August 24, 1852

12

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

 

panoram

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, www2.le.ac.uk 

August 22, 1852

1835sketch

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, http://www.uusociety.org

 

 

August 21, 1852

513684745

Factory in Burlington, Vermont, 19th century

Saturday Aug 21th (sic)  Cousin Harriet came up to see us

this morning and invited us to spend the day

at Mrs Mills but she stopt to dinner there

and we went to Mrs Mills to tea  Miss Ann Clark

and Mr S Mower called. After tea Mrs A Ames

Oakes A & self called at Mrs Mowers and they were

going to the Panorama of the garden of Eden and Mrs Ames

Mrs Stetson and I went with them.  Oakes A returned to Mrs Stetsons

Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames woke up in Burlington, Vermont, at the home (or boarding house) of a Mrs. Stetson. Surely they spent the morning unpacking and whisking road-dust off the outfits they had traveled in. Their quiet time was soon interrupted by visitors, however, including their spinster cousin, Harriet Ames.

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city, and even in 1852 was a bustling town. Located on Lake Champlain, it had a railroad line that connected not only with Boston and New York, but also with a steamship company on the lake, making shipping and manufacturing a big part of the local commerce. Like many communities in Massachusetts, the city had attracted a large Irish population that became its dominant work force.

Vermont as a whole struggled through most of the 19th century between the influence of industrialization in its few urban areas and the entrenched rural preferences of its many small towns.* Many would say that the agrarian forces triumphed, for in the 21st century, Vermont remains New England’s most rural state.  Burlington itself is now home to the main campus of the University of Vermont and, more important, the headquarters of Ben and Jerry’s.

All that lay ahead, of course, and would have been beyond the reach of Evelina’s imagination. For her, this 19th century day was full of becoming acquainted with a new city, seeing her eldest son get settled, and finding friends.

 

*Paul M. Searls, Vermont in the Nineteenth Century, http://www.flowofhistory.org

 

August 20, 1852

1024px-1879_CV_map_only

Map of the Central Vermont Railroad, circa 1879

1852

Friday Aug 20th  Left Bellows Falls at 1/2 past 7 and

arrived at Burlington about two. Went

to Mrs Stetsons found the house shut up

At the house opposite they told us she had

gone to Mrs Mills and went there and had

some dinner and all went to Mrs Stetsons to

tea  Mrs S Ames Fred & Helen stopt at Pittsford

Willie Gilmore died this afternoon

Evelina would not learn of it for several days, but her young great-nephew, William Lincoln Gilmore, died today of dysentery. (She added the information later.) Barely a year old, Willie had been ill for several weeks, and Evelina had visited his parents, Augustus and Hannah Gilmore, a few times before she left North Easton. His death was sad news.

Not knowing about it, however, and full of her own worry for her own son, Evelina was open to the journey she and other family members were on. By way of the Vermont Central Railroad, presumably, she, Oakes Angier, and Almira Ames traveled another 100+ miles today from Bellows Falls to Burlington, Vermont, while Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, Fred and Helen, got off at Pittsford. Although the map in the illustration above dates from 1879, the line itself was first developed in the 1840’s.

Burlington was Oakes Angier’s destination, the place where he would stay for several weeks to rest and, it was hoped, recuperate from his pulmonary illness. The threesome spent the night with Mrs. Stetson, a friend of the family.

August 19, 1852

PC+Bellows+Falls01VT

Bellows Falls, Vermont, late 19th century

Aug 19th Thursday.  Started with Mrs A L Ames

S Ames Fred Helen & Oakes A for Burlington

Left Boston at 12  Stopt for the night

at Bellows Falls much fatigued & covered

with dust.  It is a very romantic place and […]

very good accommodations at the Island house

Walked out after tea to view the place & falls

Off they went! Half the family, it would seem, exited North Easton to accompany Oakes Angier on his trip to Burlington, Vermont. Obviously, the group traveled first from North Easton to Boston, where they boarded a train, most likely, and departed at noon. Six or so hours and about 100 miles later, “much fatigued and covered with dust,” they disembarked at Bellows Falls, Vermont, a small village on the state line between New Hampshire and Vermont.

The village may have been small, but its location on the Connecticut River and its powerful falls made it a fine industrial site. Two railroads already met there, and a mill industry thrived. The bridge across the water – a later version of which is featured in the postcard illustration above – added to the picturesque quality of the town.  Evelina found it “very romantic.” Today the village is part of the larger town of Rockingham, whose population boasts a little over 5,300.

 

 

August 18, 1852

Trunk

Aug 18th Wednesday. This day has been a busy one

Have fired Susan off to stay at Alsons and

with Orinthia while I am gone. Mrs Stevens

has gone to Alsons just after they left Mr

Jones wife & daughter came in the midst 

of my packing and I had to leave all but

have got all ready this evening

The push was on to finish preparations for the trip Evelina, Oakes Angier and others would be taking the next day. Ten-year-old Susie Ames was “fired off” to stay first with her Uncle Alson Gilmore and later with her teacher, Orinthia Foss. What did she think of all this? Her older brothers, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton, got to stay at home with their father. She may have wondered why she didn’t get to stay home, or she may have been excited to spend a few nights away.

While she was packing her trunk, Evelina was interrupted by the Jones family, but after they left “got all ready this evening.” The Joneses were a family from Foxboro; their purpose in visiting was presumably social, but their timing was awkward. Evelina wasn’t prepared to spend her time with company; she just wanted to get ready for departure. We should remember that not only did she have to pack for herself, she had to get Oakes Angier’s clothes ready, too. A sliver of consolation in all this was that she would have a reason to wear her new traveling dress, the one she worked so hard on earlier in the summer.