“Long and Strong two Yards Long Cotton Laces.”
By Paul Dickfoss, 3rd NY, Reg’t
With many women in the NWTA making lucet cord,2 an interesting and inexpensive
impression one might do is that of a laces
seller. Other than the clothing of a poor person (male, female, young or old) only laces and a long stick, approximately two yards long, are required. This impression would provide interaction with the public and interpretation of clothing, cottage industry and street life.
Lace criers are frequently pictured in the Cries of London.”1, 3, 4, 5 Some of these criers show poor children described by Shesgreen as being orphans dressed in cast-off rags (Figure 1). Shesgreen goes on to say that selling laces was one of the least profitable trades. People sometimes pretended to sell laces to avoid being arrested for begging.3 One cry
(Figure 2) advertises the laces as selling for “a halfpenny a piece.”
One lace seller may provide only one type of lace or different laces for different uses as suggested in a rare description of lace sellers. This rhyme was published in a chapbook in 17754 along with a crude woodcut (Figure 3):
This fellow ever at your nod is
With Laces strong for stays and bodice,
And fine red Garters he reveals;
Then who would ever with to go,
As some young slattern Misses do,
With stockings down about their heels?
(Continued page 2)
With many slovens such the case is;
Then come and buy his long red Laces,
His Garters long, and Laces strong;
Hence decent made, and nice, and tidy,
A Lady may sit down beside ye,
And you your betters go among.
Lace sellers are not only found in London. “The Edinburgh Lace Women” by David A1Ian in 1784 (Figure 4), shows an older women selling laces from a long stick in a similar manner to the English sellers.6 In the Cries of Paris (Figure 5), 1737 to 1746 a young man is pictured selling boot-laces which are obviously much thicker than those sold by the other criers mentioned.7 These boot laces are probably leather thongs. Another French “Shoe lace” seller is included in a late 18th century edition of the Cries of Paris, published ca. 1775.8
At any event, the most memorable thing the public leaves with are the sights and sounds. A person selling laces would not make much money, not even enough to pay for ones time, but it is the interpretation and creating the sights and sounds of the late 18th century we attempt to accomplish. The American War for Independence was cast upon a civilian backdrop.