November 20, 1852


Boston Music Hall, 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 7, 1852


Anne Marsh-Caldwell

(1791 – 1874)

Sunday Nov 7th  It was unpleasant this morning

and I did not feel like going to church

All the rest of the family went  Oakes A

& Oliver came home at noon & did not return

I have been wicking most of the time

Evelina played truant today and skipped church. How quiet the house must have been with everyone away. She wrote that she was “wicking most of the time,” although we might imagine that she read a little as well.

Wicking is a term for placing a wick into a candle mold and pouring wax around it to make a candle. No doubt the Ameses used some candles around the house – we know, for instance, that Evelina had bought wax candles the previous month. It’s unlikely, however, that Evelina was actually making candles. The task would have been too big a production, especially on the Sabbath. She may have been using the term wicking in a different sense; perhaps she was placing fresh wicks into some of the oil lamps around the house. Although kerosene was not yet available, other sources of oil were. Knowing how up-to-date Evelina’s parlor was, we can imagine that she had furnished it with relatively modern oil lamps. She may have been trimming those wicks.

Given the “unpleasant” weather outside, Evelina spent the day indoors. Once the wicking was completed, she may have settled down to read, as she so often did on a Sunday after church. Last week she had mentioned reading a novel called Ravenscliffe, a novel published in 1851 and written by Anne Marsh-Caldwell, an Englishwoman.  Mrs. Marsh was known for her stories of the upper-middle class and second-tier aristocracy; her books were quite popular from the 1830’s through the 1850’s, occasionally rivaling books by authors with whom we are more familiar: Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, to name two. A contemporary described Mrs. Marsh’s novels as “thoroughly feminine,”* which suggests that they fell into the category that Old Oliver described as “love trash.” Evelina seemed to enjoy the book, regardless of her father-in-law’s contempt. It was probably good escapist fare from wicking and rain.

*Sara Coleridge, Memoirs and Letters of Sara Coleridge, 1873


October 1, 1852

Wax candle


Oct 1st  Friday   Went to Boston with Mrs Witherell to

see our pianos.  Miss Kinsley was going to the 

city and we asked her to try them for us.  She

thinks they are fine toned  Mrs S Ames also went

with us and Helen & Miss Hobart after school

Miss C Hobart is a very pleasant girl

I bought some wax candles at 62 per lb

Mrs Mower & Norris came home with us


Despite last night’s frost, this Friday proved to be “fair” and “pritty warm.”*  Evelina and her sisters-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell and Sarah Lothrop Ames, took advantage of the pleasant weather to trip into Boston “to see our pianos” and do some shopping. Meeting them at the music store was Lucy Adelaide Kinsley (soon to become Mrs. Francis Howard Peabody) from Canton. A pianist herself, she approved of the purchases.

Joining the sisters-in-law later in the day, after school was over, were teen-agers** Helen Angier Ames and her friend Catharine Hobart. Evelina was growing fond of Helen’s friend; did she imagine that “Miss C Hobart” would one day be her daughter-in-law and mother of her grandchildren?

The two mothers were excited about the pianos. We can imagine that at least one or two of the expensive wax candles that Evelina bought were destined to be placed in candlesticks – or candelabra – near the new instrument. The old homestead was growing more elegant by the week. And it was back to that homestead that the women headed at the end of the day. Ordinarily, they would have stayed over in the city but instead, they returned to North Easton with houseguests in tow.

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

** Teenager was not a term that Evelina would have used – it didn’t become a word until the 20th century.