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Skating, Sleighing and Sliding

Barney & Berry Ice Skates

Longmeadow Historical Society Collection

Next week, local historian and friend of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Dennis Picard will join us at the Richard Salter Storrs Library to present “Winter Pleasures and Pastimes.” Without a doubt, the winter of 2023 has been mild. That doesn’t mean we can’t still sit back and reflect on the usual delights of the season.

In an essay titled "Winter" for the Center School literary journal, The Carrier Pigeon, one student reflected on her mixed feelings in the winter season of 1864. She wrote, “Some parts of winter are very pleasant. The first part of this winter, there was very good skating, and then there came sleighing and it lasted a long time, and there has not been much skating since. It has been warm weather for a time until a few days since. It commenced to snow on Monday morning about 11 o’clock and snowed all day, until about 5 o’clock cleared off very cold and I think that it was not very pleasant doing chores last night, nor this morning. I know that I did not think it was. I should like to have skating or good sleighing now instead of this weather, for it is very cold, and there is neither skating or sliding or sleighing.*” Who among us hasn’t marveled at the quiet beauty of snow-covered trees after a storm, only to complain about the shoveling and cold?

"Winter" by Center School student, 1864

Collection of Longmeadow Historical Society

No doubt she would have loved to take a turn on the ice in this c.1860’s wool, royal blue colored five-piece skating ensemble from our collection. The dress looks like it has come to life straight out of a Curriers & Ives print called The Skating Carnival from 1862.

Skating Outfit c. 1860's

Collection of Longmeadow Historical Society

Close-up detail of c. 1860's Skating Outfit

Collection of the Longmeadow Historical Society

As for the skates, if you look closely at the markings on the steel blade you will notice they were manufactured by Barney & Berry out of nearby Springfield, MA, founded by Everett Barney whose Carriage House is still a Forest Park treasure.

Springfield maker "Barney & Berry"

While there is still some snow on the ground, sit back and enjoy these items from our collection that reflect winters from the past. Then come join us on March 8th at 6:30 pm at the Storrs Library to learn more from Dennis Picard. Per the program description: “Often when early New England winters are brought to mind, we imagine families huddled around an insufficient fire in a dark and cold house while snow pelts the windows and the wolves howl at their door. Well, our ancestors made time for fun in the colder months. Sometimes it was something done as part of a chore but often it was something just for pleasure. Come hear why winter was welcomed by many and anxiously awaited by some.” Pre-registration encouraged. Register here

This event is co-sponsored by the Longmeadow Historical Society, Richard Salter Storrs Library, and Peoples Bank.

-Contributed by Melissa M. Cybulski with credit to Betsy McKee for dress and skate photos

* Letter transcription edited for clarity

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