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Celebrating Hoyt Library’s 132 Birthday with Miss Harriet Ames’ Recipe for Her Mother’s Baked Beans

The Hoyt Library building was completed in 1888; however, Harriet Ames, the first librarian, was given almost two years to develop and organize the collection. Although during the summer of 1890 the public was allowed to use the collection, for generations Hoyt Library’s official birthday has been celebrated during the month of November.

Harriett Ames was hired by the trustees of Hoyt Public Library in 1888. She was recommended to the board by their consultant, the noted librarian William F. Poole. Harriet Ames had studied under Poole.

Harriet Howe Ames was hired by the Trustees of Hoyt Library in 1888 and would live in Saginaw for three decades – almost exactly one third of her life. During that that time, she shaped Hoyt Library and made an impact on the community that has lasted for generations. Her obituary in the Saginaw News Courier noted: “The intellectual life of Saginaw bore the stamp of Miss Ames’ personality, and she was widely known among all those whose search for knowledge took them to the institution over which she presided.”

“She had a wonderful personality, a brilliant intellect, a keen sense of humor, and how we missed her when, old in years, but young in spirit, she went to her eastern home. Miss Ames led a long and cultured life, an inspiration to youth and to the community. Such a life is to me proof of immortality. Such a soul much keep going upward and onward.” From Mrs. A.L. Button’s address at the dedication of the Harriet Ames Auditorium in Hoyt Library quoted in the Saginaw Evening News on December 28, 1925.

Image (1) Miss Harriet Ames office, c. 1890

Image (2) Image of delivery room--Originally Hoyt Public Library was a non-circulating reference library. Books were stored in a fireproof bookroom. To locate a book, patrons started by consulting a bound subject list, copies of this book catalog are visible on tables in this image. Users filled out a request slip and submitted it at the delivery counter. The librarian would retrieve the books from the bookroom. It was said that books would silently and magically appear. The system was complex and complicated.

Born in 1834 in Pepperell, Massachusetts, Harriet Ames grew up in an eighteenth-century home about two miles from the center of town. Her father Asa Ames was a cooper – a barrel maker.

“She received her training in library science at the Boston Atheneum under Dr. Poole and Charles Russell Lowell, and entered on the study with a determination to make the formation of libraries her profession. How well she has succeeded in carrying out her ideals must be judged from results.”

“She rearranged and catalogued one private and two public libraries and fully organized three new ones before coming to Saginaw. Organizing a library means buying from ten to twenty thousand volumes selected for every department of work, the arrangement and classification with all minor detail and the making and printing of a full index catalogue. Miss Ames’s catalogues are known and approved by library workers all over the country . . .” Detroit Free Press, January 5, 1908.

Harriet Ames remained Hoyt Public Library’s head librarian until 1919. After her retirement, she returned home to Pepperell, Massachusetts. She passed away on December 14, 1924. The following year Hoyt Library Auditorium was named in her honor. (Although the auditorium now houses the local history and genealogy collection, a plaque on the north wall of the space still honors her commitment to the library.)

Historic photographs of Hoyt Library courtesy of Local History and Genealogy Collection, Public Libraries of Saginaw.


My Mother’s Recipe for Baked Beans

Put 1 qt. pea beans in cold water and soak over night. In the morning pour off the water, cover the beans with fresh cold water, and simmer until soft enough to pierce with a pin. Then turn into a colander, pour cold water through them, and put them in the bean-pot. A genuine New England bean- pot is best, with

narrow mouth and building sides.

Take ¼ lb. salt pork, part fat and part lean; pour boiling water over it, scrape the rind until white, cut in quarter inch strips and bury it in the beans. Mix in a cup: 1 teaspoonful salt, 1 teaspoonful mustard, and 2 tablespoonsful molasses. Fill the cup with boiling water, pour the mixture over the beans, and enough water to cover them. Bake 9 hours in a moderate oven. Keep covered with water until the last hour, then raise the pork to the surface just enough to crisp the rind. Yellow-eyed beans and cranberry beans are also excellent when baked.

--Miss H.H. Ames From the Saginaw Cookbook published by the Frist Congregational Church

From the Castle Test Kitchen : A Warning and a Confession.

We have not yet made Harriet Ames’ Mother’s Baked Beans The test kitchen staff was running behind and the staff hasn’t yet been able to block out a day for carefully monitoring and tending to a slowly cooking a pot of beans. Also, there is the matter of locating a genuine New England bean pot.

We will feature an interpretation of this recipe and the story Harriett Ames’ Hollyhock Hedge in the near future.


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