Conference: Retailing and Distribution in the Nineteenth Century

10 September 2019

University of Wolverhampton, UK

Room MH108-9, Mary Seacole (MH) Building, City Campus

INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION

Please scroll down for programme and abstracts.

The fee is £ 20

To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store)

The conference will be held in Room MH108-9, Mary Seacole (MH) Building, Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations and city centre. For maps and directions to the campus please click here

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

Figure 1

Anonymous British watercolour, 19th century, 67.539.314, Purchase, Harry G. Friedman Bequest, 1967. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

PROGRAMME

9.30 – 10.00   Welcome and coffee Room MH108-9, Mary Seacole (MH) Building.

Chair: George Gosling, University of Wolverhampton

10.00 – 10.30   Patricia Lara-Betancourt, Kingston University

Retailing the Modern Home: The Large Furniture and Furnishing Firm in London West End, 1890-1914

10.30 – 11.00   Judith Davies, University of Birmingham

A large family of small shopkeepers: the Wood family of Dudley in the middle decades of the nineteenth century

11.00 – 11.30   Massimiliano Papini, Northumbria University

‘Veritable fairyland’: Mikado Bazaar in Sunderland and the commodification of Japanese culture in the North-East of England, 1873-1903

11.30 – 12.00 Ten minute research spotlight presentations:

  • Nick Gray, University of Wolverhampton

Retail credit in the late nineteenth century: the case of Hall and Spindler of Leamington Spa

  • Lorenzo Avellino, University of Geneva

Discipline of Trade, Discipline of Work: Embezzling and Middlemen in the Silk Fabrics of Lombardy (1800-1810)

12.00 – 13.00   Lunch

Chair: Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton

13.00 – 13.30 Johanna Wassholm and Anna Sundelin, Åbo Akademi University

Practices and morality in the late nineteenth century human hair trade. Finland as part of transnational flows of goods

13.30 – 14.00  James Inglis, The University of St Andrews & National Museums Scotland

‘A Machine to Supersede the Pen?’ Typewriter Retail in Scotland, 1875 to 1900

14.00 – 14.30  Simon Constantine, University of Wolverhampton

Licensing Itinerant trade and the fight against ‘Gypsies’ in Germany (1871-1914)

14.30 – 15.00  Ruth Macdonald, Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Retail therapy? The role of trade in Salvation Army rescue work for women

15.00 – 15.30   Coffee

Chair: Laura Ugolini, University of Wolverhampton

15.30 – 16.00  Lesley Steinitz, University of Cambridge

Creating a national brand: advertising Dr Tibbles Vi-Cocoa to consumers and retailers

16.00 – 16.30   Nicholas Alexander, Lancaster University, Anne Marie Doherty, University of Strathclyde, James Cronin, Lancaster University

Market-Mediated Authenticity and the Emergence of Modern Branding Practices: Liberty of London, 1875-1900

ABSTRACTS

Figure 4

Camille Pissarro, The Market at Gisors: Rue Cappeville, 1894-5, 39.102.1, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

Nicholas Alexander, Lancaster University, Anne Marie Doherty, University of Strathclyde, James Cronin, Lancaster University

Market-Mediated Authenticity and the Emergence of Modern Branding Practices: Liberty of London, 1875-1900

