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The tea pot starts to boil


The Boston Tea Party didn’t just happen. With the help of  Harvard’s Houghton Library and The Boston Tea Party Ship,, I’ll try to put some of the events preceding the big party into context, as well as those who contributed to the lead-up and the party itself.

Above is the text of the Boston Non-Importation Agreement. There had been come disagreement about the actual date of the signing, but that was solved in 2013 with an important new find in the

It’s interesting to note that tea is not among the items subject to the boycott. Neither are glass, lead, oil, paint and paper:


non import list of stuff

Tucked in the corner of the notice of the Oct. 28 meeting in Fanueil Hall is this note:


paper and glass


I’m sure that Daniel Vose and Thomas Crane (who signed the non-importation agreement) were paying special attention to these two paragraphs and, perhaps, lobbied for their inclusion, along with Daniel Henchman, one of the owners of what would come to be The Liberty Paper Mill

By signing their names on this document, the increasingly contentious and now crumbling relationship with the mother country became personal. As you might imagine, there were quite a few signers who would become customers of The Liberty Paper Mill:


John Boit

Andrew Gillespie

Paul Revere

John White

John Brown

John Perkins

Thomas Crafts

Samuel Clapp

Thomas Russell

William Billings

James Ivers

Elizabeth Russell*

John Bradford

John Kneeland

Martin Gay

Nathaniel Langdon

Thomas Carnes

Moses Gill

Thomas Cushing

Benjamin Andrews

Ebenezer Hancock

William Whitwell

Joseph Webb

John Brown

John Skinner

Josiah Langdon

Samuel Vincent

James Sumner

William Phillips

Daniel Henchman

Hopestill Foster

Ephraim May

Benjamin Eddy

Ebenezer Seaver

Thomas Spear

Robert Pope

James Cunningham

John Smith

James Thompson

William McAlpine

Samuel Salisbury

Ebenezer Belcher Smith

Benjamin Barnard

Enoch Brown

Thomas Crane

John Gill

John Welch

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The Liberty Tree & The Liberty Paper Mill

Five years of British oppression had been endured by the citizens of Boston and surrounding towns. Five years previous, Parliament had passed the infamous Stamp Act, which required printed materials such as newspapers and legal documents to be published on paper produced in London and have a revenue stamp affixed.

The phrase “No Taxation Without Representation,” which had been part of the conversation for some time, now became a clarion call.

Reaction to the Stamp Act was quick and fierce.


Andrew Oliver could have been excused if he didn’t feel very welcome in his hometown of Boston. After awaking on August 14, 1765, the wealthy 59-year-old merchant and provincial official learned that his effigy was hanging from a century-old elm tree in front of Deacon Elliot’s house. After dusk, angry Bostonians paraded Oliver’s likeness through the streets and destroyed the brick building he had recently built along the waterfront. In case Oliver still hadn’t received the hint, the mob beheaded his effigy in front of his finely appointed home before throwing stones through his windows, demolishing his carriage house and imbibing the contents of his wine cellar.


The violence was fanned by a secret organization known as the Loyall Nine.  The clandestine group of artisans and shopkeepers printed pamphlets and signs protesting the tax and incited the mob that ransacked Oliver’s house. The Loyall Nine expanded and became known as the Sons of Liberty, which formed local committees of correspondence to keep abreast of protests throughout the colonies.

The Stamp Act commissioned colonial distributors to collect a tax in exchange for handing out the stamps to be affixed to documents, and Oliver, without his knowledge, had been appointed the distributor for Massachusetts. The day after his property had been destroyed, Oliver resigned a position he never asked for and one he never held, since the Stamp Act wasn’t due to take effect until November 1.

The resignation, however, didn’t douse the violent protests in Boston. On August 26, another mob attacked the home of Oliver’s brother-in-law—Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson. The rioters stripped the mansion, one of the finest in Boston, of its doors, furniture, paintings, silverware and even the slate from its roof.


The intimidation campaigns and boycotts worked. When November 1 arrived, the mass resignations of the stamp distributors impeded the administration of the tax. In many parts of the colonies, printers proceeded with business as usual. When it proved impossible to implement the Stamp Act, Parliament repealed it almost a year to the day after it had approved it. However, it also passed the Declaratory Act to reaffirm its authority to pass any legislation impacting the colonies.

(No lesson learned.)

