November 24, 1852

matthew_perry

Matthew C. Perry

Wedns Nov 24 Have heat the oven three times

to day and baked squash & apple pies brown

bread gingerbread & cake of sour cream and

it is very good  Miss Alger has given

her thirteenth lesson  Horatio & Gustavus

came in the stage  Augusta spent part 

of the evening here

The brick oven, heated up three times, would have helped warm the house on this day before Thanksgiving, as “it was the coldest day we have had yet.”* Evelina was pleased with a new recipe for sour cream cake, probably a pound cake that used sour instead of sweet cream. Many smart cooks had discovered that this kind of recipe was a good way to use up cream that had turned. It was very Yankee not to let the cream go to waste. And while Evelina was baking, the servants Catharine and Ann were working, too, setting the table, cutting up vegetables, trussing the turkey. The kitchens at the Ames compound  and across New England were busy, busy, busy.

While housewives focused on preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, a major diplomatic mission got underway. Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the East India Squadron, departed Norfolk, Virginia to sail to Japan. His mission was to secure a trade treaty, no easy task with the notoriously secluded island nation. President Millard Fillmore had authorized Perry to open the ports to American trade, by show of force – also known as gunboat diplomacy – if necessary. Despite the ill wishes of the Dutch, who were already trading there, Perry was ultimately successful.

 

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

November 17, 1852

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Girl’s dress, mid-19th century

Wedns Nov 17th  Miss Alger has been here to

day and has given her 12th lesson and 

dined here.  Mrs S Ames & self have been

to North Bridgewater  Emily & Susan

went with us  I got Susan a plaid

dress but do not feel satisfied with it

 

In the 19th century, girls often wore plaid; Susan Ames was no exception. Her mother got her a plaid dress in North Bridgewater (today’s Brockton) but ended up unhappy with the purchase. Did Evelina buy an actual dress or the material to make the dress? Probably the latter, as this is what she has done previously. Also, we must remember that “off-rack” clothing really was not yet on the market.

One thing we don’t read about today is the ongoing tussle between Evelina and her daughter over the piano. The teacher, Miss Alger, had been at the house for the 12th lesson for Emily and Susan, and there is no mention of lack of skill or failure to practice on Susie’s part. She must have been getting the hang of the new instrument and perhaps was even beginning to enjoy it.

After the lesson, Susan and Emily got to ride to North Bridgewater on the shopping excursion with Evelina and their aunt, Sarah Lothrop Ames. There must have been no school on this day, so the girls got to enjoy the sunshine.

 

 

November 13, 1852

Turnip

Sat Nov 13th  Have cleaned the parlour

but did not take up the carpet

gave it a thourough sweeping and

washed the paint  Miss Alger has

been here and given the girls their

eleventh lesson  Mrs Oliver Ames

has been to Boston  got Helen a cloak

 

Evelina stayed indoors today, perhaps envious that her sister-in-law Sarah Lothrop Ames was shopping in Boston. Sarah bought her daughter Helen a cloak. Do we imagine that Evelina might soon head for the city to buy one for her daughter Susan?

Old Oliver, meanwhile, was still busy outdoors on several fronts, including the harvesting of turnips, as he reported: “this was a fair day but pritty chilly we got in some [of] our turnips to day*”. Turnips were an important vegetable crop that kept well over the winter, making it a staple in most households. Botanist Judith Sumner notes that “as early as 1609, colonists […] cultivated turnips. […] Cold weather improved their flavor, so it may not be coincidental that a November 1637 letter from John Winthrop to his wife instructed her to harvest their crop while he was away.”** Native Americans adopted the vegetable themselves, preferring it to other edible roots that they had previously gathered.

Turnips were still standard fare at the 19th century New England dinner table, typically prepared just as Sarah Josepha Hale suggests:

Turnips should be pared; put into boiling water, with a little salt; boiled till tender; then squeeze them thoroughly from the water, mash them smooth, add a piece of butter and a little pepper and salt.***

Surely there would be mashed turnips served at Thanksgiving.

