November 20, 1852

700px-Boston_music_hall

Boston Music Hall, 1852*

1852

Sat Nov 20th  I have been puttering about

house all day again  scoured the solar lamp

with acid & whiting and it took a long

while to get the varnish off  Miss Sarah

& Jane Burrell came here with their 

brother and stopt about two hours I

went with them to the new shop

The solar lamp that Evelina polished today was probably the most modern lighting in the whole house. Solar lamps, so called because their “illumination was thought to be comparable to sunlight”**, had a “central draft Argand burner with a spiral wick raiser” and a deflector cap that drew more oxygen to the flame. These were fine points for table lamps that still used whale oil but would soon use Kerosene, and which had pretty well replaced candlesticks in the homes of most settled communities.

Many solar lamps were made by Henry N. Hooper & Company of Boston.  Hooper ran a foundry that made lighting fixtures and bells and, during the Civil War, also made artillery for the Union Army. As a young man, Hooper had begun his career working in a foundry for Paul Revere. What changes he saw!

Other changes were afoot. The Boston Music Hall opened in the city on this date on Winter Street and Hamilton Place. It was paid for by the Harvard Musical Association, a group of Harvard graduates dedicated to promoting music. The Handel and Haydn Society played the inaugural concert and, three decades later, the site became the first home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The hall was also used for lectures, and hosted a huge gathering of abolitionists on December 31,1862 to celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Tubman were among the many who attended.*

*Wikipedia, accessed November 16, 2015

**Gerald T. Gowitt, 19th Century Elegant Lighting, Schiffer, 2002

 

 

November 19, 1852

 

images

 

Friday Nov 19th  Have heat the brick oven

three times have baked Apple squash

& mince pies & […] bread & ginger snaps

Mr Adriance here from New York to

spend the night  I guess he thinks

we are nice folks here & that I look 

neat.  Catharine [entry incomplete]

Thanksgiving was less than a week away, so housewives and servants across Easton were beginning to prepare. Just as we do in the 21st century, family members would gather for the holiday, often arriving to stay for a number of days. Thus not only did the grand feast itself have to be prepared, but all the breakfasts, dinners and teas leading up to and following Thanksgiving had to be amplified as well. No wonder Evelina was baking such an abundance of food. Her immediate family was already all in place, but others would be joining them.

In fact, the Ameses had company today, a Mr. Adriance from New York – probably a business associate of Oakes, perhaps someone who purchased shovels. Evelina never seemed to mind setting an extra place at the table and Mr. Adriance evidently admired her. She looked “neat.” What fun for her to be complimented this way. Do we think that Oakes noticed?

 

November 18, 1852

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Thursday Nov 18th  Catharine & Ann have cleaned

the buttery and it has taken them both all

day and I see to putting most of the dishes

back  Mixed my meat for mince pies

Wrote a note to Mrs Ames to send by

Mr Swain tomorrow with a gold thimble

Called in Olivers  Augusta there this evening

 

For all the sewing that Evelina did, this is the first entry where she mentions a thimble. The approximate particulars seem to be that Evelina asked her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, to get a gold thimble to be sent – as a gift? – to Ann Swain. Sarah Ames must have been planning to go to Boston the next day. Readers, your interpretation?

Whatever the circumstances were around this gold thimble, there’s no question that women used thimbles to sew. A thimble was worn on the tip of the finger to push the needle through the fabric. Simple enough, and time-honored. Thimbles have been found dating from BC, the earliest ones made of metal or leather or wood. Brass eventually became a standard material, although versions made of glass, ceramic, or even whalebone were made as well. Silver and gold, of course, were at the high end of the spectrum and often became heirlooms. Although the sewing machine would soon enter the market and alter the sewing habits of most women, thimbles would remain a tool for anyone using a needle and thread.

Not all the day was spent on sewing concerns. Evelina and her servants cleaned the buttery (or pantry) and made mincemeat. Old Oliver and his men were still outside where, in a “chilly” wind, they “finisht geting the manure of[f] our hog yard.” Surely everyone was pleased to finish that noisome task.

 

 

November 17, 1852

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Girl’s dress, mid-19th century

Wedns Nov 17th  Miss Alger has been here to

day and has given her 12th lesson and 

dined here.  Mrs S Ames & self have been

to North Bridgewater  Emily & Susan

went with us  I got Susan a plaid

dress but do not feel satisfied with it

 

In the 19th century, girls often wore plaid; Susan Ames was no exception. Her mother got her a plaid dress in North Bridgewater (today’s Brockton) but ended up unhappy with the purchase. Did Evelina buy an actual dress or the material to make the dress? Probably the latter, as this is what she has done previously. Also, we must remember that “off-rack” clothing really was not yet on the market.

One thing we don’t read about today is the ongoing tussle between Evelina and her daughter over the piano. The teacher, Miss Alger, had been at the house for the 12th lesson for Emily and Susan, and there is no mention of lack of skill or failure to practice on Susie’s part. She must have been getting the hang of the new instrument and perhaps was even beginning to enjoy it.

