December 24, 1852

Image from Aunt Louisas Alphabet book - Alphabet og Games and Sports, London, 1870

The Yule Log, English illustration, ca. 1870

Friday Dec 24th  Have finished the sack for Susan

and I feel that I have a good job done

Catharine has basted the lining & outside

of my dress together  Ann & Catharine

went to Canton this afternoon. Alson &

wife came up this morning to go to the lecture

they stopt at Augustus & Henrietta & Helen came

here   Malvina here to tea.  Mr Ames went to Boston

lecture by J C Parks

on the dignity of labour

Some people were preparing for Christmas, but Evelina wasn’t one of them. As we saw last December, the Ames family didn’t celebrate Christmas, certainly not the way we celebrate it in 2015. Nor did other Unitarians and fellow Protestants in New England. Catholics celebrated it, however, and this afternoon, Irish servants Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin departed for Canton where they must have had family or friends to meet. They wouldn’t return until late the next day. In one sense, Christmas to the Ameses meant a lack of servants and no work – or reduced production, perhaps – at the shovel shop. It was a holiday with a negative impact.

So in the Ames compound, life went on as usual, even on Christmas Eve. Evelina sewed and Oakes Ames went into Boston. A few Gilmore relatives, including Evelina’s youngest nieces, Henrietta Hall Gilmore and Helen Jane Gilmore, came by. There was a lecture in town which Evelina’s brother Alson and his wife Henrietta Williams Gilmore attended in which Mr. J.C. Parks spoke on “the dignity of labour.” An interesting theme for a day when much of the work force was so-called idle. Surely the quiet at the factory got under Old Oliver’s skin, but with his usual understatement, he only mentioned the weather in his journal:  “[I]t raind ¾ of an inch last night it was cloudy in the forenoon + fair in the afternoon wind south west and it took the snow + ice all off.”*

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

December 23, 1852

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Thursday Dec 23d  Have been at work part of the

time on Susans sack & part of the time

fixing work for Catharine  She has got Susans

skirt ready for gathering and run the breadths

of my raw silk  Helen came home in

the stage to night Heard Susan practice

an hour this evening she does not take as

much interest as I could wish

 

Orville L. Holley, editor of theTroy [N.Y.] Sentinel, didn’t know who had written the poem. It had been sent in by a friend of the anonymous author. But Holley was looking for good Christmas copy, so on this date in 1823, he published A Visit from St. Nicholas,* with “cordial thanks to whoever had sent him these Christmas verses.”* He knew the piece was good, but he couldn’t have imagined the lasting fame it would receive. He couldn’t have foretold how iconic Twas the Night Before Christmas would become.

It would be another fourteen years, more or less, until the public discovered the name of the author. He was Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City and author of several academic works such as Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language. He was also a poet, and the father of nine children. He had written A Visit from St. Nicholas for his older children and read it to them on Christmas Eve, 1822. A friend of the family had heard the poem, copied it, and sent it to the newspaper. Aren’t we lucky she saved it? Professor Moore, by the way, was born in 1779 and died in 1863 – the same life span as Old Oliver Ames.

Did Evelina know this poem? Was she familiar with St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and other Christmas lore that immigrated from the Old World to the New? Reader that she was, she was bound to know about Christmas. But so far in her life, it was a holiday that others, and not she, celebrated.

Her grandchildren would one day know the poem by heart. Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 

*Information on Clement Clarke Moore and A Visit from St. Nicholas can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org

 

December 21, 1852

images-1

Tuesday, Dec 21st  Mrs Horatio Ames left this morning

for Taunton where she is going to stop a week

or two  Catharine & self have quilted the

lining for Susans sack  We were about

it most all day  This evening have been

in awhile to see Mrs Ames & Witherell

It was the darkest day of the year: winter solstice. Sally Hewes Ames departed for friends or relatives in Taunton, her life in upheaval as she sought a divorce. Would she ever spend time with her husband’s relatives again? Was this the last she saw of them? One wonders how her relationship with Horatio’s family would play out.

Evelina tried again to settle back into her normal routine in North Easton. Picking up a needle and thread and sewing “most all day” probably felt like heaven to her. After the drama and disruption of the past three weeks, she was back doing what she did best: sew. She and her servant Catharine Murphy put together a winter sack, or apron-like jumper, for Susan Ames. They quilted it to make it warmer and sturdier.

In the evening, Evelina sat with her sisters-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell. They certainly had much to talk over. Old Oliver, meanwhile, recorded the day’s weather: “[I]t raind a verry little last night and this morning there is a thin coat of snow + ice on the ground wind north east + chilly it snod a little about all day but did not gain much.”*

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

November 27, 1852

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Example of cambric sleeve

Nov 27th Saturday  Have been sewing quite

steadily to day and so has Catharine  We

have made a pair of cambrick sleeves for

Susan & self and mended lots of clothes

Mrs Witherell has been in with her

work for about an hour and it is a

rarity  Susan has practiced very well

to day and is gaining quite fast in reading 

her notes

 

Susie Ames was finally getting the hang of playing piano. After the sturm und drang  of the earlier lessons, her mother had to be pleased to hear her practice “very well.” No doubt the piano teacher, Miss Alger, would be happy that her student could finally read the notes.

Inclement weather prevented them from going outside for any reason, at least in the morning. According to Old Oliver, “it raind all last night wind South east and there was 2 1/8 inches of water fell it cleard of to day before noon wind west + not cold”*.  As we might guess, Evelina used the time indoors to mend and sew.  For a time, she had the company of her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell. As she has suggested before, Evelina felt that both her sisters-in-law did not visit her as often as she would have liked.

