Dress with undersleeves, mid-19th c.*
Tuesday Oct 26 We have had a large washing
done to day and not finished untill
after dinner Miss Alger & self spent
the afternoon in Olivers Mr Ames
& all the children there to tea Mr & Mrs
Whitwell was there an hour or two
I made Susan a pair of undersleeves
and she is delighted with them
Because of all the company that had visited over the weekend, the servant girls were unable to launder clothes on Monday. Today, extra sheets and towels were added to the usual load and the washing went on into the afternoon. Not that Evelina rolled up her sleeves; after the midday meal, she and her remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, went next door to visit with Sarah Lothrop Ames and stayed for tea. All the family partook.
At various points during the day, Evelina had her work box open as she completed a pair of undersleeves for her daughter. Susie was “delighted” with them. Were they a peace offering from mother to daughter, perhaps to make up for Evelina’s insistence on Susan learning to play piano?
We’ve seen Evelina sewing undersleeves before. In the 1850’s and into the Civil War, undersleeves were an essential component of any woman’s dress, fitting independently but securely under the looser outer sleeve of the dress proper. Like the collars of the day, a good pair of undersleeves could be worn with different dresses. Susie must have felt rather grown-up with her new pair.
On the industrial side of American life, meanwhile, today was the 27th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. The technological wonder of its day, it was already becoming obsolete. Railroads had arrived and, through their own capacity for moving freight, would soon obviate commercial use of the canal for many (though not all) industries. Shipping would change – was changing. The very word “shipping” derives from the fact that, initially, more goods moved by water than by land. This would no longer be true in this country or elsewhere in the developed world.
We should remember that Harriet Ames Mitchell, Old Oliver’s youngest daughter, was living in Erie at the time with her husband Asa and their three children. Did they mark the day?
*Image of striped blue muslin dress with undersleeves courtesy of St. Albans Museum, England