Most schools in central New York did not issue report cards to students in the mid-nineteenth century. If students performed well in school, learned and recited their lessons properly, and exhibited good behavior, they received merit slips, or Rewards of Merit. The teacher wrote the student’s name on the pre-printed slip and signed it as the student’s reward.
In 1862, Lucy Medora Walker, a woman from Springfield (Otsego County), New York, kept a diary. In addition to recording her daily events, “Dora” kept a memorandum in the back of her diary that tracked how much of her money she spent. She earned her money by picking hops.
During school, pupils practiced reading from books called readers. Readers often contained short stories to read and recite. Spelling and vocabulary words, as well as questions to answer about the story, often followed a reading.
Many of the stories in readers reflected the lives that students led. One of the lessons in Cobb’s New Juvenile Reader No. III is about a farmer’s son and the son of a widow. The story also reflects the fact that families had to pay to send their children to school. If a family could not afford school, a child did not attend.
Farmers could learn about transportation services, including boat transportation on canals and rivers, from advertisements placed in magazines, journals, or in this case, the city directory.
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.
The grand opening of the new cow barn at Fenimore Farm included a sit-down dinner for 150 people. Guests sat at tables with white linens in the central aisle of the milking stalls on the first floor of the barn.
Almanzo James Wilder, the main character in Farmer Boy, and husband of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the fifth child of James and Angeline Wilder. The Wilder family left the farm in Franklin County in 1875, to seek better farmland in Minnesota. The 1875 New York Census, indicates that Almanzo’s oldest brother, Royal, remained on the family farm in New York.
The agricultural schedule of the New York Census shows the types of crops and animals being raised and goods being produced on farms in New York State, as well as the value of farmland.
Fritz G. Vogt was an itinerant artist who drew houses and properties in upstate New York. Residence of George Ottman depicts a farm with a farmhouse, three barns, farm fields, a large garden, an outhouse, chickens, cows, and even a dog, which were all typical components of a nineteenth century farm.
In 1859, W.H. Slingerland received this medal for raising and showing a “Bull Calf” named Morgan. Awarded by the New York State Agricultural Society, this medal shows Ceres, the Roman Goddess of Agriculture, on one side, and the winner’s name and accomplishment engraved on the other.
In cool weather, cream rose to the top of the milk pan. Cream was skimmed from the top, placed in a butter churn, and stirred energetically until it became solid butter. This work was done mostly by women.