My cataloging lately has involved many account books. There is often little to distinguish one from another, so many containing numerous entries for sales of corn, molasses, and rum. Today, the account books of Stephen Coit provided a pleasant surprise.
Stephen Coit was a merchant in Canterbury, Connecticut. We have four of his volumes in our collection, three account books and a day book. Like many merchants of the time, Coit sold a variety of dry goods and food items. Nails, tea, candles, and codfish are among the many items recorded.
As I opened the day book, my eyes settled on a familiar Connecticut name, Miss Prudence Crandall. Prudence Crandall has become our State Heroine for having the strength and courage to educate African-American girls in 1833 and 1834 (her house is now a museum). Not only does the day book demonstrate she routinely purchased from Coit, we also have the corresponding account book detailing her expenditures.
So, wondering what a school teacher in Canterbury, Connecticut purchases from a local merchant? The first time she is listed in the day book she purchased three yards of white flannel, one and three quarter yards linen diaper, three sheets wadding, two skeins black silk, 15 needles, and fine tape. She spent $3.37 on these items. Other times she would buy ribbon, robe, and crackers. Crandall must have been doing some writing in June 1832. One day that month she purchased rose paper and a bottle of ink.
As late as June 1833, the last month the day book was used, Coit was still conducting business with Crandall. Once Crandall began teaching African-Americans many of the shopkeepers in the area refused to sell to her. There is no indication as to whether Coit was among those shopkeepers. Additionally, Coit left Canterbury at some point in 1833.
The Stephen Coit account books (Account Book collection/Ms. 55740) are open for research. Please come and learn even more about Prudence Crandall!