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Volume 92, Number 2 (Spring 2018)


Artifacts in Agraria: Introduction CATHERINE ANNE WILSON and JODEY NURSE-GUPTA

The Farm Diary: An Intimate and Ongoing Relationship between Artifact and Keeper CATHERINE WILSON

Words are the usual focus of diary scholars. The physical diary is the focus of this article, along with the “diary-keeping” practices of Ontario-based farm men and women from 1830 to 1930. The convenient, compact, sturdy blank book was preferred by most diarists documented at the Rural Diary Archive at the University of Guelph. Whereas musicians played their fiddle, diarists “kept” their diary, preserving it and faithfully making regular entries thereby creating an intimate and ongoing relationship with it. Their diary connected them to the world of manufactured stationary products. Its structured format encouraged them to forego conjecture for a disciplined accounting of their lives and agricultural work. At the same time, its blank space stimulated self-expression. Diarists readily adjusted its purpose and format, just as they modified other consumer products to meet the needs of agriculture. When we analyze the diary as an artifact that is acquired, handled, transformed, and preserved, another page opens on rural life.

The Steel Wheel: From Progress to Protest and Back Again in Canada, Mexico, and Bolivia ROYDEN LOEWEN AND BEN NOBBS-THIESSEN

This article offers a transnational history of migrant material culture by exploring the changing meanings of the steel-wheeled tractor. A defining innovation, the steel wheel transformed North American agriculture but by mid-twentieth century had been eclipsed by the rubber-tired tractor. But not all farming histories follow this familiar narrative. Old Colony Mennonites, who had left the Canadian prairies to establish farming colonies in Northern Mexico in the 1920s, sacralized the steel- wheeled tractor as a symbol of tradition at midcentury. To protect their culture, Old Colony stalwarts left Mexico for eastern Bolivia in the 1960s where, ironically, they were viewed as agricultural innovators. This image changed once again with environmental and religious challenges in the late twentieth century. The steel- wheeled tractor’s many transformations across space and time complicate assumptions about technological obsolescence while linking the farming histories of North and South America.

The Coal-Oil Lamp R.W. SANDWELL

This article provides a brief history of the origins and use of the first modern lighting in rural Canada. Of all the revolutions in lighting, none was taken up more quickly or embraced more widely than the coal-oil (also called kerosene) lamp. This paper argues that the lamp became so popular not only because it met the substantial demand for an inexpensive and bright artificial light, but because, from the consumer’s vantage point, it closely resembled the familiar culture of lighting in the organic or pre-industrial energy regime. Familiar, bright, and inexpensive, it was also available in remote rural locations through the same transportation routes moving people and other goods. As a result, kerosene continued to be the main conveyor of artificial lighting in most rural households until the mid-twentieth century. The paper concludes with a discussion of the not-so-familiar toxic legacy associated with this first modern lighting.

Creeps, Feeders, and Creep Feeders: Artifacts and Animal Husbandry, 1880s-1960s DEBRA A. REIDDEBRA A. REID

Creeps and creep feeders provide visible evidence of tools used by farmers to increase survival and growth rates for young stock. Historically creeps took various forms, built by farmers to suit the animals’ size and habits, but they served one function —they provided a protected space for young stock to eat. Little physical evidence of creeps in use between the 1880s and the 1960s remains, but critical analysis of prescriptive literature and historic photographs can help us document changes in animal husbandry and market strategies that continue today. Farmers made them from scratch, followed plans prepared by technical experts, or bought pre-fabricated units, and used them in confinement operations as well as smaller-scale cow-calf, sow-piglet, and sheep-lamb operations. The tool could simultaneously reflect good business practice, resistance to production regulations, abuse of animal welfare ethics, and investment in modern farming practices.

A Fair-Ribbon Quilt: Crafting Identity and Creating Memory JODEY NURSE-GUPTA

This article investigates a fair-ribbon quilt crafted by Bernice, Irene, and Edna Rudd to reveal the multiplicity of meanings that exist in a single artifact. The quilt was pieced together in 1901 from a variety of prize ribbons won by their father, William James Rudd, for his superior North Devon cattle at regional, national, and international fairs between 1891 and 1901. Aesthetically, the quilt is beautiful and striking in its design; however, the object’s greater significance lies in its ability to express a host of meanings, including its commemoration of familial accomplishments and memories, display of individual creativity and style, expression of larger social goals and aspirations, and representation of the existence of shared interests and values among kin of both sexes. Furthermore, quilting embodies a particularly feminine art form used to fuse together people, places, and things, and to add new layers of meaning to objects, thus allowing women to act as custodians in addition to creators.

From Trade Routes to Rural Farm: The Biography of Pierre Bruce Fiddle ROLAND SAWATZKY

By looking at a museum artifact as an object worthy of biography, in which agency is suggested by its impact on people associated with it, we are able to outline its role as an implement of social construction. The Pierre Bruce violin is situated first in the detailed historical context of Métis ethnogenesis, mobility, changing land use practices, and genealogy. Following multiple generations of the Bruce family as the owners of this violin, we can begin to understand its transformative role in the Canadian Northwest as it moved from the mobility of the fur trade and buffalo hunt to the agricultural settings at Red River and Harperville, Manitoba.

In Memoriam: Margaret Beattie Bogue (1924-2018) and Dana G. Dalrymple (1932-2018)

Book Reviews

Featured Review

Rethinking the Seeds of American Agricultural Exceptionalism, A Review of Courtney Fullilove, The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture, by Peter A. Kopp

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Marston, Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion, by Aaron L. Beek


Woods, The Herds Shot Round the World: Native Breeds and the British Empire, 1800–1900, by Brett Bannor

Robins, Cotton and Race across the Atlantic: Britain, Africa, and America, 1900–1920, by Jason Hauser

North America

Sweeny, Prelude to the Dust Bowl: Drought in the Nineteenth-Century Southern Plains, by Nathan Sanderson

Kopp, Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, by Neil Oatsvall

Wise, Producing Predators: Wolves, Work, and Conquest in the Northern Rockies, by Chris Young

Olsson, Agrarian Crossings: Reformers and the Remaking of the U.S. and Mexican Countryside, by Helen Anne Curry

Taylor, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection, by Joshua M. Nygren

Thiessen, Not Talking Union: An Oral History of North American Mennonites and Labour, by James Naylor

Ellingson, To Care for Creation: The Emergence of the Religious Environmental Movement, by Mark Stoll

Register, The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape, by John Byczynski