Tues July 1st Worked in the garden a long while
this forenoon weeding & transplanting.
This afternoon trimmed Susan a straw and
horsehair bonnet that I purchased at Boston
Sat Asa & Charles Mitchell came to
the other part of the house this morning
Charles left this afternoon I have not seen
Asa as yet
The wound on Evelina’s finger and thumb seemed better today; she spent most of her morning in the flower garden and, after dinner, trimmed a new bonnet for her daughter, Susan. Straw bonnets were worn in the summer, naturally, and horsehair was a reinforcing fabric that could be used year round. Evelina had to be an expert by now on using horsehair, so adding ribbon or cloth flowers to it would be pretty easy for her, even with a sore hand.
Old Oliver, who seldom took note of the comings and goings of his children or his in-laws, reported in his journal that “Asa Mitchell came here to day from Sharon Pennsylvania.” Asa was the husband of his youngest daughter, Harriett, who had been staying in Easton and Bridgewater by herself with her three children since the middle of April. Asa worked in coal, an occupation that seemed to lead him – and his family – around western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio.
Evelina took note of Asa’s arrival; her curiosity was almost palpable as she awaited her turn to see him. He and his brother Charles visited with Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell first thing. What did they discuss?
* Horsehair and straw bonnet, modern construction from 1860s design; blog.historicalfashions.com, June 12, 2010, “Couture Historique” by Lindsey Slaugh
2 thoughts on “July 1, 1851”
Speaking of straw bonnets, one eye-opener for me came my exploration of the Samuel Hodges Tavern-store ledgers from 1812-1813 on Bay Road in Easton (where Randall St comes out on Bay Rd). In it, many women (or their husbands or fathers) were selling “Dunstable cloth” to Hodges, but they would get only a few cents a yard for it, where they were paying many times that for a yard of calico or India cotton, which they would buy. It turns out that this was straw braid, which they wove from the treated and split stems of rye grass hay. They wove ribbons of straw, about 1/4-1/2 inch wide, sold them to Hodges, which were eventually sold to others, who connected the “ribbons” to make straw hats and bonnets. A few of the women made bonnets as well. It was one of the few cash crops the women could produce, and they used it at the tavern-store almost as a credit card. Someone, maybe Chaffin, describes an old woman on the poor farm, weaving straw to pay for her own coffin. Samuel Hodges also sells some land and a water privilege, I think, to Oliver at about this time.
Nice info on straw braid. Perhaps some women were still making Dunstable cloth in Evelina’s da