August 31, 1852


Postal Stationery Envelope, circa 1876

Tuesday Aug 31st  Have not done any sewing to day Was

looking about house most of the forenoon and

fixing work for Catharine  Mr French and 

son were here to dine & Alson & Arden Hall.

Augusta & I have been to North Bridgewater

and home by West B and brought Susan

home  She has been at Mr Burrells

a week  We called at Rachels  Alson

& wife Arden Hall & wife there


There was sunshine today after several days of rain. “[I]t cleared of[f] to day pritty warm there was five inches of water fell in this storm + it raisd the water verry much”* was the upbeat report. The ponds were full.

The clear weather meant that Evelina could fetch her daughter, Susan, who had been staying in Bridgewater with the Burrell family, under the care of Orinthia Foss. With Augusta Pool Gilmore in tow, Evelina rode out in the afternoon. Ten-year-old Susie had been gone a whole week; one imagines she was ready to return home. The women also stopped to see Rachel Gilmore Pool en route.  Rachel was Evelina’s niece, and Augusta’s sister-in-law.

In Washington, D. C. on this date, Congress approved the very first pre-stamped envelopes, also known as postal stationery envelopes (PSE’s). The Postmaster General was authorized to provide “suitable letter envelopes with such watermarks or other guards against counterfeits… with the addition of the value or denomination of the postage stamps so printed or impressed thereon…”** The following year, the first set of stamped envelopes became available. They were known as the 1853 Nesbitt issues, after the contractor who produced them. This was high technology at the time.


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

** Wikipedia, “Postal Stationery,” accessed August 27, 2015.


August 30, 1852


Monday 30th Aug

1852  The girls were washing to day and Augusta

and I sat down to sewing  I let her have four

yds of Bartlett sheeting for a night gown

and she has cut it out & sewing it.  I have

been fixing work for Catharine and have

sewed but very little for myself  We went 

into Mrs Witherells awhile & Edwin & Augusta

have gone home again


After her ten-day trip to Vermont, and a Sunday of rest, Evelina went right back to her domestic routine. Rain kept her indoors with sewing, while two servants did the laundry. The wet clothes and towels probably had to be hung inside to dry.

The young neighbor, Augusta Pool Gilmore, pregnant with her first child, came over and the two women sewed together. Evelina’s sewing seemed mostly to consist of helping Augusta and directing a servant, Catharine, on various projects. She sewed “but very little” for herself.

Evelina writes of using “Bartlett sheeting” for a nightgown for Augusta. Sheeting was another word for cotton cloth, and Bartlett was likely the name of the mill from which the cloth came. There were many active textile mills in Massachusetts in the 1850s. Does any reader know of a Bartlett Mills? There was one in Oxford, Massachusetts, but its date of origin is listed as 1870. Regardless, Evelina had obtained a bolt of cloth from a particular mill, and was generously sharing it with her nephew’s bride.



August 29, 1852


Map of 1852 Hurricane Season, 21st century imagery*

Sunday Aug 29

1852  Has rained powerfully all day  Not one

of the family been to meeting  Mr Ames &

self laid down about twelve and when

we went downstairs found Edwin & wife

among the missing  Made them come back

to tea and spend the night  I have

felt tired & lazy and have read but

very little

The unofficial hurricane season of 1852 opened about ten days before today’s diary entry with a storm now classified as the Great Mobile Hurricane of 1852. According to modern meteorologist Christopher Landsea (great name for a weatherman!)*, the unnamed storm hit the Florida Keys, made landfall near Pascagoula, Mississippi and broke back out into the Atlantic in South Carolina, destroying lighthouses, homes, trees, bridges and crops in its way. It surged northward toward Cape Cod, where it still had enough energy to be felt in New England. Thus could Old Oliver report today that “the wind changed to northeast last night and there was an inch + a half of rain fell and it is a raining this morning and it raind all day + the wind blew hard”**

While this weather event of hemispheric proportions pounded its way across the eastern United States, a quite different vignette unfolded inside the Ames’s home. Eveline writes that the family skipped going to church, naturally, given the weather. She and her husband, from whom she had been absent for ten days or so, went upstairs to their bedroom and lay down – and closed the door, presumably. We can’t know the details, nor should we. But we can be grateful for this rare and tiny glimpse of intimacy between Evelina and Oakes, and smile at the Victorian discretion exercised by Evelina as she recorded the event.

