February 28, 1852

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Thomas Nast’s first rendition of the Republican party’s symbol, early 1870s

1852

Feb 28th Saturday  It has been a stormy uncomfortable 

day  Mother is quite unwell & rather homesick

Mrs Witherell spent two hours here this

forenoon  I have finished the flannel

skirt that I commenced Jan 30th and put

a cape top to an old one  Mr Ames has

been to Boston as usual says the slab will be here Monday

Evelina stayed indoors today, sewing, of course, but also tending to her elderly mother, who seemed fretful and “unwell.” The whole town was subjected to what modern weather forecasters would call ” a wintry mix.”  According to Old Oliver, the day began “a snowing this morning wind south east but the snow is dry – it snowd + haild untill about 4 O clock + than began to rain + raind pritty fast untill some time in the night when it cleard of[f] with the wind north west and + cold and the wind blew verry hard”*

In another section of the country also known for its harsh winters, this date in history (plus two years) marks the genesis of our country’s Republican party. According to political historian Robert Remini, “[o]n February 28, 1854, a number of Free-Soilers, northern Whigs and antislavery Democrats met in Ripon, Wisconsin, and recommended the formation of a new party to be called “Republican.”**  Several months later, on July 6, after Congress passed the controversial Kansas-Nebraska act, the nascent group met again in Jackson, Michigan, where they “formally adopted the new name and demanded the repeal of the Kansas-Nebraska and Fugitive Slave Acts and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.”

It wouldn’t take long for the Ames men, former Whigs, to join the new political party.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

Robert Remini, The House: The History of the House of Representatives, 2006, p. 150  

(NB: A source cited in Wikipedia in February, 2015, says that the date for this meeting in Ripon was March 20)

February 27, 1852

Tea kettle

 

Feb 27

1852  Friday  this morning I invited Mrs Lothrop here

but she went to Mrs Jason Howards to spend the day

came here this evening  Mrs S Ames & Fred dined

here  Mrs & Mr Horace Pool  Mrs W Williams  Abby

Edwin & wife Oliver & wife & Fred & Mrs Witherell

were here to tea  All came unexpectedly.  Had 

a very pleasant visit from them.

Many folks came to call today.  Sarah Ames Lothrop and her son, Frederick Lothrop Ames, joined the Ameses for midday dinner. (Although Oliver (3) had returned to Brown, Fred hadn’t yet gone back to Harvard.) A real crowd arrived “unexpectedly” for tea.  Sarah and Fred returned, bringing Oliver Ames Jr. with them. Sarah Ames Witherell came in from the other part of the house, resulting in all three sisters-in-law being together. Newlyweds Edwin and Augusta Gilmore walked over from their nearby home, and old Mrs. Gilmore – Evelina’s mother – was already on the premises. The family gathered.

From farther away came Horace and Abby Avery Pool, uncle and aunt to the bride, Augusta.  A Mrs. W. Williams arrived, as did Abby Torrey, Evelina’s niece. Abby’s head must have been full of the previous evening’s entertainment, that of Willard Lothrop’s visit and trance. It’s likely that some of this evening’s conversation turned on spiritualism.  One wonders what Oakes and Oliver Jr. thought of the topic.

Perhaps Evelina served some ginger snaps or currant cake from Tuesday’s baking. The tea itself could have been one of any number of types. Lydia Maria Child published her opinion on the subject: “Young Hyson is supposed to be a more profitable tea than Hysons; but though the quantity to a pound is greater, it has not so much strength. In point of economy, therefore, there is not much difference between them. Hyson tea and Souchong mixed together, half and half, is a pleasant beverage, and is more healthy than green tea alone.  Be sure that water boils before it is poured upon tea  A tea-spoonful to each person, and one extra thrown in, is a good rule.  Steep ten or fifteen minutes.”*

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1846

 

February 26, 1852

seance-circle-2

 

Feb 1852

Thursday 26  Mrs Solomon & Mrs Willard Lothrop spent

the afternoon here.  Willard & Abby Torrey

came this evening  He went into a trance

and preached  told Abby she was a sympathetic

medium  Mother & self had a nice quiet

time in the forenoon  Mrs Witherell

came in awhile  Altered some dickeys

After a quiet morning of sewing, Evelina and her mother were entertained at the end of the day by an unusual event in the Ames parlor.  Willard Lothrop, self-proclaimed Spiritualist, visited at the Ames home where he “went into a trance and preached.”  If it wasn’t a seance, it was close. Lothrop believed he could communicate with the departed. Was there a particular person from the past – a Gilmore relative, for instance – whom Lothrop was trying to reach?

According to historian William Chaffin, “modern Spiritualism” developed in upstate New York around 1848, and spread from there. As noted previously, Easton produced its own adherents who “displayed mediumistic powers,” including Willard Lothrop. “Circles were held.  There were knockings and table-tippings and experiments in the production of musical sounds, etc.  It was not found necessary to import trance speakers, for native talent in that direction was soon developed.”** Abby Torrey, Evelina’s twenty-one year old niece, was in the parlor, too, for this session. Lothrop reached out to her, believing that she had a gift for spiritual telepathy.

