A Few ‘Notes’ on Tobacco Warehouses and Inspection

Caroline Western / Spring 2014 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

You know those annoying little stickers you sometimes find within the seams of new clothes? Yeah, the ones that poke you in the side until you finally peel it off, read the small black number with little interest, and then throw it away? In the present day, we think very little about how our goods are made and deemed fit for consumption or use.

While transcribing and editing many of the entries from the Alexandria and Colchester stores, I came across entries concerning ‘Tobacco Warehouses’ and ‘Inspectors’. These warehouses sparked an interest because, like our fashion or technology, tobacco was an integral part of colonial, and Virginian, society. Like Nichole Zang’s interest in tobacco marks, I wanted to know what these warehouses were for and who was running them.

The 18th-century Virginia economy relied heavily on tobacco cultivation and trade. In fact, tobacco was used as currency in many instances. For example, the leaves could be used to buy the indentured servants or slaves who cultivated the crop, as well as everyday commodities from local stores. Larger planters usually sold their crop directly to England, while smaller planters built relationships with local agents who would then provide them with manufactured goods.[1]

The cartouche from “A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina." Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751.

Even though tobacco was an incredibly important crop in Virginia’s economy, it did not come without its problems. Tobacco became over-cultivated; therefore leaving farmer’s lands overused and undernourished, resulting in inferior crops. In 1619, the first inspection law was enacted, ordering cultivators to bring their low quality tobacco to their local warehouse to be burned. By 1630, a law was passed that disallowed inferior quality tobacco to be used as payments for debts.[2]

These laws were gradually built upon, resulting in 1730 with the permanent Tobacco Inspection Act of Virginia. It was decreed that warehouses would be set up, 12 to 14 miles from one another, and named after the bays or creeks they were situated upon.[2]  In the Glassford & Henderson ledgers, we see many of these names, including ‘Hunting Creek’ and ‘The Falls’.

Sanford Ramey deposited crop notes from the Falls and Hunting Creek warehouses at the store in Alexandria in 1768.

Yearly, two men of good moral standing were chosen by the Virginia county court to serve as inspectors in their area’s respective warehouses. These inspectors were given the task of receiving a planter’s hogsheads of tobacco(1 hogshead = at least 950lbs), inspecting it for quality, and issuing a crop note to the planter. The crop notes were representative of the amount of tobacco now lodged at the warehouse, and could be given to a merchant in exchange for goods. Additionally, planters could bring smaller, or surplus amounts of tobacco in exchange for ‘transfer notes’, which could be used to buy goods or satisfy the demands of a creditor.[2]

Peter Wagener deposited transfer notes from the both the Hunting Creek and the Falls warehouses at the Alexandria Store in 1768.

Inspection promised that the planter “…may go to any place, and sell his tobacco, without carrying a sample of it along with him; and the merchant may buy it, though lying 100 miles or at any distance from his store, and yet be morally sure both with respect to quality and quantity.”[2]

As most laws do in one way or another, the inspection laws faced opposition. “Poor planters” were concerned that the inspectors applied different standards depending on class, and therefore that justice under the inspection laws did not exist. The argument focused around the idea that poorer planters had poorer land, which would in turn produce poorer quality crops. In addition, these poor, “honest” planters could not compete with the rich man’s “schemes” of “false packing” a hogshead or forging a Note’s quantity.

The outcomes of such opposition are not clear to me; but, it can be determined that in general the regulations were designed to fix tobacco prices at high levels while also allowing the planter more flexibility. Before the inspection laws, store owners would usually only accept whole hogsheads for goods. Now, with the existence of Notes, the planter could seek the best price for his tobacco (Crop/Transfer Note) at a variety of establishments, and most likely did exactly that just as we might look for the best bank to deposit our money for future spending.[3]

[1] Encyclopedia Virginia: Tobacco in Colonial Virginia

[2] “Description of Virginia Commerce,” William and Mary Quarterly 14, (October 1905): 87-93.  For tobacco related laws, see Henings Statutes at Large.

[3] Rainbolt, John C., “The Case of the Poor Planters in Virginia under the Law for Inspecting and Buring Tobacco,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 79, no. 3, (July 1971): 314-321.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

George Mason: Founding Father and Landlord

Angela Claude / George Mason University/ 2013-14 Glassford & Henderson E-tern

Paying rent is just another fact of life.  It is still around today and it was around back in the mid-eighteenth century as I noticed while participating in the Glassford and Henderson transcription project.  However, there are noticeable differences in how rent was paid then.  For one, it was possible to pay your rent in tobacco, and, if you were William Stone or John Cotton, your landlord was George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which became the basis of the US Bill of Rights.  Seeing such a big name in these store ledgers got me thinking about who these tenants of George Mason were and where they lived.

Wedding Portrait of George Mason. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Virginia & Gunston Hall.

