Russ Warner was born in Andover in 1834. He died in Ludlow in 1909. The photo with this article is Russ Warner and was taken circa 1908. It is from Ted Spaulding.
This photo is a close-up from a larger photo. Actually it’s a real photo postcard. Over the years I have learned how to interpret these antique photos. This photo was taken in a potato field at harvest time.
When I first saw this postcard I put a magnifying glass on Russ. It is an unbelievably sharp photo. For my new book cover, I needed a vertical photo, not horizontal as this postcard is.
I took it to Tom Hildreth to see if he could do anything with it. Tom scanned it to his specifications. Then Tom focused on Russ Warner. To do that he cropped the sides and then cropped the bottom creating an image that would be six inches wide by nine inches high. This is the size of the book cover.
Tom wasn’t yet done. Years ago someone wrote in ink “Russ Warner” on the front of the photo. Tom removed the ink from the photo.
Russ sits in a wooden wheelbarrow looking straight into the camera. Look at his shirtsleeve on the left. You can see pleats where it had just been starched and ironed. No one would wear a pressed shirt to dig potatoes. Russ knew he was going to have his photo taken this day. I imagine a grandchild saying, “Grampa, you’re having your photo taken today. Put on a clean shirt, comb your hair, and brush your beard.”
Russ sits holding the handle of a potato fork. Study his hands. The photo is so sharp that you can see the arteries in his wrists. His fingers are gnarly from years of hard labor. I bet he had a powerful grip.
Notice his very short suspender strap. In the old days men wore their britches almost to chest level. I remember old Vermonters wearing their britches this way.
Russ wears his slouch hat with the brim rolled up. This nicely frames his face. Notice his high cheekbones. His eyes are jet black and, while not piercing, they are focused. His long hair is combed back. His beard is neatly brushed.
What’s he thinking? Was he reflecting on days gone by or is he looking at family members standing behind the photographer, and thinking, “It’s your turn to carry on?” His expression is one of pride.
In the 1883 Child’s Gazetteer of Windsor County, I found “Russell S. Warner, carpenter and joiner.” He was living on Pond Street in Ludlow.
While I never knew Russ, I knew the sons and daughters of his generation. Their apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Many of the sons dressed in a similar fashion.
Russ represents an old Vermonter better than any other photo I have seen. He could be the poster boy for old Vermont. As I look at Russ, I wonder: Could he have ever imagined that his photo would end up on the cover of a book? I take a certain amount of pride introducing you to Russ Warner. He is the quintessential early 20th-century Vermonter.
My new book, “Local History Vol 2” is a collection of stories I’ve written for The Vermont Journal & The Shopper in the last three years. There are many Chester stories, but Bellows Falls and other area towns are also represented.
In volume two, I include three poems written by my classmate Kevin Gould. I also include two fictional stories I wrote for my unfinished book, “1957 Chester.” You’ll read about Iggy and Jophine along with Lumpy Larson and Roberta Rawson.
Amanda Wedegis and Shawntae Webb edited and designed the book making it print ready. These young ladies did a superb job. So to these ladies and Tom Hildreth, I say, “Thank you.”
You can pick up a copy at Lisai’s Markets in Chester or Bellows Falls. Get yours today.
I can mail a copy or make arrangements for pick up at my place. I’d leave a copy on the front seat of my car. You pick up a book and leave payment. Call me at 802-374-0119.
Lonnie Lisai has had ads in the paper recently where he says he can’t predict what prices will be or availability of goods. He goes on to say his employees are heroes. For me, it’s reassuring to see Lonnie’s ad every week. Can you imagine Chester without Lisai’s Market?
This week’s old saying: “Real men don’t wear gloves.”