ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by James Oliver Robertson

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

A Century of Family Life in an American Small Town
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A remarkable, often poignant--but never sentimental--chronicle from a historian (University of Connecticut; America's Business, 1984, etc.) and his wife of life as it once was in their small Connecticut hometown of Hammond. The text is marred only by some clumsy writing and information overload. Presented with an amazingly comprehensive collection of letters and other memorabilia belonging to the Taintor family, from whose descendants the Robertsons bought their home in 1967, the couple used this treasure trove as a basis to write the history not only of their home but also of a particular place and time. The house--built circa 1796 by the first Taintors to settle in Hammond- -is in itself a record of changing fashions, increased fortunes, and evolving technology. By 1820, the Taintors' more elevated status led to an extensive remodeling and modernizing: The old stone chimney was replaced by six brick ones, and an elegant front staircase was built. The Robertsons record not only these architectural changes but also the familiar cycles of birth and death, wealth and poverty. They also note cultural changes-- pointing out, for example, that not until the late 19th century were Christmas and weddings celebrated with all the trappings that we think of as timeless. The authors describe how Hammond, once a busy regional center--the town reached its maximum population of 1,379 in 1800--became a typical small New England town as the declining fertility of the land and the lack of economic opportunity led to an exodus during the early 19th century--an exodus that the Taintors joined as first one or two family members, then entire generations, moved to the big cities or out West. Meanwhile, Hammond's old family homes became summer places where widely scattered families gathered and briefly re-created the ancestral notions of home and hearth. History from laundry lists to family letters, but no less riveting than that of more sublime pedigree. Despite its flaws: a landmark portrait of small-town America.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-019017-5
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993