NEW! VIRTUAL EXHIBIT
Back in the day, no cash was no problem. Shoppers exchanged simple IOUs for goods or traded everything from fish and feathers to vegetables and eels for the items they needed. This exhibit takes us back a few centuries for a typical round of errands to the general store, the blacksmith, the carpenter and the bank to see what’s available and learn how people shopped and traded in a cash-deprived economy. Like one Falmouth resident, John Tobey (1766-1849). Thanks to a remarkable discovery, we have a window into how this system worked. While renovating his home about a decade ago, an East Falmouth resident found a box secreted in the frame of the building. The treasure inside: a stack of 200-year-old receipts, credit slips, and other business papers that once belonged to Mr. Tobey.
Buttons, butter churns, sewing supplies and scythes. Every week, we’ll feature a different item, so check back to discover what else we’ve found in the archives by “shopping local”. Or, sign up for our newsletter to have each new exhibit item delivered to your in box!
SEALING WAX STAMP
This is a 19th century brass hand-shaped sealing wax stamp. At the base of the 2 ½ inch hand, there is a stamp for sealing letters and legal documents in wax. In this 1809 letter, Joseph Smalley informed John Tobey that “We have got our salt for five and a half dollars a hogshead and shall sail today.” You can still see traces of the red sealing wax that Smalley used to secure the letter. Both items are from the Museums’ collection and part of our new, virtual “Cash, Credit, or Eels” exhibit.
PORTRAIT, HAY RAKE AND RECEIPT
In the early 1800s, hay was a common commodity. While the rake above doesn’t quite date back that far, we’ve included the impressive 62-inch long tool in our virtual shopping trip to illustrate the importance hay played in the bartering system. The receipt at the bottom documents that Falmouth resident John Tobey received hay and corn from Deacon Thomas Fish of Quissett on March 13, 1810. A year later, there is a new charge for corn. We have another receipt from Tobey dated November 17, 1819, with his promise to pay Fish $6. On the back, we can see he made payments on April 2, 1827 and February 17, 1830–a very lenient payment plan indeed! The deacon’s portrait (shown above) hangs in Conant House. You can learn more about him and his wife, Susanna, in a previous Untold Tales of Falmouth, The Case of the Missing Unitarians.
JOHN TOBEY DOCUMENT
John Tobey was friends with the Smalley family. They co-owned a couple of small trading schooners. Upon John Smalley’s untimely death, his estate owed Tobey for several items, including rum. It’s probable the sailors on the vessels consumed the large amounts of rum indicated. It’s also possible the spirits were acquired to trade elsewhere.
The Bowermans of West Falmouth were among the earliest white settlers, arriving around 1678. Their Quaker religion taught them to value plain design and simple materials such as those of this tankard (c 1790-1840) which belonged to their family. It’s doubtful they would have overindulged in spirits. They probably only drank liquor for medicinal purposes, or if it were a healthier alternative than water. This item was donated to the historical society three years ago by a direct descendant of the family, and given in memory of Cecelia Bowerman Fuglister.
BARREL OR KEG TAP
This essential 19th century tool is 6″ long X 3 1/2″ wide (Unknown donor).
John Tobey Document: This bill shows purchases John Tobey made from Solomon Bourne. Note the charge in December 1825 for butter: 14 pounds, 10 ounces at the rate of 14 cents per pound. That’s $2.05! The back side shows Tobey received a credit of $5.62 for “payment” of two and a half quintles of fish.
Butter Churn. This 19th century, greenish-brown wood churn has a cover and paddle stick. The churn is 17-3/4″ h (22″ to the top of the handle) x 7-1/2″d.
Butter Presses. These butter presses (c1850) are about three inches in diameter. They were used to make a pretty design in the top of a pat of butter.