Earlier this week, we had our first snowfall of the winter in Washington, D.C.! While it happened later in the season compared to snow storms during my childhood in New Jersey, I was excited to see the area blanketed in white. As a child, I loved making snowmen, but I remember feeling frustration at never rolling a perfectly-round head or body or at only finding symmetrical sticks to make the arms. My snowmen never looked as perfect as the ones in storybooks. I think it would have eased my childhood angst to see real, imperfect snow people that kids have made through history—as well as some an impressive, aspirational snow sculpture carved by professional artists! We hope the children in your life—both those living in a wintery wonderland and those looking at green grass outside—can find some inspiration in these snowmen from the Library’s collections.
A Snowman With Something to Say
Have you ever tried including a message in a snowman? During the Great Depression and World War II, photographers across America captured slices of life through government-sponsored photography projects. One photographer captured this photo in a rural school in Mercer, North Dakota, in 1942. The snowman’s button’s spell out “U.S.” while a flag exclaims a misspelled “Hurray U.S.”” as “Horray U.S.”
Ask the children in your life what message they might want to share with their neighbors, particularly during this challenging time. Have them collect stones to spell out the word, phrase, or acronym they want their snow person to say. Then put their thoughts on display, just like this snowman!
No snow? No problem!
Similar in some ways to the 1930s and 1940s photographers who captured the patriotic snowman, photographer Carol Highsmith travels the country taking photographs of slices of life. She donated her entire archives to the Library of Congress. This photograph taken outside of the Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum depicts a sculpture of a snowman, though—as the title suggests—some visitors believe it looks more like a frog. Unlike Frosty who melts away, this snowman lasts all year.
If you live in an area that’s not seeing snow today, don’t feel left out from making snow people. This colorful snowman reminds us that we can preserve the joy of a snow day all year round. Encourage your children to make puffy, fantastical “snow creatures” complete with traditional snowman décor like corncob pipe and an old top hat. Your kids can use clay, model magic, or even papier-mâché!
Finally, Some Aspirations…
As we navigate through the ongoing pandemic, I am struck by the symbolism in this photograph of a larger-than-life bust inspired by a public health hero, carved from snowbanks in Stowe Vermont. This ginormous snow sculpture is of Jonas Salk, a virologist who developed the first successful polio vaccine in 1955. The sculpture’s size is evident as it towers over a boy using crutches—a visual symbol of the paralytic illness.
Who are your children’s heroes? If you’re looking for a final aspirational project on a snowy day, encourage them to (try) to replicate their heroes in snow—or whatever modeling medium they’re using to make snow people! Just like our grassy snowman, their snow sculpture doesn’t have to be perfect.
The most important advice we can give for your snowy or sunny day crafting? Have fun and be creative. As you can see from the photos above, no “snow” sculpture—whether it’s a famous researcher, a multicolored frog, or a patriotic snowman—is alike, and none is perfect. Even an imperfect snowman can be the perfect way to create memories! We look forward to hearing about some of your favorite snow people in the comments!