I managed to track down two men who paid rent to George Mason in the Glassford and Henderson store ledgers.  The first of these tenants was William Stone, who on July 9, 1761, paid George Mason “your own rent” which consisted of 630 pounds of tobacco.  That same day he paid the same amount of tobacco also to George Mason for the rent of a man named Thomas Love.[i] While almost nothing could be found on Thomas Love, there was a small amount of information out there about William Stone, mostly saying that this was probably a father and a son, they lived in Fairfax County, owned seven slaves between the two of them, and signed a petition by George Mason for removing the county courthouse from Alexandria in 1789.[ii]

William Stone’s account at the Colchester Store, 1760-61. On July 9, 1761 (the red oval) he paid 630 pounds of tobacco to George Mason for both himself and Thomas Love.

The other tenant, John Cotton, seems to be almost identical to William Stone as he also paid 630 pounds of tobacco to George Mason on July 9, 1761 for rent.[iii] Much like William Stone, there also is not a lot to discover about him.  He was from Fairfax County, an acquaintance of George Mason, and signed petitions in the 1780s to repeal an act to prevent extensive credits by Mason and one by James Madison called “Memorial and Remonstrance” which was against the Assessment Act of 1785.[iv] With this very general idea that these men seemed to be active in their community and had some familiarity with George Mason, it was time to figure out where they lived.

John Cotton also paid 630 pounds of tobacco as a rent payment to George Mason at the Colchester Store on July 9, 1761.

These tenants lived at Hollin Hall, one of the four properties Mason owned in addition to his mansion Gunston Hall.  Hollin Hall consisted of four tracts totaling 676 acres of land just three miles away from the city of Alexandria and just west of Mount Vernon.  Mason would rent this land out to tenants to cultivate crops, mostly wheat but as the tenants were paying their rent in tobacco it is safe to assume they grew tobacco as well, as was common custom in the eighteenth-century.  This practice was kept until 1781 when Mason passed ownership of Hollin Hall to his third son Thomson Mason.[v]

Learning all of this was a nice reminder that the Founding Fathers were not always shut away in their studies reading the political philosophies of the day, writing treatises, and debating with each other.  They had families and homes that needed to be taken care of and, in George Mason’s case, rents to collect.

[i] Henderson, Alexander, et. al.  Ledger 1760-1761 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 033D.  From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

[ii] The Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792:  Volume 1, edited by Robert A. Rutland, (Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1970), xcix.

[iii] Folio 034D.

[iv] The Papers of George Mason, xlv.

[v] “George Mason’s Plantations and Landholdings:  Hollin Hall,” Gunston Hall, accessed April 21, 2014, http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/landholdings/hollin_hall.html.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Valinda Wade, an Independent Colonial Woman

Aja Bain / Middle Tennessee State University / 2014 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

When I first heard about the Glassford and Henderson transcription project, I was immediately intrigued because it reminded me of a book I’d just read and enjoyed in one of my graduate classes. Ann S. Martin’s Buying into the World of Goods examines the economy of the eighteenth-century Virginia frontier in the context of colonial trade and culture, and gives us insight into a world of surprising sophistication through analysis of the customers and purchases at one backcountry shop in the upper Shenandoah Valley.[i] Focusing on the years between 1758 and 1810, Martin’s depiction of John Hook’s store brings a variety of historical characters to life, including those who are so often lost in the written record. This book shows that it was not only white male settlers who were involved in commercial life and trade, but also colonial women and slaves. Although the voices of these groups are often missing from official accounts, we can learn more about their experiences through their transactions at the Hook store. I was excited to see how this idea was being applied by Mount Vernon to stores in the Tidewater region!

As I started to work on the project, I found more or less what I had expected. Most transactions were performed by white men, few by white women, and very few by slaves. The lack of female customers made their appearance all the more striking, especially if they were listed as “Miss”. While married women making purchases for the family under their own accounts were uncommon, I was particularly surprised to see the names of single women as account holders. There were unmarried ladies taking care of business on their own, sometimes on a large scale. This is how I became interested in the Wade family, particularly the daughter listed in the ledgers as “Miss Valinda Wade.”

Beginning around 1765, Miss Wade (named Valinda, Vorlinda, or Verlinda depending on how the account keeper spelled it) kept an account at the Colchester store and made a variety of transactions over the next few years. Others also made purchases on her account, including men like John Barry and William Mills. I was particularly intrigued by some of her more luxurious purchases, like a satin hat for ten shillings, a dozen large London pewter plates for 25 shillings, and an apron made of lawn fabric for twenty shillings. Other interesting purchases included a 45 pound iron pot and a primer book.

Valinda Wade's purchase of a hat in 1767 at the Colchester Store … and are those dish washing gloves?

As for credit, she traded tobacco with her own “VW” tobacco mark. I was fascinated to see a single woman with such an active and varied commercial life, and wanted to see what else I could find out about her.

Valinda Wade maintained a farm that grew enough tobacco for her to have her own tobacco mark at the Pohick tobacco Warehouse.

By consulting the ledgers, genealogical research, and George Washington’s diaries available from the Library of Congress, I learned more about the Wade family, including Valinda. In the 1760s, the Wade family consisted of the widowed Mrs. Valinda Wade and her three daughters: Valinda, Eleanor, and Sarah. The patriarch, Zephaniah Wade, had died around 1746 and left a tract of land to his family adjacent to Washington’s mill plantation.[ii] Mrs. Wade appears in the Colchester ledgers in the 1760s, with multiple people making purchases on her account.

