APS Library Bulletin headline
New Series, vol. 1, no. 1, Winter 2001

V. Inside Head's Home.

As no probate inventory survives for Head, his account book, the single entry from his inventory transcribed by Leibundguth, and the Register's "Index" copy of the will are the sole sources regarding his personal property. Head's inventory listed fourteen rush-bottom chairs valued at three pounds two shillings.189 The will mentioned only one piece of furniture, a "Clock & Case" bequeathed to Head's daughter, Rebecca Jones (b. 1712), who married John Jones (September 16, 1731). This may be the £17-0-0 "Clock and case" for which "John Jones Tan[n]ner" was debited by John Head on 11/17/40.190 It may also be the clock, or one of several, cleaned by Peter Stretch in 1736-1737, or the one cleaned by John Hood, in 1748. It was possibly a Stretch eight-day clock, as Head credited Stretch for cleaning one, on 12/14/36.191

"Three Rugs at s/20 pr," were acquired from John Tannant. But it is uncertain how the Heads may have used them.192 Rugs and carpets were then also used as bed coverings and the two terms may have been used to some extent interchangeably. Carpets were also used over chests and tables, and on floors. Indeed, when carpets first appeared on Philadelphia floors, they were viewed as so valuable that some owners were subjected to ridicule: "There are many families who can remember that soon after their carpets were laid, they have been visited by clownish persons, who showed strong signs of distress at being obliged to walk over them; and when urged to come in, have stole in close to the sides of the room tip-toed, instinctively, to avoid sullying them."193

The "3 glases and one Ink pot" that Head got from Sary Griskam [Sarah Griscom] may have been used in keeping his accounts. The "glases" probably refer to glass inserts for the pot.194 Head had several sources for paper, and retained at least one ream for his own use.195 In the evening, Head would have used some of the many candles he bought from Thomas Canan and other chandlers. They were probably placed in brass candlesticks, Head having sold six to others.196 The earliest pair, to Woolley on 3/2/22, predates by nearly twenty years the first Pennsylvania Gazette advertisement for brass candlesticks.197 Although no pewter candlesticks are mentioned in his transactions with pewterer Simon Edgell, there is always the possibility that Head had some of those, as well.198

Treenware no doubt supplemented Head's pewterware, but is not evident in the account entries. Perhaps it was the sort of thing that Head turned himself from leftover wood.199 Hot drinks could have been gotten from the "Iron Citle [kettle]" that Head had purchased from Sarah Griscom. Cooking in the oven may have been done in the "Iron pote" bought from Mathias Aspdin. Food preparation may have used the "Si[e]ve" from William Wallas.200

Items which could have been employed either in the Head home or his shop included soap, which was mostly acquired from Thomas Canan or "Thomas Shut[e] sope biler." Soap afforded a ready medium of exchange for other goods and services, including the soap boxes he sold Canan. Also acquired for general use were "Bluen [bleach]" from Joshua Jonson [Johnson] and a "Tailers guse [a gooseneck tailor's smoothing iron]" from William Carr. Both were probably used in smartening up the Head wardrobe, but also in preparing for sale Head's enormous range of fabrics. Prior to buying the iron, Head had credited Joseph Townsend, £0-8-9, on 1/29/29, "By foolen [folding] 35 yards of [Linzey-]Woolsey and prasen [pressing] of it."201

Other items for home or shop were a "Shovel" from smith William Lingers [Lingard], "Broms [brooms]" from Joshua Johnson and Samuel Asp, and a "Brush" from Griscom. Griscom's variety of small goods seems inexhaustible, so much so that she may have had no need to advertise, as did her "Brushmaker" competitor, John Wilkinson.202

VI. "Puter:" John Head's Relationship with Pewterer Simon Edgell.

From the Head's entries involving Simon Edgell, we know that the Head household was equipped with various pewter forms.203

