Making a Living Making Quilts: A Historical Perspective

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fancy Stores in Philadelphia

Advertising card from a Philadelphia shop for fancy goods
operated by Mrs. George M. Baker. 
Mrs. Baker seems to have sold paper goods.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Fancy Repository in London in the 1850s.  There must have been women like Emma Wilcockson in the United States who ran needlework shops with sewing supplies and patterns for fancywork. But the words Fancy Repository seem to mean nothing on this side of the Atlantic.


What would such a shop have been called? I read the 1837 Philadelphia city directory looking for clues. I found many references to "Fancy Stores" and "Fancy Goods," about half of them linked to men and half to women.


"Fancy store" could refer to anything however. Fancy was a popular concept in the early 19th century. The Library Company of Philadelphia has many photos of mid-19th century businesses. The G.A. Schwarz Toy & Fancy Emporium (Wholesale & Retail) sold statuary, ceramics, toys---fancy stuff.

Fancy Goods & Novelties---again toys.

Photo by  Frederick DeBurgh Richards
Library Company of Philadelphia
Fouth Street & Chestnut, commercial neighborhood where many 
of the Philadelphia fancy shops were located

Women would have been more likely to have run shops that sold needlework so I picked out the woman-run businesses in Philadelphia.

Here is the list:
Amanda Pitcher Fancy Goods 67 Cedar
Eliza Gaffney fancy goods 148 S 11th
Mary Hoguet  fancy goods 80 s 4th
Mrs S Hart & Son fancy goods 120 Chestnut
                Hart & Brother, fancy goods 32 S 6th, h 120 Chestnut
Mrs. E Dean fancy goods NE 11th & Chestnut
Mary Fargundus fancy store 341 S 4th
Louisa Grant fancy goods 4 Arcade
Mary Laycock, fancy goods 59 Chestnut
Ann McGuigan fancy store 146 S 11th
Eunice A Taylor fancy store 151 Walnut
Corner of 2nd and South Streets

I chose one woman with an unusual name to see if I could find more about her and her goods. Mary Collins Hoguet was an American who married a French refugee. She was born January 15, 1797 in Philadelphia. Her husband Auguste Fran├žois Hoguet was 25 years older, born in Paris on August 1, 1771 before the French Revolution of 1789.

Hoguet clock labeled "Hoguet Le Jeune"
[Hoguet the younger]
who may have been Auguste's father.

His family were clockmakers, tradesmen to the aristocracy. France's ever changing politics dictated Auguste's emigration to Philadelphia some time after the birth of his last French child with wife Louise Angeligue LeProvost in 1810 (she lived until 1864 long after his marriage to Mary.)

Auguste Fran├žois Hoguet
Mary was his third wife

Mary Collins Hoguet's first child Augustus was born (and died) in 1817 so it's thought they were married about 1816 when she was about 20. Auguste was a jeweler and clockmaker in Philadelphia. He became an American citizen in 1821. Their six surviving children were born between 1818 and 1829.

Photograph of a Chestnut Street clock shop (at right) in 1843 by W. Mason,
Library Company of Philadelphia
Shop owners usually lived above the first floor store.

Hoguet financial affairs were obviously in disarray by 1837 when we find Mary operating her fancy goods store. Were Auguste (now aged 66) supporting her and their six children she would not have been working. The year 1837 was the beginning of a nationwide financial crisis known as the Panic of 1837 so the Hoguets (living together or apart) were certainly not alone in their distress. The directory does not list Auguste.

Mary's shop is also listed in the directory for 1839 so she must have had some success to persist in a difficult time. Auguste is back in Paris in 1845, perhaps divorced from Mary, says his biography. The 1860 city directory lists Mary Hoguet as the widow of Augustus F., living at 110 Jacoby. Son Francis is in the furniture business. He served as a First Lieutenant with the 110th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War. Son Louis was a successful druggist in Bucks County and Joseph a boiler maker in Philadelphia according to the 1863 directory. Her sons must have contributed to Mary's support as that directory lists her as a "gentlewoman" living at 1212 Buttonwood.

Chestnut & 4th in the 1890s

She died in Philadelphia on February 10, 1866 at 69. Mary and several of her children are buried in Woodlands Cemetery there with no reference to their French father.

I found little about Mary's business. What I found about her personal life seems to be consistent with what we can assume about women-run businesses. She worked because she had no support from a husband, women's most reliable economic base at the time.

I didn't find any Philadelphia shops that sound like the repositories in London. Philadelphia was not London (as many visitors at the time would be glad to tell you) and it just may be that Philadelphians could not support such specialty stores. There must have been a demand for patterns and supplies but perhaps one bought them in general stores or dry goods shops or from women who operated business from their homes.

