Thursday, January 08, 2009

First collections donation of the new year!

Harry Price of Price's Store for Men, a downtown fixture for over 100 years, brought in a couple of 1920s-1930s account books from his store on Main Street earlier today.

Account books, though somewhat dull on the surface, can be a hidden source of great information often not found in more standard research media. These specific books list standard details such as names of store patrons, dates, descriptions of purchases, and prices. But unlike many other account books, they also often list addresses and patron employment information. A typical entry looks like this:

Mr. L. L. McMillan
c/o Post Office

June 2: Suit ($35) and Hat ($5): $40 debit
June 16: 1 Belt: $1 debit

June 2: $15 credit
June 16: $10 credit
July 20: $3 credit
Sept 5: $3 credit
Sept 19: $5 credit
Oct. 5: $2.50 credit
Oct. 19: $2.50 credit

Sure, there's a lot of insignificant information in there, but there are a few good details too. For instance, Mr. McMillan worked for the Post Office, and he bought one complete outfit on credit in the summer of 1928. He paid it off by the end of the year in steady payments.

These books also tell us something about Harry's grandfather. During a very turbulent time in race relations, he allowed African-Americans into his store and even extended them credit. Also, many of the store credits were never paid, which made riding out the Great Depression even harder for his business.

Anyway, it's a great addition to the collection. Many thanks to Harry and especially to Harry's grandfather for alphabetizing his records!

(By the way, Mr. McMillan had, at the time of his purchase, very recently completed building his new home in Hampton Heights, and 81 years later it became my house!)

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