Mrs Valinda Wade maintained an account at the Colchester Store after her husband's death.

But by 1766, Mrs. Wade was deceased and the land was inherited by the daughters. Sarah died sometime before 1770, never having married. Eleanor had married John Barry, a tobacco inspector, in the 1750s and had a son, William, in 1754. In colonial Virginia, married women could not own property separately from their husbands, so Eleanor’s part of the Wade land was now owned by John. In England, a married woman was not legally considered a person separate from her husband, or much of a person at all.[iii] Like Sarah, Eleanor died early around 1770, leaving Valinda as the last remaining Wade daughter in possession of the land. Washington’s diaries note that young William Barry inherited the land after his mother’s death, so Eleanor must have made some sort of provision before the marriage that her land would go to her future children. Until William became an adult, however, the property was controlled by his father.[iv]

As a single woman, Valinda could own property and had more freedom than a married woman to conduct her own business. “As long as a woman remained single or widowed, the law deemed her a feme sole, a woman capable of keeping her own earnings, owning property, making contracts, incurring debts, suing or being sued, and writing a will.”[v] This explains her having her own store account, her own money to purchase personal items, and her own tobacco mark. As I saw more of her purchases in the Colchester ledgers, I began to try to imagine the woman who made them: a single woman in her ‘30s (quite unusual at this time), running her own household and enjoying the freedom and benefits that afforded her. Were items like the satin hat and lawn apron proof of her financial success? Was the primer for her motherless nephew, William? These and other clues can provide insight into the life of this fascinating woman.

The Wade-Barry land near Dogue Creek was eventually acquired by George Washington and incorporated into Dogue Run Farm. Valinda Wade sold her share in 1770 for £175, but John Barry refused to allow a division of the property because Washington’s plan was to divert water from Barry’s portion. The case was taken to court in August of 1772, and the judge awarded 75 acres and rights to the creek to Washington and 118 acres to the Barrys. In 1783, the remaining acres of the original Wade tract were purchased from William Barry for £150.[vi]

The Growth of Mount Vernon, 1754-1786 with Wade-Barry land outlined in blue.[vii

The unusual ledger entries connected with Miss Valinda Wade led me on a fascinating investigation into the lives of colonial women, property law in Virginia, and the gradual buildingof the Mount Vernon estate. While not much is known about Valinda’s later life, her interactions with the Colchester store and George Washington ensure her survival in the historical record. I hope to find out more about independent propertied colonial women as I continue transcribing!

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance and genealogical knowledge of Sarah Johnson, fifth great-granddaughter of William Barry, in preparing this article.

[i]  Ann S. Martin, Buying into the World of Goods. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

[ii] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 2 .Sowing and Harvesting, 1766. eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 1.

[iii] Linda L. Sturtz, Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia (New York: Routledge, 2002), 29.

[v] Sturtz, 20.

[vi] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol. 3. Routine Duties and Quiet Pleasures, 1772., eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 125 and 131.

[vii] The Diaries of George Washington, Vol 1, Washington the Planter and Farmer, 1760., eds. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1976), page 240.


Posted in History | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Linking Glasgow and the Americas: The Shipping Network of Glassford and Henderson

Monica Genuardi / 2014 Spring Glassford & Henderson E-tern

Glasgow, Scotland, emerged as a crucial European port city in the 1700s, especially in regard to contact with the Americas. In fact, Glasgow’s exploitation of American business would become a main cause of its progress in the eighteenth century.[1] While the evolution of trading between England, Scotland and the Americas shifted in accordance to a plethora of eighteenth-century social issues, business still succeeded due to Scotland’s ability to provide the service of “middle man” for tobacco traders. The colonies had a solid but specialized economy, leading to the dependence upon a third party to help with the selling and transporting of goods.[2]  Certain British business models were in place by the mid-eighteenth century, but Scottish traders were able to take further advantage of this lucrative trade and shipping system because, geographically speaking, it was easier to sail between Virginia and Glasgow than Virginia and London. Glasgow’s location gave the city up to a twenty-day advantage in travel time over London.[3] In terms of business, Glasgow traders could provide capital resources through their banks that improved credit for the tobacco trade. Basically, Glasgow traders provided a business efficiency that lowered costs and reduced ship turn-around time.[4]

Portrait of John Glassford and family, by Archibald McLauchlan (Source: Glasgow Museums).

John Glassford was one of the men who profited most from this Glasgow tobacco trade, operating stores throughout Maryland and Virginia.[5] While John Glassford never actually came to America, he was able to control his vast operation through loyal and hardworking employees abroad.[6] This important connection between the Virginia and Maryland locations and the port of Glasgow was kept strong by a shipping network. Just as Glasgow had emerged as a port city, it was fundamental to establish ports in the Americas that would yield enough trade to make a successful venture for both trading parties. As highlighted by MacMaster:

The tobacco trade was fundamentally a speculative venture and a tobacco merchant wanted his shipmasters and supercargoes to be free to transfer their operations to a part of the Chesapeake Colonies where tobacco was plentiful and manufactured goods dear.[7]

John Glassford and his associates’ ability to create a shipping network in the Chesapeake area is one of the many reasons the Glassford and Henderson business was able to have a stronghold in the tobacco trade of the region. As evidenced in many pages, there is obviously a connection of trading goods between Glassford stores in the Chesapeake. The ability to have shipping connections within the colonies and back to Europe provided great success.

