October 4, 1852

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                       Roger B. Taney                                                                   Benjamin Robbins Curtis                

(1777 – 1864)                                                                       (1809 – 1874)

Oct 4th Monday  Catharine Middleton & C Murphy washed

Mrs Norris and all of us dined with Mrs Witherell

and staid there untill about four and then

Mrs Norris and self went to Augustus’ to tea and

passed the evening  Mrs Lincoln is there

intends spending the winter  I do but very

little sewing have made a pr of plain cambric sleeves to day

 

 

It was the first Monday in October which in North Easton meant another washday. At the Ames compound, the Irish servant girls, Catharine Middleton and Catharine Murphy, tied their aprons on, filled the wash tubs and went to work. The slight rain did not interfere.

In Washington D.C., on this first Monday in October, nine white male justices put on their black robes and also went to work. A new session of the U.S. Supreme Court got underway. Led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland, the 1852-1853 term would deal with, among others, the case of Cooley vs. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia. That decision would confirm the right of states to regulate commerce within their own boundaries. We might imagine that this decision had an impact on businesses such as the shovel works that shipped merchandise.

Taney and three other members of the court – John McLean of Ohio (the longest-serving), James Moor Wayne of Georgia, and John Catron of Tennessee – had been appointed by Andrew Jackson in the 1830’s. Two other justices, John McKinley of Alabama and Peter Vivian Daniel of Virginia, had been appointed by Martin Van Buren and had served almost as long. Newer to the bench were Samuel Nelson of New York, appointed by John Tyler in 1845, and Benjamin Robbins Curtis of Massachusetts, appointed by Millard Fillmore the previous year, 1851.

Associate Justice Curtis was the first and only Whig ever to serve on the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard, he was also the first justice to have a formal law degree. The justices up until that time had either “read law” as apprentices or attended law school without getting their degree.  Curtis would further distinguish himself in 1857 when the Taney Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision that determined that a black man had no rights of citizenship. Curtis and John McLean dissented from that majority decision, with Curtis so upset that he resigned from the court. He is the only justice to date to resign from the Supreme Court on a matter of principle.

 

 

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

 

September 23, 1852

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Sarah Lothrop Ames

(1812 – 1890)

 

Thursday Sept 23th [sic] Have not sewed at all to day Starch

the clothes and ironed some fine shirts

Lavinia washed the clothes that Oliver brought

from Providence & Mr Rathbourne from 

Providence came this afternoon to visit […]

Oliver  He went to Stoughton after him

Mrs Holmes & sister came after some plants

 

It’s unusual to read of Evelina and her servants doing a wash on a Thursday, but so it was. Son Oliver (3) had returned from a trip to Providence with dirty laundry in tow and, more than that, a houseguest headed their way. Evelina had to finish up the laundry and prepare for company. She evidently had help from her twenty-year-old niece, Lavinia Gilmore, who, by washing the clothes of her twenty-one-year-old cousin, demonstrates not only the strict division of labor of the day, but the then-unexamined destiny of spinster daughters and nieces to serve the men of their family.

Next door, Sarah Lothrop Ames celebrated her 40th birthday which, in those times, was the front door to old age. It was her destiny to grow up in Easton, the only daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and his wife, Sally Williams Lothrop. She had nine brothers, which makes us wonder if she, as a singleton girl, was doted on, or depended on, or both. On June 11, 1833, Sarah married Oliver Ames, Jr., third son of Old Oliver and Susannah Angier Ames. In social terms, it was a marriage between two of the town’s important families. The couple moved into their own house, built for them by Old Oliver, next door to the family homestead. They would eventually tear that house down and build a grander one, known to us as Unity Close.

Sarah and Oliver Jr had only two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier, at a time when a larger family was more typical. We can’t know if their decision to stop at two was happenstance, voluntary, or imposed by medical circumstances. Fred, they raised to go into the family shovel business, much as Oakes and Evelina did with their three sons. Fred was given a full college education, however, as his cousins were not. Helen and her younger cousin, Susan, meanwhile, were raised to be proper young ladies with fine dresses, piano lessons, and good schooling. It is doubtful that Helen ever had to wash her brother’s clothes. There were servants for that.

Like her sisters-in-law Evelina and Sarah Ames Witherell, Sarah Lothrop Ames was a regular church-goer and a conscientious neighbor. She did her duty with the elderly and infirm in the village, and she was a loving daughter to the end with her parents. Her mother, once widowed, developed dementia and incontinence, yet Sarah cared for her until her death. She was close to her children and grandchildren, of whom she had five.

A widow herself by 1877, Sarah would live until 1890, outlasting her husband, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and all but one brother, Cyrus, to whom she left the use of Unity Close for his lifetime. After his death, it passed to her eldest grandson, Oliver Ames (1865-1929).

