September 30, 1852

Spiced-Butternut-Squash-Pie-450

Squash Pie*

Thursday Sept 30th  Have swept the parlour

and Catharine has swept the chambers

and we have baked squash and apple pies

in the brick oven.  Hannah Welch came

last night and has done part of the ironing

to day.  this evening she heard her sister

was sick and she has left and gone back 

to Lynn.  Mrs Lincoln called with Hannah

 

Life at the Ames house returned to normal after yesterday’s meeting of the Sewing Circle. Evelina and a servant, Catharine Middleton, swept and tidied up while a new servant, Hannah Welch, tended to the ironing. Hannah would leave abruptly however, never to return, making her one-day employment the shortest on Evelina’s growing list of departed servants.

The household carried on. Today was a baking day, back in the capacious brick oven that Evelina shared with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, in the other part of the house. Squash and apple pies were on the menu, naturally, both being part of the fall harvest. Squash pies were as routine as pumpkin pies; every contemporary cookbook offered a recipe. Sarah Josepha Hale, though critical of pies in general as being too rich, allowed that they were acceptable in the colder months “because then we can bear a rich concentrated diet, better than during hot weather.”** Her recipe:

Pare, take out the seeds and stew the squash until very soft and dry. Strain or rub it through a sieve or colander. Mix this with good milk till it is thick with batter: sweeten it with sugar.  Allow three eggs to a quart of milk, beat the eggs well, add them to the squash, and season with rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices you like. Line a pie-plate with crust, fill and bake about an hour.**

The rich pies probably hit the spot with the family. Certainly, the timing was perfect because on this night, “there was a pritty havy frost.”*** Fall had arrived.

 

*Image courtesy of  www.lostrecipesfound.com

**Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, pp. 81-82

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

September 29, 1852

Thread

Wednesday Sept 29th  Mrs Witherell & Ames came in

& helped me about my baking and this

afternoon I have had the sewing circle  Not

one of the Pools here and had but very few

numbers. about a dozen or fifteen including 

my own family at tea  It is a beautiful moon 

light night and they spent part of the evening

 

With help from her sisters-in-law, Evelina prepared for the arrival of Sewing Circle members. It was a “fair cool day,”* so weather could not deter attendance. In the afternoon, the women came. Well, some came.  “[V]ery few numbers” arrived for the meeting, but at least it wasn’t the zero attendance of her previous gathering. There were enough ladies in the parlor to make the event a success.  Some of the group stayed until after dark, able to find their way home by the light of the moon.

Still, members of the Pool family didn’t show, which vexed Evelina. The Pools were a family she had grown up with in the south-eastern section of town. A Pool daughter, Augusta, had married Evelina’s nephew, Edwin, and now lived nearby. Evelina felt a connection to the family, although it may be that the family did not feel a connection to her. She never mentions Augusta’s mother, Lavarna, for instance, in the roll of ladies who call on her, though she did host the Pool family at tea in January when Augusta and Edwin were married. It’s possible that the Pool women disliked her. Perhaps they were jealous of her social success in marrying Oakes Ames. Your thoughts, readers?

 

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

September 28, 1852

Pillows

Tuesday Sept 28th  Have two girls and yet Im

about house a great deal of my time

I fear I do not manage right  To day

I have sewed but very little have been

preparing for the sewing circle and have

cut out 6 prs of pillow cases & put them

out to whiten and 5 sheets.  This evening

have written to Mr Norris about our piannos

 

Evelina struggled to manage the servant girls. Was it her fault or theirs? Was Evelina too lenient, or demanding, or unappreciative? Were the young women ill trained, or naturally inept, or uncertain about their responsibilities? Evelina was inclined to blame herself.

She needed their help today, too, as she was getting ready to host this month’s meeting of the Unitarian Sewing Circle. Evelina hadn’t held a meeting of the Circle at her house for nineteen months, since her unsuccessful attempt back on February 12, 1851. On that occasion, bad weather and disinclination or indifference on the part of other Circle members had resulted in a no show of anyone except the immediate family. She had given a party that no one came to. She had been mortified, but soon recovered.

Did the memory of that embarrassment surface today as she was cleaned house, prepared food, and cut out pillow cases to be sewn? She doesn’t say. She had moved on, perhaps, and was more interested in thinking about the new pianos to come than revisiting an old grievance.

But would her fellow needlewomen show up tomorrow?

September 27, 1852

 

ohIsesowicked

“Oh! I’se So Wicked”

Sheet Music from George Aiken’s Theatre Production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

featuring Caroline Fox Howard as Topsy

Monday Sept 27th We have done some washing to day and

some housecleaning  I have been to work

about house most of the time  The gardener

has taken up the plants and I washed 

the pots and brought them into the dining

room  Carried my sewing into Edwins

this morning  Augusta is getting quite smart

The weather is delightful

Laundry, choring, and gardening were on Evelina’s agenda this Monday. A gardener – perhaps an extra hand from the shovel shop – was putting the garden to bed. Under Evelina’s direction, no doubt, he dug up particular plants for her to pot and bring indoors. Her perennials, of course, would winter outside, but other plants – herbs among them, most likely – she would try to winter-over in her dining room, which must have been sunny and warm. What practiced forethought Evelina was using to prepare for winter on such a “delightful” September day.

