Sunday, January 23, 2011

Billhead of the Month - Fitts & Austin

1878 blue colored billhead for Fitts & Austin wholesale grocers and jobbers in teas located on Reade Street in New York City. Company partners were Friend P. Fitts and Robert F. Austin. Item purchased was Antelope cigars. Billhead has creases.

Friend P. Fitts made money in the California Gold Rush. An 1850 San Francisco directory lists him with the firm Fitts & Tilden (Thomas Tilden) shipping and commission merchants. Sometime in 1850 Fitts moved to New York City and started the grocery firm of Fitts, Martin & Clough. The firm made a specialty of teas, coffees and spices. Robert F. Austin was soon admitted as a partner of the firm the name became Fitts, Austin & Turner. Turner died and the firm became Fitts & Austin. Fitts retired in 1879 and Austin joined forces with James Nichols under the new firm name of Austin, Nichols & Co. In the 1940s the firm expanded into the alcohol business and pays distilleries to make a line of spirits and the brand name of Wild Turkey comes about. The firm would get out of the grocer business and focus on alcohol and purchased the Ripy Distillery in 1972.

Here is a nice example of a Fitts & Austin cigar box with label.

Next up an Austin, Nichols & Co. trade card and early 20th century letterhead.

My first 18th century billhead

I purchased my first 18th century UK billhead back in December.
Billhead is for Thomas Walker broker and dealer in ship stores located at King's Place New Buildings in Portsea which is part of city of Portsmouth located on Portsea Island. Items purchased by John Porteus for the ship Derwent.

From wikipedia:

The area was originally known as the Common and lay between the town of Portsmouth and the nearby Dockyard. The Common started to be developed at the end of the seventeenth century, as a response to the overcrowding in the walled town of Portsmouth. This development worried the governor of the dockyard as he feared the new buildings would provide cover for any forces attempting to attack the dockyard. In 1703, he threatened to demolish any buildings within range of the cannons mounted on the dockyard walls. However, after a petition to King George, royal consent for the development was granted in 1704. In 1792 the name of the area was changed from the Common to Portsea. By then it was home to a mixed, dockside population.

In the 18th century, and for long afterwards, the dockyard was the main employer in Portsea. In the 1700s men worked from 6am to 6pm with half an hour for breakfast and one and a half hours for lunch. Men were not allowed to smoke or light fires in the dockyard. On the other hand they were allowed to take home 'chips' of wood. However some of these 'chips' were very large and carpenters ended up making furniture like beds from 'chips'! (from History of Portsea).

Glass slides

A year or two ago I purchased off of ebay uk 10 glass slides that showed 18th century UK billheads and one trade card. They are really neat and I wish I had purchased the entire lot from the seller. I cannot recall what they were used for - maybe a presentation. They are hard to scan, so this the best I could get without using a backlight on them. My favorite is the fish one.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1817 Sowerby & Phillips timber merchants

I picked this billhead up on ebay back in December. I have been on a little buying binge again on the UK billheads - besides having extra cash from Christmas, there have been a lot of nice billheads on ebay UK in the last few months.

The billhead has a nice plate mark on the header. It is an 1817 billhead for Sowerby, Phillips & Co. of Broad Chare at Newcastle. Timber was purchased - including some American timber.

UK firms are tough to research as google books carries many more American reference items then UK. But, I was able to pull up a few items. The company owners were George Sowerby and John Phillips. Sowerby came from a family of glass makers. He was in the timber business and did eventually also go back in the family glass business.

The family's glass business was established in the late 18th century. George focused on farming and his timber business until about 1813 when he entered the glass making business. His son, John, joined the firm in 1820. John went door to door selling the glass and by the 1860s the firm was one of the largest in the UK.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

National Hat Day

While looking at the Wisconsin Historical Society website, I discovered today is National Hat Day. Enjoy some hat billheads and letterheads!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's cold outside! Wool Billheads and Letterheads

Here in Wisconsin we have been having a very cold week. Thankfully, my heating blanket keeps me nice and warm. But all this cold has me thinking and wearing wool. If you want to read a little history of the wool industry, here are some links for you to free google books:

A comprehensive history of the woolen and worsted manufactures by James Bischoff, 1849

Wool and woolen manufactures of Great Britain by Samuel Brothers, 1859

History of manufacturers in the United States by Victor Selden Clark, 1916

The Textile Industries of the United States by William R. Bagnall, 1893

Wool-growing and the tariff by Chester Whitney Wright, 1910

Here are the billheads, letterheads and a receipt - I have put them in date order: