintage Frames.

The other two items are an untitled work by Anne Goldthwaite (see this link) and Making Soap by Benjamin T. Newman (see this link).

Before restoration, the mat had been glued to the drawing ...

... and the backing board show strong signs of acid burn and staining.

The drawing is animated by three figures. The first shows a well dressed gentleman walking out of the original front doors.

Note the copper balustrade above the portico (see this link for more).

The weather vane on the drawing is not the "quill pen" that we currently have.

The title and the architect's name are detailed in very stylistic calligraphy (click on images to enlarge them).

However, notice the O.A.T. Del. indicating that another person actually delineated or drew the item.

The image was used in a number of publications preserved in the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room including the Order of Exercises, a program from the cornerstone ceremony from the event of June thirteenth, 1900 that includes a list of songs, prayers, benedictions and a historical address by the buildings architect, Thomas Silloway.

The drawing was also used in a memorial booklet for Thomas Jenks, who funded the building of the library.

A photograph of Silloway can be found in the library's "red" founder's room. However, it is kind of buried or hidden as one of 48 photos of people involved in building the original section of the library.

The drawing can be seen on the mantle in this photograph of Silloway in his office.

Silloway's name is carved in marble in the library's original foyer.

The road south of the library's original back door was named in his honor as seen in this 1908 Sanborn insurance map. 

The name remained on the 1923 version of the map. Notice the changes in the Chase-Wilder House west of the library.

By 1929 The name had been changed to Greenwood Avenue, although the old name was indicated in parenthesis.

On the other side of the original entrance doors is an architectural rendering of the recent addition to the library.

The grand opening of the expansion was held June 5, 2004.

And that work was also memorialized in stone,

So with the 15th anniversary of the expansion and renovation coming up it is almost time for another party.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Of Mules and Men...

 ... with apologies to Zora.

An untitled work by Anne Goldthwaite has been promoted to a place of honor at the Conway Public Library. It is one of three items to be conserved through a $4,000 grant from the Robert and Dorothy Goldberg Foundation and support from the Friends of the Conway Public Library for funding the original treatment evaluation and proposal. The other two items are the original architectural rendering of the Conway Public Library by Thomas Silloway and Making Soap by Benjamin T. Newman (more on these in future posts).

It was cleaned by paper conservator Marnie Cobbs and archivally framed by Louise Perry of Vintage Frames.

The untitled watercolor painting was discovered recently in the attic of the library by the library Director, David Smolen. It is probable that it was donated by Keith and Nella Henney, founders of the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room. Nella’s journal, now published as Summers on Foss, indicates that they knew each other. Nella was also from the south and shared many of Goldthwaite’s interests and concerns.

The painting was done with wide, loose brush strokes and accents in a variety of colors. While she moved in the circles of abstract modern art and artists and lived in New York City much of her life, she retained representational imagery in her work with a focus on southern rural life.

Mules and men were featured in a number of her works at museums across the country. 

Mules have traditionally been preferred over horses and oxen in the south. Mules are hybrids, the offspring of a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey). The reverse is called a hinny (the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey). Although mules have gender (males are called “horse mules” and females “mare mules”), they are sterile and cannot reproduce because their parents have a different number of chromosomes (donkeys have 62 chromosomes, horses have 64).

For centuries mules have been prized for their intelligence and capacity for work. Farmers in the south typically preferred mules to horses because mules usually lived longer, ate less, learned faster, and were better tempered than horses.

Today mules are usually divided into two types: “draft mules” and “saddle mules” (there used to be more categories like “sugar mule,” “cotton mule,” etc., but these names disappeared after the early part of the 20th century). Most people now identify a mule by the mother, i.e: “Quarter horse mule,” "Tennessee Walking mule,” “Percheron mule,” etc.

The course, block printed, all capital, signature on our painting is similar to that on the top right of a self-portrait at the Smithsonian and other works that can be found online.

Anne was a painter, print maker, teacher and advocate of women’s rights and civil rights. She was born in Montgomery, Alabama on June 28, 1869. She never married, but was engaged. Legend suggest that her fiancĂ© was killed in a duel.

While visiting her in Montgomery, her uncle Henry Goldthwaite was so impressed by her drawing and painting skills that he offered to support her financially for up to ten years if she relocated to New York City to study art. She soon enrolled at the National Academy of Design where she studied etching with Charles Mielatz and painting with Walter Shirlaw.