It is clear that this system of business by boat worked well, and through the Glassford and Henderson business documents, one can see the inner workings of this elaborate system.

The Ship Ann's account at the Colchester Store 1767/1768.

My interest in the importance of shipping began when I transcribed a page for the Ship Ann. Led by Captain James Huie, the Ship Ann needed food, goods and services to run. I soon found out just how much effort went into a ship’s journey just by reading its Credit and Debit pages. The Snow Jeannie, led by Captain Omey, also needed specialized labor and goods to trade within other stores along the Chesapeake.

One of the first services that was common in many Debit pages that intrigued me was the service of pilotage. As the word insinuates, pilotage was needed to guide the ship through the trading rivers that connected the stores of John Glassford. Specifically, pilotage entails, “the art or skill of piloting a vessel, esp. in shallow or treacherous waters.”[8] Pilotage by the captains was an obvious and fundamental need to support trade in the Americas. For example, the Snow Jeannie’s account in 1766 shows the cash paid to Captain Omey for Pilotage up & down the River.

Pilotage payments were made to captains for their speciality skills in navigating the challenging waters.

Pilotage was also needed for the Ship Ann. In 1766, specific areas were noted that tell more about the routes taken by the ships. Part of the pilotage in this instance was paid from Cape Henry in Virginia to Smith Point to Washington D.C. Then, the ship needed pilotage up and down the Patowmac River, now known as the Potomac. The journey would need to complete its route from the mouth of the Potomac back to Cape Henry. Through the pilotage payments found in the folio pages, the entire trade route of the ship can be followed.

Sometimes you can see exactly where a ship went from looking at the pilotage charges, as in this example from the Ship Ann's account at the Colchester Store, 1765/1766.

General locations of trade points from the Ship Ann's account (1766/1767). Map provided by GoogleMaps 2014.

A common good that was transported between stores in the Virginia area was staves. I kept seeing and transcribing the word ‘stave,’ but did not understand what it actually was.  After researching it, I now understand why the good was so present in credit and debit pages referring to ships. A stave is, “any of the narrow strips of wood or narrow iron plates placed edge to edge to form the sides, covering, or lining of a vessel or structure.”[9] In reference to ship trading, a stave is the wooden strip that forms the side of a barrel.  The need for barrels would have been a staple on board the ships, which explains their heavy presence in the folio pages. In 1769, Captain James Huie of the Ship Ann was paid handsomely for hogshead barrel staves.

Staves were a common item needed in the shipping industry for the construction of the barrel used to house goods. Image courtesy of Lexington Container Company.

Although trading between Glasgow and the Americas declined eventually, the interaction between the two areas brought about great success to those involved. Glassford and Henderson transcriptions provide a physical and realistic look into the trading and shipping industry of the 1700s.


[1] Devine, T. M.. “Scotland”, The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 156. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 04 April 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521431415.010

[2] Jackson, Gordon. “Ports 1700–1840″, The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 705-732. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 04 April 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521431415.027 (84)

[3] “HISTORY: 1700 – 1830.” History 1700-1830, Merchant City Glasgow. Merchant City Glasgow, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

[4] Jackson, Gordon, 84-85.

[5] Jackson, Gordon, 85.

[6] MacMaster, Richard K. “Georgetown and the Tobacco Trade, 1751-1783.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C 66/68 (1966/1968): 1-33. Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. (14-15)

[7] MacMaster, Richard K. (3-4)

[8] http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/143952?redirectedFrom=pilotage#eid

[9] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stave

Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Handkerchief? More like Mankerchief

Ryan Wilson / University of Central Florida / Spring 2014

When a man is left with nothing other than written records to define him, the story can be told through the purchases he made. In a time where showmanship was super important, I found myself reaching for reasons as to how Thomas Lucas constructed his masculinity and gentility using only the items that he purchased as evidence. After going through all his purchases, which was my final set of transcriptions, I decided to tally up his purchases assigning each specific item (no matter how long the yardage or how expensive the item was) one mark toward the overall purchases. For example, if Mr. Lucas purchased 1 pair of buckles, 3 yards of tweel and 1 hank of silk (entry on June 17, 1769), each was counted as just one tally mark.

Thomas Lucas made many purchases at the Colchester store in 1768/1769

I wanted to construct a standardized way of looking at the information so that I could create an argument for how handkerchiefs have a direct correlation with the ability to demonstrate masculinity. Out of all the purchases that Mr. Lucas made, there were 110 marks or tallies. From there I applied labels from nine different categories to each mark: food, clothing, tools, weapons, alcohol, shoes, combs and handkerchiefs. Out of the 110 tallies, eight of them were for handkerchiefs which constituted six percent of all his purchases that year.

Just as a man today purchases nice cars or clothes to stand out in a crowd or to feel socially accepted, Thomas Lucas did the same. I mean come on, who really needs all those handkerchiefs – check, satin or silk, or colored ones just to make sure that he stands out every time they are used?

