December 25, 1852

Godeys

Sat Dec 25th Christmas. Have had to do the

housework and have had a busy time of it

Henrietta called in for an hour or two

and then Miss Alger came and was here

to dinner  Alson & wife & Edwin & wife here

to tea.  The girls came in the stage

My feet trouble me so much that I can

scarcely go about house  Sent Mrs Whitwell a delaine dress

 

Christmas Day was pretty much a non-event at the Ames compound. Like last year, the household followed a fairly normal routine. Old Oliver grumped about the poor weather and “bad carting.”* At Evelina’s, the servants were in Canton, at church presumably, with family and friends. They returned via stagecoach late in the day. Before they came back, Eveline “had a busy time” with the meals and cleaning, balancing the latter with a social call from her sister-in-law Henrietta Williams Gilmore. She also must have facilitated another piano lesson – the 19th one – for her daughter Susan and niece Emily. The indefatigable Miss M. J. Alger arrived to teach and stayed for dinner.

Outside of puritanical New England, the celebration of Christmas was on the ascendant. Periodicals like Godey’s and Gleason’s referred to the holiday with poems, stories, and illustrations. Families and friends exchanged gifts, although with much less commercial goading than today. And the following Christmas, 1853, President-elect Franklin Pierce would put up the first-ever Christmas tree in the White House.**

For all their disinterest in what they saw as a Catholic holiday, members of the Ames family did show small signs of acknowledging the occasion. Here and there, they exchanged gifts; we saw it last year and see it again. Evelina made a gift to the minister’s wife, Eliza Whitwell, of a wool dress. As the years would go by and the generation of Fred, Oakes Angier and the others gained primacy, Christmas would come to resemble the holiday that we know, replete with gifts and church pageants and family dinners – but not while Old Oliver was alive.

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

**Credit for the first Christmas tree at the White House is disputed by historians. Some say Benjamin Harrison was the first president to put one up, in the late 1880s.

 

November 26, 1852

4f19c26cd4c61938bf2265cebd92e08b                       48d881fd5b6124f8c019a7816972e255

Ball gowns, ca. 1852

Friday Nov 26th  Have been stirring so much of 

late that to day sitting down makes me

feel very stupid  Oakes A & Oliver went to

E Bridgewater to a ball & Frank to Canton

yesterday  Frank came home about six

Oakes & Oliver just after dinner  Mr & Mrs

Dow Sarah Lothrop & Olivers family at tea

in the other part of the house  I have been in this Evening

The young men of Ames house celebrated Thanksgiving with more than just feasting. They danced! Oakes Angier and Oliver (3) headed to a ball in East Bridgewater, where Catherine Hobart just happened to live, while Frank Morton rode to Canton, where Catharine Copeland lived. Oakes Angier and Frank wanted to see their favorite young women. Oliver (3), on the other hand, was still unattached and amenable to dancing with various young ladies.

We don’t get to know who hosted the ball, or how many people attended. But we can imagine how the young people looked. The young women, especially, would have taken great care with their outfits and tried to be as comme il faut as possible. The Ames brothers also would have worn their best bib and tucker. And the dances they did? Richard Powers of Stanford suggests that during the years from 1840 to 1860, the steps were lively:

While the Waltz received a great deal of criticism, as “leading to the most licentious of consequences,” it slowly made some inroads into the ballroom, aided by the occasional performance by a notable society figure.  Waltzing jumped ahead in acceptability when its inherent sensuousness was tempered with a playful exuberance, first by the Galop and then by the Polka.  The Polka from Bohemia became an overnight sensation in society ballrooms in 1844, eclipsing the Waltz at the time.  The Polka’s good-natured quality of wholesome joy finally made closed-couple turning acceptable, introducing thousands of dancers to the pleasure of spinning in the arms of another.  Once they tasted this euphoria, dancers quickly developed an appetite for more.  The Polka mania led to a flowering of other couple dances, including the Schottische, Valse à Deux Temps, Redowa, Five-Step Waltz and Varsouvienne, plus new variations on the earlier Waltz, Mazurka and Galop.  Meanwhile, the increasing trend toward ease and naturalness in dancing had eliminated the intricate steps from the Quadrille and country dances, reducing their performance to simple walking. The overall spirit of this era’s dancing (1840s-1860s) was one of excitement, exuberance and gracious romance.  The dances were fresh, inventive, youthful and somewhat daring.  Society fashions were rich and elegant, but continued an emphasis on simplicity.  By the 1850s, the ballroom had reached its zenith.*

Evelina, weary to her bones after hours on her feet preparing the feast, could only sit and do little more than wonder how her sons were faring.

*Richard Powers, “19th Century Social Dance,” socialdance.stanford.edu

September 24, 1852

Giffard1852

Henri Giffard’s Dirigible  

Friday Sept 24th  Mr Ames & Oakes Angier went

to Boston and are going to New York for New

Jersey to night  I have been to work again about

house all day ironing and this that & tother

Catharine got my quilt out and has been

mending some stockings  Mr Rathbourne

returned to P[rovidence] this afternoon  Oliver carried him

to Mansfield  They went to Canton this afternoon

 

Today Evelina saw her husband and eldest son depart for New York and New Jersey, by way of Boston; that helps explain the extra laundry day yesterday. The men were off on shovel business and the fact that Oakes Angier went along suggests that he was enjoying good health. He was also learning the family trade.

Back at the house in North Easton, domesticity reigned, as usual. Even Evelina couldn’t quite keep track of all the little tasks she was addressing. It was simply “this that & tother.” Mending, ironing, quilting went on. Her son Oliver was riding here and there with his houseguest, Mr. Rathbourne.  It looks like the only son who was present at the shovel works was the youngest, Frank Morton.