The late Charles Montgomery (1910-1978) lamented the fact that: "No account or letter book of an eighteenth-century, or earlier, American pewterer has been located." Among the questions he wished answered were: "Did Philadelphia's most important early peweterer, Simon Edgell, for example, supply traders and storekeepers with his wares for resale?" He concluded by stating that: "Discovery of such pewterers' records would be a great find! I hope one of my readers will be so lucky as to uncover such a group of manuscripts and be kind enough to bring them to my attention."204 The Head account book provides some of the answers, regrettably too late to be shared with Montgomery.205

Head opened Edgell's account on page 7, labeling it "Simond Hagal," to the left of which was written "Edgell." At the last entry, the account was then "Car:ed [carried] to pag 86 [left]," where it was labeled "Simond Edgal."206 There is thus no doubt that both pages and their contra credit entries, on pages 8 and 86 right, refer to Simon Edgell.

Edgell's working dates, as given by Montgomery, were from 1713, his arrival in Philadelphia from London (where he had been admitted a yeoman of the Pewterer's Company in 1709), until 1742, the date of his death.207 According to Donald L. Fennimore, Curator of Metals at Winterthur Museum, "little is known of [Edgell] during his twenty-nine years in Philadelphia...."208 Head's entries for him span 1719-1732, and provide details regarding not only Edgell's manufactures and his working relationships, but also his personal life. They are, therefore, particularly valuable for an individual whose prominence has been established principally on the 8,001 pieces of pewter inventoried for his estate, and from a handful of surviving examples. Edgell's "now known work includes only two tankards, two 9-inch smooth-brim plates, and three large dishes."209 Head's book describes these and other forms by him.

The earliest entries for Edgell were debits for some of Head's most expensive furniture. These indicate that Edgell was already sufficiently prosperous to afford such pieces for himself or, if reselling them, had a successful and/or discriminating clientele.210 In an era when money was in short supply, Edgell had the wherewithal to settle £4-0-0 of his account with Head, "To Cash By his Wife."211 Edgell's prosperity was tinged with tragedy. In the course of 1719-1724, he buried three children.212

While Montgomery states that "[h]ard-metal pewter objects commanded a premium price because their fine alloy was free from lead and a part of their surface was hammered, making the metal harder and stronger," for lack of account books, he was unable to give prices for Edgell's work.213 Head does.

Chronologically, the first entry referring to Edgell's wares, is an undated £0-10-0 debit (written immediately above a 2/4/24 entry) to the account of Josier [Josiah] Foster, "To : 6 : plaat [plates] dd by Simond Edgal."214 These may have been in the style of the two surviving "single-reeded dishes of outstanding quality," made by Edgell. Alternatively, they may have been smooth-brimmed plates, of which Edgell was the earliest maker in America. Either way, the Head account book establishes a firm date for Edgell's production of plates, whereas Montgomery could only place them between Edgell's 1713 arrival and his death in 1742. "The eye delights in the rhythm and perfection of a well planished plate or dish with its concentric rows of hammer marks left by the hammermen of...Simon Edgell [and his colleagues]...."215

Edgell's credits demonstrate the variety of the forms he was making. Head recorded credits to Edgell of £0-13-0, "To : 6 : porringers [12/27/24];" £0-6-4, "To : 2 Basens & mending a Tankerd [1/6/25];" £0-5-0, "To : 2 plats & a porringer [3/12/25];" £0-1-6, "To a Salt Siler [cellar][8/2/25];" and £0-5-6, "To one puter Dish [4/28/26]." The last is the only reference to pewter with respect to Edgell's wares. It was also on that date, that Head credited Edgell £1-0-0, as "Gave Thomas Reece [Reese] an order," simultaneously debiting Thomas Reeca [Reese] the same amount, "To Goods by Simond Edgal."216 Apart from those "Goods" and one porringer debited to Thomas Redman in 1736, none of the other objects show up in debit entries to the accounts of Head's other customers. Thus, Head may have kept the rest of them for his own household, an indication of his lifestyle.217

