October 11, 1852

factory-steam-engine

Early factory steam engine

Monday Oct 11th  Catharine Middleton & Murphy washed

and I sat down quite early to my sewing

with Mother & Louisa  Mended stockings

This afternoon we spent at Augustus

Mother & Louisa are going to spend the 

night  Mr Torrey & Abby were there

Mr Ames & Oakes A went to West B

I have been sewing on the skirt of Susans

fall Delaine

This was a typical Monday as far as domestic matters were concerned. In the morning, the women washed clothes and mended stockings. In the afternoon, they went calling on relatives in the village. But it was a red-letter day at the shovel shop, as men arrived to install the a steam engine – the first – at the factory.

Old Oliver seemed excited: “this was a fair good day for the season the man came here to sett up the enjoin four of them.” The company’s first steam engine was placed in the new Long Shop by the Corliss Nightingale Company of Providence. It was a technological change that Oliver had resisted in the past, but had since come to accept. His son, Horatio, in particular, had urged the change for several years in order “to counter water supply limitations”* In January, 1847 he had written his father and his brother, Oliver Jr., on the topic.

To Old Oliver:

I shall think a steam engine […] of sufficient power to carry 3 hammers and carry all your polishing works shearing and punching and Bisbees works […] would be cheaper and better […] It is too bad that you do not keep nearer supplying the market with shovels when a comparatively small expense would do it in addition to your other works.”*

To Oliver Jr.:

I enclose you with […the] price and terms for a steam engine. It will do you no hurt to compare cost of this and water power. it will take about one ton of coal a day to drive it and the repairs will be no more than a water power if as much[…] You never need fail for water either too much or too little […] I am altogether in favor of this plan over water power in your situation.”*

Horatio was right, as it turned out. The new engine was the beginning of modernization for O. Ames and Sons.

Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2002, p. 251.  Text of Horatio Ames correspondence from Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

September 24, 1852

Giffard1852

Henri Giffard’s Dirigible  

Friday Sept 24th  Mr Ames & Oakes Angier went

to Boston and are going to New York for New

Jersey to night  I have been to work again about

house all day ironing and this that & tother

Catharine got my quilt out and has been

mending some stockings  Mr Rathbourne

returned to P[rovidence] this afternoon  Oliver carried him

to Mansfield  They went to Canton this afternoon

 

Today Evelina saw her husband and eldest son depart for New York and New Jersey, by way of Boston; that helps explain the extra laundry day yesterday. The men were off on shovel business and the fact that Oakes Angier went along suggests that he was enjoying good health. He was also learning the family trade.

Back at the house in North Easton, domesticity reigned, as usual. Even Evelina couldn’t quite keep track of all the little tasks she was addressing. It was simply “this that & tother.” Mending, ironing, quilting went on. Her son Oliver was riding here and there with his houseguest, Mr. Rathbourne.  It looks like the only son who was present at the shovel works was the youngest, Frank Morton.

Miles away from anyplace that any Ameses were traveling today, a steam-powered dirigible, lifted by hydrogen, rose in the air for the very first time. Hot air balloons had already ascended the skies in various places and for various lengths of time. The airship was new and different by virtue of its shape, design, and engine. Created by a Frenchman, Henri Giffard, the airship made its maiden voyage from Paris to Elancourt. It traveled 17 miles. The winds were too strong for it to return to Paris, as planned, but Giffard was nonetheless able to steer and turn the airship in its course. It was the shape of things to come.

 

 

 

September 23, 1852

IMG_2471

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 22, 1852

Piano

Wednesday Sept 22d Have been to Boston with Mrs

Witherell to get a Pianno  Have got to have

them made  Mrs Kinsley called to see them with

us  Met Mrs Wilson at Lintons to go to select

them. Dined at Mr Orrs while Mrs Witherelll

called on Mrs Dorr  Bought a Piano cloth

and gold thimble for Mrs Ames & C Hobart

and a ring for Helen  Oliver came from Providence

 

A piano! And not one piano, but two, one for each side of the house. Both Susan Ames and Emily Witherell would be learning to play the instrument. Each girl would have her own piano to practice on. What luxury. What gentility. What fun.

With advice from friends such as Louisa Kinsley, Evelina and Sarah Ames Witherell selected and ordered the instruments in a Boston store. Spending money liberally, Evelina went on to purchase gifts. For her other sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, she bought a cloth to go on top of the piano that those Ameses already owned. For Catharine Hobart, a young family friend who had caught the eye of her son Oakes Angier Ames, she bought a gold thimble. And for her niece Helen Angier Ames – Catharine’s classmate – she bought a ring.

