Untold lives blog

35 posts categorized "Business"

06 July 2023

The Emperor of China’s Sauce

In 1839 The Emperor of China’s Sauce was introduced in England.  Newspaper adverts said that the sauce was originally prepared by an eminent English physician living in India.  It was remarkable for its richness, fullness, piquancy, and strong digestive properties.  In India ‘it maintained a celebrity previously unknown among Sauces, and was there considered indispensibly requisite with every kind of fish, meat, game, made dishes, or curries’.  Bon-vivants at London West End clubs declared it to be ‘the finest in the world’.  It could be taken to promote digestion - half a wine glass full should be drunk an hour before dinner.

The sauce was manufactured and sold wholesale and for export by David Morse who lived with his wife and family at Cullum Street in the City of London.  Morse had paid a large sum to secure the recipe.  The public could buy the sauce from respectable chemists, grocers, oilmen and fruiterers throughout the UK, including Fortnum and Mason, and the Dundee Marmalade Warehouse in Regent Street.

Advert for Emperor of China's Sauce in the City Chronicle 12 October 1841Advert for Emperor of China's Sauce City Chronicle 12 October 1841 British Newspaper Archive

By 1841, adverts for The Emperor of China’s Sauce included endorsements from a number of publications.  The Conservative Journal described it as ‘particularly palatable’ and said its only fault was that it made you eat more than you would without it.  The Age reported that Sir Charles Metcalf had remarked in 1839 that the sauce was the best he had tasted since his return to Europe from India.

The Emperor of China’s Sauce was just one of David Morse’s business interests.  He was a tea dealer and the publisher of a weekly newspaper City Chronicle, Tea Dealers’ Journal and Commercial Advertiser.  First published in May 1840, the City Chronicle aimed to advocate the rights of traders such as tea dealers, tallow chandlers, cheesemongers and hop merchants, but published articles on a wide range of topics – politics, law and crime, sport, and fashion.

In 1840 Morse advertised in the City Chronicle for a youth wishing to perfect himself as a man of business.  He offered the opportunity of gaining practical experience of the different properties of tea and a general knowledge of all colonial produce, hops, tallow etc.  The premium for one year’s placement was 100 guineas.

Advert for Anti-Slavery Sugar Company in Morning Herald 15 August 1840Advert for Anti-Slavery Sugar Company in Morning Herald  (London) 15 August 1840 British Newspaper Archive

Morse was Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Sugar Company founded for the cultivation of sugar, rum and other crops by free labour in British India.  The Company was raising capital in 1840 and Morse undertook to supply prospectuses to potential investors.

However it appears that Morse’s business ventures did not progress smoothly.  At the time of the 1861 census he was working as a daily labourer.  The London Gazette of 8 November 1861 announced his bankruptcy – David Morse, late of 14 Little Tower Street, City of London, wholesale tea dealer, now of 3 Amelia Place, New Cross, out of business.

David Morse’s wife Charlotte died in 1870 and the 1871 census records him as a pensioner living at Morden College, a charitable institution in Blackheath.  Morse died in Peckham in 1880 aged 78.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  also  available via Findmypast e.g. Weekly True Sun 1 December 1839; City Chronicle 1 December 1840, 12 October 1841; Morning Herald 15 August 1840.
London Gazette 8 November 1861.

 

20 June 2023

Charles Tuckett junior - bookbinder, inventor, author, researcher and … bankrupt

What did one have to do to succeed in Victorian London?  On the evidence of the life of bookbinder Charles Tuckett junior, versatility, luck, talent, intellect and an engaging personality were not enough.  Despite publications and patents to his name and esteem from both his British Museum Library colleagues and his trade society (the Bookbinders’ Pension Society), Charles died in 1875 at the age of 54 after a long illness, bankrupt, with his teenaged son Frederick as chief mourner.  However the Hampstead and Highgate Express emphasised that ‘affectionate respect was sincerely and mournfully given’.  Many important figures attended the funeral.

A bookbinding workshop in Victorian LondonA bookbinding workshop in Victorian London from A Description of Westleys & Clark's Bookbinding Establishment, 1845

The Tuckett family comprised father Charles, sons Charles, Robert Daniel and John.   The surname was synonymous with bookbinding; notably at the British Museum, and at their own business nearby in Bloomsbury.  They were also official binders to the Queen and Prince Albert.  Charles Tuckett senior managed the Museum workshop for 40 years and Charles junior worked there too.

