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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 16, 1852

 

november-star-map

November sky, Northern Hemisphere**

Tuesday Nov 16th  We have cleaned the sitting

room and closets and got the carpet back

and the room in order again except

washing the pictures  Catharine

is very slow about cleaning & it takes

Ann all the time to do the house

work and we accomplish but very little

More deep cleaning of the house today, although not accomplished as expeditiously as Evelina would have liked. Not for the first time, she expresses discontent about her servants, a complaint that we have heard since the days of Jane McHanna. Were her servants really as slow as she suggests, or was she simply more efficient than they?

“[T]his was a fair cold day with a high west wind,”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. The sun would have set early, naturally, and the sky would have been bright with stars, brighter and clearer than most of us can see them today. It was probably too cold tonight for star-gazing, but we might wonder if the Ameses ever studied the night sky, for that was a favorite pastime in many families. Stories of various constellations were told and great myths about Greek gods and goddesses were passed along to new generations.

In fact, in England, on this very date, there was an astronomer named John Russell Hind who was studying the night sky, though not for the old narratives tucked around the constellations. He was interested in what we now know is a belt of asteroids that circles the earth. Hind was one of the first discoverers of asteroids. Over time, he identified ten of them (along with a few stars) and gave them female names: Iris, Flora, Victoria, Irene, Melpomene, Fortuna, Kalliope, Thalia, Euterpe and Urania. On this occasion, Kalliope – known more formally as 22 Kalliope – was the large, bright asteroid that he located. Because of his respected work, Hind was appointed president of the Royal Astrological Society in 1880.

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives

** Image courtesy of http://www.outerspaceuniverse.org 

 

 

 

November 11, 1852

alcott_lou

Louisa May Alcott

(1832 – 1888)

Thursday Nov 11th

Ann & Catharine has cleaned the shed chamber

and sitting room chamber & I have been 

putting draws & closets in order.

Mr Ames & self at Olivers to tea  Mr &

Mrs Swain & Mrs Meader there

Commenced Susan an Angola yarn stocking

 

For Evelina, this was a productive day. Her servants, Ann Shinkwin and Catharine Murphy, cleaned the shed and the sitting room, while she herself reorganized “draws & closets”. She must have felt quite satisfied having put two key rooms in order. Come evening, she and her husband went next door to tea where they visited not only with the Oliver Ameses, but also with Ann and John Swain and Ann’s mother, Sarah Bliss Meader. Mrs. Meader was from Nantucket; she must have been visiting in the wake of the death of little John Swain.

For Louisa May Alcott, a 19th century author who should need no introduction, this was an important day. Some literary sources have it that Miss Alcott, using the name “Flora Fairfield,” published her first story, The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome, on this exact date, when the author was barely twenty years old. However, closer examination suggests that The Rival Painters first appeared back on May 8 in The Olive Branch, a periodical published in Boston from 1836 through 1857.  A second story, easily confused with the first, was The Rival Prima Donnas, which was published on this date in 1854 in The Saturday Evening Gazette, earning the author five dollars.

Regardless of the scholastic disagreement over the first appearance in print of Louisa May Alcott, we can imagine that Evelina was exposed to her writing at various times from this year onward. Surely Evelina read other short stories and novels by this increasingly famous author. If she developed an affection for the author’s work, Evelina would have read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys and been as familiar with the triumphs and travails of the March family as devoted readers still are 160 years later.

*A fine resource for readers wanting to know more about Louisa May Alcott is “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women,” by Harriet Reisen, New York, 2009.

 

 

October 30, 1852

Nurse

Sat Oct 30th Mr Dawes & Miss A[l]ger left for

Boston this morning  Mrs S Ames watched 

last night with Mr Swains child and Mrs Witherell

is there to day  I have been very busy about

house to day and wish I was able to do

a great deal more as it is much out of order

Yesterday the Ames women visited Ann and John Swain’s house to see their ailing infant son. Today Sarah Lothrop Ames and Sarah Ames Witherell were back, taking turns watching. The outlook for the one-year old wasn’t good, evidently. Evelina would go over to the Swains for the night, being too busy during the day to help.

Evelina was straightening up her house after the departure of the latest houseguests, Mr. Dawes and Miss M. J. Alger. It was the first time in days that her home was back to normal, with only family in residence.  She found everything to be “much out of order,” and no doubt she and her servants bustled about choring and setting things to rights. She seemed too busy even to worry about whether or not her daughter Susie was practicing the piano.

In unrelated news from the Pacific Northwest, this 1852 date marks the first time that the name “Seattle” appeared in print, in a pair of advertisements in The Columbian, a nascent newspaper in Olympia. The city we know today, then just a small settlement, had been known informally as Duwamps, but had been recently renamed after Chief Seattle, a leader of the local Suquamish tribe. How remote and unconnected Evelina would have considered the beginnings of a city so far from her kin and beyond her ken.

 

 

September 27, 1852

 

ohIsesowicked

“Oh! I’se So Wicked”

Sheet Music from George Aiken’s Theatre Production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

featuring Caroline Fox Howard as Topsy

Monday Sept 27th We have done some washing to day and

some housecleaning  I have been to work

about house most of the time  The gardener

has taken up the plants and I washed 

the pots and brought them into the dining

room  Carried my sewing into Edwins

this morning  Augusta is getting quite smart

The weather is delightful

Laundry, choring, and gardening were on Evelina’s agenda this Monday. A gardener – perhaps an extra hand from the shovel shop – was putting the garden to bed. Under Evelina’s direction, no doubt, he dug up particular plants for her to pot and bring indoors. Her perennials, of course, would winter outside, but other plants – herbs among them, most likely – she would try to winter-over in her dining room, which must have been sunny and warm. What practiced forethought Evelina was using to prepare for winter on such a “delightful” September day.

