Have you ever wondered what your great-great-grandmother’s shopping list looked like or how the shelves of a rural general store were stocked? A collection of ten boxes filled with papers stacked on metal wire, found in the attic of Ware Neck Store (also known as Nuttall’s Store), gives us a rare glimpse into the everyday supply and demand of Gloucester’s community from the 1880s through the early twentieth century. The earliest documents date to shortly after Richard P. and H. E. Taliaferro purchased the Ware Neck Store in 1869. Stacked on the metal wires are store receipts, shopping lists, personal letters, and sundry items that document everything from steamboat shipments from Baltimore, telephone bills and taxes, to the goods purchased by local families and businesses. The Ware Neck Store Collection reflects both the happenings in a rural community and larger networks of trade, as well as the arrival of new technologies in post-bellum Virginia.
VOTE! for this collection – click HERE: VAM website, click “the Ware Neck Store Collection”, and click DONE to submit your vote.
On small paper bags, backs of advertisements, and scraps of paper are scrawled the shopping lists of neighborhood families, allowing us to learn what individuals were consuming. Some women sent lists with swatches of fabric pinned to them. The surviving pieces of checked cotton and delicate lace often reveal the particular tastes and styles of Gloucester women, as they describe how much fabric they needed to sew a shirt or dress collar. The following is a transcription of one of the shopping lists found in the Ware Neck Store Collection, reflecting not only the goods needed, but also who collected the items:
Will please send 1/2 gallon molasses, 1 bucket flour, & 1 lb soda, & oblige.
S. B. Robins
[unreadable] 20th, 1886
A majority of grocery lists requested gallons of molasses, pounds of flour, and buckets of soda as well as meat and produce. An analysis of all the shopping lists from the collection could help us better understand patterns of foodways and the market economy of Gloucester over a more than 30-year period. Although Gloucester was a rural community, not all of the community’s food or commodities were produced on local farms. Account receipts from commissioner merchants and steamboat companies illustrate how far groceries and hardware traveled before being delivered to Hockley Wharf and placed on the shelves of the Ware Neck Store. Baltimore merchants supplied the store with meat and produce as well as sweets. A letter from the Baltimore Chewing Gum Company offered to supply Ware Neck with Seltzer Pepsin Chewing gum. The company promised a profit of 33% per box of gum sold and would supply the store with a large glass jar to display the gum in. Other companies from Richmond, Baltimore, and New York supplied dry goods and appliances like nails, horse furnishings, and stoves. There is even a receipt for an Excelsior stove like the one found during archeological excavations of the manor house at Fairfield.
Unfortunately, years spent in the attic of Ware Neck Store left the collection of documents in poor condition. The papers are dusty, dry, and damaged by mildew and insects. In order to ensure this valuable information is available for future generations to research and enjoy, the Friends of Ware Neck Store and the Fairfield Foundation are working together to conserve the collection and we need your help! You can support the conservation of the Ware Neck Store Collection by casting your vote in the Virginia Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. You may vote as many times as you like between now and August 29th. It just takes three clicks–one to take you to the VAM website, one to check the Fairfield Foundations nomination of the Ware Neck Store Collection, and one to click done to submit your vote. Thank you for supporting the conservation of the Ware Neck Store Collection and helping preserve Gloucester’s heritage!