Source: The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820, Mary Estelle Delcamp, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Transylvania College in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts June, 1916
The early store of Lexington was transitory. A merchant went East to Philadelphia, or south to Natchez or New Orleans, laid in a supply of goods and returned to Lexington, where he opened a stand (Nov. 17, Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 19, 1789; Feb. 27, 1796). When his stock was sold out, he closed up his business, went east and bought more goods (Dec. 15, 1787; Jan. 5, 1788). In the meantime another trader might arrive, and open a new cargo at the same stand (Apr. 12, 1788; Dec. 22, 1792; Dec. 7 & Nov. 29, 1794). In the busiest season, stands on Main Street were at a premium. Should the prospective merchant have been a little too late, he had to satisfy himself with a store on a side street (Feb. 27, 1796).
Everything was done to facilitate navigation, which played so important a part in the securing of supplies. In 1794 armed sailing- and rowing boats acted as convoys to other boats going up and down the Ohio ((Jan. 4, 1794). In 1806, John Goodman, of Frankfort, made a map of the rapids of the Ohio river (July 5, 1806).
The East was the chief place in which to buy (Mar. 1, 1788; Nov. 17, Nov. 28, Dec. 18, 1789; July 6, 1793; Feb. 27, 1796). New Orleans, on the other hand, was more commonly used as a market for produce. Because of the easy access to this southern market, and the ready sale for commodities there, merchants of Lexington were willing to take in exchange for their goods bacon, whiskey, hemp, country linen, butter, tobacco, beef, flour, tallow, and bees-wax (Feb. 18, 1797).
As time went on, instead of general department stores, special stores grew up; the number of new merchants decreased, while the old merchants became permanently established in definite businesses. The early merchants were very numerous. Some of these however, were merely traders, who opened shop only for a little time, and then moved on (Dec. 15, 1787; Aug. 2, 1788; Nov. 28, 1789). The early advertisements showed a limited number of articles handled by the various merchants, but as time passed this list was greatly increased (Sept. 8, 1787; Oct. 13, 1787; Jan. 5, 1793). The first cargoes from the East generally contained linens and stuffs, coffee, tea, loaf-sugar, raisins, wines, spices, china- and queen's ware, glass tumblers, writing paper, cotton cards, indigo, penny nails, and shoes (Sept. 8, 1787; Oct. 13, 1787).
Among the prominent merchants of the day were: Thomas January (Sept. 8, 1787), Robert Barr, (Dec. 15, 1787), Alexander and James Parker (Jan. 5, 1788), Teagarden and M'Cullough (Sept. 27, 1788), Peter January (Dec. 20, 1788), William Morton (Mar. 26, 1791), William Levy (Mar. 26, 1791), Samuel January (Nov. 19, 1791), James Morrison (Aug. 25, 1792), Irvin and Bryson (Dec. 29, 1793), Seitz and Lauman (Jan. 5, 1793), Trotter and Scott (Dec. 6, 1794), Thomas Hart and Son (Dec. 7, 1794), Benjamin Stout (Jan. 31, 1795), A. & J.W. Hunt (July 25, 1795), and William Macbean (Aug. 27, 1796).
These merchants, like their country descendant[s] of today, had considerable trouble with the ubiquitous loafer. One merchant complained that the loungers were ruining his trade, because the women of the town refused to come into a store filled with men (Dec. 17, 1791).
The store keepers soon found a ready sale for fine ornaments, feathers, and ribbons. In 1803 John Jordan Jr. was advertising ladies' muffs and tippetts, and white and colored fur trimmings (Jan. 4, 1803). Two years later George Anderson had for sale ostrich feathers, superb silver ornaments, ribbon, extra long silk gloves, fans and silk velvets for fur collars (Aug. 6, 1805). In 1811 David Logan and Co. opened a Ladies' Fashionable Store on the plan of London and Philadelphia. the stock consisted of: bonnets; dress-turbans; caps; beads; combs; muslins; cambrics; dimities; chintzes; linens; lenoes; work-robes; mantuas; lute-strings; Persians; laces, feathers; flowers; silk velvet' lace-, silk-, muslin-, jubilee-, and cashmire-shawls; cheques and ginghams; silk- madras-, flag-, and cambric-handkerchiefs; fancy prints; silk and cotton stockings; silk and kid gloves; kid and morocco shoes; jewelry; and cotton balls (May. 4, 1811).