Plate from Tuckett's Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha published in Venice  1521Plate 3 of Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521). 

Photograph from British Library’s database of bookbindings of Il Petrarcha  published in Venice  1521Photograph from the British Library’s database of bookbindings on the same book, Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521)

Charles junior was devoted to raising the profile of books and bookbinding.  In 1846, he published a book titled Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum.  He subsequently organised displays at locations which would attract the interest of influential members of society, for example the Society of Arts.  Tuckett’s book reviewers encouraged him to extend his study of bindings by issuing more volumes, including a wider range of styles, but it was not to be.

Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861, p. 213.

Charles junior’s interests were wide ranging, though books were central to his concerns.  He was keen on practical experimentation.  His 1860 patent recorded ‘an improved method of ornamenting book covers, which is also applicable to other purposes’ received much publicity in the newspapers.  It incorporated a new way of adding or changing colour on the surface of leather.

Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent 1860Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent, No. 2408 of 5 October 1860.

The year 1865 proved to be a turning point in the fortunes of the Tucketts.  There was a serious workshop fire in the Museum.  Tuckett senior was held responsible and dismissed.  The capable Tuckett junior assumed his father’s post of Museum Binder.  He oversaw a team of experienced binders including Stephen Would and Joseph Darby.

The Trustees and the august and knowledgeable Keepers of printed books and manuscripts relied upon Tuckett to preserve their fragile collections, maintain the workforce and balance the budget.  Additional stress and calls upon his time were caused by the family business as well as his other occupations.  The 1871 census, lists Tuckett as the supervisor of 55 men, three boys, and fifteen women.  His family home was at 7 Maitland Park Villas, Haverstock Hill, an up and coming area.  A household of his second wife, seven children under the age of thirteen and five servants must have been extremely expensive to maintain.

Perhaps Tuckett over-extended himself: the London Gazette recorded his bankruptcy under an act of 1869.  After years of ill health, which may have impacted severely on his work output, Tuckett died in October 1875.  He predeceased his father, who died five months later in March 1876.

P.J.M. Marks
Printed Historical Collections.

Further reading
Tuckett (C. , Junior ) Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding. Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum . (London , 1846)
The American Bookmaker (August 1894).

 

14 February 2023

Sir Charles Raymond of Valentines

Sir Charles Raymond was born in 1713 near Exmouth in Devon and made his fortune with the East India Company.  He was started on a career at sea by his uncle, Hugh Raymond, who engaged him as purser on the Dawsonne 1729/30.  The majority of voyages undertaken by ships for the East India Company can be traced using the magnificent archive of journals kept at the British Library, but there is no journal for Raymond’s first voyage, only a ledger.  The voyage took a year longer than might be expected, lasting from 10 February 1730-15 August 1732.  The journal of the Derby, also managed by Hugh Raymond, explains why.

Having completed business in Madras, the Dawsonne proceeded to Calcutta where the cargo was unloaded.  Then in October orders were received that the Dawsonne was to spend a year guarding the Hugli River in company with the Derby, protecting other shipping from the threat of the Ostend vessels.  There were only a couple of possible threats during that time, but the simple task of keeping safe a ship manoeuvred by sail was not easy in waters which were so silted.  On 10 October 1731 the Frances arrived to relieve the Dawsonne allowing her to return to Calcutta to prepare for the voyage home.

Painting of Sir Charles Raymond in a white wig and brown coat, with landscape in the backgroundPortrait of Sir Charles Raymond. The location of the original portrait and the copyright status of this image are unknown. Please contact [email protected] with any information you have regarding this item.

Raymond then became 3rd Mate on the Princess of Wales 1732/3.  For his third voyage Hugh Raymond arranged for Charles (then aged 21) to serve as Captain of the Wager and he continued in this role for three more voyages.  Charles Raymond was lucky in that although he lost many of his crew to sickness, he did not have any major enemy encounters and his voyages were relatively routine.  He made six voyages to India and it seems likely the Raymond family had contacts in Calcutta where they could maximise their trading opportunities.

Raymond retired in 1747 a wealthy man and took up a business career in the City of London.  His main concern was in managing voyages for the East India Company.  He was one of the leaders in this for the remaining 40 years of his life, responsible for well over 110 voyages by East Indiamen.  He also became one of the managers of the Sun Fire Office, where his colleagues were men who had power and influence in the City and the commitment was a very shrewd career move.  He became involved in other City financial concerns as well as serving several charitable organisations such as becoming a Governor of the Hospitals of Bridewell and Bethlem.  In 1771 Raymond became one of the founders of a bank and 1774 he was created a baronet.  He was said to be ‘universally respected’ as an old man and he died on 24 August 1788 leaving a fortune to his two surviving daughters.

