Nov 28th Friday Had rather of a late breakfast
Oliver did not rise untill past ten Oclock
Have been very busy to day making some
collars for Mr Ames & have been looking
over Olivers clothes some Mr & Mrs Thom
Ames have spent the afternoon with Mrs Witherell
I have been to see them this evening
Like many middle-class families in 1851, the Ames family probably kept at least one clock against a wall or on a mantel. By its hands Evelina could tell that her middle son, Oliver (3), had slept exceedingly late on this morning after Thanksgiving. She might have looked up from her sewing to notice the minutes move by. Just home from his first term at Brown University, Oliver was keeping collegiate hours that were rather more elastic than the factory time by which the days usually ran. Tired from his studies and his journey home, Oliver slept in. Workers at the shovel shop were not accorded that luxury.
Absent a working clock in the house, how did people in the village and its close environs know what time it was? Pocket watches were popular, certainly, but many in the village wouldn’t have owned one. The young, single immigrant men who lived in the Ames tenement, for instance, and the working families who lived in the factory houses around town needed temporal oversight. A bell at the factory guided them.
According to historian Gregory Galer:
“Life in North Easton in the 1840s was dominated by the Ames Company. With the move to a more regular work schedule the company instituted the use of a bell, heard throughout the village, to be sure employees would keep a schedule which would allow them to fullfil their duties at the shovel shop.”*
Evelina’s grandson, Winthrop Ames, noted:
“Every week-day morning at ten minutes before five the shop bell warned the town to yawn itself awake; and at nine in the evening it rang a curfew (as it still does) to advise bedtime. The factories started at seven, by lamplight in winter, and stopped at six, with an hour out at noon for dinner – a ten-hour day.”**
Winthrop was writing in 1937; in 1952, the Ames factory would close in Easton and move to West Virginia. No curfew bell rings in North Easton today.
*Greg Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2001, p. 240
*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, privately printed, 1937, p. 128