The "Salt Siler" reference is of special importance. "Open salts were probably made by most American pewterers, but only a few late eighteenth-century American salts are known." The earliest that Montgomery was able to date them was Edgell's 1742 inventory, which listed "5 doz. 9 salt sellers," at sixteen pence each.218 Thus, Head's book enables the dating of such form by an American pewterer some seventeen years earlier, as well as an actual price at that time, not just a probate valuation. It is interesting that the price Head paid was only one penny more than that at which the remaining salt cellars were individually valued, demonstrating some consistency in pricing for that form.

Edgell also supplied Head, in 1726, with quantities of "drops & scuchens," "Brads," "Buts [butt hinges]," "Loks," and "Cofen scrues."219 Probably working for Edgell in this aspect of his business, at least until he ran away, was his servant, John Spurstew, "by Trade a Refiner in Copper, but can Work at the Smith's or Brazier's Business."220 Head also credited Edgell £0-6-2, on 5/12/25, "To : 4 : pound & 1/2 of Bees Wax," a product which Head may have been using for his finishes.221

VII. Drink and Food.

If Head wanted some refreshment, he could have availed himself of one of the "2 drinking glases," that he had also bought from Griscom, or the "6 stone mugs" he later purchased from Andrew Duche [Duché].222 Head must also have made good use of his tankard, as pewterer Simon Edgell charged for mending it.223

Pouring his drinks from larger containers was also no problem. On 9/8/26, William Wallas [Wallace?] was credited £0-12-0, "By a parsel of Botels."224 The bottles could be refilled from the "Galons" or "Barels" or "points" of drink Head regularly received from several accounts. "Strong Bere," at £0-9-0 a half barrel, "midel Bere," at £0-3-0 for 10 gallons, and, on one occasion, "Ale," at £0-9-0 a barrel, were from tavern-keeper George Emblen [Emlen]. "Sider," cost about £0-12-0 a barrel, and came from Harns [Haines?] Lucin, Thomas Clark, Thomas Redman and David George. "Rumb," at about £0-3-10 a gallon, came from many sources, perhaps because it was a staple import from Philadelphia's Caribbean trade. Head seems to have had no great interest in wine, which he got only in the smallest quantities. One problem with wine may have been spoilage. Head got only a half gallon of wine from Philip Johns, at £0-3-0; and a pint from Henry Bates, at £0-1-0. After Johns's death, his widow advertised for let his "House...near the Swede's Church at Wicaco;...the House being very well accustomed as a Tavern and much resorted to by Gentlemen, on Account of the Billiard Table, being scituate near the River side, and just a pleasant Walk from Philadelphia." Tea appears not to be popular in the Head household. Throughout his entire account book there is only one listing, "To a 1/4 pound of Tee," which he sold to Thomas Redman, at £0-3-0.225 No spirits appear apart from rum. In 1721, a meeting had been convened in Philadelphia to encourage the brewing of beer as a substitute for spirits.226

Head also had drinks elsewhere. The charge from Bates was "By a pint of wine at his house at Brester." Also, Head credited £0-9-6 to Robert Toms, "To Cash and drink Rec:d att Sundre Times."227 Toms owned a tavern, "the Ship in Plumb-Street below the Draw-bridge." Perhaps, Head's "drink Rec:d att Sundre Times" was taken at "the Ship," where Toms had a "Likely Servant Girl" present.228

Head also sold some of the drink. Particularly informative are the 1/3/27 entries in the account of Thomas George to "one pound of Candle and one pint of rumbe," "halfe a Barel of beer," "1/2 a Galon of rumbe," "one pound of shugar," and "his Cofin," which was to "The Widdow." It is unclear whether George's death was being fêted by the drink or was the consequence of it.229

A variety of food stuffs was bought by Head. Given the often large quantities, it is probable that he was acquiring it not just for himself and his household, but for resale and export. Thus Thomas Hill was credited £8-19-4 [2/18/23, 2/19/23] for a total of 538 pounds of "Baken."230 Even a growing family as large as Head's could not have been expected to consume that much. Kalm noted: "Philadelphia reaps the greatest profits from its trade to the West Indies. For thither the inhabitants ship almost every day a quantity of flour, butter, flesh and other victuals; timber, plank and the like. In return they receive either sugar, molasses, rum, indigo, mahogany, and other goods, or ready money."231

John A. Woodside, Sr., High Street Market, Philadelphia
Fig. 11: High Street Market, Philadelphia
Oil on canvas, attrib. to John A. Woodside, Sr.

Courtesy Independence National Historical Park
Much of the food that Head obtained appears to have come from those operating at the nearby Market, by the Court House, on Market [sometimes High] Street. Wednesday and Sunday were market days and attracted country folk to bring in their victuals and seasonal produce. In summer, the market was open every day. Market hours ran from four or five to nine in the morning, undoubtedly to quickly sell goods before they spoiled.
232 The vitality of Philadelphia's High Street Market was captured in an early 19th century painting attributed to Woodside [fig. 11].233

The "paper & Alspis [pepper & allspice]," Head bought from Joshua Johnson, at £0-1-4, is not to be confused with Head's "quire of paper" from Francis Knowles at the same price. They are another reminder of the always treacherous terrain of Head's spelling. Other seasonings and flavorings included more "alspis" from Griscom, "nutmags" from Johnson and Joseph Prichard, "snake root" from Daniel Hillman, "Senninent [cinnamon]" from Mary Davis, "musterd seed" from Joseph Zane, "6 Galons of Chary Juce [cherry juice]" from Cattren Colins [Catherine Collins?], and "Solt" from Barnibas Talbot. When in use at table, the salt could be transferred to the "Salt Siler" from Simon Edgell.234

Peter Kalm, a contemporary Swedish visitor, had observed that "THE inhabitants make plenty of cheese. They are reckoned not so good as English cheese: however, some take them to be full as good when old; and so they seemed to me."235 Head must have agreed, as he bought plenty of "Ches," and other dairy products such as milk and "Buter." Only on one occasion did Head return for credit "a Bad Ches."236

Kalm found that "[e]very countryman, even a common peasant, has commonly an orchard near his house, in which all sorts of fruit, such as peaches, apples, pears, cherries and others, are in plenty." Great quantities of fruit and sweet meats were eaten. Kalm was also fascinated by the variety of local berries.237 Head bought "Aples," but he seemed more inclined to "Cheres," "Strarbares," and "ukelbares." Brandy was made from unripe apples, but there is no record of Head's apples being used for such purpose. Other uses for apples were cider, pies, and tarts.238

Frequent purchases by Head were grains such as "Rye," rice, "ots [oats], "Wate [wheat]," and corn, including "Ingen Corn." Indian corn and rye were grown by Pennsylvania farmers as cattle feed, and supplemented their principal crop, wheat.239 Also bought were "Bran," flour, including "Rie [rye] flower," and "Male [meal]," including "Ingen male." Again, because of the large quantities Head often got, he may have been involved in Philadelphia's large export trade in these products. Philadelphia flour was exported as part of a triangular trade which developed with the Caribbean islands and England at the end of the 17th century. That trade continued to prosper for several decades, as a consequence of "the willingness of West Indies producers to pay high prices for imported foodstuffs, which in turn was the direct result of the willingness of Europeans to pay high prices for sugar."240

Vegetables included "Turnips," "Inyons [onions]," "pase [peas]," and "kidney Banes [beans]." Meat, often in substantial amounts, was also bought, as follows: "Beef," "vale [veal]," "Hart [deer]," and "Pork," including "Baken," "Gamon," "Lien of muten [loin of mutton]," and "ages [haggis]." Other items bought were "noodels," "vinigar," and, in particularly large quantities, "Lases [molasses]." The molasses was among those goods frequently sold by Head.241

