July 16, 1851


Shovel Storage_1 Nov 2010



July 16th  Wednesday  Mrs H Ames left this morning.  Will stop

a day or two at Mr Hinckleys and then venture

home  Gustavus was to meet her in Boston

Have been to work on my silk muslin dress

Julia has been here cutting the waist and it

is so near done that it will not take long 

to finish it.  Edwin & Oliver went to S. Bridgewater

to get patterns for shovel press & Back strap Machine

Evelina seldom referred to the shovel business in her diary.  The factory, the employees, the machines, the products, the day-long sounds that emanated from the shovel shops right across the street from her home went essentially unmentioned. Despite the fact that six days a week, life in North Easton revolved around O. Ames and Sons, the factory that her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law owned, and at which her three sons worked, Evelina was mum about the business.

Instead, she kept her attention on the domestic and social events of her own life, recording the tame goings-on of the household, which was, naturally, her sphere of interest and influence. Her focus begs the question, however, of how much of her record was consciously restricted to the quotidian. Did she hear about events at the shovel shop and choose not to include them, or were business details never discussed at the dinner table?  Were shovels excluded from pillow talk at day’s end? Or was she so familiar with the many facets of the shovel business that she took them for granted, dismissed them and looked solely at her own concerns? Was she disinterested or discrete?

That aside, shovel-making slipped into Evelina’s record today.  Her middle son, Oliver (3), and his cousin, Edwin Williams Gilmore, headed to South Bridgewater to fetch patterns and a back-strap machine for the shovel factory. The patterns were probably “dies used in a drop hammer/press that give the curved shape to the previously flat, partially formed blade.”**  The back strap was an object that facilitated the process of attaching the handle to the blade. Oliver and Edwin must have used a wagon to tote the goods back to North Easton.

* Ames shovels, Stonehill College Archives, with thanks to Nicole Casper, CRM, Director of Archives and Historical Collections

** Per Gregory Galer, PhD.

2 thoughts on “July 16, 1851

  1. In Chaffin’s unpublished sketch of Old Oliver, he relates the following story involving Oliver 3 and shovels:

    “Here is another interesting incident in this line. Mr Ames, grandson of Oliver, commonly called Oliver Third, and afterwards, Governor, who was skilled in every part of the shovel business, once heard of a new method of tempering steel. It was by boiling it in a certain preparation. He procured some of it, and built a little furnace in the second story of the Long Shop where he thought his grandfather was very unlikely to come. Jim Donovan was his helper. As luck would have it, when he got the mixture boiling, Oliver saw his grandfather approaching. “I’ve got to busy? im’ said Oliver, “and don’t you dare to find me.” The old gentleman came on and saw the great kettle over the fire with shovel blades in the boiling mixture. “What kind of a thing is this?” the old man shouted. Jim said it was a new experiment for hardening shovels that Oliver Third was trying. “Go and find Oliver and bring him here,” said he in anger. But, of course, Jim could not find him. The fire was put out and the whole mixture solidified with the shovel blades sticking in it – where they are to this day, the kettle and its contents now being stored in the new shop. Oliver did not repeat the experiment.”

    I believe that the Easton Historical Society is going to put Chaffin’s piece in their next Volume of Reminiscences. I got a Cultural Council grant to transcribe it and gave a presentation on it several years ago. Most of it concerns the crotchety Old Oliver, because that is the man that the people Chaffin interviews remember, which is also the Old Oliver that Evelina shares the house with. It’s tough for the triple alpha male (at least this particular one) to age and give way to his sons and grandsons.

  2. Thank you Dwight. Yes, Old Oliver could be fearful. Yet he and his namesake, Oliver Third, often played cards together in the evening. Not sure who won most often, though.

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