July 20, 1852

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Pre-Civil War Ames Shovel with “D” wooden handle*

1852

July 20th Tuesday  I was in hopes to do something this

week but did not commence right yesterday

In the first place yesterday afternoon Mr

Whitwell called & Mr Ames took him & Oliver

to Bridgewater  Then uncle Ephraim called and I

must needs run in to laugh at Mrs Ames and

found Mrs Sheldon there and to day I

have not done much but talk over yesterdays affairs.

 

According to Old Oliver, the day was “fair with a verry hot sun wind easterly.”** Full summer, in other words. Everyone would begin to feel the heat, including the factory workers putting in their ten hour days at: “hammering, plating, drawing (backstraps), welding, smoothing, setting, opening, filing, riveting, finishing (handles), [and] handling”*** the shovels. Unlike workers elsewhere in the state, these workers seemed content with the hours they worked and the pay they received. “The relationship between the Ames family and shovel shop workers appears to have been amicable, for much of the business’s history.” ****

To date, no one had ever gone on strike at the shovel works, while in Amesbury to the north, textile workers had walked off their jobs in June. They were striking for better hours, having become fed up with twelve hour days for everyone, including children. They lost that strike at the woolen mill, which was owned by the Salisbury Corporation, but gained the support of their town government and launched the career of George McNeill, a fourteen year old carder who became the father of the eight-hour movement. Working out of Boston, McNeill would spend his life advocating and agitating for more humane conditions for factory workers.

In 1853, a limited strike took place at O. Ames and Sons. As Old Oliver noted on June 16, 1853, “Our outdore men struck for the 10 hour system to day and we settled with them and lett them go.” Evidently the men who worked outside the factory proper – those who would have been responsible for transporting the shovels, for instance – wanted the same hours as those who worked in the production line. Historian Greg Galer interprets this record to mean that the workers were granted their ten hour limit and were sent home for the day. Winthrop Ames, in his family history, on the other hand, interpreted that sentence to mean that the men were fired.

On a lighter note, Evelina was getting a lot of mileage out of Uncle Ephraim’s interest in Almira Ames. She seemed to spend most of her day doing little more than “talk over yesterdays affairs.”

* Image courtesy of etsy.com

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

*** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2002, p. 263.

**** Ibid., p. 265

June 15, 1852

LongShop

Recent image of Long Shop 

June 15th  Tuesday  Julia here and I have been sewing

some but have not had much time […] I

t’s very hot weather mother spent the

day at Edwins I called there awhile and 

ripped my green gingham dress to have 

it made over.  had quite a heavy shower 

this morning which was needed very much

Everyone agreed that this day was “verry warm” and that rain was needed.* Evelina, looking up from her sewing, reported that they had “quite a heavy shower.” Her father-in-law, however, described the rain as “a small shower in the forenoon about an eighth of an inch.” Her glass was half-full, his was half-empty when it came to considering the benefit bestowed by this particular rainfall.

Such quick rain wouldn’t have been enough to interfere with the building of the new stone shops at the factory. Workers had begun to arrive on Saturday and, surely, some initial construction was already underway.  Old Oliver would have made sure of that. This first building on the new site, which was much closer to where the Ames family lived, was dubbed the Long Shop.

Industrial historian Greg Galer describes the Long Shop as “a simple, narrow, gable-roofed, two story building 525 feet long and 35 feet wide with a 60 by 50 foot ell and an additional 30 by 10 foot engine house. “**  This sturdy, less flammable facility would be up and running by the end of the year, and soon include a 60 hp steam engine.

Residents of North Easton today know the Long Shop as one of several shovel factory buildings repurposed for residential use. Along with others, Mr. Galer was instrumental in the successful effort to preserve the historic character of the Long Shop as the site was developed.

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

** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, 2002, p. 150