Dry goods are products such as textiles, ready-to-wear clothing, and sundries. In
In the beginning of the 19th century, dry goods were often combined with other commodities to form the merchant's stock in trade, that it was difficult to determine where the former began or the latter ended. Trading of all kinds was of a generalized character, merchants handling a like dry goods, groceries, and sundries in the same establishments. The stocks represented in such stores were incongruous in the extreme; cottons and silks from
The village stores in the early days were few and far between, and where they did find location, their stocks, so far as dry goods were concerned, represented only a few of the coarser textures in woolens, linens, and cottons, with buttons and thread, associated with goodly supplies of rum, molasses, and groceries. A considerable trade with towns located on the banks of inland streams was transacted by means of flatboats similarly stocked. In the cities the wholesale trade was almost entirely confined to the importers, who dealt in those foreign and home commodities, crude or manufactured, which were in the greatest demand and yielded the best profits. With the retail trade in the cities likewise, the distinction in the kind of goods handled by different dealers was not very marked, most of the shopkeepers selling a little of everything. Eventually, dry goods merchants moved to handling mainly textiles and clothing. Many of these stores had modern appointments and conveniences that served to attract, please, and satisfy the wants of customers. Some of these establishments provided delivery, samples, mailing, and express systems to patrons living thousands of miles away. The merchants of
Since the establishment of the first mercantile agency in 1841, these agencies have multiplied and improved so as to be of vast service in determining credits. While far from infallible, they are indispensable. The uniform courtesy existing between merchants in the exchange of references is also of great value, and with all the means of information now at hand the "far-off merchant" worthy of credit suffers no disadvantage by reason of distance from market.
For more see George Cole's Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods (1892).
Famous 19th century dry goods merchants: