Harvest Fairs are a classic celebration of the autumn and harvest in the 19th century. Attend a great “old time” Harvest Festival, and you can be hooked on them for the rest of your life. Here is an especially festive event, complete with 1845 setting and a grand carousel.
Here in the United States, we didn’t have a Queen Victoria (English monarch, living 1819-1901) so we couldn’t technically have a Victorian Era. However, we did have an Industrial Revolution during an Antebellum (pre-war; technically: pre-Civil War) time, and we had Reconstruction in the South, a Second Industrial Revolution, then the Gay Nineties. So, in a sense, the United States had a 4:1 ratio of “eras” to Britain during the same time period. Read that carefully again, because I just offered you quite the history lesson in one paragraph.
Celebrating the harvest goes back centuries and eons. English speaking countries celebrated lammas (“loaf-mass”) or lughnasadh, or the first wheat harvest of the season. The timing of the wheat harvest would vary depending on the location; colder climates would of course have a earlier harvest than warmer climates.
Harvest festivals seem to transcend into every faith and religion – not only did the Christian religions create their own “loaf-mass”, but the Jewish peoples created their own harvest celebration (Sukkot, originally an agricultural celebration) and the Asian have their own Golden Week celebration. Here is a list –probably incomplete– of worldwide harvest festivals. Imagine the celebratory nature: after a long hard (or, in cold areas, short hard) cultivation season, it’s now time to celebrate the first fruits of success from the cultivation. It is also a time to celebrate the hard work of neighbors, servants, or hired help who have assisted in the difficult cultivation and harvest efforts. Modern people don’t harvest by hand, or don’t harvest at all, so the grand celebration is often misunderstood.
Being that harvest festivals are so universal, traditional, and obviously exciting enough to repeat for millenia, it’s not too surprising that the 19th century, the time of so many eras, celebrated their harvest with grand style and community.
My 1845 Harvest Fair (one of the many fall festivals in my calendar) was at the warm and welcoming Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown NY. Nestled in the hills, this living history museum creates a small 1845 community, complete with church, churchyard with graves, farms, general store, homes, blacksmith, and other trades. Strolling down the “road” (unpaved, as roads were in 1845), if you didn’t look beyond the stone fencing, you would swear that you were back in the industrial age before tractors, steam engines – where trains and canals were the new grand transportation.
When you are lucky, the Harvest Festival comes to town, offering you a glimpse into the new and strange artists, foods, products, and yes, the festive fascination of an on-the-spot silhouette artist! (Scroll down for more pictures) The Harvest Festival brings together the community into sharing pies and pumpkins, squash and sunbonnets. A Harvest Fair is the time that wonders are offered for the whole town to experience.
Back in 1845, your blacksmith makes many of your tools and home hardware. Your tinsmith provides many of your light-duty metal needs; your local potter fills with your everyday cooking materials. Your doctor treats you by balancing the liquids in your body. You made cheese and butter at home. Photography was just barely invented – if you weren’t lucky to have an entrepreneur in your region, you may not see a photographer for 20 years or more. But you are excited for the new inexpensive luxury item: printed fabric, perfect for you to make your own clothes by hand – since sewing machines have not been invented yet.
But your silhouette portrait was probably quite important to your family. Because photography was still quite rare, you and your family may have patronized a silhouette artist to have your portrait created – the true artists still created them freehand with scissors, although there were now machinery to create the silhouettes. Itinerant (traveling) artists traveled the area or region to provide this vital and personal portrait service.
Silhouettes By Hand was honored to present at the Farmer’s Museum Harvest Festival not only silhouette portraits cut freehand on site, but also two presentations a day on 19th century physiognomy: the “science” that predicted knowing the character of someone just by the features of his or her face. Silhouettes by Hand assists museums, facilities and events for creating exceptional festivities by offering fun interactive programs.