Haberdashery is a trade primarily concerned with the retail sale of small wares. It evolved in the 14th century in response to the changing trends of fashion and the demands of a rising middle class. First incorporated as a guild in London in 1448, the Haberdashers eventually included the Hatters and Cappers guilds and grew to a powerful guild by the 16th century. In the mid 1590's, the guild consisted of approximately 1500 members in the city of London.
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Haberdashers often specialized in types of wares and also became involved in the import of foreign wares. The most complete inventory of a Haberdasher comes from 1378, but the types of wares sold changed little over the centuries. Common items sold include dress accessories, hats and caps, leather goods, personal grooming items, stationary and games.
The items presented here (tennis ball, black jack, sweet purse, poynts, and wooden lantern) are an attempt to show the variety and breadth of a haberdasher's inventory at the end of the 16th century and the relative ease of finding and making many of these small wares. Five items are presented in detail with supporting documentation and a complete inventory with descriptions is included at the end.Reference
Archer, Ian W., The History of The Haberdashers' Company, Phillimore & Co. Ltd, Chichester, Great Britain, 1991.
STOCK OF THOMAS TREWE, A HABERDASHER IN THE PARISH OF ST. EWEN, AS APPRAISED IN 1378:
2 dozens of laces of red leather, value 8d.;
one gross of 'poyts' of red leather, 18d.;
one dozen of 'cradilbowes', made of wool and flax, 18d.;
3 'cradilbowes' made of wool and flax, 3d.;
one dozen of caps, one half of which are of red colour and the other half green, 2s. 8d.;
one dozen of white caps, called 'nightecappes', 2s. 3d.;
2 dozens of woolen caps of divers colours, 16s.;
caps of black wool, 4s.;
5 caps of blue colour, and one cap of russet, 2s. 6d.;
5 children's caps, red and blue, 2s. 1d.;
one dozen of black hures, 4s.;
one black hure 4d.;
2 hair camises, 12d.;
one red cap 7d.;
one other cap of russet, 7d.;
one hat of russet, 6d.;
one white hat, 3d.;
2 papers covered in red leather, 12d.;
2 other papers, one of them covered with black leather, and the other with red, 8d.;
one purse, called 'hamondeys' of sea-green colour, 6d.;
4 pairs of spurs, 2s.;
one double chain of iron, 10d., and one other iron chain, 6d.;
one wooden gaming table with a set of men, 6d.;
2 'permis', 2s.;
one cloth painted with Him Crucified and other figures, 2s. 4d.;
8 white chains of iron for ferrettes, 8d.;
one flekage of wood, 3d.;
one set of beads of 'geet', 6d.;
one other set of beads of black alabaster, 4d.;
3 sets of beads of wood, 3d.;
2 pairs of pencases, with horns, 8d.;
one pair of children's boots of white woollen cloth, 2d.;
one osculatory called a 'paxbread', 3d.;
2 sets of wooden beads called 'knottes', 4d.;
4 articles called 'kombes' of boxwood, 4d.;
2 wooden boxes, 3d.;
2 wooden 'piper quernes', 3d.;
2 pounds of linen thread, green and blue, 2s.;
2 wooden 'cosynis', 2d.;
6 purses of red leather, 4d.;
4 eyeglasses, 2d.;
18 horns called 'inkehornes', 18d.;
2 pencases, 6d.;
one black girdle of woollen thread, 2d.;
13 quires of paper, 6s. 8d.;
other paper, damaged, 6d.;
one hat of russet, 6d.;
2 wooden coffins, 8d.;
2 gaming tables with the men, 16d.;
one wooden block for shaping caps, 2d.;
6 skins of parchment called 'soylepeles', 6.;
one wooden whistle, 2d.;
7 leaves of paper, 1d.;
and 3 pieces of whippecorde, 3d..
|A HABERDASHER and a CARPENTER,|
|An ARRAS-MAKER, DYER, and WEAVER|
|365||Were with us, clothed in the same livery,|
|All of one solemn, great fraternity.|
|Freshly and new their gear, and well adorned it was;|
|Their weapons were not cheaply shaped with brass,|
|But all with silver; neatly made and well|
|370||Their belt and their purses too, I tell.|
|Each man of them appeared a proper citizen|
|To sit in guildhall on a dais, he can|
|And each of them, for wisdom he could span,|
|Was suitable to serve as an alderman;|
|375||For property they'd enough, and income too;|
|Besides their wives declared it was their due,|
|Or else for certain they had been to blame.|
|It's good to hear "Madam" before one's name,|
|And go to church when all the world may see,|
|380||Having one's gown carried right royally.|
Though not mentioned by name, the speaker seems to be either a haberdasher or a chapman (one who purchased small wares from haberdashers in the city and traveled the rest of the country, selling them out of his pack).
Fine knacks for ladies, cheap, choice, brave and new,
Good pennyworths but money cannot move,
I keep a fair but for the fair to view,
A beggar may be liberal of love.
Though all my wares be trash, the heart is true.
Great gifts are guiles and look for gifts again,
My trifles come as treasures from my mind,
It is a precious jewel to be plain,
Sometimes in shell the Orient's pearls we find.
Of others take a sheaf, of me a grain.
Within this pack pins, points, laces and gloves,
And divers toys fitting a country fair,
But in my heart, where duty serves and loves,
Turtles and twins, Court's brood, a heav'nly pair.
Happy the man that thinks of no removes.
Thomas Smith c. 1549:
"I have sene within these xxtie [twenty] years, when there weare not of these haberdashers that sell French of millane capes, glasses, Daggers, swerdes, girdles and such things, not a dossen in all London. And now from the towere to Westminster alonge, everie steat is full of them; and their shoppes glisters and shine of flasses, aswell lokinge as drinckinge, yea all manor vesselles of the same stuffe; painted sruses, gaye daggers, knives, swords, and girdles, that is able to make anie temproate man to gase on them and to bie sumwhat, thoughe it serve to no purpose necessarie."
A study was conducted in 1559-1560 to analyze the impact of imports on the English economy. The costs of imports due to haberdashery include:
Wool cards £2837
Tennis balls £1699
Laces £775 6s. 8d.
Looking glasses £667
Haberdashery accounted for 7.1% by value of total imports In 1564-5, 111,132 combs, 97,488 packs of playing cards, 67,500 thimbles, 19,620 ink-horns, and 87,342,070 pins were imported to London.