October 22, 1852

 

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Tibetan Sheep, 21st century

Friday Oct 22d Julia Mahoney was here to work

this forenoon on Susans Maroon Thibot

making a new waist and put a new yoke

and making over the waist to her dark

striped wool deLaine  Carried home the

waist to finish to her Thibot dress  I spent

the afternoon at Olivers with Hannah + Augustus

Mr Whitwell called

 

Julia Mahoney, a local dressmaker, worked at Evelina’s sewing at least two dresses for Susan Ames. Susie, who was ten-going-on-eleven, was growing taller and more mature. The dresses she had worn the previous winter needed to be altered, the waists expanded, the tucks let out, a new yoke put in. One of her dresses was made of delaine, a wool that Evelina sewed often for herself and her daughter. It was a popular, open-weave, light-weight wool that came in many patterns and colors; it may or may not have been imported.

The “Thibot” cloth that Evelina describes was more unusual. It was of “[w]ool material, worsted with soft and smooth plain-finished face; made from mountain sheep of Thibet, Asia*.” This textile was imported and would have been more expensive, suggesting that Susie’s little maroon dress may have been meant for “Sunday best.” It was special enough that the dressmaker took it home to work on.

In Boston at this time, sources for wool were both domestic and foreign.  There were approximately 15 wool merchants in the city, most of whom were prospering. According to an early 20th century history:

“The quantity of domestic wool showed a steady decrease for several years subsequent to the enactment of the tariff of 1846. The effect of the gold discoveries upon general commerce in 1849, stimulating the manufacturing industry, is reflected in the rapidly increased imports of home grown wools. The imports of foreign wools show considerable yearly fluctuation, corresponding in the main to the varying quantities of domestic wools.”**

Some years later, Susie would marry a wool merchant named Henry French. She and Evelina would then – presumably – have access to whatever wool they needed or wanted, foreign or domestic.

*Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions, 1830-1910, Texas Tech University Press, 1988, p. 183

**Joseph T. Shaw, The Wool Trade of the United States: History of a Great Industry:Its Rise and Progress in Boston, Now the Second Market in the World, 1909, p. 52

October 5, 1852

Golden Piano Keys

Oct 5th  Tuesday  Called this forenoon upon Augusta

and then went into Olivers to dine & all my family

After dinner Mrs Norris & self called at Mr Torreys

and I then carried Mrs N to the cars.  Augusta

went with us.  When I returned Mrs Witherell &

Mrs S Ames called with me at Mr Whitwells on

Mrs Wordsworth & on Mrs Morse  Our pianos came

to night.

A momentous day at the Ames homestead: Two pianos arrived from Boston – drawn by oxen, one would think – and were set up in the respective parlors on each side of the house. One was for Evelina’s daughter, Susan, and the other was for Sarah Ames Witherell’s daughter, Emily. Everyone, even the men of the family who were unlikely to play the instruments, must have been intrigued by the new additions to the parlors.

Modern historian Jack Larkin describes the stylish impact of the addition of a piano to a parlor in the mid-nineteenth century:

“The pianoforte, the direct ancestor of today’s piano, became the most decisive piece of American parlor furniture. That small minority of families – less than one in a hundred – who were able ‘to beautify the room by so superb an ornament,’ as a cynical music teacher suggested in the Boston Musical Intelligencer, had acquired ‘the ultimate badge of gentility…the only thing that distinguishes ‘decent people’ from the lower and less distinguished’ whether it was ever played or not.”*

It was certainly Evelina’s intention that this instrument would be played by her daughter Susan who, she believed, would learn to play it, and play it well. It was presumably Sarah Witherell’s desire as well that Emily would do the same.  Did they imagine piano recitals and concerts taking place within their freshly-papered, newly decorated parlor walls?  Did they believe that their daughters would excel and play as well as Helen Ames next door? Did their daughters share this expectation? Did their daughters even want to learn piano?

*Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, New York, 1988, p. 143

September 8, 1852

Thread

 

Wednesday Sept 8th  Was baking and at work

about house all the forenoon and this afternoon

have been to Olivers to the sewing Circle  Had

a pretty full meeting  Mrs Buck & Sarah were there

and worked on Mr Ames shirts  After tea we

all went into the gardens  Mother came from

there to night and will stop a few days here

It was time for Sewing Circle again.  The ladies of the Unitarian Church and their pastor, William Whitwell, met right next door at the home of Sarah Lothrop Ames and Oliver Ames Jr. They sewed, socialized and probably listened to a few words from Mr. Whitwell. Evelina was pleased to get some help making shirts for her husband.  The women all had tea and then walked about the garden, which must have been in its last foliage. Old Mrs. Gilmore, who probably had been brought to the meeting by her daughter-in-law, Henrietta, stayed over to spend a few days with her daughter.

Also on this date, another gathering of mostly women took place in Syracuse, New York. Led by suffragist Lucretia Mott, the Third National Women’s Rights Convention ran for three days and was certainly a headier, more disruptive kind of meeting than the one that Evelina attended. Mrs. Mott kept order well, although “at one point she felt it necessary to silence a minister who offended the assembly by using biblical references to keep women subordinate to men.” Many suffragists spoke, including Ernestine Rose, who responded to the offending minister with a reminder that ” the Bible should not be used as the authority for settling a dispute, especially as it contained much contradiction regarding women.” *

Two particularly noteworthy incidents happened at this annual gathering. Lucy Stone wore a pair of Turkish trousers, better known at “Bloomers, ” and the attendees were treated to the first public speech of a newcomer to the cause of suffrage: Susan B. Anthony.  Did Evelina read about any of this in the papers? Was she scornful or curious or disinterested? At no point in her diary does she comment on the nascent suffrage movement.

