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

 
 
 
 
Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home, 1760-1860
Author: Jane C. Nylander
ISBN 13: 9780300059533
ISBN 10: 300059531
Edition: Complete Numbers Starting
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1994-05-25
Format: Paperback
Pages: 334
List Price: $34.00
 
 

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

Publishers 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.)