January 21, 1852

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1852

Jan 21st  Wednesday.  Had quite a job to thaw out the boiler

in the bathing room which was left Saturday evening

for Mr Ames to take a bath which he chose not

to take & was forgotten.  A tin pail of water was frozen

so hard as to burst out the bottom, so much

for forgetfulness & carelessness.  Oliver came home

this evening and brought me a picture a present from my 

sons.  Mrs. Witherell & Ames spent part of the evening

Bathing in 19th century America was an improvement over the hygiene practices on the 18th century, but still less frequent than today. Where we might shower once a day, people like the Ameses might bathe once a week, often on a Saturday night in order to be clean for Sunday service.  Others bathed less, or differently. For some, sponging off was preferable to full immersion in a tub.

Oakes Ames had his Saturday night bath lined up to go, but decided against it and left the water behind to the mercy of the cold bathing room, where it froze.  Evelina had to clean up the consequent spill, tsk-tsking all the while about “forgetfulness & carelessness.” This small vignette does suggest just how cold the room was where they bathed. Regardless of the temperature of the water, stepping in or out of the tub was chilly. No wonder they didn’t bathe every day.

The day wasn’t all bad, however. Evelina’s sons, led by middle child Oliver (3), gave her a gift, a picture.  What was the occasion? Not her birthday, not Christmas. Perhaps just a spur-of-the-moment thank you for being their mother. The gesture seems sweet, thoughtful and generous.

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