Today Is All About The Music

Not entries for musical instruments, however – rather, entries that lead us to (irrelevant) information about bands/songs/musicians.

  • Zachariah Wade, Cecil County
  • Mr. William Comegys, Gent:, Kent County

1 Do [chest] with Dantzick lock & key

Another reference to Danzig – were there really so many goods from Poland that found their way to the British colonies?

1 Wine Still &ca

1 Cold Do

Ah – an opportunity to dig further into stills. You may recall I was unable to demystify an earlier ‘cool still’ because all my search results were for things that are still considered cool.  I confess it never occurred to me to try ‘cold still’ and that was my undoing.  This time around I did have to sift through hits for The Cold Still (the third album from The Boxer Rebellion, of course) and a great deal of dubious information about treating a lingering respiratory infection.

The Cold Still.jpg

But eventually I found my way to articles about vacuum distillation – which has something to do with concentrating alcohol at low temperatures to create ‘livelier spirits.’  [The quote is from a New York Times article that is probably behind a pay wall, but you can glean the essence from (a ‘global leader in spirits education’).]

As for the Wine Still, I’ve never had any interest in brandy (except for making τσουρέκι), which must be why I did not remember (if ever I even knew) that brandy is distilled wine.  And in keeping with today’s theme, I will clarify that I mean the beverage, not the singer or the song.  [Even that comment leads to a another song – this could go on for a while.]

The Singer Not the Song FilmPoster.jpeg

4 Moyadores

Moidores (or moydores) – Portuguese gold coins.

  • James Norman, Kent County
  • Alexr. Johnson, Kent County

1 Silver Handled Penknife

1 Small snuff Mill

You may have noticed in yesterday’s post that Charles Calvert had some fancy snuff boxes.  But where did he get his snuff?  This is a question that did not occur to me until I saw Alexander Johnson’s Small snuff Mill – which was only valued at £0.013 and must have been very small indeed.  Clearly Johnson was not supplying Calvert’s snuff, but who was?

I could digress into musings about snuff informed by the frequency with which Georgette Heyer’s characters discuss their personal blends, but the music calls me.  Would you like to pursue the British band or the American band?  The song by Slipknot or the song by Slayer?  Or maybe (for a change of pace), the record producer Snuff Garrett?

18th Century English Agate Snuff Box For Sale
18th Century English Agate Snuff Box
(yours for $24,500 at

2 Silk grass Basketts

Although the Internet tried to convince me that these Basketts must have been made from sweetgrass, I believe the material used here was harvested from one species or another of Pityopsis.  [The Internet also tried to convince me to adorn my house with artificial grass made from silk.  I am not going to do that.]

  • William Blackiston, Kent County

1 12 bottle Case 10 of the bottles whole

Somebody was as careless with those bottles as I have been with wine glasses.

Image result for broken wine glasses image public domain"

1 old Chest 7 foot long with lock & key

To hold something both large and valuable . . . but what?

1 Slip Basket

I got distracted by a pattern for a Slip Stitch Basket Weave Scarf (perfect, because I’m a fan of knitting scarves using slip stitches to make a basket weave pattern).  But even when I returned my focus to baskets, I could not find any explanation for a Slip Basket.

  • Robert Mansfield, Kent County

shading nets

For growing shade tobacco? I thought that was just a Connecticut thing . . . .

Tobacco field with shade tents in East Windsor, Connecticut
  • Joseph Everet, Kent County

1 iron bound well bucket with Chain

35 foot of Crown Glass

Definitions for Crown Glass are easy to find.  I suppose we could debate the relative merits of the optic definition v. the window definition (for the record, I am firmly in the window camp), but we should move on.

20 foot of Castle Glass & 10lb of white lead

Unfortunately Castle Glass was a bust in terms of something relevant to eighteenth-century Maryland – but I did get numerous hits for the Linkin Park song Castle of Glass.

Linkin Park - Castle of Glass.jpg

And while we’re talking about glass, I’d like to point out that Brandy (the song, not the singer or the beverage) was recorded by the band Looking Glass – just to drive home today’s theme.

Brandy - Looking Glass.jpg

  • Thos. Reason, Kent County

13 Dry Cattle

Another thing about which I knew nothing.  Evidently Thomas Reason’s livestock included 13 cows in the midst of a ‘dry period’ between lactation and calving.  Or, as this site quips, cows that were on vacation.

  • John Inch, Kent County

3500 Single tens

I am still perplexed by Single tens (and double tens, for that matter). These are entered on the same line as one Gun – do they have something to do with ammunition?  I doubt it, but at the moment I have no other leads.

  • Evan Miles, Baltimore County
  • John Grainger, Dorchester County

1 old pr. pocket stillards

Travel-sized steelyard balances?  Indeed, those could come in handy – as Wikipedia explains, a small steelyard ‘could be used as a portable device that merchants and traders could use to weigh small ounce-sized items of merchandise.’

Roman steelyard from Pompeii

[But yes, I do keep reading pocket stillards as ‘pocket billiards.’  And yes, Pocket Billiards is a band . . . and a song.]

  • William Thomas, Dorchester County

1 hip shotten Cow

Lame in the hip, that is – poor cow.

1 old hide Cough

A cow hide?  But why the variant spelling?  As you’ve probably guessed, a search for hide Cough yields only hits for hiding a cough . . . which conveniently takes me to Cough Syrup.

Young the Giant - Cough Syrup.jpg

  • John Summers, Dorchester County
  • John Morrister [Monister?], Dorchester County
  • Peter Shipley, Anne Arundel County
  • Doctr. Thos. McWilliams, St. Mary’s County

20 lb old Liverpool Pewter

You can acquire a special pewter tankard commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Liverpool Football Club – but I could not find anything to explain why pewter made in Liverpool might have been noteworthy in the 1730s.

LFC 125 Pewter Tankard, on sale for just £15 – and yet, out of stock.

2 Balls Cotton Wick

a Parcel of Chirurgeons Instruments

4 pr Dams Scales with some weights

I assume this is a botched transcription of drams, a dram being a unit of weight in the apothecaries’ system equal to one eighth of an ounce (or a unit of weight in the avoirdupois system equal to one sixteenth of an ounce, but given Dr. McWilliams’s doctor-ness, the apothecaries’ system strikes me as more likely).

