The Golden Age of Homespun

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The Golden Age of Homespun. By Jared Van Wagenen, Jr.; illustrations by Erwin H. Austin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1953.

Van Wagnen was born in 1871 Schoharie on a farm the family had tilled since 1800. He graduated from the Cornell College of Agriculture in 1891 and later taught there. In this book he tells stories told to him by his father and grandfather, about how the early settlers had cleared the land and lived by what they could grow on the farm.

From the dust cover:


The Golden Age of Homespun celebrates the traditions of the days before the Civil War when the ‘whir of the spindle and the thack of the loom' were heard in nearly every upstate New York farmhouse.

Everyone who is fascinated by the life of an earlier time will want to read The Golden Age of Homespun. The book tells how roving shoemakers went from farmhouse to farmhouse, and shod each family with thereafter from its own cattle. It describes how oxen were trained for work and how the oxbows--some of which still hang, dusty and forgotten in lofts and attics--were fashioned. The gargantuan task of clearing the hardwood forests that originally covered New York State, in order to create the patchwork mosaic of well-tilled fields that now make up its farmlands, is described in detail.

In short, The Golden Age of Homespun is a readable account of how farms were created and homes built, and how each family fed, clothed, shod, and warmed itself. Having read this book, the reader will want to thank the author for putting down on paper the traditions, the legends, and pioneer folk tales of that fabulous ‘homespun age'."