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Back in the nineteenth century when northern snows came early and stayed late, when Whittier glorified the delights of the New England winter in "Snowbound," when there were no automobiles and consequently no highways to be kept open, deep snows were accepted as a proper part of winter.
Wheeled vehicles were put away. Sleighs and sleds were brought out. Sleigh bells jingled and traffic moved by living, breathing horse power. A pair of fast horses harnessed to a cutter got over the ground with a speed and smoothness not equalled at any other time of the year. Other winter pastimes were skating, coasting, ice boating, fishing through the ice, hunting, and, toward spring, the rural social event known as a "sugaring off party." All these are depicted in the numerous prints issued by Currier ĢI Ives.
Probably the sport which appealed to all ages because it was also a means of transportation was sleighing. The a large-folio print Entitled "The Road, Winter," that was published by N. Currier in 1853, a few years before the famous partnership was formed. The scene was drawn by Otto Knirsch who worked for Currier for some years and later went into business for himself as a lithographer.
The country landscape with the light of late afternoon on it forms a background for the span of horses drawing a cutter in which a man and woman are seated amid fur robes. They are Nathaniel Currier and his wife, Lura Ormsbee. The staff of his printing establishment produced this as a Christmas present for their employer. He liked it so much that he added it to the general list. It is now an expensive rarity.
Besides this placid sleighing scene, N. Currier and Currier & Ives published some five different prints bearing the title of "The Sleigh Race." The scarcest is a small-folio showing two one-horse sleighs speeding along side by side with one horse a little more than a half-head in advance. Each sleigh is occupied by a man and woman dressed in the costume of the day.
Another small-folio print, entitled "Central Park in Winter," shows a number of cutters in the foreground of all sorts, from large ones drawn by four horses to spans and singles. In the background is the skating pond crowded with skaters. This was published after James Ives became Currier's partner. Sleighing was a favorite pastime for both men and the drive along the skating pond in Central Park must have been familiar to them.
Skating parties were popular in both city and country during the Victorian years. Another scene, drawn by Charles Parsons, shows the skating pond in Central Park, where hoop-skirted women attended by silk-hatted men are skimming over the ice. It was published in large folio by Currier & Ives in 1862 under the title "Central Park, Winter-The Skating Pond."