Back on April 6, we saw Evelina and her daughter sewing indoors out of the way of a heavy spring snow storm. They and a friend passed the time reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a brand new novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was a phenomenal success, selling not only hundreds of thousands of copies in its first year, but becoming the best-selling book of the 19th century, after the Bible. The book’s popularity spawned a host of imitations, rebuttals, and theatrical interpretations. Modern historian David Reynolds has noted that, over time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s  “cultural power resulted not only from the novel but also from its many spin-offs – particularly plays, songs and films – that swayed millions who never read the novel.”*

On this very date, in fact, the first theatrical production of Beecher’s story premiered in Troy, New York (later to move to Albany and New York City.) Produced by George L. Aikens, the show Uncle Tom’s Cabin highlighted dramatic moments from the novel and added tableaux and musical numbers. Like other productions that would follow, the story was somewhat reinterpreted.  Aiken “slightly revised”* the plot, dispensing with some characters and inventing others, but kept the essential story line in tact. “Religion, thrills, comedy: the crowd-pleasing elements were all there.”*

The religious component of the story (and, in the north, the anti-slavery message) was enough of a draw to make theatre-going almost respectable, and drew many to the theatre who had never gone before. The play also offered its audience, for the very first time, a single-feature program rather than the variety fare that was usually staged. “The play appealed to audiences of all backgrounds and ages. Horace Greeley, William Lloyd Garrison, the young Mark Twain, and the even younger Henry James were among those who were deeply stirred by the play.”  Competitive versions soon sprung up, including one produced by P. T. Barnum. For decades before and after the Civil War, the story of Uncle Tom and Eliza was everywhere.

 

*David S. Reynolds, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, New York, 2011

 

September 26, 1852

IMG_1175_ParkPhaeton

A Phaeton owned by a Boston family, ca. 1850

 

Sunday Sept 26th  Stormy to day and only one carriage

has been to church  I was not well and staid

at home  Susan Went  It has cleared off pleasant

Frank Susan & self have been to mothers and

called to see Miss Alger about giving lessons

Have written a letter this evening to

Mrs Mower  Have not read at all to day

 

Old Oliver reported that “there was a little sprinklin[g] of rain to day.”* Evelina said it was “stormy.” The weather was in the eye of the beholder, it would appear. But Evelina wasn’t feeling well, so perhaps her condition affected her view out the window as she watched the lone carriage head south to the meeting house. She was feeling so poorly that she didn’t even read.

Both the weather and her spirits seemed to improve in the afternoon. With son Frank and daughter Susan, Evelina rode south to see her mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, at the family farm.  While in the vicinity, she “called to see Miss Alger about giving lessons.’ Piano lessons, she meant; Susie was going to play an instrument. The new piano had been bought primarily for Susan’s benefit, just as the one bought by Sarah Witherell – and Old Oliver, presumably – was primarily for the benefit of Emily Witherell. Under the paid guidance of Miss Alger (probably the M J Alger who had visited the house earlier in the month), the young cousins would learn to play.

Evelina and Sarah Witherell must have been delighted to see their daughters getting music lessons, something that neither of them had likely access to when they were growing up.

 

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

 

September 25, 1852

Music stool

 

Sat Sept 25th Louisa has a swelling on the back of

her hand which troubles her & she left this

morning and I have got Catharine Middleton

to stay untill next Wednesday when I expect

a new girl  Catharine made some squash

pies and finished the ironing. It has been about

most all the week  Helen & I have been to N Bridgewater

She had a tooth extracted  I got a Piano stool

Evelina was still spending money. In North Bridgewater (today’s Brockton) she bought a music stool to go with the new piano that was coming soon to her parlor. With her was niece Helen Angier Ames; the fifteen-year-old had a less enjoyable errand to accomplish: getting a tooth pulled. It’s interesting that Helen’s aunt, Evelina, and not her mother, Sarah Lothrop Ames, accompanied the girl to the dentist.

In the servant department, the new girl, Louisa McAvoy, departed today, having not even worked a full week. Evelina was really struggling to keep a household staff together. Catherine Middleton agreed to stay on and was helpful with the baking and ironing, the latter of which had taken “most all the week” to complete. We might wonder if Evelina ever missed Jane McHanna, the one servant who had been steady, if occasionally ill – the one whom Evelina had fired in June. Evelina had yet to really settle on a dependable replacement.

 

September 24, 1852

Giffard1852

Henri Giffard’s Dirigible  

Friday Sept 24th  Mr Ames & Oakes Angier went

to Boston and are going to New York for New

Jersey to night  I have been to work again about

house all day ironing and this that & tother

Catharine got my quilt out and has been

mending some stockings  Mr Rathbourne

returned to P[rovidence] this afternoon  Oliver carried him

to Mansfield  They went to Canton this afternoon

 

Today Evelina saw her husband and eldest son depart for New York and New Jersey, by way of Boston; that helps explain the extra laundry day yesterday. The men were off on shovel business and the fact that Oakes Angier went along suggests that he was enjoying good health. He was also learning the family trade.

Back at the house in North Easton, domesticity reigned, as usual. Even Evelina couldn’t quite keep track of all the little tasks she was addressing. It was simply “this that & tother.” Mending, ironing, quilting went on. Her son Oliver was riding here and there with his houseguest, Mr. Rathbourne.  It looks like the only son who was present at the shovel works was the youngest, Frank Morton.

Miles away from anyplace that any Ameses were traveling today, a steam-powered dirigible, lifted by hydrogen, rose in the air for the very first time. Hot air balloons had already ascended the skies in various places and for various lengths of time. The airship was new and different by virtue of its shape, design, and engine. Created by a Frenchman, Henri Giffard, the airship made its maiden voyage from Paris to Elancourt. It traveled 17 miles. The winds were too strong for it to return to Paris, as planned, but Giffard was nonetheless able to steer and turn the airship in its course. It was the shape of things to come.