Edward Gay was born in Ireland in 1837, and came to America with his parents in 1848 in the wake of the Potato Famine. The family settled in Albany, New York. Difficult times forced Gay to go to work as a child, where his talent was recognized by the successful local painters George Boughton and the Hart brothers who encouraged his interest. He studied landscape painting with James Hart and was eventually encouraged to travel to Europe and study in Karlsrue, Germany with the traditional historical painters Karl Freidrich Lessing and Johann Schirmer. Gay was disappointed with his training in Europe and when he returned to the United States in 1864 he and his wife moved to Mt. Vernon, New York. At the time, Mt. Vernon was open farmland with sunny meadows and orchards stretching along Long Island Sound.
Due to the size and completeness of the composition, Haying, Long Island was most likely produced in Gay's studio in Mt.Vernon from studies of the local Long Island farms. The emphasis on accurate drawing and the gently colored composition reflect the influence of the Hart brothers and Jervis McEntee. Gay strived to depict what he saw before him and rarely romanticized his landscapes. In 1876, a few short years after he completed this work, Gay was commissioned by local businessmen Webster Wagner, James Arkell and James Smith to complete five canvases of the Canajoharie area, including the Erie Canal.