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“In the Park”: Lewis Miller’s Chronicle of American Landscape at Mid-Century

by Therese O’Malley and Kathryn R. Barush


with Emily Pugh, Jessica Ruse, and Courtney Tompkins

Introduction
Sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, Lewis Miller (1792-1882) of York, Pennsylvania, made an album of ink and watercolor drawings about Central Park, in New York City. This untitled album of 54 pages, referred to here as the “Guide to Central Park,” is in the collection of the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. Each page is fully illustrated with images of park views and texts that include poems, hymns, and botanical names. The actual date of its making is unknown as is the history of its binding.

Lewis Miller (1792-1882) is well known among historians of American art and architecture who have, since the 1930s, viewed his approximately two thousand drawings as documentation of vernacular life and the cultural landscape. In spite of the long-standing familiarity with his work, little attention has been paid to the rich literary or image sources upon which he drew. Two essays address the visual and textual sources of this album and offer new interpretations not only of the album, but also of Miller's larger body of work.

This study of Miller's “Guide to Central Park” has taken several approaches in order to create a context for the album, and to better understand the reception of Central Park in its opening years. In addition to two scholarly essays, this digital publication makes it possible to include a facsimile of the whole album accompanied by transcriptions and descriptions; a map of Miller’s scenes in Central Park; links to all the literary sources quoted by Miller; links to databases of relevant material including Central Park Commissioners annual reports; newspaper articles; audio and video clips of reenactments of the brass band music featured in Central Park; and finally, extensive links to visual comparanda.

This digital scholarly work consists of the following components:

Lewis Miller, “Guide to Central Park”: A fully annotated, digital facsimile
A fully annotated digital facsimile of Lewis Miller’s “Guide to Central Park” supplements the scholarly essays that contextualize the album. In addition to viewing each page of the album, the reader can access more detailed information about the “Guide” and what it depicts.

Lewis Miller’s View of American Landscape
Therese O’Malley
How and why did the new Central Park attract the attention of the folk artist Lewis Miller? O’Malley explains the significance of Miller’s “Guide” within the artist’s own oeuvre and in relation to the visual culture of Central Park at mid-century.

A Pilgrim in the Park: Sacred Space in Lewis Miller’s “Guide to Central Park”
Kathryn R. Barush

Barush discusses the theme of the religious traveler within Miller’s “Guide,” and contends that the religious and sentimental texts accompanying Miller’s detailed watercolor drawings function as meditations or prayers, often inscribing a secular or natural site with a sacred significance.

Mapping Lewis Miller’s “Guide to Central Park”new-win-icon
The pages of Miller’s “Guide” are mapped onto contemporary Central Park, linking the features he depicts to their current locations. The map opens in a new window.




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