December 28, 1852

cuba-album2

Havana-coachws-1851-2-copy

Federico Mialhe, Album Pinteresco de la Isla de Cuba and The Gates of Montserratte, Havana, Cuba, ca. 1850*

 

Tuesday Dec 28th  Catharine & self have been to work on

our dresses  Have cut & made the sleeves & got

the skirts made &c  This afternoon have spent

in the other part of the house   Mr Ames

there to tea  Oliver & wife dined there

on Turkey  Received another letter from

Oakes Angier  He was to leave for Havana

last Wednesday

 

A letter from Oakes Angier arrived today, evidently at least the second one he had written since departing two weeks earlier. If, as he wrote, he was leaving Charleston on Dec. 22, then by this date, he was just about landing in Havana. He may have continued to sail south on the Steamship James Adger or he may have boarded the Steamship Isabel which, at that time and for at least a decade more, ran regularly between Charleston and Havana, with stops in Savannah, Georgia and Key West, Florida. The Isabel carried mail as well as passengers. The year before, it had even carried the famous Jenny Lind to the island for a concert.

While Evelina was dress-making and Oliver Ames Jr and Sarah Lothrop Ames were dining on turkey at Sarah Witherell’s, Oakes Angier was shaking off the damp of his sea voyage and stepping into the soft humidity of Cuba. Did he, like others before and after, settle into a North-American section of Havana called Cardenas, and look out on the beautiful Cardenas Bay? Did he gaze at the mountains across the bay? And did he look at – surely, he looked at – the miles and miles of sugar cane, palm trees and estancias? Did he ride in a volant, a conveyance whose rear wheels were six feet high? Did he make friends?

Most of all, did Oakes Angier get better? Was the change of climate good for him? He did, and it was. Many readers of this blog – some of whom are his descendants – already know that Oakes Angier did, in fact, return home safely, cured of his pulmonary ailment. We don’t yet know exactly when and how he returned, but by the summer of 1855, he would be back in North Easton, married to Catharine Hobart and building his home, Queset House. He would recover.

 

*Images and much information courtesy of http://www.skinnerfamilypapers.com

 

June 23, 1852

1852 Stove Ad 002

Advertisement for cook stove, June 1852*

 

Wednesday June 23d  Work again weeding the garden

untill nine or ten and then about house

attending to the new stove that was put up

last night  Passed the afternoon at Mr

Howard Lothrops with Mrs Witherell, S Ames

& Helen.  Got 4lbs of butter of Mrs Harvey &

Eggs of Mrs Howard & Pratt

 

Evelina had a new, cast-iron stove, a high-tech appliance in the new, industrial age. Cast iron was “the wonder material of the 19th century and led to a prolific industry in making stoves for cooking as well as heating. Cast iron could take the repeated temperature swings of hot and cold, and it was an ideal medium for casting into complex, prefabricated parts, as well as for decorative surface ornament.”** Coal and iron mines were kept busy providing the raw material as middle-class households bought cook stoves for their transformed kitchens.

The new stoves had various brand names, naturally; one model was even named for everyone’s favorite opera star: the Jenny Lind Double Oven Stove. The dominant design for cookstoves was called “step-top,” which allowed two separate levels for cooking on. The choice of cooking surface facilitated the preparation of several dishes. Evelina could be confident that her kitchen was state-of-the-art, whatever her father-in-law had to say about it.

Evelina may even have talked about her new stove as she was out and about this afternoon, picking up butter and eggs, and visiting with her two sisters-in-law at the elder Lothrops’ home.

 

*Advertisement from Charleston, Illinois newspaper, 

** http://www.oldhouseonline.com/history-of-the-kitchen-stove

June 4, 1852

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The El Dorado Gambling-Saloon and the Jenny Lind Theater, San Francisco, ca. 1852*

 

Friday June 4th  Mr Scott has varnished the Oilcloth

in the dining room this afternoon and painted

the cellar way and commenced on the entry

chamber  I have been all day waiting on

him and getting the rooms in order to paint

and varnish  Dining room whitewashed

I shall be thankful when we get through

with painting

Probably every member of the Ames family – not just Evelina – was going to be thankful to be “through with painting.” Lately there had been too much disruption at the Ames compound; getting the rooms back in shape would help life get back to normal.