And wouldn’t you know it?  Shelley Marshuan Massenburg-Smith is an American rapper better known as DRAM.

1 Large Pestle & Mortar 1 small Do

1 Marble Mortar & 1 small Glass Do

4 dozen Bottles

1 old Still

a prcel of Physick Viols & Gally pots

I like the balance of the McWilliams inventory – just enough medical stuff to be interesting, but not so much as to overwhelm the researcher.

  • Charles Slye, Gent, St. Mary’s County

Slye’s goods and chattels are valued at just over £43, which is respectable enough for your run-of-the-mill Marylander, but surprisingly modest for a Gent.  He has such an unusual collection of items that I’ve decided to transcribe it in its entirety for your edification (or amusement, as the case may be).

One negro man nam’d Pompey bursten with a blemish in one eye

one Silver hilted Sword /the Hilt broken/ & one old belt

one Cane

His wearing Apparell only an old wastcoat an old hat an old Pair of Boots & a pair of spurs

One old saddle broken his negro us’d to ride & bridle

Two Gold Rings weighing [the weight is blank; the value is £1.09]

One old horse Saddle & Bridle

One pair of Spectacles

one broken Cocoa cup with a Silver Rim

one very old horse the negro us’d to ride

Two Printed pictures

1 mare

I have this unshakeable image of Slye (dressed in his erstwhile finery) and poor Pompey roaming about on their horses like a Chesapeake Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.

Would you prefer Gordon Lightfoot’s 8th album or a rendition of The Impossible Dream?  (Wikipedia offers more than 50 options.)


Día de Muertos

A strange title for this post, perhaps, but all will be revealed.

  • William Stevenson, Somerset County
  • Mary Cowper, widow, Talbot County – Additional Inventory
  • Charles Calvert, Esqr., Anne Arundel County – Additional Inventory

A flower’d night Gown

An Agate snuff box mounted with Gold

A Tortoise snuff box mounted with Gold

3 Tippets

One of my ‘I’ve never really known what it is’ items, but I can now identify a Tippet as ‘a shoulder cape of fur or cloth often with hanging ends.’  [This is actually Merriam-Webster’s second definition, the first being ‘a long hanging end of cloth attached to a sleeve, cap, or hood’ and the third ‘a long black scarf worn over the robe by Anglican clergymen during morning and evening prayer.’]

  • John Roger, Charles County
  • Joseph Sanders, Charles County
  • John White, Charles County

three yards Tartan Pladd

three & a quarter yds. north Country Linnen

John White is not a name that immediately calls to mind bagpipes and kilts, but tartan is tartan, so presumably there’s a Scots connection somewhere.  [Russo is also not a name that resonates with lochs and whiskey, but I’ve got the Elliott to take me there.]

Elliot Modern
Elliott Tartan (the Clan Elliot folks only use one ‘t’ but we all know there should be two ‘l’s AND two ‘t’s).
  • Peter Hayse, Charles County
  • Mr. John King, Charles County – Additional Inventory
  • Justinian Barwell, Anne Arundel County
  • James Thomasman, Queen Anne’s County
  • Doctor George Burch, Queen Anne’s County

1 Case with two Lancets

a parcells [sic] of Medicines

1 Doctr. Search 0,3,6

I need my colonial tools expert to weigh in here.  I was absolutely certain that I could find a definition for an ordinary Search and then speculate about the distinction of a doctor’s Search . . . but I can’t find anything.  It does not help that Search is such a ubiquitous word, especially on the Internet; I believe I could Search endlessly and only come up with the wrong kind of Search tools.

  • Robert Pickerin, Queen Anne’s County
  • Richard Wise, Queen Anne’s County
  • John Leonard, Queen Anne’s County

2 Narrow Axes Country make old

Not to be confused with Swedes axes, that’s for sure.

  • John Sparks, Queen Anne’s County
  • Thomas Day, Queen Anne’s County
  • John Hukill, Cecil County
  • Joseph King, Cecil County

Two pair of old Stockings 1 Silk t’other wellstead

Worsted.  Does this mean King was a ‘base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave?’

Image result for worsted stockings"
King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2 [Shakespeare Navigators]

Memd. the dece’d hath no kind: that I know of in these parts. But it is reported that one Francis Heron als Walker is some way related to him, whose person & place of residence is unknown to [the administrator]

Not precisely helpful information, but I expect the administrator wanted to show due diligence.

  • Robert Penington, Cecil County
  • Mr. Dominick Carroll, Cecil County

1 old Cold still

11 dozen of Bottles Call’d quarts

The appraisers are taking no responsibility for the actual volume of the bottles.

1 old winding sheet to winnow wheat on

Such specificity – not a winding sheet for a corpse (i.e., a shroud) but rather a sheet specifically for winnowing wheat.  [Also not The Winding Sheet, the 1990 solo album by Mark Lanegan that is ‘notable in its departure from the characteristic sound’ of the Screaming Trees — just in case you thought that might be relevant.]

  • John Bass, Cecil County

11 Bushs. of wheat pd. for funeral expences L2,1,4

Oh, this is too good – first a winding sheet used for winnowing wheat, and then right away wheat used for a funeral (where I am convinced there must have been a winding sheet for Mr. Bass in his coffin).

And thus the reveal: Inventory items worthy of the Day of the Dead.




Bear With Me

This post runs rather long, and I know my breezy style (ha!) can only carry you so far before you tire of it.  But I have to get down to the maul rings to justify the tease at the close of my last post – and after that it’s a straight shot to the end of my backlog of inventories.

  • Richard Kemp, Queen Anne’s County

2 Swedes Axes

Although there is a temptation to wonder if this is an axe somehow designed in a specifically Swedish manner, I am inclined to think it is instead an axe made from Swedish steel, an ‘exceptionally’ high quality steel reputedly obtained from Sweden during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  I am not entirely convinced that steel from Sweden made it all the way to Maryland in the 1730s, but the other references I found for tools identified as Swedes or a variation thereof were for hoes.

Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe
The fine craftsmanship and unparalleled versatility of this handforged steel Gränsfors Bruks Axe are the result of a collaboration with Swedish survival expert Lars Felt. (L.L.Bean)

As it happens, one of the top hits from my Google search was for, thus referencing the same Swedish association with survivalists as the L.L.Bean description.  I tried not to follow the link, as I have no desire to end up on an FBI watch list, but I was tempted by this statement: ‘The axe is synonymous with Scandinavia and no where more so than Sweden.’  How could I not have known that?

