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  • Writer's pictureHistory Revealed

A Thimble by Any Other Name

In this week's #TranscriptionTuesday, we need help identifying a type of thimble. Much of the material sold at the Glassford stores in Colchester and Alexandria was related to sewing - fabrics, needles, thread, pins, and thimbles.

Artifacts associated with sewing. Image courtesy of the Mount Vernon's Mystery Midden Facebook page (@MVMysteryMidden). Photo by Karen Price.

Most of the time, thimbles simply appear as 'thimble', but on the rare occasion we see them with an adjective to describe them. On folio 67 from the Alexandria 1767/1768 ledger, thimble appears with the abbreviation 'wt' which we usually transcribe as 'white' (see other examples from the same account) and find associated with fabrics. If a 'white' thimble, #whatdiditlooklike? If the abbreviation doesn't mean white, what does it mean?

'1 wt thimble 3d' from Joseph Cockerille's account (folio 67) from the Glassford, Alexandria 1767/1768 ledger.

When we look at other examples of 'wt' from the same folio, it appears adjacent to thread and dowlas (a type of fabric) - both where we could expect the adjective of white.

Joseph Cockerille's Alexandria store account (1767/1768), folio 67. Two other examples of the 'wt' abbreviation appear.

The question becomes, what does the 'wt' abbreviation in reference to thimbles mean? We know from the twenty-seven instances of thimbles sold at the Colchester store in 1760/1761, twenty-one were simply described as 'thimble'; five were described as steel thimbles; and only one was described as a tailor's thimble. In addition, when looking at requests for goods Alexander Henderson made on behalf of the Colchester store, we find he placed 3 orders for thimbles between 1759 and 1763; Henderson's orders to Glasgow described them as either women's or tailor's thimbles (Alexander Henderson's Colchester Scheme of Goods, 'thimbles',, accessed 8 April 2019). Interestingly, he did not order something described as 'steel thimbles' that were notated in the Colchester store ledger in 1760/1761!

In looking at the Glassford Alexandria and Colchester store ledgers, our hope is to not only transcribe the accounts, but to learn more about the people who resided in these communities, what their interests were, and what the products they purchased looked like. Although a simple object, the thimble tells us about the people and their everyday lives.

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