Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Thomas Cole's Autumn Tour Sept 30, 1828

One hundred ninety-two years ago today...

... Thomas Cole created this delicate artwork on his way to Conway, New Hampshire. Today it can be found at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). For more information see their website here.

Part of our operations at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room is connect diverse and distant collections to shed light on our shared local history. In this case, we will connect small towns in the Mount Washington Valley with collections in Albany New York, Detroit Michigan and Washington D.C.

Drawn with graphite (pencil) on off-white wove paper with watercolor highlights, this sketch was done on the second of Cole's three trips to New Hampshire. The other visits were in 1827 and 1839. This was his only trip during the autumn. The other two trips were during the summer. 

The 1828 trip is also the best documented.  Both Cole and his traveling companion Henry Cheever Pratt kept journals of their expedition. An article detailing the trip by Catherine Campbell is available through the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 

The DIA website allows you to enlarge the image.  The top of the page depicts a finely detailed group of pines. At the top left are five watercolor swatches.

Across the center of the page are some notations including the date and title used by the DIA. While it is hard to decipher all of the text, what I can make out has a very poetic sense to it. 

Just below the autumn colors can be read "Tints from Maples September 30, 1828."

It goes on to read... 

The gradation of colours was extremely beautiful
More brilliant than I have represented

The Maple is one of the most beautiful trees of the American Forest

Its stem rises gracefully with branches leaving it obliquely upwards and bending at the ends as

Beneath the weight of foliage - The foliage is luxuriant in the extreme. ...

...Autumn yellow, orange...  crimson tawny green, rich green, purple and ?

… gradations sometimes in one tree is seen ? the extremities of the

Higher branches orange or yellow in the lower parts and on the extremities of lower branches

The comes the … in the inferior parts. The bark is a delicate gray.


We will continue following in Thomas Cole's footsteps as he explores New Hampshire's autumn landscape.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I Fall for Autumn: Summer Leaves, Autumn Leaves

Today is the first day of autumn as my homonyms imply. Please visit our seasonal display near the Conway Public Library's entrance and let it lead you around the building as you fall into autumn.

The days will continue to get shorter until the winter solstice. It was 35 degrees this morning when I got in the car. Today's forecast was for a high of 63 degrees. Autumn colors are starting to show well especially on the edges of the wetlands. 

Today we pick apples and wander through corn fields just for fun. 


Then and now we craft corn husk dolls and celebrate the season with symbolic plants. 

We can purchase plastic shrink wrapped bales of straw for decorations. However, it was not that long ago that the "art of the harvest" was critical to survival.

These "stooked" stalks can be found on Conway's West Side Road.


Today many of us don't even know the difference between straw and hay, nor the intricacies of intriguing obsolete farming terminology such as sheaves, shocks, stooks, cocks and so on. For more on that see our previous blog here

The image on the left here is of a "scutching bee." Here is a larger image of the scene.


For more information on this traditional event see this link

The item with the sharp pointed spikes is called a hetchel or hackle. For more on this item, see our previous blog here on "growing clothes." 

There is also seasonal display of food related books at the library with titles such as root cellaring, putting food by, pickle, and can it that teach how the fruits of the fall harvest can be preserved using traditional methods that date back hundreds or even thousands of years.

We also have many cook books that describe how to make the most of the cornucopia of fall produce. 

Jeremy Belknap's History of New Hampshire lists some of the 18th century meals our early settler's enjoyed such as  samp, hominy, nokehike, succotash and upaquontop. He acknowledges the contribution of Native Americans to this cuisine and reports that "The lip of a moose, and the tail of a beaver, prepared in this manner, were among their greatest luxuries."

For more on this or any other local historical topic contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What's this about a Wizard?

Last week we received an incredible donation from Noel Quinton of over one-hundred postcards. It is a magnificently rich collection, full of potential stories that will help us unlock some of our local history mysteries. Here is the first of many more tales to come. This one attempts to map out a lost trail to a misplaced tourist attraction.