*Information courtesy of Wikipedia, “1852 Atlantic hurricane season,” accessed 8.26.2015

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

August 28, 1852


Example of Kashmir Shawl Popular at Mid-19th Century*

Sat Aug 28th  Mr Ames called at Mr Orrs this morning said

they were not any of them very well at home.  Went

out to find Mrs S Ames at last met her at

Mr Orrs about noon.  Melinda has not got home

from her journey yet. Bought Mrs Witherell &

self a Cashmere shawl  Have had a pleasant 

visit but am glad to be home again


As he usually did on Saturdays, Oakes Ames traveled from North Easton into Boston on business. Instead of going right to his customers, however, he stopped by the Orrs’ where his wife was staying.  Evelina had been away for over a week and he wanted to report that they – meaning he and two of his sons, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton – had fared ill without her. “They were not any of them very well at home,” he complained.

The fact that Evelina didn’t go rushing home to take temperatures or brew beef tea, but spent the day shopping in the city with her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames, suggests that she didn’t take her husband’s report too seriously. If she had, she would have headed home right away. She may have felt that Oakes was just expressing dismay over the disorder that had arisen in her absence, a complaint that wouldn’t have been surprising in an era when the majority of men had no role in, skill at, or inclination for the domestic side of life. Evelina hadn’t been there to tend to the household and probably could have related to the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist and mother of seven, who had cause to bemoan “the chaotic conditions into which everything fell without her constant supervision.” Still, Evelina must have been warmed by the thought that she had been missed, and she was glad to get home.

While in Boston, though, Evelina did buy a couple of cashmere shawls, one for herself and one for Sarah Ames Witherell. If the shawls were as beautiful as the one in the illustration, they were two lucky women.  As seen, some shawls during this fashion era were made extra large to fall over the full skirts of the time.



*Image courtesy of Meg Andrews, “The Girton Curtains,”

August 27, 1852


Friday Aug 27th  Left Burlington at 1/4 before eleven on

our return home  They were very unwilling that we

should leave before next week and it was a sudden

start our leaving at last  It rained most of the 

way which made it much more pleasant as it

laid the dust  Arrived at Boston about

eight passed the night at Mr Orrs. Mrs Ames

Helen & Fred went to the Adams House

Somewhat precipitously, Evelina departed Burlington today with Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children Fred and Helen. Almira Ames didn’t return with her nor, more important, did Oakes Angier Ames. He would stay behind to rest and try to get the better of his pulmonary ailment.

After a nine hour train trip, which proved to be “much more pleasant” than the ride they had taken eight days earlier, Evelina and company arrived “at Boston.”  Light rain had fallen throughout the journey, which helped lay the dust, but was a precursor of more wet weather to come. This was hurricane season, after all.

Evelina says nothing about shopping in Boston. She may have been too fatigued by the journey to follow her favorite pursuit in the city.  Instead, she went right to the home of Robert and Melinda Orr, her usual headquarters when there. Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children stayed elsewhere.

August 26, 1852


The Steamboat Oakes Ames, ca. 1868*

Thursday 26th Aug  This morning Mrs Mills got a hack and

carried us all out to ride.  We had a fine view

of the Lake and town, was riding over an hour

and returned to Mrs Stetsons and all dined there

Called into a shop to see stone ware made

Passed the afternoon at Mrs Mowers and there

we had a very pleasant time  Charades & Tableaux

got home about twelve

Evelina filled her last full day in Burlington with social activity. She and a group – Almira Ames, Sarah Lothrop Ames, Fred and Helen, and Oakes Angier, too, presumably – were “carried” out for a ride, during which they admired the “fine view” they got of Lake Champlain and the town itself. It was a pretty place. But no amount of imagination in the mind of anyone in the hired carriage could have foretold that one day a steamboat named for Oakes Ames would be plying the waters they were gazing at.

