Tues Nov 23 Catharine & self have been mending
shirts &c all day It being very stormy I
thought it a good time to mend
Frederick & Helen came home to night
Susan & self have been in to see them
Fred brought me a crumb brush cost 75 cts
Ann has done the housework and cut
squash & apple for tomorrow
“[T]he ground was white with snow this morning, but was a raining + took it all of[f] by noon there was a bout half an inch of water fell”* on this late November day; people in Easton had yet to see a serious snowfall. Although the storm kept Evelina indoors, the lack of snow was actually a help to travelers like Fred and Helen Ames, who were making their way home for the holiday.
Fred Ames brought his Aunt Evelina a gift. What was better, that she received a crumb brush or that her nephew spent 75 cents on it? That amount would translate to about $17.50 in today’s (2015) market. Either way, she was pleased with the gift, which she would no doubt place with pride on her dining table.
Most of us modern readers probably don’t keep a crumb brush handy at our dinner tables, although we’ve seen modern versions in use in restaurants. But then, most of us probably no longer dine on pressed and laundered tablecloths at home, at least on a regular basis. Placemats are more common. (Readers weigh in here, please.) But in 1852, formal dining on snowy white tablecloths was aspired to as the middle class rose above their agrarian past of eating without linens. The dining room itself became more popular as families found the means to support more servants and rise to a style of living that involved a clear separation between cooking and dining. The notion of today’s open kitchen, where guests sip wine on stools and watch the hostess – or host! – cook dinner would be absolutely foreign to Evelina. Our lack of damask would shock her and her contemporaries.
*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tobias Collection