February 21, 1851

Bed

1851  Feb 21  Friday  It stormed so hard & so dark that Mr & Mrs

Whitwell spent last night with us & returned

home about 8 Oclock this morning  Lavinia &

myself have been sitting quietly sewing.

Susan is all engaged making Labels for the shop

has cut quite steady all day.  Helen brought her work in, and staid two

or three hours but I could not prevail on her to stop to tea

Bridget has hired a bed & bedstead

The family business, O Ames and Sons (as it had been known since 1844 when Old Oliver handed over two-thirds of the reins to his sons Oakes and Oliver Jr.) was just that: a family business.  The Ames men all had rolls to play in its operation, from manufacturing to sales to management.  On this day in 1851, it appears that an Ames female had a roll to play, too.  Little eight-year old Susie Ames spent the day making labels for the shop.  Presumably, this meant she was cutting out printed labels to be affixed to individual shovels.  Did she sit at a table in the kitchen or the dining room, paper and scissors in hand?  Was she paid for this effort, or was this just a rainy day game for her?  Who thought this up?

While Susie wielded scissors, the women wielded needles, of course.  Evelina and her niece, Lavinia Gilmore, kept each other company as they sewed and were joined for a few hours by Helen Ames from next door.  Although Lavinia, aged 19, lived in the country and Helen, aged 14, lived in town, the two young women, distantly related by marriage, were friends.

Lavinia was in town visiting her aunt Evelina.  Last night, Mr. and Mrs. Whitwell stayed over, unable to return home because of bad weather.  A new servant, Bridget, had just ordered a bed and bedstead for herself. In a two-family house already filled with ten people, not including servants, where did everybody sleep? People surely doubled up; Oakes Angier and Oliver (3), for instance, shared a bedroom and probably a bed. Although this practice, too, was disappearing, many houses of the period still kept beds in their parlors; apparently the Ames did this, so perhaps that was where the Whitwells spent the night.

The difference between a bed and a bedstead was simply that the former included only the mattress and linens (also known as bedding), while the latter was the frame on which to put the mattress.  This verbal distinction was beginning to disappear at the time, but it was still useful in an era when some people – servants, particularly – only had bedding on which to sleep.  A mattress could be rolled up and moved around, a wooden frame could not.  Bridget showed hope or confidence in her place in the household when she ordered a bedstead as well as a bed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s