In 1868, in fact, the 244′ Oakes Ames, built in the Napoleon B. Proctor Shipyard, would be launched from Burlington. Designed to ferry railroad cars from Burlington across the lake to Plattsburgh, New York, the steamship was commissioned by the Rutland Railroad, for whom Oakes Ames was a director and one of the line’s “firmest friends.”** In 1874, the ship would be renamed and repurposed for passenger service. Yet the newly christened Champlain II would last in service only until running aground in July, 1875. Although the incident produced no fatalities, the ship’s hull would be dashed beyond repair. Today, the boat is a famous wreck in the water.

Steamship and railroad deals being in the future, Evelina and the group continued to enjoy themselves on this pleasant day. They dined at a friend’s house and visited a stoneware shop. In the evening they all played charades and tableaux, popular parlor games in which participants acted out words or situations, or created still scenes of familiar subject matter, respectively. Such games were particularly popular at Christmastime.

*Image courtesy of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

** Burlington Free Press, August 20,1868, p.4.  For an exhaustive narrative about the Champlain II, ex-Oakes Ames, please see a thesis by Elizabeth Robinson Baldwin, May 1997, Texas A & M

August 25, 1852


Wednesday Aug 25th  We were invited to dine again at

Mrs Mills to day.  Fred & Helen called at Mrs

Stetsons and we went home with them to Mrs

Mills. Afternoon went to Mrs Footes had a 

large & pleasant party and quite a treat

In the evening they acted charades and

we had a merry time  Oakes A bears

the excitement pretty well  Received a letter from 

home saying that Willie Gilmore died last Friday

Evelina heard from the folks at home today and found out that her great-nephew had died. This news was unfortunate, but perhaps not entirely a surprise.  She had been concerned about the little boy before she left on her trip; infant mortality was high in those days. Despite the bad news, surely Evelina was glad from her family, even if the tidings were sad.  We can pretty well assume that she had not been so far from home before, and she may have been missing her family and friends. Who wrote her, do you suppose? Her husband? Her nephew? One of her nieces? Oliver (3) or Frank Morton? Or perhaps Sarah Witherell wrote, knowing that Evelina would want to know about little Willie.

Evelina probably learned of other Easton goings-on as well. Even the weather would have been a topic of some interest. Old Oliver was, as ever, keeping an eye on the sky and tracking rainfall. As she opened her letter, he might have been making note that on this Wednesday, it “was cloudy most of the day + one small shower.”*

A game of charades filled the evening – fun for all including Oakes Angier, who seemed to be feeling well.

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

August 24, 1852


Political Cartoon, The Financial Panic of 1857

Tuesday Aug 24th  Mrs Stetson took us out to ride this

morning in a double chaise  We rode about

an hour and I then went to Mrs Mills.

Mrs Stetson Oakes A and Mrs Ames came

just at noon and we spent the rest of the

day  Mrs S Ames Fred & Helen arrived

there about two.  A part of us walked out

A double chaise – does that mean a “shay” with four wheels instead of two? Whatever its configuration, Evelina, Almira Ames, and possibly Oakes Angier, too, went out for a ride in it. For about an hour the group trotted around Burlington. They dropped Evelina off at Mrs. Mills, where she apparently spent most of the day.The others returned at midday and were soon joined by Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children, who had just arrived from Pittsford.

Other than a walk in the afternoon, Evelina appeared to have been sedentary most of the day. Had she brought any needlework with her? How did she occupy her hands, unaccustomed as they were to inactivity? Did she have to quell any inner misgivings about being idle? Or was she able to relax and submit to the quiet hospitality of her hostesses? And how often did she dwell on her son’s dilemma? Would he get better in this new place?

