November 9, 1852

Peasant_Spreading_Manure_1854_55

Jean Francois Millet, Peasant Spreading Manure, 1854-1855**

Tuesday Nov 9th  Have been to work all day again

with my quinces have made over a bushel

into marmalade jelly &c  I am tired & sick

of quince and I dont believe I shall

ever make so much again  Catharine

has sewed but very little.

Fed up with cooking, Evelina seems to have lost her temper in the kitchen. Since late summer she had boiled one pot or another of peaches, apples, barberries, and now quince. She had had enough, “tired and sick” of too much time stirring something on the stove. It’s unclear why she didn’t let the servant Catharine do the stirring and she do the sewing, but so it was.

Besides putting up preserves, other preparations for winter were underway. Old Oliver noted that “we began to git out oure manure to day.”* This means that the stalls in the barn and the leavings in the barnyard were being mucked out and carted off.  The manure was collected to go onto the fields and garden plots. It was either piled up for later or placed around immediately to help nourish the soil for the next growing season. This was a regular fall task in agrarian societies all over the world; witness the illustration above of a mid-19th century French peasant spreading manure on a field.

Even more important than these domestic efforts, however, was the news that the men had “started the enjoin”* at the shovel shop. A new manufacturing era had begun. No longer would water power be the only source of energy for the production of shovels.

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

**Collection of North Carolina Museum of Art

November 5, 1852

Oliver Ames, Jr.

Oliver Ames, Jr.

(1807 – 1877)

Friday Nov 5th Susan has taken her ninth lesson

in music and I fear she is rather dull

does not call her letters well at all

Mrs Swain called this afternoon to settle

with me about her things and to night sent

me as a present as much as a half bushel […]

quinces  We passed the evening in Olivers

After stopping by to pay for the mourning apparel Evelina had picked up in Boston, Ann Swain sent Evelina two pecks of quinces to further thank her for her kindness. This thoughtful gesture may have distracted Evelina from her ongoing annoyance at her daughter’s “dull” piano playing. Susan had not yet learned her scales. At night, Evelina and Oakes, and perhaps other family members, “passed the evening” next door at Oliver Ames Jr’s.

Today, in fact, was Oliver Ames Jr.’s 45th birthday. He and his wife, Sarah Lothrop Ames, lived next door to Oakes and Evelina. At this juncture, Oliver Jr. was serving his first term as State Senator; he would serve a second term in 1857. According to Reverend William Chaffin, who knew the Ames family well, “Oliver Ames stood among the foremost in his reputation for a manly and unblemished character and for business ability…a strong, substantial, able, and honorable man.”****

The third of Old Oliver’s eight children, Oliver Jr. had originally been the brother who tinkered with the possibility of a career away from the shovel factory. In his teens, he suffered a “severe fall,”**** and was unable to work. He was sent to the Franklin Academy in North Andover after which he began to read law with William Baylies, Esq., of West Bridgewater. Reading and debating – good lawyering skills, both – had always been sources of pleasure for Oliver, but “[t]he confinement of office proving unfavorable to his health, together with the increasing demands of business at home,”**** he returned to North Easton. In 1833, he married Sarah Lothrop, the daughter of the Honorable Howard Lothrop and Sally Williams Lothrop. They had two children, Frederick Lothrop and Helen Angier Ames.

Relative to his brother, Oakes, Oliver Jr was reckoned to be “pretty dignified, and takes a good deal after his father, but Oakes is always ‘hail fellow well met.”** Another contemporary acquaintance of both men said simply that Oliver Jr. was “the conservative one.”***They made a good business pair. Over time, Oliver Jr. and Oakes, under the watchful eye of their father, turned the shovel shops into an industrial powerhouse, even as they groomed the next generation, Oakes Angier, Oliver (3) and Fred, to take over when the time was right. They invested in technological improvements and hired more help, especially from the newly arrived Irish population. They improved supply and delivery; in 1855, Oliver Jr. helped create the Easton Branch Railroad spur from Stoughton to North Easton.  In 1863, he oversaw the creation of a railroad line through the Great Cedar Swamp to Raynham. His interest in railroads led him to join his brother in the plan to build a transcontinental railroad when Oakes, by that time a U. S. Congressman, was tapped by Lincoln to lead the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both brothers became “deservedly famous”*****for their involvement with the Union Pacific. More than one contemporaneous historian has noted: “In 1866, Oliver Ames was elected president of that railroad, an office he held with significant ability until March, 1871.  During this time the road passed through some of its stormiest days and severest trials. His sound judgment, great business capacity, and inflexible integrity were of immense service in carrying this great enterprise safely through difficulty and peril to final success.”*****

