November 26, 1852

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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

July 4, 1852

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July 4 Sunday  Have been to meeting  Orinthia & Lavinia

came home with us at noon  Orinthia had a 

toothache and did not return in the afternoon

Since meeting Alson & wife came up and brought Lavinia

for her to go to Boston tomorrow  Mr Ames called with Orinthia

and self to see the rock they are splitting for the shop and we all

walked down to see the new shop  Mr Clark of Norton preached two

excellent sermons  Oakes A & Helen went to E. Bridgewater

Oakes Ames “came home from N. York”* today, having been there on shovel business; he was the company salesman. After church was over he, Evelina, and her friend, Orinthia Foss, walked down to the shovel shop to see the progress on the new stone building, the Long Shop. They checked out rock that was being split.

“[T]his was a fair cool day wind south west and a drying day…” according to Old Oliver.  It was probably perfect for haying, but it was Sunday, so no one went out to the fields. It was also the Fourth of July, but again, being Sunday, the celebration was postponed.  Fireworks would be held the next day.

Modern historian Jack Larkin describes the importance of the Fourth of July in the American calendar:

“Despite its notably awkward timing for a nation so agricultural – it came in the midst of haying in the North, corn and cotton cultivation elsewhere – Americans made the Fourth their most universal holiday. In ‘fifty thousand cities, towns, villages and hamlets, spread over the surface of America’ citizens observed rituals that varied little, firing cannons, watching parades of prominent citizens and listening to endless orations in town commons and courthouse squares. Americans probably seized their national day with particular relish because it was the only sanctioned way of taking a break from the intensive labor of midsummer…”**

And just as we read yesterday of the beginning of a courtship between Frank Ames and Catharine Copeland, so today we readers may be privy to the genesis of yet another courtship.Evelina writes that Oakes Angier Ames drove his cousin Helen Angier Ames to E. Bridgewater, but doesn’t say why. Perhaps Helen was visiting a friend from school who lived there: Catherine Hobart. This Catherine, too, was destined to become part of the family as Oakes Angier’s wife. Was this their first meeting?

 

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

**Jack Larkin,The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1988, p. 275

 

July 3, 1852

 

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Catharine Hayward Copeland Ames and Frank Morton Ames*

 

July 3d Sat  Was about house the greater part of the 

forenoon.  Made cake Mrs Ames Tumbler rule

After dinner helped do up the work for Hannah

to go to Bridgewater afterwards mending Susans

dresses.  Was expecting Augustus wife here & Orinthia

but they did not come.  About 5 Oclock went

into Mrs Witherells & stoped to tea.  Frank has

gone a ride to Middleboro with Cate Copeland

The bad news today was that “this was a fair cold day wind verry high a verry bad day to git in hay.”** Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver, was clearly not pleased with this year’s haymaking, at least not to date. Not enough rain in the beginning to have the hay grow well and, today, too much cold wind to bring it in properly.

The regular news today included mending and baking. Evelina evidently tried a new cake recipe, using the “Tumbler rule” that she got from Mrs. Ames – probably Almira Ames, who was visiting. A tumbler was a common word for a drinking glass, which suggests that at least one of the cake’s ingredients – flour, perhaps – was measured by filling a tumbler.  Hard to say, but it must have been fun to try a new recipe for an old standard.

We get a peek into the family’s future with Evelina’s notation that her 18-year-old son, Frank Morton, went “a ride” with a girl named Cate Copeland. Cate was Catharine Hayward Copeland, daughter of Hiram Copeland, a farmer, and his wife Lurana – and a future daughter-in-law to Evelina. Cate was all of 15, but not too young to be of interest to Frank. Four years later, the couple would marry. Over the course of their lives together, in North Easton, Canton, and Boston, they would produce seven children, six of whom would survive to adulthood.

* Image of Catharine Hayward Copeland Ames and Frank Morton Ames courtesy of ancestry.com

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