October 24, 1852

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Sarah Josepha Hale 

(1788 – 1879)

Sunday Oct 24th  Mrs Davenport, Miss Alger & self

staid at home in the morning and I cooked

a dinner  Martin Carr came home with

them at noon and was here to dine  We all

went to meeting this afternoon  Mrs D & Miss

Alger played and sang and we have had a pleasant evening

Evelina played hostess on this Sabbath Day, staying home from the morning church service to be with her female guests and to cook a dinner. Between services, the men came home for the meal, bringing Martin Carr with them. Martin, who was Oakes Angier’s age, was the son of Caleb Carr, a long-time employee of the shovel shop. Martin was a jeweler by trade; perhaps he knew Edward Davenport, a jeweler in Attleboro, who was staying with the Ameses.

The socializing continued in the evening with tea and entertainment. Both Celestine Davenport and Miss Alger “played and sang.”  What fun to have music in the parlor. Perhaps Susie Ames was inspired by the pleasure that piano playing produced.

Evelina wouldn’t have known it, or acknowledged it particularly if she had, but today was the birthday of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular periodical of the day for women. Her first editing job, which she took on as a young widow with five children, was for The Ladies Magazine in Boston. After Ladies merged with Lady’s, in 1836 – 1837, Mrs. Hale moved to Philadelphia and became the “editress,” – a term she preferred – of Godey’s for the next forty years. While there, she published the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, Washington Irving, Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher – among other authors whose writing has not held up as well through the decades.

Mrs. Hale did more than just read at a desk. While still living in Boston, she established the Seaman’s Aid Society to help the widows and orphans of men lost at sea. She raised a much-needed balance of funds for the completion of the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, the funding of which had stalled. Though many members of the stymied Monument Association assured Mrs. Hale that she couldn’t succeed, she raised tens of thousands of dollars from individual donors and from a week-long women’s craft fair that she organized at Quincy Market. The latter event alone – the first of its kind – raised more than $30,000 from the sale of domestic goods like homemade preserves, knitted scarves, hand-sewn aprons and caps, and specially donated items. She built the template for that kind of event.

Mrs. Hale also raised money for the maintenance of George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, which had fallen into disrepair. She championed the establishment of Vassar, the country’s first female liberal arts college. She promoted the advancement of education and employment for women, tirelessly. Most famous of all, she was able to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a pet project of hers that she had put forward to a line of presidents before him. Most disappointing of all, Sarah Hale never got on board the women’s suffrage movement. She believed that giving women the vote would lead them into politics, which was too disreputable and crafty a calling for the high moral stature of the true female mind.

There is much to be said about Sarah Josepha Hale. We must not forget that she was also an author. She wrote many of the articles in Godey’s, she penned novels, children’s books, household guides and poems. It was her pen that wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She was a phenomenal woman for her time.

October 18, 1852

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Monday Oct 18th  Ann Shinkwin commenced working

for wages this day, and she does very well

got the washing out with Catharines help

quite early not much past ten. This afternoon

she has been putting some apples to stew

I have been puttering about house and 

sewing some but my work does not amount

to much any way.

The new servant, Ann, was going right to work. She and Catharine Murphy did the laundry, of course, it being Monday. The two women then presumably cooked and served the midday meal, and did the washing up, while Evelina was “puttering about the house.” In the afternoon, Ann began to pare and slice apples to cook.

Evelina says that Ann was going to stew the apples, which sounds like a sensible way to process some of the surfeit of apples that she clearly had on hand. Sarah Josepha Hale, ever ready to advise women on sensible practices in the kitchen, offers the following recipe for stewing fruit:

The best way to stew any kind of fruit is to put the quantity you wish to cook into a wide-mouthed jar, with enough brown sugar to sweeten it; then cover the jar close, set it in a kettle of cold water, and boil it till the fruit is tender. This preserves the flavor of the fruit.

