November 20, 1852

700px-Boston_music_hall

Boston Music Hall, 1852*

1852

Sat Nov 20th  I have been puttering about

house all day again  scoured the solar lamp

with acid & whiting and it took a long

while to get the varnish off  Miss Sarah

& Jane Burrell came here with their 

brother and stopt about two hours I

went with them to the new shop

The solar lamp that Evelina polished today was probably the most modern lighting in the whole house. Solar lamps, so called because their “illumination was thought to be comparable to sunlight”**, had a “central draft Argand burner with a spiral wick raiser” and a deflector cap that drew more oxygen to the flame. These were fine points for table lamps that still used whale oil but would soon use Kerosene, and which had pretty well replaced candlesticks in the homes of most settled communities.

Many solar lamps were made by Henry N. Hooper & Company of Boston.  Hooper ran a foundry that made lighting fixtures and bells and, during the Civil War, also made artillery for the Union Army. As a young man, Hooper had begun his career working in a foundry for Paul Revere. What changes he saw!

Other changes were afoot. The Boston Music Hall opened in the city on this date on Winter Street and Hamilton Place. It was paid for by the Harvard Musical Association, a group of Harvard graduates dedicated to promoting music. The Handel and Haydn Society played the inaugural concert and, three decades later, the site became the first home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The hall was also used for lectures, and hosted a huge gathering of abolitionists on December 31,1862 to celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Tubman were among the many who attended.*

*Wikipedia, accessed November 16, 2015

**Gerald T. Gowitt, 19th Century Elegant Lighting, Schiffer, 2002

 

 

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

 

June 26, 1852


  • hentzcl

Caroline Lee Hentz

(1800 – 1856)

1852

June 26th Saturday  Was assisting Hannah about house

most of the forenoon  Made pies & cake baked

in the small new tins  Have been mending

this afternoon and finished Marcus Warland

by Mrs Caroline Lee Hentz

Mr Ames brought home 1/4 lb black sewing

silk from Boston  I have a bad cough

Although her “bad cough” presaged an oncoming cold, Evelina managed to accomplish many domestic tasks today. Perhaps the best part of the day, however, came after the choring, baking and mending. She finished reading Marcus Warland; or, The Long Moss Spring. Tale of the South. by Caroline Lee Hentz.

Caroline Lee Hentz was an immensely popular novelist, “well known and much esteemed.”* In the 1850s, the Boston Library listed her as one of the three top writers of the day. A major literary figure, now largely forgotten, Mrs. Hentz described herself as a “Northerner who traveled and worked throughout the South for nearly thirty years.”** Though born and raised in Lancaster, Massachusetts, only fifty-odd miles from North Easton, Caroline and her teacher husband spent married life in various Southern states, opening and closing schools as they went along. They lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Covington, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, where they met Harriet Beecher Stowe); Alabama; Georgia; and Florida.

Unlike Mrs. Stowe, Mrs. Hentz was an apologist for slavery. In the Introduction to Marcus Warland, she wrote:

“We believe, if the domestic manners of the South were more generally and thoroughly known at the North, the prejudices that have been gradually building up a wall of separation between these two divisions of our land would yield to the irresistible force of conviction.”*** She believed not only that the institution of slavery was essential to the South’s livelihood, but that blacks were a lesser race who needed to be looked after. She was hardly alone in the latter belief.

After Mrs. Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published to both huge acclaim and vehement dissent, Mrs. Hentz penned a rebuttal novel entitled The Planter’s Northern Bride.  It came out in 1854 and found a wide audience. We can imagine that Evelina might have read it out of curiosity.

But today, while Evelina reclined with Marcus Warland, her old father-in-law was dependably keeping his eye on the sky and his finger to the wind.  The weather entry for today read “the 24 – 25 + 26 were fair cool days for the season + windy drying days wind north west + west most of the time.”**** This bode well for haying.

Anonymous, Southern Quarterly Review, circa 1851, quoted by Karen Tracey, Plots and Propsals, University of Illinois, 2000.

** “Caroline Lee Hentz,” Wikipedia, accessed June 24, 2015

*** Caroline Lee Hentz, Marcus Warland, 1852, p, 2

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

 

April 6, 1852

330px-Harriet_Beecher_Stowe_c1852

Harriet Beecher Stowe

(1811 – 1896)

1852

April 6th  Tuesday  We have had one of the driving

snow storms of the season  the snow is very

much banked.  We have been reading Uncle

Toms Cabin  Susan has read to us most of the

time  have been sewing & mending.  Orinthia hemmed

a black cravat for O Angier and sewed some

on Susans pink apron.  Have made a little needle

book for mother

Yesterday, Evelina and Orinthia had been in Evelina’s garden planting flowers. Today the two women sat indoors “sewing & mending” because the unstable spring weather had brought on “one of the driving snow storms of the season.” According to Old Oliver, the snow “was all in heaps and the wind blowing verry hard from northeast” *

Yet the women weren’t disconsolate. While they sewed, Evelina’s daughter Susan read aloud to them from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a popular new novel. Originally published in serial form in the National Era, an abolitionist periodical out of Washington, D. C.,  the full book had just been published in Boston by John P. Jewett and was on its way to becoming the best selling work of fiction of the 19th century.

Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or a Tale of Life Among the Lowly tells the story of two Kentucky slaves, Tom and Eliza, who are forced to leave their home plantation and make their way in a hostile society, one sold south, the other escaping north. It was a tale that gripped readers north and south, within the country and abroad, and provoked various imitations, interpretations and theatrical iterations. It has never been out of print.

Mrs. Stowe was not only an author, mother of seven children and wife of a Biblical scholar and educator; she and her husband were also active abolitionists. For a number of years they had lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, an active depot for escaping slaves, where they were participants in the Underground Railroad and personally helped hide slaves on the run. When the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850, Mrs. Stowe was distraught. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in protest.

How might Evelina have liked Uncle Tom’s Cabin?  Very much, one suspects. Though hardly an active abolitionist, Evelina was sympathetic to the slaves. After the Civil War, she even tried to hire some freed black women to come work for her but, according to her grandson Winthrop Ames, the plan never worked out.

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