March 24, 1852


Robert Heinrich Herman Koch

(1843 – 1910)


March 24th  Wednesday  This morning made a call in the other

part of the house, while there I was sent for  Augusta came here

and staid untill half past eleven.  this afternoon

she came again and we went into Mrs Witherells for

an hour or two.  We went into the office when Mr Swain

went to his tea, brought some Ploughmans from the office

chamber to look over  Spent the evening at Mr Joel Randalls

Since 1992, March 24 has been commemorated around the globe as World Tuberculosis Day. The date commemorates the discovery of the cause of a disease that has scourged the world since ancient times. On March 24, 1882, thirty years after Evelina wrote about her day in her diary, the brilliant German microbiologist Dr. Robert Koch presented to the medical community his finding that tuberculosis – also known as “consumption,” the “white plague,” and phythsis – was caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. His discovery changed the world, and earned him a Nobel Prize.

In 1852, no one knew what caused consumption.  If anything, people believed that it was a hereditary disease that attacked those with weak constitutions. No one realized that it was contagious, an ignorance that lead to its spread everywhere, especially in urban areas with crowded living conditions. The disease was often, but not invariably, fatal.

Easton may have been a country town, but it was just as vulnerable to tuberculosis as any urban area. In fact, in Easton, just the day before Evelina’s diary entry, a 55 year-old housewife named Silence Macomber died of the disease. Of 47 deaths in Easton in 1852, consumption led the list; Mrs. Macomber was one of eight residents that year to die from it. All but one of the eight were women.

Tuberculosis has not been eradicated. Third World countries, especially, are still vulnerable despite great advances in prevention and treatment. In the 21st century, it’s still a disease to fear, just as Evelina and her contemporaries did.


May 2, 1851


Globe Amaranth


May 2nd Friday.  Susan started with several other children

about 6 Oclock maying and did not get back

untill half past nine.  They went over three miles

to the “West Shire”  I made cake & ginger snaps to

bake with Mrs Witherell. Jane made some pies and 

bread.  Mr & Mrs Whitwell and Mrs William Reed

called. Afterward planted some globe seed and 

carried my stockings to mend in the other part of the house

Today’s good weather gave Susie Ames and her friends the opportunity they missed yesterday. Leaving early in the morning, they walked west to deliver May baskets to friends and family, or perhaps even to strangers. It sounds as if the children walked a long way on their little legs. Readers in Easton, where exactly is the “West Shire?”  By the Bay Road?

Baking was in order today. Evelina and her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell baked cake and ginger snaps, while Jane McHanna prepared the usual pies and brown bread. Did the children get any ginger snaps when they returned home? Certainly, Reverend and Mrs. Whitwell would have been offered some to eat, as would Abigail Reed, wife of the Reverend William Reed. Guests who dropped in, whether or not they were expected, were always offered refreshments such as tea and fruit or biscuits. Cider was a common refreshment, too, but not at the Ames’s house; it was too close to alcohol.

Once the guests had departed, Evelina went out to her garden and began to plant globe seed. Did she have a specific plan in mind for the garden, or was her planting haphazard and spontaneous? If she consulted any of the publications she read, like The Massachusetts Ploughman, or the ladies’ periodicals, she probably found suggestions for arranging her flower beds.



March 17, 1851



March 17  Monday  A very cloudy windy morning  Jane could

not put her clothes out.  Orinthia washed the dishes

& I made the beds &c. Commenced working on a

fine unbleached shirt that was cut out

last Nov & partly finished.  It is all done but

[…] putting in the sleeves & making Collar and 

binding  Cut out some receipts for my scrap 

book from the Ploughman  A[u]gustus here to dine

The Massachusetts Ploughman was an agricultural newspaper published in Boston that provided reading material for a number of Ameses.  It was probably subscribed to by Old Oliver, who maintained an interest in farming that he couldn’t seem to pass on to any of his children. Although the Ames shovel business had helped turn once-rural North Easton into a productive, if small, industrial village, agriculture still ruled the show as the “largest single sector of the economy even in the highly commercial states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.”** Most people still farmed, raised livestock, worried about bringing in the hay, and looked for guidance from experts such as those behind the Ploughman masthead.  Evelina turned to the paper for recipes.

It may have been St. Patrick’s Day, but no celebrating would have gone on in the Ames compound.  At the factory, however, things might have been different. Thirteen years from this date, in the middle of the Civil War and less than a year after Old Oliver’s death, Oliver Jr. would note in his diary that on “St Patricks day did not run Engines in Shop.”  Was that also true in 1851, or did Old Oliver’s animosity toward the Irish preclude such an indulgence?

* A late-19th century copy of the Massachusetts Ploughman after it merged with the New England Journal of Agriculture.

** Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840,