December 9, 1852

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Dressing case, mid-19th c.*

Thursday Dec 9th  Mrs Witherell & Mrs Ames

have been to Boston and Oakes A came

home with them  Mrs Norris has a present

from Mr Norris of a beautiful dressing case

Have got the forks & spoons &c from Bigelows

for which they charge 77 dollars 77 cts

Miss Alger brought Mother & Lavinia up

yesterday  Lavinia & Edwin & wife were here

and I went [to] Augustus after Mother this forenoon 

 

Evelina seemed to be in better spirits, perhaps because Oakes Angier returned from Boston. She was savoring every minute with him before he left for Cuba.

Her sisters-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell and Sarah Lothrop Ames, had also been in the city. They returned with the news that Caleb Norris, son-in-law of Robert and Melinda Orr, had given his wife, also named Melinda, a dressing case for her 28th birthday. Norris was a dry goods merchant and the young couple lived with her parents on Columbus Avenue. Given Norris’s connections in wholesale and retail, he must have been able to procure his wife a fine box, perhaps at a friendly price. However he managed it, he impressed the Ames women mightily.

A dressing case was a fashionable item for women**, one that could be placed on a dressing table or clasped closed to travel. Most cases, such as the one in the illustration, contained bottles and vials to hold perfume and lotion, and brushes and combs for the grooming of increasingly complicated hairstyles. All items deemed necessary for the beautification and maintenance of a woman’s hair, face and hands were thoughtfully and expensively included, topped off in this case with silver lids.

Their friends weren’t the only ones spending money on luxury items. Evelina tells us what it cost to buy some new flatware and have it monogrammed: $77.77. In today’s dollars (2015), that would amount to approximately $2,430. The Ameses were becoming quite wealthy to be able to spend that amount. The purchase certainly overpowers that 75 cent crumb brush that Evelina received from her nephew Fred, but to her credit she seemed equally pleased with both acquisitions.

 

*courtesy of http://www.antiquebox.org 

** There were also dressing cases for men, with different contents, naturally.

November 30, 1852

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Hanover Street, Boston, ca. 1872*

Tuesday Nov 30th  Oakes A Oliver & self went to

Boston to the Webster funeral.  Called at

Mr Orrs & Melinda went with me to see Selina

Selina & self saw the procession from A A Gilmores

room in Hanover St. We called on Pauline

and on Mrs Dorr  Spent the evening at

Mr Butlers his mother brother & sister there

 

After a false start the day before, Evelina rode into Boston today – she and thousands of others, evidently. The city was hosting an official memorial service for Daniel Webster, the great senator who had passed away a month earlier. It was “a fair good day for the season”* so Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Oliver (3) had easy traveling.

Senator Webster was eulogized at Faneuil Hall, with a prayer led by Reverend Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, the pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and the main oration delivered by George Stillman Hillard. Hillard, an admirer of the late Webster, was a senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Harvard-educated, he had been a law partner of Charles Sumner, had edited – for a time – the Unitarian publication, Christian Register, and eventually would became the first dean of Boston University Law School. He was well known for his oratory.

Hillard spoke at length about Daniel Webster, his speech published and distributed afterwards. Many in the nation were still feeling the loss of the great senator, whether or not they had agreed with him.  President Millard Fillmore, who was about to send his final State of the Union Address to Congress, included a brief lament of the man:

Within a few weeks the public mind has been deeply affected by the death of Daniel Webster, filling at his decease the office of Secretary of State. His associates in the executive government have sincerely sympathized with his family and the public generally on this mournful occasion. His commanding talents, his great political and professional eminence, his well-tried patriotism, and his long and faithful services in the most important public trusts have caused his death to be lamented throughout the country and have earned for him a lasting place in our history.***

Evelina and her sons didn’t attend today’s service, but they did observe the procession along Hanover Street, which is now part of the North End.

*Image courtesy of Boston Public LIbrary

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

***Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, Dec. 6, 1852, courtesy of http://www.infoplease.com

October 2, 1852

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Oct 2d Saturday  Have had quite a party this after 

noon  Mrs Norris, Mrs Mower, Miss Foss, Linscott

& Lavinia here to dine & Hannah Augusta Abby

& Malvina here to tea  Carried Augusta out to

ride the first that she has been out for a long time

We have been to the shops and making calls

and I have done no sewing to day  Mrs Mower

went home with Lavinia  Made my peach preserves

Mr Ames came home from New York

 

 

Friends of Evelina descended on the house today, some for dinner and some for tea. Carriages full of females trotted along Main Street, coming or going to the Ames residence. Evelina’s friend, Orinthia Foss and her fellow school teacher, Frances Linscott, came from Bridgewater and spent the night. Niece Lavinia Gilmore arrived to help with house guests Melinda Norris and Louisa Mower, the latter from Maine. At tea time, Evelina’s sister-in-law Hannah Lincoln Gilmore and two nieces, Abby and Melvina Torrey, joined the group. For the second time this week, many women filled the parlor. We might imagine that Evelina was really enjoying herself.

What did the men of the family do to cope with all the socializing? Join the crowd or disappear into the office next door? What must Oakes Ames have thought when he walked in, home from his business trip?

Augusta Pool Gilmore, who had been ailing for many weeks now, was on the mend. She, too, came for tea and later was taken out for a drive. Like yesterday, the weather was mild and sunny and Augusta must have felt reborn to finally get out of her sick room and back with the living.

Even with a big midday meal and many for tea, the servants – and perhaps Evelina herself – still managed to put up some peach preserves. What a busy kitchen!

