June 29, 1851

portrait of yoiung man yawning



June 29th Sunday  Went this forenoon to meeting

came home again did not feel like going

back again as it [was] very warm and I was very

sleepy and thought I might as well sleep at 

home as at church  After meeting at night

Mr Ames & I walked to Mr Peckhams to see

Mrs Swain.  She is a very pleasant woman I

should judge.

Small wonder that Evelina nearly fell asleep in church this morning. Reverend Whitwell’s sermons usually held her attention, but she was tired. She’d been busy all week, augmenting her usual chores and interests with a visit from her brother, John. On top of the emotional excitement of that rare reunion, she went to Boston yesterday, an excursion that typically delighted and exhausted her at the same time. She needed a nap.

Late in the day, evidently refreshed, Evelina and Oakes walked to the home of John and Susan Peckham. Mr. Peckham served as clerk for the Ames Shovel works, but was preparing to move away with his young family.  Replacing him, apparently, was the new clerk, John H. Swain. Evelina had already met Mr. Swain when he dined with them back in May. Tonight she met his wife, Ann, who made a favorable impression. The two families would become close over the years.

 * Photographer Unknown; portrait of a young man, yawning; ambrotype; ca. 1854; George Eastman House, Donald Weber Collection


3 thoughts on “June 29, 1851

  1. When I think of clerk, I think of someone with an orange apron on selling me a shovel; and while I might be friends with that clerk, I doubt that the CEO of Home Depot would be coming to his house for a visit. So my question is, what was the standing of a clerk in that day, and was there a business caste system and unwritten rules about not fraternizing with the help? Where I’m going with this is trying to picture whether Oaks and Evelina, in spite of their enormous wealth and power, were still just regular folks …. or was a clerk more like a VP … or was the enormous wealth and power still years away?

  2. Dear Tad,
    Excellent question, and one that I’d like to elaborate on later as John and Ann Swain become more visible through Evelina’s entries. But to at least try to answer part of your query, I think that many businesses in the mid-nineteenth century were very family oriented. Witness the way the Ames sons were expected to work at the shovel factory. Look at the inclusion of relatives like Augustus Gilmore in many of the family activities. The shovel business as about family as much as it was about manufacturing – at least at this stage. Clerks might be related: Fred Ames served as a clerk at the shovel office for a time.
    To me, it follows that key employees like clerks John Peckham and John Swain would have become close to the Ames family, probably closer to some family members than to others. I don’t see Old Oliver embracing his employees particularly, any more than he appeared to embrace his children. I don’t imagine that Oliver Jr, a somewhat formal person, would have let down his guard much to welcome friendships that might have crossed social lines. But Oakes Ames, yes. Oakes Ames was a born populist. Look at what William Chaffin, who knew Oakes well, has to say:
    “Mrs. Swain tells me that her husband had his regular salary supplemented by an addition from Mr. [Oakes] Ames. Mr. Swain did more or less work for him, besides the regular office work when he was head clerk. Mr. Ames was not very methodical and his transactions for the day in Boston, jotted down in a notebook rather hastily, would sometimes be in a tangle when he came to the office in the evening (office work in those days was always going on in the evening) and he would say to Mr. Swain, “Come, John, you help me straighten out these things.” In common with all the persons who served him Mr. Swain had a strong affection for Mr. Ames.”
    Thanks –

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