The Golden Age of Homespun

The Golden Age of Homespun

Jared van Van Wagenen, Jared van Wagenen, Jr.
Illustrated by Erwin H. Austin
Foreword by Louis C. Jones

"You have seen neglected oxbows, but what do you know of their making or of the training of a yoke of oxen?... What do you know of the rambling shoemakers who came to a farmhouse and stayed until each member of the family was newly shod with leather from the farm's cattle? Have you ever wondered about the processes by which our frontiersmen translated forest land into fields of wheat? What do you know about those two first crops of the pioneers, ashes and maple sugar? What do you know of log houses, of shingle making, bridges, and flax growing, of spinning and weaving cloth for a garment that was homegrown and homemade? Here is folk history, the accumulated memory of old men and women whom the author knew,... memories he has substantiated by a lifetime of research."—from the Foreword by Louis C. Jones

The Golden Age of Homespun chronicles the occupations, handicrafts, and traditions that defined rural life in upstate New York—and throughout much of America—in the first half of the nineteenth century. First published in 1953, it is an engaging and affectionate account of how land was cleared, farms established, and homes built; of how each family fed, clothed, and warmed itself; and of the trades, crafts, and industries that augmented a primarily agrarian economy. Illustrated with 45 delightful line drawings that depict the activities and implements described by Jared van Wagenen, Jr., The Golden Age of Homespun is an invaluable record of how upstate New York farmers lived on and off the land in the decades before the Civil War—a vanished way of life that still holds strong appeal in the American imagination.

Erwin H. Austin

Jared Van Wagenen, Jr., (1871–1960) was born and raised on a farm in Lawyersville, New York. He received a bachelor's degree from Cornell University's Department of Agriculture in 1891 and then returned to work on his family's farm, which remained the central occupation of his life. In addition to farming, he taught agricultural skills part-time at Cornell (where he subsequently received a master's degree), was elected to the New York state assembly in 1920 for one term, served as an assessor for various state and federal land-use projects, and was a trustee of the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown. His autobiography, Days of My Years, was published in 1962 by the New York State Historical Association.