March 1, 1851

Photographing

March 1st  Saturday  This forenoon put a bosom into an old

shirt of Mr Ames.  After dinner worked on shirt

bosoms, carried them into Olivers and staid two

hours and then went to meet Orinthia at the

Daguerretype saloon.  Called at the store and on Abby

Torrey  On my return called on Miss Eaton found her

more comfortable than I have seen her for some time

Mrs. Holmes mother has been sick for a week.  Very 

pleasant.  Augustus not here

Only a dozen years after a Frenchman named Louis Daguerre reproduced an image of a Paris street onto a piece of treated glass, the new medium of photography had become so popular and successful that someone in the small town of North Easton, Massachusetts had seen fit to set up a “saloon” to take pictures.  What a novelty for the townspeople.

After a day of rather pedestrian sewing, Evelina Ames, housewife, went to the daguerreotype studio to meet Orinthia Foss, schoolteacher (and boarder at the Ames’s,) to have their likenesses taken. What a lark for them to go pose for the camera.  Whose idea was it? Did they pose together?  Did they pose alone?  Or did only one of them have an image taken? How long did she or they have to hold still?  Who ran the shop? Where are those photographs today?  What good friends Evelina and Orinthia are getting to be.

A stop at the company store and a visit with her niece, Abby Torrey, were next on the agenda for Evelina’s afternoon. Now that it was March, the daylight began to last a little longer, allowing more time for errands before heading home. One last stop at the house of Bradford and Harriet Holmes was in order. There, two invalids, Miss Eaton and Mrs. Wright, were being “watched,” or looked after by various friends and relatives, in a manner resembling today’s hospice care. Miss Eaton, of indeterminate age, had been in poor health for several months, probably with consumption.  Sixty year old Mrs. Wright, mother to Harriet Holmes, had also taken ill.  She was suffering from pleurisy and was not expected to recover. Spring might be on its way, but not for these two women.

4 thoughts on “March 1, 1851

  1. My guess would be that the photography (Daguerretype) “saloon” the two women visited was some sort of temporary set up. This process was still so rare it would be unlikely that a small town like Easton could support a permanent business. The ladies were certainly going high-tech!

    • Good point. The photographer may very well have been itinerant and his studio a “pop-up” business, as we’d say today.

  2. Your last comment reminds me of the old-timey Maine expression–if a person could make it “over March hill,” meaning through the rough month of March, they would probably survive the year out. But March was tricky, even more so than the depths of winter, and who knows why? But it was still too early to get your iron in the form of dug dandelion greens so without that added boost, a poor old soul just couldn’t make it.

    • Yes, Nancy, March is a tough old bird, especially in New England. The weak and the elderly didn’t do well this time of year.

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