We start with this postcard from our new collection of a large tree labelled horizontally at the top right "The Wizard Birch, Intervale N.H." Along the right edge of the image it reads vertically "Copyrighted by N. Weston Pease, North Conway, N.H. 1577" (click on the image to enlarge it). 

In her Cow Hampshire blog (here), Janice Brown traced the tree's history and asked the question "where is it now?" (or more precisely where was it?) The obvious answer would seem to be in Intervale N.H. as noted on the postcard above, but it is harder to track down Intervale that it might first seem. The question is "which intervale?" There are several places with that name in the area. 

According to this website, Intervale is a village that spans two towns, Conway and Bartlett.  The Intervale post office (zip code 03845) is in Conway. Here is a Google satellite view showing that "Intervale."

To make it more confusing, all of the low lands on both sides of the Saco River are called intervales.

This use of the term can be seen here in Jeremy Belknap's 1792 History of New Hampshire and another postcard from the new donation helps illustrate the viewpoint. This is basically the same view you can see now from the Intervale scenic vista rest area.

The Cow Hampshire blog has another clue that may help. Janice includes a photo of the tree from the Library of Congress with the caption "Cathedral woods, Intervale, White Mountains; Detroit Publishing Company, 6 December 1900."


However, once again we have a problem - which Cathedral woods? There were at least two in the area. 

By coincidence we have a similar photo (without the people) on display in the history hall by the same company and the same year 1900 (which by coincidence was also the year the library's construction where that date is literally written in stone and more recently steel.  For more on that see our previous blog here). 

In a previous blog, we focused on the poster on the left of Cathedral Ledge located on the west side of the Saco River rising out of what is now called Cathedral Woods. Now we will move our attention down the hall to the next image on the left wall, in the hallway leading to the Henney History Room to an earlier Cathedral Woods on the east side of the Saco River, literally over the river and through the woods from the first. (we will map this out and try to explain that below).

Here is a closer view of that image.


Details on the original copyright for that photo can be found here.

On the bottom right it reads "COPYRIGHT 1900 BY DETROIT PHOTOGRAPHIC CO." 

On the left on the map above can be seen the road leading to Cathedral Ledge. The woods at the base of the ledge are now known as Cathedral Woods. However the older Cathedral Woods were over at the top right in Intervale.

John Cannell who lived in the area and remembered the location of the tree sketched a map on the back of our photo. It locates the tree close to the Intervale train station near the Abenaki Gift Shop.

While the Intervale train station has been moved away and now serves as a residence, the area can be identified by nearby buildings and other physical remains of the past. 

This postcard can be found on the Bartlett Historical Society here along with some relevant information. 
Here is that view today. 

The station sign still stands.

And the train still passes by. 

Pease also did a stereoview photograph labelled Cathedral Woods... 

... as well as a later colorized postcard of Cathedral Woods.

Here is another Pease postcard entitled Cathedral Woods, Intervale, N.H.

We know this was the Cathedral Woods on the east side of the Saco as the titles locate it in Intervale. Also period photos show that what today is called Cathedral Woods (on the west side of the Saco) had been clear cut during that time, so there were no woods there.

To add even more to the mystery, the new donation also includes the following post cards with similar, but not identical scenes, entitled "Enchanted Woods, North Conway, N.H."

 Below is another "Enchanted Woods."

So is enchanted woods the same as the early cathedral woods?  Let's turn to another photographer of the Wizard Birch, T.E.M White.

Both Pease and White ran ads in the The White Mountain Echo newspaper (August 27, 1881 p. 14).  

Here is a detail of the ads (seen in the red box above).

Note the last two lines of White's ad "House on the edge of the "Enchanted Woods," adjacent to the Indian Tent."

You can see the locations of both the White and Pease studios on the map below from another issue of The White Mountain Echo (click on image to enlarge it).  

You can find a short bio on Pease here showing his house where Joe Jones is now across from the North Conway Public Library he worked so hard to develop (click on image to enlarge it). 


For more information on this wonderful collection contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.