December 29, 1852

Emma-Snodgrass1

Emma Snodgrass 

 

Wednesday Dec 29th  Julia here to day & cut the

waist to Susans raw silk & partly cut the

waist to my 12 1/2 cts Delaine  My family

& Fathers all dined to Olivers  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  We were all invited to 

Mr Swains this afternoon  I did not go untill

past five Oclock  Mr Ames & Oliver Jr came

there to tea

 

In North Easton, Evelina and her dressmaker, Julia Mahoney, spent the day cutting up cloth for some new dresses – probably one of Evelina’s favorite tasks. Evelina also entertained a visit from Rev. Whitwell and his wife, Eliza. She ended up staying indoors for most of the day, only venturing out after dark for tea at the home of John and Ann Swain.

In Boston on this day, a very different woman on a very different path ended up getting herself arrested, and not for the first time. The petite young perpetrator was Emma Snodgrass, a native of New York City. According to newspaper accounts of the day, her crime was “donning the breeches.” She was dressed in pants and a frock coat, trying to pass herself off as a man.

Her alias was George Green, and she was earning her living, at least for a time, as a sales clerk at John Simmons & Co., a clothier in the city. Newspapers as far away as California seized on the novelty of this aberrant behavior, and published various accounts of Miss Snodgrass’s conduct. What sources they might have used for their stories goes uncited, but nonetheless they delighted in reciting such tidbits as: “Snodgrass used to circulate in all the drinking houses, made several violent attempts to talk ‘horse’ and do other things for which ‘fast boys’ are noted.”*

The shock that Emma Snodgrass’s behavior generated in 1852 demonstrates how times have changed. In 2015, we might see Snodgrass’s cross-dressing as suggestive of what we now call gender identity disorder. Then, it was more likely understood as willful rebellion against the strict division of the roles of the sexes. Snodgrass and others – and there were others – had an impossible time being taken seriously. Many people probably believed that Emma Snodgrass’s parents hadn’t raised her properly.

What did Evelina think?

 

*New York Daily Times, November 30, 1852

 

December 27, 1852

Prisoner

Monday Dec 27  Catharine & Ann washed and I have

commenced my dresses early for Julia

Mr & Mrs Swain & his sister came unexpectedly

into the other part of the house this afternoon

and the evening I have been there  Mrs A L

& Mrs S Ames have been to Sharon this afternoon

Mrs Ames says all the reports about Mr Clarke

abusing his wife are true and he has broken her jaw

in three places  He is in the house of correction

 

Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode to neighboring Sharon and back today and returned with a tale of domestic violence. A Mr. Clarke had been put in jail for beating his wife. Evelina listened closely to the news, lingering over the specifics of the injuries he inflicted on poor Mrs. Clarke, whose jaw was broken in three places. That’s a serious injury in any period, but in 1852 the capacity for proper repair of such breakage was limited at best. Orthopedic surgery was in its infancy and wouldn’t improve until doctors learned more about bone breakage during the Civil War.

The “house of correction” which housed the abusive Mr. Clarke was, simply put, the local jail. In Massachusetts the terms “jail” and “house of correction” were and are used interchangeably. Elsewhere the term “house of correction” was more narrowly defined to mean a holding place for people who were awaiting trial, or for vagrants – not a residential prison, in other words. However it may be defined, it meant at least temporary detention behind bars for Mr. Clarke.

Historians differ on society’s treatment of domestic violence in the nineteenth century. Most people believed that the government – even the local government – had no role in domestic concerns. But people also believed strongly in the moral authority of women and were loathe to tolerate physical transgressions against the weaker sex. Thus was Mr. Clarke put behind bars.

Other than this news, life at the Ames compound was trotting along as usual. It was laundry day – the last one that we shall read of – and the Irish servants were busy at their wash tubs, hot water boiling on the stove. Evelina sewed, of course, and got some pieces ready for Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker. Old Oliver noted that “in the evening there was a little snow.”

 

November 4, 1852

67877_mendclothes_mth

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!