View of Valentines Mansion from A New and Complete History of Essex by a Gentleman 1771Valentines, the seat of Charles Raymond, from A New and Complete History of Essex by a Gentleman, 1771

As well as a home and offices in the City, Raymond purchased Valentines in Essex in 1754 as a country retreat for his family.  Several of his relatives and associates came to live nearby and Ilford became quite a hub of retired East India captains who were partners in managing ships, insurance and banking.  Raymond’s home is now owned by the London Borough of Redbridge and one room has been enhanced by the Friends of Valentines Mansion to reflect Raymond’s life.

Valentines MansionValentines Mansion today - photograph by the author

CC-BY
Georgina Green
Independent researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Anthony Farrington, Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs 1600 – 1834.
BL, IOR/L/MAR/B/671D Ledger of Dawsonne, 1729/30; BL, IOR/L/MAR/B/653G Journal of Derby, 1729/30.
Obituaries for Charles Raymond - Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London) 1 December 1787; Gentleman’s Magazine Vol.58 (1788) p.758 & p.834.
History of Valentines Mansion 

Valentines Mansion is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays, 10.30am – 4pm, free of charge. 

 

25 October 2022

Exploring the richness and variety of letters sent to the East India Company

Over 300 volumes of East India Company Home Correspondence have recently been digitised and they are now available through an Adam Matthew Digital resource

There are two series: IOR/E/1/1-195 letters sent to the Court of Directors 1701-1858, and IOR/E/1/196-314 (Miscellanies) copies of letters being sent out by the Court of Directors to Company agents, servants and Government departments 1688-1859.  ‘Home’ indicates that the correspondence is with individuals in Britain and Europe rather than Asia.

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817 

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817  - IOR/E/1 /253 p.57  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The home correspondence arriving at East India House covers a vast array of topics and subjects ranging from the day-to-day running of the Company, personal requests from employees and their families, and even unsolicited letters advertising patents, proposals and publications.

The correspondence is arranged by the date it was received at the Court, rather than the date it was sent.  The date the letter was received is recorded on the back of the letter, along with any actions taken by the Court, such as referral to a committee; read in Court; laid on the table for any interested parties to look at; or given to a specific individual to answer.  When a letter was read in Court, the Court Minutes [IOR/B] can be consulted to discover the Company’s response.

Much of the routine correspondence relates to the East India ships, including signing charterparties; appointing captains and crew; paying wages, supplies and repair bills; notifications of ship arrivals in various ports; and matters relating to the trade goods being carried on board.   Other correspondence relating to trade includes dealings with Customs officials; notifications of sales; intelligence received from agents in other countries relating to rival companies’ trade and goods; and London merchants sending money and goods to Asia in exchange for diamonds, jewels and coral.

Approval of officers for Company ships 1761Approval of officers for Company ships 1761 - IOR/E/1/43 f.306 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Related to matters of trade and shipping was correspondence with other Government departments, particularly the Admiralty, as Royal Navy vessels often provided escort services for East Indiamen and the ships would come to each other’s aid at sea.

Letters from the Company’s agents in places like Italy, Vienna, Madeira and the Levant also form part of this series.  These tend to relate to packets of the Company’s correspondence sent overland, and intelligence about political relations between countries which might impact the Company.  In the case of Madeira, there are bills and invoices for wine supplied to East Indiamen, the Court of Directors, and key Company employees.

Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company 1771Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) 1771  - IOR/E/1/55 f.486 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also many letters from Company employees and their families, mostly in the form of petitions.  These include requests from employees to be considered for promotion, to extend leave in England owing to illness, or for relief or other assistance from relatives of employees who found themselves in financial distress.  Other topics include requests to send family members and servants to and from India, and the administration of deceased relatives' estates in India.  Occasionally there are letters from people trying to ascertain whether their relative overseas is still alive.

Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief 1764Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief December 1764 - IOR/E/1/46 ff.796-797  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other recurring themes are concerns about the smuggling of Indian tea into England and Scotland; arrangements with missionary societies for sending supplies to their missions in the East Indies; and letters from individuals attempting to get the East India Company to take up their patent or invention, or to purchase copies of their recently published books.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/E/1 – Home Correspondence 
Adam Matthew Digital: East India Company Module 5 

 

02 August 2022

Papers of John Frederick Macnair

A new acquisition to the India Office Private Papers has recently been catalogued and is available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This is the papers of John Frederick Macnair, a partner in the firm of Begg, Dunlop & Co.

