2017 Conference blogs – A world of goods?

Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University

A world of goods?

In the context of Brexit, the question of Britain’s trading relations and its place in the world are being thrown into sharp relief. Arguments for looking beyond Europe and repositioning Britain in a global economy link back to earlier attempts to promote a global economy shaped by Empire. This was especially strong in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but its roots run deep. Historians of eighteenth-century consumption, for instance, place much emphasis on the transformative impact of a whole range of colonial goods, from tea and sugar to calicoes and indigo. Some, like Troy Bickham and Jonathan Eacott go further and argue for Empire as a kind of ‘super-brand’ that shaped the worldview of ordinary people. Whilst persuasive in many respects, these arguments need to be challenged and tested against the continued importance of Europe in cultures of consumption during the long eighteenth century.

One way of exploring these relationships in a way that links us to the everyday lives of shopkeepers and consumers is to examine the names given to products, especially where those names include geographical locations: things like Jamaica pepper and Indian cottons, but also West Country woollens and Italian vermicelli. If we analyse these place-name associations as they appear in lists of shop goods, newspaper advertisements and the accounts of individual consumers, then it quickly becomes apparent that colonial place-names were increasingly deployed, especially with reference to groceries. Looking west, we see, amongst others: Jamaica pepper, coffee, sugar and ginger; Barbados sugar, tar and alloes, Martinique coffee, and Havana snuff, plus Virginia tobacco and pepper, American powder (i.e. snuff), and Carolina indigo and rice. Turning to the east, there was Sumatra pepper and bark, Indian soy, arrowroot, cottons and muslins, Bengals and Jaconets, East Indian ginger, rhubarb and rice, and Japan soy. This formed an impressive array of places that mapped both the expanding geography of empire and the influence of the East India Company as a monopolistic trader in many of the goods imported from the east. However, this list is easily out-numbered by references to a greater variety of places in Britain and Europe. The list is too long to reproduce in full, but included: Cheshire cheese, Norwich crapes, Coventry stuffs, Manchester tapes and cottons, London treacle, Kentish hops, Irish linen, Dutch serge and thread, French gauze, olives and salt, Savoy biscuits, Saxon cloth, Malaga grapes and Valencia shawls, Zante currants (from Greece), Genoan velvet, Florentine oil and silk, Roman capers and Parmesan cheese.

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Figure 1. Liverpool Mercury, 11 February 1820

From this, it is clear that shopkeepers and their customers were European as much as imperial in their mindset, the two sometimes appearing alongside each other on a single advertisement (Figure 1). This is underlined by the way that some colonial products which were processed in Europe gathered geographical associations along the way: Scotch snuff, for example, or Lisbon sugar. The association of snuff with Scotland became very strong, despite the ultimate source of the tobacco. In a remarkable trade card issued by the Robert Kitten, we see tea embodied by a Chinese man – a common trope by the late eighteenth century – and tobacco by a kilted Scotsman smoking a fashionable cigar (Figure 2). It seems doubtful that the customer was meant to see smoking as something Scottish, but the link between product and place was clear and carried meaning, not least in terms of the qualities of the product being sold. Lisbon sugar was a distinct type with particular material qualities. In contemporary recipes, it is often specified by name, the author assuming that the reader will understand exactly what the label signifies and that the reader will have a store of this particular commodity.

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Figure 2. Trade card of Robert Kitton of Norwich, early 19th century

Other colonial goods were usurped by British imitations, most famously the range of printed cottons produced in ever greater quantities in and around Manchester. These didn’t just replicate the products, they sometimes took on the same name, so we see advertisements like that places in the Bristol Mercury in 1822 announcing: ‘From the Manchester and Yorkshire Markets. Several Bales of Cambric, Jacconet, Nainsook, Corded, Checked and every other description of Muslins’.

Cook books show that consumers were interested in experimenting with new and exotic dishes such as curries and piccalilli, and confections linked to colonial places, including Carolina snow balls (rice and apple shaped into balls and boiled, and served with sweet sauce made with butter and white wine, flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon). Whilst these are eye catching, far more recipes were linked to European places, with dishes in the Dutch, German, Spanish and French manner all featuring in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery as it ran through successive editions. Indeed, she included more recipes ‘in the Jew’s way’ than those associated with India. Together with the growing taste for Italian food – seen in the burgeoning number of Italian warehouses and the quantities of Italian groceries purchased by consumers such as the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire – this suggests a consumer culture that remained European in its focus.

This is not to deny the importance of colonial goods – they undoubtedly had a big impact on consumer culture in Britain and across Europe. However, we should be careful about assuming that, in buying colonial goods, people bought into the imperial project or even gave it much thought. From the evidence of the places explicitly linked to the things that they bought, they had Cheshire, Manchester and Italy on their mind just as much as Carolina, Jamaica or India.

Jon Stobart’s article on ‘Making the global local? Overseas goods in English rural shops, c.1600-1760’, published by Business History, is available here:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00076791.2017.1293040

 

 

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7 September 2017 – CHORD Conference – Retailing and Distribution in the Seventeenth Century

7 September 2017

University of Wolverhampton

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Trade Card of Samuel Spencer, Furniture Maker, late 17th/early 18th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 47.71.3, Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 1925. Image courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org/

Programme

10.00 – 10.30     Coffee and welcome

10.30 – 11.00     Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield, UK

Bristol’s first tawny age: the tobacco trade to Bristol in the seventeenth century

11.00 – 11.30     Tom Rusbridge, University of Birmingham, UK

Innovations in Tanning in Early Modern Britain and Europe

11.30 – 12.00   Glynis Hughs, independent researcher, UK

‘What Do You Lack?’ The Role of the Itinerant Trader in Seventeenth Century England

12.00 – 12.30   Jessica Cunningham, Maynooth University, Co Kildare, Ireland

‘Establishing excellence and consumer confidence: Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild in the seventeenth century’

12.30 – 13.30     Lunch

13.30 – 14.00     Laurie Lindey, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, UK

The London furniture trade, 1640-1720

14.00 – 14.30     Evana Downes, University of Kent, UK

Balancing the urban ‘stomach’: the impact of regulation on London’s food vendors

14.30 – 14.50     Mabel Winter, University of Sheffield, UK

The Case of Thompson & Company: commerce, banking, and politics in the late seventeenth century

14.50 – 15.30   Coffee

15.30 – 16.00 Sébastien Pautet, University Paris Diderot (Paris VII), France

Make It Come True. Far East Product Imitations in Parisian Shops at the End of the Seventeenth Century

16.00 – 16.30     Charlie Taverner, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Marginal no more: selling food on the street in seventeenth-century London

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Information

 The conference will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For maps and directions, please see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/contacts-and-maps/all-maps-and-directions/map-and-directions-for-city-campus-wolverhampton/

The fee is £ 22

To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store, at http://www.estore.wlv.ac.uk/)

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

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Abstracts

Jessica Cunningham, Maynooth University, Co Kildare, Ireland

‘Establishing excellence and consumer confidence: Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild in the seventeenth century’

This twenty-minute paper will explore the development of Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild over the course of the seventeenth century as it transformed itself from a small, unregulated organisation into a large incorporated company sanctioned with the authority to regulate the production and retail of silver, gold and jewellery throughout Ireland.

The paper will examine the motivations of the early-seventeenth century goldsmiths in Dublin who consciously strove to establish excellence and autonomy in the manufacture of Irish silver. It will analyse the demographic diversity of the guild and how this impacted on the transformation of Dublin’s goldsmiths in this period. Furthermore, it will demonstrate how these goldsmiths – Irish, English, Dutch, French, German – drew on contemporary European guild practices in their vision for Dublin’s guild and the craft in Ireland. Ultimately, as it will be shown, the desire by Irish consumers for material authentication generated this decisive shift in seventeenth-century Dublin.

