History Erased – America’s Agricultural Legacy

When looking back on the great empires of the world their legacies loom large in their ruins. China has the Great Wall, Egypt has the pyramids, Greece has the Parthenon and Rome has its Coliseum. Where will America’s farms be?

Sure all those other societies had farmers, but under systems of dictatorships & feudal rule the land was not their own and surely the yield wasn’t either. America spread out and grew predominantly because of individuals looking to build their life & the country’s, through agriculture. The railways would follow and so would an independent spirt that has shaped the ethos of this nation. But nothing lasts forever. Someday even the Great Pyramids will crumble.

Lost Americana was started as a way of preserving that history in photos. The that glimmer that still remains in some places from the golden age of farming in America. An era that has long since past. Its legacy is in the ruins of unused abandoned barns and the small towns that dot the prairies, no longer connected by rails that literally put some of those towns on the map.

The Hale Bopp Comet will pass by Earth again in 4385. A long time, but yet only half the age of the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Photo taken roughly April 7th, 1997.

One of the things that was very important to me when I first started documenting Lost Americana, was that the buildings had to be abandoned, or in ruins. I was after all telling the story of the ruins of America’s golden age of farming. This image, while one I have always loved, was only briefly shown with any collection I called “Lost Americana”, because while it was a barn, it was not abandoned, nor was it even old compared to the buildings I was typically shooting. If the sun was still up you’d be able to tell this was an aluminum sided barn that was still in use. The only reason I even have this image was because I was working on getting a similar shot from the abandoned home which sat right across this old stage coach road.

On Old Stage Road, along the old I&M Canal outside of Morris, Illinois. This house was what attracted me to photographing in this area, April 1997.

To no one’s surprise this old stone house has long since been removed. To my surprise the aluminum sided barn above has also been taken down. Maybe it was older that it looked. Maybe its usefulness, like so many buildings has past, and just like that two more place from America’s history have been erased. And this was just one small segment on opposite sides of a country road.

The irony in all of this is my inspiration to talk about this came about while scanning in film. Scanners have a function that helps remove dust & scratches from film. This automated function erased the comet in half of the images thinking it was dust and had I not been paying attention the Hale Bopp Comet too would have been erased from the history of this photo.

However, as you can see Hale Bopp is in these images and will be returning someday around the year 4385. A future that seems so far away, but weirdly enough is only half as long as the Great Pyramids have been around. I wonder, will they still be here? I’m pretty sure none of America’s barns will be though. Maybe just in pictures.

You can still see some of the dust in this image. Didn’t want to erase Hale Bopp again.

 

[A special note about “The Golden Age of Farming.” This is not a reference to efficiencies, or production, or in anyway diminishing those who are farming today, but to a period in American history when times were good on the farm and in the towns that supported the farms. This period is typically noted as happening in the 1910s, but the vision many people have in their minds of what rural America was stretches over the first part of the Twentieth Century.]