Chapter 10: trade.
having for its friend the richest merchant belonging to the “Company” of the Massachusetts Plantation
, its trade was great at first.
Oct. 16, 1629: The General Court ordered “that the company's joint stock shall have the trade of beaver and all other furs in those parts, solely, for the term of seven years from this day.”
May 18, 1631: “It is ordered that every plantation within the limits of this patent shall, before the last day of June next, provide common weights and measures, which shall be made by some which the governor hath already sealed, and
by which also all others that will have weights and measures of their own are to be made.”
1635: Voted that beaver-skins shall pass for ten shillings per pound.
Sept. 6, 1638: Mr. Cradock
's accounts were audited in Boston
's large outlay here, for all the accommodations requisite in building schooners and carrying on an extensive fishing business, made this region a trading centre.
This first state of things continued till the withdrawal of Mr. Cradock
's property, a few years after his death.
The fishing business had been unsuccessful, and no one would continue it. The second period of trade in Medford
reached (to speak in round numbers) from 1650 to 1750, during which time the manufacture of bricks was the most important and lucrative business pursued in the town.
Other branches gradually increased.
1650 to 1700, there were no newspapers, no scientific lectures, no bank, no insurance-companies, no post-office, no stage-coaches, no good roads.
Must not trade have been small?
The third period extended from 1750 to 1805.
It began to be understood that Medford
could furnish the staple articles of iron, steel, lead, salt, molasses, sugar, tea, codfish, chocolate, guns, powder, rum, &c., to country traders at a less price than they could get them at Boston
The distilling business and the manufacture of bricks required many lighters to go loaded to Boston
: returning, they could bring back iron, steel, &c., at small cost.
, therefore, by its river, became a centre of supply to country traders from New Hampshire
Supply begets market, as market begets supply.
Traders here could purchase ivory-handled knives, spring-locks, brass-ware, tin, and pewter; of groceries, every thing but good tea and coffee; of dry goods
linen, cotton, Irish stockings, Turkey
mohair, red serge, broadcloth, muffs, ribbons, lace, silks, combs, napkins, yellow taffety, thread-lace, gloves, &c. Barter was the most common form of trade; and the exchanges were made with about half the care and selfishness so active at this day.
Pitch, tar, and turpentine were brought from the interior at an early date; but, in 1755, it became an active business.
Casks for them were made in Medford
; and the vote of the
town required that each cask should be examined by a committee, and, if well made, then marked with a double M. Coopering
now became an extensive and profitable branch of business.
It was begun, before the Revolution, by the agency of Mr. Benjamin Hall. Charles Henley
, of Boston
, was his foreman, and superintended it till 1802.
, Joseph Pierce
, and James Kidder
were apprentices in Mr. Hall
Mr. Benjamin Hall
was among the first and the most active of the Medford
He not only carried on the distilling business, but had a large store for wholesale barter.
It was not uncommon for him to receive a hundred barrels of pearl-ashes per day, and five hundred tierces of flax-seed per year.
He also carried on the “beef business,” having seven hundred head of cattle slaughtered each year.
Mr. Ebenezer Hall
had an equal number slaughtered; and they made all their tallow into candles.
The drovers were glad to take their pay in sugar, molasses, iron, tea, rum, &c.
How different this from the course of trade in England
, where a man was forbidden by law to carry on two mechanic trades or different pursuits!
A tanner could not be a shoe-maker.
These monopolies and legal restrictions had no place in New England
; and their absence was a prime cause of our great prosperity.
It made every free man a free trader.
The British Parliament tried to put on the handcuffs of restriction; but the colonists would not wear them.
says, “No cause has contributed more to the prosperity of this country than the absence of those systems of internal restriction and monopoly which continue to disfigure other countries.”
Mr. Jonathan Porter
opened a store of English goods previous to the Revolution, and gradually enlarged his business till he sold all the heavier articles of inland commerce.
There are those now living who remember when from twenty to thirty “country pungs” were gathered about the doors of these Medford
traders, discharging and taking in their loads.
