A famous hoax and a carousel + more snapshots of The Farmers’ Museum


The Farmers’ Museum really has something for everybody. Their welcome exhibit does a good job of laying out what visitors can expect:

This was in a building that looked like this:

Activities for Sugaring Off Sunday:

Special events for the year:

It’s pretty cool that there’s regional Civil War history being taught up here. Because the Civil War happened in the South, most of the educational sites related to the Civil War are in the South, but this adds a northern perspective.

Read my interview with the museum’s head blacksmith here.

What I wasn’t expecting to see was one of the most famous hoaxes in American history.

In 1869, the Cardiff Giant captured the imaginations of millions of Americans who believed it was the petrified remains of a member of a prehistoric race. Actually, this statue was commissioned by an atheist to mock religion – some Christians believe that giant men once walked the earth. After this hoaxer made a ton of money, he revealed that the giant was fake, also exposing something about Americans’ gullibility and mob mentality at the same time. However, the Cardiff Giant was still a popular attraction. P. T. Barnum even tried to buy the Cardiff Giant and, when he was refused, he created his own replica!

The Cardiff Giant was purchased by The Farmers’ Museum in 1947.

This building also had a photo exhibition called Plowline: Images of Rural New York.

I headed outside, where I saw the Empire State Carousel.

P. T. Barnum spotted!

From the museum’s website:

“The Empire State Carousel is a beautiful example of a traditional country fair ride. Called “a museum you can ride on,” it has 25 hand-carved animals representing the agricultural and natural resources found in New York State, and chariot rides of a scallop shell (the State shellfish), an Erie Canal boat, and an original lover’s tub.

Folklore panels and other carved elements depict Uncle Sam and Deerslayer. Portrait panels of such notable figures as Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt, Grandma Moses and Jackie Robinson enhance the rounding boards.

Eight-foot curved murals depict moments in New York history, from the arrival of the Half Moon to the construction of Levittown. The hand-carved frames around the mirrors depict 11 different regions of New York, and carved place-names highlight towns all over the state. Even the sweeps of the carousel feature over 300 feet of hand stencils of the bluebird, rose, apple, sugar maple leaf and state map!”

The carousel is housed in a 12-sided building. This building has small quilt pieces hanging from the ceiling that also express New York regional culture. While the building is open during museum hours, the carousel is currently undergoing restoration, so no rides. I believe the total restoration will cost $75,000.

More regional culture with songbirds of New York. The volunteer wearing yellow gave enthusiastic guides to visitors. Here he is showing off the organ.

The yellowish building in the back is where the carousel is kept. In front, those people are leaning about making maple syrup, from tapping the trees to eating the final product. I wrote about that process here and here.

The Farmer’s Museum is a great resource for educating about farm-to-table food, agricultural realities, regional New York culture, and 19th century life through experiential learning. However, this museum is in a rural area that’s not that easy to get to, especially on a student budget. Is Cooperstown, NY worth visiting?

Well, that depends on how much you like baseball. Cooperstown, which calls itself the birthplace of America’s favorite pastime, is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is the main draw to the town, not the museum about 19th century farm life. That’ll be covered in upcoming posts.






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