October 30, 1851

Closet

1851

Thursday Oct 30th  Mr Scott finished papering the 

parlour this morning and has painted some drawers

to be grained, and has drawn some of the windows

in the parlour  I have been doing a little of every

thing but cannot tell what.  Have got the carpet

down in the sitting room and the dishes into the

closet and we begin to look more comfortable

 

The redecorating of the downstairs began to wind down and the house became “more comfortable.” Getting the sitting room back in order was a big deal, for that was Evelina’s main domain for her daily sewing. It was her office, so to speak, more so than the kitchen.  She surely had missed her sewing routine while the house was disordered.

Putting the dishes back into the sitting room closet was also an accomplishment.  Jane Nylander, modern historian of 19th century domestic life, has written of the role of that closet:

“In most substantial households, parlors, sitting rooms, and dining rooms were furnished with a closet in which were stored cups and saucers, decanters of wines, glassware, and loaves of rich fruitcake, which was prized for its lasting quality as well as its flavor.  The shelves of these closets were grooved so that the small serving plates called ‘twifflers’ could be stood against the back wall and make a handsome show when the door was opened. ”  Twifflers – great name! – were about 9 1/2″ in diameter.

While Evelina set her house to rights, her father-in-law was busy about the factory. “began to work on the Flyaway Dam to day I went to Bridgewater + caried Clark + Keith to help Mr Phillips about fixing th bellows”** What had happened to the bellows? They were key to the manufacturing process.

 

*Jane Nylander, Our Own Snug Fireside, New York, 1993,  pp. 236 – 237.

**Oliver Ames Journal, Courtesy of Stonehill College Archives

 

4 thoughts on “October 30, 1851

  1. Was wondering what “painted some drawers to be grained” means.

    • Graining – also known as “faux-bois” – is the painting of plain wood like pine or ash – to resemble fancier wood such as mahogany. Graining was common in the mid to late 19th century for people who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) spend the money on expensive woods for their woodwork and doors. In the November 1st post, I plan to show an example.
      Evelina seems to have been painting a base coat for Mr. Scott to grain.

    • Tad, I don’t know if you remember, as you might have been too young…but when we moved into the California house, 1953, Mom (Catherine Hobart Ames-Dickerson) had the railings going up the circular stairs and some woodwork in the dining room, I think, “grained.” She had a Swedish painter who knew how to do this. I think the woods were already nice, but the owners of the house previously had painted all the woodwork a dull blue. It was a horrendous job to strip the paint and so she had it painted a light color and then a mahogany color on top of that. While the paint darker paint was wet, the painter took a dry brush and went over the coat of paint, revealing the lighter color underneath with brush strokes, which made it look like wood grain. i.e., “graining.”

  2. I find this most interesting about the “closet” in Evelina’s sitting room: In my mother-in-law’s house in Chadds Ford, PA, a house built in the mid 1700’s on Wm. Penn land, there was exactly that….a closet in a room with a fireplace which, in Ann Wyeth McCoy’s time was the dining room. It was exactly where she stored “cups and saucers, decanters of wines, glassware, and loaves of rich fruitcake,” except for her it was more likely to be cookies that she had baked stored in beautiful tall glass cookie jars. It was always a wonderful and exciting door to open, for its lovely china ware and whatever surprise baking she might have done.

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