Evelina or her servant may have followed their own recipe for cooking sliced apples. But there’s no question that along with applesauce, apple butter, dried apples and apple pies, stewed apples was one more way that the nineteenth century housewife could serve fruit to her family now and over the winter and spring.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 91

 

 

September 30, 1852

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Squash Pie*

Thursday Sept 30th  Have swept the parlour

and Catharine has swept the chambers

and we have baked squash and apple pies

in the brick oven.  Hannah Welch came

last night and has done part of the ironing

to day.  this evening she heard her sister

was sick and she has left and gone back 

to Lynn.  Mrs Lincoln called with Hannah

 

Life at the Ames house returned to normal after yesterday’s meeting of the Sewing Circle. Evelina and a servant, Catharine Middleton, swept and tidied up while a new servant, Hannah Welch, tended to the ironing. Hannah would leave abruptly however, never to return, making her one-day employment the shortest on Evelina’s growing list of departed servants.

The household carried on. Today was a baking day, back in the capacious brick oven that Evelina shared with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, in the other part of the house. Squash and apple pies were on the menu, naturally, both being part of the fall harvest. Squash pies were as routine as pumpkin pies; every contemporary cookbook offered a recipe. Sarah Josepha Hale, though critical of pies in general as being too rich, allowed that they were acceptable in the colder months “because then we can bear a rich concentrated diet, better than during hot weather.”** Her recipe:

Pare, take out the seeds and stew the squash until very soft and dry. Strain or rub it through a sieve or colander. Mix this with good milk till it is thick with batter: sweeten it with sugar.  Allow three eggs to a quart of milk, beat the eggs well, add them to the squash, and season with rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices you like. Line a pie-plate with crust, fill and bake about an hour.**

The rich pies probably hit the spot with the family. Certainly, the timing was perfect because on this night, “there was a pritty havy frost.”*** Fall had arrived.

 

*Image courtesy of  www.lostrecipesfound.com

**Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, pp. 81-82

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

September 7, 1852

Cucumber

Tuesday Sept 7th

1852  I have not sewed much again to day

I was at work on pickles  swept the parlour

washed the windows &c &c and did not sit down

to work untill after dinner.  This afternoon 

Mrs Seba Howard  Miss M J Alger called

& Abby passed the afternoon.  We called 

to see Augusta.  Julia Pool is there taking

care of her she is not able to sit up much

 

“Pickles are very indigestible things, and ought rarely to be eaten,”* declared Sarah Josepha Hale, editor** of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and author of many poems, novels, cookbooks, and household guides. Respectful as Mrs. Hale invariably was of women’s domestic virtues and products, she clearly had no love for pickles, a kitchen staple. Their only value “in cookery,” according to her, was the flavor they added to vinegar.

Evelina and most other housewives and cookbook writers disagreed with Mrs. Hale. Pickles were standard fare, and this time of year many a housewife in many a kitchen was busy turning a cucumber harvest into pickles for the winter ahead. Lydia Maria Child, another popular 19th century writer, offered a detailed recipe in The American Frugal Housewife:

Cucumbers should be in weak brine three or four days after they are picked; then they should be put in a tin or wooden pail of clean water, and kept slightly warm in the kitchen corner for two or three days.  Then take as much vinegar as you think your pickle jar will hold’; scald it with pepper, allspice, mustard-seed, flag-root, horseradish, &c., if you happen to have them; half of them will spice the pickles very well.  Throw in a bit of alum [ammonium aluminum sulfate] as big as a walnut; this serves to make pickles hard. Skim the vinegar clean, and pour it scalding hot upon the cucumbers. ***

The last step in the process was to store the pickles in glass jars. as opposed to ceramic containers. Most 19th century pantries and cellars held tall, slightly blue or green glass pickle jars on their shelves. So it was at the Ames’s.

After the morning’s work and midday dinner, Evelina welcomed Eleutheria Howard, Miss Alger and niece Abby Torrey into the parlor. How strong the smell of pickles in the house must have been! The ladies then left to call on poor Augusta Pool Gilmore, who was still ailing from an intestinal disorder. Her sister Julia was staying with her.