In addition, this paper will identify from the documentary and object evidence the methods employed by the organisation throughout the century in regulating the metalworking craft in Ireland and will evaluate whether its aims were realised or merely aspirational.

This paper’s findings, drawn on recent doctoral research, will illuminate new avenues of primary investigation and analysis into a luxury craft in seventeenth-century Ireland.

Evana Downes, University of Kent, UK

Balancing the urban ‘stomach’: the impact of regulation on London’s food vendors

Early modern vending and market regulations indicate that food vendors occupied a central role in urban hierarchies. Their practices and wares contributed not only to the continued health and stability of the individual body, but the urban body as a whole. By influencing urban diets, victuallers could help reinforce social status, positive social behaviour, and general health. By maintaining a steady supply of food (particularly during periods of dearth), and distributing it honestly, they could contribute to social stability. The activities and movements of some food vendors could also shape the urban landscape, contributing to the prosperity of some spaces, while potentially polluting others.

From the 1500s, the English Crown and Corporation of London began to emphasise the need to maintain and protect urban public health. This concern grew as the sixteenth century progressed, advancing into the seventeenth. Though ostensibly formulated to curb the spread of disease, legislation concerned with public health increasingly equated the wellbeing of the individual body to that of the body politic. As a result, early public health laws in England were tinged with a moral aspect, pitting the danger of biological contagion alongside that of social pollution.

While the effect of public health regulation on physicians and other health-workers has been well-researched, less has been written about how shifting concepts of medicine and public health impacted upon the working lives of other occupational groups. Less still has been written about the lot of London’s food vendors, whose production and distribution of nourishment to civic populations had been monitored by local authorities since the Middle Ages. This paper will discuss aspects of a new project that aims to address this gap in research. Using sources such as The Lawes of the Markette (updated throughout the seventeenth century) and sessions books and papers, it will investigate ways in which new and adapted market and vending regulations reflected and affected the experiences of victuallers in seventeenth century London. It will focus particularly on how diverse groups of victuallers – through their physical presence, occupational practices, and wares – were thought capable of negatively affecting the health of other civic members. Finally, it will consider the implications of these associations, with reference to how victualling groups were integrated into – or kept to the margins of – London’s urban hierarchy.

Glynis Hughs, independent researcher, UK

‘What Do You Lack?’ The Role of the Itinerant Trader in Seventeenth Century England

The seventeenth century itinerant trader was an elusive character, in spite of the attempts by state, local authorities or even literature to make them to conform to a narrative, they refused to comply.

Often depicted in picaresque literature and cheap print as a source for spreading immorality and criminality, they were accused of destroying the financial stability of the towns and cities and acting as a threat to local trades and companies. State legislation and civic records paint the itinerant trader as a social pariah, detrimental to all society and liable to punishment and repatriation, and frequently, such as in John Ivie’s account of the administration of Poor Relief in Salisbury, seen as a danger to the wellbeing of the settled poor. However, examination of local records such as the Salisbury Constable’s Book and the Manchester Constable’s Accounts show a different image, and in many cases the itinerant trader was not only tolerated but also provided a necessary service to the poorest in the community.

Historians have most often placed the itinerant trader within a history of Vagrancy, using such terms as “unsettled, “outcast” or even “masterless”.   However, work by Margaret Spufford has called this view into question, demonstrating through the use of wills and inventories that the role of the pedlar or petty chapman often provided a necessary service to rural communities and also acted as a bridge between the local population and the gentry. Those who left wills and inventories were likely to be licenced peddlers rather than itinerants.

In examining the entries in Hall Books, Constable Books and Quarter Sessions records, I intend to demonstrate that many itinerant traders also exhibited a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial skills. Far from being “victims of circumstance” or simply adding to the “economy of makeshifts” I consider that they added a vital component to the nascent consumer society and their presence allowed all levels of society access to the pleasures of consumption.

Laurie Lindey, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, UK

The London furniture trade, 1640-1720

This paper examines the London furniture trade in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a period which witnessed dramatic transformations in the designs, styles and construction of English furniture. While this topic has been addressed in detail in terms of object-based analyses, it has never been examined from a social, economic and cultural perspective.

Given that this presentation is limited to twenty minutes, the following topics will be briefly discussed. The paper begins with the evolution of decorative design in England in the early modern period and the effects of burgeoning consumerism. It then defines the various types of specialised artisans and craftsmen who produced new forms and styles of furniture, and the ways in which the chain of production was structured. Thereafter we identify where London furniture makers were situated. Where was furniture manufactured and where was it sold? Were particular types of furniture sold in specific areas of the metropolis? This paper identifies the geographical location of the trade in the City of London and its spread into the fashionable West End. Finally we are introduced to two London furniture makers: we discover what a Covent Garden cabinetmaker in the post Restoration period manufactured and retailed, and who his clients were, and then we explore the workshop and manufacturing network of a caned chair maker in St. Paul’s Churchyard at the close of the seventeenth century.

Sébastien Pautet, University Paris Diderot (Paris VII), France

Make It Come True. Far East Product Imitations in Parisian Shops at the End of the Seventeenth Century

The ‘Taste for China’ is probably one the most surprising and durable fashion phenomenon of the Ancien Régime. The installation of European Jesuits and merchants in China during the 17th century, the stabilization of commercial connexions between Europe and the Far-East and the great embassies between Asian and European monarchies stimulated a great consumption of Asian luxuries.

Nevertheless, the Taste for China was not only based on Asian products. Craftsmen and manufacturers have tried to produce locally some global luxuries imported from the other side of the world. Imitations and hybrids from China or Japan were encouraged by the authorities and by commercial networks (Berg, 2015). While many historians of consumption and economics have raised the interest for Asian trades and its impacts on European consumption (Berg, 2005, 2015; Coquery, 2008, 2009), the question of Asian products is now central to scholarly investigations on technology as well (Riello, Parthasarathi, 2009), and historians have emphasized the question of ‘imitation’ in the process of product innovation (Berg, 2002).

This talk aims to understand the question of imitation and invention in a global context from a technical point of view. I will focus on products sold in Parisian shops and on imitations of Chinese and Japanese products in order to understand the construction of a market for fake Asian products at the end of the seventeenth century, and its impacts on both technical and commercial cultures.

Tom Rusbridge, University of Birmingham, UK

Innovations in Tanning in Early Modern Britain and Europe

The seventeenth century in Britain marked an important crucible in which the fundamentally medieval industry of tanning – taking raw animal hides and using a series of processes and botanical materials to create leather – underwent highly significant change. On the one hand, such innovations were driven by the invention of local tanners who responded to environmental changes to generate new methods of manufacturing leather, and on the other by the outward investigation and reporting of those who travelled to Europe to observe the practices of tanners in France, Germany and Denmark, among other countries. Both ‘home-grown’ innovations and those based on foreign observation were underpinned by quotidian and domestic responses to change materials, craft and manufacture, especially as an increasing range of types of leather were released into the consumer space.

This paper will examine documentary evidence of changing tanning practices through tanning manuals and reports and assess how they represented multiple types of innovation within a single framework of understanding, as early as 1583. It responds to the conference themes by analysing new and unique methods of craft and manufacture with the context Britain’s seventeenth century and its relationship with Europe, and contextualises these developments within the print culture, trades, industry and intellectual interest which were at once both motivations for their development and vehicles through which these changes were communicated to a public audience. Ultimately, it shall argue that seventeenth century innovations in tanning had long-standing impacts for British manufactures and crafts, and seeks to undermine the notion that such innovation was confined to the eighteenth century and rise of mechanized production.