 

 

September 13, 1852

Towel

Monday Sept 13th  Catharine has washed all the fine

clothes & towels &c  We had 26 towels and 21 shirts

Hannah got up about nine or ten and went to

work some  I have starched most of the clothes

Have passed the afternoon in the other part

of the house with Mother & Mrs Stevens.  William

& Angier are there came three or four days

since

With the addition of all the new men’s shirts that Evelina had been sewing, the laundry this week was heaping. Two servants worked on the wash, while Evelina set items in starch. Fortunately, the day was sunny and the laundry could be hung outside. It was a busy Monday around the wash tubs.

On or close to this date in 1852, a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The Life of Franklin Pierce was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a friend of Pierce since their days at Bowdoin College. The purpose of the bio was to present the Democratic candidate to the voting populace at large, particularly in the areas of the country, such as the burgeoning northwest, where he was less well known. Publishing a biography was a typical campaign strategy at the time for major presidential contenders.

Although Hawthorne, who was famous as the author of The House of Seven Gables, readily admitted that this kind of writing was “remote from his customary occupation,”* he threw himself into the project. He softened Pierce’s well-known pro-slavery stance by emphasizing his friend’s peaceful and pragmatic nature. He explained Pierce as believing that slavery would disappear on its own without human intervention. It needed no management or interference. In sour jest, some abolitionists and others responded that this biography was Hawthorne’s best work of fiction yet.

As we know, Pierce did get elected; perhaps the campaign biography helped. With gratitude, Pierce appointed Hawthorne to a consulship in Liverpool, a lucrative post. Hawthorne needed the money. The two men remained friends for the rest of their lives, until Hawthorne’s death in his sleep in May, 1864, while visiting the Pierces.

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, Boston, 1852, Introduction.

September 6, 1852

 

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Floating Island

 

Monday Sept 6th  Hannah & Catharine washed

and I had to be about house most of the 

forenoon  made floating island &c &c Mr

Plymton & another man here from Walpole

to dine  Sewed some on shirts  Called

with Mrs S Ames & Mrs Stevens on Abby &

Hannah.  Called on Mrs Wales Sampson Holmes &c

 

“Oeufs a la Neige” is the French name for this lovely dessert, but Americans took their floating island from its Italian name, “Ile flottante.” Whatever one might call it, the basic recipe for the soft custard filled with floating ovals of poached meringue requires milk or cream and eggs.  It would have been a special occasion for Evelina to serve it, which suggests that she wanted to impress the gentlemen from Walpole who came to dinner. It also tells us that she had eggs to spare in her kitchen, which was unusual.

Recipes for this dish are varied, as one might expect. One 19th century “receipt,” printed in the 1870’s in Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints*,  tells us that making the dish was quite time consuming, especially when we remember that all that beating, stirring and frothing was done by hand.

Take six eggs, separate them; beat the yolks, and stir into a quart of milk; sweeten to taste; flavor with lemon or nutmeg. Put this mixture in a pan. Put some water in a saucepan, and set it on fire. When boiling, put in your pan, which ought to be half immersed. Keep stirring it until the custard gets thick, which will be in about thirty minutes. Whip the whites of the eggs to a strong froth. When the custard is done, put into a deep dish, and heap the frothed eggs upon it. Serve cold.*

No doubt Evelina’s dessert was a success at the dinner table. She could spend the afternoon in peace of mind, sewing and socializing. She, her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, and her guest, Mrs. Stevens, made a number of calls.

* Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints, 1870s, Recorded by Sarah Annie Frost, p. 237

 

August 30, 1852

Cloth

Monday 30th Aug

1852  The girls were washing to day and Augusta

and I sat down to sewing  I let her have four

yds of Bartlett sheeting for a night gown

and she has cut it out & sewing it.  I have

been fixing work for Catharine and have

sewed but very little for myself  We went 

into Mrs Witherells awhile & Edwin & Augusta

have gone home again

 

After her ten-day trip to Vermont, and a Sunday of rest, Evelina went right back to her domestic routine. Rain kept her indoors with sewing, while two servants did the laundry. The wet clothes and towels probably had to be hung inside to dry.

The young neighbor, Augusta Pool Gilmore, pregnant with her first child, came over and the two women sewed together. Evelina’s sewing seemed mostly to consist of helping Augusta and directing a servant, Catharine, on various projects. She sewed “but very little” for herself.

Evelina writes of using “Bartlett sheeting” for a nightgown for Augusta. Sheeting was another word for cotton cloth, and Bartlett was likely the name of the mill from which the cloth came. There were many active textile mills in Massachusetts in the 1850s. Does any reader know of a Bartlett Mills? There was one in Oxford, Massachusetts, but its date of origin is listed as 1870. Regardless, Evelina had obtained a bolt of cloth from a particular mill, and was generously sharing it with her nephew’s bride.