After the lesson, Susan and Emily got to ride to North Bridgewater on the shopping excursion with Evelina and their aunt, Sarah Lothrop Ames. There must have been no school on this day, so the girls got to enjoy the sunshine.

 

 

November 16, 1852

 

november-star-map

November sky, Northern Hemisphere**

Tuesday Nov 16th  We have cleaned the sitting

room and closets and got the carpet back

and the room in order again except

washing the pictures  Catharine

is very slow about cleaning & it takes

Ann all the time to do the house

work and we accomplish but very little

More deep cleaning of the house today, although not accomplished as expeditiously as Evelina would have liked. Not for the first time, she expresses discontent about her servants, a complaint that we have heard since the days of Jane McHanna. Were her servants really as slow as she suggests, or was she simply more efficient than they?

“[T]his was a fair cold day with a high west wind,”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. The sun would have set early, naturally, and the sky would have been bright with stars, brighter and clearer than most of us can see them today. It was probably too cold tonight for star-gazing, but we might wonder if the Ameses ever studied the night sky, for that was a favorite pastime in many families. Stories of various constellations were told and great myths about Greek gods and goddesses were passed along to new generations.

In fact, in England, on this very date, there was an astronomer named John Russell Hind who was studying the night sky, though not for the old narratives tucked around the constellations. He was interested in what we now know is a belt of asteroids that circles the earth. Hind was one of the first discoverers of asteroids. Over time, he identified ten of them (along with a few stars) and gave them female names: Iris, Flora, Victoria, Irene, Melpomene, Fortuna, Kalliope, Thalia, Euterpe and Urania. On this occasion, Kalliope – known more formally as 22 Kalliope – was the large, bright asteroid that he located. Because of his respected work, Hind was appointed president of the Royal Astrological Society in 1880.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives

** Image courtesy of http://www.outerspaceuniverse.org 

 

 

 

November 15, 1852

Flying-Cloud

“Flying Cloud”

Monday Nov 15  Catharine & Ann have washed

and Catharine has finished cleaning 

the front entry  I have got the 

stair carpet down and the entry

looks clean & nice  we get ahead

rather slowly in cleaning house

“[T]his was a fair cold day the coldest we have had this fall the ground froze considerable last night”.* As winter approached, the Ames family turned their focus indoors. Like Evelina, housewives and husbands across New England were looking to get their houses in order and the last outdoor chores finished before winter weather arrived.

Even as the Ameses and others turned inward, more adventurous spirits took to the sea. In fact, throughout 1852, captains and their crews had been making long-distance sailing trips from various ports in the Northeast around the Horn to California. Even as Evelina was beating her carpets, a group of clippers were racing one another over the deep blue to see who could make the best time to San Francisco from Boston or New York. Some newspapers called it The Deep Sea Derby.**

Clipper ships, such as the famous Flying Cloud in the illustration above (which, at 89 days and 8 hours from New York to San Francisco, independently set the record for the fastest trip of any clipper ship) were the vessels of choice for speedy deliver of passengers and cargo. They were thin, full-sailed and sea-worthy, tending to “clip” along rather than plough through the waves. Originally designed to accelerate the tea trade from China, clippers became the ideal ship for ferrying folks to California while the Gold Rush was on.

Donald McKay, a master shipbuilder in East Boston, designed and built many of the finest clipper ships of the day. He designed Flying Cloud, and had several vessels participating in the Deep Sea Derby as well, including Westward Ho, Sovereign of the Seas, and Flying Fish, the latter of which won the contest by making the journey in 92 days. Most ships took more than 100 days to make the journey.

Though the race was spirited, and not without danger, its future was limited. The railroad would push west within a score of years, cutting into the sailing trade, and the creation of the Panama Canal at the turn of the next century would obviate the need to sail around the Horn.

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

**Extensive information about this race can be found at http://www.maritimeheritage.org. 

 

November 14, 1852

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Sunday Nov 14  Went to church all day

Mother Augustus wife & self went

to Mr Whitwells at noon  she gave

us a cup of tea cake &c &c  Oakes A

Orinthia & Lavinia rode to see Ellen Howard

John & Rachel spent the day at Edwins

I called there with Orinthia and at Mr

Torreys

 

Evelina and her family were very sociable this Sunday at intermission and after church. But today’s entry is most notable because it’s the last one in which Evelina mentions Orinthia Foss (at least for the diaries we have.) Orinthia was a twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Maine who boarded with the Ames family for a time in 1851. She and Evelina got to be great  – and sometimes mischievous – friends despite their age difference. After Orinthia moved to Bridgewater to teach, the friendship faded. Yet the two women remained companionable on those occasions like today when their paths crossed.