Charlie Taverner, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Marginal no more: selling food on the street in seventeenth-century London

Lower and middling Londoners relied on informal retail for their food, but the practicalities and personalities of small-scale selling in the early modern city have been hard to recover. Most histories have marginalised urban hawkers, who traded on the move, beyond fixed sites like markets and shops. Work on women’s labour, poverty, and the growing metropolis has also sketched these figures as poor nuisances, selling awful food and switching between several badly paid jobs. Recently historians have begun to suggest hawkers, across Europe, could be substantial retailers and a force in a city’s society and economy, in which the informal sector, for food especially, was substantial. This paper proposes a methodology and theoretical approach for writing focused accounts of selling food on the street in early modern London. It shows how historians can use a broader set of sources, which break away from the reliance on judicial material – which typically shows hawkers in trouble – and representations – in which they are idealised as picturesque or comical. Using sources ranging from samples of ward records to incidental mentions in depositions, it is possible to show a fuller picture of the hawking experience. The paper also shows how considering space, as an approach, can open up our understanding of these hard-to-get-to retailers. Rather than focus on preconceived themes, a historical narrative can follow street sellers through the spaces of their day, starting with their home and closing with when they were lifted from life into art. Also, their place of work, the street, set them apart from other traders. Hawkers both contributed to and were impacted by the space’s materiality, with its traffic, noise and smell, and its conception, in the minds of Londoners. I argue that, by examining hawkers in the spaces in which they worked, we can see more clearly how they were central to the city’s food supply and retail landscape. More than that, they were central to changing ideas of metropolitan life.

 Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield, UK

Bristol’s first tawny age: the tobacco trade to Bristol in the seventeenth century

This paper explores the significance of the colonial tobacco trade in seventeenth-century Bristol. It begins by assessing the evidence for tobacco commerce in the pre-Civil War period before providing quantitative data for the levels of tobacco imports between the 1650s and 1680s. I address the occupations and affiliations of those who imported tobacco as well as some of the industry’s day-to-day practicalities. Attention is also given to the incidence of illicit trade, whether through customs fraud or direct smuggling. Available evidence derived from the Bristol wharfage books show that tobacco imports reached a zenith in the 1670s, pointing towards something of a golden or ‘tawny’ age before a decline in tobacco imports thereafter and into the eighteenth century.

Mabel Winter, University of Sheffield, UK

The Case of Thompson & Company: commerce, banking, and politics in the late seventeenth century

This paper intends to outline and discuss the social network of a seventeenth century merchant-bankers joint-stock company. The company was formed of four merchants, who had previously conducted trade in pairs but in 1670 decided to pool their resources and form a joint-stock bank, designed to loan out money at interest. The profits from which would be put into a general bank upon which the merchants could each draw on for their own individual trading ventures, provided they repaid the loaned money with interest. This venture relied on a variety of interpersonal relationships, as well as relationships forged through intermediaries and those forged purely on reputation. However, these relationships were not only commercial in nature, but political, familial, friendly, and conflicting, demonstrating the wide-ranging exploits of the four protagonists. Their wide web of credit, which spread across political, religious, geographical, familial and mercantile boundaries, created a complex and tumultuous situation once the partners went bankrupt in 1677.

The collapse of the bank in 1677 will receive particular attention due to the political manoeuvrings that aided its downfall, including interference from London city government, the East India Company, and even direct relations with the King; with the identification of at least two out of four of the main protagonists as early Whigs adding yet more intrigue to the plot. Set against the backdrop of the financial revolution, the stop on the exchequer, the early formation of party politics and the beginnings of the popish plot, this paper aims to highlight the difficulties and risks involved in early modern commerce, as well as demonstrating the depth and breadth of the relationships required to initiate such a venture. More than any other early banking venture, the bank of Woolchurch Market illuminates the complex intertwining of commercial and political identities in a society experiencing religious and political turmoil, as well as implicating an earlier start date for the English Financial Revolution.

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8 June 2017 – Workshop – ‘Luxury and Exoticism: Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses’

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University of Wolverhampton, UK
8 June 2017

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

Programme

10.30 – 11.00 Registration and refreshments

11.00 – 11.30 Emma Slocombe, National Trust, UK

‘The acquisition and reuse of 15th century ecclesiastical textiles by Bess of Hardwick’

11.30 – 12.00 Gaia Bruno, Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’, Italy

‘Acting China: Twentieth-century costumes for an Eighteenth century Neapolitan play’

12.00 – 12.30 Caroline Tonna, Casa Rocca Piccola, Malta

‘Extravagant dress of the Maltese gentry and nobility in private collections’

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.00  Helen Persson, The Swedish History Museum, Sweden

‘Exotic textiles for the Church of Sweden’

14.00 – 14.30 Brenda Rewhorn, University of Chester, UK

‘Tatted Textiles in Museums and Private Collections’

14.30 – 15.00 Anastasia Falierou, New Europe College, Romania

‘Studying Ottoman Women’s Costumes through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection’

15.00 – 15.30 Coffee break

15.30 – 16.00 Katie Taylor, National Trust, UK

‘The Dunham Massey Chapel Silk: Unpicking the past of a “purple silk damask” ’

16.00 – 16.30 Alison Lister, Textile Conservation Limited, UK

‘The lady in the tutti frutti hat: conserving the costumes of Carmen Miranda’

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Information

The workshop will be held in Room MH108-9, on the first floor of the Mary Seacole (MH) Building, City Campus, University of Wolverhampton.

The Mary Seacole (MH) Building is located on City Campus Molineux (North), a short (10/15 minutes) walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For maps and directions, please see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/contacts-and-maps/all-maps-and-directions/map-and-directions-for-city-campus-wolverhampton/

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)

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

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 Abstracts

Gaia Bruno, Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’, Italy

Acting China: Twentieth-century costumes for an Eighteenth century Neapolitan play

The San Carlo theatre has recently set up a museum in Naples, called ‘Memus’, where is possible to appreciate its archive documents, together with costumes. Last year, the ‘Memus’ opened a temporary exhibition to celebrate Giovanni Paisiello, the famous Eighteenth century Neapolitan musician, in his death anniversary.

In the exhibition many costumes, created for twentieth-century productions of Paisiello’s plays, are displayed, but two of them are of particular interest to the purpose of this workshop: the costumes of the main characters of L’idolo cinese, an opera buffa, first performed in 1767, then in 1955 and in 1992.

My proposal is to analyze those dresses as cultural linkers: firstly as linkers of time between the eighteenth and twentieth century, then as cultural linkers, because they represent the Western perception of a Far East culture.

In other words, the twentieth-century productions, which those costumes belong to, acted as a time capsule, offering a privileged perspective to look inside eighteenth-century culture, with its taste for exoticism. And it is exactly this exoticism that will be investigated in a double meaning.

First of all, L’idolo cinese was created according to the taste of the eighteenth century for China by an author who had never been in that country; he took its inspiration from chinoiserie, objects, porcelains and wallpapers available in the Kingdom of Naples. In that sense, the exoticism will be explained as an important part of material culture of Neapolitan upper-class, a sign of distinction, of luxury.