  • Edward Chetham, Queen Anne’s County

1 Mourning ring

As promised at the conclusion of the last post – and an item to add to my growing list of funereal entries in inventories.

1 small sugar Hatchet

A hatchet designed specifically for chipping away at a sugar loaf?

A sugarloaf, which required sugar nips to break off pieces

The Wikipedia entry from whence I retrieved this picture says nothing about hatchets.  For reference, sugar nips look like this –

– and it seems unlikely to me that an appraiser would call this item a small sugar Hatchet instead of nips.

To the frame of the house

This one caught me by surprise, as I never expected the frame of a house to be considered part of a decedent’s ‘goods and chattels.’  If you are wondering, the appraisers considered this particular frame to be worth £1.5.

  • William Swift, Queen Anne’s County
  • Mrs. Mary Brown of Kent Island, Queen Anne’s County – Additional Inventory
  • Daniel Walker, Queen Anne’s County

200 Sadlers tacks

Not surprisingly, this entry is just after a parcel Tanners & Curriers tools.  Nearly all of the results from a search of ‘saddlers tacks’ are links to businesses that sell and/or make tack, but I did find a picture of saddlery tacks for you.

#955 Blued Saddlery Tack
Blued Saddlery Tack (Weaver Leathercraft)
  • William Hickman, Calvert County

3 & ½ Dozn. Bottles & 1 parcell of Cork

Cork, again.  Last time the entry clearly was Corks, and there were 13 dozen of them.  Here we don’t know how many, or even if the item is actually a bag of corks, or sheets of cork, or . . . in what other form might one buy or sell cork?

Quercus suber bark

To new Goods according to Invoyce

More than £100 – and of course I wish I could get my hands on the actual invoice.

To a parcell of Medicines

And now the reverse: I am glad there isn’t any detail.  I wonder how long the specter of Dr. Haw will haunt me?

  • John Usears, Dorchester County

A parcell of Turners tools

A parcell of Joyners tools

A parcell of Carpenters tools

I think he’s got the woodworking tools covered.

  • Peter Harwood, junr., Talbot County – List of Debts Received
  • Thomas Martin, Talbot County – Additional Inventory
  • Isaac Tunny, Talbot County
  • James Mcclandon, Talbot County
  • William Sheild, Talbot County

1 very old shatter’d Side Saddle

4 old Shattered books

1 old Shattered Loom

Clearly at least one of the appraisers of this estate was enchanted by shattered and, I infer, used it to describe a state of decrepitude even greater than ‘very old’ or ‘much worn’ or even ‘damnified.’

  • Isaac Dixon, Talbot County

1 Weavers Slay & 1 pr. temple Irons

2 bushels Potatoes Roots

I believe Potatoes Roots are the same thing as planting potatoes, which I see occasionally.  That is, potatoes that have sprouted roots and therefore are good for planting to start the next crop rather than eating.  And yes, I immediately think of Mark Watney and his botany powers.

The tired and worn face of a man wearing a space suit, with the words "Bring Him Home" overlaid in white lettering. In smaller lettering the name "Matt Damon" and the title "The Martian".

  • George Collison, Talbot County – Additional Inventory
  • John Wrightson, Talbot County

To a (small) Woman’s delight

Well.  I’d like to avoid even an R rating for this blog, let alone X (or NC-17, as it is now styled), so I had to be careful here.  I approached the internet with extreme trepidation, but my initial search results were surprisingly family-friendly.

FitMiss Delight Women’s Complete Protein Shake (Amazon)

Variations took me a little farther into the weeds – although I am not sure why my third attempt yielded a hit for ‘woman uses her pet lizard to model her ring collection.’

Following some convoluted logic, I wonder whether this object is a kind of iron – it’s in the inventory just after an array of kitchen implements and among the table linen.  Where did I get this (possibly crazy) idea?  Admittedly I am reading back about 170 years, but when the Dalli Smokeless Fuel Company promoted its Dalli Box Iron in U.S. magazines, the advertising copy touted the device as a ‘woman’s delight.’

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 8.52.13 AM.png
T.P’s Weekly

I know it’s the most stretchy of stretches, but I prefer this explanation to the one I found in Buzz.

  • Francis Money, Dorchester County – Additional Inventory
  • Mr. John Smith, St. Mary’s County

The half part of a Horse called Jomper

Do you think the front half or the rear?

2-Person Horse Mascot Costume (Amazon)
  • John Frazer, St. Mary’s County
  • Robert Philips, St. Mary’s County
  • Mr. Thos. Hunt, St. Mary’s County

To 8 ¾ yds. Drogheda Linnen

This is very specific – not just Irish linen, but linen produced (I presume) in Drogheda, ‘one of the oldest towns in Ireland.’

  • John Bullock, St. Mary’s County
  • William Bullock, St. Mary’s County
  • Joseph Vansweringen, St. Mary’s County

I don’t actually have anything particular to point out about this inventory – I just used the name to round out the conclusion to my previous post.

  • Wm. Houlton, Dorchester County – Additional Inventory
  • John Betenson, Calvert County
  • Mrs. Sarah Day, Baltimore County
  • William Cox, Baltimore County

1 pair of maul rings

  • Symon Gregory, Baltimore County

To maul rings & two Wedges

Unlike Joseph Vansweringen, I will actually comment on the maul rings.

I see these all the time, and several posts ago I intended to define them – until I tried to find a definition and got nowhere.  Well, that’s not quite true – there are plenty of hits for ‘maul rings’ but they point to some cultural phenomenon of which I was previously unaware.

