June 1, 1852


Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)

Photograph by Matthew Brady


Tuesday June 1st  Have been to Boston with

Mrs Witherell Mrs S Ames Helen & Emily

Called at Mr Orrs the first place met

the other ladies at half past nine at Mr

Daniells & Co.  Was trying to get a bonnet

most all day at last got materials for a lace 

one  Went to Doe & Hasletons about my consol

Mrs Norris met us at half past two

Most of the Ames females decamped North Easton today and went into the city.  Even Sarah Witherell, dressed in black, rode into Boston to go shopping. Were her sisters-in-law hoping to cheer her up with an outing?

While Evelina and “the other ladies” went about Boston “most all day” in earnest pursuit of bonnets, furniture and more, a group of politicians was gathered in Baltimore some 400 miles south. The Democrats were holding their national convention for the nomination of their next presidential candidate.  Among the ten to twelve gentlemen in the running were Senators Lewis Cass of Michigan, Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Sam Houston of Texas, Governor Philip Allen of Rhode Island, former Secretary of State James Buchanan, and former Senator Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. The latter, a dark horse candidate, was chosen.

Franklin Pierce would win the next election and serve as President from 1853 through 1857. Known as “Handsome Frank,” a sociable fellow with a difficult personal life and a probable addiction to alcohol, Pierce was an accomplished politician and fierce opponent of abolition. Once in office, he signed the inflammatory Kansas-Nebraska Act, then failed to be renominated for a second term. His purported response was “There’s nothing left to do but get drunk.”

After the Democrats’ gathering, another presidential convention would shortly be held in the same Baltimore hall, the Maryland Institute for the Mechanical Arts.  This time, the Whig Party would meet and nominate Gen.Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican-American War.  Scott was the candidate that the Ames men would support.  The Ames women couldn’t vote, of course.

July 25, 1851

Wine glass

Friday 25th July  Was expecting to go to Boston with

Mr Ames & Susan in the wagon but it was

misty & cloudy and we gave up going.  It cleared

up very pleasant about nine  I pick[ed] some 

currants for some wine.  Jane strained them

About ten Oclock Augustus carried me up to

see his new heir, found mother & babe comfortable

Evelina was disappointed not to travel into Boston today; the possibility of bad weather put her off the jaunt. However, she got to see William Gilmore, her new great-nephew.  Her niece-in-law, Hannah Lincoln Gilmore, and the baby seemed to be doing well, which must have been a relief. In an era when childbirth could be dangerous for mother and infant, Hannah and Willie were doing fine.

But what was going on in the kitchen at the Ames house? Evelina and servant Jane McHanna were making wine from the currants off the bushes in the back yard. Why did they do this? Alcohol was never served at the Ames house. As Sarah Josepha Hale, author of The Good Housekeeper, a popular cook book, stated emphatically, “t]here is one rule for drinks which no woman should violate – never make any preparation of which alcohol forms a part for family use!”

Yet here was alcohol being prepared in Evelina’s own kitchen.  Rather than being made to be served as a beverage, however, it was being prepared for culinary and medicinal purposes and, for such cases, it was evidently permissible. In cooking, wine or cider could be used as a preservative in mincemeat pies, for instance.  An even more viable use was as medicine for the sick.  In Little Women, Mr. March stores away some wine bottles for his invalid daughter, Beth. In Evelina’s kitchen, the homemade wine would probably be served to someone who became ill and needed a tonic. A drink called wine whey, made from strained wine and milk, was a common treatment for fever and other ailments. Wine had its uses; distilled liquors did not.

* Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841



June 2, 1851




June 2d Monday  This morning being washing day I had to

work about house and have not sewed much

all day  Miss Linscott returned this morning

(I think her to be a very pleasant girl)

Worked in the flower garden a couple hours

this afternoon  Have carried my bonnet to

S Copeland to have it sewed over.  Spent most

of the afternoon in the other part of the house. Very pleasant


Pleasant skies and a light breeze made for easy drying of the Monday laundry.  Old Oliver reported that “it was cloudy + cool in the fore noon + fair + warm in the afternoon wind southwest + west.” He also noted that “Mr Buck went to Ohio.” Who was Mr. Buck? There were many by that name in Easton at the time.

In nearby Maine, something historic happened today, something that surely pleased Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames Jr..  Maine became the first state to enact a statewide prohibition on the sale or manufacture of alcoholic beverages.  Known as the “Maine Law,” the legislation was spearheaded by Neal Dow, the mayor of Portland, and signed by John Hubbard, governor of the state.  The men became known respectively as the “Napoleon of Temperance” and the “Father of Prohibition.”  Neal Dow, a Temperance Whig, was particularly prominent in his life-long campaign to rid the country of drink.

The vote in Maine was a result of an aggressive effort by temperance advocates across the country to stop the sale of alcohol. No headway had been made on the national level, so activists had organized to effect change at the state and county level, an effort that resulted in some short-term success and much long-term failure.  They had their work cut out for them.  During the 19th century, the average American consumed at least three times more alcohol than the average American in the 21st.**

Dow’s legislation didn’t hold up. Enforcement was inadequate, bootlegging became rampant and the law was repealed in 1858. The sale of alcohol resumed. The battle in Maine had ended, but the national war over alcohol would last well into the 20th century.

* Neal Dow (1804 – 1897), the “Napoleon of Temperance”

** Wikipedia






March 30, 1851



March 30 Sunday  Have not been to meeting at all to day.  My

cold is very troublesome have a very bad head ache.

could not read much.  Mr Cyrus Lothrop 3d called this 

evening & Frederick, Oakes Angier & Orinthia rode

down to Mr E Howards this evening.  Mrs Howard

has gone to Nashua to make a visit.  Mother returned

home from meeting  A very fine day

I commenced making fire in the furnace

Evelina continued feeling poorly today. After yesterday’s helping of the commercial elixir, Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry, one can’t help but wonder if her headache was, in fact, a symptom of hangover from the alcohol she unknowingly ingested.

The consumption of alcohol was absolutely forbidden at the Ames’s house.  Both Oakes and his brother Oliver Jr took a temperance pledge early on, and kept it. They hoped their workmen would follow their example. In this they differed from their father who, in his heyday of running the shovel works, had allowed his workers a ration of rum as part of their regular routine.  Old Oliver’s habits had been learned in the 18th century, which had a more lenient attitude about liquor.  In the 19th century, however, tolerance of alcohol disappeared. Temperance became the banner of the day, its support increasing yearly and culminating, ultimately, in the Prohibition amendment in the 20th.

In the Ames dining room, even something as mild as cider was frowned upon.  Cider was considered by some at a “gateway” beverage to liquor and hard spirits; others found it innocuous. Evelina kept some in the pantry to put in her mince pies but never served it at table.  Once, however, she offered a tumbler of cider to her future son-in-law, Henry French when he turned down a cup of coffee. Oakes admonished them both by stating flatly that, “No cider shall be drunk at my table.”

Alcohol was a controversial issue.  If Evelina had known that the medicine she was taking was laced with alcohol, she might not have indulged.  If Oakes had known, he wouldn’t have allowed her.

*Advertisement from ca. 1900.