All of the foregoing references to food are extremely detailed as to prices paid and quantities purchased. They also help identify the types of containers in which they were sometimes delivered.242

Head's entries as to food also provide varied information as to the diet of colonial Philadelphians. Despite all of the sugar and molasses bought, Head's family may not have had a such a sweet tooth for other things at the market. Only one pound of "Chalklet" was recorded as bought and, of that, half was sold. "Buter & scuches," however, were bought but never shown as sold.243 Whether the Heads ate the chocolate and butterscotch as a candy, used it in baking, or drank it hot, is open to conjecture.

VIII. Dress and Personal Adornment.

From John Clifton, a weaver who worked out of a house on the upper end of Third Street, Head purchased "a Hatt for myself," on 6/12/24, crediting £1-4-0.244 "Bri[t]ches" and two pairs of gloves were bought from Hannah Turner, and "Bukskin" was delivered by Jno [Jonathan] Stamper.245 Head's large family was well-shod. His frequent purchases of shoes were mostly from Joseph Daves, but also from "Jno [Jonathan] Fisher ye Shoumaker," "Joseph Hooper Shomaker," and others.246 As everyone in the community needed shoes, they too served as a medium of exchange, and many debits and credits for them show up in Head's accounts.247

From John Green, in addition to some shoes, Head got ten shilling "Coat[s]" for himself and his son, John, Jr., and a six shilling coat, probably smaller, for his son, Samuel. Head's wife got a "mant[ua]," for which Mary Pound Junor [Mary Pound, the Younger], the daughter of his neighbor, the widow Mary Pound, was paid £0-2-6. Mary the Younger also charged £0-1-6, "Omited to maken a Striped mant," demonstrating that at least some of Head's purchases of striped fabric went to his family's apparel. Sarah Griscom was paid £0-3-0, "By quilten an ould Cote." The younger children got "Two : gounds [gowns]" made by Mary Snad Junor [Sneed, the Younger], costing £0-2-6.248 The "Striped mant" in his own household and the variety of fancy fabrics bought and sold by Head with his Quaker clientele, may also be evidence of their "plainess... vanishing," as noted by Head's contemporary Christopher Sauer, in 1724.249

Domestic needlework abounded. Head had debited Nathanal [Nathaniel] Pool £0-7-6, "To a Qwilting frame & Trusels [a quilting frame & trestles]," in partial credit for which Head later got "a payer of Stockens naten [knitted] by his [Pool's] Wife." Needlework also must have been done in the Head household. Head paid Joseph Townsend on three occasions for spinning, including, in 1730, "By one pound of Wool spinen," at £0-1-0. Some of this may have been worked by Head's family members, as Head later sold Thomas Redman, on 6/6/35, "26 ounces of Stocken yarn."250

As for articles of personal adornment, Head bought "a pees of Shulirie [a piece of jewelry]" as early as 1720, crediting George McCarl [McCall] £3-12-0, a not insubstantial sum, and more than the cost of Head's standard chest of drawers. This purchase is another indication of the prosperity he and his family were enjoying soon after arrival. Head did not record who got the jewelry, but he left no doubt as to "a Wige for myself," purchased from William Crosewhit [Crossthwaite], at £1-0-0. Crossthwaite advertised as a "Peruke Maker, opposite the Pewter Platter in Front street." Among others, he carried wigs described as "flaxen," "pale," "Curl" and "very light." Head's wig, and perhaps another already owned, required "mounting [restyling]" from George Cunningham, at £0-6-0; and from Crossthwaite, at £0-5-0. Cunningham also was credited £0-6-0, "To Shaveing me Sundre Times." When not shaved by Cunningham, Head could have completed his appearance by using the "Raser [razor]" he had bought from Joseph ____ [name torn off], and a douse from the "Two Botles of minit warter [mint water]" bought from Townsend for a shilling.251