Meanwhile, the previous day’s thaw “turnd cold last night + froze the ground up rough”* Carts, wagons and carriages had bumpy roads to traverse.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

** William L. Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1866, p. 370

 

 

February 25, 1852

Cart

1852 Feb 25 Wednesday Was at work about the house untill

about ten and had just got seated at my sewing

when Mother & Alson came  They were here to 

dinner and this afternoon mother & self spent

at Willards. The young folks had company

Oakes & Frank are there this evening and were

having a lively time when we came away  Elizabeth

Williams was here this forenoon.  She & Susan went to

Emeline Haleys party this afternoon & evening

 

“[T]his was a warm day and thawd so much that it made the carting bad,” grumbled Old Oliver in his daily journal.  Despite the soft road bed, however, Evelina’s brother Alson Gilmore traveled by wagon or carriage to bring their mother into town from the family farm. The two came to midday dinner at the Ames’, after which Alson presumably went on his way. Mother and daughter went on to visit Willard Lothrop – Evelina had been seeking his company quite a bit lately. Under his influence, was she becoming a Spiritualist?

While the notion of communicating with the dead intrigued her, Evelina’s interest in Willard Lothrop may have been more sociable than religious.  She comments on the “young folks,” – her sons Oakes Angier and Frank Morton Ames among them – “having a lively time.” All ages seemed to be moving around today attending various gatherings that must have helped dispel some mid-winter gloom. Never mind the mud; the hint of warmth in the air must have been preferable to more snow.

February 24, 1852

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A modern version of a mid-19th century specialty: Kossuth cakes*

Feb 24 Tuesday

1852  Heat the brick oven twice & baked Kossuth

plain & currant cake ginger snaps, mince &

dried apple pies  Afternoon Mrs Homan &

Ann Clarke came to the other part of the house

I went in to see them and staid to tea.  Spent

the evening at Willard Lothrops.  Called at Mr

Torreys & Augustus

It was a big baking day, with Evelina preparing a typical selection of pies, cakes – “plain and currant” –  and ginger snaps.  New to her repertoire was a Kossuth cake, a baked sponge cake with a creme center.

The Kossuth cake was named after the Hungarian political figure (and, briefly, president,) Lajos Kossuth, who was then taking refuge in the United States while trying to raise support for a return to power. During Kossuth’s visit to Maryland, a street vendor in Baltimore named a new baked confection after the hero, who was much feted as a champion of freedom.

The dessert became popular but is largely forgotten today, though the confection can still be found in parts of the south. Naturally, additions and variations to the recipe arose almost immediately, most involving the addition of chocolate poured over the top. A typical modern recipe looks more like a double sugar cookie filled with whipped cream and chocolate frosting than a creme-filled loaf cake.

 

*http://dwellinginmiddleburg.com/2014/05/06/kossuth-cakes/

 

February 23, 1852

Looking glass

Monday 23d Feb 1852  Worked about the house this forenoon

dusted the chambers and washed around the

windows &  doors.  Susan washed the dishes. Am

trying to have her learn to knit, improves some

but rather slowly  This afternoon have been mending

some and have put one new sleeve into my

blue & orange Delaine  The looking glass came

out from Boston to night

We might call it a mirror, but Evelina and most of her contemporaries called her new purchase a looking glass. (Think of “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Lewis Carroll’s 1871 sequel to his 1865 “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”) Like the framed prints Evelina had recently bought for her walls, the looking glass was a fashionable piece of decor. She must have been tickled to have one hanging in her parlor.

New “methods of mass-producing large, flat panes of glass had been perfected and, by combining them with heatless, chemical-coating technologies,”* mirrors had become easy to manufacture – and affordable.  At mid-century they became stylish and ubiquitous, symbolic of the new taste and purchasing power of the middle class. In a home like Evelina’s which, 50 years earlier, might have boasted no more than a small, courting-type mirror, a big, new looking glass, hung on braided silk roping from molding above it, had become de rigeur.

Other than this exciting upgrade in the parlor, today was a Monday like any other. Jane McHanna did the laundry, Susie Ames washed the breakfast dishes, and Evelina took to her needlework.  She was teaching her daughter to knit.

 

*Wikipedia, Mirrors, accessed February 19, 2015.

February 22, 1852

georgewashington

1852

Feb 22nd Sunday Quite a snow storm this morning but

most all went to church.  I came home at noon on

account of a violent tooth ache and did not return.  Mrs

S Lothrop & son spent this afternoon, Frank carried

Orinthia home after meeting. Read in Grahams

Magazine  Mr Ames & self passed the evening at Edwins

It has cleared off very pleasant this evening

“It was a snowing this morning + all the forenoon and fell 2 or 3 inches deep wind southerly + thawd some  was clear at night,” according to Ames patriarch, Old Oliver. Yet the family rode through the snow to get to church. Poor Evelina got “a violent tooth ache” and had to go home after the first service. She must have felt better as the day progressed, for in the evening she and her husband, Oakes, went across the way to visit newlyweds Edwin and Augusta Gilmore.

Today was George Washington’s birthday. Born in 1732, he died in 1799, when Old Oliver was twenty years old. After Washington’s death, the young Congress of the day, whose partisanship between Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democrat-Republicans rivaled the divide we see in our modern Congress, came together to pass a resolution honoring the first president’s birthday. February 22, 1800 was dedicated to him and by 1832, the centennial of Washington’s birth, some type of observance of the holiday was customary.  The holiday did not become federal law until the 1879, and at the time was qualified as a “bank holiday.”

Old Oliver would have remembered the hero of the American Revolution and probably revered him, as most Americans did. Old Oliver was a child when the Constitution was written and ratified, and lived to see 16 presidents take office. For his generation, no American leader would be more heroic than General Washington.