October 24, 1852

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Sarah Josepha Hale 

(1788 – 1879)

Sunday Oct 24th  Mrs Davenport, Miss Alger & self

staid at home in the morning and I cooked

a dinner  Martin Carr came home with

them at noon and was here to dine  We all

went to meeting this afternoon  Mrs D & Miss

Alger played and sang and we have had a pleasant evening

Evelina played hostess on this Sabbath Day, staying home from the morning church service to be with her female guests and to cook a dinner. Between services, the men came home for the meal, bringing Martin Carr with them. Martin, who was Oakes Angier’s age, was the son of Caleb Carr, a long-time employee of the shovel shop. Martin was a jeweler by trade; perhaps he knew Edward Davenport, a jeweler in Attleboro, who was staying with the Ameses.

The socializing continued in the evening with tea and entertainment. Both Celestine Davenport and Miss Alger “played and sang.”  What fun to have music in the parlor. Perhaps Susie Ames was inspired by the pleasure that piano playing produced.

Evelina wouldn’t have known it, or acknowledged it particularly if she had, but today was the birthday of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular periodical of the day for women. Her first editing job, which she took on as a young widow with five children, was for The Ladies Magazine in Boston. After Ladies merged with Lady’s, in 1836 – 1837, Mrs. Hale moved to Philadelphia and became the “editress,” – a term she preferred – of Godey’s for the next forty years. While there, she published the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, Washington Irving, Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher – among other authors whose writing has not held up as well through the decades.

Mrs. Hale did more than just read at a desk. While still living in Boston, she established the Seaman’s Aid Society to help the widows and orphans of men lost at sea. She raised a much-needed balance of funds for the completion of the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, the funding of which had stalled. Though many members of the stymied Monument Association assured Mrs. Hale that she couldn’t succeed, she raised tens of thousands of dollars from individual donors and from a week-long women’s craft fair that she organized at Quincy Market. The latter event alone – the first of its kind – raised more than $30,000 from the sale of domestic goods like homemade preserves, knitted scarves, hand-sewn aprons and caps, and specially donated items. She built the template for that kind of event.

Mrs. Hale also raised money for the maintenance of George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, which had fallen into disrepair. She championed the establishment of Vassar, the country’s first female liberal arts college. She promoted the advancement of education and employment for women, tirelessly. Most famous of all, she was able to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a pet project of hers that she had put forward to a line of presidents before him. Most disappointing of all, Sarah Hale never got on board the women’s suffrage movement. She believed that giving women the vote would lead them into politics, which was too disreputable and crafty a calling for the high moral stature of the true female mind.

There is much to be said about Sarah Josepha Hale. We must not forget that she was also an author. She wrote many of the articles in Godey’s, she penned novels, children’s books, household guides and poems. It was her pen that wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She was a phenomenal woman for her time.

October 23, 1852

Railway_Station,_Stoughton,_MA

Stoughton Railroad Station, built 1888*

 

1852

Saturday Oct 23d Baked in the brick oven brown

bread cake & pies  After I got the first

oven full I had pies enough for a second

and I put the brown bread with the

stove oven and heat the brick oven again

Oakes A & Susan went to Stoughton after

Fred and then after Miss Alger and she has

given her sixth lesson Mr & Mrs Davenport &

child came this evening from Attleboro

Bread, cake, pies and more pies. There was so much baking going on at the Ames house that Evelina used both ovens, the new cast iron one and the original brick oven – the latter twice. What was all the baking about? Company was coming.

A young couple from Attleboro came for a visit: Edward Davenport, a jeweler, with his wife Celestine and their toddler, Annie. What was their connection to the Ames family? They stayed for several days. Also arriving for a stay was the piano teacher, Miss M. J. Alger. We might wonder how Susie Ames felt about that.

Susie helped pick up Miss Alger, in fact. She and her brother Oakes Angier drove around today, first to the train depot in Stoughton and then to Miss Alger’s house. At Stoughton, they met their cousin Fred Ames, who must have been coming home on a break from Harvard. The depot they went to was the earliest iteration of a train station in that town, built in the mid-1840s for the Old Colony Railroad. It was later replaced; today, the Romanesque stone building erected in 1888 is on the National Register, reminding us of the tremendous role that the railroad played in the second half of the 19th century – and well into the 20th.

What a full house Evelina had tonight. Where did she fit everyone?

