Stephanie Wolff

2013 Last Fellow
Visual artist
Norwich, VT

Research at AAS

In March of 2013 I arrived in Worcester ready to immerse myself in the world of an early 19th century woman. I was interested in the notations she kept about weather and agricultural life. Anna Blackwood Howell was a white woman of means who inherited a farm and fisheries in New Jersey on the banks of the Delaware River across from Philadelphia when her husband died in 1818. She was 50 years old. The AAS holds fifteen of her diaries written in almanacs between 1819 and her death in 1855. Howell used her almanacs to track the cyclical nature of the seasons and, as she writes, to "profit by the experience of the past year." These almanacs would be my path to that farm on the river, to learn her story, and to explore the data she collected. Her words would lead my way.

To learn more about Stephanie's creative process as well as her residency at AAS, click here to read her Past is Present blog post.


The River 1833
Paper, board, bookcloth, ink, colored pencil
7.25 x 64.125 x .125 inches (open)
7.875 x 7.75 x 1.4375 inches (boxed)

One year’s notes about the Delaware River edited from the 1833 almanac diary of Anna Blackwood Howell, held in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. The nine panels contain a handpainted aerial view of the river from its convergence with the Atlantic Ocean then north to Fancy Hill, the Howell’s residence in New Jersey across from Philadelphia. Handwritten text with ink on paper and additional colored pencil additions bound into a long accordion with bookcloth backing and housed in a clamshell box.


Fishing Time at Fancy Hill
Paper, thread, bookcloth, board
10.125 x 12 x 1.75 inches (boxed)

The impact of weather on the Delaware River shad fishing season of the 1800s becomes clear through diary entries from Anna Blackwood Howell covering concerns and observations on topics such as ice on the river, storms eroding the banks, rival fishermen, success, and gratitude. Pages of appliquéd paper illustrations and embroidered text on paper are sewn onto a concertina guard and bound into a codex. A single folio holds the colophon, with a clamshell box housing both items.


Ink, paper, colored pencil, thread
10.5 x 7.5 x .375 inches

Bee and honeycomb imagery are interspersed with handwritten diary entries from the 1824 almanac of Anna Blackwood Howell, with additional text she references from a contemporary encyclopedia. Howell describes her bee tending concerns including the appearance of a destructive pest in the hive and pledges that if the bees do not make enough honey enough for the winter, "I will assist them." The ABH diaries are held in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. Beehive shaped pages of trace monoprints with collage, cut paper, and stenciled additions on Rives paper combined with handwritten diary entries on Kitakata paper pamphlet bound into covers of handmade paper horizontally stitched together to resemble a skep-style hive.


Weather Reports
Linen and cotton

Each of these ten "pages" is constructed from linen and cotton fabrics and hand-embroidered in cotton thread. These excerpts about the weather replicate Howell's handwriting and appear alongside three tiny pieced illustrations referencing the content of the text. The pieced blocks are about one-and-a-half inches square. All excerpts are from almanac diaries held at the American Antiquarian Society.

Weather Report: February 23 1833
12 x 10 inches
23rd The day is most lovely I have been walking for 3 hours— The birds are singing and everything teems with life & animation The luscious breath of the balmy air, which awakened the flowers, the buds, and the birds, which set the insects humming in the sunshine, and invited the stiffened fly, to come and solace himself in the south window, called forth the villagers to this their favorite amusement.

Weather Report: December 6 1839
11.75 x 10 inches
Decr 6 The weather most delightful If I could be sure, my children were all well, I should luxuriate in this bland & lovely weather—We are having overwhelming tides which as usual has carried away my little meadow bank 8th Warm wet weather continues There is not a particle of ice anywhere 9th Dark rainy warm weather—


Linen and cotton
28.5 x 39.5 x .25 inches

Anna Blackwood Howell outlived her husband and six of her eleven children. The children that predeceased her all did so from illness rather than accident, some as small children and others as adults. She wrote in various documents of her suffering. Her faith seems to sustain her as she tries to reconcile losing those she loved dearly. The title of this mourning quilt Night-Thoughts comes from a 1742 book by Edward Young which she quotes in her almanacs, The Complaint: or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality. Quilt constructed of linen and cotton fabrics hand-embroidered with Anna Blackwood Howell's handwriting of her thoughts on the loss of her children. Additional typographic blocks are stitched with the names and dates of her husband, all of her children, and other excerpts from her papers. The quilt top is pieced by machine and quilted by hand with cotton thread. Embroidered in Anna Blackwood Howell's handwriting: "Why must there be such suffering at the separation of Soul & body. Still, I see her loved form. Still hear the language of love from those dear lips—that are forever closed—"



Collections Viewed at AAS


Howell, Anna Blackwood, 1769-1855.
Anna Blackwood Howell : Diaries [manuscript], 1819-1855.


The Myriopticon, a historical panorama of the Rebellion.​
[Springfield, Mass.] : Published by Milton Bradley & Co. Springfield, Mass., [after 1865]


Elements of practical agriculture: comprehending the cultivation of plants, the husbandry of the domestic animals, and the economy of the farm. / By David Low, Esq. F.R.S.E. Professor of agriculture in the University of Edinburgh.--Second Edition. [1838]

The Rural library: a publication of standard works, (entire, compiled, abridged, and original,) on agriculture, gardening, and domestic economy. Vol. I. / Conducted by S. Fleet. [1838]


The practical dyer: With references to patterns of the several colours, numbered in rotation, and attached to the work, to which are annexed miscellaneous receipts for cotton, silk, and woolen goods, without patterns. 1833.


Ribbon map of the Father of Waters: Steamboat fares vary from two to four cents per mile, state rooms and meals included. [1866]

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