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

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

by Jane C. Nylander
     
 

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In this portrayal of home life in New England from the years preceding the American Revolution to the eve of the Civil War, Jane Nylander explores both everyday realities and the myths that have obscured them. She shows how, thanks to the nineteenth century's literary, historical, antiquarian, and art movements - from the romantic visions of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow… See more details below

Overview

In this portrayal of home life in New England from the years preceding the American Revolution to the eve of the Civil War, Jane Nylander explores both everyday realities and the myths that have obscured them. She shows how, thanks to the nineteenth century's literary, historical, antiquarian, and art movements - from the romantic visions of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe through the paintings of Frank Henry Shapleigh and the carefully staged photographs of Wallace Nutting - the New England family home was idealized as warm, welcoming, comfortable, unchanging, and self-sufficient, and became representative, around the world, of the American domestic scene. The thump of the churn and the whir of the spinning wheel were seen as the heartbeats of a daily life that was perpetually "colonial" and "rural." For the most part, the growing reality of mill towns and burgeoning cities was ignored. Using early records, surviving objects, and recent research, Nylander examines the prevailing assumptions about early New England, identifies the degree to which they were justified, describes gender roles, defines the complex nature of household and neighborhood economics, and suggests what part of the idealized image was actually true. She focuses on the rhythms of life and the changes in domestic spaces and practices which occurred in response to factors as diverse as prosperity and poverty, changing family size and advancing age, severity of season, community ritual, economic and kinship networks, and the impact of the industrial revolution. Because this book is centered in the home, its primary characters are women and its primary sources the writings of such diarists as Sarah Snell Bryant, a doctor's wife; Elizabeth Porter Phelps, daughter and wife of prosperous farmers; and Ruth Henshaw Bascom, married to a minister. Here are the intimate details of their household work and management, their social life and celebrations, their contributions to the ho

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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
Denise Perry Donavin
Drawing from the memoirs, letters, wills, and inventories of three eighteenth- and nineteenth-century homemakers (as well as newspapers and other published accounts), Nylander draws a century-long portrait of day-to-day activities in a New England home. Most interesting of all is her focus on the collision of "reality and reminiscence." So many glorified images have been drawn of this period that Nylander's nitty-gritty approach is absorbing. In detail, she describes housekeeping duties, the care of clothing, winter survival tactics, cookery, social outings, and holidays. Photographs from various historical societies along with period sketches and paintings add pizzazz and authenticity.
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:
9780394549842
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/06/1993
Pages:
317

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