Darth Maul Ring  Solid Sterling Silver  Star Wars Character image 0
Darth Maul Ring (Etsy)

A definition of a maul is easy enough to find; it’s a ‘heavy often wooden-headed hammer used especially for driving wedges’ (Merriam-Webster, of course).  So the appearance of the wedges in an entry that also references a maul makes perfect sense – but where do the rings come into it?  I spent some time perusing a GLOSSARY OF TERMS ASSOCIATED WITH AXES, EDGE TOOLS and their ASSOCIATED USES and MANUFACTURE,  INCLUDING LOGGING AND LUMBERING provided by my new best friends at  From definitions of such things as ‘boom dogs’ and ‘cant hooks’ and ‘grab mauls’ and ‘skidding hooks’ I have worked out a hypothesis.  I’m thinking that the maul rings in colonial inventories may have been a sort of mash-up of grab mauls and log dogs – objects with offset rings that could be driven into logs (using a maul) so that the logs could be secured to a rope or chain for hauling.  But if it’s that simple, why is it so hard to find any source for that information?

[Incidentally, I discovered while hunting for sadlers tacks that mauls can also be leather-working tools.  From the descriptions I can’t quite tell how a leather worker uses a maul, but one review praised the Weaver Leathercraft Maul Master II for its ‘good clean lick.’]

  • John Lea, Baltimore County
  • Richard Jenkins, Baltimore County
  • Richard Jenkins, Baltimore County – Additional Inventory
  • Mr. Thos. Benson, Somerset County
  • George Betts Collier, Somerset County
  • John Nelson, Somerset County
  • James Dashiell, Junr., Somerset County
  • Alexander Hall, Somerset County
  • William Horsey, Somerset County

2 Logwood Axes

An unusual description for an axe, and another sign of lumbering – with my assumption that these are axes used for cutting or splitting logs.  I worried for a minute that they might instead be axes made from a specific type of wood, but I quickly discovered that logwood, although a thing, was valuable in the eighteenth century as a source of dye for fabrics.  The trees certainly do not look sturdy enough to provide handles for axes.

Haematoxylum campechianum Ypey69.jpg
Haematoxylum campechianum

1 Iron Pott qt. 30lb half belonging to John Horsey

It must have been a challenge to share a pott – except probably not really. This one sent me off into a whole Somerset rabbit hole, the upshot of which is this:

William and John were brothers.  William was unmarried when he died.  In his will (which is undated but was probated on 23 May 1736), he bequeaths his land to his mother for her lifetime and then to his nephew, Revell Horsey. He bequeaths a desk to John and a bed each to Revell and his sister Mary, but makes no mention of his half of the pott or any of his other household goods. He does give possession of an enslaved man named Cudgo to John for the term of five years and then to Revell (clearly his favorite nephew; there are others).  The enslaved man is taxed in William’s household in 1733, which is the last time William appears in the tax lists.  John, meanwhile, has been off in New England, where he resided for several years – but he’s back in 1734, when Cudgo is taxed in John’s household.  From all of this I infer that either a) William actually died in 1733 even though his will was not probated until 1736; or b) William was sufficiently debilitated by whatever disease eventually killed him that he was not considered an independent householder after 1733 and was living with John at the time of his death – which would make it pretty easy to share a pott.

I’m now caught up and ready to go index another batch of inventories.  Besides, it’s difficult to top an entry that gets me deep into Somerset County genealogy.

William Hemsley Carries The Day

There’s so much fodder in Mr. Hemsley’s inventory that I could easily have filled three posts, but I will confine myself to just one.

  • Mr. William Hemsley, Queen Anne’s County

This inventory is unusual in that the appraisers valued Mr. Hemsley’s worldly possessions at nearly £1500, and yet he holds no bound laborers, enslaved or indentured.  He must be a merchant – the Schooner with boat Sails rigging &ca worth £220 is a good clue, not to mention several pages of items that must be store goods – and therefore perhaps less engaged in tobacco cultivation.  Still, the complete absence of labor in the inventory of such a large estate is remarkable.

Oh, wait a minute.  The ever-helpful Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature asserts that Hemsley’s estate included 41 bound laborers (33 enslaved; 8 indentured) – but they are not in this inventory.  What gives?  I also see that he’s a stepson of Robert Lloyd and related to just about anybody who was anybody on the Eastern Shore, so I fully expect my Talbot County expert to explain the discrepancy.

But in the meantime, his inventory includes many items that I find interesting (or at least amusing).

1 Childs Rattle

Among the entries for silver, and valued by weight.


Looks like I need to dig out the silver polish.  Do you suppose the Hemsley rattle also had a close encounter with a large black dog?

2 cradle quilts

A parcell of Servants Bedding

The plot thickens – Servants Bedding but no servants?

1 large walnut oval table one smaller Do.

5 maple tables of several Sizes

1 small square tea table

1 small old maple table

1 small round Mahogany tea table

1 old square table 1 small pine table 1 old sideboard

1 large pine tea table 1 small old poplar table

By my count, that’s 14 tables.  That’s a lot of tables.  And to go along with them we have:

12 Cane chairs 11 Do. 8 Do.

12 Leather Do. 7 Flagg Do. 3 Do.

13 Flagg Do. 12 rush Do. 6 Do.

6 Wooden Do.

1 old Leather Elbow chair

Unless I have misread the text, that’s 91 chairs.  Is there a market in tables and chairs that I don’t know about?

1 proving glass

1 taster

Are these tools for testing alcohol content?  And if not, what are they for?  Google searches led me to all sorts of odd things, such as proving glass ceiling discrimination, proving the worth of Cody Glass (the first draft pick in Vegas Golden Knights history), and proving that a man died demonstrating a window’s strength.  But I also turned up this interesting Flaviar piece about measuring the alcohol content in spirits.

1 [pewter] pepper Caster

one Iron Bisquet Dotter

I presume the first is a pepper shaker (a condiment dispenser used in Western culture designed to allow diners to distribute grains of ground peppercorns, says Wikipedia).

Georgian silver pepper shaker, or pepperette, hallmarked London 1803

But the second?  The internet was useless for this (although I did learn that the word ‘dot’ derives from an Old English word meaning the head of a boil – and I would just as soon not have learned that).

Another ‘stop-the-presses’ – I think I found it.  At least, I did if a Bisquet Dotter could be the same thing as a dough docker.  King Arthur Flour describes this better than I ever could, so I will quote at length.

Looking like . . . a very small (3- to 4-inch) spiked rolling pin, the dough docker cuts even rows of holes into cracker dough, or thoroughly pricks the bottom of a tart or pie shell in a few easy swipes. Unless you’re very particular about how your pastry looks, or you’re doing lots of pastry that needs docking, a fork can easily substitute for the docker.

one Hominy Mortar

Much later in the inventory there is an entry for 3 Iron Hominy Pestles. Why aren’t they together? And why three pestles for one mortar?