October 22, 1852

 

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Tibetan Sheep, 21st century

Friday Oct 22d Julia Mahoney was here to work

this forenoon on Susans Maroon Thibot

making a new waist and put a new yoke

and making over the waist to her dark

striped wool deLaine  Carried home the

waist to finish to her Thibot dress  I spent

the afternoon at Olivers with Hannah + Augustus

Mr Whitwell called

 

Julia Mahoney, a local dressmaker, worked at Evelina’s sewing at least two dresses for Susan Ames. Susie, who was ten-going-on-eleven, was growing taller and more mature. The dresses she had worn the previous winter needed to be altered, the waists expanded, the tucks let out, a new yoke put in. One of her dresses was made of delaine, a wool that Evelina sewed often for herself and her daughter. It was a popular, open-weave, light-weight wool that came in many patterns and colors; it may or may not have been imported.

The “Thibot” cloth that Evelina describes was more unusual. It was of “[w]ool material, worsted with soft and smooth plain-finished face; made from mountain sheep of Thibet, Asia*.” This textile was imported and would have been more expensive, suggesting that Susie’s little maroon dress may have been meant for “Sunday best.” It was special enough that the dressmaker took it home to work on.

In Boston at this time, sources for wool were both domestic and foreign.  There were approximately 15 wool merchants in the city, most of whom were prospering. According to an early 20th century history:

“The quantity of domestic wool showed a steady decrease for several years subsequent to the enactment of the tariff of 1846. The effect of the gold discoveries upon general commerce in 1849, stimulating the manufacturing industry, is reflected in the rapidly increased imports of home grown wools. The imports of foreign wools show considerable yearly fluctuation, corresponding in the main to the varying quantities of domestic wools.”**

Some years later, Susie would marry a wool merchant named Henry French. She and Evelina would then – presumably – have access to whatever wool they needed or wanted, foreign or domestic.

*Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions, 1830-1910, Texas Tech University Press, 1988, p. 183

**Joseph T. Shaw, The Wool Trade of the United States: History of a Great Industry:Its Rise and Progress in Boston, Now the Second Market in the World, 1909, p. 52

October 8, 1852

bushel-and-peck

Friday Oct 8th  Have been making barberry sauce

to day only 1 peck but a great many more apples

Julia was here and altered the skirt of my 

Delaine dress.  She scarcely got the skirt

right  Augusta has gone to her fathers this

afternoon to pass a week or so her father came after

her  I have sewed but very little again to day

Why is it that I cannot find more time to sew?

 

Evelina was spending so much time in the kitchen lately that she had “but very little” time for sewing. So it went during harvest season. Fruits and vegetables came piling into the kitchen in all manner of measures, and Evelina and her servants had to cook and store them, or lose them. She writes today of using up a peck of barberries for sauce and even more apples, though it’s unclear if the apples went into the barberry sauce or were used in something else. A year ago at this time, Evelina was doing exactly the same thing, cooking barberries and other fruit in her kitchen, except that at the time, she was ill with nettle rash.

We get pints, quarts, pecks and bushels from our English heritage. No metric system for them, or us. A peck is a dry measure equivalent to eight quarts; four pecks make up a bushel. Modern grocery shoppers don’t often see food sold in a quantity of one peck in a regular supermarket. This time of year, one can find displays of five-pound paper bags of fresh apples in the produce department; one of those bags is equivalent to half a peck. With that in mind, think of how many pounds of apples, barberries and more Evelina had to process in the fall. She had no choice, either. Even a family as wealthy as the Ameses needed that food for the winter.

A half-bushel, by the way, was once called a kenning.

 

August 5, 1852

Rein

1852

Thursday Aug 5th  Have had a rainy day which was

very much needed.  Was intending to go to

Boston with Oakes A in a carriage  Am most

affraid to have him drive Caty as he has been

raising blood of late and has a hacking cough

Lavinia is at Edwins has had Julia

cut her a dress to day  I went there and 

carried my work awhile this afternoon 

Put a new breadth into Susans Borage Delaine

where she tore it

Caty (or Katy), one of the Ames’s horses, was famous in Easton for her willful – and fast-paced – ways. Evelina has complained about her in previous diary entries. Today, however, Evelina had another reason entirely to be “most affraid” to let her son, Oakes Angier, drive the horse. Oakes Angier Ames was coughing up blood.