Thomas Lucas purchased one large printed linen handkerchief on December 2, 1768, at the Colchester Store.

Handkerchiefs were so important that Mr. Lucas spent more on them than he paid for alcohol throughout the whole year of 1768/1769. Handkerchiefs amounted to six percent and were third only to clothing materials/fabric (57.6%) and food (16%).  While in 1767, George Washington ordered 17 handkerchiefs from London, amounting to two percent of his overall order that year.  A man today may spend money on brand new clothes and a crisp haircut to make sure he is flashier than others to seem the most masculine, and I believe that was the reason why so many hankies were bought my Thomas Lucas.

Among the many purchases Thomas Lucas made on August 18, 1769, it included 2 silk handkerchiefs and 3 fine check handkerchiefs.

Think about this ladies and gentlemen: if clothing materials/fabric constituted 57.6% of all the purchases Mr. Lucas made, why weren’t the handkerchiefs being made with those fabrics? The answer, I believe, was that people wanted to stand out, especially Thomas Lucas.  He purchased them from distant lands, made of the finest materials rather than from lesser fabrics. That is why I want to rename the handkerchief, to the Mankerchief, as it directly correlates with masculinity similar to today’s men. Today, a man that drives a flashy car with the stereo up extremely loud and the windows down is just the most current version of a colonial man exuding masculinity by wearing a provocative and flashy foreign piece of material in his pocket or as a neckerchief. He just wants to stand out and be the man!  In conclusion, the handkerchief was a way for a man to be a man by wearing something affordable but luxurious at the same time.

So the next time you see the loud music and the spiky haired frat kid singing Journey in his mustang convertible, remember that hundreds of years ago the finest hankies the world could produce, no matter if you were rich or poor, had the same effect. Just by wearing a ‘mankerchief’.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Moses Thomas: The Ultimate Representation of Masculinity in Colonial America

Robert Harding / University of Central Florida / Spring 2014

While scouring my transcriptions to find a topic for the Mount Vernon Mystery Midden, I struggled to locate anything that would make for an interesting blog post. Finally, I stumbled on an account entry for an Aaron Thomas. He seemed to be a local who was in trouble because he had a “Penal Bill” attached to his account at the Colchester Store. The first assumption that popped into my mind was that he was paying off his debt for being incarcerated. After meticulously looking over the Loudon County defendant records, an Aaron Thomas was nowhere to be found.[1] Then, I discovered that the definition of a Penal Bill was not what I thought it meant. In actuality, a Penal Bill is when someone borrows a certain amount of money from another person, but there is a penalty attached to the agreement.[2]

Aaron Thomas's expenses were mostly a reflection of paying older debts to the Colchester Store, 1768/1769.

I then looked at the credit side of this transcription and noticed that someone else had paid off or “discharged” Aaron from his debt.  A Moses Thomas made the payment.  I wanted to know if the men were related. Further inquiry lead to the realization that they were brothers and that their father was a neighbor of George Washington.[3]  Additional research on Aaron Thomas ended in a brick wall for me, but Moses Thomas continued to be mentioned more than I could have imagined.

Moses Thomas paid his brother's account at the Colchester Store, 1768/1769.

While probing into Moses Thomas’ background, I found many intriguing facts about him. Even though being a neighbor of George Washington was notable, he also served in the Revolutionary War as a Lieutenant. He was injured, hospitalized, and later placed on guard duty.[4]  I had an epiphany that Moses Thomas would make an appropriate subject for our studies of masculinity in colonial America.

By serving in the war, Moses Thomas was considered prestigious in the eyes of his fellow men. A gain in social resources, such as land, resulted from military service.[5] He engrossed himself in the political arena by helping switch his neighborhood back to Loudon County so that they had better access to a local court house.[6] A common expectation of men at the time was to own land.[7] With his homesteads in Virginia and Kentucky, he exemplified land ownership which also included the acquisition of slaves. Finally, he had a family to support his standard of living and to carry on his legacy.

In summary, my original thought on writing this blog incorporated a questionable person that appeared to be interesting. Instead, I haphazardly discovered Moses Thomas. He achieved the expectations required of colonial American men. He should be recognized as the ideal masculine man of his time.


[1] Loudoun County, accessed April 15, 2014 http://va-loudouncounty.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/87950

 [2] Legal Dictionary, accessed April 15, 2014http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Bill+penal

 [3] Bob Francis, Moses Thomas part 3, August 27, 2002, accessed April 15, 2014, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/KYBOURBO/2002-08/1030501280

 [4] Bob Francis, Moses Thomas part 3, August 27, 2002, accessed April 15, 2014, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/KYBOURBO/2002-08/1030501280

 [5]  Thomas A. Foster, New Men: Manliness in Early America (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011), 257

 [6] Bob Francis, Moses Thomas part 3, August 27, 2002, accessed April 15, 2014, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/KYBOURBO/2002-08/1030501280

 [7] Janet Moore Lindman,”Acting the Manly Christian: White Evangelical Masculinity in Revolutionary Virginia,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 57. No. 2 (Apr. 2000): 395 accessed April 15, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2674480

Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Genteel Drinking in Colonial America

Jon Moore / University of Central Florida / Spring 2014

The consumption of alcohol at social gatherings is an activity that many of us are familiar with today. In our modern society, there are many places where drinking takes place, such as family cookouts, college parties, and NFL games. But is social drinking an indicator of our socioeconomic status?


