The river runneth over

The mighty Ohio River has been spilling over its banks onto our State Historic Sites this week … Lanier Mansion’s gardens in Madison got more than watered, and Angel Mounds in Evansville saw more than their share of flooding as well.  Hopefully better weather this weekend will help to dry things out. We’re also hoping that all these April showers bring beautiful May flowers!

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2 Responses

  1. Lanier Mansion big disappointment on Candlelight Tour of Homes. Since the Laniers lived in the mansion from 1850 to 1917 it is crazy to insist that there can be no Christmas decorations. The rest of historic Madison was beautiful. Lanier Mansion tour was a bust. Who made the decision not to decorate for the Tour of Homes?

  2. Hello Jan – That is an excellent question! This answer is from our site manager:
    The law making the Lanier Mansion a State Historic Site in 1925 states that the home should be furnished to reflect the time period when James F.D. Lanier lived there. The current furnishings and interpretation of the mansion follow this mandate. Since Mr. Lanier moved to New York City in 1851, the Christmas of 1850 was the last one he celebrated in Madison.

    Many of the holiday traditions we have today, such as Christmas trees, store-bought gifts, decorations and caroling were just beginning in Lanier’s time. Many people in 1850 did not decorate for the holidays because they associated it with ancient pagan practices (Lanier might have been one of them) but opinions were changing. In 1836 the first illustration of a Christmas tree appeared in an American publication. The tradition didn’t become generally popular until an image of Queen Victoria and her family celebrating around a small, table-top tree was published in the U.S. in 1850. We did a lot of research and the way we decorate the mansion today is about as elaborate as any home in the country would have been decorated in 1850. The extensive holiday decorating we associate with the Victorian era didn’t become popular until the 1870s.

    An excerpt from an editorial published in the Madison Daily Courier, dated December 26, 1850, demonstrates that celebrating Christmas was still a controversial subject:

    “… We are in favor of Christmas, and have some idea of trying our hand with the convention to get a section in the new constitution, prohibiting its abrogation by the religious, who think it smacks too strongly of prelacy and popery.”

    Besides the tree, the only other decorations in the mansion are evergreen boughs placed around the portraits, mirrors and the numerous fireplace mantels. As Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of the famous writer James Fenimore Cooper, noted in her journal on December 25, 1850: “Christmas must always be a happy, cheerful day. Even when the sky is cloudy and dull, the bright fires, the fresh and fragrant greens, the friendly gifts and words of good-will, and the merry Christmas smiles, create a warm glow …”

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