Each year, on August 14, these Sons of Liberty returned to the Liberty Tree to commemorate their protest. This being the fifth, and given Britain’s continued oppression of the Colonies, this gathering carried greater importance than those that preceded.

None other than John Adams tells the story in The Adams Papers housed at the National Archives:

Dined with 350 Sons of Liberty at Robinsons, the Sign of Liberty Tree in Dorchester. We had two Tables laid in the open Field by the Barn, with between 300 and 400 Plates, and an Arning of Sail Cloth overhead, and should have spent a most agreable Day had not the Rain made some Abatement in our Pleasures. Mr. Dickinson the Farmers Brother, and Mr. Reed the Secretary of New Jersey were there, both cool, reserved and guarded all day. After Dinner was over and the Toasts drank we were diverted with Mr. Balch’s Mimickry. He gave Us, the Lawyers Head, and the Hunting of a Bitch fox. We had also the Liberty Song—that by the Farmer, and that by Dr. Ch[urc]h, and the whole Company joined in the Chorus. This is cultivating the Sensations of Freedom. There was a large Collection of good Company. Otis and Adams are politick, in promoting these Festivals, for they tinge the Minds of the People, they impregnate them with the sentiments of Liberty. They render the People fond of their Leaders in the Cause, and averse and bitter against all opposers.

To the Honour of the Sons, I did not see one Person intoxicated, or near it.

Between 4 and 5 O clock, the Carriages were all got ready and the Company rode off in Procession, Mr. Hancock first in his Charriot and another Charriot bringing up the Rear. I took my Leave of the Gentlemen and turned off for Taunton, oated at Doty’s and arrived, long after Dark, at Noices. There I put up. I should have been at Taunton if I had not turned back in the Morning from Roxbury—but I felt as if I ought not to loose this feast, as if it was my Duty to be there. I am not able to conjecture, of what Consequence it was whether I was there or not.

Jealousies arise from little Causes, and many might suspect, that I was not hearty in the Cause, if I had been absent whereas none of them are more sincere, and stedfast than I am.

A delightful and complete account of the gathering was published in the Boston Gazette and Country Journal:

So, what’s the connection between The Liberty Tree and The Liberty Paper Mill? Fifty-one of these Sons of Liberty attending the event would become customers of The Liberty Paper Mill.

Samuel Avis, a mariner

Capt. Benjamin Barnard, a mariner

Nathaniel Barber, Commissary of Boston Military Stores

Joseph Barrell, merchant and privateer

Capt. John Brown, planner of the 1772 attack on The Gaspee

William Burbeck, commander of artillery

Richard Billings, brazier

Enoch Brown, “strong drink” license-holder

Thomas Cushing, Mr. Speaker

John Cushing, commissary

David Cobb, aide-de-camp for Gen. George Washington

William Downes Cheever, merchant

James Cunningham, glazier

Thomas Crafts, painter, Loyal Nine

Ezekiel Cheever, commissary of artillery stores

Thomas Chase, distiller, Loyal Nine

John Crane, commander, U,S. Corps of Artillery

Joseph Carnes, rope maker

Caleb Davis, merchant

Benjamin Edes, printer, Loyal Nine

Thomas Edes, printer

John Gill, printer

Benjamin Green Jr., merchant

Nathaniel Greene, from Private to Brigadier General

John Head, merchant

John Houghton, merchant

Robert Hewes, soap boiler

Duncan Ingraham, merchant

Bartholomew Kneeland, merchant, Boston Massacre witness

John Langdon, New Hampshire merchant

Thomas Leverett, bookseller

Col. Thomas Marshall, tailor

Ephraim May, Major, Boston Militia

John Perkins, militia captain

Robert Pierpont, merchant, Boston Massacre witness

William Phillips, merchant, founder of Phillips Andover Academy

Paul Revere, you know….

John Smith, brazier, Loyal Nine

David Spear, Captain, The Boston Regiment

William Smith, fought at the bridge April 19, 1775

Joseph Sprague, distiller

James Turrell, dismissed, for cause, from the Boston Massacre trial

John Tileston, writing teacher

James Thompson, privateer commander

Ezekiel Tileston, revolutionary soldier

Thomas Tileston, Boston Tea Party guard

Joseph Vose, farmer, then Brig. General

John Welsh Jr., ironmonger

Thomas Walley, merchant

William Whitwell, merchant

William White, Captain, light infantry


I hope you’re getting a feeling for why it was called The Liberty Paper Mill.