Back on April 6, we saw Evelina and her daughter sewing indoors out of the way of a heavy spring snow storm. They and a friend passed the time reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a brand new novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was a phenomenal success, selling not only hundreds of thousands of copies in its first year, but becoming the best-selling book of the 19th century, after the Bible. The book’s popularity spawned a host of imitations, rebuttals, and theatrical interpretations. Modern historian David Reynolds has noted that, over time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s  “cultural power resulted not only from the novel but also from its many spin-offs – particularly plays, songs and films – that swayed millions who never read the novel.”*

On this very date, in fact, the first theatrical production of Beecher’s story premiered in Troy, New York (later to move to Albany and New York City.) Produced by George L. Aikens, the show Uncle Tom’s Cabin highlighted dramatic moments from the novel and added tableaux and musical numbers. Like other productions that would follow, the story was somewhat reinterpreted.  Aiken “slightly revised”* the plot, dispensing with some characters and inventing others, but kept the essential story line in tact. “Religion, thrills, comedy: the crowd-pleasing elements were all there.”*

The religious component of the story (and, in the north, the anti-slavery message) was enough of a draw to make theatre-going almost respectable, and drew many to the theatre who had never gone before. The play also offered its audience, for the very first time, a single-feature program rather than the variety fare that was usually staged. “The play appealed to audiences of all backgrounds and ages. Horace Greeley, William Lloyd Garrison, the young Mark Twain, and the even younger Henry James were among those who were deeply stirred by the play.”  Competitive versions soon sprung up, including one produced by P. T. Barnum. For decades before and after the Civil War, the story of Uncle Tom and Eliza was everywhere.

 

*David S. Reynolds, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, New York, 2011

 

September 7, 1852

Cucumber

Tuesday Sept 7th

1852  I have not sewed much again to day

I was at work on pickles  swept the parlour

washed the windows &c &c and did not sit down

to work untill after dinner.  This afternoon 

Mrs Seba Howard  Miss M J Alger called

& Abby passed the afternoon.  We called 

to see Augusta.  Julia Pool is there taking

care of her she is not able to sit up much

 

“Pickles are very indigestible things, and ought rarely to be eaten,”* declared Sarah Josepha Hale, editor** of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and author of many poems, novels, cookbooks, and household guides. Respectful as Mrs. Hale invariably was of women’s domestic virtues and products, she clearly had no love for pickles, a kitchen staple. Their only value “in cookery,” according to her, was the flavor they added to vinegar.

Evelina and most other housewives and cookbook writers disagreed with Mrs. Hale. Pickles were standard fare, and this time of year many a housewife in many a kitchen was busy turning a cucumber harvest into pickles for the winter ahead. Lydia Maria Child, another popular 19th century writer, offered a detailed recipe in The American Frugal Housewife:

Cucumbers should be in weak brine three or four days after they are picked; then they should be put in a tin or wooden pail of clean water, and kept slightly warm in the kitchen corner for two or three days.  Then take as much vinegar as you think your pickle jar will hold’; scald it with pepper, allspice, mustard-seed, flag-root, horseradish, &c., if you happen to have them; half of them will spice the pickles very well.  Throw in a bit of alum [ammonium aluminum sulfate] as big as a walnut; this serves to make pickles hard. Skim the vinegar clean, and pour it scalding hot upon the cucumbers. ***

The last step in the process was to store the pickles in glass jars. as opposed to ceramic containers. Most 19th century pantries and cellars held tall, slightly blue or green glass pickle jars on their shelves. So it was at the Ames’s.

After the morning’s work and midday dinner, Evelina welcomed Eleutheria Howard, Miss Alger and niece Abby Torrey into the parlor. How strong the smell of pickles in the house must have been! The ladies then left to call on poor Augusta Pool Gilmore, who was still ailing from an intestinal disorder. Her sister Julia was staying with her.

 

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Househkeeper, 1841, p. 71

**Mrs. Hale actually preferred the term “editoress.”

***Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife,” pp. 61-62

July 22, 1852

Fly

July 22 Thursday.  this has been a hot uncomfortable

day and the flies are quite too plenty

dead ones laying on the floor in any

quantity.  Hannah is not neat at all

and does not keep the house in any order

Julia has got my skirt to the borage so

much one side that it will have to be taken

of[f]. She says she will come Saturday and do it

 

Oh, dear. Today was “allso a verry warm day verry much like yesterday.” * Evelina appears to have been affected by the “uncomfortable” heat. She had nothing agreeable to report. Her maid was sloppy, her dressmaker was inept, and there were dead flies all around the house. Probably not even her flower garden offered solace.

As for the flies, we modern readers must remember that window screens were in their infancy, so that when Evelina and other housewives pulled up the window sashes in their homes to try to cool the air inside, they let in flies and other bugs “in any quantity.”

Flypaper hadn’t been invented yet, either, but it would come along in another decade when a baker in the small town of Waiblingen, Germany, fed up with the flies that landed on his cakes and tortes, had the idea to coat a strip of paper with molasses and hang it in his window. The flies went for it, so to speak, and a universal aggravation was successfully addressed. Customers began to want the strips of flypaper even more than the baked goods, so much so that the baker eventually gave up baking and took up the manufacturing of his product. (He would soon replace the molasses with arsenic, but that’s another story.)

The German baker’s invention, unfortunately, came too late to help the disgruntled Evelina or the hapless Hannah on this warm, warm day in Easton.

 

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