 

 

August 16, 1852

Washing

Aug 16th Monday  Mrs Stevens is making Oakes A

a vest  I have been puttering about the 

house part of the time and the rest fixing

my things to go to Burlington  Catharine

sews nicely and has been making shirts

&c &c  We have had a large washing to day

Catharine helped until after dinner

Oakes Angier Ames, seriously ill with bleeding at the lungs, was going to Burlington, Vermont, for a rest. His mother, Evelina, was going to accompany him to his destination.  On this start to the week, she was all about “fixing my things to go.”

Everyone seemed to be bustling about with purpose. Evelina had at least one servant, Catharine, who was helpful across the board with sewing, laundry and meal preparation. Too, her houseguest, Mrs. Stevens, was sewing a vest for Oakes Angier, perhaps with the idea of keeping his chest warm against any chill.  The weather, although “fair,” had turned “cool for the season.”* Northern Vermont was likely to be even cooler, and a vest would be good protection.

Busy, Evelina probably had little thought for anything beyond her own immediate purview, yet she did share the same weather and sky as a journalist not too many miles to her north.  On this same day, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal, “At sunset, the glow being confined to the north, it tinges the rails on the causeway lake-color, but behind they are a dead dark blue. I must look for the rudbeckia which Bradford says he found yesterday behind Joe Clark’s.”**

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

** Henry David Thoreau, Journal

 

 

 

July 19, 1852

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1852

July 19th Monday  Hannah & Mary both washed again

to day and I was fussing about house all

the forenoon  How is it that I do not accom

plish more? I try but somehow I get but

very little done.  I have commenced trimming

the sleeves to my borage dress.  It is going

to be something of a job to finish my dress

yet   Uncle Ephraim called to see about Mrs Ames again

After a string of warm days, this start to a new week “was fair rather cool.”*  While the servants did the laundry, Evelina was “fussing about house.” She also fussed at herself for not getting things done. “I try” she writes in frustration, feeling that she failed to meet her own standards. Her response to this perception was typical: she picked up her sewing needle and went to work.

Who was this Uncle Ephraim who called? There were at least two men in the Bridgewater area at this time named Ephraim Ames, and none named Ephraim Gilmore or Ephraim Lothrop. It appears that a distant Ames relative may have been the man who kept calling “to see about Mrs Ames again.” The Mrs. Ames in question was most likely the visiting Almira Ames, widow of cousin George Ames. Had she sparked a romantic interest in this eager caller?

 

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

July 12, 1852

Furnace

July 12th Monday  Mary & Hannah both washed and I

was about house most of the forenoon 

Have cut the sleeves & skirt to my borage

dress and cut a waist for Susan

Carried my work into Olivers and stopt

some time  Edwin & Augusta rode to the

furnace & carried my pot to Mr Harveys to

get some butter but it was not ready for me

When Edwin and Augusta Gilmore “rode to the furnace,” they probably went south to an area of Easton known as Furnace Village or Easton Furnace. This was one of the oldest areas in town, its early homes today recognized as a National Historic District. First settled around 1715, it was a site for industry in a landscape that was otherwise quite agrarian. Using Mulberry Brook to turn its wheel, a sawmill was established there well before the American Revolution. Later industries included a tannery and a blast furnace for ironmaking, the latter giving the area its name. Historian Edmund Hands notes, “Once Easton Furnace possessed the highest degree of industrialization in town, but that industry never grew large enough to transform Furnace Village the way the Shovel Shop created the urbanized landscape of North Easton.”*

Back in the urbanized landscape to the north of Furnace Village, Evelina’s servants, Hannah Murphy and a woman named Mary, were doing the weekly laundry. Evelina was choring, sewing and waiting for Edwin and Augusta to return with some butter, which they were unable to do.  In the fields around North Easton, Old Oliver and his men were cutting hay. The agrarian life still held sway despite mills, foundries and factories.

*Edmund C. Hands, Easton’s Neighborhoods, 1995, p. 105

June 21, 1852

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1852 Monday  June 21st  Mrs Patterson & Hannah washed and 

I worked in the garden untill about ten

and was about house until two or three

Oclock  Catharine Middleton here sewing

Father has given me another jawing about

my leaving some old coats on the grass

 

Here in the early 21st century, a dictionary of slang defines “jawing” as being saucy or speaking disrespectfully. Not so in the 1850s, when “jawing” was slang for moralizing, or giving a lecture.  “Father Ames,” as he was known to the Ames wives, gave Evelina “another jawing” today, this time about her “leaving some old coats” outside on the lawn.  She or Mrs. Patterson or Hannah Murphy must have washed the items and left them out to dry in the sunshine without hanging them on a line.  Perhaps the women had run out of clothespins. But Old Oliver would have been concerned about possible damage to the grass, which was already vulnerable due to drought. Or perhaps he was just cross.

Old Oliver described this Monday as “a fair warm day wind south west.”  What he didn’t mention was that it was summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The earth in its orbit tilted its northern hemisphere closest to the sun at around 7:30 in the morning.  If Oliver knew it, he didn’t care, or just didn’t record it. He was watching the ground and planning to cut the hay.