 

 

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

**Judith Sumner, American Household Botany, Portland, Oregon, 2004, p. 30

*** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 74

 

November 10, 1852

Jar

Wedns Nov 10th Catharine […]

& Ann have both been ironing

all day and have got it all done  I have not

done a great deal but fuss round the

house  Have covered my jelly &c with

brandy paper  Alson called and brought 

a [illegible] to exchange  Abby spent

the evening  Miss Alger has given her 10th

lesson dined here

Evelina continued to be a bit cross today. Yesterday she was tired of cooking preserves, today she covered those jelly jars with brandy paper and continued to resent having to “fuss round the house.”At least the servant girls finished the ironing – that was a point of satisfaction. Perhaps Evelina was reacting to the shorter days and lower sunlight, although Old Oliver reported that on this particular day, the weather was “verry pleasant”* throughout the afternoon.

Miss Alger the piano teacher came to give Susie Ames and Emily Witherell their piano lessons, and stayed to dinner. Evelina doesn’t say how her daughter did, which may be a sign that Susie was finally getting the hang the instrument.  No doubt Miss Alger was doing her best to teach Susie and Emily, but she was getting paid and fed – often. For Evelina to be spending the money and effort and to have her daughter not succeed was simply not acceptable. Susie had to learn.

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

November 6, 1852

 

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Saturday Nov 6th  Had a hard time with Susan

to make her practice and understand her

lesson.  About eleven went with Susan 

to carry Miss Alger home  Dined at Alsons

left there about half past three but did

not get home untill dark  Stopt at Mr

Algers & at Copelands for Tumblers & at Morse

factory got half lb thread & twine

 

The struggle between mother and daughter continued, Evelina trying to get Susan to practice her piano and Susan resisting. Miss Alger, the piano teacher who had been staying with the Ameses, may have been relieved to return home. We might imagine that Susie was equally relieved to see her go. Mother and daughter rode together to take Miss Alger to her residence in the southeastern quadrant of Easton. After Miss Alger exited the carriage, did Evelina scold? Did Susie cry? How did the discussion go, or did they maintain injured silence? Or sidestep the topic altogether?

The ride back to North Easton was long (and “rather chilly,” according to Old Oliver*), in no small part because Evelina and Susan stopped for midday dinner at the family farm, visiting Evelina’s mother, brother and family. It was late in the afternoon when they finally left, but nonetheless they stopped just north of the farm – would this be Alger’s Corner? – and bought some glassware for the house. They forked left onto Washington Street and stopped at the Morse Factory for thread and twine.  A half pound of thread is a great deal of thread, if you come to think of it. Was the weight of a spool – or spools – included?

The tumblers were what we would call drinking glasses today. The term tumbler, of uncertain origin and now out of use, meant a flat-bottomed glass with no handle or stem.  The tumblers that Evelina bought were most likely pressed glass, as opposed to hand-blown glass. The latter had been slowly replaced in the marketplace since about 1825.

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

 

 

November 4, 1852

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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!

November 3, 1852

Thread

Wednesday Nov 3d  The girls took their eigth

lesson this forenoon and I sat with

Susan to see her take hers so that I 

could assist her some if required

We have been to the funeral and 

then Mrs S Ames and self went to the sewing

circle at Mr Clarkes,  Miss Alger took

tea with Witherell.  Lavina Wms called

Susie Ames and Emily Witherell took another piano lesson this morning. Evelina, still determined that her reluctant daughter was going to learn to play the new instrument, “sat with Susan” in the parlor as she had her lesson. Miss Alger, the teacher, had tea with Sarah Witherell later in the day. The two women might have discussed how the girls were faring with their lessons; with Evelina out of the house, it would have been easier to discuss the fact that Emily was the stronger student.

Evelina and Oakes, presumably, and other Ameses attended the funeral of the Swain baby. John H. Swain Jr. had died on Sunday from “Teething,” much to his parents’ sorrow. Today, the sun was out, though the wind blew, as folks gathered around the little grave.

Afterwards, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, rode to the monthly Sewing Circle at the home of “Mr Clarke.”  He may have been Daniel Clark, a carpenter, whose wife was Elvira Clark and whose daughter, Elizabeth, had played the piano at the meeting house the summer before last. The piano again! Evelina couldn’t get away from other mothers whose daughters did well at the piano. How frustrated she must have felt about her own daughter.