1 past board, Rowling pin & Pye printer

More items for baking (assuming that’s a pastry board).

A large Frame for drying Cloaths

There are all kinds of imported spices and such – I’m skipping over most of the precise quantities, but there are entries for:

Rum, Molasses, fish Oil, Linseed Oil, Tar,

Barbadoes loaf Sugar, brown Muscavado Do., fine Muscavado Do., finest Do.

Chocolate, Ginger, allspice

Pepper, Mace

A small parcell of Citron Peals

Cinnamon, Nutmegs

13 lbs. of Damnified allspice

48 ¾ Ounces of Indigo

1 lb of Verdegrease

A small parcell of Doctors means

Still glad there’s not a detailed list.

15lb of whale bone

For all that my household includes a whale expert, I really did not know (or at least did not remember) that whalebone is not actually bone but the baleen plate that whales use to filter krill out of the water.  (I did know all about the baleen ‘filter-feeder’ system, just not the rather important distinction between the actual bones of a whale and whalebone.

Photo displaying dozens of baleen plates. The plates face each other, and are evenly spaced at approximately 0.25 inches (1 cm) intervals. The plates are attached to the jaw at the top, and have hairs at the bottom end.
Baleen plates (with attached baleen hair)

I added up the numerous nails of various sorts for you – the total is 18,426, including:

2000 Scupper nails

Which go along with the Schooner – if you want to learn all about it, take a look at An Introductory Outline of the Practice of Ship-building.

As you would expect, there is lots (and lots) of fabric and tailoring/dressmaking supplies, including:

2 pearl Girdle buckles

22 womens brass Thimbles

1195 Needles sorted

12000 Pins

Remember my whole fascination with tools for measurement, including timekeeping? Here we have:

6 minute Glasses 5 half hour Do. one hour Do.

And we finish up with some luxury food items:

1 Pot with a small parcell of Sweetmeats

I confess I get Sweetmeats confused with sweetbreads. Shouldn’t the one made from an animal be called meat and the one that’s a sweet confection be called bread?

2 small Pots with Tammarins

Nothing to do with South American monkeys, of course, but rather the fruit of the tamarind tree (or, more likely, candy or paste made from the fruit of the tamarind tree).

Tamarind leaves and fruit pod

1 Pt. Citron water

All the rage now, and readily available in hotel lobbies across the nation.

Service Ideas Beverage Dispenser (available at Amazon, of course)

That’s it for me and Mr. Hemsley (pending verification of his labor force, that is).  Next up: mourning rings, maul rings, and Joseph Vanswe-ring-en.


Picking Up The Pieces

That was a much, much longer break between posts than I expected.  I think it likely that my apologies are getting tiresome, so I will just dive back in.

  • John Jones, Prince George’s County
  • Captn. John Martindale of Liverpool, Prince George’s County

Capt. Martindale was a bit of a clothes horse. To wit:

 A pair Silver Buckles

a pair Studds

a Silver snuff box

A Suit blue Grogram

2 pr. mens white Gloves

1 Cloath Coat Red Jackett & Breeches

A Green silk Jackett

1 old Coat Jacket & Breeches

1 pr. buckskin breeches

One Riding coat & a very old coat a pr. old cloth breeches

A Banyan

2 pr. Croques

I think these must be ‘crakows’ (or crackowes), a type of shoe with an extremely long pointed toe, although according to Wikipedia such shoes were ‘very popular’ in the 15th century and I am not sure why such a stylish man as Captain Martindale would favor them.  The name alludes to their supposed origin in the city of Kraków – but it’s important to understand (again according to Wikipedia) that although they ‘are also sometimes known as poulaines or pikes . . . the term poulaine, as in souliers a la poulaine, “shoes in the Polish fashion,” referred to the long pointed beak of the shoe, not the shoe itself.’

Poulaines worn in Burgundy ca. 1470

And in case you are wondering, I did first investigate whether those ubiquitous foam sole shoes, i.e., Crocs™, were somehow derived from croques – but I think the lack of long toes puts that hypothesis to rest.

To a Cargo of Goods which the said Martindale had to Dispose of amounting to the sum of L290,1,7 ¾

That’s quite a valuable cargo; pity we don’t know what it contained.

  • Benjamin Smallwood, Prince George’s County
  • Mr. John Edgar, Prince George’s County
  • William Cockran, Baltimore County
  • Richard Lloyd, Charles County
  • Mr. William Penn, Charles County

 1 fluke hoe

1 Jigger & harrow with 2 fluke

I promise to stop already with the flukes – but let me just point out once again that the term fluke fairly consistently seems to refer to the particular shape of the cutting blade on a variety of tools, rather than just a specific type of hoe (or plow or, in this case, harrow).

  • John Newman, Charles County
  • John Macoy, Charles County
  • Dr. John Haw, Charles County

Whoa. This one’s a doozy.  The main inventory is about £178 worth of mildly interesting goods (including 1 Diamond to cut glass), but then there’s this entry:

Apothecarys Medicines Chymical Preparations Chirurgeons Instruments fials Pots Physick books & other as pr. Accot. annext

At first I was distraught not to have any detail about all of this – but be careful what you wish for.  After the concluding text for the inventory proper, I found this:

An Account of what Medicines Instruments & books we found.

Here we go – and bear in mind that “ss” is an abbreviation for the Latin “semis” meaning half; also note the consistent use of , the apothecary symbol for ounce (as discussed in this earlier post).

Drugs. Many of which are Stale & of less Value.

Sperm. Ceti lb ss Coral. rub. 3.

Gum Myrh 4. Radx. Ipecacauan 2

Aloes Succotin lb1 3. Do. Hepatick 3

Croc. Martis Astringens lb1 ss Gamboga 6

Gum Scmon 3. Colacinth lb ss

Pulvis Jalap lb1 ss Arug. Aris lb1 11

Ol: Terebinth lb1 ss Gum Oliban 7

I can’t quite bear to go tracking down all of these drugs and preparations (a number of which have appeared in earlier inventories), but this one did pique my interest.  Turns out terebinth is ‘a small European tree (Pistacia terebinthus) of the cashew family yielding turpentine’ (thank you, Merriam-Webster).

