February 14, 1852


Detail of Cover of Gleason’s Pictorial, February, 1852

Sat Feb 14th  Finished Olivers shirt before dinner and did

some mending  About three went into Edwins and trimmed

a black silk cravat for Oliver  Mrs S Ames & Frederic

returned from New Bedford to night where they have been

since Tuesday  I spent most of the evening there

Evelina’s favorite periodicals, such as Gleason’s Pictorial, Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, and Graham’s, were full of allusions to Valentine’s Day this week. Gleason’s featured a valentine on its cover, in fact.  And while commercial Valentine cards hadn’t yet developed in the United States – that would happen in the 1870s – special letters and personal poems were popular on February 14. Yet Evelina makes no mention of receiving or sending a valentine, nor does she suggest that any of her children did, either.

Perhaps when Evelina went over to see Augusta Pool Gilmore, young bride of Evelina’s nephew Edwin Williams Gilmore, she found evidence of a valentine exchange between the newlyweds. Besides being in love and – presumably – open to sentimental expression, Augusta and Edwin were young enough to adopt new approaches to holidays that older Yankees like Evelina and Oakes ignored.

Meanwhile, winter was still very much present. As Old Oliver noted: “there was about half an inch of snow last night and it is cloud[y] + cold to day wind north west”

February 14, 1851

Valentine from the 1870's by Esther Howland

Valentine from the 1870’s by Esther Howland

Feb 14th Friday  Mended a pair of pants for Oakes Angier & 

cut out some work for Susan.  Went to the store for a

pair of shoes for self & Susan.  Called on Miss Eaton

on my return met the Dr there.  He thinks she will 

live into March.  Has failed very much since I saw her

Passed the afternoon with Mrs Wales & Miss Lothrop in

the other part of the house.  Mr Jackson called here this eve.

Pleasant this morning, afternoon cloudy & a little rain

The 19th century descendants of the Puritans weren’t known for their celebratory spirit, so we shouldn’t wonder that Valentine’s Day went unrecognized at the Ames’s house.  Although the practice of sending a sweet message to one’s beloved had thrived in England for several decades, the concept was just gaining traction in the United States. Personal Valentine greetings in the form of hand-written poems were familiar to many young people, but nothing was mass-produced until mid-century when a graduate of Mount Holyoke named Esther Howland, whose father was a stationer in Worcester, Massachusetts, developed and sold a lacy Valentine card, America’s first.  The idea took off and shortly thereafter, Graham’s American Monthly noted that “Saint Valentine’s Day […] has become, a national holyday.”   The idea hadn’t caught on at the shovel works, though; if it had, Oakes Ames probably would have seized the opportunity to buy one for his wife.

Evelina took a small step back into her social life today.  Not only was she able to call on Miss Eaton at the Holmes’s house, but she also got an update from the doctor, who confirmed that Miss Eaton was dying.  Miss Eaton did not yet have a “watch” on her, but the time would come when different friends and relatives would take turns sitting with her until she passed.

After her visit with Miss Eaton, Evelina relaxed into a sociable afternoon in “the other part of the house.”  With her sister-in-law Sarah Witherell, she chatted with two female acquaintances while rain returned outside.  In the evening, Mr. Jackson came to call.  He was probably the school master whose teaching had “lacked energy” last week when Evelina visited the local school.  Why was he calling?  Had he learned that Evelina was involved in the establishment of a private school?