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A Wedding to Die For

The phone call likely went something like this:

“Crane Customer Service, how may I help you?”

“Well, we’re putting together an order for a wedding and need some advice.”

“Okay, is there something special you need?”

“Well, the papers will be engraved, but they need to be embossed as well.”

“That’s fine, we can do that. Do you need us to make an embossing die?”

“No, we have the die.”

“Well, you can just ship us the die and we’ll put it together with the rest of your order.”

“It’s Thomas Jefferson’s die.”

(audible gulp)

Jefferson crest

If you stick around long enough, events can tend to occur in circles, or at least loops. Since Crane has been around since 1801, loopy things happen quite often.

During the presidential terms of George Washington, young Zenas Crane made paper at his uncle’s Liberty Paper Mill in Milton, Mass., at his brother’s mill in Newton Lower Falls and at Isaiah Thomas’ mill just outside Worcester.

During the term of John Adams, the Thomas mill had been sold to the Burbank family, and Zenas made his first trek west to find the perfect location for a mill of his own.

When Zenas began making paper on the banks of the Housatonic, Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States.

Back to Customer Service. After much deliberation about shipping and insurance and such, the die was sent on its way by next-day service. There were more than several people – both in North Adams and Virginia – who spent the next morning in anxious anticipation of the die’s safe arrival. And there were more than several ooohs and aaahs as the package was opened and the die inspected.

Once all the pieces of the wedding order were assembled, it was off to the engraving press. I remember a conversation with engraver Ed Boudreau during production. His remarks went along these lines: “This is really an honor. I’ve engraved stationery for lots of celebrities and several presidents, but this is really really special. I had to take a deep breath to settle myself down before I started. Imagine…Thomas Jefferson once held this die.”

And so it goes, in circles, or at least loops.

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Two Days in May

As the Liberty Paper Mill was bustling with activity, Abijah Burbank was struggling with his new paper mill, built near Worcester in 1776 to accommodate – among others – the publisher of the Massachusetts Spy – Isaiah Thomas. The need for paper for Thomas and for the good of the country, was so severe that on May 31, 1775, a convention of delegates from the towns in Worcester County convened to pass the following:

Resolved: That the erection of a paper mill in this county would be of great public advantage, and if any person or persons will undertake the erection of such a mill and the manufacture of paper, that it be recommended to the people of the county to encourage the undertaking by generous contributions and subscriptions.

1776 Abijah Burbank Ad

A year later, Burbank took out an advertisement in the Spy to announce:

The subscriber hereby informs the public that his paper mill in Sutton is finished and ready for business. The benefit that such a work will be to this country, at this time is well known to everyone. Therefore, it is hoped they will assist the carrying it on, by saving all their Old Linnen and Cotton Rags for which cash and a good price will be given, at said paper mill.

N.B. Cash and a good price will also be given for old rags at the printing office in Worcester.

The ad is dated May 8, 1777.

Zenas Crane was born the next day.

Their paths were destined to cross.

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“The Pleasantest Business Letter We Ever Received”

Historians are pretty much in agreement that it wasn’t Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that started it, but no matter what the cause, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was devastating.

The fire was ignited on Sunday, Oct. 8, and wasn’t brought under control until two days later. In its wake, it left more than 100 people dead and 100,000 homeless. The fire covered 2,000 acres on a stretch from Belden Avenue in the north, to 22ndStreet in the south, and leaping over the Chicago River at the Randolph Street Bridge.

A depiction of the Great Chicago Fire crossing the Randolph Bridge after destroying the headquarters of the Western Banknote and Engraving Co.

By the time it reached the bridge, it had already destroyed much of downtown Chicago, including the headquarters of the Western Banknote and Engraving Co. and the homes of its employees.

Western Banknote, founded in 1865 by two New Yorkers – Charles Knickerbocker and Clarence C. Cheney -specialized in banknotes, stock certificates and documents of monetary value that required counterfeit protection. Western at the time was a relatively small, but important purchaser of Crane paper, aiding in the company’s westward expansion.

Shortly after the fire, Western had relocated west of the Chicago River at 10 Jefferson Street. On Nov. 22, Crane & Co. received a letter from a grateful Clarence Cheney.

