February 22, 1852



Feb 22nd Sunday Quite a snow storm this morning but

most all went to church.  I came home at noon on

account of a violent tooth ache and did not return.  Mrs

S Lothrop & son spent this afternoon, Frank carried

Orinthia home after meeting. Read in Grahams

Magazine  Mr Ames & self passed the evening at Edwins

It has cleared off very pleasant this evening

“It was a snowing this morning + all the forenoon and fell 2 or 3 inches deep wind southerly + thawd some  was clear at night,” according to Ames patriarch, Old Oliver. Yet the family rode through the snow to get to church. Poor Evelina got “a violent tooth ache” and had to go home after the first service. She must have felt better as the day progressed, for in the evening she and her husband, Oakes, went across the way to visit newlyweds Edwin and Augusta Gilmore.

Today was George Washington’s birthday. Born in 1732, he died in 1799, when Old Oliver was twenty years old. After Washington’s death, the young Congress of the day, whose partisanship between Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democrat-Republicans rivaled the divide we see in our modern Congress, came together to pass a resolution honoring the first president’s birthday. February 22, 1800 was dedicated to him and by 1832, the centennial of Washington’s birth, some type of observance of the holiday was customary.  The holiday did not become federal law until the 1879, and at the time was qualified as a “bank holiday.”

Old Oliver would have remembered the hero of the American Revolution and probably revered him, as most Americans did. Old Oliver was a child when the Constitution was written and ratified, and lived to see 16 presidents take office. For his generation, no American leader would be more heroic than General Washington.


February 14, 1851

Valentine from the 1870's by Esther Howland

Valentine from the 1870’s by Esther Howland

Feb 14th Friday  Mended a pair of pants for Oakes Angier & 

cut out some work for Susan.  Went to the store for a

pair of shoes for self & Susan.  Called on Miss Eaton

on my return met the Dr there.  He thinks she will 

live into March.  Has failed very much since I saw her

Passed the afternoon with Mrs Wales & Miss Lothrop in

the other part of the house.  Mr Jackson called here this eve.

Pleasant this morning, afternoon cloudy & a little rain

The 19th century descendants of the Puritans weren’t known for their celebratory spirit, so we shouldn’t wonder that Valentine’s Day went unrecognized at the Ames’s house.  Although the practice of sending a sweet message to one’s beloved had thrived in England for several decades, the concept was just gaining traction in the United States. Personal Valentine greetings in the form of hand-written poems were familiar to many young people, but nothing was mass-produced until mid-century when a graduate of Mount Holyoke named Esther Howland, whose father was a stationer in Worcester, Massachusetts, developed and sold a lacy Valentine card, America’s first.  The idea took off and shortly thereafter, Graham’s American Monthly noted that “Saint Valentine’s Day […] has become, a national holyday.”   The idea hadn’t caught on at the shovel works, though; if it had, Oakes Ames probably would have seized the opportunity to buy one for his wife.

Evelina took a small step back into her social life today.  Not only was she able to call on Miss Eaton at the Holmes’s house, but she also got an update from the doctor, who confirmed that Miss Eaton was dying.  Miss Eaton did not yet have a “watch” on her, but the time would come when different friends and relatives would take turns sitting with her until she passed.

After her visit with Miss Eaton, Evelina relaxed into a sociable afternoon in “the other part of the house.”  With her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell, she chatted with two female acquaintances while rain returned outside.  In the evening, Mr. Jackson came to call.  He was probably the school master whose teaching had “lacked energy” last week when Evelina visited the local school.  Why was he calling?  Had he learned that Evelina was involved in the establishment of a private school?

January 4, 1851


1851 Saturday Jan 4th

Mr Ames went to Boston this morning and I had to 

get breakfast pretty early.  My housework kept me busy

most all day  Francis came & brought a barrel of apples

Mr Foster came in the evening to get his watch that Mr

Ames brought from Boston.  After doing my tea dishes

read the papers  Mr A bought Ladys Book & Grahams,

of Jan 1st & a number of Harpers  I do not like this

doing my housework it makes my hands chap

Evelina may not have enjoyed housework, but she dearly loved to read.  The magazines that her husband, Oakes, brought home to North Easton that wintry Saturday probably more than made up for her chapped hands. She sat that very evening by her oil lamp, leafing through Graham’s American Monthly Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Magazine and Book, both of which were marketed to readers just like her.  Both periodicals were published in Philadelphia, yet Godey’s was always more popular and successful and had a longer run, from 1830 to 1878.

Godey’s was edited by Sarah Josepha Hale, an accomplished writer whose legacy includes – but is not limited to – authorship of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” as well as credit for convincing Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  Her counterpart at Graham’s included, at one time, a man of antithetical sensibility.  Edgar Allan Poe,  author of “Murder in the Rue Morgue,” The Telltale Heart,”  and other gothic classics was the short-lived editor at Graham’s in the early 1840s.

Harper’s is the only periodical in the stack in the Ames’s sitting room that’s still in publication today.  In 1851, it was embryonic and carried mostly reprints of topical and political articles from English magazines.  It soon found its own American voice, however, and became a noteworthy magazine covering national issues, as Oakes Ames would learn many years later when elected to Congress.  On this cold, unremarkable evening, however, years away from fame, he and his wife were ignorant of such eventualities as they sat and discussed the day.

No doubt Evelina informed Oakes that her nephew, Francis Gilmore, had brought another barrel of apples from the Gilmore family farm.  It was  probably already safely stowed in the cellar, toted down the stairs by one of their sons.  Did she lock this barrel up, as she did the other day?

Images of Graham’s Magazine credited to Wikipedia.