On this dark autumn night in 1852, the “difficulty and peril [and…] success” lay ahead for both brothers as they sipped tea with their wives and watched “a few flakes of snow” fall.*

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

**“Ames at Easton: The Shovel Makers and Their Works. Life and Habits of the Congressman. Cursed Abroad – Applauded at Home,” The Boston Times, February, 1873

***Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, Reminiscences of Forty Years, 1891, Boston, p. 137

****William Chaffin, History of Easton, Massachusetts, 1886, p. 655.

*****Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, 1883, pp. 430 – 431 (also Chaffin, p. 656)

October 25, 1852

Ames_machine_shop_1857

Monday Oct 25th We all walked down to the

shops this morning and Mr & Mrs D

left here about ten Oclock and since

Miss Alger & self have had a quiet day

Susan has practiced a good deal but

is rather impatient  We did not

have the washing done

 

Monday morning came around and the Davenports and their child were still in the house. By the time they left, it was too late to start the laundry. So Evelina and the remaining houseguest, Miss M. J. Alger, “had a quiet day.” Quiet except for the sound of Susan Ames practicing her scales on the new piano; she could hardly skip out on practicing when her piano teacher was right there under the same roof. Was this Evelina’s design?

It “was a fair warm day for the season”* wrote Old Oliver in his journal. When Evelina and her company walked across the way to visit the shovel shop, what did they see? Shovels being made, obviously, in the rebuilt section of the factory, down close to the pond. But they also must have stood inside the new Long Shop, where the first-ever steam engine had been installed, ready to be put to use. It may be that a construction crew was still active in the building, putting in the finishing touches. To the visitors – and perhaps to the family, too – the new space must have seemed wondrous: the height of modernity, a model of expansion and a promise of wealth. However much she usually distanced herself from the action at the factory, Evelina must have felt some pride in showing off the progress of the company to her guests.

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

July 27, 1852

 

Asleep

Tuesday July 27th  Mrs Savage had quite a

comfortable night & I came home a

little before 5 Oclock & went to bed

did not rise untill nearly nine

Elizabeth Pool & Augusta came

in this forenoon with their work

Mrs Whitwell Reed Howard & Miss

Jarvis called on us all & Alsons wife

was here to tea & Mother at Augustus’

Evelina’s all-nighter at the bedside of Mrs. Savage didn’t seem to impinge on her day.  After a catch-up sleep in the early morning, she was back on her feet.  Augusta Gilmore and her young sister Elizabeth came over “with their work,” meaning that they brought some sewing with them, and the women sat, sewed, and visited. Later in the day, several ladies from her Unitarian circle of friends “called on us”.  Her brother Alson’s wife, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, came by for tea. A most sociable day, it was.

In the other part of the house, “Horatio Ames Jun r came here to day.”* Horatio was, obviously, the eldest son of Horatio Ames, who was the brother of Oakes, Oliver Jr., Sarah Witherell, Harriet Mitchell and William Leonard Ames. Repeating previous posts, Horatio ran a forge in Connecticut, far from the shovel shop in Easton, but still connected to it financially and emotionally. He and his son were not on friendly terms, and it’s hard to determine just what had brought Horatio Jr to Easton.  He arrived in the evening and for some reason Evelina didn’t mention it in her diary.

 

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

 

July 20, 1852

imgres

Pre-Civil War Ames Shovel with “D” wooden handle*

1852

July 20th Tuesday  I was in hopes to do something this

week but did not commence right yesterday

In the first place yesterday afternoon Mr

Whitwell called & Mr Ames took him & Oliver

to Bridgewater  Then uncle Ephraim called and I

must needs run in to laugh at Mrs Ames and

found Mrs Sheldon there and to day I

have not done much but talk over yesterdays affairs.