 

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Househkeeper, 1841, p. 71

**Mrs. Hale actually preferred the term “editoress.”

***Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife,” pp. 61-62

August 6, 1852

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Friday Aug 6th

1852 Sewed but very little this forenoon picked

some peas currants &c  Lavinia came to 

dinner  Edwin & wife to tea  Lavinia & I

called to Augustus’ to see their babe who 

is quite sick with the disentary  He looked

quite bright  Mrs Witherell & A L Ames

called a few moments

There were fresh peas at the Ames dinner table today.  We readers might not have enjoyed them, however, as the recipes of the time called for cooking peas – and other vegetables – much longer than our modern preferences allow. Domestic doyenne and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, declared that peas are “a most delicious vegetable,” but cautioned that “[i]t takes from half an hour to an hour to boil them.”* That seems overcooked to us, but, nevertheless, the Ames’s peas were fresh, untarnished by pesticides, and indisputably local.

With her niece Lavinia Gilmore, Evelina went to visit her nephew (and Lavinia’s half-brother) Alson Augustus Gilmore, who had lately been ill. He was now well, but his one-year old son, Willie, had become “quite sick” with dysentery. Had the child caught something from his father? Or was he suffering a condition not uncommon in children in the heat of the summer?  His bright red face suggests fever and dehydration. Augustus and his wife, Hannah, would have been worried about the little boy.

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p. 75

 

July 9, 1852

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July 9th Friday  This day I was in hopes to pass quietly

and sew but quite early Mr Jessop & Linds 

from Sheffield and Fullerton from Boston came

and were here to dinner & tea and so

I had to go to cooking instead of sewing  Made

some Lemon & custard pies &c  It has been

excessively warm and the flies have come

in swarms  Frank went to carry the gentleman to

S Bridgewater

 

“[T]he thermometer was up to 96,”* recorded Old Oliver Ames in his daily journal.  “[E]xcessively warm,” indeed.  It was certainly disagreeable for Evelina to be in the kitchen baking pies on such a day, wearing an apron and a long-sleeved, full-length dress over a chemise and petticoat. Hot.

Many 19th century cookbooks carry recipes for lemon custard, lemon pie, and the like, indicating that lemons were a familiar and reliable ingredient, either imported like coffee, tea and sugar or shipped north from the southern-most states. The Shakers of Ohio, in fact, had a famous recipe for lemon pie that was more or less a tart marmalade within a crust. Evelina probably followed a recipe that was more like lemon custard inside a crust, such as the one suggested by Sarah Josepha Hale:

Boil in water, in a closely covered sauce-pan, two large lemons till quite tender; take out the seeds, and pound the lemon to a paste; add a quarter of a pound of pounded loaf sugar, the same of fresh butter heated to a cream, and three well-beaten eggs; mix all together and bake it in a tin lined with puff paste; take it out, strew over the top grated loaf sugar.*

We can imagine that the pies met the approval of the gentlemen from Sheffield and Boston who came to dinner and tea.

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

**Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p.80

July 8, 1852

 

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1852

July 8th Thursday  This forenoon cut out a night dress

from Mrs Ames pattern and was busy in my 

chamber made some cake & ginger snaps and 

baked them in Mrs Witherells oven  This

afternoon Mrs Witherell S Ames & A Ames were

here & Helen & Emily  The gentlemen came to 

tea  Mrs Augustus Gilmore passed the evening

This was a hot day for baking, but Evelina nonetheless made “cake & ginger snaps” in her sister-in-law’s brick oven. No doubt she served some of the goodies later in the day when the Ames clan gathered for tea. There didn’t seem to be any special occasion for the tea, except that a cousin, Almira Ames, was visiting. Rather, it was perhaps Evelina’s turn to entertain the family. As Evelina’s grandson, Winthrop Ames, later pointed out, “[e]very week at least, and usually oftener, one household would invite the others and their visitors to tea; and the whole Ames family might assemble…”*

Ginger snaps were pretty standard fare at such occasions. Evelina baked them regularly. In recipes from that time, they’re often referred to as hard gingerbread. Sarah Josepha Hale includes a “receipt” for them in The Good Housekeeper from 1841:

Rub a half a pound of butter into a pound of flour; then rub in half a pound of sugar, two table-spoonfuls of ginger, and a spoonful of rose water; work it well; roll out, and bake in flat pans in a moderate oven. It will take about half an hour to bake. This gingerbread will keep good some time.**

 

Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1937, p. 128

**  Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841, p, 99