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, an increasingly consumerized market environment, encouraged firms to pay greater attention to the marketing of their goods and the development of modern branding practices. However, in the literature, the development of these branding practices has remained somewhat obscured by the assertion that brands conform to general characteristics within historical periods (Moore and Reid, 2008). However, as Mercer (2010: 18) notes: “such an argument overlooks nuances and shifts in the types of brands and branding employed over time.”  This paper is concerned with understanding these nuances and the historical instantiation of brand building activities. In order to achieve this, we consider the role of the retailer Liberty of London at the emergence of modern branding practices. In particular, we focus on Liberty’s success engaging emergent middle class consumers with its distinctive design values associated with the exoticism of the Orient at a crucial stage in the development of mass consumer culture. Arthur Lasenby Liberty commercially activated the elitist aestheticism of mid-nineteenth century England associated with such as Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris by articulating a vision of market-mediated authenticity. In 1875, Liberty opened his first store in Regent Street and over the next quarter of a century became a major influence on consumer taste. Our findings show that Liberty’s branding practices were encountered at three levels: first, through authoritative advocacy and allegorical encounters within a wide socio-cultural sphere; secondly, through augmented admission and experiential engagement within an iconic retail setting; thirdly, through symbolic substantiation within the consumer’s social and domestic space. We conclude by proposing that this process of brand building, through market-mediated authentication, was linked intrinsically to consumers’ associated experiential imagining within an iconic retail space. Further, we propose the firm’s exploitation of territorial legitimacy to underpin brand validity was a precursor to a wider commercial exploitation of iconic venues of consumption that became increasing evident in the early years of the next century.

References:

Moore, Karl and Susan Reid (2008) “The birth of brand: 4000 years of branding”, Business History, 50:4, 419-432.

Mercer, John (2010) “A mark of distinction: Branding and trade mark law in the UK from the 1860s”, Business History, 52:1, 17-42.

Lorenzo Avellino, University of Geneva

Discipline of Trade, Discipline of Work: Embezzling and Middlemen in the Silk Fabrics of Lombardy (1800-1810)

The Napoleonic years were troubled and transitional times for the silk fabrics of Lombardy. When the French arrived the old corporatist structure had already collapsed, and this spread confusion and uncertainty among masters, workers and merchant-manufacturers.  In trading circles many complained that the very roles of production had been overturned. The worker “promotes himself as head of the fabric and works at home like a Master,”[1] whereas masters converted to becoming “false manufacturers”[2]. Indeed the latter took advantage of yarn’s cyclical price crashes to get directly in the fabric selling business. Because of these changes, an informal silk market rapidly emerged, with stolen or second-hand goods being traded within the widening cracks and crevices of official transactions.

The goal of this presentation is to consider how work discipline and trade discipline intertwined, from the angle of a specific and situated practice: embezzlement. The relationship between repression of embezzlement and the affirmation of the factory system continue to fuel an old historiographical debate[3]. I wish to argue that, for the Lombard authorities of the time, theft within fabrics was not so much a problem of surveillance of the work space. Rather, the problem stemmed from trading spaces. Firstly, supporting my claim with theft cases documented in the criminal archives and in reports of the Chamber of Commerce, I account for the stolen goods fencing networks. Indeed, I show that the documented thefts are not specifically linked to home working. Furthermore, from the analysis of exchanges between the Chamber of Commerce and the political authorities, I demonstrate that it is through the control of the market that it was attempted – unsuccessfully – to eradicate embezzlement. In particular I will analyse the endeavour in 1813 to regulate the status of professional sensale (middlemen).

A well-policed trading space would hence appear to be a prerequisite for a well-ordered work space.

[1] Archivio di stato di Como, Camera di commercio, 22, Letter from the Coma Chamber of Commerce to the Regio Magistrato Politico Camerale, 17.07.1794

[2] Archivio di stato di Como, Pefettura, 912, Letter from the Coma Chamber of Commerce to the Prefet of Lario, 16.11.1810

[3] Stephen A. Marglin, « What Do Bosses Do?: The Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production », Review of Radical Political Economics, 1 juillet 1974, vol. 6, no 2, p.80-83. John Styles, « Embezzlement, industry and the law in England, 1500–1800 » dans Maxine Berg, Pat Hudson et Michael Sonenscher (eds.), Manufacture in town and country before the factory, Cambridge University Press., s.l., 1983, p. 190-192. Barry Godfrey, ‘Law, factory discipline and “theft”: the Impact of the Factory on Workplace Appropriation in Mid to Late Nineteenth-Century Yorkshire’, The British Journal of Criminology, 1999, vol. 39, no 1, p. 56‑71.