Did her husband Oakes know that Evelina was spending so much money? Did her father-in-law? While her husband must have given his approval, it’s unlikely that Old Oliver would have approved of such a spree. Yet both those men were often generous within the family; in that respect, Evelina was just following suit.

We note today, too, that Oliver (3) returned from a few days at a fair in Providence, where he no doubt saw friends and former classmates from his two semesters at Brown University. We might imagine that he was missing school.

 

 

September 15, 1852

Cake

Wednesday Sept 15th  Mr & Mrs Oliver Ames Helen & Miss Hobart

here to tea  Made cake & baked it in the stove

Mr Torrey made a long call here just after

dinner  He is quite neighbourly about this

time  Mrs Stevens need not take the credit of it

Augusta is not quite as well  sent for me to

come there & has had the Dr again

Oliver went to Providence this morning to the fair

 

Evelina baked a cake in her new cast-iron stove, something she was proud to note.  That was a real change for her, as before this she had used the family’s old, built-in brick oven for her baking. New technology in the kitchen was changing her ways.

The cake must have been a success; she served it at tea. Her husband and sons, minus Oliver (3), were present. Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr. came over from next door, too, bringing their daughter Helen Angier Ames and her friend, Catherine Hobart, with them. This was the last night of Catherine’s visit and it was sweet that her host and hostess took her next door for tea. Was there a conscious design behind the invitation and acceptance? Had the elders noticed a spark between Catherine and Oakes Angier Ames? Had Evelina contrived to make this happen? Were the young folks self-conscious on the occasion? Or was it just an average family gathering that inadvertently portended something more?

Catherine wasn’t the only guest. Mrs. Stevens was still visiting the Ameses and, inadvertently or otherwise, had made Evelina a little jealous. Col. Torrey, Evelina’s former brother-in-law – now a widower – had been calling more often than usual, and Mrs. Stevens had evidently volunteered the possibility that his attention was directed at her. Evelina, however, as we read from her rather ungracious entry, is reluctant to let her guest get any “credit.” Generous as she could sometimes be, Evelina was not inclined to share her friendship.

Across the street, meanwhile, young Augusta Pool Gilmore had had a relapse of her intestinal disorder, known in that day as “Cholera Morbus.” Certainly, her family and friends were worried about her.

 

August 29, 1851

WhiteAster

Friday Aug 29th  Alson & Mr Hall came early this

morning and were here to dinner & tea, brought Pauline

with them  Have been mending for Oliver getting his

clothes ready for school  Went with Pauline to Edwins

garden he has not many pretty flowers in blossom has

some fine Dahlias  got 5 lbs of butter at Mr Marshalls

after we came back went into Olivers to hear Pauline

play.  George & wife & Sarah gone to her fathers

The day after Clinton Lothrop’s funeral, Sarah Lothrop Ames, her brother George Van Ness Lothrop and his wife Almira spent the day, at least, at the Lothrop farm with their parents, Howard and Sally Lothrop. They would have had to make long-term plans for the property, now that Clinton wouldn’t be there to tend the family farm.

Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, took his meals at the Ames’s today.  He was working nearby, perhaps with Mr. Hall, helping his son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, build a house. They were putting in the cellar.  Pauline Dean, who must have been staying with or near the Gilmores, returned for a visit. She probably got roped into helping Evelina with the mending.

Evelina had a lot of mending to do, as Oliver (3) was preparing to go off to school.  Like his cousin Fred Ames, he was going to attend an Ivy League college, but in Providence, not Cambridge.  Oliver (3) would be going to Brown, and his mother had to get his clothes ready. Shirt fronts, collars and hose weren’t her only business today, however.  She and Pauline took a break from domesticity and went to Edwin Manley’s to see his garden. There they saw “some fine dahlias.”

Dahlias, which had been introduced in the United States early in the 1800s, had quickly became popular, although not yet listed in Joseph Breck’s Book of Flowers. So successful were they that over the course of the century more than 10,000 varieties were developed or identified and sold. Today, dahlias are still much admired by flower gardeners, yet less than a dozen of those 19th century heirloom examples still exist in cultivation.* The earliest known, White Aster (above) dates from 1879.

*oldhousegardens.com