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Old magazines showed Adirondacks

May 15, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , The Leader Herald

Before the days of radios, televisions, movies, computers and the popular magazines of today, the American public turned to publications called pictorials, journals, popular monthlies, and "black and white" printed magazines. They, unlike the colorful, photo-filled, somewhat limited magazines of today, were filled with the world's wisdom and news, illustrated by sketches and woodcuts. In these fine publications were found "polite literature, wit and humor, prose and poetic gems, original tales, neutral political reports, and condensed foreign and domestic news of the day." They covered almost every topic that was prevalent in that day, including some coverage of things "Adirondack."

Harper's publications, monthly and weekly, were the champions of Adirondack reports; I have some 12 copies that include Adirondack references. Appleton's Journal sent an artist/reporter to do the Adirondacks in 1872 and they featured the Adirondacks on three other occasions. Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly covered the rich and famous in the Adirondacks in the 1880s. The Century Illustrated Magazine did "Adirondack" five times from 1881 to 1906. Scribner's Magazine covered Adirondack stories seven times in the late 1800s. And now, I recently acquired a Gleason's Pictorial bound volume of their 1854 magazines. They had found Lake George in the Adirondacks, joining with the other publications to call our nation's attention to that remote region in upstate New York.

Lake George in the Adirondacks, a historical and picturesque lake, "is one of the most admirable sheets of water to be found in the whole world," so says Gleason. It is one of the earliest and most written about regions in our nation. Appleton's Journal covered Lake George in 1871 and Harper's Monthly Magazine did a 16-page lead article on Lake George in 1879. Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly wrote about Lake George in 1886. And now, I find Lake George in the early 1854 Gleason's Pictorial.

Gleason's Pictorial magazines have great sketches which are highly detailed. They tell a story. An article on September 23, 1854, entitled "Cottage Near Hague, Lake George," is illustrated with a half-page print of the cottage. It is about 12 inches by 8 inches and shows the Adirondack Mountains in the background. The cottage, itself, is ram shackled with a rough shingle and board roof. A log fence surrounds it with some drying clothes draped on it. A couple women near the porch by some barrels and a boy with a dog coming down the dirt road are shown. The cottage is surrounded by trees and what looks like a small garden.

In defense of what is picturesque in the new country of America, the article on Lake George asserts, "We have more of Nature, pure and uncorrupt as she came from the hands of her Maker, and as yet little injured by the hand of man. Here nature appears to have been laid out on a grand and more gigantic scale than in petty Europe." Those looking for the picturesque need only to "witness our mountains, and lakes, and noble forests-our rolling rivers and resounding waterfalls." And that is the Adirondacks; it is good that our early publications saw that picturesque Adirondack mountainous and lake country and called our nation's attention to how fortunate we were to have them rather than the "cloud-capped towers, gorgeous palaces, strong-built fortresses, baronial halls or ancient abbeys of Europe. "



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