Simon Constantine, University of Wolverhampton

Licensing Itinerant trade and the fight against ‘Gypsies’ in Germany (1871-1914)

In the Second Empire a hostile ‘Gypsy’ policy emerged predicated on the assumption that itinerant Romani served no useful economic function. In fact, although suspicion towards them was widespread and deep-set, itinerant Romani continued to meet a variety of local economic and social needs. Some were horse dealers, others were tinkers or entertainers, and many communities across Germany valued or at least tolerated their periodic arrival. But the positive economic contribution made by traveling Romani was never recognised by officialdom, who viewed them simply as parasites and criminals.

Anti-Gypsy policy had two central aims: to prevent foreign Romani from entering German territory, and to coerce itinerant Romani with German citizenship into adopting a sedentary lifestyle. This paper addresses an important component of this policy, namely the way the regulations governing itinerant trade set out in Germany’s Commercial Code were used to deny Romani travellers the legal right to practice their livelihoods.  Directives issued to police and officials called for license applications from ‘Gypsies’ to be refused wherever possible, removing the discretionary element to regulation which the law in many cases in fact permitted.

As one might expect, this targeted, discriminatory use of what became an increasingly harsh licensing regime accelerated the social and economic marginalization of the Romani. It criminalized their working practices and led to their impoverishment, leaving them more vulnerable to vagrancy and begging charges, and to the imposition of compulsory care orders for their children.  By the end of the Empire there is no doubt that it had coerced many of them into a more sedentary, urban existence. In the long term, policy in this period, and during the Weimar Republic which followed, cemented the Romani’s status as social outsiders and thus helped to pave the way for the more radical and brutal treatment they would face under the Nazis.

Judith Davies, University of Birmingham

A large family of small shopkeepers: the Wood family of Dudley in the middle decades of the nineteenth century

This paper is based on detailed research into the shifting power structure in mid-nineteenth-century Dudley. It notes that a political upheaval took place in the 1830s which saw many shopkeepers starting to wield political influence for the first time. The radical politician, Richard Cobden, saw the emergence of a ‘shopocracy’ as a critical development, particularly in cities such as Manchester. The growth in the power and confidence of a class of shopkeepers in Dudley has been largely ignored by existing histories of the town. Although this class generally fell below the urban ‘elites’ as identified by Richard Trainor, the divisions were nebulous with some wealthier and more ambitious shopkeepers managing to join those elites.

The Wood family is used as an exemplar of some of the important changes that were taking place in Dudley. A few individual family members are occasionally mentioned in general histories of the town, but there has been no previous study of the family as a whole. However, for a time in the mid-nineteenth century, six brothers and their brother-in-law had at least one shop each in Dudley town centre. They were: drapers; clothiers; grocers; wine and spirit merchants; a tobacconist; a pawnbroker and a dealer in plate, with some of their shops flourishing for decades.

Like other Black Country towns, Dudley was riven by political and religious tensions in the 1830s, 40s and 50s. Three of the Wood brothers featured prominently in these controversies and other family members were affected by changes in the social mores of the day. Nor could the family escape the most salient feature of mid-nineteenth-century Dudley; its life-expectancy being the lowest in the country. Not only did this cause personal tragedies but the loss of key individuals undermined small family businesses. This paper looks at the comparative success of the seven shopkeepers. Ultimately, none of their families lost status, most of them improved their economic and social standing and the three brothers who were most active in politics and community affairs did particularly well.

This paper raises many questions that are important to retail history, especially concerning the role of small shopkeepers; their family networks; the move away from living over the shop; the part played by women, particularly widows, and how shopkeepers improved their political, economic and social status.

Nick Gray, University of Wolverhampton

Retail credit in the late nineteenth century: the case of Hall and Spindler of Leamington Spa

The economic and social aspects of retail credit in the nineteenth have received little attention in their own right. This paper outlines early steps in a project that begins to address this gap by focussing on the use of credit in the buying and selling of clothing and fabrics in an English provincial towns. The research will address credit from both retailers’ and customers’ viewpoints, and will provide insight into the types of credit given by retailers; how credit-related risk influenced their businesses practices; the types of goods and services that people bought on credit; how access to credit varied between people from different social classes, and between male and female consumers; and the extent to which personal relations featured in credit trading.

