December 28, 1852

cuba-album2

Havana-coachws-1851-2-copy

Federico Mialhe, Album Pinteresco de la Isla de Cuba and The Gates of Montserratte, Havana, Cuba, ca. 1850*

 

Tuesday Dec 28th  Catharine & self have been to work on

our dresses  Have cut & made the sleeves & got

the skirts made &c  This afternoon have spent

in the other part of the house   Mr Ames

there to tea  Oliver & wife dined there

on Turkey  Received another letter from

Oakes Angier  He was to leave for Havana

last Wednesday

 

A letter from Oakes Angier arrived today, evidently at least the second one he had written since departing two weeks earlier. If, as he wrote, he was leaving Charleston on Dec. 22, then by this date, he was just about landing in Havana. He may have continued to sail south on the Steamship James Adger or he may have boarded the Steamship Isabel which, at that time and for at least a decade more, ran regularly between Charleston and Havana, with stops in Savannah, Georgia and Key West, Florida. The Isabel carried mail as well as passengers. The year before, it had even carried the famous Jenny Lind to the island for a concert.

While Evelina was dress-making and Oliver Ames Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames were dining on turkey at Sarah Witherell’s, Oakes Angier was shaking off the damp of his sea voyage and stepping into the soft humidity of Cuba. Did he, like others before and after, settle into a North-American section of Havana called Cardenas, and look out on the beautiful Cardenas Bay? Did he gaze at the mountains across the bay? And did he look at – surely, he looked at – the miles and miles of sugar cane, palm trees and estancias? Did he ride in a volant, a conveyance whose rear wheels were six feet high? Did he make friends?

Most of all, did Oakes Angier get better? Was the change of climate good for him? He did, and it was. Many readers of this blog – some of whom are his descendants – already know that Oakes Angier did, in fact, return home safely, cured of his pulmonary ailment. We don’t yet know exactly when and how he returned, but by the summer of 1855, he would be back in North Easton, married to Catharine Hobart and building his home, Queset House. He would recover.

 

*Images and much information courtesy of http://www.skinnerfamilypapers.com

 

December 3, 1852

Hog

Friday Dec 3d  Finished taking care of the pork this

forenoon had 60 lbs sausage meat  Weighed

16 lb pork tried it out and it (the lard) weighed 14 lbs

Went to mothers this afternoon with Oakes

Angier as he was going to West Bridgewater

My bonnet came from Boston to night

that I left to be made  Susan practiced

an hour this evening to me & I went into the other 

part of the house

Yesterday Old Oliver “kild six hogs [… and] the everage weight of the whole 12 was 413 pounds the heavyest weighd 489.” Oliver had given each offspring – Oakes, Oliver Jr., and Sarah Witherell – a pig to cut up and preserve. Upset as she was over the news about her eldest son, Oakes Angier, Evelina and her two servants worked to break down their pig into a manageable, edible assortment of pork. Sausage, of course, was a standard way to process and keep pork over time. So yesterday and today, the women cut and grounded meat, ending up with 60 pounds of sausage and 14 pounds of lard.

No doubt Evelina was preoccupied with thoughts of her son, but she may have found some comfort in keeping her hands busy with the necessary chores of the kitchen.  She took the opportunity of riding with Oakes Angier to the family farm, perhaps to share the news with her mother and brother Alson. Oakes Angier rode on to West Bridgewater. Might he have traveled to call on the Hobart family as well? He must have had to tell Catharine Hobart that he was leaving for Cuba and an uncertain future.

Susan Ames, once so rebellious at the piano, “practiced an hour this evening to” her mother. Do we imagine too much to think that she was trying to make her mother happy?

 

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

October 9, 1852

imgres-1

Piano scales

Sat Oct 9th  Miss Alger came to day to give her second

lesson. Mother Amelia Henrietta & Louisa

J Mower spent the day came about eleven

Henrietta went to Augustus to tea  Mother & Louisa

will stop here untill she returns to Maine

Oakes A returned from his journey & Helen

came with him. Have baked in the brick oven

Oakes Angier Ames came home today from points south. He had been on a business trip with his father to New York and New Jersey, but his father had returned several days earlier. What had Oakes Angier been doing? Was he meeting customers and delivering shovels, all on his own? And why was his cousin Helen Angier Ames with him? Perhaps he came back by way of Boston where Helen – and her friend, Catherine Hobart – were at school.