Fancy goods is an awfully broad category. 
Here it refers to glassware and china.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Selling Patchwork Patterns: A Fancy Repository

Women selling needlework in the New Jersey booth at an 1864 
fundraising fair in New York City

Some questions this blog hopes to answer:

1. How long have people been selling patchwork patterns?
2. How long have people been selling quilt kits?
3. How long have women been making a living supplying needleworkers?

The answers are probably all the same: As long as people have been stitching patchwork and quilts.

A reference to buying a paper quilt pattern in 1835 from a Delaware woman:

Phoebe bought her pattern card at a charity bazaaar, a typical place (then and now)
for women to exchange needlework.

The Empty Purse by James Collinson, about 1850. 
Tate Museum Collection.
Painting with a moral of an English woman at a church fair at St. Bride's Church in Lonodn.

St. Bride's

Being a Pre-Rafaelite, Collinson painted everything
in great detail. Notice the ball pincushion.

It's hard to figure out Collinson's moral but we get a view of the kinds of needlework and paper items available at charity fairs on either side of the Atlantic. 

Patterns also were available from commercial establishments in London. One entrepreneur was  Emma Elizabeth Keytes Wilcockson (1829-1871) who operated a Fancy Repository with her husband Herbert near Tottenham Court Road in the 1850s &  '60s. Her primary business seems to have been marking for embroidery. By 1856 she noted: " I have issued from my establishment upwards of 60,000 square yards of traced and perforated muslin for embroidery.” 

Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine April, 1865
Dagmar Star (perhaps named for Princess 
Alexandra's sister who
married the heir to the Russian throne in 1866)

Mrs. Wilcockson also sold patterns for patchwork.  
A feature in an 1865 ladies' magazine showing the Dagmar Star advised readers:
"Mrs. Wilcockson....supplies pieces of patchwork arranged in this pattern, as well as pieces of stiff paper or cardboard ready cut, and silk for completing the work. The pieces may be obtained at her establishment."


You could buy a pre-cut kit for the star or paper templates with silk to cut yourself.

The neighborhood on Tottenham Court Road. 
The shop was at 44 Goodge Street and later 46, both buildings gone.

If you could not drop by Emma would "send you the pattern for a trifle."

Emma and Herbert Wilcockson's Fancy Repository was an all-purpose needlework shop selling fabric, thread, marked patterns for embroidery, kits for making what-nots and  knicknacks ("smoking caps with the leaves cut out and gummed on the cloth ready for working")

An 1860 advertisement for a free catalog.
She featured "Initial Letters in Twenty Different Styles" to embroider here.


Typical published embroidery pattern

Emma explained how to use her paper patterns:
"Trace your pattern on tissue paper. Ink over the design, and when dry tack the paper on the material ...when finished tear the paper away. "
Husband Herbert (1827-?) was a solicitor, a printer and a publisher. While working as a lawyer he was also proprietor of the Repository, although this may have been a legal nicety and Emma was the actual proprietor. In 1857 she published a book Embroidery: Its History, Beauty, and Utility: With plain instructions to learners (Darton & Company, Holborn Hill)I haven't been able to find a digital copy of this book or her catalogs.

1861 ad in Mrs. Beeton's magazine on household management.

Emma Wilcockson was skillful at using print to promote her pattern business. She had regular features in the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine and advertisements (hard to distinguish between the two) in other periodicals.
"Ladies and the Trade supplied with the Newest Designs. Better Materials than any other House, at Mrs. Wilcockson's, 44, Goodge-street, Tottenham-Court-road, London"
Emma and Herbert had five children to support. Annie, Frank (born about 1856) and Ernest are three of them.

The Sandringham Patchwork Pattern,
published by the Domestic Magazine in 1863.
Sandringham was the home of the Prince of Wales &
Alexandra who married in 1863.

 20th-century Pennsylvania version of 
Sandringham in velvet from Stella Rubin's shop

Many of you readers know how hard it is to run a needlework business and the Wilcocksons had financial difficulties. Herbert declared bankruptcy (twice as far as I can tell, in 1862 and 1867---or the process dragged on for five years.)

"Herbert Wilcockson...Printer, Manager of the business of a Printer, and
Dealer in Berlin Wool and Fancy Goods...has been adjudged bankrupt."

Unfulfilled orders had been piling up. 

In 1866 the Domestic Magazine announced they were severing their connection with Emma Wilcockson due to "numerous complaints."

Like the Wilcocksons,  Domestic Magazine publishers Samuel & 
Isabella Beeton were a husband/wife publishing team, but far more successful. 
Their Domestic Magazine published patterns for clothing and
 fancy work from 1856 to 1879.

Emma is found in the 1871 British census. She apparently died that year at 42. I'd like to know more about her and her Fancy Repository. And: 
Were there similar establishments in the U.S. in the 1860s? 

A Fancy Repository in Durham, England about 1905.
Needlework in the right hand window.