 

According to Old Oliver, the day was “fair with a verry hot sun wind easterly.”** Full summer, in other words. Everyone would begin to feel the heat, including the factory workers putting in their ten hour days at: “hammering, plating, drawing (backstraps), welding, smoothing, setting, opening, filing, riveting, finishing (handles), [and] handling”*** the shovels. Unlike workers elsewhere in the state, these workers seemed content with the hours they worked and the pay they received. “The relationship between the Ames family and shovel shop workers appears to have been amicable, for much of the business’s history.” ****

To date, no one had ever gone on strike at the shovel works, while in Amesbury to the north, textile workers had walked off their jobs in June. They were striking for better hours, having become fed up with twelve hour days for everyone, including children. They lost that strike at the woolen mill, which was owned by the Salisbury Corporation, but gained the support of their town government and launched the career of George McNeill, a fourteen year old carder who became the father of the eight-hour movement. Working out of Boston, McNeill would spend his life advocating and agitating for more humane conditions for factory workers.

In 1853, a limited strike took place at O. Ames and Sons. As Old Oliver noted on June 16, 1853, “Our outdore men struck for the 10 hour system to day and we settled with them and lett them go.” Evidently the men who worked outside the factory proper – those who would have been responsible for transporting the shovels, for instance – wanted the same hours as those who worked in the production line. Historian Greg Galer interprets this record to mean that the workers were granted their ten hour limit and were sent home for the day. Winthrop Ames, in his family history, on the other hand, interpreted that sentence to mean that the men were fired.

On a lighter note, Evelina was getting a lot of mileage out of Uncle Ephraim’s interest in Almira Ames. She seemed to spend most of her day doing little more than “talk over yesterdays affairs.”

* Image courtesy of etsy.com

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

*** Gregory Galer, Forging Ahead, MIT, 2002, p. 263.

**** Ibid., p. 265

July 17, 1852

Wine glass

July 17th Sat  Hannah & Mary picked some currants

yesterday and to day I have made some

currant wine had four quarts of juice

Have done but very little sewing. Have

mended some.  Oliver returned from

school to night He is not looking very well

He brought home his pictures & all his things

is in hopes to go back again but it is uncertain

Evelina’s diary entry today poses two questions for us readers. First, why was she, wife of a strict tee-totaler, making wine? The answer is that from time to time, even a temperance household needed wine for medicinal purposes. It may be, also, that the occasional dish, such as mincemeat, required some alcohol as an ingredient. Even Lydia Maria Child, who abhorred liquor, nonetheless included a recipe for currant wine in her household guide:

Break and squeeze the currants, put three pounds and a half of sugar to two quarts of juice and two quarts of water. Put in a keg or barrel. Do not close the bung tight for three or four days, that the air may escape while it is fermenting.  After it is done fermenting, close it up tight…It should not be used under a year or two. Age improves it.*

The second question is almost unanswerable. Why wasn’t Oliver (3) able to return to Brown University? He wanted to, but clearly the decision wasn’t his to make, nor did it appear to be the school’s choice. Rather, the decision to cease attendance lay with Oliver (3)’s father, Oakes Ames, who had been against his son attending college in the first place. Oakes was once described as having “inherited some measure of that Puritanical contempt for the liberal arts…”**. He had first put his foot down against Oliver going, finally relented for one year, and now was again saying no.

If we can move past Oakes’s prejudice against higher education, we can imagine that he wanted his middle son back at the factory. So much had happened at the shovel works during Oliver (3)’s absence. The old factory had burned down and a temporary one had been quickly rebuilt. A new, state-of-the-art stone factory was being raised, requiring extra supervision. And the manufacture and sale of shovels had had to continue as if nothing had happened. Quite likely, Oakes needed his son’s help. Studying was over.

It’s also possible that an additional factor may have influenced Oakes’s decision, a factor that he couldn’t yet share – at least not with Evelina. Oakes may have been privy to a concern about his son Oakes Angier’s health, a condition that would soon be apparent to all.

 

*Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife, p. 59

** Hon. Hosea M. Knowlton, Address at the Dedication Ceremony for the Oliver Ames High School, December 12, 1896, published  Boston, 1898, p.98