Gentlemen: Your favor of the 16th is received – and we must say your action and kindness made a deep impression – not so much at what was offered (altho it was very generous) as the manner in which it was done. And I must say that the $100 for our workmen on top of the other – caused it to be one of the pleasantest business letters of we ever received.

Not having been in the habit of giving notes, we would prefer to let the account stand and shall endeavor to pay sooner than the time you are willing to allow.

Eventually settling at Madison and Michigan, Western Banknote remained a loyal customer for many years.

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Enter The Type-Writer

Edison’s Electric Pen would appear to have broken open the floodgates for “machine age” communications on paper. But even while Edison was putting the final touches on his writing instrument, others were hard at work creating a machine that would type – a machine that would change how we communicate well into the 21st century.

Needless to say, Crane benefitted greatly from the invention of the typewriter, but it wasn’t a matter of sitting and waiting for the orders to come in. The typewriter – and those who made and used them – would require different weights, finishes, sizing and a host of other characteristics to perform to emerging expectations.

From Crane’s archives, here are some of the pioneers who did business with Crane:

William Austin Burt of Michigan was the first to receive a patent for a “typographer” in 1829, signed by President Andrew Jackson. The patent gave him exclusive rights to his invention for 14 years.

Even though a neat-looking letter could be typed on Burt’s “typographer”, the basic goal to speed up correspondence was not realized, as his machine was very slow. There being no ready market for a very slow contraption, Burt lost interest in it and sold his rights to Cyrus Spalding a blacksmith from Hillsboro, New Hampshire, for $75 in 1830. He evidently didn’t have any luck marketing the machine either. The typographer was so far ahead of its time it found no takers. (Spalding’s son, Cyrus, would invent the Spalding Adding Machine in 1884, the precursor to the computer).

Typewriters must have been in the family blood, because 55 years later, in 1885, we find correspondence from “The Burt & Wood Type-Writing Company” of Detroit – Fred E. Burt, Vice-President.  Written by Lewis N. Wood – Sec’y and Treas. – the company was looking to pay cash for Crane’s Bond #18 or #21 in 30-inch rolls of 100 feet each.

In 1886, Crane received a letter seeking sample books for S.T. Smith, “Manufacturer of Carbon Papers, Type-Writer and Caligraph Ribbons,” New York City. One might think that Mr. Smith would have had something to do with the Smith-Corona typewriter that was to come many years later, but that is not the case. According to “Evolution of the Typewriter” by C.V. Oden, 1917:

 Mr. John T. Underwood, who had been connected for many years with the typewriter supply business, was thoroughly familiar with the requirements of the trade. He recognized fully the value of visible writing, as well as the many other excellent features employed in the machine, and as a result bought Mr. Wagner’s inventions and interests. Mr. Underwood associated with him Mr. D. W. Bergen, present treasurer of the Underwood Type- writer Company, and later Mr. S. T. Smith, General Manager of the company, which position he retained until his death in May, 1915.

In researching these 19th-century writing machines, arguably the most beautiful and the most admired by collectors is The Hammond Type Writer. “For every nation, for every tongue” was the slogan Hammond used to introduce the advantage of his machine over the competition: the use of different typefaces.

In 1886, Charles N. Hammond wrote to Crane: “I have been using your paper in this office for our Type Writer, and I find it far the best I can get.” There is no indication which Crane paper he was using, but from the sample submitted, it was an all-linen sheet of about 16 pounds to the ream.

The brilliance of Hammond’s designs stood the test of time through an adaptation called the Varityper. According to Typewriter Spotlights at Xavier University:

The Varityper (also known as the Vari-Typer or VariTyper) was a highly ingenious “word processor” of the pre-digital age. This machine could use over 300 different type styles and write in 55 languages; it could adjust the space between characters, and even produce right-justified copy. Even though the Varityper enjoyed a successful career of about 60 years, you may never have seen one, for the machine was not generally adopted as a standard typewriter. Instead, it found a niche as a “cold typesetting” or “office composing” machine: it was generally used to produce neat, camera-ready copy for offset printing, at a cost much lower than that of conventional printer’s methods.