Pistacia palaestina.JPG
Pistacia terebithus

Sal. Tartar 4. Occul. Canoror lb1

Opium 1 Plumb: Rub. & Alb. lb10

Sems. Tanugl lb1 ss & Sems Cardams lb1 ss

Radx. Galanga lb ¼ Radx. Gentians11

Gum Mastic. lb1 Gum Guajc. lb ss

Gum Amoniac. lb ss Sangs. Dracos lb ss

Antimons. Crud. lb ss Laps. Tutia lb1

Gum Elemi lb ss Santal Rub. 11

L’Calaminary 11 Gum. Lac. iii

Assa fetida. I Croc. Anglic. 4

Borax 4 Flos Sulphs. lb ii

Turpentine lb Canthds. 3.

But wait, there’s more:

Apothecarys Medicines &ca

Theirc. Andromc. lbiii Diascord. lb ii ss

Pil. Cynagloss i ss Laps. Hematt. & d’Goa. ii

Emplrs. & Angts. about 3 or 5 Pounds of each

Pil. Salmon. lb ss Empty Pots & fials

3 small Scales only one with weights

One glass Mortr. & Pestle & Do. of marble

Two Pewter Glister pipes one out of repair

3 Crucibles & 3 old rusty Lancets

And yet more:

Chymical Preparations.

Spt. Sal. Armonc. lb 3 Spt. Corn. Cervi 4

Sal. Succin. I Sal. Vol. C: C:

Mercur. Dulc. I Mercur. Sublimt. 3 ii

Ol. Anis. I Ol. Caryophl. ss.

Tartar Vitriolt. lb ss Tinctre Salphr. lb ss

Spt. Vitriol lb ss Ens Veneris ii

Croc. Metallc. 6 Tartr. Emetc. ii

Vitrs. Antimons. I Spt. Lavender i

Some small matters Mrs. Haw gave us Account of that her Uncle had of her


A Set of Capital Instruments & of small Do. damaged

To fials & Pots of several Sizes

For some reason the instruments do not include the rusty lancets itemized with the Apothecarys Medicines.  We can only hope that means Dr. Haw was no longer using them as instruments.


By my count there are more than 20 titles listed in this inventory – but for those you’ll need to pop on over to Colonial Libraries.

  • James Boyce, Charles County
  • Charles Mounto, Charles County
  • James Keen, Charles County
  • Mr. John Bruce, Charles County

Sundry Medicines

Transcribing Dr. Haw’s stock in trade quite wore me out, and I confess I am relieved that Mr. Bruce’s inventory does not detail his sundry medicines.

  • Dr. Wm. Edwards, Queen Anne’s County

5 Dozn. Vials with some drugs with 1 small old box

one Box Apothecaries Scales & weights

Also no detail, and again I breathe a sigh of relief.

This brings us up to another complicated inventory . . . which I am saving until next time.

Falling Behind, Yet Again

I’ve been pretty diligent about indexing a batch of inventories every morning before the day really gets going, which is great — but as a result I have quite a backlog to share with you.  We’ll see how far I can get today.

  • Elizabeth Turner, Calvert County

2 Boxes of spanish Flies

Having gathered a little information about spanish Flies for a previous post, I was a touch surprised to see them in a ‘regular’ estate (as opposed to the estates of apothecaries, which — as we have seen recently — tend to have lots of items that don’t turn up often).

18 [Pewter] spoons country made

2 old Pestles made of Gun barrels

Creative re-purposing.

1 ten Gallon Cag

2 Do.

In keeping with my new policy of being upfront about my ignorance, I admit that I have no idea what these are.  I frequently see cags in inventories, usually amidst kitchen items, but I’ve never taken the time to learn anything about them.  The ten Gallon description is helpful; clearly the Cag is some type of vessel — but my efforts to find a definition or image online proved fruitless.

one foot Plow

Curiously, two of the three places where (according to Wikipedia) the use of a foot plow used to be widespread are Scotland and the Andes.

Illustration of Inca farmers using a chakitaqlla (Andean footplough), by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, 1616.

1 cool still

I spent a little time trying to determine if there are different types of stills, one of which could be described as cool, but all I found were discussions of pot versus column stills (thank you, — plus a lot of sites about fashions that are still cool.

  • Mrs. Anne Gwinn, Charles County

1 Furrow plow

This seems like a redundant description, as the whole purpose of a plow is to make furrows.  So how is a ‘furrow plow’ different from any other kind of plow?

500 double tenns

Another one for my ‘I-should-know-this-but-really-I-don’t’ file.  I see ‘tenns’ pretty often, sometimes as doubles and sometimes as singles . . . but most of my Internet search efforts take me to pages about tennis.

Lawn tennis in the U.S., 1887 (Library of Congress)
  • Matthew Groves, Charles County
  • Andrew Simmons, Dorchester County
  • Richard Tull, Dorchester County
  • Nicholas Paul, Dorchester County
  • William Dicas, Kent County
  • Mr. George Skirven, Kent County

a Sett of Surveyors Instruments

a Quadrant

a Gunter Scale & some rules

6 quire of paper & a seal & chain

the town Plat 10s

Clearly Mr. Skirven kept busy doing surveying work.  That town plat is particularly interesting.  I need to know more about the man.  Was he old enough to have been involved in laying out Chestertown (established 1706)?  [If you follow the link you’ll see that Chestertown is seeking a police chief — just in case you’ve been thinking about a career change.]

  • Nathaniel Pearce, Kent County

1 Iron Pestle weighing 13 Pound

Good heavens, why would a pestle need to be so heavy?

  • John Murrey, Kent County
  • William Waltham, Kent County – Additional Inventory

60 single tens

Here they are again . . .

  • Mr. Samuel Gooding, Kent County – Additional Inventory
  • Comfort Benton, Somerset County

a parcell of Household Lumber Tray Bowls Ladles Loblollysticks &a.

