Winter isn’t over yet. Historically, some of the worst winter storms have happened between the end of February and the end of March. The Blizzard of 1888 took place March 11-14th. The Great Ice Storm of 1898 took place on February 20-22nd. Looking at pictures of these historic storms reminds us that giant piles of snow and ice-shattered trees have been regular features of winter in New England. People didn’t have it quite so bad in the old days, however. Everyone in the late nineteenth century had fireplaces, wood stoves, and/or coal furnaces. Few people had electricity, especially in rural areas. Light was provided by kerosene, candles, or gas. Though suburbanization was beginning to affect some of the larger cities, few people commuted very far to work in northwest Connecticut, where the Ice Storm hit hardest. Grocery shopping was not the almost daily activity that it is today, and most families would have had well-stocked pantries, including foods that they had processed themselves. Many families would have had their own chickens or cows. Deep snow and ice posed dangers and hardships, of course, but our ancestors were used to a hard life. A great blizzard or ice storm was an opportunity for families to spend time together indoors, gathered around the fireplace. I’ve always thought that many of the people in the pictures of the Blizzard of 1888 look like they are having a very good time. Marie Kendall recorded the beauty as well as the devastation wrought by the Great Ice Storm. Our reliance on technology and modern conveniences has made us far more vulnerable to nature’s extremes than our ancestors were.
Marie Kendall’s photographs of the Great Ice Storm will be on view through March 29th in the exhibition, Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographs.