We got some snow in southeast Wisconsin over the weekend, and I’ve spent good parts of the past two days shoveling the driveway and sidewalk. (And then—of course—shoveling the driveway a second time after the city plow finally came through.) Of course, snow was a feature of Jonathan and Mary Clark’s time, too:

Currier & Ives. (1853) The road, winter / O. Knirsch, lith. United States, 1853. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (lightly retouched for color balance). Click to open larger image in new window.

We don’t know if the Clarks owned a sleigh while they lived in Mequon. I suspect they probably did, though their sleigh—and their clothing—may not have been quite as posh as those in this Currier & Ives lithograph from 1853.

Dashing through the snow…

In this image the couple is dashing through the snow in a two-horse open sleigh. This would make for a fast and occasionally wild ride, much like owning an expensive, stylish sports car today. And as in the immortal holiday song, the near horse (and also the far horse, I think) has a strap full of jingle bells draped over his back and around his girth.

This handsome couple in the sleigh have a nice open road to travel, presumably somewhere in New York state. In contrast, the Mequon area of the 1830s and ’40s was much more thickly forested. But by the late-1850s or ’60s—after a decade or two of settlement and land clearing—the area around the Clark’s home may have looked much like this 1853 snowscape, with a decent road passing by large open fields punctuated by smaller stands of hardwood and fir trees.

Speaking of snow

Of course, even with a sleigh, you need a reasonably clear path for the horses. After a big storm—without modern snow-throwers or truck-mounted snowplows—that might take a while. The Clark’s longtime neighbor, Rev. James W. Woodworth noted such a storm in early 1871:

Sabbath, Jan. 15. We are snowed in to day, for a violent storm of wind and snow came on yesterday afternoon.
Jan. 17. We are completely blocked in this morning, and [son] Lewis and I turned out with seven other men shoveling snow, and opened a way as far as the Green Bay road, more than a mile west of us; have been working a part of three days, and finally have succeeded in digging out.

Woodworth, James W., My Path and the Way the Lord Led Me, Milwaukee, 1881, page 296-297.

If you were (or are) in the path of the current storm, I hope you won’t need nine men and three days to shovel out from your snowfall.

Reminder: one more day to enter and win!

And if you are snowed in—or not—don’t forget you have one more day to enter your best guess in our very first Clark House Historian Reader Challengewhere you get to be the historian! Just click the link, read the post, and make your best guess to win a fabulous prize! (OK, maybe I’m over-selling the prize). But take a look, have some fun, and give it a try!

Be well, Stay safe.

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