Searching Loblolly (as in the type of pine tree, which I did actually already know) got me to the Wikipedia page for fatwood (which I was surprised to learn is not a brand name).  Apparently Loblolly pines are the tree of choice for commercial fatwood production, because they take so much less time to mature than Longleaf pines.  Is it possible that after early Marylanders finished girdling trees to create fields for planting, they chopped up the tree stumps into fatwood . . . and valued the sticks enough to appraise them in an inventory?

a parcell of small goods in a Drawer

22 pounds of old burnt nails

  • John Turpin, Somerset County
  • Thomas Burch, Cecil County
  • Mr. Richard Warner, Cecil County
  • Mr. Garratt Othoson, Cecil County

32 yds of home made Cloth

Cloth that is not imported is usually described as ‘country made,’ not homemade, so this one caught my attention.  But I must point out that Mr. Othoson’s household goods included wheels and cards and a flax brake — but no loom.  I suspect his home made Cloth was no more homemade than Breyers® Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.

  • Breyers Original Ice Cream Homemade Vanilla 48 ozLuke Raven, Baltimore County

158 Needles

Somebody actually counted every needle.

½ lb Jesuits bark

Well, who knew?  The Wikipedia page for Jesuit’s bark is deemed to be replete with errors, but there is no disputing the fact that the bark of the cinchona tree is a source of quinine.  There is general consensus that powdered cinchona bark has been used to treat malaria since the early 17th century — and if you have the time and the inclination, you can glean more from this piece in The Lancet.

13 Doz: Corks

Naturally this got me wondering how Luke Raven came to possess so many corks.  Quercus suber (the cork oak), I have learned, is ‘endemic to southwest Europe and northwest Africa’ — which means he did not find them in his own backyard.  A trans-Atlantic trade in corks . . . David Hancock probably says something about that in Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste; I need to take a look (but it’s $80 on Amazon so I think I’ll be heading to a library).


  • Ann Hall, Baltimore County
  • Robert Gardner, Baltimore County
  • Ninian Edmonston, Prince George’s County – Additional Inventory
  • William Cromwell, Anne Arundel County

1 pair of Tobo. Tongues & stick wax

Um.  Tongs for tobacco?  But with stick wax, so some kind of tool used with wax?  Even Merriam-Webster’s more obscure definitions for tongue are not exactly helpful — interesting objects, but I don’t quite see how any of them could be made out of (or used for) tobacco:

6 : something resembling an animal’s tongue in being elongated and fastened at one end only: such as
a : the flap under the lacing or buckles of a shoe at the throat of the vamp
b : a movable pin in a buckle
c : a metal ball suspended inside a bell so as to strike against the sides as the bell is swung
d : the pole of a vehicle (such as a wagon)

All of which leaves me precisely nowhere.

5 Tomohawkes

  • John Norwood, Anne Arundel County
  • John Dodson, Calvert County
  • James Coolley, Calvert County
  • William Connell, Baltimore
  • John Demmett, Baltimore County

1 pr. Bridle Ranes

Tack again.  I’m not sure whether there are ever reins that aren’t used with a bridle . . . the standard definition seems to be straps that attach to either the bit or the noseband of a bridle.

  • William Rose, Baltimore County

1 new silk Romal Handkercheif

At first this seemed not at all difficult, as Romal Handkercheifs are still manufactured and sold.  You can, for example, buy a package of 12 from SuperBRAND (a go-to online shopping site in Pakistan):

Pack of 12 Handkerchief Romal

Or you can get this reproduction from Burnley & Trowbridge (“Purveyors of Accurate Goods for Historic Fashion”):

Madder Red & Indigo Wool “Romal” Neck-Handkerchief

Yet my sources do betray a little confusion — mostly because romal (or romul) can refer either to a fabric or to an item.  I offer the following definitions, all from Louis Harmuth’s Dictionary of Textiles (1920 edition, and all sic):

Romal—East Indian plain silk taffeta.

Romal Handkerchief—Linen or cotton blue plaid patterns in India; see rumals.

Rumal—1, general trade term in Panjab for white or printed square shaped cotton fabrics of great variety used for ‘kerchiefs: 2, square shaped shawls made at Amritsar, Panjab, or pashm wool.

Rumal Andijani—A very soft, thin silk fabric made in Turkestan and used for scarfs and ‘kerchiefs in India.

Thank goodness the appraisers of William Rose’s estate specified silk — we may not be quite sure about the size or pattern of his handkercheif, but at least we know the material.

I am only vaguely in the vicinity of caught up, and there’s another apothecary looming on the horizon (!!), so I am feeling rather overwhelmed — but there are cookies to bake and tomorrow is another day.

Time For True Confessions

Yes, I am prepared to share information that I should have known but didn’t.

  • Solomon Wright, Queens Town, Queen Anne’s County

1 small Crickett

Okay, okay.  Yes, many inventories feature a Crickett or a variation thereof.  And yes, I have never known what that actually is.  A tool?  An article of clothing?  A decorative object?  If I’d had to guess, I probably would have said some kind of cooking vessel or tool, having the vague idea that crickets most frequently are appraised alongside objects of that ilk.

It’s a good thing nobody ever asked me to speculate, as I would have been very wrong.  Turns out a cricket is a specific kind of footstool.  I’m also not entirely sure I knew there could be different kind of footstools, and if I didn’t, then I was wrong about that, too — and this History of Footstools has set me straight.

Peggy McClard Antiques
  • Lazrus Cocks, Queen Anne’s County
  • John Smith, Queen Anne’s County

1 pair of Pottracks

Good grief.  Having confessed my ignorance regarding pot racks in the last post, they are now going to turn up all over the place.

7 Peices of Bastable Ware Tob Bottles

No need for me to confess any embarrassing lack of knowledge here, however — just a failure to ferret out an explanation for these items.

I was distracted for rather a long time by the writing of John Josselyn, who visited New England in the 1670s and described ‘Barstable shot . . . best for fowl [and] made of a lead blacker than our common lead.’  But even if it were plausible that Smith’s Tob Bottles could have been fashioned from lead, we would be wise to discount Josselyn’s information.  According to the editors of Colonial Prose and Poetry, Josselyn was “a writer of almost incredible credulity   [and] his credulousness rises almost to genius, as when he tells us that the Indians disputed ‘in perfect hexameter verse.'”  So he could have been dead wrong about even the existence of Barstable shot.