In an age when consumption, which we know as tuberculosis, was rampant and usually fatal, any person “raising” bloody sputum was immediately suspected of having the disease. TB wasn’t restricted to the lungs, actually; it could attack other parts of the body, such as the spine, but its most common manifestation was pulmonary. Blood coughed into a handkerchief was bad news.

How frightening this development must have been for Oakes Angier, and indeed for the entire Ames family.  Oakes Angier was the eldest grandson, the heir, the star cousin and nephew in whom many expectations were placed. He was beloved, and suddenly he was evincing signs of a potentially fatal illness. Old Oliver makes no mention of this in his journal, however, and Evelina herself had taken a few days to record the news. She may not have wanted to see such words in writing. We may suspect that Oakes Ames knew about his son’s condition earlier, but we can’t know for certain, of course. We can only follow the family as it copes with this huge development.

On this day, Evelina seemed to cope as she always did, by sewing. She took her work across the way to visit Augusta Pool Gilmore, the young bride who was now in the family way. Dressmaker Julia Mahoney was there, as was Lavinia Gilmore, so the women were able to sit and sew and talk in their usual fashion. The touch of normalcy must have been somewhat soothing for Evelina.

 

August 3, 1852

Hpr HaravrdTraining-s

Harvard Crew Training on the Charles River, ca. 1869*

August 3d 1852

Tuesday  Cut out a linen & moire skirt for Catharine

to make and Susan a night gown  I have

at last got my travelling dress done  I believe

cape and all.  How provoking it is to have

to alter so much  Julia Mahoney has been

to work for Mrs Witherell making a Borage Delaine

Augusta & Mrs McHanna were here this afternoon

For Evelina, this was a fairly ordinary day of sewing and socializing. Her big news was that she “at last” completed her new traveling outfit.

In the annals of American sports, however, this was no ordinary day.  In a two-mile regatta on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, under a bright blue sky, Harvard beat Yale in the very first intercollegiate athletic competition ever held in the U.S.A. Harvard’s  Oneida beat both of Yale’s boats, Shawmut and Undine. The first prize, a pair of black walnut oars, was presented to the Crimson team by one of the six judges, soon-to-be-president Franklin Pierce. Today, those oars are the oldest intercollegiate athletic prize in North America**. The contest itself has since moved to New London, Connecticut. It recently celebrated its 150th anniversary (not having been held in consecutive years in its earliest iteration.)

The contest was initiated by Yale, who “issued a challenge to Harvard ‘to test the superiority of the oarsmen of the two colleges.'”* According to the written recollection of James Morris Whiton, Yale Class of 1853 and bow oar of Undine, “[t]he race was supposed to be a frolic, and no idea was entertained of establishing a precedent.”*** The enthusiasm of the participants and the entertainment of the spectators, however, insured that a tradition had been born. Anticipation for the event had been high, so much so that the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad footed the bill for the event, believing it would attract visitors to the area. The excursion trains it set up arrived loaded with visitors.

The oarsmen themselves were so enthused about the occasion that they tried to arrange a dance at the inn where they were staying. According to Whiton, “Many of the College boys stayed at the Pemigewasset House, Plymouth, and it occurred to them it would be pleasant to give a ‘hop’, and invite the rural beauties of the town to the festivities. With this end in view, they applied to the landlord of the hostelry and received this reply: ‘Ye can hav the hall, young men, if ye want a gander dance, but ye won’t get no gal timber there, I tell ye.'”

No doubt the failure to dance with some of the “rural beauties” was a disappointment, but otherwise the race and its aftermath were entirely successful. By 1875, thirteen eastern colleges offered crew.

 

Image from Harper’s Weekly, 1869

**Harvard Athletic Association, Courtesy of http://www.gocrimson.com

*** Wikipedia, accessed July 30, 2015

****James Morris Whiton, “The Story of the First Harvard-Yale Regatta by a Bow Oar,” published in The Outlook, June 1, 1901 and privately printed with photographs of Lake Winnipesaukee and of the course of the race.