Textile Inventory from 1844
In going through the old papers from my husband’s family, I have come across an inventory from 1844, from his great-great-great-grandfather’s estate.
I don’t have the original, I am working from a Xerox copy that was probably made in the early 1960s. I can’t decipher all the words — for example in this image, the first complete line says something like “1 baura,” and it was worth $5.00, whatever it was, but I can’t figure it out.
Also, sometimes things are grouped together in odd ways — like the line below that has “grapple coffeepot clock umbrella,” and altogether they are worth 50 cents.
But the exciting thing to me was that there are lots of textile-related items.
There are two groups of bedding:
2 feather beads, 5 threads [?], 2 blankets, 2 sheets, 4 pillows, 2 bolsters and cases, 2 bead steads, 2 straw ticks — $14.00
3 feather beads, 7 old quilts, 4 old blankets, 4 pillows & cases, 2 straw ticks — $9.00
Sigh. Seven quilts that were old already in 1844, what I wouldn’t give to see those!
Other textile items:
8 yds of factory cloth — $4.50
11 yds of full cloth at the factory — $6.87
22 yds of carpeting at .62 per — $13.64
1 large spinning wheel — $1.50
16 flower bags — $2.50
1 wagon cover, 2 old quilts, 2 old sheets containing wool, feathers, and yarn — $6.25
1 lot of undressed flax basin [?] of wool — $.12
flax in bundle unbroke — $3.00
To compare prices for the textiles and equipment to other categories, wheat was valued at $.50 a bushel, potatoes were $.25 a bushel, and oats were $.14 a bushel. A mare was worth $20, a three-year-old steer was worth $7, and a wagon was worth about $20.
This man, Joseph Lanning, was born in New Jersey, but had moved to Ohio sometime after his marriage. At the time of his death, he owned 22 head of cattle, 3 horses, 33 pigs, and 42 sheep, and “10 gees and a lot chickens,” but only one table and six chairs. Lots of food items are mentioned in the inventory, including “2 barrels part full of vinegar,” and “one lot of baken and smoked beef,” but no clothing is mentioned.
I really enjoyed seeing this glimpse of an ancestor’s life!
I wonder if your undecipherable word in that first line is “barrow” as in wheelbarrow? I sure wish we could see those old quilts too! What a fun discovery of your husband’s family history.
That would make so much sense. It’s with the household stuff, and there are no cabinets listed — I bet it is a BUREAU!!! Thank you, Wendy!
Oh, I bet it is! That would make sense with the cost too.
How I loved this, looking back is my favourite pastime.. and can I join the queue to look at those quilts please?
I did look up baura… it is a Hindu word for blossom… still doesn’t make sense really…
Whatever it refers to, it was valued quite highly compared to some of the other items. Fascinating.
J > The wealth of the industrious is in their working space, their tools, their materials, work in hand, the necessities of existence. D and I might draw up a similar list : to assess the value of our moveables for insurance purposes. Walking round the house, larger and more expensive items would be listed individually, but for the smaller and least valuable items – the oddments of a room when everything else has been written down, are quickly noted in one line – to keep the list concise. And, back in those days, your 19thC list-maker would always be mindful to save paper.
That is true. I was thinking about how it is when we go to estate auctions — the auctioneer takes bids on the pieces of equipment everyone wants, like a sewing machine or lawn mower, but then he throws whole shelving units or walls full of stuff into one lot. One time a lot of other ladies and I just wanted a spool rack full of good thread — he included it in the whole wall of stuff which included an industrial sewing machine that no one wanted, etc. I think one person got it all for a hundred dollars.
Even organizing it like that on an inventory list, I think any one room at our house would need more than two pieces of paper nowadays — we all have so much stuff!
What a great peek at domestic history and the fact that it comes from a family member makes it so *real*!
Now I am looking at some crocks and a flax hackle that we have, that we know are from family members but we don’t know which individual, and wondering if maybe they came from this estate!
Will inventories give such an insight into life.I have made sure that the one from my Dads estate is safe for future generations.
That is a great thing to keep. Future generations will be glad you did!
Such wonderful finds.
I think estate inventories nowadays are done when several people are to split an estate equally. What struck me about your inherited inventory is how (relatively) few items it contains and how many are related to producing household items like cloth and food. One and a half bushels of dried applies won’t be found in most current estate inventories.
And he died about 6 months before the inventory was done, so I bet those apples were in pretty bad shape by then!
His wife had died about 7 years earlier, and his kids were all in their 20s and 30s. As I keep digging, I may find more about who inherited what.
Love it!! I’ll bet some history museum would love to see them or maybe want them!!! Never mind, the history museums are too busy to look at them. Just keep them in the family!
I have enough stuff to open a museum!
My son has often said that rather than clean out our house, he thinks he might simply put a sign outside MUSEUM and charge admission.
I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
Thank you, Chris
I am almost to the point where I would pay people to come in and take something away!
Thank you for including me again!!
Love that idea, but only to a good home!
How very cool!
This is a fascinating glimpse into your ancestor’s life and also life in general at the time 🙂
I used to work at a historical park and that is where I learned to value these glimpses of ordinary people. I was really glad to come across it in our papers! 🙂
I have the announcement of the farm sale at my great-grandfather’s place. It’s printed on a card, so obviously not everything could be included, but it’s just as interesting. I used to love and hate farm auctions; too often, it was necessity rather than death or preference that led to places being sold. Still, back in my collecting days, the amount of depression glass and the boxes of books I dragged home were substantial.
I’ve let go of so much over the years. Not having children or other relatives to pass things on to makes it easier. But I still have my great-great-grandmother’s butter paddle, my grandmother’s first electric iron, my mother’s hand-crocheted baptismal gown. I need to find a museum back in their area of Iowa that might be interested — I can’t bear the thought of them just ending up in a dumpster.
I know! My favorite things are the ones from my family. Although they might be surprised at the things I treasure – my grandmother’s plastic measuring cup, but not the china she picked for her 25 year anniversary — it has gray flowers and I just don’t think flowers should be gray! But I use her old iron all the time, and my daughter arm-wrestled me for her mixer and toaster. 🙂
It does seem like a museum would be interested! All those little details to show how lives were really lived.
Any idea why all that was listed? Prior to dividing the estate? Someone was very thorough!
Well, as usual you have spurred me to think a little further! I have done a little research tonight, and I have found Joseph Lanning’s probate records, with 50 receipts! Now I need to print those out and read them and get a better picture of what was going on, but I can already say with confidence that the blacksmith was mending and setting a lot of shoes for Mr. Lanning’s horses! Also there were a lot of waggon repairs going on. SO I guess the heirs were running the farm and the estate was getting charged.
I am very excited to have found this extra information, so thanks for your question!
Pingback: Wrapping up 2018 | Deep in the Heart of Textiles