 

August 28, 1852

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Example of Kashmir Shawl Popular at Mid-19th Century*

Sat Aug 28th  Mr Ames called at Mr Orrs this morning said

they were not any of them very well at home.  Went

out to find Mrs S Ames at last met her at

Mr Orrs about noon.  Melinda has not got home

from her journey yet. Bought Mrs Witherell &

self a Cashmere shawl  Have had a pleasant 

visit but am glad to be home again

 

As he usually did on Saturdays, Oakes Ames traveled from North Easton into Boston on business. Instead of going right to his customers, however, he stopped by the Orrs’ where his wife was staying.  Evelina had been away for over a week and he wanted to report that they – meaning he and two of his sons, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton – had fared ill without her. “They were not any of them very well at home,” he complained.

The fact that Evelina didn’t go rushing home to take temperatures or brew beef tea, but spent the day shopping in the city with her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames, suggests that she didn’t take her husband’s report too seriously. If she had, she would have headed home right away. She may have felt that Oakes was just expressing dismay over the disorder that had arisen in her absence, a complaint that wouldn’t have been surprising in an era when the majority of men had no role in, skill at, or inclination for the domestic side of life. Evelina hadn’t been there to tend to the household and probably could have related to the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist and mother of seven, who had cause to bemoan “the chaotic conditions into which everything fell without her constant supervision.” Still, Evelina must have been warmed by the thought that she had been missed, and she was glad to get home.

While in Boston, though, Evelina did buy a couple of cashmere shawls, one for herself and one for Sarah Ames Witherell. If the shawls were as beautiful as the one in the illustration, they were two lucky women.  As seen, some shawls during this fashion era were made extra large to fall over the full skirts of the time.

 

 

*Image courtesy of Meg Andrews, “The Girton Curtains,” http://www.meg-andrews.com/articles

August 27, 1852

Locomotive

Friday Aug 27th  Left Burlington at 1/4 before eleven on

our return home  They were very unwilling that we

should leave before next week and it was a sudden

start our leaving at last  It rained most of the 

way which made it much more pleasant as it

laid the dust  Arrived at Boston about

eight passed the night at Mr Orrs. Mrs Ames

Helen & Fred went to the Adams House

Somewhat precipitously, Evelina departed Burlington today with Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children Fred and Helen. Almira Ames didn’t return with her nor, more important, did Oakes Angier Ames. He would stay behind to rest and try to get the better of his pulmonary ailment.

After a nine hour train trip, which proved to be “much more pleasant” than the ride they had taken eight days earlier, Evelina and company arrived “at Boston.”  Light rain had fallen throughout the journey, which helped lay the dust, but was a precursor of more wet weather to come. This was hurricane season, after all.

Evelina says nothing about shopping in Boston. She may have been too fatigued by the journey to follow her favorite pursuit in the city.  Instead, she went right to the home of Robert and Melinda Orr, her usual headquarters when there. Sarah Lothrop Ames and her children stayed elsewhere.

June 29, 1852

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Henry Clay

(1777 – 1852)

1852

Tuesday June 29th  Have had a quiet […] sick day  have

a bad cold & cough and sick head ache

A gentleman here from Pennsylvania

to dine but I did not go to the table

Mr Bartlett here to tea from Maine

Augusta came in and cut her out a

visite & I have written to Melinda to

get some trimming for it  Ottomans came

from Boston

Evelina was sick and probably spent most of the day in bed. She didn’t eat much, missing midday dinner – with company – and possibly skipping tea, too. Perhaps she took a tray of food in her room. She must have begun to feel a bit better, however, as she eventually roused herself to cut out a “visite” for Augusta Gilmore, who came over at the end of the day.  She even wrote to her friend Melinda Orr, in Boston, to find some trim. She could get animated about a sewing project, though not much else appealed to her today.

It was “a fair warm day + verry dry,”* and probably “verry” good for the haying that was underway. Old Oliver and a team of hands would have been outdoors from sunup to sundown.

In the world beyond North Easton, a consummate, outspoken and controversial politician passed away today: Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, aged 75, died in Washington D. C., of consumption. The Ameses wouldn’t have known this, however, until they read the next day’s newspapers. But most likely they admired Clay, the “Star of the West,” and the founder of the Whig Party. Clay’s biggest opponent back in the day had been Andrew Jackson, who called Clay “the Judas of the West.”  One imagines that Oakes Ames had probably been on the side of Clay’s admirers.

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

June 11, 1852

Coffeepot

 

 

June 11th Friday  This morning had quite a fuss with

Jane about her coffee & beef &c and cannot put

up with such work and to night have engaged

a new girl  Helen & self carried Mr & Mrs

Orr to the Stoughton cars this afternoon […]

We went to the shops this morning & called

on Augustus Abby & Mrs Witherell

 

A red letter day for Evelina: She fired Jane McHanna. In Evelina’s mind, Jane’s work had fallen off – particularly when compared to the accomplishments of Mrs. Patterson – and today, after a “fuss” about breakfast, Jane had to go. Their relationship had ever had its ups and downs; today it ended.

The kerfuffle between Evelina and Jane must have been observed, or overheard, by houseguests Robert and Melinda Orr. Perhaps their presence influenced Evelina’s decision to dismiss Jane, Evelina wanting to exhibit higher standards of domestic efficiency than Jane was used to producing. However it came about, the result was that Jane would go. Evelina found a replacement by nightfall, but would Jane be equally lucky?  A lone woman without means, could she find a new position quickly?

The morning’s upset may have lingered in Evelina’s mind throughout the day, but she continued to entertain her Boston guests according to the means at her disposal. Besides calling on various family members, they walked around the shovel works, a tour which would have interested Robert Orr.  He lived in Boston, but his family in Bridgewater and elsewhere had worked with iron for many years.

In the afternoon, Evelina and her niece Helen Angier Ames “carried” the Orrs to the railroad stop in Stoughton and bid them goodbye. It was one month ago today that George Witherell died.