The Varityper is based on one of the greatest early typewriters, the Hammond. James B. Hammond died in 1913 and willed his patents to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (an act of self-congratulation which, in my opinion, is justified!). The history of the Hammond after that point is a little obscure, but the Hammond Multiplex was produced until the mid-twenties, when the company was bought by the Frederick Hepburn Co. and renamed Varityper. This company failed in the Depression, and it was sold in 1933 to a partnership headed by Ralph C. Coxhead, a business machine salesman.

Varitypers in use at the Chicago Tribune in 1947.



Through various versions and owners, Varitypers remained in use well into the 1980’s, as anyone working in the composition room of a newspaper will verify.

In 1884, W.M. Belcher Co. of Boston wrote on behalf of the American Writing Machine Co. seeking samples from Crane. At, we learn that:

 The Caligraph was the first typewriter to appear with the double keyboard arrangement with no character shift key. A Scientific American article (March 1886) about the Caligraph, presented the perceived advantage of the double keyboard by stating ‘Up to 1881, when the American Writing Machine Company introduced the Caligraph, double case writing machines were incomplete, being so constructed as to compel the operator to shift the carriage by a gratuitous stroke for capital letters and figures. The Caligraph prints each character in both capitals and small letters at a single finger stroke.’ Many other double keyboard typewriters would follow.

Even in its relative infancy, the typewriter had already given rise to new applications and spinoffs. In 1884 W.G. Chaffee, “Proprietor of Chaffee’s Phonographic Institute. Phonography, Caligraph and Type-Writing thoroughly taught and pupils prepared to fill situations such as Court Reporters, Amanuenses, Private Secretaries, etc.” wrote to Crane:


We are educating young ladies and gentlemen as Stenographers and Machine operators and furnishing businessmen such help. Do you not need a stenographer? Miss Bissell, one of our pupils, would like a position with you. She is bright and quick to learn, can take dictation at 100 words per minute, and transcribe the same on the Caligraph (which he sells for $80) and when not engaged in correspondence will be willing to do other office work. If you cannot employ a lady we can furnish you with a gentleman.

And speaking of stenographers, Crane received a query in July of 1884 from M.L. York, Stenographer, U.S. Commissioner and Examiner in Chancery (with business card attached):

In my line of business as a stenographer, I frequently have occasion to get up handsome pieces of work in type-writing: and being somewhat fastidious about the appearance of it, I have often failed to obtain paper to my fancy. I have lately seen one of your sample books; and it has pleased me so much that I venture to ask you to send me two copies of it. I desire two copies, that I may take one to pieces and test the different varieties of paper in my type-writer, and the other I wish to keep intact and mark upon its pages the result of my experiments.

York notes that he also serves as private secretary for “Mr. Bancroft, the historian.” He would have had to be a busy man. “Mr. Bancroft” was probably George Bancroft, author of the magisterial series:  History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent. For a further look at Bancroft’s contributions to the world, please visit:

In 1892, a year after Bancroft’s death, York became the official stenographer for the State of New York. The Public Printer for the State of New York at the time was the firm of Charles Van Benthuysen & Sons. More on that later, but this would ensure that Mr. York would type on Crane papers for years to come.

When sorting through hundreds of pieces of correspondence, there’s always something that jumps out at you. In this case, it was the letterhead of the Remington Standard Typewriter. A bright red medallion surrounds a rendition of the Remington Machine, with the slogan: “To Save Time is to Lengthen Life”

Founded in 1816 in Ilion, N.Y., Remington began as a manufacturer of rifle barrels, later complete firearms and ammunition. (More about that later).

In 1867 Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Lewis invented their own typewriter model, which allowed substantially faster typing, eclipsing the speed of handwriting. The patent was sold to the firm of Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (who had recently diversified into the sewing machine business) to manufacture and commercialize the typewriter.

Production began in March of 1873, introducing the QWERTY keyboard. The next model included upper and lower case letters via a shift key.

Correspondence from Remington’s New Haven and Washington offices sought samples and supplies, with W. H Brown, writing from Connecticut in 1885: “Owing to my connection with the Type-Writer, I have many calls for paper, both from customers and others; and I desire to make my writing paper business a specialty, for I think I can build up a good trade in my territory…”

An 1886 letter from D.C. asked: “Will you send to us four reams of paper the size and quality of sample, double sheet, four reams of same size and quality, single sheets, and two reams of cap. size single sheet, same quality. This is to supply an order that we have from one of the departments; we trust therefore, you will give us usual discounts….”.