*Image from 1901, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

October 22, 1852

 

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Tibetan Sheep, 21st century

Friday Oct 22d Julia Mahoney was here to work

this forenoon on Susans Maroon Thibot

making a new waist and put a new yoke

and making over the waist to her dark

striped wool deLaine  Carried home the

waist to finish to her Thibot dress  I spent

the afternoon at Olivers with Hannah + Augustus

Mr Whitwell called

 

Julia Mahoney, a local dressmaker, worked at Evelina’s sewing at least two dresses for Susan Ames. Susie, who was ten-going-on-eleven, was growing taller and more mature. The dresses she had worn the previous winter needed to be altered, the waists expanded, the tucks let out, a new yoke put in. One of her dresses was made of delaine, a wool that Evelina sewed often for herself and her daughter. It was a popular, open-weave, light-weight wool that came in many patterns and colors; it may or may not have been imported.

The “Thibot” cloth that Evelina describes was more unusual. It was of “[w]ool material, worsted with soft and smooth plain-finished face; made from mountain sheep of Thibet, Asia*.” This textile was imported and would have been more expensive, suggesting that Susie’s little maroon dress may have been meant for “Sunday best.” It was special enough that the dressmaker took it home to work on.

In Boston at this time, sources for wool were both domestic and foreign.  There were approximately 15 wool merchants in the city, most of whom were prospering. According to an early 20th century history:

“The quantity of domestic wool showed a steady decrease for several years subsequent to the enactment of the tariff of 1846. The effect of the gold discoveries upon general commerce in 1849, stimulating the manufacturing industry, is reflected in the rapidly increased imports of home grown wools. The imports of foreign wools show considerable yearly fluctuation, corresponding in the main to the varying quantities of domestic wools.”**

Some years later, Susie would marry a wool merchant named Henry French. She and Evelina would then – presumably – have access to whatever wool they needed or wanted, foreign or domestic.

*Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions, 1830-1910, Texas Tech University Press, 1988, p. 183

**Joseph T. Shaw, The Wool Trade of the United States: History of a Great Industry:Its Rise and Progress in Boston, Now the Second Market in the World, 1909, p. 52

October 21, 1852


Sarah Emily Witherell                                           Susan Eveline Ames French

Emily Witherell                                                                                   Susan Ames

 

1852

Thursday Oct 21st  Miss Alger came to day to give

her fifth lesson and Susan is now as far

as Emily but unless she takes more

interest it will be very hard for her

to keep up with her.  Mrs Witherell feels

to blame Miss Alger that she does not

give Emily longer lessons

 

Relationships among the females who lived under the roof of the Ames homestead were becoming strained. Susie Ames wasn’t much interested in learning to play the piano, while Emily Witherell was. Yet the cousins took their lessons together, yoked into learning side by side. Emily was facile and wanted more challenging fare, but was slowed down by Susie’s reluctant participation. The disparity in the girls’ interest and ability was no doubt challenging for poor Miss Alger. The situation wasn’t helped by the mothers hovering over the girls as they took their lessons.

The two mothers had their own set of expectations. Sarah Witherell, who had endured so much loss in her life, had nourished hope that her daughter would develop a taste and talent for music. Evelina probably felt the same way, hoping to see her daughter become “accomplished.” Sarah was unhappy that Miss Alger wasn’t giving Emily enough to do, and, also, was surely displeased with Susie holding Emily back. Evelina had to be disappointed by Susie’s disinterest, nervous, perhaps, that she had made an expensive mistake in buying a piano. Evelina was learning, probably not for the first time, that a parent can have aspirations for a child that the child doesn’t share or follow.

All was not lost, however. For all the initial struggle, both girls eventually learned to play piano with some credibility, yet neither grew up to be a great pianist. They never outshone their older cousin, Helen Angier Ames, who had started earlier and, evidently, concentrated harder on perfecting her skill. Family historian Winthrop Ames, who was a first cousin once-removed of the three pianists, noted that by 1861, at the “Unitarian meeting-house […] Helen, Emily and Susan took turns in playing the reed organ, though Helen was acknowledged to be the best performer.”*

 

Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1938, p. 130

 

October 20, 1852

piano_voice_guitar_lessons

Wednesday Oct 20th  Have been expecting Miss Alger

all day but she has not come  Have been

trying to assist Susan some about her

music lessons and it hinders me about

my work very much  I wish it was not

such an effort for her to practice.

A gentleman here to dine from New York.

 

It’s easy to imagine the affable Oakes Ames inviting visitors to dine. He was a sociable man, for all his competitive spirit, and had a fine sense of humor.  He knew that his wife took pride in her home, that she could act the hostess and that she – or her servants – prepared a midday meal hearty enough to feed him and his grown sons. How much warning he might have given her that he was bringing someone over from the shovel office for dinner, we can’t know. But Evelina seemed prepared to feed guests as well as her own family, and she no doubt welcomed the gentleman from New York.