In 1906, Anne Goldthwaite traveled to Paris to explore her interest in the early modern painting styles of Fauvism and Cubism. While sketching one day in Luxembourg Gardens she met American writer Gertrude Stein. Stein invited Goldthwaite to visit her apartment, yet she hesitated due to Stein's shabby appearance. After visiting Stein's home, Goldthwaite was immediately impressed by the extensive collection of contemporary paintings which hung on the walls of Stein's apartment. The chance meeting of one of the most influential pre-war and avant-garde persons of the time provided Goldthwaite with an opportunity to join the art circle of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Goldthwaite later said, "Fate gave me several years in Paris at the most exciting time: during the great reconstruction from art to modern art." After drifting from studio to studio in an attempt to find the right teacher, she joined a small group of young artists called Academie Moderne. They held an exhibition each spring and their work was periodically critiqued by Charles Guerin, a disciple of Cezanne.

In 1913, Goldthwaite's oil painting, The House on the Hill was included in the famed Armory Show in New York, NY.

At the 1913 Armory Show, her work was displayed with many of the world's most renowned artists, including Mary Cassatt, Paul CĂ©zanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Goldthwaite passed away on January 29, 1944, in New York City at the age of 74. She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Stonewalls and Shepherd Songs

Like the rest of our blogs this month, this post is a celebration of how our local history ties in with April as NH Archaeology Month and National Poetry Month. It also explores how a war in Europe led to the stone walls we have in New England.  

Earlier this week we received a donation of a very rare piece of local history, a copy of Thomas Randall's The Farmer's Meditations or Shepherd's Songs. While it was printed in Limerick Maine in 1833, the author was known as the Eaton Poet, for Eaton, New Hampshire.

It is a small leather bound volume of 255 pages and 108 poems that cover a wide range of farming subjects from oxen, horses, apples, wheat, barley and corn. He also covers money, cities, stores, lead mines, cholera, the Saco River, a tall lawyer and George Washington.

Within the book, the poet Thomas Randall wrote of loss and several poems are designed to provide comfort to those who survive.

The book was donated by a family in South Paris, Maine in memory of their daughter Sherry Lynn Foster.

Much of the poetry in the book celebrates the kind of bucolic rustic nature of rural life in the shadow of Mount Chocorua as expressed in the Conway Public Library's painting 1900 painting by Silas Draper painting from 1900.

Caring for livestock is about clearing land, maintaining pasture and controlling livestock. Most livestock are relatively docile and have a strong herding behavior. As a result, they have traditionally been shepherded by a sheep herder, often with the help of sheep dogs. On a tangent, New Hampshire's State dog breed, the Chinook, is descended from the Anatolian Sheep Dog. 

If livestock escaped their shepherd they could be identified with markings. In an essay on this book, Nella Braddy Henney (for whom the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room is named) describes the mark Randall registered to identify his sheep. It was "A swallers tail cut out of the Right ear and a notch out of the under part of the left ear"

To keep livestock from straying from their fields or from roads while being driven between fields or to market, stone walls and wooden fences were built.

This farming activity has left a mark on the landscape that can still be seen or "read" today even if the buildings are long gone due to fire and rot.

Tom Wessels has written a couple great guides for learning to read the historic landscape.

In Reading the Forested Landscape, Wessels argues that Napoleon’s victory over Portugal in 1809 led to a series of events that led to the stone walls in New England.

In Forest Forensics, he provides a formal system using a dichotomous key for more detailed analysis of the historic landscape. 

For example, if a stone wall has small, softball size stones (cobbles) in them the adjoining field was most likely used for crops.

On the other hand, if the wall contains mostly large stones and no small stones, the adjoining field was most likely used for livestock.

These two types of stone walls can be found across the street from each other at one of the most famous views painted by White Mountain artists, Chocorua.

Compared to the wall on the east side of the road, this wall on the west side of the road is lower, wider and includes a large number of small stones or cobbles among the larger stones. This cobble wall was associated with crops. Compared to the next wall we will examine across the street it can also be said to have been "cobbled" together instead of carefully laid. The lidar imagery on the stone wall mapper site clearly shows the furrow lines made by years of plowing resulting in a smoother, flatter field. See it at this link and in this image below (click on images to enlarge them).

...and the detail here.

Just across the street to the east is a taller, narrower wall made of large stones. This was a wall for livestock.

This type of wall is also known as a "lace wall" as it is only one stone wide and as a result you can see through it and imagine it as a piece of lace. It is also layered and well laid. The alliterations should help you remember the different types of walls.

If you want to learn more about how to read the historic landscape, The Conway Public Library offers free outreach programs for schools and community groups about these subjects.