St Lawrence County Historical Association

changing works

Display case with various dairy farming artifactsChanging Works describes a system of labor sharing that existed on dairy farms until the mid-1950s. Male workers from several farms would circulate among their neighbors' farms to thrash oats, fill silos, cut wood or ice, spread manure, and help with haying. But the development of machines such as the combine and the field chopper changed the way those chores were performed, and rural electrification projects, which brought electricity, central heating, and refrigeration to the farms, lessened the need to chop wood and harvest ice.

The exhibit includes photographs of St Lawrence County dairy farms taken in 1985 by former SUNY Potsdam sociology professor Doug Harper and 1940s-era farm photos from the Standard Oil of New Jersey Photography Project. Harper culled photos of upstate New York farms from the Standard Oil project's archives to compare them with his more recent ones. Standard Oil hoped its photos of rural America would counter the then-oil giant's negative image. Harper's photos chronicle family farms here as they were more than 20 years ago.

Harper curated the exhibit, which first appeared at SLCHA some years ago, and dedicated it to the memory of Carmen Acres of Madrid. Those viewing it will find other familiar names among the farmers who added their reflections to Harper's photos.

This exhibit is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.