But this is not enough. Thanks to other sources, handwritten and printed, my aim is to investigate the hypothesis that the exotic set of the play hides a satirical message. Paisiello, indeed, was a careful follower of fashion trends, as well as a man attentive to the intellectual climate that surrounded him; and the eighteenth century in Naples was filled by the debate against the Catholic Church’s political power, in conjunction with the disapproval of naïve popular devotion.

Anastasia Falierou, New Europe College, Romania

Studying Ottoman Women’s Costumes through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection

The genesis of fashion is in and of itself one of the most striking signs of the radical transformation of a society. Social changes and changes in fashion go hand in hand. To reflect on the history of clothing and its transformations means not only to go directly to the heart of the social and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire but also to study the process of the transformation of the Ottoman society from another point of view, different from the most commonly-envisaged administrative and political perspectives. Thus, clothing becomes a code for reading and understanding the Ottoman society and a methodological tool that can break the boundaries between micro- and macro-history and between the private and the public.

My presentation will focus on Ottoman Muslim women’s fashion and its symbolisms through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection. Situated at the Azaryan Mansion in Sariyer, Istanbul, Sadberk Hanım Museum is Turkey’s first private museum aiming to exhibit the private collection of Sadberk Koç, the wife of Vehbi Koç. My special interest on Sadberk Hanım Museum’s collection of women’s costume derives from its constantly growing size and variety. The Museum has a surprisingly rich collection consisting of textiles, embroideries, indoor costumes and articles of dresses dating from the 18th to 20th centuries.  Amongst the garments displayed one can also find costumes worn in special occasions such as weddings. Moreover, the collection comprises examples of both traditional and European style costumes. The study of these costumes, undoubtedly, sheds light to the process of the gradual adoption of the European fashions in the Ottoman capital and their diffusion to other cities around the Empire.

Alison Lister, Textile Conservation Limited, UK

The lady in the tutti frutti hat: conserving the costumes of Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) was a successful Brazilian singer and dancer who came to fame worldwide when she moved to the US in 1939 to star in numerous Broadway and Hollywood musicals.  Labelled the ‘Brazilian Bombshell’ and known for her glamourous and exotic costumes Carmen Miranda was one of the highest earning female performers in the 1940s.  Her trademark look, inspired by outfits worn by Afro-Brazilian female street vendors, included brightly coloured skirts, frilly shoulder flounces, heavy gold jewellery, platform shoes and highly decorated turbans.  Carmen Miranda’s iconic style remains an important cultural and aesthetic reference in fashion, music and advertising.

Miranda 1

Miranda 2

The Carmen Miranda museum in Rio de Janeiro was established in 1955, and until its recent closure housed many of her most famous costumes.  After years of display some items are now in poor condition.  The collection is due to move to the new Museum of Image and Sound being built on Copacabana beach.

Textile Conservation Limited in Bristol became involved in the conservation of the collection through a personal connection between a Brazilian textile conservator and the studio’s principal conservator, Alison Lister.  Over the past year Alison has spent several weeks in Rio working with colleagues to assess and conserve the costumes, and the project is on-going.

In the presentation the costume collection of the Carmen Miranda Museum will be introduced and the common condition problems outlined.   The conservation treatments being applied to the objects selected for display in the new museum will be described.

Miranda 3

Miranda 4

Miranda 5

Helen Persson, The Swedish History Museum, Sweden

Exotic textiles for the Church of Sweden

The earliest evidence of Christianity in the country known today as Sweden are from the mid-ninth century, but appears not to have become a state religion until late eleventh century. However, the churches caught up quickly and early medieval written sources describe their growing possessions of luxurious textiles. Kings, queens, and members of the aristocracy donated and bequeathed large amount of expensive textiles and dresses, to be used and re-used for the interior adornment and the priest. The textiles were usually imported from the Continent, such as Germany and Netherlands, but surprisingly many had a much more exotic country of origin. A number of exotic Chinese textiles have been used in the service of the Church of Sweden from as early as fourteenth century as ecclesiastical dress and there are even auspicious hanging from the Ming dynasty re-made into altar frontal. There are sixteenth century Ottoman caftans remade into chasubles and turban covers from the late seventeenth century used as baptismal font covers. These shiny silk textiles with depictions of exotic flowers and beasts such as tulips, dragons and qilins must have both bamboozled and mesmerized the general Swedish church-goer.

Luckily, the Reformation in Sweden did not affect the use of liturgical dress and furnishings as much as in other reformed countries, and therefore a large amount of these textiles have survived till today. Many of them are in the collection of the Swedish History Museum.

This paper will discuss the visual demonstration of power and status of the Church through exotic textiles, with focus on the Oriental textiles from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries in the collection of the Swedish History Museum. It will show the importance of textiles in the presentation of the Church room and in the performance of the priest. The paper will look at the re-use of textiles, as some may have had previous functions as fashionable dress. The paper will also include thoughts on trade routes, as during the Medieval times Sweden was in many ways a country in the periphery of Europe; how did these exotic textiles, in particular the Chinese, reach the country?

The paper will be presented with a rich array of visuals: surviving ecclesiastical dress and furnishings, fragments, reconstructions and contemporary depictions in art.

Brenda Rewhorn, University of Chester, UK

Tatted Textiles in Museums and Private Collections

Tatting is a hand-held, labour-intensive, knotted lace technique made using a shuttle although a slightly different technique can be made with a needle.  The origins of shuttle tatting (the technique I am most interested in) are veiled in history but one theory is that it developed from knotting made famous by the satirical poem by John Sedley (1639-1701) deriding Queen Mary knotting as she travelled in her coach. One the first known reference to tatting in print as we know it today was in 1843 by Jane Gaugain  in her manual of needlework when she illustrates a shuttle but labels it a needle.

Almost all tatted examples in museums are identified by the donor, not the maker but I have found two collections which can be attributed to two aristocratic ladies, Queen Elisabeth of Romania (1841-1916) and Lady Hoare of Norfolk (1846-1931). The surviving collection of Queen Elisabeth in Romania consists of four ecclesiastical pieces and the collection attributed to Lady Hoare consists of numerous ecclesiastical items as well as secular items mainly held by her descendant.

Items held in museums vary from small unattached samples to edgings for clothing; all shapes and sizes of collars, wide edgings for underwear, parasols, babies’ dresses and bonnets: they would be considered luxury items because of the length of time to make consequently with something like babies christening dresses which would be handed down through the generations.

Tatting is labour intensive but not expensive as all that is needed is something to hold a long length of thread small enough to be manipulated in the hand, and suitable smooth thread. Queen Elisabeth mainly worked in silk whereas Lady Hoare worked in cotton. With the advent of mercerised cotton in 1844 would have made suitable cotton more available to all class of people. During the potato famine in Ireland many women were encouraged to tat motifs which would have been taken to a central location to be assembled into large items as seen by the example in the Victoria and Albert Museum and numerous parasols made to shade the sun from the faces of the Victorian ladies. It can be seen that tatting has been, and is used, for a variety dress and furnishing items for the home and religious institutions.

 Emma Slocombe, National Trust, UK

The acquisition and reuse of 15th century ecclesiastical textiles by Bess of Hardwick

The textile collection of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (c. 1527-1608), known as Bess of Hardwick, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, is one of the most complete collections of its type to survive and its significance has long been recognized. Because of the wealth of documentary evidence, it is possible to trace in rare detail the history of the acquisition, display and later treatment of many pieces of embroidery and needlework. Scholarly research, notably Santina M. Levey’s The Embroideries of Hardwick Hall (2007), has ensured Hardwick’s late 16th century embroidery and needlework is very well known. However, also within the collection are a group of important but largely unpublished ecclesiastical embroideries, originally from church vestments, later reused as furnishing textiles.