 

*National Women’s Rights Convention, Wikipedia, accessed Sept. 7, 2015

 

 

September 5, 1852

books

Illustration from Godey’s Lady’s Book*

Sunday Sept 5th  1852 Went to meeting and came home

at noon with Mr Ames & Mrs Stevens.

Was very sleepy this forenoon and did

not hear much of the sermon but thought

it good what I did hear. Had an excellent

sermon this afternoon  Mr Whitwell preached

After meeting Mr Ames & Mrs Stevens & self

walked to the new shops called at Edwins.

Finished a letter to Harriet Ames

Reverend William Whitwell delivered two good sermons today, even if Evelina slept through parts of the first one. Were she and Oakes both nodding off in the Ames pew? Hopefully their sons, Oliver (3) and Frank Morton, and their guest, Mrs. Stevens, stayed upright as Mr. Whitwell spoke.

A walk “to the new shops” was the exercise they took after church. Construction work on the factory building must have been well along, if not finished on the exterior. Stopping in to see Edwin and Augusta Gilmore afterwards would have been easy, as the young couple lived right across the street from the new Long Shop and its grounds .

Letter writing, and probably a little reading, filled the remaining quiet hours of Evelina’s Sunday, As a subscriber, she would have had this month’s Godey’s Lady’s Book to look at. The September issue included fiction in the form of stories and poems, as well as prose articles on the Crusades, the printing of calico, a history of boots and shoes, archery, the employment of women in cities (in this issue focusing on the Philadelphia School of Design), and “Lingerie: Caps for the Chamber and Sick-Room.” * Evelina had been in various sick rooms enough lately to make this article of particular interest to her – although we cannot know whether she read it or not, or whether any of the women she helped nurse had adorned themselves with such headgear. We can know, however, that this particular article took credit for introducing the word “lingerie” to America, whose readers who were “doubtless […] unfamiliar” with it.

*Godey’s Lady’s Book, September, 1852, p. 287

August 22, 1852

1835sketch

Unitarian Church, Burlington, Vermont, circa 1835*

Sunday Aug 22  We went with Mrs Stetson to the

Unitarian church & heard Mr Rich in the morning

dined at Mrs Mills and all went to the

Episcopal church this afternoon  This is a

beautiful church but I did not think much

of the preaching or singing.  Returned

to Mrs Stetsons to tea and had a quiet evening

 

Naturally, Evelina attended church on Sunday, just as she would have done had she been at home. In this case, she went to Burlington’s Unitarian Church with her hostess, Mrs. Stetson,and “heard Mr Rich” preach. But for the afternoon service, she went to an Episcopalian church with a group of women with whom she had dined.

She liked the looks of the Episcopal Church but, as she often did when attending any church but her own, she didn’t approve of the service, sniffing at the poor “preaching and singing.”  Evelina invariably preferred her own church in Easton – and her own preacher. No one could ever equal Mr. Whitwell.

The family (still minus Sarah Lothrop Ames and her two children, who had stopped at a town further south) kept a pretty low profile in the evening. Keeping quiet, after all, was the point of this vacation for Oakes Angier Ames. It was hoped that his staying in Vermont would improve his health.

 

*Courtesy of the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Burlington, http://www.uusociety.org

 

 

August 8, 1852

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St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River, Massachusetts

Sunday

Aug 8th  Have been to meeting came home with

Mr Ames at noon, and returned again

Lavinia Williams came home to Joshuas with us […]

Lavinia returned home  Mr Whitwell preached

Since meeting have written a letter to Mrs

Louisa J Mower & Mrs S Stevens

 

As shovel-making led the industry of Easton in 1852, so textile manufacturing led the commerce of nearby Fall River. Surely, some of the cloth that Evelina cut and sewed came from the busy textile center that lay about 25 miles to her south.

Fall River is situated at the mouth of the Taunton River, the head of Mount Hope Bay, and (before the construction of the modern interstate put it underground) alongside the swiftly flowing Quequechan River, whose steep drop gave Fall River its name as well as the power to run the mills that lined its banks. Considered “the best tidewater privilege in southern New England,”* Fall River was an important industrial entity for much of the 1800’s. Bustling with bales of cotton and bolts of printed cloth, the city was accessed at mid-century by the Old Colony Railroad line and the Fall River Steamship Line, two entities that would soon merge.

The work force employed to support this industry consisted mostly of immigrants, initially Irish and, after the Civil War, Portuguese. They needed a place to live and a place to worship. The former was supplied by triple-decker tenements, the latter by a succession of churches. The Catholics quickly outgrew the first church built for them in 1840 and thus on this date in 1852, a cornerstone was laid for a new, major church for the congregation. By December, 1855, The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption was duly consecrated and opened for worship. In 1983, St Mary’s was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

We might wonder if any Catholics or others from Easton ever visited St. Mary’s. We can be pretty sure that Evelina and her family never darkened its threshold. On this day, of course, they attended their own Unitarian Church and listened to their beloved Reverend Whitwell.

 

* “Fall River,” Wikipedia, accessed August 5, 2015

July 20, 1852

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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