December 24, 1852

Image from Aunt Louisas Alphabet book - Alphabet og Games and Sports, London, 1870

The Yule Log, English illustration, ca. 1870

Friday Dec 24th  Have finished the sack for Susan

and I feel that I have a good job done

Catharine has basted the lining & outside

of my dress together  Ann & Catharine

went to Canton this afternoon. Alson &

wife came up this morning to go to the lecture

they stopt at Augustus & Henrietta & Helen came

here   Malvina here to tea.  Mr Ames went to Boston

lecture by J C Parks

on the dignity of labour

Some people were preparing for Christmas, but Evelina wasn’t one of them. As we saw last December, the Ames family didn’t celebrate Christmas, certainly not the way we celebrate it in 2015. Nor did other Unitarians and fellow Protestants in New England. Catholics celebrated it, however, and this afternoon, Irish servants Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin departed for Canton where they must have had family or friends to meet. They wouldn’t return until late the next day. In one sense, Christmas to the Ameses meant a lack of servants and no work – or reduced production, perhaps – at the shovel shop. It was a holiday with a negative impact.

So in the Ames compound, life went on as usual, even on Christmas Eve. Evelina sewed and Oakes Ames went into Boston. A few Gilmore relatives, including Evelina’s youngest nieces, Henrietta Hall Gilmore and Helen Jane Gilmore, came by. There was a lecture in town which Evelina’s brother Alson and his wife Henrietta Williams Gilmore attended in which Mr. J.C. Parks spoke on “the dignity of labour.” An interesting theme for a day when much of the work force was so-called idle. Surely the quiet at the factory got under Old Oliver’s skin, but with his usual understatement, he only mentioned the weather in his journal:  “[I]t raind ¾ of an inch last night it was cloudy in the forenoon + fair in the afternoon wind south west and it took the snow + ice all off.”*

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

November 1, 1851




Sat Nov 1st  This morning I patched the paper in the

bedroom that Mr Robinson papered last spring

Henrietta came about ten Oclock and left mother 

and her little girls at Augustus.  I went there this P.M.

and staid a couple of hours.  Mr & Mrs Peckham came

to the other part of the house  Mr Scott has finished

painting the parlour and has done here for the present

I paid him 12 dols, 25 cts for graining


The graining of the woodwork and doors in the downstairs of the house was completed today. As noted earlier, graining is the painting of a surface to resemble wood.  In 1851, popular taste dictated that wood trim from simple pine or ash or other tree be grained to resemble a dressier wood such as mahogany, or curly maple. The illustration above, from a modern decorating company that offers “faux bois,” as graining is also known, shows a hand-painted example of flame mahogany.

The talented Mr. Scott finished his work today, for which Evelina paid him $12.25.  In today’s dollars, the “labor value” of that compensation is $2,680, according to one economic source.** That value is computed using a wage index for unskilled labor; the computation for a production worker compensation would be even higher. That Evelina made note of the expenditure in her personal journal suggests that she thought it was noteworthy – in her own opinion, she either paid too much or she got a good deal.  I suspect the former!

Social life went on as usual today. John and Susan Peckham were back in town and stopped in to see Old Oliver and Sarah Witherell. Evelina’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, came into the village from the farm and brought old Mrs. Gilmore to Mr. Torrey’s to visit Alson “Augustus” and Hannah Gilmore.  Henrietta also brought along her two youngest children, eight-year-old Henrietta Hall Gilmore and six-year-old Helen Jane Gilmore.  The two girls were actually half-sisters of 29-year-old Augustus. Their mutual parent, Alson Gilmore, had a spread of seven children from two wives.


Image of mahogany-style graining, Courtesy of, Great Neck, New York.