Studies of medieval embroideries in post-Reformation England have traditionally focused on: their destruction in order to recover precious gold thread; their sale to the Catholic Church in Europe; or their concealment by recusant families.   The story at Hardwick runs counter to these narratives. This paper explores Bess’s motivation for acquiring vestments, made redundant by the ban in 1552 on the wearing of ‘alb, chasuble, and cope’ for communion, given her prominence as a member of a new protestant nobility following Henry VIII’s break with Rome and her subsequent loyalty to Edward VI and Elizabeth I. The size of the surviving collection of orphreys and cope hoods also enables comparative analysis and the identification of possible print sources while recent conservation by May Berkouwer has revealed some of the original techniques of construction. I will conclude with an examination of the extensive reuse of ecclesiastical embroidery and textiles in the creation of opulent appliqué wall hangings and bed sets in the secular environment of Bess’s successive houses, Northaw, Chatsworth and the Old and New Halls at Hardwick and how this prominent display of wealth and opulence has survived and been adapted over the centuries.

Katie Taylor, National Trust, UK

The Dunham Massey Chapel Silk: Unpicking the past of a ‘purple silk damask’

Dunham Massey Hall, near Manchester was the seat of the earls of Stamford and Warrington until 1976 when it passed to the National Trust.  The almost continuous occupation by a succession of generations of the same family for over 400 years meant that the house was a veritable treasure trove: central to these treasures is a large, indigenous domestic textile collection.  This is supported by the largest indigenous costume collection in National Trust ownership. A 16th century Italian wool jacket pre-dates the building of the first Hall at Dunham.  Stars of the collection include a 17th century state bed and gauntlets, 18th century Spitalfields silks, 19th century Manchester cottons, Morant & Co supplied silk damasks, Edwardian fancy-dress and post-war man-made fibres which mean that the collection can be used to demonstrate the changing fashions and significance of textiles in everyday life.

There are three surviving examples of Spitalfields silks at Dunham Massey, only one of which is on permanent display:  the Chapel reredos, around which this whole project and paper are based.

In the early 1900s, Morant & Co were commissioned to replicate the Chapel silk, as part of a bigger campaign of refurbishment of the Hall.  Only the reredos was left from the 18th century silk, described in the inventory of 1758 as ‘purple silk damask’.  After 100 years this Morant silk was beyond repair so in 2014, we embarked 2-year project to re-weave the blue silk damask.

This paper will recount the development of the project considering the complexity of replicating the design, colour and pattern repeat to the surviving sample and the conservation considerations of removing and storing the old silk, and hanging the new.

It will consider public access and interpretation in an intrinsically fragile and ethically sensitive space: the Chapel is still a consecrated place of worship.  It will consider the public perception and expectation of spaces within the country house.

Finally it will reflect on what we learnt along the way and how the historic inventories and research from other projects held clues to the history, adaption and development of the story of this remarkable silk.

 Caroline Tonna, Casa Rocca Piccola, Malta

Extravagant dress of the Maltese gentry and nobility in private collections

Documentation, painted portraits and a few surviving period costume in house museums and private collections attest to a refined taste for opulence in dress of the gentry and nobility in Malta.  This paper focuses mainly on the female costume collection and lace pieces archived at the 16th century lived-in house museum of a Maltese noble de Piro family, Casa Rocca Piccola in baroque city of Valletta and some very few other period costumes in private houses mostly from the old city of Mdina.  The small selection of surviving period costumes under study covers the period between the 18th and 19th century.  The clothes are studied and ‘read’ from different aspects to provide us with information on the rich textiles and trimmings used for their adornment; on how the clothes relate to the individual taste, wealth, identity and status of those who wore them; and how they also embody cultural and social values.

In addition to the interpretation of the existing clothes, textual sources such as public notarial deeds of inventories and dowries and the de Piro family archives reveal the variety of imported textiles and clothing articles, the names of garments and their colour and sometimes even their monetary value.   These documents also shed light on the commercial trading of textile and clothing of Malta, which has a strategic geographic position in the Mediterranean, with other neighbouring countries and Europe.

This paper shows that the aspirations of the Maltese gentry and nobility in the 18th and 19th century, notwithstanding the island’s small size and limited natural resources, mirror the love for luxury in clothing like the rest of Europe.

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Detail from: Panel with Chinoiserie motifs, c. 1700, British, Silk thread on linen foundation fabric, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.412, Purchase, Friends of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Gifts, 2011. Image courtesy of www.metmuseum.org

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23 May 2017 – WORKSHOP – ‘Retailing, Distribution and Reputation: Historical Perspectives’

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University of Wolverhampton, UK

23 May 2017

PROGRAMME

10.00 – 10.30        COFFEE  AND WELCOME

10.30 – 11.00        Nicholas Oddy, Glasgow School of Art, UK

British and Guaranteed: Reputational Maintenance in Meccano Ltd

11.00 – 11.30        Erin Bramwell, Lancaster University, UK

Pharmacy atmosphere’: the impact of commercial spaces on patent medicines and their consumers in early twentieth-century Britain

11.30 – 12.00        Johanna Wassholm and Anna Sundelin, both Åbo Akademi University, Finland

‘Ruck-sack Russians’ and the Local Community in the Swedish-speaking Regions of Finland, ca 1880–1920: Reception, Practices and Communication

12.00 – 12.30        Thomas Mollanger, University of Bordeaux, France

Who is to be trusted in the Cognac brandy supply chain? The reconfiguration of retailers’ reputations as a tool to create trust in front of the growing power of producers’ names, first half of the 19th c. – first years of the 20th c.

12.30 – 13.30        LUNCH

13.30 – 14.00        John Porter, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Consumer Credit in Ireland 1920-1960

14.00 – 14.30        Graham Harding, University of Oxford, UK

Brands and the role of reputation in the nineteenth-century British wine trade

14.30 – 14.50        Ten-minute ‘work-in progress’ presentation:

            George Campbell Gosling, University of Wolverhampton, UK

            Retail as Fundraising: The NHS as a Case Study

14.50 – 15.30        COFFEE

15.30 – 16.00        Bethan Bide, Royal Holloway, University of London

‘The Junior Miss is…?’ How Bentalls built its reputation with young consumers at a time of austerity (1945-1951)

16.00 – 16.30        Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

A world of goods? Products, promotion and place-names in English shops, c.1670-1820

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INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION

The workshop will be held in Room MH108-9, on the first floor of the Mary Seacole (MH) Building, City Campus, University of Wolverhampton.

The Mary Seacole (MH) Building is located on City Campus Molineux (North), a short (10/15 minutes) walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For maps and directions, please see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/contacts-and-maps/all-maps-and-directions/map-and-directions-for-city-campus-wolverhampton/

 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)

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

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ABSTRACTS

Bethan Bide, Royal Holloway, University of London

‘The Junior Miss is…?’ How Bentalls built its reputation with young consumers at a time of austerity (1945-1951)

In contrast to the prevailingly drab image of post-war London, a survey of shop catalogues, adverts and film footage shows that the city’s department stores were promoting an array of exciting and colourful youth fashions. Although the adoption of teenage fashions from the American market is most commonly associated with the 1950s, the youth or teen market can be clearly seen at the forefront of London fashion retail and promotion from as early as 1945. Retailers were not simply reacting to existing consumer demand for teenage styles, created by designers and media outlets, but actively pioneering youth fashions through promotion as trade publications alerted store buyers and merchandisers to research that suggested the youth market was potentially highly lucrative.1

This paper explores how one suburban department store, Bentalls of Kingston-Upon-Thames, used teenage fashions to rebuild its reputation as a modern and fashion-forward establishment in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Using new archival research into Bentalls extensive photograph albums, press clippings and publicity material, it investigates how the store disseminated information and built new relationships with a young consumer base. Junior Miss fashions (aimed at girls between twelve and sixteen) provided excitement at a time of austerity, and Bentalls placed its newly formed ‘Junior Miss’ fashion department at the heart of its fashionable promotions between 1947 and 1950. This paper traces how it developed its Junior Miss publicity, from the design of the department, which encouraged young shoppers to view the store as a social space, to its Saturday clubs and special events such as fashion shows and garden parties. It investigates how the store used the ‘Miss Junior’ club to inspire consumer loyalty, for both teenagers and their parents. The paper concludes by considering how these activities mark a change in focus for the store’s publicity, away from seeking recognition with middle aged women and instead building a new type of reputation with a younger and newly affluent consumer base.

1 Display (September 1947), p. 35.

Erin Bramwell, Lancaster University, UK

‘Pharmacy atmosphere’: the impact of commercial spaces on patent medicines and their consumers in early twentieth-century Britain

Patent medicines are usually discussed in a seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth-century context, giving the impression that scientific advances and the growth of the medical profession made these products ‘extinct’ by the twentieth century. In reality, patent medicine thrived in twentieth-century Britain and could be found in a variety of retail outlets, such as department stores, multiples, corner shops, and chemist shops, amongst others.

This paper will begin to unpick the multifaceted nature of patent medicines’ popularity, something that was worth between £20-28 million in 1937. Commercial spaces played a key role in this: these medicines were not purchased in isolation or in spaces devoid of atmosphere, meaning, and character. Indeed, styles of design have symbolic capacity, and can express important messages relating to character, reputation, and worth. When this is considered in a commercial context, the ability of shops’ design to affect the goods for sale, and in turn, the consumer’s experiences of these goods, becomes apparent.

Therefore, this paper will use the interior design of chemist shops as a case study to demonstrate how different retail spaces could enhance and shape consumers’ experiences of patent medicines. In consumer history, spaces such as department stores, goldsmiths, and banks have been investigated, however, the commercial space of the chemist shop and its impact on commodity goods is underexplored. Yet, like department stores, chemist shops’ elaborate interiors had communicative potential. This paper uses Mass Observation, oral history interviews, and photographs as a way of uncovering this communicative potential and consumer experience. It considers consumers’ relationships with different retail environments, framing the consumer as an ‘active agent’ in the geographies of retailing, thereby drawing attention to individual consumer choice and the ways in which this affected the sale of patent medicines. This gives a more nuanced, multi-layered understanding of popular commodities such as patent medicines: indeed, it recognises that goods were sold in environments that could shape and influence their meaning and symbolism.

George Campbell Gosling, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Retail as Fundraising: The NHS as a Case Study

Despite the visibility of charity shops on today’s high streets, retail finds almost no place within the history of charity in modern Britain. Likewise, despite the familiar sight of volunteer-run fundraising retail within the hospital, such activities have been omitted from the scholarly history of the NHS.

Critique and cynicism of the social act of handing over money was a defining feature of the politics that founded the British health service in 1948. Health Minister Aneurin Bevan was adamant that patients should not at any point be asked for money, which amounted to a ban on hospital fundraising – hitherto a vibrant field of community activity – to ensure medical care was understood to be a universal right of citizenship. This meant no more promoting pseudo-insurance hospital contributory schemes, no more calls for donations in the local newspaper, no more flag days, fetes or bazaars, and collecting boxes brought in from waiting rooms, railway stations and public houses up and down the country. Yet at the same time, he wanted to see the voluntarist tradition maintained in the form of linen guilds, libraries and canteens.

Once the dust had settled on the new service, however, leagues of hospital friends sprung up to restore much of the earlier volunteering and fundraising activity, even if without the same sense of urgency. Yet the pronouncements of Bevan’s six years as Health Minister have overshadowed the realities of the following 66 years that have shaped the place of charity in the academic understanding of the NHS.

This paper will highlight the place of retail activities identified within new research into the continuance of traditions of hospital charity under the NHS. These familiar yet under-researched activities ranged from ‘sweet and cigarette trolleys’ for the sales on the wards, to established hospital shops and canteens, to fundraising sales in the community in order to raise funds for the hospital. After noting the gender and generational characteristics of the volunteers who have always been central, whether as sellers or as producers of goods (usually knitted) for sale, this paper will conclude with some thoughts on where such endeavours might sit both within the history of the NHS and the wider history of retail.

Graham Harding, University of Oxford, UK

Brands and the role of reputation in the nineteenth-century British wine trade

During the course of the nineteenth century, the proprietary wine brands of distributors and producers – but not merchants – became steadily more important in Britain. Brands used advertising to build what was then called ‘reputation’ but would now be termed ‘brand awareness’ or ‘name recognition’. The British wine trade increasingly feared that consumers with but ‘little knowledge’ would turn to brands rather than merchants for reassurance. Trade commentators worried that hard-won reputations based on stock range, product knowledge and service skills, once the source of the merchants’ authority and financial success, were becoming irrelevant. Merchants themselves voiced the fear that they would be reduced by the power of brands to mere ‘penny-in-the-slot machines’. Though retailers continued to talk of their reputation they lacked the means to mobilise or monetise it except on a purely local basis. The balance of power had shifted decisively.

Thomas Mollanger, University of Bordeaux, France

Who is to be trusted in the Cognac brandy supply chain? The reconfiguration of retailers’ reputations as a tool to create trust in front of the growing power of producers’ names, first half of the 19th c. – first years of the 20th c.

The aim of this talk is to analyze the marketing strategies of brandy retailers over the long run and to understand how they have tried to resist in front of the growing power of producers’ names.

During all the nineteenth century, alcoholic beverages’ retailers are accused of poisoning the public with mixtures they were able to create by themselves in their own cellars. The laws on quality can be considered as the first attempt to discipline the retailers and limit their latitude of action. However, they were still authorized to sell the products under their own brands and to bottle by themselves alcoholic beverages they received. Until the establishment of trademarks laws which favor producers in the supply chain, the coordination between the different actors of the supply chain relied on personal reputations and systems of ‘clienteles’ (personal networks). With the highlighting of producers’ names, the consumers rely no more on the personal reputations of retailers but transfer the device of trust on the producers’ names. The establishment of trademark laws, in the context of what historians have called ‘first globalization’ (1850-1914) characterized by the growing regulation of the markets and the establishment of new ‘rules of exchange’, has been favorable to producers. With the growing regulation of the markets (with laws on quality, on intellectual property rights), the personal reputations of retailers, which have been the main coordination tool to create trust among consumers, were no more efficient. The direct link that producers try to establish with consumers weaken the power of retailers’ reputations to create trust among consumers.

My study mainly considers the nineteenth century and the British case. In this paper I will try to show how the commercial strategies of retailers have been reconfigured after the establishment of new rules of exchange which change the balance of power in the supply chain. Producers take into their hands functions which were once of the responsibility of retailers (branding, retail price fixing, bottling, advertising). The presentation will introduce the shrinking of retailers’ activities and enhance methodological problems. Who were the retailers who sold Cognac? How did they try to create trust among consumers before establishment of trademark laws? To what extent the establishment of trademark laws, which is a part of the growing regulation of the market in the context of globalization during the second half of the nineteenth century, has reconfigured the issue of trust and  has challenged the power of retailers’ reputations as a device to create trust among consumers ? How did retailers react in front of the growing power of producers’ reputations to create trust (by the direct link producers were now able to establish with final consumers, by means of packaging and advertising for example)?

In order to study these questions, I have used a wide variety of sources. First, thanks to a public/private funding, I have used the archives of Cognac brandy firms (mainly the archives of Hennessy, nearly 6km of archives, from 1765 to the beginning of the twentieth century). In order to recompose the supply chain of Cognac brandy, I have also used wines and brandy importers’ archives (London Metropolitan Archives, New-York Public Library). I also used the general press (United Kingdom, United States, Australia) of the time and, most important, the press of the English wholesalers and retailers of the second half of the nineteenth century, mainly the Ridley & Co.’s Monthly Wine and Spirit Trade Circular which was the mouthpiece of the wholesalers’ community, and the Wine Trade Review which reflect the commercial strategies and concerns of the retailers. I also used legal archives in order to understand how the new laws of the second half of the nineteenth century were perceived and used, and on which basis, in the courts, producers prosecute retailers.

 Nicholas Oddy, Glasgow School of Art, UK

British and Guaranteed: Reputational Maintenance in Meccano Ltd’

 In May1920 the Liverpool based toy manufacturer, Meccano Ltd, introduced its ‘Hornby Clockwork Train’, a product that was to develop into a major element of the company’s activities; the brand is still significant today. The Hornby Train was not intended to be the beginning of a model railway system, it was originally designed as a constructional outfit, similar to a Meccano set; but, at the last minute, the company chose to launch it as a made-up model. The demands of a constructional outfit are very different from a made-up toy train. The play-value in the former is in building the outfit, in the latter it is running the train, which supposes load hauling and reliability. For this, the loco’s mechanism was severely deficient.

Meccano advertised their trademark as a ‘guarantee of quality and workmanship’, their customers took them at their word; a flood of returns were received by the company. A greatly improved model was hastily introduced in Spring 1921, but sales of the original had been so substantial that returns of these continued. In early 1922, in the context of an expanding range of new Hornby models and a steady stream of returns the Company took action to both maintain its reputation and save itself from having to provide free repairs to products that were now at least a year old. It introduced a formal guarantee.

The guarantee covered the 60 days following purchase. This allowed the Company to charge customers for repairs made to items returned after this time. However it did nothing to stem the flow of returns, particularly of the 1920-21 product, which, as components ran out, the company felt obliged to rebuild using a complicated mix of the returned and current. The ‘Service Department’ grew exponentially; at its height in the 1950s it processed about 2000 returns a week. Remarkably, it outlived the manufacture of the products it serviced by some five years.

In correspondence with Richard Lines, who was closely involved with the building of the Triang Railways brand that consumed Hornby in 1964-5, his comment was direct:

  • If you advertise a guarantee you will get plenty of people taking advantage of it.
  • If you don’t advertise a guarantee you will save yourself a lot of trouble and some money.
  • If you offer “rebuilds” you are doomed!

In this analysis Meccano were doomed from an early date. This paper sets out to consider the economics of the willingness to offer repairs, the guarantee and its significance to reputation and brand identity. It sees Meccano as providing a particularly good example of reactive product management in the context of advanced advertising and branding techniques.

John Porter, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Consumer Credit in Ireland 1920-1960

Following the Financial Crisis of 2008 much blame was attached to the increase in consumer credit in Ireland, as well as other nations. The advance in consumer credit was blamed as a cause of the crisis, but there was also a clear moral culpability placed on consumers, especially poorer consumers, for assuming debts that they could not afford. In Ireland this blame was more profound because of the extent of the crisis and a widely accepted belief that consumer credit was a novel phenomenon for Irish society. Yet, in preceding decades the majority of Irish consumers were dependent on credit in order to make basic daily purchases as well as larger ones.

This paper proposes to explore consumer credit in Ireland in the years 1920 to 1960; from the foundation of the Irish Free State to expansion of the Irish economy in the 1960s. Access to different forms of consumer credit was, of course, mediated according to class, income, and regional divides, and for this reason, the paper will explore three examples from different segments of the Irish population. First, it will consider small farmers and the credit system that was available to them. Many rural parts of Ireland functioned practically as a cashless economy through most of the year and farmers depended on the extension of credit from local shopkeepers to survive. Second, the paper will discuss poorer urban consumers and credit facilities open to them, such as pawn broking and money lenders. Lastly, the paper will discuss middle and upper class urban consumers and credit extended in department stores. It will use the particular case study of one department store, McBirneys in Dublin, which recorded the reasoning behind credit decisions. The paper will suggest that in all cases the most important factor in credit decisions was perceived reputation. The reputation of the credit candidate may have even trumped their ability to repay the loan in some decisions.

Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

A world of goods? Products, promotion and place-names in English shops, c.1670-1820

Eighteenth-century consumption is often characterised in terms of an expanding world of goods, but we rarely stop to think what this actually means: what world or worlds were represented in the things available to shoppers and how did this change over the course of the eighteenth century as the range and variety of products expanded? Some have seen a growing role for empire in shaping the provision of goods and the consciousness of consumers, especially in terms of groceries; others have argued for that Europe, and especially Italy and France, were predominant in the minds of retailers and their customers. In this paper, I want to build on these studies by exploring the place names with which a wide range of groceries and textiles were labelled in stock lists and newspaper advertisements. My concern is to examine the varied meanings that these place names carried: sometimes indicating provenance, but often overlaying this with messages about the material qualities of the products. Rather than mapping actual patterns of supply, therefore, the analysis opens up the mental geographies which helped shopkeepers and consumers to comprehend the world of goods available to them. In doing so, it provides important insights into England’s changing position in the eighteenth-century world.

Johanna Wassholm, Åbo Akademi University, Finland and Anna Sundelin, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

‘Ruck-sack Russians’ and the Local Community in the Swedish-speaking Regions of Finland, ca 1880–1920: Reception, Practices and Communication

International research has indicated that ethnic minorities played an important role in itinerary trade in 19th century Europe. This was also the case in the Grand Duchy of Finland, where among others East Carelians, Russians, Jews and Tatars traded on town markets and on the sparsely populated countryside.

This article examines the cultural encounters between East Carelian itinerary traders (“Ruck-sack Russians”) and the sedentary local communities. The focus lies on three themes: 1) the reception of the itinerant traders by the local community, 2) the trading practices, and 3) language and communication – including the role of the itinerant traders for spreading news and rumours.

The analysis is based on ethnographic material on the East Carelian itinerary trade in the archives of the Department of Ethnology at Åbo Akademi University, newspaper articles in the Finnish National Library’s digital collections and depictions of itinerary traders in popular literature.

The study shows that the previously under-studied itinerary small trade played an important role as an arena for cultural encounters in 19th century Finland. It will nuance the tendency in previous research to depict Finland as ethnically more homogenous than it was in reality – a result of the national paradigm methodological nationalism in history writing. It will also shed light on the importance of itinerary trade for the growing consumption of the lower social classes in19th century Finland.

In a broader context, the results will give a better understanding of the relations between trading ethnic minorities and local communities, and of the implications that the inclusion into the multiethnic Russian Empire had for small trade in the Grand Duchy of Finland. The study paves the way for further studies on ethnic minorities engaged in itinerary trade, not only in Finland where e.g. Jews and Tatars were active, but also elsewhere in Europe.  It can also be used to place questions of ethnicity, mobility and small trade in contemporary society into a historical context.