These pungs were drawn by two horses each, and started as far north as Montpelier, Vt.
, and Lancaster, N. H.
With three large distilleries in full action, and many sloops and schooners navigating the river, Medford
became one of the most active and thriving towns in the Commonwealth
Distillation was then esteemed by most persons not only lawful and right, but a highly respectable business.
rose in wealth and increased in numbers; and, in 1805, there were many stores opened, where the necessaries and conveniences, and even the ornaments and luxuries, of life could be obtained at as cheap a rate as in Boston
The fourth period of trade in Medford
extends from 1805 to the present time.
The ship-building, the introduction of steam, the Middlesex Canal
, the immigration of Bostonians to this place,--these all helped to open new avenues to wealth, and increase the facilities of supply.
Within this period, more than half the present number of houses have been built; and there are now five public highways where there was one fifty years ago. The whole course of trade has changed from barter to cash payments or credits; and one trader now can do as much in a year as three could at the beginning of this century.
The number of gentlemen who reside here, and do business in Boston
, is very large, and they are multiplying every month.
The cars on both railroads are filled every morning,--the earliest with laborers, the next with merchants and the last with ladies.
During the embargo, in 1808, an old black schooner came up Mystic River
with a deck-load of wood and bark.
A custom-house officer from Boston
took possession of her as a suspected smuggler.
The captain invited the officer to take supper with him in the cabin.
They sat and ate together; and the captain asked to be excused a moment while he gave an order to his men. No sooner had he arrived on deck than he turned and fastened the cabin door.
Extempore Indians were ready to unload the hold of the schooner, which was full of English goods, wire, &c., from Halifax
During half the night, horse-wagons were passing to Boston
from the old wharf, owned by Francis Shed, below the ship-yard.
Some teams went to Malden
, and some to West Cambridge
The amounts were very large, and the goods of the costliest kinds.
The planting of that night produced a rich harvest.
The goods were never discovered; but the vessel was condemned and confiscated.
How soundly the officer slept is not known.
Of these Medford
has never had many, in the modern acceptation of the term.
Among the first settlers, every house
was, in one sense, a factory; for almost every one had a spinning-wheel and loom.
For the early ship-building, there must have been extensive iron-works; and much weaving of cotton and wool must have been necessary to supply the large numbers of fishermen and brick-makers.
Much wool was cleaned, carded, and rolled at the mill of Mr. John Albree
, who was a manufacturer of starch and pomatum.
Leaving out brick-making, ship-building, and distilling, we have little to record.
Wooden heels were made by Mr. Samuel Reeves
, 1750; and specimens of his work are yet among his great-grandchildren in Medford
Candles and hogsheads were extensively made, about the same time, by Messrs. Benjamin
and Ebenezer Hall.
Saltpetre was made in considerable quantities by Mr. Isaac Brooks
Wheelwrights carried on their business to a large extent.
Mr. James Tufts
and Son carried on for many years the pottery business.
Tanning was vigorously pursued, with a great outlay of capital, by Mr. Ebenezer Hall
, on land a few rods south-west of the Episcopal church; and by Mr. Jonathan Brooks
, on land near Marble Brook
, now owned by Mr. Noah Johnson
The first tan-yard in Medford
was on the corner lot south-east of Whitmore's Bridge.
It was bounded on the east by the brook, on the west by Lowell Street, and on the north by High Street. It was last owned by Mr. Nathan Tufts
and Mr. Jonathan Brooks
, in company.
When they sold it, Mr. Tufts
moved to Charlestown
, and became the most extensive manufacturer of leather in the State
, now in Winchester
had a factory, first owned by Mr. Josiah Symmes
About forty years ago, a company of Boston gentlemen purchased the water-power of Mr. Symmes
, for the purpose of setting in motion a new machine for spinning yarn for the manufacture of broadcloth.
This project, introduced by a Frenchman, failed; and the mill-power was then applied to the manufacture of wood screws, by a machine entirely new. This would have succeeded; but, the war of 1812 with Great Britain
having ended, wood screws were imported from England
so cheap as to render competition ruinous.