Orinthia would not remain in Massachusetts much longer, although we don’t know for certain when she returned to Maine. We do know that by the end of the decade, she had married a widower named Dana Goff, a railroad conductor living in Farmington, Maine. With that marriage, she gained a teenage stepdaughter, Julia, and soon became a mother of her own two boys, Herbert Dana and Ralph. Like other mothers before her, she had the sorrow of losing Herbert Dana at an early age, but was able to raise Ralph. Around 1880, the Goffs moved to Auburn where Mr. Goff became a real estate agent.

By 1910, Orinthia was a widow living with her younger sister, Florida (or Flora) Foss Hill in Auburn. She died in Newcastle, Maine, of heart disease, when she was 84. She is buried in the Goff family plot in Auburn, Maine.

November 13, 1852

Turnip

Sat Nov 13th  Have cleaned the parlour

but did not take up the carpet

gave it a thourough sweeping and

washed the paint  Miss Alger has

been here and given the girls their

eleventh lesson  Mrs Oliver Ames

has been to Boston  got Helen a cloak

 

Evelina stayed indoors today, perhaps envious that her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames was shopping in Boston. Sarah bought her daughter Helen a cloak. Do we imagine that Evelina might soon head for the city to buy one for her daughter Susan?

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was still busy outdoors on several fronts, including the harvesting of turnips, as he reported: “this was a fair day but pritty chilly we got in some [of] our turnips to day*”. Turnips were an important vegetable crop that kept well over the winter, making it a staple in most households. Botanist Judith Sumner notes that “as early as 1609, colonists […] cultivated turnips. […] Cold weather improved their flavor, so it may not be coincidental that a November 1637 letter from John Winthrop to his wife instructed her to harvest their crop while he was away.”** Native Americans adopted the vegetable themselves, preferring it to other edible roots that they had previously gathered.

Turnips were still standard fare at the 19th century New England dinner table, typically prepared just as Sarah Josepha Hale suggests:

Turnips should be pared; put into boiling water, with a little salt; boiled till tender; then squeeze them thoroughly from the water, mash them smooth, add a piece of butter and a little pepper and salt.***

Surely there would be mashed turnips served at Thanksgiving.

 

 

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

**Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004, p. 30

*** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 74

 

November 12, 1852

Bottle

Friday Nov 12th

We have cleaned the store room

and Franks chamber cleaned bottles

without number  I spent most of

the forenoon about them  Mr White

got me 18 cts work of corks

Have sewed none at all  Scalded

over my ketchup & bottled it

It was time to put up the ketchup Evelina had made into glass bottles, so she went on a hunt today to pull old bottles out of the store room – and out of Frank Morton Ames’s room. Why did Frank have “bottles without number” in his chamber? The bottles were empty, presumably, but what had they contained? This was a temperance household, so Frank wouldn’t have been stashing bottles of alcohol under his cot unless he was prepared to face some serious consequences. Perhaps he took the occasional elixir (which often included alcohol as an ingredient) for his health.

The corks that Evelina obtained from Mr. White would have been imported, probably from Spain or Portugal. She used them to stop up the bottles of ketchup, perhaps dipping them first in wax to make them as airtight as possible.

Old Oliver reported that  “it was cloudy this morning and it began to rain before noon wind southerly. it cleard of[f] about sun sett and there was an inch of rain fell”*

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

November 11, 1852

alcott_lou

Louisa May Alcott

(1832 – 1888)

Thursday Nov 11th

Ann & Catharine has cleaned the shed chamber

and sitting room chamber & I have been 

putting draws & closets in order.

Mr Ames & self at Olivers to tea  Mr &

Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader there

Commenced Susan an Angola yarn stocking

 

For Evelina, this was a productive day. Her servants, Ann Shinkwin and Catharine Murphy, cleaned the shed and the sitting room, while she herself reorganized “draws & closets”. She must have felt quite satisfied having put two key rooms in order. Come evening, she and her husband went next door to tea where they visited not only with the Oliver Ameses, but also with Ann and John Swain and Ann’s mother, Sarah Bliss Meader. Mrs. Meader was from Nantucket; she must have been visiting in the wake of the death of little John Swain.

For Louisa May Alcott, a 19th century author who should need no introduction, this was an important day. Some literary sources have it that Miss Alcott, using the name “Flora Fairfield,” published her first story, The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome, on this exact date, when the author was barely twenty years old. However, closer examination suggests that The Rival Painters first appeared back on May 8 in The Olive Branch, a periodical published in Boston from 1836 through 1857.  A second story, easily confused with the first, was The Rival Prima Donnas, which was published on this date in 1854 in The Saturday Evening Gazette, earning the author five dollars.

Regardless of the scholastic disagreement over the first appearance in print of Louisa May Alcott, we can imagine that Evelina was exposed to her writing at various times from this year onward. Surely Evelina read other short stories and novels by this increasingly famous author. If she developed an affection for the author’s work, Evelina would have read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys and been as familiar with the triumphs and travails of the March family as devoted readers still are 160 years later.

*A fine resource for readers wanting to know more about Louisa May Alcott is “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women,” by Harriet Reisen, New York, 2009.