August 3, 1852

Hpr HaravrdTraining-s

Harvard Crew Training on the Charles River, ca. 1869*

August 3d 1852

Tuesday  Cut out a linen & moire skirt for Catharine

to make and Susan a night gown  I have

at last got my travelling dress done  I believe

cape and all.  How provoking it is to have

to alter so much  Julia Mahoney has been

to work for Mrs Witherell making a Borage Delaine

Augusta & Mrs McHanna were here this afternoon

For Evelina, this was a fairly ordinary day of sewing and socializing. Her big news was that she “at last” completed her new traveling outfit.

In the annals of American sports, however, this was no ordinary day.  In a two-mile regatta on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, under a bright blue sky, Harvard beat Yale in the very first intercollegiate athletic competition ever held in the U.S.A. Harvard’s  Oneida beat both of Yale’s boats, Shawmut and Undine. The first prize, a pair of black walnut oars, was presented to the Crimson team by one of the six judges, soon-to-be-president Franklin Pierce. Today, those oars are the oldest intercollegiate athletic prize in North America**. The contest itself has since moved to New London, Connecticut. It recently celebrated its 150th anniversary (not having been held in consecutive years in its earliest iteration.)

The contest was initiated by Yale, who “issued a challenge to Harvard ‘to test the superiority of the oarsmen of the two colleges.'”* According to the written recollection of James Morris Whiton, Yale Class of 1853 and bow oar of Undine, “[t]he race was supposed to be a frolic, and no idea was entertained of establishing a precedent.”*** The enthusiasm of the participants and the entertainment of the spectators, however, insured that a tradition had been born. Anticipation for the event had been high, so much so that the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad footed the bill for the event, believing it would attract visitors to the area. The excursion trains it set up arrived loaded with visitors.

The oarsmen themselves were so enthused about the occasion that they tried to arrange a dance at the inn where they were staying. According to Whiton, “Many of the College boys stayed at the Pemigewasset House, Plymouth, and it occurred to them it would be pleasant to give a ‘hop’, and invite the rural beauties of the town to the festivities. With this end in view, they applied to the landlord of the hostelry and received this reply: ‘Ye can hav the hall, young men, if ye want a gander dance, but ye won’t get no gal timber there, I tell ye.'”

No doubt the failure to dance with some of the “rural beauties” was a disappointment, but otherwise the race and its aftermath were entirely successful. By 1875, thirteen eastern colleges offered crew.


Image from Harper’s Weekly, 1869

**Harvard Athletic Association, Courtesy of

*** Wikipedia, accessed July 30, 2015

****James Morris Whiton, “The Story of the First Harvard-Yale Regatta by a Bow Oar,” published in The Outlook, June 1, 1901 and privately printed with photographs of Lake Winnipesaukee and of the course of the race.




July 24, 1852



Unknown woman holding dead child*

July 24 Sat  have been to work to day on

a number of things setting a stich here 

& there  Julia has been here to fix my

skirt and I believe my dress is done at

last  I have made a robe for Mrs

Shepherds child who died this morning

Abby Savage came after me to watch but

I am not well and did not go.  Rachel came 

to Edwins after Julia & called here and I went

in there an hour or two


Dressmaker Julia Mahoney was at Evelina’s finishing up the barege dress that had taken so long to make. The traveling dress was put to one side, as Evelina was called upon to sew a shroud for a two-year old boy who had died just a few hours earlier. John T. Shepherd was the only child of a young shoemaker named John and his even younger wife, Elvira. The toddler was the first youngster that we hear of to die during the hot summer. Unfortunately, there would be others.

Hannah Savage, right in the neighborhood, was ill with consumption and would never get better. Her daughter Abby Savage “came after” Evelina to help keep vigil in the night, but Evelina didn’t feel up to the task. She felt well enough, however, to receive a call from her niece Rachel Gilmore Pool and to visit Edwin and Augusta Pool Gilmore across the street.