A note on the bottom of the letter indicates that the folks at Crane would give a 20% discount.

The New York office seemed less interested in growing their business than paying less for paper. “We have your bill of the 17th inst. (July 1886) for 15 reams of onion-skin paper. We were very surprised to note the discount you allowed us, as our competitors tell us they get 25% from you, and we know of no reason why we should be discriminated against. If we are not able to secure as advantageous terms from you as other people in the same line of business, we will of course feel very little interest in the disposal of your goods.”

After some digging in their competitors’ business, the New York Remington folks learned that S.T. Smith – later to join Underwood –  was receiving a 25% discount. No word on how all that worked out.


Remington sold the typewriter business in 1886 to the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company, along with the rights to use the name. Through name changes and mergers the company “Remington Rand” was born – makers of the early “Univac” computers – and electric shavers. That division was purchased in 1979 by none other than Victor “I  was so impressed, I bought the company” Kiam.


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And How Will You Pay?

Items of barter and equivalents in British pounds.shillings.pence at the Liberty Paper Mill

One Barrel of Rum (33 pounds):                 19.16.0

One Barrel of Ginger (100 pounds):         18.15.0

Two dozen Almanacs:                                    1.10.0

25 Pounds of Chocolate:                               9.7.6

25 Pounds of Tobacco:                                   7.10.0

One Bolt of Russian Duck:                            31.0.0

Seven Bottles of Snuff:                                 4.14.6

One Loaf of Sugar:                                           3.15.0

One Bible:                                                           2.5.0

One Beaver Hat:                                               11.5.0

50 Lemons:                                                         0.12.0

14 Dozen Crown Soap:                                   26.5.0

One-half Cask of Raisins:                              3.15.0

12 Cases of Knives and Forks:                     15.0.0

One Pound of Tea:                                          1.7.6

Comb and Razor:                                              0.1.10

Shovel and Tongs:                                           0.13.0

One Stock Lock and Hinges:                         0.3.0

80 Bushels of Oats:                                          72.0.0

10 ½ Bushels of Salt:                                       283.10.0

23 ½ Yards of Linen:                                        29.7.6

450 Hoops:                                                          9.15.0

3,000 Nails:                                                         6.12.0

Two Pails:                                                            0.10.0

46 ½ Pounds of Feathers:                             24.8.9

Bed Cord:                                                            0.15.0

One Pair Truck Wheels:                                 4.2.6

One Ledger Book:                                            13.10.0

Three Pounds of Indigo:                              1.1.0

One Horse Collar:                                             0.13.6

29 Gallons of Molasses:                                 2.19.0

267 Pounds of Flax:                                         6.13.6

Two Ounces of Nutmeg:                                 0.3.0

Three Geese:                                                        0.6.0

One Cask of Madeira:                                    13.10.0

Six Bushels of Rye:                                          36.0.0

One Dozen Books: “Manual Exercise:”   4.10.0

One-quarter Cask Tenerife Wine:             45.0.0

One Gallon of Port Wine:                             0.4.6

Two Bushels of Corn:                                     3.0.0

60 Bottles of Snuff:                                         30.0.0

2,000 Bricks:                                                       480.0.0

Two Barrels of Flour:                                      5.7.0

5 ½ cords of Wood:                                         5.10.0

Silver Watch:                                                      4.10.0

Two Cases of Gin:                                            2.8.0

One Warming Pan:                                          0.13.7

16 Barrels of Apples:                                       4.16.0

Two Ounces of Onion Seed:                        0.0.9

One Cart Whip:                                                 0.0.9

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On July 9, 1771, Jeremiah Snow of Springfield arrived at the Liberty Mill complex with two casks of raisins and left with three pounds of indigo, 25 pounds of tea, a yard and a half of Russian duck, two reams of paper and 12 pounds of chocolate. This marked the first chocolate transaction in the mill ledger; it would be far from the last.

One can only surmise why Snow purchased such relatively random items. After all, he was a goldsmith and silversmith, and would become an important maker of swords for the colonial armies during the Revolutionary War. However, he was known to be a customer of Worcester merchant Stephen Salisbury, so one could imagine Snow being asked to pick up a few things since he was going to Boston anyway.