The paper argues that, although limited numbers of nineteenth century credit trading records have survived, and they can be difficult to interpret, there are some that are of sufficient quality to use as valuable resources. It presents early findings, based on records from the firm of Hall and Spindler, a tailor and outfitter in Leamington Spa, for which a continuous set of customer accounts are extant for the period 1878 to 1896. As well as evidence that can be derived directly from the account books themselves, understanding has been gained from using them in combination with newspaper advertisements, directories, and the decennial censuses.

James Inglis, The University of St Andrews & National Museums Scotland

‘A Machine to Supersede the Pen?’ Typewriter Retail in Scotland, 1875 to 1900

On Thursday, April 27th, 1876 the Glasgow Herald published an article describing:

A new “type writer” which will enable any one possessing a knowledge of spelling to express his ideas on paper in far less time than he can be taught the ordinary process of writing, and to express them, too, in more distinct characters, and in the end, in about half the time.

The machine described was the Sholes & Glidden ‘Type-Writer’, developed by American gun and sewing machine manufacturers E. Remington and Sons in 1874. Typewriters first arrived on the Scottish market in 1875 and by the end of 1876, newspaper advertisements around the country were promoting the typewriter as the machine to ‘supersede the pen’. Despite the initial hype, the following ten years saw slow growth in typewriter sales across Scotland. Early retailers did not specialise in selling typewriters. Instead they were agents for a whole range of consumer durable goods, such as sewing machines, knitting machines, bicycles, guns and automatic cashiers, many of which were imported from America.

It was not until 1888 that the first dedicated typewriter retailer was set up in Scotland, Charles H Barclay’s Remington Typewriter Agency for Glasgow. From this point there was a huge expansion in typewriter retailers. Between 1889 and 1899 the number of typewriter retailers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen rocketed from six to thirty-seven.

This paper will discuss the development of typewriter retail in Scotland from its humble beginnings in the mid 1870s to the rapid growth of the 1890s. Original research into the Scottish Post Office directories will provide a detailed account of the growth in typewriter retailers annually. These directories also have an abundance of advertising which sheds light on the early marketing efforts of retailers. In addition, this paper will incorporate recent research on typewriters in use and on display in late 19th century Scotland. This includes typewriter showrooms as well as temporary exhibits set up by retailers at the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1886 and the Glasgow Exhibition of 1888. Advertisements, showrooms and exhibits played an indispensable role in educating the public in the use of the new machines by promoting the typewriter as the essential tool for every manner of writing.

Patricia Lara-Betancourt, Kingston University

Retailing the Modern Home: The Large Furniture and Furnishing Firm in London West End, 1890-1914

In the late Victorian period, Britain, and London in particular, had some of the largest and most successful shops and department stores in the world producing and selling domestic furniture and furnishings to an ever expanding national and international middle-class clientele. Within the context of Britain’s expanding global trade, this paper examines the way general developments in retailing -particularly the years 1890 to 1914- affected and changed the production and retailing of furniture and furnishings. It highlights the importance and strength of this industry and its cultural significance in the creation and shaping of a culture of consumption centred on the home. The paper discusses the success of the large furniture and furnishing firm in terms of its adoption of modern business methods, the increasing number and size of its shops, factories and depositories, and the large and growing range of its goods, departments and services. Being by definition a retail concern, most significant is perhaps the domination that the large furnishing house exercised over the production not just of furniture but of the myriad of goods required in the equipment of the home.

The paper describes the growth and expansion of an important group of firms catering for the middle class, including Shoolbred, Maple, Heal, Oetzmann, Whiteley and Waring & Gillow. These large businesses, which were effectively department stores, operated within an industrial capitalist system incorporating developments in transport, communications, literacy and advertising, and adopting modern business methods. Economies of scale, modern advertising and display techniques were some of the core strategies fuelling investment and growth. Usually from modest beginnings as a one-shop affair selling soft furnishings, businesses grew to encompass hard furnishings and a wide range of goods, departments and services operating from one or more branches (national and international) and requiring the separation of manufacturing and warehouse facilities from retailing functions and showrooms.