The day was cloudy and cool and the ladies who came to visit with Evelina must have sat inside. Two Gilmore sisters-in-law, Amelia, young widow of Joshua, Jr., and Henrietta, wife of Alson, were there along with the elderly Hannah Lothrop Gilmore and a guest from Maine, Louisa J. Mower. The latter two women would spend the night.

The girls of the house, meanwhile, had another piano lesson today. The sound of Susie and Emily practicing their scales would have been background sound for the chatter in the parlor.

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.

September 22, 1852

Piano

Wednesday Sept 22d Have been to Boston with Mrs

Witherell to get a Pianno  Have got to have

them made  Mrs Kinsley called to see them with

us  Met Mrs Wilson at Lintons to go to select

them. Dined at Mr Orrs while Mrs Witherelll

called on Mrs Dorr  Bought a Piano cloth

and gold thimble for Mrs Ames & C Hobart

and a ring for Helen  Oliver came from Providence

 

A piano! And not one piano, but two, one for each side of the house. Both Susan Ames and Emily Witherell would be learning to play the instrument. Each girl would have her own piano to practice on. What luxury. What gentility. What fun.

With advice from friends such as Louisa Kinsley, Evelina and Sarah Ames Witherell selected and ordered the instruments in a Boston store. Spending money liberally, Evelina went on to purchase gifts. For her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, she bought a cloth to go on top of the piano that those Ameses already owned. For Catharine Hobart, a young family friend who had caught the eye of her son Oakes Angier Ames, she bought a gold thimble. And for her niece Helen Angier Ames – Catharine’s classmate – she bought a ring.

Did her husband Oakes know that Evelina was spending so much money? Did her father-in-law? While her husband must have given his approval, it’s unlikely that Old Oliver would have approved of such a spree. Yet both those men were often generous within the family; in that respect, Evelina was just following suit.

We note today, too, that Oliver (3) returned from a few days at a fair in Providence, where he no doubt saw friends and former classmates from his two semesters at Brown University. We might imagine that he was missing school.

 

 

September 16, 1852

Flatiron

1852

Thursday Sept 16  Watched with Mrs Savage last night

came home at half past five went to bed

and laid untill past eight  Starched some

more shirts that were washed yesterday  We

have 20 fine shirts this week in the wash

Miss Elizabeth Capen called & Mrs Stevens was

with Mrs Witherell to tea  I was ironing & did not go

Oakes A went to carry Helen & C Hobart to Bridgewater

Today we have proof positive that Oakes Angier Ames, back from his recuperative rest in Vermont, was spending time with Catherine Hobart, the girl who would become his wife. For several days, Catherine had been staying next door with her classmate, Helen Angier Ames, but the time had come to return home to Bridgewater. Whether Oakes Angier volunteered to carry the girls or was assigned the duty, we don’t know, but we can believe that he enjoyed the trip. Was Evelina aware of their mutual attraction? Did Helen stay for a visit with Catherine, or did she return to Easton? Did the two girls discuss Oakes Angier after he left them off?

Evelina may have been too busy with all the shirts that needed starching and ironing to attend to her eldest son’s romantic inclination. Having spent most of the night before sitting up with Hannah Savage, she was only operating on three hours sleep. She positioned herself at the kitchen or dining table and covered it with a protective blanket and sheet, kept “on purpose for ironing.”* Using thick cloth to protect her hand from the hot handle, she lifted and pushed the heavy implement across each one of those new cotton shirts. Back and forth, back and forth, putting away one iron when it cooled to pick up another one that had heated up. It was hot, heavy work. She didn’t break her stride, either, not even for tea in the other part of the house.

* Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1832, p. 11

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