New Goods! New Goods! An Ohio Storekeeper’s Inventory from 1838
Earlier this year, I typed up the 1847 inventory of Jacob Weaver, a storekeeper in Knox County, Ohio; this week I worked on the 1838 estate inventory of another storekeeper from the same county, Thomas Kincaid.
Here is a sample of the inventory. (“Do” means “ditto” or, “Same as the word above.”)
|Amount||Item||price per yard||total|
|35.5 yards||Jeans||$1.00 per yard||35.50|
|32.75 yards||Fine jeans||$1.37 per yard||45.03|
|66 yards||Do||$.88 per yard||58.08|
|29 yards||Do||$.70 per yard||20.30|
|5 yards||Green cloth||$3.00 per yard||15.00|
|5.5 yards||Blue cloth||$3.50 per yard||19.25|
|11.75 yards||Do||$4.00 per yard||47.00|
|16 yards||Do||$1.75 per yard||28.00|
|10.25 yards||Do black||$1.85 per yard||18.96|
|179 yards||Calico||$.14 per yard||25.06|
|80 yards||Do||18.75 cents per yard||15.00|
|7 yards||do||$.14 per yard||0.98|
|64 yards||dark Calico||$.16 per yard||10.24|
|49 yards||Red ditto||18.75 cents per yard||9.18|
|113 yards||Blue do||$.11 per yard||12.43|
|142 yards||Dark calico||$.12 per yard||17.04|
|34.5 yards||Do||$.10 per yard||3.45|
|20 yards||Dark calico||$.15 per yard||3.00|
My 6-page inventory of the textiles can be found in this PDF: 1838 Kincaid Inventory
Compare and Contrast
Comparing the 1838 Kincaid inventory to the 1847 Weaver one, the values of their merchandise on hand were about the same. Appraisers recorded that the total value of Kincaid’s merchandise was $2580.46, which in 2018 dollars would be about $70,000. Jacob Weaver’s merchandise was worth $2843.87, which would be about $77,000 today.
However, Kincaid was owed about double the amount Weaver was — $3723.72 (or more than $101,000 in today’s money), contrasted with Weaver’s outstanding amount of $1900 (or $58,900 today). It would be interesting to know which amount was more usual among storekeepers — I have found Weaver’s will, and he knew he was sick — possibly he made an effort to collect what he was owed before he died.
Kincaid had less than half the yardage of fabric in his store — about 3700 yards compared to Weaver’s 8600 yards. Kincaid had 43 types of fabric, at 49 different price points, ranging from $.07 to $4.00 a yard ($1.90 to $108.76 per yard today), valued at $1,271.58.
Weaver had 69 different types of fabric in his store, at 58 different price points from $.06 to $4.25 a yard (about $1.69 to $131.07 in today’s money). Looking at the charts below, you can see the various price points and the number of fabrics at each one.
Kincaid stocked fewer types of thread than did Weaver. I could only find one, hanks of white thread at $.25 each. He also offered less than half of the laces, ribbons, and trims than Weaver did.
Times being what they were, both merchants offered few ready-made clothing items — just caps, handkerchiefs, gloves, hose, shoes and boots, and shawls.
Dyes and mordants in the Weaver store included madder, indigo, logwood, Glauber’s salts, and Epsom salts; in the Kincaid store, you could pick up saleratus (baking soda) and cream of tartar, copperas and brimstone, but no dye materials.
I would be so interested to know the reasons for the differences between the stores. Kincaid’s store was inventoried 9 years before Weaver’s, and also, he was in a smaller town, Clay Township. Even today it has a population of only about 1600 people, whereas Weaver was in Mount Vernon, the county seat, with a population ten times larger. So were the differences based strictly on what merchandise was available in their time? Or were the two storekeepers tailoring their selections for their markets? Or would they have made different merchandise decisions even if they had had shops next door to each other? Were Weaver’s prices higher due to inflation? Or was he aiming for a higher-income customer?
Well! While I was linking to the original records, I found yet another store owner in Knox County, and I hope to analyze his merchandise soon!
To get an idea what these stores would have looked like, you can see great pictures on the Backroads Traveller blog, of the Altay Store at Genesee Country Village and Museum in New York.
Original Source Information
Of course in the original record, there were pages of other merchandise as well — teapots, kettles, axes, etc. The source record is found in Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996, Knox County, Estate Records 1830-1843, Volume B, pp. 503 ff. You can see it online here, Image 270 of 623 — you will need a Family Search account but you can sign up for free.
An 1838 dollar is worth $27.19 in 2018, an 1847 dollar is worth about $30.84 today.
I let out a little squeal of delight when I saw this! I trained as an economic historian and also have an archival degree, so when I was a grad student in economics I developed a price index for rural Canada for 1900. I spent weeks scouring micro-film for all sorts of great nuggets (one needed to know not only the price of beans but the price of whisky in far flung places, of course!). Keep up this wonderful work. What a delight to map out differences across vendors. All of that calico…
Oh, your degrees sound so interesting! I wish I had known how much I would love archives, back when I was young and was trying to choose a career.
But now I get the fun of pursuing them as a hobby, and no one can question my methodology, so that is good too.
And thank goodness for being able to look at these old records from the comfort of my home, and being able to easily save a copy, and zoom in in great detail! It is so addictive. 🙂
Mr. Kincaid seems to have a bit of excess inventory – about 22 yards – in higher priced yardage – the blue and green cloth priced at $3 and $4/yard. Would this have been wools? I understand the large inventory in inexpensive calicos. I wonder if those outstanding accounts were ever paid off.
Well, it was in Ohio. It gets cold up there, I hear! 🙂
I just want to know how he decided to put in that kind of inventory — was it a close-out special somewhere, and he picked it up dirt cheap, even though it was a lot of yardage? Did his brother-in-law at the wool mill talk him into it? Inquiring minds want to know!!!
Sometimes the records of the estate sale are county record books immediately after the initial inventory records, but not this time. All the individuals who owed him money are listed — one of the appraisers owed him like $17. But I think I will have to find him in another volume to see what happened with the estate.
Kinkaid? Any relation to the artist? What any exciting (exercise is the only word I can come up with) opportunity for you. So happy for you!
The artist spells his last name Kincade, but in some of the records I found, my merchant from the 1830s name was spelled that way by other people, so who knows? I wasn’t able to find anything about my 1830s guy through search engines though, because the modern-day artist clogs up the search results with his fame. 🙂
$3 to $4 a yard does seem like an extravagant price for the time. Equivalent to over $100/yard now if I understand your data!
It does seem unbelievable! But I think I have it figured right. And the new merchant that I just found, John Moore of Centerburg,Ohio, also had some “blue cloth” for $3.12 a yard and $3.87 a yard. With this new guy, I also have the records of who bought what for how much at the estate sale — I am eager to find out if they got bargains or paid the appraised price.
Sounds like you found a wonderful hobby. That is amazing.
It keeps me out of trouble and it is free! 🙂
First thought before I read the whole title was……..YOU got new goods!! Oh well, you still got a little excitement from the inventory 🙂
Yes, I have too many goods as it is. Virtual goods work for me.
Plus I just loved that header on the 1837 store ad, so cute.
This is such a cool line of research! Are you doing it just for your own edification and interest or are you working on a larger project with a museum?
Just on my own, but if anyone could use it for research or a museum, I would be so happy! About 20 years ago, I was working at a historical park, in charge of costuming everyone, and it was so difficult to find out what ordinary people would have worn in 1830 — this information would have really helped me back then. And that got me interested in these little details.
What a fascinating bit of research! Lovely to get this insight into a very different world.
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