John Frederick Macnair was born on 9 August 1846 at Gourock in Scotland to James Macnair (1796-1865) and Janet Rankin (1810-1889).  In 1891, he married Veronica Charlotte Pugh (1867-1969), and they had three children: James (born 1892), John (born 1895) and Veronica (born 1902).  He died on 12 March 1908 at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Letter home to England Letter home to England  - Mss Eur F752/1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Begg, Dunlop & Co were managing agents in India with interests in a range of commodities such as tea, tobacco and indigo.  There is much in the collection relating to Macnair’s work with the firm, including accounts and information on tea estates, and tobacco and indigo concerns in which the firm had an interest.  Between 1870 and 1893, Macnair was based in Calcutta and the collection contains three of his copy letter books detailing his business correspondence, but also includes a few personal letters to his family in England.  In one letter to his sister Lilla, dated 17 May 1872, he roughly sketched the veranda of his house, and described the view: 'We look over the tank to the Post Office and can just see the masts of the ships & steamers in the river'. 

Letter expressing disappointment at not getting leave Letter dated 28 September 1875 expressing disappointment at not getting leave - Mss Eur F752/1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Life in India was often not easy, and in a letter of 28 September 1875 to his employer, he expressed his disappointment at being refused leave: 'I did not think my absence would cause much inconvenience and it is a rather sore disappointment to me having to make my mind up for another twelve months in this country but I suppose there is no help for it.  After having been five years in B.D.& Co’s I feel it would be foolish for a present disappointment to throw away future prospects in the firm, though these may be remote, by a resignation now'.

Private Account BookPrivate Account Book - Mss Eur F752/13 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The collection includes his personal account book for 1877 to 1883 giving details of what he spent his money on in order to keep up the lifestyle of a British businessman in India at that time.  It lists subscriptions (hockey club, Daily Englishman newspaper, London Missionary Society), dinner and billiards at the Bengal Club, fees for the Calcutta Golf Club, carriage hire, servants wages, charitable donations, etc.

Receipts for goods purchased Receipts for goods purchased - Mss Eur F752/19 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the early 1890s, Macnair moved back to England, and settled in Newcrofts, in Hillingdon, West London.  The collection contains fascinating material on the contents of his house giving a glimpse into how late Victorians decorated and furnished their homes.  This includes inventories of the effects and furniture in 1898, and correspondence with local builders, such as Fassnidge & Son on extensive works to improve and maintain the building.  There is also a collection of receipts from a wide array of retailers of furniture, fabrics and homeware, along with antiques dealers and carriage manufacturers.  Many of the receipts are elaborately illustrated to best advertise their business, such as for Samuel Withers, Borough Carriage Works; W E Ellis, a Scarborough net merchant; and Oetzmann & Co, cabinetmakers.  There is also a wonderfully detailed receipt from George Wright & Co, manufacturer of billiard tables, listing everything a Victorian gentleman would want for his games room.

Receipt for Billiard TableReceipt for Billiard Table - Mss Eur F752/19 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
The papers of John Frederick Macnair are searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts Mss Eur F752.

Begg, Dunlop & Co 

 

02 December 2021

Oysters in the Black-Out

You can catch this Maison Prunier menu, dating from December 1940, in the small display about the Second World War, Life on the Home Front, in the Treasures of the British Library Gallery until 11 December 2021.  It forms a counter-point to the ration books in the same case which reflect the introduction of food rationing in January 1940 and the queues and hardships that followed.

Maison Prunier Menu December 1940Maison Prunier, Menu, [London], December 1940. B.L. shelfmark: LD.31.b.752.


The first Maison Prunier was opened in Paris in 1872 by Alfred Prunier and his wife Catherine.  Their granddaughter Simone, with the assistance of her husband Jean Barnagaud, took over the Parisian restaurant, which had become famous for its oysters, on the death of her father Emile in 1925.  Ten years later she opened the London branch in St. James’s Street, off Piccadilly and near Green Park.  Having looked at several potential buildings in the area she had chosen a dauntingly large site which had previously been a Rumpelmayer’s teashop.