Cambric is a light fabric with an open weave, often used for underclothes such as chemisettes. It served well as an undersleeve worn under an outer sleeve of more substantial fabric. It would have been a relatively easy garment for Evelina to sew, especially as her version would have been simpler than the one in the illustration, probably lacking in the eyelet detail.

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

 

November 25, 1852

Turkey

Nov 25

[…] Thanksgiving  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell Father Mrs Witherell Emily Horatio &

Gustavus dined at tea here.  Michael &

sister & Ann Oral at the second table.

Mr W went home at half past three to

marry a couple   Oakes A Emily & Susan went

with him After they left this evening Mrs

Witherell & self called on Mrs Dow in Olivers

Mr & Mrs Dow & family Mr & Mrs H Lothrop & Cyrus

at Olivers 

“[T]his was thanksgiving day,” wrote Old Oliver Ames, after a brief notation that the day “was fair in the morning but clouded up in the afternoon”. Evelina and her servants prepared a feast that fed at least fifteen people. The whole Oakes Ames family was there, naturally, and so was Old Oliver. Dining with them were Sarah and Emily Witherell, Reverend and Mrs. Whitwell, brother Horatio Ames and his youngest son Gustavus, the latter two having arrived from Connecticut the day before. At the “second table”  – which likely means a second seating – the servants partook. Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin were presumably present, as was Michael Burns (Old Oliver’s coachman/ostler), his sister and Ann Orel, a young Irish girl who worked for Sarah Witherell.

Family gathered next door, too. The Oliver Ameses, meaning Oliver Jr.,Sarah Lothrop Ames and their children Fred and Helen, shared the repast with two of Sarah’s brothers, Henry and Cyrus, along with Henry’s wife Eleanor and long-time friends, the Dows. Quite a gathering, all told, as family members dined and visited.

Sarah Josepha Hale, the patron saint of Thanksgiving, describes her understanding of the origin of Thanksgiving in a novel she wrote in 1827 and republished in 1852:

“Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution, and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast. […] The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the most glowing kind, […] On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.”

This may have been the version of Thanksgiving that Mrs. Hale used to persuade Abraham Lincoln to make it a national celebration. It also may have been the story of Thanksgiving with which the Ameses were most familiar.

 

November 23, 1852

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Tues Nov 23  Catharine & self have been mending

shirts &c all day  It being very stormy I

thought it a good time to mend

Frederick & Helen came home to night

Susan & self have been in to see them

Fred brought me a crumb brush cost 75 cts

Ann has done the housework and cut

squash & apple for tomorrow

 

“[T]he ground was white with snow this morning, but was a raining + took it all of[f] by noon there was a bout half an inch of water fell”* on this late November day; people in Easton had yet to see a serious snowfall.  Although the storm kept Evelina indoors, the lack of snow was actually a help to travelers like Fred and Helen Ames, who were making their way home for the holiday.

Fred Ames brought his Aunt Evelina a gift. What was better, that she received a crumb brush or that her nephew spent 75 cents on it? That amount would translate to about $17.50 in today’s (2015) market. Either way, she was pleased with the gift, which she would no doubt place with pride on her dining table.

Most of us modern readers probably don’t keep a crumb brush handy at our dinner tables, although we’ve seen modern versions in use in restaurants. But then, most of us probably no longer dine on pressed and laundered tablecloths at home, at least on a regular basis. Placemats are more common. (Readers weigh in here, please.) But in 1852, formal dining on snowy white tablecloths was aspired to as the middle class rose above their agrarian past of eating without linens. The dining room itself became more popular as families found the means to support more servants and rise to a style of living that involved a clear separation between cooking and dining. The notion of today’s open kitchen, where guests sip wine on stools and watch the hostess  – or host! – cook dinner would be absolutely foreign to Evelina. Our lack of damask would shock her and her contemporaries.

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

November 22, 1852

Rests

Monday Nov 22d  Ann & Catharine washed and 

I was at work putting things in order

about house. They finished cleaning

the cookroom after washing that they

commenced Saturday.  Catharine fixed

Olivers woolen jacket for him. This even[ing]

have heard Susan practice and she does well

and Im quite encouraged about her

 

Evelina seemed content this Monday. The servants were doing the laundry and she was tidying up the house, going from room to room to dust, sweep and put “things in order.” She would have said that she and her servants moved among the cook room, the buttery, the sitting room, the parlor, the entry, and the bed chambers. Using modern nomenclature, we would say she cleaned the kitchen, the pantry, the den, the living room, the front or back hall, and the bedrooms. Most of her words for the rooms in her house are dated, although not entirely unfamiliar to the modern reader.

Linguists hold different views on the etymology of words for parts of the house. Most agree that kitchen, for instance, derives from the Latin word for “to cook,” coquere, by way of Old English and cyoene, the Dutch keuken, and/or the German Kuche. Both words share the same root, but why kitchen came to be preferred to cook room is unclear.

Parlor – or parlour, as the English would have it – is also dated, at least in the United States. It has pretty well disappeared in American English as the name for the most formal room in a house. Derived from parlare, Latin for “to speak”, the term meant a room for speaking, a room in which to hold an audience. In the 18th and 19th century, as a middle class developed and those who could afford to create the space did so, the parlor became a formal room for visitors. In the 20th century, though, as socializing became more casual and diffused by such advances as the telephone and the automobile, the parlor fell away and the living room took over. Other room names – like the buttery – have undergone similar evolutions. We might wonder what people will call the kitchen or living room in the 23rd century.

Evelina’s contentment was also supplied today in no small part by hearing her daughter play the piano. She was “quite encouraged” by Susie’s improved playing.