Two Carpenters

Architecture and Building in Early New England, 1799-1859

  • Author(s): Garrison, J. Ritchie
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2006-08-15
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $48.95 | Buy Now

This innovative study examines the lives of two New England carpenters, Calvin and George Stearns, who were active in the first half of the nineteenth century. Drawing on their written accounts and examining their legacy of buildings—a record as extensive and richly detailed as any that exists—J. Ritchie Garrison recovers the stylistic influences, family patterns, work habits, social customs, tools, and business practices that shaped the Stearnses’ identities as rural builders during a time of profound change.

Although study of the region’s architectural forms began in the late nineteenth century and social historians have extensively discussed the emergence of rural capitalism in New England, there is still much to learn about the process by which these landscapes and buildings came into being. As Garrison shows, the Stearnses personified the dynamic interrelationships of city and country, and of industry and farming, as they filtered change through the actions of everyday living. Profusely illustrated with drawings and photographs, the book follows the Stearnses as they moved from newly settled towns on New England’s northern frontier, to federal-era Boston, the agricultural village of Northfield, Massachusetts, and the resort community of Brattleboro, Vermont.

By tracing the lives and careers of these two carpenters, Garrison provokes readers to consider why things look the way they do, how they got that way, and what they mean. J. Ritchie Garrison is director of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and professor of history at the University of Delaware. His is the author of Landscape and Material Life in Franklin County, Massachusetts, 1770–1860.