June 13, 1852


June 13

1852 Sunday  Went to meeting this morning & returned

at noon and mother came with me to make

a visit  Did not go back this afternoon on

account of getting tea  Mr Patterson is here

came last night  Edwin & wife stoped to 

tea from meeting had lobster.  Read to

mother in  [entry incomplete]


The Sabbath was another “fair day + pritty warm + verry dry.”* Old Oliver had to be getting edgy about the prospects for this year’s hay crop, not to mention the potentially poor output from the cornfields and the crop gardens all around town.

The family all trooped to church for the morning service, but Evelina, bringing her eighty-year old mother home with her, skipped the afternoon sermon “on account of getting tea.” She had to prepare lobster for Edwin and Augusta Gilmore. We might assume that on the previous day, Oakes Ames picked up a lobster (probably quite fresh, although cooked and canned were available) in Boston on his usual Saturday visit. Lobsters were plentiful, inexpensive and, as a rule, larger than those we dine on today. He was probably familiar enough with the crustacean to buy one that was fresh.

The well-known household advisor Lydia Maria Church approved of lobsters, and offered advice on buying them:

‘A female lobster is not considered so good as a male.  In the female, the sides of the head, or what look like cheeks, are much larger, and jut out more than those of the male. The end of the lobster is surrounded with what children call ‘purses,’ edged with a little fringe.  If you put your hand under these to raise it, and find it springs back hard and firm, it is a sign the lobster is fresh; if they move flabbily, it is not a good omen.’

Moving flabbily could never be considered a good omen.



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

** Lydia Maria Church, The American Frugal Housewife 


June 7, 1851



June 7th Saturday  We have had a powerful

rain all day  Orinthia & self have been sitting

sewing most of the time  Orinthia has made a

pair of overalls for Frank  I have trimmed &

lined or rather Harriet trimmed the bonnet

and I feel very well satisfied about it.  The

school did not keep to day or yesterday

Susan has turned a sheet  Horatio Ames Jr &

Mr Scoval came to father Ames.  Mr Ames

brought a lobster that weighed 15 lbs.


No gardening today, but it wasn’t a bad day, despite the rain.  Evelina and Orinthia got to visit for hours over sewing, Oakes Ames brought home lobster – a big lobster – from Boston and, best of all, Evelina was finally “very well satisfied” about her bonnet.

Harriett Ames Mitchell visited, too, and trimmed Evelina’s bonnet. She might have used ribbons or cloth flowers or even a feather or two to adorn the summer headdress. Nine-year old Susie sewed as well.  Either the bad weather kept her indoors, or her mother finally made good on her threat from a few weeks ago to make Susan play less and learn to sew.  Susie “turned a sheet,” which means she did some hemming.

Old Oliver had a rare visit from one of his grandsons, Horatio Ames, Jr., who must have travelled up from Connecticut with a Mr. Scoval.  Horatio Jr. was a first cousin to Oakes Angier, Oliver (3), Frank Morton, and Susan.  The eldest son of Horatio and Sally Hewes Ames, and a recent student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he would prove to have a difficult life.  Closer to his mother than to his father, he was incensed when his parents divorced. According to some sources, he actually tried to kill his father during an argument in 1856.* His father, who was no saint himself, described his eldest son as “the worst hardened villain I have ever seen.”*

Still, Horatio Jr. was family, and Old Oliver welcomed him to his home more than once over the course of Evelina’s diary.


*John Mortimer, Zerah Colburn: The Spirit of Darkness, 2005

April 20, 1851



April 20  Sunday  Another severe storm it snows some

but most of the day it has rained in torrents

Not one of the family have been to church.

The children have been pretty wide awake for 

the sabbath and made not a little noise.  Harriet

& Anna were here to supper  had Lobster.

Rec d a letter from Pauline this morning.

The weather this April just wouldn’t quit.  The prospect of all the Ameses trapped indoors yet again by “another severe storm,” is dreary.  Surely Evelina missed being able to get to church. Oakes could escape to his office, at least, but Evelina was in the house with many family members. The little children coped, however. After their train trip, Frank, John and Anna Mitchell seemed delighted with the relative freedom and novelty of visiting their relatives. They romped and played, making “not a little noise.”

Lobster was served for supper, a change of pace from more usual fare of beef, bread and pie. Until very recently, lobster had been considered a dish fit only for the lower classes, a sure sign of poverty. It was so cheap that it was often served in prisons. In the novel Little Women, Amy March was embarrassed when a handsome young man bumped into her on the omnibus while she was carrying one in her basket.  Only at mid-century did the crustacean’s “vulgar size and brilliancy”* begin to appeal to the more affluent. Whether Evelina served it because it was beginning to be fashionable to do so or because it was still a very economical meal is hard to say.  Certainly, it was easy enough to obtain. Oakes probably picked it up the day before while in Boston.

The indefatigable Sarah Josepha Hale offered a recipe for stewing lobster that included the direction: “If you have no gravy, use more butter.” She also suggested that lobster could be eaten cold, “with a dressing of vinegar, mustard, sweet oil, and a little salt and cayenne. The meat of the lobster must be minced very fine; and care must be taken to eat but a little of this dish.”**


*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, 1868-1869

** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841