Almanacs were extremely popular books in the farming community, largely because of their weather predictions. Farmers would use these predictions to help plan the planting season.
James Wedderspoon was an influential farmer in Otsego County, New York, in the late nineteenth century. His family farm was located near Cooperstown. The Wedderspoon farm grew hops, which was a major cash crop for New York State at that time. The 1875 New York State census shows what the Wedderspoon farm was worth and what was growing on the farm in 1874 and 1875.
Baskets like this one were often used to gather and transport small items like eggs, peas, and beans. Children were often give the chores of collecting eggs and picking vegetables in the garden. This basket is made of thin pieces of wood, called splints, which have been woven together.
A Practical Treatise on Breeding, Rearing, and Fattening All Kinds of Domestic Poultry, by Bonington Moubray, esq. (John Lawrence). 8th Edition. London: Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, 1842.
Throughout the nineteenth century, many different guides were published for farmers about new methods of raising animals and crops. This one, printed in 1842, focuses on chickens and other types of poultry.
In the early nineteenth century, turnpikes, also known as toll roads, crossed New York State. These roads were much different than modern paved highways. They were little more than dirt roads. These roads gave farmers a route to bring their goods to market. Farmers, and other travelers, had to pay a toll to travel on the roads. The term “neat cattle” refers to cows, bulls, and oxen.
In the nineteenth century, farm families spent much of their time outdoors taking care of their animals and crops. To prevent sunburn, many women wore sunbonnets, like this one, to protect their skin. It is made of cotton and is entirely hand stitched.
Winter allowed farmers time to travel and socialize. The first stop of many village sleigh rides was often the tavern. People would fill themselves with mulled cider for warmth and eat a deliciously tasty meal.
This image from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Art, depicts reaping grain during the colonial period. Reaping had to be done by hand, using a scythe or hay knife to cut the grain. Notice that the whole family helps with the field work.
By the mid-nineteenth century, farmers no longer had to reap entirely by hand. Machines made the work of harvesting go more quickly. This Self Raker Harvester was patented in 1855, to help farmers bring in their harvest.
The Fairbanks family moved to Evans, New York (Erie County), in 1832. Marshall Fairbanks was born to John and Mary Fairbanks in August of 1835. They lived in a frame house on one hundred acres of land. They grew wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, corn, potatoes, bran, and apples, as well as making maple molasses, wine, butter, and cheese on their farm. They also raised cows, swine, and sheep. Many of the goods they produced were used in their family home.
Sometime between 1861 and 1869, Marshall married Jennie, and they lived on his father’s farm. During the years 1870 to 1875, Marshall’s mother died and his father retired, leaving Marshall the farm and making him head of the household by his late thirties. By 1880’s, John had died and Marshall’s nephew, Frank, worked on the farm with him. Marshall and Jennie never had any children.