The interior decoration was created by her friend, the artist Colette Gueden, and was based on Simone’s childhood recollections of Jules Verne’s Twenty thousand leagues under the sea.  The design included two glass cases which created the illusion that you were eating while looking out from portholes in a submarine.  The opening reception on the evening of 17 January 1935 was almost too successful in creating publicity and the restaurant was overwhelmed with eager clients the following day.  Among the subsequent patrons were the then Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson.

Simone championed the use of cheaper fish including herring and mackerel and her book, Madame Prunier’s fish cookery book, was first published in 1938 and reprinted several times.  In contrast to the restaurant perhaps, it was aimed at a fairly general audience, providing recipes for both the proficient and the less-proficient cook.

With the advent of war and the black-out in September 1939 the evening trade at Maison Prunier initially declined, but a prix-fixe menu encouraged people to return and by January 1940 it also opened on Sundays to attract those on weekend leave.  At the start of the Blitz in September 1940 the restaurant closed for dinner but again Simone came up with a plan to encourage customers back.  She appointed a taxi-driver specifically for Maison Prunier and advertised an air-raid lunch and a black-out dinner as you can see here.  With the difficulty of obtaining supplies and rationing, this was not a simple operation, and customer numbers remained relatively low.  Items which are rationed are clearly noted on the menu and as you can see 'only one dish of meat or poultry or game or fish may be served at a meal'.  However, the famous oysters were still available.

Though affected by bomb blasts and subject to the general restrictions on the amount that could be charged for meals, Maison Prunier survived the war and continued in business at St. James’s Street until 1976.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator of Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
Madame Prunier, La Maison: the history of Prunier’s. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1957. B.L. shelfmark: 7939.g.12.
Madame Prunier’s fish cookery book / selected, translated and edited, with an introduction and notes, from Les poissons, coquillages, crustacés et leur préparation culinaire par Michel Bouzy, by Ambrose Heath. With a special foreword by Madame S.B. Prunier and decorations by Mathurin Meheut. London: Nicholson & Watson Limited, 1938. B.L. shelfmark: 7944.pp.13.

 

11 August 2021

Household accounts for Charles and Charlotte Canning

Records which give us rich details about the minutiae of day-to-day life in the past can be hard to come by.  Household accounts are a seemingly mundane source but can give us an insight into what goods and services were available, who was supplying them, and how much items cost.  The papers of Charles and Charlotte Canning contain a file of bills or invoices with receipts for payments 1850-1851.  It provides a glimpse into the lives of these elite members of the Victorian aristocracy and how they ran their household.

Illustrated paper describing the goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand

Goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

The Cannings lived at 10 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, from 1836 until 1855, when Charles was appointed Governor General of India.  The Cannings spent money on the fabric of the building.  William Allen, plumber, painter and glazier, billed them for £121 7s 0d for work carried out from January-October 1850, including repairs to burst pipes ‘injured by frost’.  His invoice was submitted in December 1850 and paid in August 1851.

The couple’s expenditure on clothing is shown.  In June 1851, Ashmead & Tyler, hatters by Royal Appointment, supplied a ‘Dress drab napless Hat with Velvet band & Ostrich Feather for HM Fancy Ball’, at a cost of £1 13s 0d, ‘drab’ being fine quality fur.  Clothes weren’t always bought new, but were made over, mended, and adjusted.  H.C. Curlewis of 58 Conduit Street provided alteration services such as adding new collars, in addition to supplying new waistcoats and silk-lined frock coats.  Their bill of £22 10s 0d for January-July 1850 was paid on 5 February 1851.

Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster  - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Recycling was common.  A bill from George & William Atkins, brush manufacturers, turners and wax chandlers of Mount Street, Berkeley Square, shows that the Cannings paid £2 13s 0d in 1850 to have several ivory and silver brushes refilled with hair.  There are additional bills for repairs to various household items, including a ‘cheese toaster’.

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street- Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

There are bills for personal hygiene products.  Throughout 1850 the household made regular purchases from J & E Atkinson, perfumers of New Bond Street, for items such as quinine tooth powder, violet powder, Eau de Botot, rose mouthwash, Eau de Cologne, soap (both Pears and Castile) and sponges.   The total cost was £8 18s 8d.  Professional services were also paid for. ‘Medical attendance’ by Thomas Chilver of 14 New Burlington Street and Robert Cundy of Belgrave Square, cost £7 10s 6d.  The doctors visited the housekeeper Mrs Cunningham, the coachman, and the footman.