IX. Horses and Carts.

In addition to a "Coue and a Calf," John Head recorded purchasing two horses. Both horses were bought in 1725. He sold a horse in 1727.252 Head charged £0-4-6 to Thomas Williams, in 1722, for "Shoen his horse by John Loyd [Lloyd].253 Lloyd was later to advertise for the return of his runaway servant Joseph Dalloway, "a Blacksmith by Trade."254 Other entries pertain to hay, straw, and "ots [oats]," all or a portion of which may have gone for the upkeep of his livestock.255 Pasturing charges were also credited to Smith's account for a cow, and to those of Pool and Joseph Louance [Laurence] for horses.256 By 1739, Head appears to have acquired his own pasture, perhaps at his Frankford Road property, as he credited Thomas Badson, £0-6-0, on 5/6/39, "By horlen [hauling] 2 Lode of posts to paster;" and £0-3-0, on 6/18/39, "By horlen a Lode of rails to - paster." Clearly, Head was having a post-and-rail fence built. One reason that Head may have needed to haul posts and rails to his pasture was that red cedar, which was considered to hold out the longest, was not sufficiently plentiful around Philadelphia.257

Head also rented horses for himself and to others. The flat charge was two shillings a day for the first day and every day thereafter. A half day's rental cost half that amount.258 There was no extra charge for how far the horse was being being ridden. John Roberds was debited £0-2-0, on 10/26/25, "To a Hors one day to frankford;" and Thomas Canan was charged £0-4-0 for a two-day rental to Chester, on 7/13/25, and £0-6-0 for a three-day rental to Concord, on 2/16/26. Nor did the type of horse matter, as William Stretch paid the same two shillings for a day's rental of a mare. An extra charge of a shilling was made for a "cropper [riding crop?]," which Head always paid when he rented horses from Robert Dunken [Duncan?].259

For riding equipment, Head had bridles, whips, and saddles, including "womans Sadles." As transportation by horse was a necessity, transactions in equestrian equipment were a useful medium of exchange for saddlers - and for Head. Head charged no profit on these transactions, as they too facilitated his own trade.260 Among those actively involved in the trade in Head's book were saddlers William Paschal and Nichos. Ghiselno [Nicholas Ghiselin].261 Leather also was frequently bartered along with riding gear. Thus, "John Jones Tan[n]ner" may have been able to afford a top-of-the-line 17-0-0 "Clock and case" from Head, on 11/17/40, by later supplying leather to two of Head's shoemakers, Joseph Daves and John Guest, and "a Sadle and Bridle" to Head.262 Tanners had become so prosperous that an ordinance had been passed, in April 1719, to prevent them from exporting their products. This also protected cordwainers, curriers, and saddlers, who had been contending with the high price of leather.263

Although Head credited others for "horlen" wood and other raw materials, he may have used his own cart for delivering finished goods not picked up at his premises.264 This may have been one of the uses for his horses. He sold a "Cart Complated With Iron," to Artha [Arthur] Jones, on 8/4/27, debiting him £7-3-5 1/2. He also debited John Smith at Isaac Norris's plantation £2-10-0, on 10/28/40, "To a Sla [sleigh]." Sleighs were commonly used in winter to cross from New Jersey, and from as far north as Burlington, twenty miles upstream. As these conveyances were not the sorts of things that Head normally made or dealt in, it is possible that they may have been his own and employed for deliveries or personal use. On 1/8/39, Head got a new cart, as he credited Ruben Forster, £3-17-0, "By a Cart and Boxes and harness."265

[ Foreword ][ Section 1-2 ][ Section 3-4 ][ Section 5-9 ][ Section 10-10d ][ Section 10e-Conclusion ]
[ The Account Book as Artifact ][ Acknowledgments ]
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