Miles away from anyplace that any Ameses were traveling today, a steam-powered dirigible, lifted by hydrogen, rose in the air for the very first time. Hot air balloons had already ascended the skies in various places and for various lengths of time. The airship was new and different by virtue of its shape, design, and engine. Created by a Frenchman, Henri Giffard, the airship made its maiden voyage from Paris to Elancourt. It traveled 17 miles. The winds were too strong for it to return to Paris, as planned, but Giffard was nonetheless able to steer and turn the airship in its course. It was the shape of things to come.

 

 

 

July 28, 1852

Sharps

Sharp’s Pistol, 1848-1850

 

July 28th, 1852

Wednesday Julia Mahoney has been here

to work to day on my travelling dress

but I have sewed but very little

Was about house all the forenoon 

making cake & pies &c &c  Mrs Ames &

Witherell have been to Dover  Horatio

Ames Jr came last night & I expected

him & father to dine but they went to

Olivers  Horatio went with Mr Ames

to Canton this afternoon & was here to tea

Horatio Ames Jr., a grandson of Old Oliver and nephew of Oakes, had come to the other part of the house for a short visit. By contemporary accounts, he was a troubled young man. The second child of Horatio and Sally Ames, he was born in Albany when his father was working there, but grew up in Connecticut.  In 1849 and 1850, he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, but evidently left after just one year.

Early in 1853, Horatio Jr. was in Boston where he married Sophronia Eliot Hill of Salem. He worked as an iron monger at that time, but by 1858 was working as a clerk. On October 27, 1858, he killed himself.

What happened between his year in college and his suicide less than a decade later may pivot on the scandalous divorce of his parents, proceedings for which got underway late in 1852. His mother cited her husband’s multiple infidelities and harsh treatment to herself and her children. Horatio Jr. sided with his mother during and after the breakup. A 20th century account reports that Horatio Jr:

left home shortly after his parents’ divorce and so was out of touch with his father for some years. But he returned home in 1856 following his father’s remarriage. During an argument, he fired at his father in an attempt to kill him. Newspaper accounts of the incident, based on Horatio Sr.’s version of the events, depict him winning a heroic struggle for his life, but then magnanimously letting his son leave. Only after further warnings from his younger son, Gustavus, did Horatio finally have his son arrested. Horatio called his son ‘the worst hardened villain I have ever seen’, but then dropped the charges once Horatio Jnr. became contrite, begging forgiveness.*

The newspaper accounts on which this summation is based present only Horatio Sr.’s side of the story. We simply can’t know exactly what transpired between father and son, but we can know that the son eventually took his own life.  According to some 19th century records, Horatio Jr. is buried in Salem.

*John Mortimer, Zerah Colburn the Spirit of Darkness,2007

 

 

 

July 16, 1852

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Traveling dresses*

1852

July 16th  Have been to Boston & Mt Auburn with

Mrs Witherell, S Ames & A L Ames had a 

very pleasant time  Returned from Mt

Auburn about one or two called on Mrs 

Stevens and the rest of the day shopping

bought me a travelling dress &c &c

Did not see any of Mr Orrs family except

Mr Norris  Mrs N is at Newburyport

 

The Ames women went to town today. Apparently they headed first to Mt.  Auburn, probably to take a turn around the cemetery, then on to Boston. It sounds as if the four women rode in a carriage or wagon all the way from Easton. One of the women may have driven the vehicle, but it’s more likely that a man, such as Old Oliver’s coachman Michael Burns, drove. Whoever held the reins guided the horse along what is today’s Route 138.  The carriage would have traveled a short distance east to get out of Easton, then headed straight north through Canton and Milton into the outskirts of the big city. Normally the vehicle would have taken Washington Street as it veered northeast into Boston, but today they went instead via Jamaica Plain to cross the Charles River.

After their tour of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, a popular destination for many pedestrians and riders, the Ames women crossed back across the Charles River into Boston, where they spent “the rest of the day shopping.” Evelina purchased material and a pattern, perhaps, for a “travelling dress,” such as the one in the illustration. She will spend the next few weeks making this new outfit at home.

Back in Easton, meanwhile, Old Oliver reflected on the week going by and noted that “the 14 – 15 + 16th were all warm good hay days + verry drying.”** He was satisfied with the weather.

 

Godey’s Lady’s Journal, November, 1852

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

July 13, 1852

Hay

 

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

June 9, 1852

 

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Example of bonnet frame

 

June 9th  Wednesday  Mr & Mrs Orr  Mr Ames & self dined

in Olivers and Oakes & Frank came to tea

with us.  Mrs Davidson & two daughters there

Mr Ames & Mr Orr rode to Canton

Mrs Orr brought me a frame for a lace

bonnet and I have fitted it to my head ready

for the trimming

With their guests, Robert and Melinda Orr, Evelina and Oakes ate midday dinner next door. It was a rare occasion to be invited to dine at Oliver Jr.’s and Sarah’s, an indication of how important the houseguests were.  At tea time, they were joined by Betsy Davidson, wife of the postmaster, and her little girls Lizzie and Julia. Oakes Angier and Frank Morton Ames joined the group, too, after finishing work at the shovel shops.

Evelina was given a special bonnet frame by Melinda and got right to the pleasant task of creating a new bonnet, “ready for the trimming.” The two friends probably sat and chatted as Evelina worked on it. Perhaps Melinda had brought some lapwork with her, or perhaps Evelina gave her something to sew. Neither woman would have been apt to sit idly while the other worked.

After dinner, Oakes and Robert rode over to Canton, probably to visit the Kinsley iron works. Back at home, Old Oliver Ames was breathing a bit easier after the much-needed rainfall of the previous day and night, reporting that “the plowd land is wett down considerable.” Just what the farmer asked for.