Monday, September 21, 2009

The Ink Manufacturer and the Ice Dealer, 1860-1

Dusty Diary is studying the 1860-1861 business directory this afternoon. It reveals some interesting business patterns quite different from today, as well as some vanished trades. But context first: what was going on in Ypsilanti between 1860 and 1870?

The population in 1860 is 4,000 residents, or only 19% of the current population of 21,000. Mark Norris builds the Thompson Block. The Thompson Block houses soldiers. The 17th Michigan Infantry, mostly from Normal College, fights in Middleton, Maryland with General Ambrose Burnside, and pushes the confederates back. Depot Town is completed, and Highland Cemetery is opened. “The Commercial” newspaper is started. The city mourns the death of Lincoln. An Ypsilanti Commercial advertisement frankly offers a preparation to "prevent any increase of family where health will not permit it." Ulysses S. Grant speaks at the railroad depot.

Against this backdrop, 195 businesspeople offered a variety of products and services to residents. I've sorted the list (below) in descending order of businessmen to show which professions had the most practitioners. Some impressions:

1. There was a ton of in-city manufacturing going on. It seems as though there was very little you'd ever have to order to be shipped from outside the city. You could get everything from your baby crib to your dress to your carriage to your tombstone all made right here in Ypsilanti.

2. People worked their butts off. Many of these manufacturing jobs were very physically demanding ones--at foundries, mills, and tanneries. There are no relatively cushy cubicle jobs at all, and only a sprinkling of professionals like bankers and lawyers--though there were a lot of lawyers, come to think about it--but overall, the number of "paper" jobs compared to "hard work" jobs is miniscule.

3. The #2 most popular job is doctor, second only to grocer. If you throw in the 2 homeopaths, which I personally wouldn't but anyways, the number of doctors is 18--the highest number of members of any one profession in the entire city! Boy, does that have grim implications.

Other tidbits: One of the barbers was listed as "colored," in the language of the time, and at this time is the ONLY black businessman in the entirety of Ypsilanti. There was one guy whose sole profession was "Ink Manufacturer." Another man was a "Professor of Penmanship." There's a bible agent and an ice dealer and a lot of vanished trades like "dagueurrean artist." Gun and pistol salesman, too. Take a look at the list for yourself and see what *you* can infer from it!

17 grocers
16 physicians and surgeons
14 boot and shoe manufacturers and dealers
10 lawyers
10 carpenters and builders
9 general merchants
8 dry goods salesmen
6 saloons and restaurants
6 hides, leather, and findings
5 insurance agents
5 clothiers (Robert Lambie, whose ad appears at left, was one of these clothiers).
5 booksellers
5 bankers
4 sash, blind, and door manufacturers
4 hoteliers
4 furniture dealers and manufacturers (David Coon, whose ad is at right, was one of the town's 4 furnituremakers).
4 dentists
4 carriage and wagon manufacturers
4 blacksmiths
3 proprietors of boarding houses
3 merchant tailors
3 meat market
3 hardware dealers
3 druggists
3 barbers
2 stove dealers and tin and sheet iron workers
2 proprietors of billiard saloons
2 painters, plain and ornamental
2 newspaper editors (for the Herald and Sentinel)
2 music teachers
2 jewelers
2 homeopaths
2 foundries
2 professors of penmanship
2 daguerrean and photographic artists
1 veterinary surgeon
1 telegraph office and operator
1 soap and candle manufacturer
1 saw mill proprietor
1 safe manufacturer
1 saddle manufacturer
1 merchant miller
1 marble manufacturer and dealer (This was Hiram Batchelder, whose sons (as in this 1864 ad) later ran the town's only stonecutting shop).
1 lumber dealer
1 livery and sale stable
1 ink manufacturer
1 ice dealer
1 house mover
1 hats, caps, & furs
1 harness manufacturer
1 guns and pistols
1 confectioner
1 cigar and tobacco dealer
1 china, glass, and queensware
1 broom manufacturer
1 broker
1 bible agent
1 baker
1 auctioneer
1 agricultural implements
1 Agent express co.

8 comments :

Wystan said...

Do you happen to have the date handy, when Grant appeared at the Ypsi depot? What did he say? Did he get to Ann Arbor also? Youth wants to know! (Compared to U. S. Grant, I still am but a youth . . . .)

Dusty D said...

Hi Wystan: (checks Harvey Colburn) hmmmm, not mentioned there...hope that doesn't mean this is false info.

Wystan, the only date I have at hand is 1869.

He was inaugurated as president in that year of course. Was it a "thanks for the vote" railroad tour? Somehow I think it would be more logical for him to appear in Ypsi on a whistle-stop campaign tour *before* the election, don't you think?

I'll tell you what, though--I've put this tidbit on my Halle Library research list and I'll see what the old papers say when I'm there later next week. If I find the answer, I'll post it here. Thank you for the question.

Dusty D said...

My favorite tidbit from this list, aside from the doctors, is the Ink Manufacturer.

It hit me--of course! Everyone wrote everything with a metal-tipped pen dipped in a bottle of ink! But not a fountain pen--those weren't invented until 1884.

The grocers wrote out receipts...the stonecutter filled out an order blank...a diarist wrote in her diary...all told, the City probably went through several gallons of ink every day!

I wish I could find a kind and helpful geek geeky enough to calculate how much a city of 4,000 men, women, children, and infants would use in pen ink each day...

...that's my dream.

jml said...

I think for many people at the time, the homeopaths would certainly count with the allopathic doctors. Homeopathic practitioners then often had much better outcomes, probably because their treatments, at worst, didn't actively harm their patients (Calomel, anyone?).

The growth of the homeopathic movement led to formation of 22 homeopathic medical schools in the US, including one at the University of Michigan from 1875-1922.

jml said...

16 doctors seemed high for 4000 folks, but maybe not considering many appointments were house calls. 4000/16=250 patients each (plus any farmers), so I guess they would be pretty busy.

James said...

Grant stopped by Ypsilanti on more than one occasion. He is known to have passed through the city at least once during the Civil War, when the train stopped, and several people met the hero. Then he can here with President Andrew Johnson, as part of a campaign trip. Those are the two I recall.

Dusty D said...

James: Hm. Where could we find documentation for these alleged visits, I wonder? Harvey Colburn mentions nothing about a Grant visit or visits during the period in question. I don't recall seeing a "Presidential Visits" file in the Archives.

Is this just a question of slogging through the old 1869 papers? Which I am happy to do, if that's the only way to confirm this story.

Dusty D said...

jml: As usual you're spot-on about the doctors...allopathic docs at this time were still administering what was known as "heroic medicine," which dictated that the severity of a disease was best combatted by the degree of violence of the treatment: bleeding, purges, emetics.

This severity is what helped give rise to patent medicines, incidentally--people didn't enjoy the "medical" treatments of the day and sought gentler, and cheaper, treatments, which as you say may have helped give support to the discipline of homeopathy.

U-M at the time had a school of homeopathy IIRC.