During 18th-century America, alcohol was consumed by men and women from all walks of life at a shocking rate compared to today. According to historian Jessica Kross, colonists aged 15 and up, averaged 5.8 shots of 80 proof whiskey per day.[1] During my time working on the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project, I encountered account holders purchasing large quantities of alcohol several times. One notable example was when Jonathan Stone purchased a gallon of rum and a quart of brandy within two months of each other.[2]

Jonathan Stone's account at the Colchester store, 1768-1769

While everybody was drinking at a heavy rate, the manner in which these people drank depended on their social class. The gentility of the day were well known for trying to exclude others who weren’t considered “gentlemen”. There were many ways to achieve this and one of them happened to be the way in which they would consume alcohol. To the gentility of colonial America, drinking was an activity that needed to be done in a proper way. In Peter Thompson’s The Friendly Glass, gentlemen are described as turning drinking into, “an activity to display refined manners.”[3]

So what exactly were these refined manners that gentlemen tried to demonstrate? First off, what alcohol was mixed into determined how proper the drinking was. Alcoholic punches could only be poured into the finest of china bowls and they were to be stirred with silver spoons.[4] It was important for everything involved during the act of drinking to be of high quality. Failing to do so could result in a gentleman being looked down upon by his fellow peers.

Conversations that took place during drinking were just as important as the drinking itself. A gentleman was to be educated and well read. At a gathering where drinking took place, topics that were to be discussed included politics, science, math, poetry, and any other discourse that only a well-educated man would be able to take part in. The gentlemen were to respect what each other had to say and had to stay involved in a discussion even if they did not enjoy it.[5]

For the ordinary man, expensive goods such as punch bowls were less attainable, and a school-based education was even less likely. The gentry of colonial America used these more expensive avenues, like when it came to drinking and social gatherings, to distance themselves even further from the “lower sort”. For this reason, the genteel class remained very selective. Gentlemen would keep their drinking to private rooms in their homes or mansions that were off limits to the rest of society.

'The Country Club' after work by Henry Bunbury, published by William Dickinson, 1788. Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

It is amazing how there can be a deeper purpose discovered behind many actions taken by individuals. By noticing trends in the documents I had to transcribe in the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project, I was able to enter the discourse for how drinking in colonial America correlated with social status.

[1] Jessica Kross, “If you will not Drink with me, You Must Fight with me: The Sociology of Drinking in the Middle Colonies,” Pennsylvania History 64, no. 1 (1997): 28, accessed April 2, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27773954.

[2] Henderson, Alexander, et al.  Ledger 1768-1769 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 193D.  From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel 62 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)

[3] Peter Thompson, “The Friendly Glass: Drink and Gentility in Colonial Philadelphia,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 113, no. 4 (Oct., 1989): 553, accessed April 2, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20092406

[4] Ibid 553

[5] Ibid 559

Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Family Ties in Colchester: What’s in a Name?

Amanda Berman / 2014 Winter E-tern

After working on the 1767/1768 store ledger pages for a week or so, I got used to the three or four people whose handwriting appeared in the book and grew accustomed to their writing style and spelling quirks. About a month into the project, I became well-versed in the kinds of items sold at the store and could readily figure out an entry that would have been difficult in the beginning.

I also got to know, in a way, the people behind the account names. I grew to recognize common first name abbreviations (like Thos. for Thomas and Wm. for William) and the initials of regularly appearing names, like A:H for Alexander Henderson and J:L for Henderson’s assistant, John Luke. I also came to recognize family names that appeared a number of times throughout the pages with various given names, which indicated that it was a large family with many well established households in that area of Virginia. Some surnames appear frequently throughout the ledger, suggesting that relatives stayed close to one another and that family ties were important to them. Colonial society was close knit due to necessity: travel options were not very efficient, so most people stayed within a relatively small radius of their homes.

In examining the pages, I started trying to see what I could infer about the different familial relationships. For example, the surname King occurs many times throughout the ledger, showing a mix of fathers, sons, and brothers all holding accounts at the store. It was easy to determine the father-son relationship between John King Senior and John King Junior, and the same for the two William Kings, but how did Benjamin King fit in?

Benjamin King's debits against the Colchester Store, 1767/1768.

Benjamin King's credits to the Colchester Store, 1767/1768.

Another brother to John and William Senior, or perhaps the grandfather to John and William Junior? It was interesting to imagine the family relationships, though other records would be needed to determine exactly how each member related to the family as a whole.

