Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

More than a Farmer’s Museum

Thursday August 11, 2016                                                                Most Recent Posts:
Glimmerglass State Park                                                                  On the Water at Glimmerglass
Cooperstown, New York                                                                  Time Flies By at the Iroquois Indian Museum



After our time on the water at Glimmerglass this morning, I have some breakfast and about 11:00 we head into Cooperstown.  Neither of us is a baseball fan so we won’t be posting about the Baseball Hall of Fame which is the big draw in Cooperstown.  We want to see the Fenimore Art Museum with its collection of Indian Art and the Ansel Adams installation but not today.  Today I want to be outside since the weather is so nice.  I opt for a visit to the Farmer’s Museum of Cooperstown. Not sure I think Farmer’s Museum is the best name.  If I hadn’t seen it as we went through Cooperstown on our way to the lab yesterday, I probably would never have been interested in a Farmer’s Museum even though I lived on a farm for 30 years.  What I did see as we drove reminded me of a very small Colonial Williamsburg.



It’s a living history village of life in upstate New York in the early 1800’s with numerous buildings moved to this spot and restored.  Also on the grounds is the  fabulous New York State Carousel.  It does have a one building museum in a fantastic old stone barn.  This has exhibits of old farming machines and wagons as well as some very up to date videos on how computers are changing farming for those who can afford expensive set ups.  I would assume that means those associated with industrial agriculture.

Also on view in the museum is  The Great Cardiff Giant billed as “the phenomenon of the Century”  but only very loosely related to farming.

The carousel, the museum, the Historic Village and the Lippitt Farmstead make up what they call The Farmer’s Museum.  It’s a lot to see in a day and I only have about half a day. Admission is $12 for adults, $10.50 for seniors, $6.00 children ages 6-12, under 6 free.

The land on which this all resides has been part of a working farm since 1813, when it was owned by James Fenimore Cooper.  Judge Samuel Nelson, whose office is part of The Farmers' Museum Village, bought the farm in 1829.  It was acquired by the Clark family in 1870. 



In 1918, Edward Severin Clark built a modern, fully equipped complex.  The barn, creamery, and herdsman's cottage, constructed of local stone, are now part of the museum and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are beautiful buldings as you can see.

I had no idea the Farmers' Museum was opened in 1944. That’s during WWII.  No wonder there are so many wonderful old artifacts.  They hadn’t all been grabbed up by antique dealers yet.  At that time, the museum had 5,000 tools and objects, including the collections of the Otsego County Historical Society and the Wyckoff family, one of Brooklyn's oldest farming families. Today the museum's collections number more than 23,000 artifacts.   That’s a lot to see in one afternoon.

Just inside the door of the beautiful barn is the ticket seller and beyond her is an original wagon from when this was the Fenimore Farm.  It was made here in Cooperstown by the Francis Wagon Works.   If you look closely you can see the fading lettering Fenimore Farm.






Across from the wagon is the Cardiff Giant.  I’d never heard of this and apparently that’s surprising especially in upstate New York.  It is a hoot of a tale.  In October of 1869, a giant figure of a man was unearthed by men digging a well in Cardiff New York.  The Advertising placards called it the “Great Cardiff Giant Phenomenon of the Century”.  Was it the petrified remains of an extinct race, the sculpted work of an ancient civilization?  It was the subject of heated debates and sensational news stories for months. 

For weeks nearly 500 people daily paid $.50 to see the giant.  That was a lot of money at that time when a day laborer earned a dollar a day and skilled tradesmen $10 a week.   

On October 23, 1869 a three quarters share in the giant was sold for $30,000 to a group of investors.  Good heavens that was a LOT of money then.  The giant went on a tour of New York, Syracuse, Albany, NYC and beyond.    On February 4, 1870 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cyrus Cobb examined the giant in Boston and concluded the figure was probably made of stone but very old.  Their conclusion was pretty surprising since the real story had been released two months earlier.



On December 10, 1869, George Hull, a cigar manufacturer from Binghamton NY admitted that the Cardiff Giant was a giant hoax.  He wanted to prove how gullible the American people were. He had a giant block of Iowa gypsum shipped to Chicago and carved in secret.  It was then pounded with needle faced mallet to create the appearance of skin pores.  Ink and sulfuric acid were poured over it to make it look old.

It was shipped to Union Station and carted by wagon to Cardiff where Hull and Stub Newell buried it in a 5’ deep grave on Newell’s farm.  A year later Newell pointed out the spot where a well should be dug. 

Even after the admission the giant continued to travel.  It was exhibited at agricultural fairs, the 1901 Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo.  It was kept in Fitchburg, Massachusetts for many years and moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1913.  It was exhibited at the NY State Fair in Syracuse in 1934 and purchased by the Farmer’s Museum in 1947 where it has been on display since 1948.  The whole thing just makes me laugh.  If people will believe this, it’s no wonder they believe the stuff Donald Trump dreams up.   The news media was part of it then and they are part of it now. 


