Last Furrow

The Allen sisters’ careers prospered in the first decade of the twentieth century. Editors frequently commissioned photographs of children and gardens for publications such as Country Life in America, an upscale magazine that catered to the carriage trade.   For the December issues in 1902 to 1917, Country Life in America used nineteen Allen sisters’ photographs, quadruple the number of Allen photographs reproduced in other months. Frances and Mary Allen’s classic holiday scenes of making Christmas wreaths, hanging stockings, skating, and sledding evoked nostalgic thoughts of Christmas. In the December 1905 issue, the magazine printed a two-page oversized 12 x 16 color reproduction of Christmas Eve (pl. 24) captioned “There might be a Christmas without presents, and yet the joy in our hearts might glow like the yule-log.”77 The use of a garish orange to illuminate the fire and figures unforgettably drives the sentiment home. Two years later, the magazine again used color in a questionable manner to enhance reproductions of Frances and Mary’s photographs Sledding and Last Furrow.  The images appeared on two three-month 1908 calendars printed on a heavy stock paper that allowed them to be cut and hung on the wall. 78 The printing of colored illustrations was in its infancy in the early twentieth century and the artificial, and at times jarring, colors could not capture the subtleties of the Allens’ photographs. The Allen sisters’ photographs were frequently reproduced up until about 1914, when images by photojournalists such as Mary Northend, Jessie Tarbox Beals, Frances Benjamin Johnston, and Mattie Hewitt began to dominate the pages of Country Life in America.

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.