It’s February in Iowa. We still have snow on the ground. It’s been very cold here this week, too. Do you like snow and cold? Lots of kids love to play in the snow or go sledding. Many parents hate to shovel snow and don’t like driving on snowy roads. At the museum, cold weather makes us wonder about what it might be like to have been in an Ioway lodge during a snowstorm or in a log house on the prairie. What would it be like to do farm chores on a snowy day in 1900 or walk to school through the snow in 1875?
In the year 1700, the Ioway people made their winter houses by sewing together the long green leaves of cattail plants. In the winter, the cattail leaves would swell up and stick together. The leaves would shed water and keep out the cold air. Buffalo skins with all the fur were used as blankets to keep warm. It may not sound very warm, but a cattail lodge kept the Ioway much warmer than pioneers would have been living in a log house around the year 1850.
Most log houses were heated by an open fireplace. The heat from the fire escapes up the chimney. A pioneer family was happy if they could warm their log house up to 45 or 50 degrees in the winter! It would take a lot of wood to keep the fire going in a hearth to cook and keep warm all winter.
By the 1870s and in 1900, most houses were heated by wood or coal-burning stoves. The stoves gave off a lot of heat into the room, but there might still have been a cold draft around the outside of the room, next to the walls. Our houses in 2015 have thick foam or fluffy fiberglass in between the walls to keep the wind out. In the 1800s, most houses did not have any insulation to keep out the wind. Here at the museum, the snow this month has made everything very sloppy.
During the last snow storm at the 1900 era Farm, we were grateful for the big pine trees on the west side of the house. The trees kept the snow from drifting in too deep. You can see the line of pine trees in the snow in this photograph taken out of the pantry window.
The snow made it harder to carry water and food to our animals. The cows didn’t seem to mind the snow much though!
The orchard and the windmill were pretty in the snow and ice.
Many people in the 1870s and 1900s looked forward to snow. Kids and adults loved to go sleigh riding and sledding in the winter. It was a fun way to meet your friends and a fast way to travel. Sleighs pulled by horses could skim over the snow much easier than pulling a wagon along muddy roads.
Farm kids might make their own sleds in the year 1900, or they could buy them from a mail-order catalog. The Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog had simple sleds to sell for 50 cents! A really lucky kid might be able to buy a fancy sled for $2.00.
Going shopping in a little town could be a snowy adventure in 1875! Storekeepers would have to shovel their doorways and walks by hand. No snow-blowing machines back then! The shops in Walnut Hill were covered in snow last week. It’s a good thing the General Store would sell fur mittens and strong shovels! We hope you are enjoying the snow this month! We’re looking forward to spring . . .