Skaneateles, 1830

In 1830, a young man named John J. Thomas did a sketch of the village of Skaneateles, seen from the road on the west side of the lake. In July the drawing appeared in the Ariel magazine in Philadelphia, along with a short written description of the village. My favorite lines from the piece:

“Travelers, especially foreigners, are usually charmed with this delightful spot, and speak in raptures of its interesting scenery. None who have a relish for the pleasant scenes of nature can approach it without admiration, or leave it without regret.”

John J. Thomas was the son of David Thomas, the chief engineer who built the Erie Canal from Rochester to Buffalo. He was born at Ledyard, Cayuga County, N.Y., in 1810. Home-schooled, he developed an interest in botany. He established a nursery in Wayne County and for more than 30 years earned a reputation as an authority on the raising of fruits of all kinds. In 1846, he wrote, illustrated and published The Fruit Culturist; 19 editions followed. The Register of Rural Affairs, published annually by Luther Tucker & Son beginning in 1855, contained nearly 2,000 engravings, all from drawings by Thomas.

In 1832, two years after Thomas’s illustration of Skaneateles appeared in the Ariel magazine, Fanny A. Coney (1814-1838) of Portland, N.Y., did a watercolor painting based on the sketch, which she titled “A View of Skeneatless Village.” Her painting follows Thomas’s work very closely; it is thought the couple she added in the foreground is meant to represent herself and the man she soon married, Joseph Lockwood.

The original of Miss Coney’s work is today in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and prints are available for purchase at allposters.com.

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