Bankruptcy papers for William Goodchild Shipley

Bankruptcy papers for  William Goodchild Shipley - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Suppliers submitted invoices for goods and services supplied three, six or even twelve months earlier, a system which did not always end happily.  Bankruptcy proceedings against William Goodchild Shipley of 17 Market Row, Oxford Street, dated 21 December 1850 show the Cannings owed £51 11s 6d for forage for horses.

Items purchased include: candles (wax, India, margarine, sperm); horse stabling, tack, and feed; books; paper and envelopes; shaving powder; duelling pistols; carpets, curtains and household furnishings; cigars, tobacco and pipes; umbrellas; fishing boots; clothing (including for servants); wallpapering; picture framing; candelabras; coffee cups and saucers; silver inkstand; crystal glasses and tumblers; subscription to Hansard’s Parliamentary debates; gloves; newspapers; patent wine cooler; silvered globe; porcelain service; champagne, French truffles, dried cherries and dates; reading lamp; portfolio of nautical charts; railway guides; Turkish towels; hairdressing services; clock cleaning; and silk fringing.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F699 Papers of Charles Canning and Charlotte Canning, Earl and Countess Canning (including file Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9 Household Bills and Receipts, 1850-51)

 

03 June 2021

Most flattering prospects to perfect destitution – Samuel Benstead’s emigration to New York

In the 1830s, thousands of London warehouse labourers lost their jobs when the East India Company stopped all its commercial operations.  The men were given pensions, but some decided to apply for a lump sum in lieu of regular payments to enable them to emigrate with their families.  Sometimes this bold step was not as successful as the labourers believed it would be.

The Emigrant's Address - Illustrated cover of printed music showing a sailing shipThe Emigrant's Address by W Sanford - Illustrated cover of printed music (1853) Shelfmark H.1742.(3.)  © The British Library Board

Samuel Benstead retired from the Company’s Fenchurch Street tea warehouse in September 1834 aged 41 on a weekly pension of 7s 6d.  He couldn’t find work so he put in a request to commute his pension so he could emigrate to New York with his wife Frances Mary (Fanny) and their seven children.  Samuel had been a hosier before joining the Company and he planned to work in America as a slop seller  (a dealer in cheap ready-made clothing).  After rejecting his first application, the Company granted him a lump sum of £203 in February 1835.

Samuel had had to undergo a medical examination by a Company surgeon to prove that he was in good health and of temperate habits.  He had also submitted a certificate, signed by a doctor in Whitechapel, that he was sober and industrious and that there was a reasonable prospect that the large sum of money would be more useful to the family than a regular allowance.

In May 1838 Samuel wrote to the Company from America, petitioning for help. The family had arrived in New York in May 1835. Within a few weeks Samuel had set up business as grocer in New Jersey.  Then he was persuaded to invest in a ‘large concern’ and lost money.  He was reduced from ‘most flattering prospects to perfect destitution’.  Another child was born in 1836.

A second letter was sent by Samuel in July 1838, but this time from Limehouse Fields in London.  Help from a friend had enabled him to return on a Quebec packet ship.  When he landed after 3½ years’ absence, Samuel only had 6d in his pocket.  His two eldest sons had been left in America where he believed they would do well.  The Company turned down Samuel’s request for help.

In April 1840 Samuel petitioned the Company again, giving more details of what had happened in New York.  His business as grocer and general provision dealer was successful until May 1837 when it was hit by the ‘Panic’, a financial crisis in New York.  Almost all business was done on credit, and many hundreds of dollars were owed to Samuel.

Penniless and sick on his return to London, Samuel said that he now had a good opportunity in Jersey and asked the Company for a small sum to help him move his family there.  He claimed he had no other prospect on earth if he couldn’t get to Jersey.  The Company decided that Samuel’s request could not be considered, so in May 1840 his wife Frances sent another petition asking for help with transport costs.  This was also turned down.

The 1841 census shows Samuel, once more a hosier, living in Mile End Old Town with Frances and four of their children aged between four and twelve,  By 1851, Samuel was dead, and Frances was working as a nurse, still living in Mile End with a daughter and two sons.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Records about the Benstead family can be found in the India Office Family History Search and in IOR/L/F/1/2; IOR/L/F/2/30, 48 & 49; IOR/L/AG/30/4 & 5; IOR/L/MIL/5/485.

 

Untold lives blog recent posts

Archives

Tags

Other British Library blogs