Milliner stores soon became separate businesses. In 1804 Mrs. White from London had "an elegant and extensive assortment of the most fashionable millinery goods, - viz., silk - and straw scoops, old ladies bonnets, feathered velvet hats, velvet spencers, satin- and mode cloaks, lace and gauze veils, turbans, crepe and muslin caps, ostrich feathers and artificial flowers, stuffing for cravats, suspenders, and black and red morocco leather bonnets for children (May 1, 1804). Two years later Halstead and Co. advertised a few leghorn bonnets for cash, or approved 60 or 90 day notes (Jan. 16, 1806). An amusing joke from the "Trifles Light as Air-" column of the Gazette reveals the fact that times have not changed much. As the story goes, a gentleman was commissioned by his wife to make a purchase at a milliner store. When accosted by friends he was returning, he begged to be excused from stopping, because he had bought a bonnet for his wife and was afraid that the fashion might change before he got home (Feb. 19, 1806). Among the other milliners of the time were Julia Logan (May 21, 1805), Mrs. Plimpton, and Mrs. Saunders (Apr. 14, 1820).
The Bluegrass belle of the day bought her toilet articles at The Sign of the Golden Rose, No. 7, Cheapside (July 27, 1820). This was also a jewelry store selling superb pearl ornaments, head-ornaments, lockets, broaches, breast-pins, paste crosses, and rich-wound glass eardrops (Apr. 9, 1819). Prices at this store were quoted thus: "Amulet necklaces, $3.00 to $8.00 each; odour of roses in small bottles, $5.00; almond paste, for washing the skin, in boxes, $3.00; Balsamic lip-salve of roses, for giving beautiful coral-red to lips, for curing roughness and chaps, and leaving them smooth and comfortable, in boxes four shillings, 6 pence; rouge, 2 shillings, 3 pence per card; chemical cosmetic washballs, for softening, preserving, and beautifying the skin, and preventing it from chapping, $1.00 per ball; cologne water, warranted pure and of French importation, price $1.00 per single bottle, and $5.00 per box; French perfumed waters, 12 1/2 cents per bottle; lavender water, 5 shillings, 9 pence per bottle; essence of soap, $1.00 per bottle; Naples' soap, $1.00 per pot (Mar. 12, 1819). William Mentelle at his store had on hand "some pots of scented pomatum, excellent for the growth of the hair; some bottles of essence of flowers; liquid essence of soap; coral tooth-powder; and durable ink to mark linen (Feb. 25, 1812). In 1819 Henry Fletcher advertised Christmas presents consisting of ladies' toilet work-boxes, fancy boxes, pin cushions, and rich jewelry (January 1, 1819).
The silversmith and goldsmith were the first jewelers in the town. Among the earliest of these were Richard West (Aug. 9, 1899), David Humphrey (June 13, 1789), Samuel Ayres (Jan. 23, 1790), and William Todd Feb. 28, 1795). In 1791 Samuel Ayres stated his business as both that of silversmith and jeweler (July 2, 1791). In 1805 and again in 1814 a traveling jeweler stopped a few days in the town, to sell his wares (Apr. 30, 1805; Oct. 10, 1814). Jewelry was also sold in department stores.
The Lexington housewife did not have to depend entirely upon the negro servant for her baking. As early as 1789 Nicholas Wood, baker, had bread and cakes of different kinds for sale (Sept. 26, 1789). In 1812 Godfrey Plain supplied his customers with French and English loaves of bread, crackers, and ginger nuts (May 5, 1812). Two years later, Henry E.I. Roberts opened a more pretentious shop. He agreed to furnish, by wholesale or retail, cakes; savoys, iced or not; puff paste for parties (Nov. 14, 1814). In the same year he and Mr. Giron entered into partnership, Mr. Giron keeping a store on Mill, and Mr. Roberts on Main. They offered not only to supply refreshments for tea-parties and balls, but also to make desserts for family dinners or suppers. In their confectionary shop, cakes, candies, comfits, sugar toys, jellies, preserves, cordials, and ice-creams in season were to be had (Nov. 21, 1814). Previous to the opening of Mr. Giron's store, Mr. Terrase in the same building on Mill had furnished the town with ice-cream (May 2, 1814). In 1815 John Duncan established a similar business on Mill. He advertised more extensively than any of his predecessors, and in these advertisements gave large assortments of both candies and pastries; among the former were barley candy, rock, lemon, hoarhound, cinnamon, mint, stomachic, plated mint stick, Burgamot, Spanish liquorice juice, strawberry plums, citron plums, sugar plums, chocolate drops, sugar almonds, caraway comforts, Portuguese, glazed almonds crokante kisses or secrets, and Spanish cakes. Among pastries he advertised pound cakes, plum cakes, French and English jumbles, sponge cakes, almond bread, ladies' fingers, port-mahoons, macaroons, chocolate macaroons, Prussians, Savoy cakes, Genoese cakes, Naples biscuits, love cakes, mince meat pies, and several other kinds, cream caloons, tea-cakes, naivette cakes, love nuts, Philadelphia kisses, Almond kisses, tartelettes, and tarts (Jan. 30, 1815). In 1816 Duncan went out of business and Roberts moved into his store (May 13, 1816; Feb. 5, 1816).
Two years later the Alluvion Bakehouse was selling breads at Isaac Bowles' on Cross Street, between Main and Main Cross, and B. Blount's on Short, between Upper and Mulberry. The various kinds of bread they made were: pilot bread, navy bread, water and butter biscuit, and loaf bread. They further accommodated their customers by bringing fresh and warm bread to their doors for early morning breakfast (May 24, 1817).
At first there were no distinct grocery stores, but such goods were sold in general department stores (Sept. 8 & Oct. 13, 1787; Sept. 27 & May 17, 1788). In 1805 William Macbean opened a vendue store "to facilitate the disposal of produce and manufactures of this country." He felt that at no distant time country produce would undoubtedly command a price in money. He further proposed to have one sale a month, if his plan succeeded. For his own compensation he said that he would charge a small commission. This shows that Mr. Macbean really intended to establish a commission house (Jan. 8, 1805). Various merchants made a specialty of advertising groceries, but George Anderson in 1812 was the first to call himself a grocer (Mar. 3, 1812). Five years later Bird Smith and Robert Todd established an extensive grocery. The partnership was formed with this idea in view: one member could be absent at foreign markets, while the other was running the business at home (Dec. 20, 1817).
Just as in the case of other articles, hardware formed a necessary part of the nondescript cargo, imported from the East. This form of merchandise consisted for the most part of necessary articles, such as: copper and brass kettles, tea-kettles, frying pans, tureens, tin-ware, two-foot rules, saddles, and stills (May 31, 1790). In 1795 a wholesale hardware and iron mongery place was established by John Graham and Co. (Sept. 26, 1795). Five years thereafter a man direct from England placed on sale these articles: table knives and forks, from 7 shillings 6 pence to $7.50 per dozen; dessert knives and forks; carving knives and forks; children's knives and forks; butler knives and putty knives with green and white ivory, stag, buck, bone, horn, ebony, cocoa, and camwood; pruning knives; pocket and pen knives; fruit knives with silver blades; women's scissors; razors; razor strops; shoe tacks; joiner's punches; cast-steel files; metal tea-pots and cream ewers; candlesticks; table and tea spoons' snuff and tobacco boxes (Jan. 23, 1800).
As the town grew, separate shoe stores sprang up. The Sign of the Boot, Shoe and Slipper, owned by William Ross, was opened in 1792 (November 24, 1792). Just twenty years after Amos Alley opened the Baltimore Shoe Store, "where he also had Spanish segars and a few barrels of coffee for sale" (May 5, 1812).
In a country where so much attention was given to education, book-stores naturally found a good field for business. William Levy in 1793, in connection with his general merchandise, imported a considerable number of books (June 29, 1793). Two years thereafter John Bradford opened a bookstore in the large brick house near the public spring on Main (June 27, 1795). In 1809 Johnson and Warner arrived from Philadelphia with the intention of going into the book business (May 2, 1809). In a few cases, the printing presses, binderies, and bookstores were combined (Mar. 24, 1812; Jan. 3, 1814). Besides the regular book trade, this line of business also handled stationery, penknives, and plotting instruments (June 6, 1795).
Another very interesting establishment was Goerge Geib's Music Store. At first located next door to Postlethwaite's Tavern, in 1804 it was removed to the corner of Short and Poplar (now Mill). An inventory of his stock revealed bassoons, piano-fortes, violins, clarinets, flutes, flagelets, bass drums, triangles, bugles, trumpets, tambourines, piano-forte music composed by Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Pleyel, Cramer, Dussek, and Steibelt, and consisting of concertos, sonatas, airs with variations, waltzes, cotillions, the most fashionable songs, easy lessons, and instruction books (Jan. 17, 1814).
Auctioneering was very common throughout the period. In early days these sales were held at taverns (Apr. 5, 1790), at the court house (May 27, 1797), or at the market house (June 10, 1806). As a rule the household furniture, or personal estate of a deceased, or both, formed the principle articles for auction (Oct. 19, 1793; Aug. 20, 1796). In one instance the property sold consisted of: "a secretaire with quadrant hinges; a Mahogany portable desk with two locks; elegant four-post bed furniture, lined and fringed; a large Marseilles bed-quilt; a pair of handsome window curtains fringed; harness; saws; bridles; bedding; clock with an alarm bell; and water proof boots" (Sept. 1, 1806). By 1812 Daniel Bradford had opened his auction and commission store on Cheapside (Dec. 8, 1812). From this time on it became customary to hold auctions in such a house (Apr. 21, 1817; Jan. 28, 1820).
Transcribed February 2001 by pb