These two exhibits are in a sort of anteroom. The rest of the barn has two floors of very interesting machinery and exhibits but it is a beautiful day and I want to get outside so I save them for “later” when it gets too  hot.  A time that, since I only have a half day, never comes.



I step outside the barn and there is a wagon pulled by two beautiful draft horses with those huge feet.  The “footman” asks if I want a ride.  Who could refuse.




It’s a great way to get the lay of the land so to speak.



After a full turn around the grounds, they drop me back off at the barn and I head on to what for me is the most fun of the day.







The Empire State Carousel was produced over 20 years by the work of master carver Gerry Holzman of Islip, NY and over 1000 volunteers throughout the state.  The Carousel consists of 23 riding animals indiginous to New York State, 2 bench seats, 8 carved folk lore panels depicting the regions of New York, and 19 carved portrait panels of notable New Yorkers from the past.  In addition to the carousel, the volunteers created the facade of the Stinson band organ with figures of John Phillips Sousa, Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan surrounded by the fruits and vegetables of New York State.


From 1880 to 1920 over 5000 carousels were made in America and 10 of the 14 manufacturers of that time were based in New York in Brooklyn or upstate New York near Buffalo.  This carousel is built on a vintage 36’ Alan Herschell carousel mechanism made in Tonawanda New York in 1947.  

To say it is magnificient is an understatement.  The carousel is worth the price of admission to the “museum” although to ride one of the animals you first have to decide which one, a tough decision, and then you have to fork over $1 per ride.

Here’s what you have to choose from.  Although I didn’t take pictures of all 23 animals, I almost did.  They are just fantastic.   Have you ever ridden a fish?  He’s next to the labrador which is next to the burro.

The burro is just about as excited as Ginger would have been to be a carousel animal and wear a hat.



Guess the Canada Goose has been in New York a long time judging by his hat.



There is one carousel horse and a black bear with a flag.  He was in the running for my choice.   I love the accessories.  The bear has a bedroll.  Guess he’s going camping in the Finger Lakes judging by the blanket under his saddle.  What fun it must have been to plan these.







How about a racoon carrying a garbage can next to a pig licking his chops.  The beaver has his dam making tools and his tail is up ready to slap the water if you get too close.



Goat, bunny, mouse.


The mouse is cute but he didn’t make the cut.  That’s the bunny’s nose.  He was sweet.



The moose was in the running.  Who has ever ridden a moose?  It’s hard enough just to see them.


Or maybe a frog with golf pants, sox and shoes.


This line up is a cow, a loon and a bobcat.  I’ve never ridden any of them either.


I guess this skunk is “flower” from Bambi otherwise no one would choose to ride.






I think I could have ridden a half dozen times to get in all the animals I wanted to ride but I only have half a day so I limit it to two and choose the beaver in honor of the one I saw in the stream yesterday.




The roof of the carousel is beautiful as well.  This is a folk lore panel of Long Island where David lived as a boy.  I hope Al and Karen are reading.  That’s where they are from.




2nd choice is the loon.  Isn’t he grand!  With his mouth open he must be calling but with the caliope music I can’t hear him.


Around and around I go.  It’s a good long ride for your dollar.



Here’s a history panel of the Women’s Rights Conference in Seneca Falls.



These portraits of famous New Yorkers go all around the outside of the carousel with quotes from each.  Here are Louis Armstrong, I didn’t know he was from New York, and Walt Whitman.




And these are the lovely sisters who make it all happen and who took my pictures on the animals for me.  Wish I could have stayed longer and ridden more.





On down the gravel lane is the Historic Village and beyond it is the Lippitt Farm.



First stop is at a picnic table for lunch.  Behind me is the Bump Tavern 1795.  In its outbuilding light refreshments are for sale, thus the picnic tables.  I choose the one under a magnificent tree.




After lunch, I walk through the village visiting each building.  This “museum” is extrememly well done and Colonial Williamsburg, with which I am very familiar, has nothing on them other than size.  At the close of my afternoon I walk  the lane to the Lippitt Farm but I’m going to talk about that first since there is just too much here for one blog post.

After seeing the village, I head down the lane beyond the farm and am so happy to be outside on this beautiful though very warm day.




All the way at the end is the other entrance to the museum complex which is inside a very elaborate horsebarn.  I don’t visit it but I do stop to watch one of the draft horses.  I believe he is a Percheron although there are nearly two dozen types of draft horses so someone else may know for sure.

The Tippett Farm is a working living history museum and the horses plow the fields with antique equipment and pull carts and wagons like I rode in earlier today. 




Heading back up toward the farm barns from the horse pastures I come to the garden.




The garden is large and complete with a scarecrow which seems to be doing his job admirably.  They also grow hops here at the farm.  I’m not sure where those fields are but I did see the hop barn with even a few hop buds in the bin. (corrected per David)




Things are happening in the barns.  It’s late afternoon and that means feeding time.






The farmer’s wife is watching the calf who is waiting to be bottle fed.



These two young boys have been called outside by the farmer to help call in the goats and to get out of their way when they come storming in.  The goats did storm in so fast that the pictures I took of the boys and the goats are just a blurr.




But I did get this one of the the boys taking turns feeding the calf who sucked so hard she nearly pulled the bottle out of their hands.






A farm hand milks the cows.



The chickens are wandering all around.  These are a rhode island red and two plymouth rocks.  Both are 19th century breeds



They have a very nice coop, possibly even nicer than the one we had at the farm.  We called it The Hen Hilton becasue it had a glass front door, screened windows and a ramp like this.  But double hung windows and a full size door, that’s a real hotel.




I learn that this building is new construction based on the plans published in The American Poulterer’s Companion and the Albany Cultivator in the early 1840’s   I can’t tell if you can access the laying boxes from the outside but if you can’t, that’s an oversight.  We had a hinged door on the back of ours so we could collect the eggs without bothering the hens if they were inside.





I’m being watched from the window as I walk by the sheep barn.


The farmhouse is the closest building to the village.  I was surprised to see a flower garden rather than a kitchen garden fenced in out front.






Inside, the clean up from “Dinner”, the mid day meal, is going on.  Normally this would all have been done by the housewife and her daughters but here they seem to have a man also working.  I don’t think this is what Grandpa really did when he turned the farm over to his eldest son.




It is a pretty warm day for a fire but August or no, if that’s your method of cooking then it’s going to be hot.  How did they do it and wear so many layers of clothing?







Outside is the woven turkey hut.  I’d never seen one like this before and wonder what the turkeys do in the winter.  Maybe they don’t winter over.  Thanksgiving is in November.




Wish he would have given me the full display.  I kept thinking he was working up to it.



What a face.



The church is the last building in town before you reach the Tippett Farm.   I’ll write about it and the rest of the Village in my next post.  I was very surprised to see that Judge Nelson was part of the Dred Scott Case.  I only knew about Chief Justice Taney in connection with the famous case.




That’s the judge’s office on the left, just beyond the church.  But more on that later.




  1. I love the photos of all the farm animals. The turkeys are beautiful, as are all the animals.

  2. Wonderful pictures! I really enjoyed the parade of the carousel animals. You made good choices!!

    Virtual hugs,


  3. Thanks for telling the Giant hoax story - I had skipped that, but what a tale. My first thought was exactly like yours - people don't really care if it is true or not - Donald Trump has certainly proved that over and over again. Thanks too for the lovingly told appreciation of the fabulous NY state Carousel - how unique and what an absolute treasure. BTW, the hops do not make grains, they create buds or heads that when added to a brewing mash release their own unique flavor, many of them having a citrus like taste. Only a mother could think that turkey beautiful, but thank goodness for mothers!

  4. I would enjoy that museum. I got a laugh out of the giant hoax.

  5. Really great tour! We like seeing the old carousels. The giant stone man is a very funny story:)

  6. What a marvelous place...who know that was there??? I LOVE that carousel...amazing carved animals...a loon...REALLY;o)))

  7. The stone buildings are beautiful! The Cardiff Giant is such a poignant story of how badly people want to believe the unbelievable, to see something that can't be explained - but to continue seeing it once the hoax was disclosed is sad. Oh how I love the carousel!! The goat and moose are definitely my favs. I agree that designing them had to be a wonderful project. The sisters are too cute. The farm is delightful, both the kitchen and barn. Pretty fence chicken. Looking forward to seeing the rest of it!

  8. Carousels are so magical, those amazing animals make this one even more so. I can understand how hard it was for you to choose which one to ride. :c)

  9. You sure find the coolest places to explore. Great post.

  10. The stonework is great. Love the carousel! Such whimsical creativity. Think I'd have chosen the burro even though not as exotic as some of those. Or the goat. Plus the historic panels make this a true gem for $1/ride. I've done a little living history and think it provides a good learning tool and look into the past. You have once again found, and shared so well, a piece of the east I've never seen.

  11. What a hoax it was! I would no be surprised if I believe it too, as I am as gullible as most people are.
    Those whimsical and old carousel are fun to ride on. Even you in your flip flops have a smile on your face as you rode around for a $1.
    If you are now in Vermont I urged you to stop by Shelburne Museum, its the museum of all museums.

  12. What a great post! Love the Cardiff Giant story, had not heard that. The carousel is wonderful too. I can't pass one up no matter what. The animals on this one are so clever.

  13. We really enjoy living museums, and that looks like an especially wonderful one. The carousel is beautiful, and so unique! I would have had a really hard time choosing, as well! That cute goat caught my eye, though. :-) Thanks for another great idea for our east coast tour, when we manage to get there....

  14. I am way behind...tomorrow, a Federal holiday, I plan to read more! This was a fun read - especially the carasol - you are adorable on the beaver and the loon and the range of animals to choose from is amazing - how fun!! Beautful buildings and a very nice farm - I like living history museums - that hoax - it's really something what people will believe!

  15. My first choice was the beaver, I had a laugh when I saw you chose him too! Love that story about the giant.


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