November 4, 1852


Thursday Nov 4th  I was very busy about house this

forenoon making cake & scalding barbaries

&c &c Miss Alger not very well

Mrs John Howard called here & at Olivers

dined with Mrs Witherell  She is having

Julia cut her a dress I have been mending

some this afternoon but do not sew much

The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was staying with the Ames family, and today she was unwell. Evelina had to cope with this, knowing as she did that her daughter Susan resented, in some degree, the presence of Miss Alger. Was Evelina beginning to resent her as well? Miss Alger had been staying with them for quite a while. But perhaps Evelina was too “busy about house” to allow herself any unkind thoughts. Ever domestic, she baked, cooked and mended for most of the day.

Caroline Howard, a fellow Unitarian and Sewing Circle member, made a social call at the Ames compound, visiting Evelina and Sarah Lothrop Ames, then having midday dinner with Sarah Ames Witherell. Mrs. Howard was planning to have a dress made by Julia Mahoney, the Ames women’s favorite dressmaker. Caroline was the wife of John Howard, a laborer (according to the 1850 census) and appeared to have no children. She would far outlive the ladies she was visiting, not dying until age 95 in 1897. Her life span basically covered the whole of the 19th century. What changes she saw!

May 3, 1852


The Modern Architect”*


May 3d Monday Our cook room being painted  Jane

had to wash in the bathing room.  Susan washed

the dishes and I did the rest that was done

about the work which was not much.  Rode

to Mr J Howards to get Rural Architect for Mr

Healy called at Mr Clarks and got some Gladiolus

bulbs and at Jason Howards to see their garden

afternoon planted some sweet peas & lilly seed

Oliver came home to night from Providence


More planting, this time of sweet peas and lilies, went on this afternoon. Gardening was preferable to choring on any given day, but it was probably especially true on this Monday. The kitchen, or “cook room” as Evelina called it, was being painted, making the usual chores more difficult. Servant Jane McHanna had to wash the weekly laundry in the bath tub. Evelina must have been pleased to be outdoors in the sunshine, viewing other gardens and planting flowers in her own. She also would have been pleased to greet her son, Oliver (3), home from college on a break.

At some point during the day, Evelina rode south to John and Caroline Howard’s to borrow a book written by Richard Upjohn, a prominent architect. “Upjohn’s Rural Architecture: Designs, working drawings and specifications for a wooden church, and other rural structures” was a popular new publication featuring home designs in the latest styles. Upjohn, who became the first president of the American Institute of Architects, favored Italianate and Gothic style cottages. His book appealed to the up-and-coming middle class as well as to the wealthy. Evelina borrowed it to show her carpenter, Henry Healey. She had something in mind for Healey to build.


*Frontispiece from “The Modern Architect,” by Edward Shaw, 1854


February 17, 1852


Example of mid-19th century headdress*


Tuesday Feb 17th  This forenoon made me a headdress of Satin

ribbon of the colour of my hair and lace  Alsons

wife came to Augustus this forenoon and to Edwins this

afternoon  Called here awhile after dinner

Mrs Witherell S Ames & self spent the afternoon & evening

at Mr John Howards with Mr & Mrs Whitwell

Mr & Mrs Reed & Mrs Elizabeth Lothrop  Frederick

carried us down & [came] after us this evening

Bonnets may have been the most common covering for the heads of well-dressed mid-century females, but head gear of other persuasions was not to be ignored.  A fore-runner of today’s fascinators, light, decorative headdresses such as the one in the illustration above were very popular for certain indoor or evening outfits. Evelina must have enjoyed sewing one for herself, taking extra pleasure in how well it matched her own coloring.

Evelina’s father-in-law, Old Oliver, noted that this “was a fair day wind north west + cold.” The wind would have been somewhat behind them when the three sisters-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, Sarah Lothrop Ames, and Evelina were driven south in the afternoon by Fred Ames. The women visited a group of friends at the home of fellow Unitarians John and Caroline Howard.  The tea they must have been served there perhaps helped stoke them up for the cold drive back home into the wind.


*Courtesy of Library of Congress

January 27, 1852



Jan 27  Tuesday.  Mrs S Ames & Frederick were to dinner  had a roast

goose.  This afternoon Mr & Mrs Whitwell, Mr & Mrs

John Howard & Miss Jarvis    Mrs Witherell Augustus

& Hannah came this evening    Frederick went after the

ladies. Oliver & George carried them all home this

evening.  Baked some tarts in the other house stove

Have sewed but very little  Mr Wm Brown was also here.

Quite a sociable day for the Ameses, full of company.  Midday dinner was attended by Sarah Lothrop Ames and her son Frederick. (The absence of Oliver Jr. and Helen Angier Ames suggests that the former might have been away on business while the latter had returned to school.) Fred, like Oliver (3), was home from the Ivy League; their conversation at the dinner table probably provided some fresh subject matter. Perhaps they entertained family members with a modified description of life on campus.

Evelina served a roast goose (that Jane McHanna had cooked), a dish that normally denoted a special occasion such as Christmas or New Year’s. Were they serving it in anticipation of Oliver (3)’s 21st birthday, or was it just a whim? Either way, serving roast goose on an odd weekday signified wealth behind the larder.

Sarah Josepha Hale offered a recipe for roast goose in her popular household guide, The Good Housekeeper, suggesting that it be stuffed and roasted on a spit over a “brisk” fire for at least two hours. Otherwise, she had a qualified opinion of the dish:

“Geese seem to bear the same relationship to poultry that pork does to the flesh of other domestic quadrupeds; that is, the flesh of goose is not suitable for, or agreeable to, the very delicate in constitution. One reason doubtless is, that it is the fashion to bring it to table very rare done; a detestable mode!”*

Mrs. Hale would likely have approved of the baked tarts, however, that Evelina served for tea later in the day to the Whitwells and others.  It’s a happy note that Sarah Witherell ventured over at the very end of the day; she must have been feeling better after the extraction of her teeth some days back.  She was comfortable enough to let Evelina’s nephew Augustus and his wife Hannah see her face, which had been swollen for days.


*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Housekeeper’s Guide, 1841, p. 52