Ruth Macdonald, Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Retail therapy? The role of trade in Salvation Army rescue work for women

Perhaps unusually for a Christian denomination, retail has been integral to the work of The Salvation Army from its earliest days. Despite concerns from within and without that mercantile operations were ‘spiritually injurious’, the organisation embraced trade in the 1880s as a means of sustaining and expanding its activities (and, thereby, its spiritual reach). Having control over its own trading operations, which in many cases extended to in-house manufacture of the goods for sale, also meant that The Salvation Army could embed its own ethos in every part of the chain of supply and distribution.

Recent scholarship reflects the diversity of The Salvation Army’s retail operations, with new and forthcoming work including investigations into the history of its musical instrument manufacturing and sales operations, its nineteenth century ‘salvage stores’ as precursors to modern charity shops, and the social marketing of its ‘Lights in Darkest England’ safety matches. This paper, however, will focus on the ways in which retail and distribution came to be central to The Salvation Army’s rescue work for women in the UK.

The Salvation Army began opening rescue homes for ‘fallen’ women in 1883. These homes sought to reform the lives of the ‘fallen’ by providing training that would enable them to support themselves in societally acceptable occupations. Although the occupation into which most rescued women ultimately went was domestic service, each rescue home had a particular specialist industry that residents would undertake during their stay. This industry was supposed to finance the home’s work and make it self-sufficient.

Using sources from the Salvation Army archives, this paper will discuss the industries that were undertaken in the homes and explore what is known about their products’ distribution and sale, which was achieved through a variety of channels including shops, mail order, in-house sales of work, and pedlars.

Massimiliano Papini, Northumbria University

‘Veritable fairyland’: Mikado Bazaar in Sunderland and the commodification of Japanese culture in the North-East of England, 1873-1903

Following the reopening of Japan in 1854, after more than two centuries of self-imposed isolation, many countries in Europe and America were hit by a great wave of interest in Japanese things, especially avant-garde artists and designers, but also art collectors and aesthetes. In Britain, the Cult of Japan quickly reached even peripheral regions such as the North East also thanks to the diplomatic missions organized by the Japanese government that paid a visit to Newcastle and other locations in 1862 and 1872 (Conte-Helm, 1989). Consequently, the Imperial Japanese Navy started to order warships from the local shipyards. Furthermore, in 1898, Waynman Dixon was appointed the honorary consul in Middlesbrough by the Japanese government in order to facilitate the iron trade from the North East to Japan. On the other hand, Japanese products such as silk, green tea, and other commodities started to be massively exported to the North East since 1859, followed by manufactured articles such as ceramics, lacquerware, etc. This commodified vision of Japan became even more diffused in the 1880s when the Japanmania entered the popular culture due to the huge success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta The Mikado (1885).

Drawing upon newspaper articles and archival documents, this paper examines the Mikado Bazaar in Sunderland, one of the departments in the shop owned by Alexander Corder (1831-1924). Focusing exclusively on his business in Japanese articles such as ceramics, lacquerware, folding screens, fans, paintings, etc., I will discuss the commercial relationship between Corder and Arthur Lasenby Liberty (1843-1917), who is generally considered one of the main promoters of Japanese cultural products among middle-class consumers. Liberty’s agents in East Asia were probably the channels used by Corder to access the aforementioned articles. This commercial relationship sheds light on the crucial role played by peripheral shop owners concerning the diffusion of the Japanmania in the UK.

Moreover, according to local newspapers articles, Corder arranged the Mikado Bazaar as a “veritable fairyland”, highly praised by the contemporaries as one of the finest show out of London. The apparent oxymoron between “veritable” and “fairyland” reveals how Corder relied on the feeling of escapism promising the customers to make them tourists en place in an idealised Japan. This reassuring image of Japan as a place where you could recover from everyday anxieties was partly an answer to the frenetic late-Victorian period.