As we have noted, there wasn’t a lot of cash to be had in these early days of America, so barter of various goods such as chocolate was the norm. That was especially true in and around Boston, which played host to dozens of chocolate-makers and retailers.  Not only did chocolate and cocoa taste good, serving cocoa was seen as a patriotic protest against taxes on tea and other such intolerables instituted by the British. As with other industries at the time, the source of horsepower for chocolate-grinders was mostly limited to the fall of water. But some, literally, were powered by horses, allowing them to operate in the middle of Boston.

Prior to the ascendency of the Baker Chocolate Company of Dorchester (more on that in a moment) chocolate-making  was a sideline – in many instances being carried out in part of an existing slitting, fulling, four or paper mill. All that was required was a special set of grinding stones and a chocolate kettle.

Early chocolate-makers who were also customers of the Liberty Paper Mill included Caleb Davis, General Joseph Palmer and George Leonard (a Loyalist who had to leave town when things got hot for the British….) Davis paid for a supply of writing paper with 25 pounds of chocolate in the summer of 1771. Leonard paid for paper with more than 100 pounds of chocolate in 1771 and 1772; and Palmer paid for paper and other goods with almost 250 pounds of chocolate in 1773.

The history of chocolate-making in Milton in the mid- to late-1700s is a bit cloudy, and centers around a mysterious man named John Hannon.

The story goes – mostly – that Hannon, an out-of-work Irishman, approached James Boies, Edward Wentworth, and Henry Stone who owned a saw mill on the Neponset River in Milton. He was certain that if given space and horsepower, he could commence making chocolate almost immediately. Supposedly, James Baker – a store owner across the river in Dorchester – took an interest in Hannon’s idea and financed the refit of the mill.

From there, historians have differed about who made chocolate for whom, where it was made, who owned the business, who owned the mills.

The ledger from the Liberty Paper Mill adds even more uncertainty.

On Oct. 6, 1772, John Hannon purchased a ream of foolscap writing paper. Between then and September 1774, Hannon would buy more than 50 reams of paper, along with bed cord, indigo, blankets, horse collars and other sundries. Over that same time frame, he paid with more than 350 pounds of cocoa shells and chocolate.

Straightforward enough, but there appear to be some anomalies. In January 8, 1773, Vose, Lewis and Crane lent Hannon a chocolate kettle. On Jan. 30, they sold Hannon 2 two bags of cocoa and (the entry is sketchy) more than 150 pounds of chocolate. The kettle was returned in August, at which time Hannon also ground up 200 pounds of chocolate for the mill.

The last Hannon entry is in early 1774, when he sold the mill 14 pounds of chocolate.

  • So, why was Hannon buying so much paper?
  • Where was he making his chocolate?
  • Why did the Liberty Paper Mill own a chocolate kettle and why did John Hannon need one?
  • Where was Hannon grinding cocoa and making chocolate?
  • Why did the mill sell chocolate to Hannon?
  • Where did the Liberty Mill get the chocolate to sell to Hannon?
  • What happened to Hannon between September of 1774 and 1779 when he set sail for the West Indies and was never heard from again?
  • From late 1774 until 1781, no chocolate is listed in the ledger as being bought or sold at the Liberty Paper Mill. The trade in chocolate resumed then through 1790 and ends once again. What happened during those seven years?

What is most likely at play here is the nature of business ownership in the mid-18th century. From our perch in the 21st century we like to have such matters crisp and clean. But such was not the case back then. Buildings could be owned by one person; the water privilege owned by another; the business operating on the property by another; sales and distribution by another still. We know there were at least nine ledger books, and assorted day books and shop books associated with the mill on the Neponset, so it is easy to imagine that a good deal of the comings and goings during its time have been lost to history.

There are several written accounts that say James Baker rented part of the Liberty Mill in the late 1780s, but corroborating records don’t exist. Remember James Boies, one of the original mill owners sought out by Hannon? He was the brother-in-law of Liberty Mill partner Daniel Vose. He was also son-in-law of Jeremiah Smith, who sold his share of the mill to Vose in 1769.

So much history; so many coincidences; so few records.

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Crane Through the Eyes of Nat White

During the 1940s, artist Nat White, whose work can be found in dozens of advertising campaigns in the middle of the 20th century, created a series of advertising illustrations for Crane. The set to follow was used to accompany stories about Crane’s early history. He followed with several more series, which I’ll put up soon. Enjoy the art of Nat White.

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Bob Weber–Crane Cartoons

Bob Weber intro

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