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Conference call for papers – Retailing and Distribution in the Seventeenth Century

7 September 2017

University of Wolverhampton

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The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution ­invites submissions for a conference that explores retailing and distribution in the seventeenth century.

Papers focusing on any geographical area or topic are welcome. We invite both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation. Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below). Some of the themes that  might be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Craft, manufacture and retailing
  • New commodities and old
  • Religion, charity and commerce
  • Markets, shops and shopping
  • Transport and distribution networks
  • Regulation, guilds and trade organisations
  • Chapmen, pedlars and hucksters
  • Advertising, reputation and print cultures
  • Commerce, war, disease and famine
  • Fashion, leisure and shopping

Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute ‘work in progress’ presentations, also followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words, specifying whether you are proposing a 10 or a 20 minute presentation to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 27 April 2017.

If you are unsure whether to submit a proposal or would like to discuss your ideas, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

The conference will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

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

or see the conference web-page, here: http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~in6086/conf2017.htm

Image: Trade Card of Samuel Spencer, Furniture Maker, late 17th/early 18th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 47.71.3, Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 1925. Image courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org/

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2016 Conference blogs – Provisioning the marketplace: Shopkeepers, hucksters, and direct sellers in early modern Italy (Vicenza, sixteenth century)

Luca Clerici, University of Padua, Italy, and École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France – UMR 8546 AOROC

Provisioning the marketplace: Shopkeepers, hucksters, and direct sellers in early modern Italy (Vicenza, sixteenth century)

The case of Vicenza’s food market during the sixteenth century is very interesting, both because of the wealth of this Venetian mainland town (thanks to the wool and the silk industry), and because of the rapid growth of its population (from 21,268 inhabitants in 1548 to 36,547 in 1617). It is known that in medieval and early modern towns, when foodstuffs and other basic goods were concerned, a particular attention was devoted to selling and especially reselling activities, in order to protect consumers from regrating and from what were considered unnecessary rises in prices. Nonetheless, acting mainly in urban and socially differentiated contexts, public authorities had to take into account not only consumers’ demands, not least to preserve social peace, but also those of sellers. Foodstuffs were often sold not only by the members of craft guilds, but also by many other categories of resellers or direct sellers, and, in this case, the variety of supply channels was carefully preserved by public authorities, in order to foster an abundant and cheap supply. Nevertheless, it produced a very complex discipline, chiefly because of the attempt to identify and separate the different groups involved in the same trade, which led to frequent conflicts between these groups. However, these very conflicts constitute an interesting vantage point to better understand the strategies and practices of the many actors who had a part in foodstuff retailing.

The trade of cheese and butter – sold by the members of two craft guilds, that of cheesemongers (who were shopkeepers) and that of the so-called ‘resellers’ (hucksters selling a wide range of foodstuffs), and by other sellers who were not enrolled in any guild – is an example of this plurality of actors. The principle of reconciling the different needs and interests of the town’s people, sellers, and municipality was operating, for example, in the letting of public shops in the areas of central market squares. Cheesemongers’ shops were situated under the town hall, and in a proclamation published in 1550, the town’s rectors and deputies prescribed to observe guilds’ statutes (also containing rules which were effective for anyone and not only for members) and, in particular, those of cheesemongers, ‘since it is suitable, to the general benefit and convenience, that the guilds’ statutes are observed, so that the guilds’ members are able to pay, by their work, the rents of their shops and other burdens’. Thus, protecting guilds from other sellers (in this case, hucksters selling butter and cheese in forbidden places, times, and ways) meant also protecting communal income. Shops were very lucrative, and the municipality progressively enlarged their number, both by buying the existing private ones, and by constructing new ones. But hucksters and direct sellers increased the number of sellers, thus increasing competition, to the buyers’ benefit. The municipality took into account these two facts. In 1534, for instance, the town’s council used the same term, utility, to refer both to the ‘municipality’s utility’ (civitatis utilitas), that is the income deriving from shop rentals, and the ‘public utility’ (publica utilitas), that is the supply deriving from the presence of hucksters and direct sellers in the market area.

Moreover, direct sellers, most of whom came from the countryside and were qualified as ‘poor’, sold their goods at lower prices than cheesemongers, and probably also than hucksters. Of course, cheesemongers complained about price competition, but it was not easy to solve the problem, because on the one hand lower prices benefited costumers, and in particular poor consumers, but on the other hand it was also in the costumers’ interest to rely on a regular supply, as that guaranteed by shopkeepers. Nonetheless, lower prices attracted hucksters in the market square assigned to direct sellers, wishing both to compete with shopkeepers by charging lower prices, and to buy up the goods sold by direct sellers and resell them at higher prices elsewhere. The situation was further complicated by the fact that hucksters not residing in the town were sometimes assimilated to direct sellers, since they both came from outside Vicenza, and sometimes to urban hucksters, since they both were resellers. We may thus observe a very complex situation, where all solutions to old problems entailed new problems and conflicts. This may however prove helpful in better understanding the articulation of urban provisioning systems, and the role played not only by public authorities, but also by intermediate bodies, such as craft guilds, or by informal groups of sellers.

References

Clerici, ‘Le prix du bien commun. Taxation des prix et approvisionnement urbain (Vicence, XVIe–XVIIe siècle)’, in I prezzi delle cose nell’età preindustriale / The prices of things in pre-industrial times, ed. by the Datini International Economic History Institute of Prato, Firenze, Firenze University Press, forthcoming.

Clerici, ‘L’approvisionnement du marché urbain: conflits et négociations (Vicence, XVIe siècle)’, in Il commercio al minuto. Domanda e offerta tra economia formale e informale. Secc. XIII–XVIII / Retail trade. Supply and demand in the formal and informal economy from the 13th to the 18th century, ed. by the Datini International Economic History Institute of Prato, Firenze, Firenze University Press, 2015, pp. 39–68.

Clerici, ‘Market, civic virtues, and civic bargaining in the medieval and early modern age: some evidence from sixteenth century Italy’, International Review of Economics, 59(4), 2012, pp. 459–475.

See also: https://unipd.academia.edu/LucaClerici

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Workshop and Call for Papers – Luxury and Exoticism: Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses

Thursday 8 June 2017

University of Wolverhampton

chinoiserie-detail

CHORD invites submissions for a workshop that explores luxurious and ‘exotic’ textiles and dress in the collections of museums and historic houses.

Papers focusing on any historical period or geographical area are welcome. We define luxury and exoticism broadly, including luxury items with no exotic connotations, and everyday or mass-produced ‘exotic’ items. Both textiles and clothing, decorative and ‘useful’ items are of interest. Museum professionals, conservators, students, academic scholars or anybody with an interest in the topic are warmly invited to submit a proposal. We welcome both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation.

Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below). Some of the themes that might be considered include (but are not limited to):

§ The care, display and interpretation of precious, rare or exotic textiles and dress

§ Chinoiserie, empire and imported luxuries

§ The changing nature and perceptions of luxury and exoticism

§ Fancy dress and masques

§ The conservation, repair and care of luxury dress and textiles.

§ Ethnographical items and collections

§ Haute couture and designer fashions.

§ Collections and collectors, historical and contemporary

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 10 March 2017.

chinoiserie-detail2Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute presentations, also followed by ten minutes of discussion, which might focus on a specific collection, object, new project or work in progress.

If you would like to discuss your ideas before submission, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

Small bursaries will be available for speakers to subsidise the cost of travel (within the UK) and the workshop fee.

The workshop will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For further information, please see http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~in6086/textiles2017.htm or e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

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