Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home, 1760-1860

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This charming book portrays domestic life in New England during the century between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Drawing on diaries, letters, wills, newspapers, and other sources, Jane C. Nylander provides intimate details about preparing dinner, spinning and weaving textiles, washing and ironing laundry, planning a social outing, and exchanging food and services. Probing behind the many myths that have grown up about this era, Nylander reveals the complex reality of everyday life in old New England.

"Nylander . . . invites her readers to enjoy her copious knowledge of the interiors and domestic management of late-18th-century New England homes. The imaginatively illustrated [book] is dedicated to the notion that the details of everyday life form the core of human experience."-Martha Saxton, The New York Times Book Review

A fact-filled, copiously illustrated, revealing survey of Yankee life and households in an earlier time, . . . informative and valuable for its many glimpses of American interiors."-Kirkus Reviews

"A delightfully intimate portrayal of New England home life. . . . Enlivened by 162 period illustrations, [Nylander's] survey affords a rare glimpse of middle- and upper-class housework, clothing, kitchens, diet, socializing and much else."-Publishers Weekly

A century-long portrait of day-to-day activities in a New England home. . . . Nylander's nitty-gritty approach is absorbing. . . . Photographs from various historical societies along with period sketches and paintings add pizzazz and authenticity."-Booklist

"A visual and narrative feast."-Robert St. George, University of Pennsylvania

This charming book portrays domestic life in New England during the century between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Drawing on diaries, letters, wills, newspapers, and other sources, Nylander provides intimate details about domestic duties, social activities, and exchanging services. 162 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The ideal New England home, as perceived in the late 19th century, was warm, welcoming and comfortable, a hive of hard work and frugality, a stable haven from the rapidly changing world outside. This conventional image had a solid basis in reality, maintains Nylander, who mines diaries, letters, wills, inventories, newspapers, advice books and travel accounts for this delightfully intimate portrayal of New England home life. Director of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Nylander delineates a complex barter economy in which farm produce was a common medium of exchange and people swapped specialized work skills. Contrary to the popular image, however, she shows that change was a household constant, with the coming and going of friends, family, help and travelers. Enlivened by 162 period illustrations, her survey affords a rare glimpse of middle- and upper-class housework, clothing, kitchens, diet, socializing and much else. BOMC alternate. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Soon after the American Revolution, New Englanders began to idealize their rural farms and homesteads as bastions of security in a rapidly changing world. Some reminiscences stretched back to the 17th century, drawing on memories, artifacts, and a sense of history. In particular, four remarkable women cited here kept extensive journals of daily life for more than a half-century. By the Civil War the preservation of the ``snug fireside'' had become literally a cottage industry. Museum curator Nylander uses this evidence to construct a series of excellent essays describing the customs, traditions, friends, families, and workloads of the ``typical'' New England household. Chapters on housework, seasons, clothing, food, and holidays document women's work at home. This fine social history of forgotten routines is recommended for most libraries.-- Harry W. Fritz, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Richard Grant
A fascinating evocation of home life the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries….It is so highly detailed, even intimate, in its treatment of its subject matter that it manages to achieve a quality of universality and timelessness.
—Down East
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300059533
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface: Great Neatness and Convenience
Ch. I Introduction: Glimpses of the New England Home 3
Ch. II Our Great Family 20
Ch. III Going to Housekeeping 54
Ch. IV Frosty Mornings and Stinging Fingers: The Effects of Winter 74
Ch. V Clean, Bright, and Comfortable: Dimensions of Housework 103
Ch. VI Clean and Decent: A Family's Clothing 143
Ch. VII Toward Our Mutual Support 163
Ch. VIII A Comfortable Sufficiency: Food and the New England Kitchen 183
Ch. IX The Pleasure of Our Friends and Neighbors 221
Ch. X The One Day Above All Others: New England Thanksgiving 261
Acknowledgments 283
Notes 287
Bibliography 301
Index 311
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