September 8, 1851

1856_tea_BostonAlmanac

 

Monday Sept 8th  Mother Mrs Stevens & self sat down

to work in my chamber  The weather is very

hot  After dinner we went into the other

part of the house awhile it being so much

cooler  Abby came here to tea. Oakes A

Frank & Mrs Mitchell went to a party to Mr

Cushing Mitchells this Evening & are to spend the night

Tea had been on the serving tray very much of late, with or without short biscuits. Evelina served tea to her niece, Abby Torrey, today while yesterday she took tea at the parsonage during intermission. Three days ago, she hosted a small tea party for a guest, Mrs. Latham, her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, and others. Evelina’s grandson, Winthrop Ames, described the importance of tea time some eighty years later:

“Supper, always called Tea, at seven was the sociable occasion.  It was usually consisted of cold meats, hot biscuits, preserves and cakes – an easy menu to expand for unexpected guests. Every week at least, and usually oftener, one household would invite the others and their visitors to tea; and the whole Ames family might assemble…”*

Although the Ameses grew and raised much of their own food, tea was a commodity that had to be purchased. Coffee and sugar, too.  As the above advertisement from 1856 indicates, tea and coffee could be purchased in bulk in Boston (not surprisingly, given Boston’s long history of importing tea into its harbor!) Black tea was the general favorite and, as the ad suggests, could be obtained in different grades of excellence.  Did the Ameses order in bulk?  Did they acquire a chest of tea at the family rate? Their careful use of money would imply that whichever Ames did the purchasing got the best product for the lowest price possible.

The weather, meanwhile, continued to be very hot. It didn’t prevent brothers Oakes Angier and Frank Morton and their youngest aunt, Harriett Ames Mitchell, from traveling to Bridgewater for a party and an overnight. Social goings-on continued.  No doubt, tea was served.

*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1938, p. 128

5 thoughts on “September 8, 1851

  1. Why was Old Oliver’s side of the house so much cooler? Was it the north side?

  2. Good question, Dwight. According to Winthrop Ames, Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell and her children lived on the south side of the house, which would seem to make it more exposed to heat. Evelina and Oakes used the north side, which would seem to make it cooler. Yet the opposite was true. Why was this so?
    Evelina’s front door was right on the street which, barren of vegetation, would be hot.
    Perhaps the heat was also a function – at least in part – of how often doors and windows were opened and shut, and whether window curtains were kept open or closed. It’s a bit of a mystery.

  3. Greetings, Anna Lee. Breakfast, which was substantial, was served by 7:00 a.m., if not before. The big meal, dinner, was in the middle of the day, usually right at noon. Tea was the evening meal, and could be more variable and less formal.

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