Once I extricated myself from John Josselyn’s writing, I did some more digging and came up with one source — just one — that sugests Bastable Ware as a specific type of earthenware, and right off the bat that’s far more likely than lead.  An estate inventory taken in 1680 in Bristol (the one in England, not the home of ESPN in Connecticut) includes ‘A small parcel of Barstable earthen ware.’  And that’s it.  I can’t tell you whether Bastable and ‘Barstable’ could be the same place, or if either (or both) places should be Barstable (formerly a region in Essex County, now obsolete) or Barnstaple (a town in Devonshire).  Or, I suppose, Barnstable, Massachusetts — but that would take us back to Josselyn’s lead.  Of these options, I’m going with Barnstaple in Devonshire; it’s only about 90 miles southwest of Bristol and just up the River Taw from Bristol Channel (plus it is possibly the oldest borough in the UK).  [Barstaple, for reference, is on the other side of England . . . and Barnstable is on the other side of the Atlantic.]

  • Mary Wiles, Talbot County

one small box to put writing in

I am charmed by boxes that have a specific purpose.

  • Mary Cooper, Talbot County
  • George Collison, Talbot County
  • Thos. Pitchfork, Talbot County
  • Ennion Williams, Talbot County – Additional Inventory
  • John Burroughs, Senior, St. Mary’s County
  • James Bissco, St. Mary’s County

14 ½ yr[d]s. swann skin

I found this entry deeply disturbing until Merriam-Webster assured me that swanskin could be ‘fabric resembling flannel and having a soft nap or surface.’

7 yds. Grnade

I thought this would be fabric with a name derived in some way from Granada but its etymological root seems to be the French word for pomegranate.  Regardless, it is a silk weave ‘characterised by its light, open, gauze-like feel’ and currently most often used for ties.  As The Styleforum Journal assures us, ‘everyone knows original grenadine is produced exclusively in Como, a small town in northern Italy.’  Yes, of course, I definitely knew that.

  • Mr. William Walker, St. Mary’s County
  • John Redman, St. Mary’s County
  • Charles Mills, St. Mary’s County
  • Daniel Broden, St. Mary’s County
  • John Huttson, St. Mary’s County
  • Capt. John Leigh, St. Mary’s County

11 ½ lb of Allum & the box

Another box to hold a specific item.

1 Silver handle Penknife

4 Razors 1 hone 1 strap 1 rule & 1 Whittle

A strap in this context must be a razor strop, but I was not previously aware that Whittle could be a noun as well as a verb.  Wikipedia claims that ‘casual whittling’ is usually performed with a pocket knife, but Capt. Leigh evidently had a knife specifically for the art of whittling.

pr. of small spitracks

Seems straightforward enough, and yet it took me an astonishingly long time to get from Googling ‘spitrack’ to a source I could reference with confidence.

Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 3.01.52 PM.png
The Century Dictionary (‘an encyclopedic lexicon of the English language: prepared under the superintendence of William Dwight Whitney’), published 1889-1891.

2 Dozn. pr. of Knitting needles

That struck me as like rather a lot of knitting needles . . . but upon further review I confess that I may well have just as many.

Just a fraction of my collection.
  • Lawrence Gally, St. Mary’s County
  • Eliz. Williams, St. Mary’s County

a Ladle flesh forks & Slice

From time to time I see a Slice among the kitchen items in an inventory, and I have always visualized something along the lines of an egg slicer — despite knowing that an egg slicer was an unlikely object to find in a colonial kitchen.

OXO Good Grips Egg Slice

Having (finally) done some research, I confess that Elizabeth Williams’s Slice is far more likely to have been a tool for managing her fire (even though it is on the same line as a Ladle and flesh forks, which are easy to recognize as tools that actually come into contact with food).  From all I can discover, a Slice is a type of fire iron called a ‘slice bar,’ which has a flatter tip than the more familiar fire poker.  According to Wiktionary, a slice could also be ‘a spadelike implement, variously proportioned, and used for various purposes, as for stripping the planking from a vessel’s side, for cutting blubber from a whale.’  A tool used to stir the coals of a fire makes much more sense.

I spent a lot of time trying to find a picture of an actual slice bar . . . and could only find lots of pictures of slices of pizza (offered up by niche restaurants that consider themselves ‘slice bars’), plus a few shots of iron pokers but nothing specifically identified as the right kind of fire shovel.  I did get hungry, though.

  • John Sweetman, St. Mary’s County
  • Mary Mullon, St. Mary’s County

1 old Silver bodkin

I am now prepared to admit that up until this minute I have not actually known the definition of a bodkin — I just knew it was something old-fashioned and related to clothing.  I should have known long since that it’s a ‘small, pointed instrument of steel, bone, or ivory, used for piercing holes in cloth, etc.’ — or sometimes, ‘a similar blunt instrument, with an eye, for drawing thread, tape, or ribbon through a loop, hem, etc.’ (both definitions from The Century Dictionary, my new best friend).  But now I am up to speed, and you can be, too (even more so with a quick detour to Historic Jamestowne).

  • Mr. William Stoddert, Prince George’s County
  • Mr. William Marshall, Prince George’s County
  • Nathaniel Chew, Anne Arundel County
  • Mary Chew, Anne Arundel County

One new Silver pepper box, two Do. Saltsellers 1 Do. Watch & chain & Do. new Spoons One new Silver Tankard & Cup

As you would expect, many of the items in Mary’s inventory were appraised earlier in her husband Nathaniel’s (which were taken about 18 months apart, even though Mary died less than 3 months after Nathaniel). These new silver items, however, must have been received after Nathaniel’s death — and likely from Capt. John Hyde & Co., merchants in London, to whom Nathaniel was indebted at the time of his demise.

12 pr. of Pelony Shoes

Well. Searching ‘pelony shoes’ just got me pictures of shoes decorated with peonies.

Image result for pelony shoes
Giuseppe Zanotti

When I tried ‘pelony definition,’ Google offered me ‘polony definition,’ which took me to Merriam-Webster and the third possible definition, an adjective meaning ‘Polish.’  Although I quickly abandoned an effort to determine what could make a pair of shoes distinctively Polish (you try weeding out all the hits about how to polish shoes), this seems to me to be the most likely interpretation. [But if you are dying to know what experts have to say about Poland’s sneaker scene, Highsnobiety would love to share opinions gathered at Sneakerness Warsaw.]

And now I am truly caught up — both with the inventories I have indexed and with Poland’s sneaker scene.