Old Oliver sounded another concern about the lack of rain: “it is extreemly dry now.”**


*Daguerrotype, 1850

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

July 13, 1852




Tuesday July 13  Julia Mahoney came to work this

morning and cut the waist to my borage

dress and went home at noon.  Mr Ames

went to Canton and I begged the chance

to go with him & we called at Mr Kinsleys

Saw the ladies of the family & two Mr Peabodys

of Boston  Called on Mrs Atherton

The first few days of this particular week were proving be “verry warm days. + pritty good hay days.”* Old Oliver had to be pleased.

After a morning of sewing a new barege dress with her dressmaker, Evelina “begged the chance” to ride east and north with her husband to Canton, where they visited Lyman and Louisa Kinsley. The Kinsleys, of course, were business associates but also friends, and they and their twenty-one year-old daughter, Lucy, happened to be entertaining visitors from Boston, “two Mr Peabodys.”

The Peabody brothers had called on the Kinsleys to be sociable, certainly, but one of them had a romantic motive. Francis Howard Peabody, also aged twenty-one, was courting Miss Lucy; the two would wed in 1854. They would have three children, a boy followed by two girls. Their little boy, Frank Everett Peabody, would become a founding member of a famous Boston brokerage firm, Kidder and Peabody.

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

July 7, 1851




1851 July 7th  This morning being washing day had to do the

house work and see about the dinner  My finger

is still very tender and I find it difficult to sew

but I have cut of the skirt of my borage Delaine

for Harriet to make and this afternoon have been

working the sleeves to it  Expect Julia here tomorrow

It was Monday, so Jane McHanna washed and hung out the laundry while Evelina swept, dusted and cooked the midday dinner.  Her finger may still have been sore – what had she done to it? – but she did her chores.

She did some sewing, too, or at least she prepared to sew with Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker who was expected the next day.  She cut the cloth for the skirt of a new dress, no small task. The barege she used, as noted in a previous post, was an open weave wool, lightweight and popular at mid-century.

In 1851, dresses were styled with very full skirts, some with flounces, that required upwards of 25 yards of fabric. Knowing Evelina’s instinct for thrift, we may believe that she probably settled for fewer flounces and less material. Still, even the simpler dresses with all their parts – skirt, lining, bodice, sleeves, undersleeves, pocket, collar, and any decorative element such as piping, ribbon or fringe – consumed significant yardage.  Cutting out all the pieces took expertise and room to maneuver. Imagine the project spread out across the dining room table.

How did she convince her sister-in-law Harriett to help sew the skirt?

* Fashion plate from Godey’s Ladys Magazine, July 1851



June 3, 1851




June 3rd Tuesday  Have finished Susans green plaid gingham

and have cut the sleeves to her green borage Delaine

Have been mending some, but realy I have done

so little sewing of late that I can scarcely sit myself

to work.  Jane has cleaned the boys chamber in 

the other part of the house

We are having very fine weather and I feel much better

than I have for a few days past


When sewing, Evelina often mentioned using borage, more properly spelled “barege.” Barege is a fabric with a sheer, gauzy weave that features a worsted warp and a silk weft. Warp is the longitudinal thread in a roll of cloth; weft, also known as woof, is the transverse or horizontal thread that is woven through the warp with a shuttle. Using two different types of thread creates a cloth with some texture to it.

Barege was quite popular for dress material in the mid-19th century, even taking prizes at shows. At London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, a medal in the “Worsted Class” went “for a great variety of light goods of the barege class, plain, checked, and brocaded, of excellent combinations.”*  Although most of the fabric that Evelina used was made in New England, it’s possible that the green barege for her daughter’s dress had come from abroad.  The example illustrated above features a barege dress from the early 1860’s.

Getting back to dressmaking, her favorite kind of sewing, may have contributed to Evelina’s improved spirits today. The “very fine weather” probably helped, too.