This past summer I visited Mt. Washington for the very first time. I was motivated in part by the activity and excitement around the largest exhibition in the Currier’s history, Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. I grew up in Massachusetts and told myself for years that my first experience on the mountain would be hiking the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I coveted one of those “This body climbed Mt. Washington” tees. But traveling solo with my 5- and 7-year-old children, I accepted my limitations and realized that to summit on foot was out of the question. Instead, I opted for an ascent up the Railway. Upon reflecting back on my trip and the photographs from the day taken on my iPhone I was reminded of a similar series of photographs in one of our archival collections.
In the late 1930s through the early 1940s, Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman vacationed several times in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Zimmermans owned a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Manchester that you can learn more about here.
Many of the paintings in our current Mount Washington exhibition incorporate cloud cover, but some artists emphasize these forms to dramatic effect, such as Thomas Cole and George Inness. The Zimmermans felt the same compulsion to capture those ethereal forms as evidenced by a series of photographs taken from the base of Mt. Washington, standing on the grounds of the eponymously named hotel. The photos of the Zimmermans summiting Mt. Monadnock are some of my favorites. They are proud, performative and excited. Maybe that is the difference between ascending oneself or driving/riding the train. Here are my kids, standing atop the highest peak in the Northeast.
Meghan Petersen is the Librarian and Archivist at the Currier Museum of Art. For more information and resources on the Currier Library and Archives visit here.
Artwork credits– Photographs: courtesy the Currier Museum Library and Archives. Painting: George Inness, (American, 1825-1894), Saco Ford: Conway Meadows, 1876, Oil on canvas, 38 x 63 in., Gift of Ellen W. Ayer, Mount Holyoke College, Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts, Photograph Petegorsky / Gipe, 1883.55.I(b).PI.