16 pairs of stockings?

Charles H. Post ran a well established general store in the center of Hebron, Connecticut. Recently, his fourth day book made its way back to Connecticut from Savannah, Georgia, thanks to a gracious donor. We have a large collection of account books, but it never fails to amaze me what people had available in the 1830s in a relatively small town. On one day, May 7, 1829, Post sold:

4 small combs,  1- 1/2 yards broad cloth, 11- 1/2 yards of cotton stripe,2 silk handkerchiefs, 1 pound of tea, 1 yard of fillet, 1/2 yard of padding, 1 yard brown linen, 1-4/12 dozen coat buttons,  2 skeins of silk, 1/4 gallon of rum, one palmetto hat, 1/4 gallon of whiskey, 2-1/2 yards of ribbon, 4 yards of calico, 5 yards of gingham, 4 pounds of flour, 16 pairs of stockings, 5 yards of gingham, 3 cotton handkerchiefs, 1 belt ribbon, 1/2 pound of tea, another 5-3/4 yards of gingham, and 1 peck of peas.

This account book is actually a day book in which Post entered transactions on a daily basis and later transferred the data into a ledger arranged by person, listing all debts and credits. You can sometimes tell what a person was planning by looking at the types of materials purchased over the course of a month or so. With a day book, one can only surmise. For example, why did someone need 16 pairs of stockings? Was he the keeper of the alms house or of a school? Or did he have a large family? To find the answers, you could do some research on the purchaser and build a more complete story. That is what makes research fun–putting pieces together and solving riddles. Anyone up for a challenge?

If you would like to see Mr. Post’s day book, ask for Ms 101681 when you come to the Research Center.

Items sold on a day in December at Charles Post’s general store in Hebron, Connecticut, 1829. Ms 101681.

What are you working on?

This is a question I am asked routinely by family, friends, and co-workers. Admittedly, I often struggle to come up with something more profound than, “Uh…um…you know, stuff.” I encounter great material every  day, and it is so hard to remember all of it! The larger collections are usually easier to recollect, simply because they can be discussed more broadly. Many times, though, some of the most original pieces are found in the smaller collections.

Such was the case today as I started working on the Solomon Porter papers (MS 62050, 0.25 linear foot, 1 box). Solomon Porter was born in Windsor in 1753. He later moved to Hartford where, in 1782, he married Rebecca Dodd. The earliest papers date from 1783, when Porter was working as a merchant with his father, Nathaniel Porter. I found three pieces that were different than I have seen before.

A traveler, perhaps one of the Porters, journeyed to Boston and made several stops along the way. This piece demonstrates that not only did the traveler make multiple stops along the way, but he chose to stop at different places on the way home from Boston than on the way there.

The Porters sold a variety of goods, including musical instruments. Who knew that instructions for German flutes were so popular. The list suggests they had 48 copies! Most often I read of merchants selling staples such as wheat and sugar. Not too many are selling bassoons!

My favorite for the day is a 1792 order for a backgammon table, clothes, and “print of an angel descending with a child.” The buyer wants to make sure the coat binding they receive will match their clothes, and has therefore attached five samples to the letter, with wax.  There are so many things about this piece I enjoy, and if I were teaching, I think this piece could provide young students with so many lessons. Among other things, I would love to show the wax seals and refer to it as 18th century Scotch tape.