Ohio's largest living history destination offering guests experiences
rich in history, hospitality, creativity and fun!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Before Snowplows and Snow Blowers

By Tracie Evans, Curator of Collections

Although snow has been sparse this year, the most recent snowfall brought to mind the large snowfalls of the past.  Have you ever wondered how people managed all the snow in Northwest Ohio before we had snowplows and snow blowers?  In the museum, visitors can see many of these snow related artifacts on display. 

Snow Roller
One of the most unique snow-related items in our collection is a snow roller.  This large wooden object features a 4’ wooden cylinder that was pulled by horses along drives and roadways to compact the snow into solid avenues.  This allowed sleighs and other winter vehicles to glide along without getting stuck or sinking into soft snow.

Wooden Snow Shovels
People also had to clear snow to their barns and outbuildings like the outhouse by hand. I’m sure no one wanted to wade through snow to the outhouse.  Most people cleared snow by hand using shovels. Although not everyone would have had specialized shovels, you will find five examples of snow shovels from the late 1800s in the museum.  These wooden shovels sometimes had metal on their ends to help with the removal of ice.  Just as today, ice was a problem on steps and walks, according to The American Frugal Housewife (1833), “salt strewed upon the door-steps in winter will cause the ice to crack, so that it can be easily removed.”  

There are several types of vehicles used for work in the winter.  Wide blades were used for untreated areas and heavy work while thin blades that needed compacted or hardened snow were used to transport people.  If you are or were an avid sled rider, this is the same principle between a traditional sled with runners and a flat sled or toboggan.  Although both types of runners work well on hardened or compacted snow, a traditional sled tends to get stuck in deep snow.  

Thin Runner
Wide Runner
To attend church, go to town, or visit with friends, families used either a cutter or a sleigh.  A cutter is a small single seat sleigh for one or two people.  A cutter was quick and light and usually pulled by a single horse. The small size however, made them impractical for a family.  Families used a sleigh that usually had at least two seats and were pulled by one or two horses.  Both sleighs and cutters worked best with only a few inches of unpacked snow or on packed snow.  

Albany Cutter
Russian-Style Sleigh
Many buggies and smaller wheeled vehicles had interchangeable runners so that they could be used year 'round. Our mail wagon has a set of these interchangeable runners allowing it to be used throughout the year.  Farmers also had a set of bobsled runners that could be used to replace the wheels on most farm wagons.   Bobsleds had wide blade runners that allowed farmers to continue to work around their farms throughout the winter. One important job was the harvesting of wood for fireplaces and sawmills. 

These winter items along with information about ice harvesting are featured in a special exhibit in the museum.  We hope that you will stop by when we open this spring to see these and other newly featured items throughout the museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment