Dinner at the Geddes farm, 1846

Source: Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmstead, by Justin Martin, pp. 46-47

[Frederick Law Olmstead, future creator of Central Park, stayed with the Geddes family during the summer of 1846 to learn advanced farming techniques.]

The long hours of farmwork were followed by a ritual that Olmstead found immensely appealing. Geddes ended each day by scrubbing up and sitting down to a large and sumptuous meal. It was often lamb or veal, fresh milk flowed freely, and there might a currant pie for dessert. Sometimes there were even pineapples, an exotic delicacy grown in hothouses on neighboring farms. The table was set with “silver forks every day,” Olmstead noted with wonder. Subsistence farming, this was not.

At dinner, Geddes invariably held forth on a variety of topics. He was a man of broad interests who made a point of staying informed about issues of the larger world, far beyond the realm of farming. In 1846, war had just broken out between the United States and Mexico. Geddes believed that both armies (all the world’s armies, for that matter) should be disbanded. He was an avid follower of Elihu Burritt, a blacksmith who was one of the founders of the pacifist movement. Just as the food at Fairmount wasn’t typical, Olmsted noted, neither was the conversational fare.

 

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