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Winterthur Digital Collections

About this collection

Account books and letters of craftsmen and merchants comprise this collection of business records. 

 

Account books of craftsmen and merchants are invaluable records of business transactions, buying practices, social and business networks, and even design styles of decorative arts.  Businessmen typically kept two types of account books: daybooks and ledgers.  Daybooks list transactions on a daily basis which were then carried over into ledgers.  Debits and credits were then arranged under client name to track reconciliation which sometimes took years. 

 

A selection of account books and letters from the Downs Collection is available online.

 

Two Philadelphia silversmiths, Thomas Shields and Samuel Williamson, are represented.  The daybook of Thomas Shields (1743-1819) documents business during and after the American Revolution, including work done for Dr. Benjamin Rush.  Samuel Williamson's (1772-1843) ledgers and daybook  record business in the first decade of the 1800’s, importation of plated silver from England, and his involvement in venture cargoes.

 

The books of several woodworkers, three from Massachusetts and one from Virginia, are also available.  The earliest is Marblehead, MA joiner Joseph Lindsey's (1714-1765) ledger, followed by another Marblehead cabinetmaker, Nathan Bowen, who kept his account book in the years 1775-1779.  The daybook of the carpentry and building firm of Easton & Thompson from Nantucket covers the years 1847-1854.  Moyers & Rich were cabinetmakers in Wythe Co., VA who recorded work in their daybook dated 1834-1840.

 

Tailor Jesse Patchen’s 1771-1789 volume records his making of men’s and boy’s clothing in New Lebanon, NY.  The 1706-1753 pattern book of William Trowbridge shows weaving patterns and instructions.  Cooper Abiel Abbott kept two volumes spanning the years 1759-1802 of his work in Wilton, NH.  An unidentified weaver and carter documented his work for an East Hampton, NY community between 1755 and 1797.

 

The letters to and from cabinetmaker John Hewitt detail the sale and shipment of furniture between New York City and Savannah in 1801-1802. 

 

 

See also the John Doggett daybook and letterbook:

http://content.winterthur.org:2011/cdm/landingpage/collection/Doggett.

 

 

 
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