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American Forest Scene
Artists often celebrated the thaw of winter and the beginning of spring with scenes of maple sugaring or "sugaring off" gatherings. These important social events occurred throughout New England and were an opportunity for the residents of a town or village to meet over the first boiling of maple sap into maple sugar. While a number of artists used images of "sugaring off" to subtly comment on the political implications of cane sugar (since slaves were used in production), Currier & Ives concentrated on the community aspect of maple sugaring. The firm's catalogue of 1860 explores the social context of maple sugar by describing the image as:
"An agreeable picture of a peculiarly American character, showing a maple grove in early springtime. A light snow has apparently fallen over night, and the ground is thinly covered with a mantle of white. On the logs, near the fire where the sap is boiling, are seated two ladies with a male companion, apparently city folks come out to taste the sweets of the country. In the distance, an ox- cart is approaching with another party of the same sort. On the left, two "natives" seem engaged in a discussion, either on the sugar trade or the next election. A number of boys and girls are tending the kettles, bringing up the sap in the buckets, or having a good time generally at the sugaring off."
On the reverse of "Maple Sugaring" is the print "Clipper Ship Sweepstakes", produced in 1853. "Sweepstakes" did not sell well, so the firm decided to print on the back of it, creating one of Currier & Ives most recognizable scenes of winter in New England.
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