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The Man Who Looked At Snowflakes

June 2024
1min read

A Vermont Farmer Preserved the World’s Most Ephemeral Art for Posterity

Wilson Alwyn Bentley (1865-1931) spent his entire life on his family’s farm in Jericho, Vermont. He never married, and he devoted most of his time to a pursuit that would occur only to someone who could willingly endure 60-plus Vermont winters: taking pictures of snowflakes. His life’s work was published in 1931 under the title Snow Crystals , a few weeks before his death from pneumonia. William J. Humphreys, who supplied the text for the book, later wrote: “Bentley lived alone, poor in worldly goods to the verge of distress, but rich beyond avarice in his vast and unique collection of snow-crystal pictures.” Bentley himself was equally enthusiastic: “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others.” The book remains in print (Dover Publications, $18.95), and the Jericho Historical Society reproduces some of his best pictures, plus prints, T-shirts, and more, at www.snowflakebentley.com .

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