The meal preparations were usually left to the servants, of course, although Evelina supervised. Today, however, her focus was on her daughter and the new piano. She was unhappy with Susan’s evident disinterest in the instrument. The girl wasn’t practicing her scales and lessons as she should have been.

When Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Witherell, purchased the pianos and arranged for Susan and Emily to take lessons, Evelina likely had imagined that she was doing her daughter a favor, giving her a gift that she herself had never gotten. But Evelina was disappointed, as things didn’t turn out the way she expected. Susan wouldn’t practice so, for now, Evelina had to intervene and “assist.”

 

October 19, 1852

 

Gentiana-crinita-Fringed-Gentian-plant

Fringed gentian (Gentiana Crinita)

Oct 19th Tuesday  Have been sewing on Susans

fall de Laine that I bought last summer

and it appears to me that it will never

be finished  I get along so slowly on it

Ann has ironed the coloured clothes

Catharine sewing

“[P]ritty fair,”* today was. Evelina spent much of the day – more time than she wished, in fact – working on a dress for her daughter Susan. The material was delaine, a light wool that should have been easy to sew, but for some reason Evelina was going along “so slowly” that she just couldn’t see the end of it. Perhaps she wished she could be outdoors, instead. Her servant Catharine Murphy was also sewing, most likely on a project that Evelina would have assigned her to do. Evelina occasionally gave material to her girls to sew their own aprons or simple dresses with.

Another diarist, not far away, definitely preferred to be outdoors. In Concord, Henry David Thoreau went for a walk and found the very last flowers of the season:

“I see the dandelion blossoms in the path. The buds of the skunk-cabbage already show themselves in the meadow […] I found the fringed gentian now somewhat stale and touched by frost […] It may have been in bloom a month. It has been cut off by the mower, and apparently has put out in consequence a mass of short branches full of flowers. This may make it later. I doubt if I can find one naturally grown. At this hour the blossoms are tightly rolled and twisted, and I see that the bees have gnawed round holes in their sides to come at the nectar. They have found them, though I had not. “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen” by man. An hour ago I doubted if fringed gentians were in Concord now, but, having found these, they as it were surrender […] It is too remarkable a flower not to be sought out and admired each year, however rare. It is one of the errands of the walker, as well as of the bees, for it yields him a more celestial nectar still. It is a very singular and agreeable surprise to come upon this conspicuous and handsome and withal blue flower at this season, when flowers have passed out of our minds and memories; the latest of all to begin to bloom, unless it be the witch-hazel, when, excepting the latter, flowers are reduced to the small Spartan cohort, hardy, but the most part unobserved, which linger till the snow buries them, and those interesting reappearing flowers which, though fair and fresh and tender, hardly delude us with the prospect of a new spring, and which we pass by indifferent, as if they only bloomed to die. Vide Bryant’s verses on the Fringed Gentian. […] It is remarkable how tightly the gentians roll and twist up at night, as if that were their constant state. Probably those bees were working late that found it necessary to perforate the flower.”**

Much as Evelina enjoyed flowers, we might doubt that she would have been as eloquent about seeing the late-blooming gentian in the meadow as Thoreau.

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

*Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1852, courtesy of http://hdt.typepad.com/henrys_blog/2010/10/october-19-1852.html

October 18, 1852

apples-easy-stewed-lrg

 

Monday Oct 18th  Ann Shinkwin commenced working

for wages this day, and she does very well

got the washing out with Catharines help

quite early not much past ten. This afternoon

she has been putting some apples to stew

I have been puttering about house and 

sewing some but my work does not amount

to much any way.

The new servant, Ann, was going right to work. She and Catharine Murphy did the laundry, of course, it being Monday. The two women then presumably cooked and served the midday meal, and did the washing up, while Evelina was “puttering about the house.” In the afternoon, Ann began to pare and slice apples to cook.

Evelina says that Ann was going to stew the apples, which sounds like a sensible way to process some of the surfeit of apples that she clearly had on hand. Sarah Josepha Hale, ever ready to advise women on sensible practices in the kitchen, offers the following recipe for stewing fruit:

The best way to stew any kind of fruit is to put the quantity you wish to cook into a wide-mouthed jar, with enough brown sugar to sweeten it; then cover the jar close, set it in a kettle of cold water, and boil it till the fruit is tender. This preserves the flavor of the fruit.

Evelina or her servant may have followed their own recipe for cooking sliced apples. But there’s no question that along with applesauce, apple butter, dried apples and apple pies, stewed apples was one more way that the nineteenth century housewife could serve fruit to her family now and over the winter and spring.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 91