It wouldn’t happen this year, but exactly five years after this quiet day in Burlington, Vermont, one of the worst financial panics in American history commenced. On August 24, 1857, the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, a bank with many mortgages and ties to New York banks, failed. Various consequences of the failure, whose immediate cause had been fraudulent practices at the bank, ensued, bringing other economic problems to light. In England, a declining international economy and new financial policies caused concern. In America, the domestic economy, too, was declining. Western migration was slowing down, in part because of the unsettling Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in March 1857, which in effect nullified the Missouri Compromise and raised new hackles between free soilers and slavery expansionists. As a consequence, Western land values were dropping, and this had an impact on the railroads, most of whom had built much of their business on expansion. Everyone feared there would be a run on the banks. The economy went into a recession from which the country didn’t really recover until the Civil War.

Economic downturns are nothing new. The Ames Shovel Works, by the way, would weather the Panic of 1857 in pretty good order.

August 23, 1852



Victorian Panorama Picture

Monday Aug 23st (sic)  Spent this day at Mrs Stetsons.  Cousin

Harriet called in the morning and I went out 

with her into some of the stores  Oakes A

went with her to the Panorama this afternoon

Mrs Mills came in awhile and Ann Clark

called and staid to tea and Mrs Ames & self

went home with her to make a call

Evelina really was on vacation.  Here it was Monday, laundry day back home, and she wasn’t choring, or sewing, or washing the breakfast dishes.  She was out shopping and socializing for most of the day.

Oakes Angier went out, too, in the afternoon. He and Cousin Harriet Ames went to a special display, one that Evelina had visited the first day they arrived. It was a Panorama of the Garden of Eden, perhaps on temporary display in the town’s new Lyceum.

Panoramas, a popular art form in the 19th century, were large, horizontal paintings of popular subjects. In a manner of speaking, panoramas and its later cousins, cycloramas, were the installation art of their time. Usually depicting a single grand subject, like the Garden of Eden, or a famous battle (i.e. Gettysburg), the paintings were designed to be displayed in a consecutive or circular fashion, so that a viewer like Evelina or Oakes Angier could essentially walk into a display area and be surrounded by the subject matter.

British historian Jonathan Potter has written extensively on panoramas, citing a 19th century “desire to see all” as the impetus behind the art form. “The Victorian Panorama was one of many attempts to embrace the world in a single glance,” he writes.  Among the most famous American examples was a Panorama of the Mississippi, painted in 1847 by John Banvard. It covered three miles of canvas and depicted a compacted view of 1,200 miles of river, from the mouth of the Missouri River south to New Orleans. Published in Boston by J. Putnam, it was advertised as “being by far the largest picture ever executed by man.”** Other panoramas were much smaller; some were reproduced as framed engravings suitable for parlor walls.


*Example of 19th century Panorama/

**Jonathan Potter, University of Leicester, 

August 22, 1852


Unitarian Church, Burlington, Vermont, circa 1835*

Sunday Aug 22  We went with Mrs Stetson to the

Unitarian church & heard Mr Rich in the morning

dined at Mrs Mills and all went to the

Episcopal church this afternoon  This is a

beautiful church but I did not think much

of the preaching or singing.  Returned

to Mrs Stetsons to tea and had a quiet evening


Naturally, Evelina attended church on Sunday, just as she would have done had she been at home. In this case, she went to Burlington’s Unitarian Church with her hostess, Mrs. Stetson,and “heard Mr Rich” preach. But for the afternoon service, she went to an Episcopalian church with a group of women with whom she had dined.

She liked the looks of the Episcopal Church but, as she often did when attending any church but her own, she didn’t approve of the service, sniffing at the poor “preaching and singing.”  Evelina invariably preferred her own church in Easton – and her own preacher. No one could ever equal Mr. Whitwell.

The family (still minus Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, who had stopped at a town further south) kept a pretty low profile in the evening. Keeping quiet, after all, was the point of this vacation for Oakes Angier Ames. It was hoped that his staying in Vermont would improve his health.


*Courtesy of the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Burlington,