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Reasonable UseThe People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930$
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John T. Cumbler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195138139.001.0001

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New England, the Nation, and Us

New England, the Nation, and Us

Chapter:
(p.181) 11 New England, the Nation, and Us
Source:
Reasonable Use
Author(s):

John T. Cumbler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195138139.003.0015

Sylvester Judd died in 1860 at seventy years of age, just before he completed his history of Hadley, Massachusetts. Judd had lived through the transformation of his community from a small rural village where people fished massive runs of salmon and shad each spring, to an industrial center seated on the banks of a polluted river. One of his motivations for writing his history was to capture that fast-disappearing older world. It was a world where lawyers, shopkeepers, journalists, and farmers (and Judd had been three of those four) knew how to cut timber, kill and clean a turkey, catch fish, butcher a pig, tend a garden, work an orchard, and make cider. By the time of Judd’s death, wood was sold already cut into cordwood or milled to clapboards, meat was butchered at the abattoir, and cloth was woven in mills. It was a world that could not be brought back through his history, but one that Judd hoped through his history might at least be remembered. On July 24, 1882, when Theodore Lyman went before the people of his district to run for Congress, he reminded them that when he was a boy (then, Judd was in his fifties), the region’s industry had already begun to grow, although many of the state’s residents were still rural farmers. Yet by the time Lyman ran for Congress, a majority of the people of Massachusetts found their homes and their jobs in towns and cities. The world that Judd saw fading in the 1850s was indeed a thing of memory for some of those listening to Lyman in 1882. New England of the 1880s was a place, as Lyman noted, of “manufacturing towns with . . . sickly smells.” Yet without this progress, according to him, New England would have remained a place of “a few grist-mills here and there and houses whose occupants raised such crops as they could from the scanty soil.” If, by 1882, the people of New England had lost their more direct contact with the resources of nature, for many, the romanticized memory of that intimacy lingered on.

Keywords:   air pollution, cholera, corporations, diseases, dysentery, mortality rates

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