Disruption being a part of life, it was happening on a civic scale in the city of San Francisco right at this time.  The newspapers called it the Jenny Lind Swindle, so disfavorably did they regard the situation. The city government had just purchased the recently established Jenny Lind Theater to be made over into their administrative offices, or “business chambers,”* the previous city hall having burned down the year before.

Built by an illiterate but entrepreneurial cabbie and bartender from New York named Tom Maguire, who was “profoundly ignorant of the stage,”* the Jenny Lind Theater had nonetheless opened the previous fall with much acclaim for its “handsome” interior. Within its “exquisite” walls, “the rowdy populace embraced” shows as diverse as Shakespeare and burlesque. Exactly why Maguire sold the building to the city is unclear – the need for money comes to mind – for he went on to build another elsewhere in town.

The cost of renovating the theater into office space was considerably greater than the acquisition of alternative sites, and the purchase of it with tax dollars was considered “scandalous.” “The public was growing very clamorous, the more so perhaps because it was impotent,” noted a contemporary commentator on the subject. In early June, a great crowd gathered in protest, and a heated debate ensued between a council member and a spokesman for the citizens. The venting was fractious, but didn’t change the plan. The city council moved into its new quarters as planned; ironically enough, the theater space was soon found to be too small.

Did Evelina read about this in the Eastern papers? Did Oakes? California and its politics must have seemed very far away, yet Oakes would soon play a key role in connecting California to the East Coast by way of a transcontinental railroad. Who knew?

 

*Annals of San Francisco, 1855  Image courtesy of foundsf.org

 

 

March 19, 1852

moms_white_cake_2

March 19th Friday  Have heat the brick oven baked

mince & dried apple pies & Jenny Lind cake  Amelia

went to Mr Torreys this morning and Orinthia

afternoon & self this evening, when we returned

found Edwin & wife here.  Mr Whitwell called

had called at Edwins for the first time

Jenny Lind, international opera star, was so famous at mid-century that many things were named in her honor: A street in North Easton, for one, and more. The “Swedish Nightingale,” young, pretty and gifted, was promoted to the hilt by master showman P. T. Barnum. Happy fans and clever merchandisers attached her name to a bed, a bonnet, a steamer trunk, a pudding, a saloon in Brooklyn and a gold-rush town on the Calaveras River in California. She also had a cake named after her.

Evelina baked a Jenny Lind cake today.  Perhaps she took the “receipt” from a popular cookbook by Mrs. A. L. Webster titled The Improved Housewife. The result was a real departure from the usual fruitcake:

Stir together 2 cups white sugar and 1 butter.  Add 10 egg-whites, well beaten. Just before setting in , add half a teaspoonful soda dissolved in cup of cold milk and 1 and half cream tartar mixed with 4 cups flour.  Flavor with vanilla, or to taste. Line pans with buttered paper, and bake in moderate oven fifteen or twenty minutes.  Frost it. – Or: the 10 yolks with the other ingredients as above, and the grated rind of 2 lemons for the flavoring, make a nice cake.”

 

 

February 5, 1852

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Jenny Lind 

(1820- 1887)

Thursday  Feb 5th  Have not been very well to day after being

out last evening.  Have put a new bosom into

an old shirt of Olivers  Passed part of the

afternoon at Edwins and part of the evening in

Olivers was also there about two hours this forenoon

It is a delightful evening and fine sleighing

 

A celebrity wedding took place in Boston on this date. Opera singer Jenny Lind married her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt, at the home of banker Samuel Gray Ward in Louisburg Square.* There was no People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight or The Daily Beast to herald the occasion, but the newspapers of the day carried the story.  “The Swedish Nightingale” was big news.

Originally from Sweden, Jenny Lind was discovered at the age of nine when the maid of a dancer at the Royal Opera overheard her singing. Though untrained, Lind soon rose to prominence on the strength of her beautiful soprano voice and became court singer to the King of Sweden and Norway. She almost damaged her vocal cords in the process, but rest and proper training set her to rights. She became world-famous in operas such as Der Freischutz  and Lucia di Lammermoor.  

In 1850, showman P. T. Barnum brought Jenny Lind to the United States, where she gave 93 performances over two years. When she married in Boston, she was nearing the end of her American tour and would soon to return to Europe. At 32, she would retire from touring and become the mother of three, yet she would continue to perform occasionally and teach for the remainder of her life. Many of us in the 21st century know of Jenny Lind as much for a style of spool bed that carries her name as for her acclaim as an early international opera star.

 

 

* Jim Vrabel, It Happened in Boston, p. 61

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