Lesley Steinitz, University of Cambridge

Creating a national brand: advertising Dr Tibbles Vi-Cocoa to consumers and retailers

The food business changed in the late nineteenth century. Generic and local foodstuffs were gradually usurped by mass-manufactured brands that were being advertised and distributed nationally and internationally. One now defunct brand, Dr. Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa, disrupted the relatively stable and mature cocoa market. In 1898, it forged its way to become the nation’s favourite cocoa, just 30 months after the product’s national launch, overtaking even Cadbury’s and Van Houten’s Cocoas.

I argue that Vi-Cocoa’s rapid success can, in part, be attributed to the company’s spectacularly effective consumer advertising which hooked into widespread cultural concerns about the pressures of work and physical and nervous health, and reflected a strong mutually-supportive self-help spirit among the better off working classes. However, there was another factor. People could only buy Vi-Cocoa if their grocer or chemist stocked it.

This paper examines how the Vi-Cocoa company forged a strong relationship with thousands of retailers as well as with end consumers. This culminated not only in grocers and chemists stocking Vi-Cocoa and promoting it to their customers, but also with many of them investing in shares in the fledgling company. This, again, was achieved through innovative advertising in the trade and provincial press, which was ostensibly designed to meet the retailers’ best interests, protect their profit margins, and support their sales through local advertising. The effectiveness of the Vi-Cocoa advertising was not a matter of just flair and good luck, as had been the case for example in the famous Millais “Bubbles” painting used to promote Pears’ Soap.

The Vi-Cocoa company was, unusually, led by one of London’s leading professional advertising agents, Thomas Smith. This venture provided a rare opportunity, therefore, to apply the latest advertising thinking, without the usual restrictions imposed by a nervous client on an advertising agent. Accordingly, this is a case study in “best practice” advertising, and demonstrates the sophistication of business methods, even during the 1890s when professional advertising was in its infancy, in the creation of a national brand.

Johanna Wassholm and Anna Sundelin, Åbo Akademi University

Practices and morality in the late nineteenth century human hair trade. Finland as part of transnational flows of goods

This paper examines the trade in human hair in Finland, which from 1809 was an autonomous Grand Duchy within the multinational Russian Empire. In similarity to other regions in Europe and North America, the demand for human hair as an impersonal commodity increased in Finland around the year 1870. The Finnish newspapers report that itinerant pedlars from Russian Karelia (so called “Rucksack Russians”) female hair artists from the region of Dalarna in Sweden (hårkullor) and peddling Finnish and Swedish Jews, among others, roamed the countryside and town fairs in search for human hair.

Based on theories on trading practices, gender and transnational flows of goods, the main aim of this paper is to discuss how and why trade in human hair was carried out in Finland in the late nineteenth century.  The paper examines the activities of the buyers and sellers, the various roles of hair in petty trade and the practices that surrounded the trade. Furthermore, I discuss the cultural and religious values associated with human hair and how such notions become visible in the sources. The analysis is based on contemporary newspaper articles and ethnographical sources.

The paper illuminates the multifaceted role of petty trade in the late nineteenth century society. Previous studies within the field of the history of consumption have suggested that petty trade in general was flexible and that those involved in the trade could easily react to changes in demand and supply.  By demonstrating how hair purchased in Finland was part of both national and transnational flows of goods, the paper also shows that hair traded in Finland in the end of the nineteenth century was part of a European fashion market.  While recent scholarship (e.g. Emma Tarlo, Susan J. Vincent, Helen Sheumaker and Nicole Tidemann) has shown an interest in the history of hair, neither the encounters between buyers and those who sold their hair nor the flows of human hair have so far received major scholarly attention.  Therefore, this paper contributes to the current research on human hair trade as an impersonal commodity.

Figure 3

Utagawa Yoshitora, Snow at an Early Morning Market , 1861, 2007.49.187, Bequest of William S. Lieberman, 2005. Courtesy of https://www.metmuseum.org

 

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