The account holder was always not the sole figure using the account, though, as we’ve seen in an earlier post. Numerous times, I saw that someone’s wife or child had ordered something at the store and put it on their husband’s or father’s account. Sometimes, a servant or slave would place an order for their master. Even though only the head of the household’s name was on the ledger, the contents of the page showed that the store account was for the whole family and that anyone in the household could order something to help the family. For instance, in December, 1767, Thomas Stapleton’s son purchased a

Thomas Stapleton's son made a purchase against his father's account, December 11, 1767.

padlock and some thread. My imagination immediately thought perhaps his father asked him to get the padlock and his mother wanted some thread, so he obligingly went down to the store for them. In June, 1768, Benjamin Ryly’s father ordered a bridle and a comb using his son’s account at the store. Again, my imagination thought maybe Benjamin’s elderly father was living with him, explaining why he used his son’s account, or he was purchasing the items for his son while he was also buying things on his own account, simply to save his son a trip to the store. My discoveries contributed to my understanding of Virginia society and families of that time. While family members today usually all help with the household chores and support the family in some capacity, it seemed far more important then because the family had a farm or plantation to run in addition to the task of managing the house.

When I started to transcribe the indexes, though, I truly came into contact with the full extent of names found in the ledger. There was certainly quite a variety! Unsurprisingly, I found lots of surnames common today, like Smith or Moore, suggesting an established family, probably Western European immigrants or their descendents. Some surnames implied an ancestor’s occupation, like Smith, Carpenter, or Mason. For first names, there was the ever-popular John, William, James, and Thomas, which are all very Western European sounding and reflect the demographic of the area during the time. I came across some “older” names, common place for the time period but not too popular today, like Thaddeus or Cornelius. One could see the prevalence of Christianity in the appearance of Biblically influenced names like Ignatius, Zachariah, and Ephraim. I also found a few names that were unusual regardless of time, like Marmaduke Beckwith and Greenberry Pinkstone. It was fun “getting to know” these people, their families, and their purchasing habits. Imagining what their lives would have been like by using the information found in the ledger has been interesting and enjoyable these past few months.

Greenberry Pinkstone's unusual name drew the attention of the transcriber, Colchester Store 1767/1768.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spotlight on Barry Burr

Molly Kerr / Digital Humanities Program Manager

Barry Burr came on board as a volunteer in October 2013 and has become one of the most prolific transcribers participating today.  His willingness to assist has even extended to visiting Mount Vernon to help with scanning the microfilm – and he lives nearly 300 miles away!  His efforts have helped me in innumerable ways.  When I asked him to answer a few questions about his participation, here are his responses.

What interested you in the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project?  How did you hear about it?  Why did you want to be involved?

I have been working on my family’s genealogy for 30+ years, and have always been interested in the way things were way back when, and how interesting it would have been to live back then.  I visited Mt. Vernon in September 2013 and saw where they were digging to find the old dairy.  I asked one of the docents if they used volunteers on the dig and he said that they mostly used interns, but did use some volunteers and that I could go to the website and apply.  I sent in my inquiry, but had not heard anything for about 3 weeks, when I had a reply from Karen Price, saying that they were finished for the season, but that they had another project that I could work on from home and she would refer me to Molly Kerr who was in charge of that project.  After hearing back from Molly and reviewing what had to be done, it seemed like it might be interesting and I decided to give it a try.

What is your background?  How has this project been different from or complimentary to what you have done (do) as your career?

I am presently retired, but I have done many things over my working career but mostly was involved in writing computer software for professional sports. Being familiar with the computer and spreadsheets helped in transcribing the documents.

Barry Burr took a break from transcribing to visit Turkey, shown here with his wife, Erma, at the the theatre in ancient Hierapolis.

What has been the most challenging part about transcribing?

The most challenging part has been to understand the handwriting.  Some of their handwriting was as bad as mine and some of the text is very different from what we use today.

Do you have a favorite account?  Whose was it?  Why did you like it?

No, I do not have a favorite account, but I do like the ones that buy different things, like the guy who bought a whole still.

Henry Taylor purchased a still and its associated parts on May 20, 1768, at the Colchester Store.

When you tell people what you are doing, what do you like to share about the project?  What has been the reaction?

When I talk to people about what I do I like to tell them about the different things they buy.  Some people are very curious about it and others, politely, say “oh, that’s nice.”

Would you recommend the project to other people?  Why?

Yes.  I have recommended the project to other people, but most either don’t have the time or look at the pages to be transcribed and think that they could never figure it out.

Anything else you would like to share…?

It seems like it would be a dull project to work on, after all sitting there and trying to figure out what some guy wrote 250 years ago and then typing it into a spreadsheet may not be very exciting.  But, then you get to thinking how did they use this or what did they do with that, and it seems like you have transported yourself back in time and are looking over the guy’s shoulder as he writes it down and then watch the customer carry the goods out the door, as his wife anxiously awaits the cloth goods to make her new dress.

Posted in History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Byrd’s Lottery: Beseeching Payment Continued beyond the Ledgers

Gianna Borawski / University of Central Florida / Fall 2013

Thomas Lawson purchased six lottery tickets on behalf of various people.

Despite eager participation and so much public attention for Colonel Byrd’s Lottery, it failed to remedy Byrd’s debts even though Thomas Lawson purchased six tickets!   Perhaps this failure lent itself to the fact that ticket purchasers did not actually have to pay for the ticket until the day of the drawing, as noted previously.  If you had a ticket that lost, would you go out of your way to go back and pay for it?

After the drawing of the lottery on November 2, 1768, Byrd and his trustees took out advertisements in the Virginia Gazette again, two weeks in a row, on November 10th and November 17th.  This time, Byrd identifies the trustees to whom to pay for unpaid tickets in the lottery.  The trustees go on to note their disappointment that “very little money” had “been received at the time of drawing Col. Byrd’s Lottery” and entreat ticket purchasers to pay for their ticket by December “at the court of Oyer and Terminer”.[1] These debts to Colonel Byrd were not remedied either, it seems.  The Virginia Gazette continues to show advertisements taken out by Byrd and his trustees politely beseeching people to pay up.  On May 25, 1769, Byrd and his trustees resorted to threatening the purchasers by “putting the bonds in suit if they are not discharged at the Oyer and Terminer court”.[2] These threats, however, seemed to threaten no one, as debts (both ticket purchasers’ and Byrd’s) remained unpaid.

An advertisement requesting payment for tickets in the Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), November 1768. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

On September 14, 1769, nearly a year after Thomas Lawson bought his lottery ticket for John Riddell from the Dumfries Store, Byrd advertised again in the Virginia Gazette entreating the sellers of the lottery tickets to “immediately send the bonds” to his colleague to finally “collect the money due on them”.[3] Whether the overall lack of payment was on behalf of ticket purchasers, ticket vendors, or both, Byrd does not make clear.

Colonel William Byrd III died entrenched in debt at the age of forty-eight in early January, 1777.[4]  He committed suicide by shooting himself with a dueling pistol.[5] Byrd was “thoroughly unhappy” in the years before his death, and wrote a will on July 6, 1774, in which he bequeaths the remainder of the estate to his wife.  He mentions that his estate is embedded in debt due to his “own folly & inattention to accounts, thro’ carelessness… is still greatly incumbered [sic] with debts, which imbitters [sic] every moment of my life.”[6]  Byrd goes on to will that slaves and even furniture be sold to pay off some of his debts.  In his will, Byrd also mentioned his lottery.  He asked that everyone who owed him money, including the “managers and adventurers in the Lottery… be immediately sued for & collected & applied to” his remaining debts.[7]

Byrd’s wife made a final attempt to remedy the cost of the lottery on August 8, 1777, in a notice on the front page of the Virginia Gazette, rather than at the end in the “Advertisements” section.  This article began with the trustees stating that they would like “to settle the affairs of the late Col. Byrd” and asks that anyone who still needs to be paid their debt “make them known.”[8] While this seems like Byrd’s affairs were finally in order, she ends the notice stating: “It appearing, from col. Byrd’s books, that very large sums are due to him for his lottery tickets, and on other accounts it will be taken particularly kind of his debtors to be speedy in making payment.”[9] This ironic final notice displays the efforts Mary Byrd and Byrd’s trustees made to remedy William Byrd III’s debts even after he had given up on them and himself.  Sorry to say that his poor business skills, lavish lifestyle, and gambling habits got the best of him – and his beloved estate.

Mary Byrd entreats those who owe money to her husband's estate to pay it promptly, especially those still owing money for lottery tickets. Virginia Gazette (P), August 1777. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

[1] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, November 10, 1768, 2, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette/VGImagePopup.cfm?ID=2112&Res=HI&CFID=8736029&CFTOKEN=16361837&jsessionid=1B2F9ED764A892CC2E59D184360FD6DE.cfusion, accessed November 7, 2013; Virginia Gazette, Rind, November 17, 1768, 3, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette/VGImagePopup.cfm?ID=2287&Res=HI&CFID=8736029&CFTOKEN=16361837&jsessionid=1B2F9ED764A892CC2E59D184360FD6DE.cfusion, accessed November 7, 2013.

[2] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, May 25, 1769, 3, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette/VGImagePopup.cfm?ID=2379&Res=HI&CFID=8736029&CFTOKEN=16361837&jsessionid=1B2F9ED764A892CC2E59D184360FD6DE.cfusion, accessed November 7, 2013.

[3] Virginia Gazette, Rind, September 14, 1769, 3, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette/VGImagePopup.cfm?ID=2618&Res=HI&CFID=8736029&CFTOKEN=16361837&jsessionid=1B2F9ED764A892CC2E59D184360FD6DE.cfusion, accessed November 7, 2013

[4] “William Byrd III,” The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site, accessed November 4, 2013, http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biowbyrd.cfm.

[5] Lily Richards, “Archaeological Excavation of the William Byrd III House,” Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library, October 1999, accessed November 4, 2013, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/View/index.cfm?doc=ResearchReports%5CRR1664.xml.

[6] William Byrd III, “Letters of the Byrd Family (Continued,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 38, no. 1 (January 1930): 59-60. Accessed November 4, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4244312.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Virginia Gazette, Purdie, August 8, 1777, 1, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/VirginiaGazette/VGImagePopup.cfm?ID=6171&Res=HI&CFID=8736029&CFTOKEN=16361837&jsessionid=1B2F9ED764A892CC2E59D184360FD6DE.cfusion, accessed November 7, 2013.

[9] Ibid.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment