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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Notes from the Special Collections



BECAUSE OF THE interdisciplinary nature of its holdings, Baker Library contains one of the finest humanities collections in the country. A unique resource is found in Special Collections, where rare books, manuscripts, and materials relating to College history are actively acquired for scholars and students. One category within this department is the collection of account and daybooks. Covering fifty-one linear feet, the ledgers document regional economy and lifestyle like virtually no other primary resource. Historians, who recognize the pitfalls of relying on secondary sources alone, turn to documents such as ledgers to understand the fabric of daily life. The names, dates, commodities, skills, merchandise, and social values of communities are captured in the daily accounting of barter economies. These books reflect fashion trends, economic rifts and booms, political persuasions, and deeply personal events in local, national, and international arenas. The daily entries create a venue for otherwise unrecorded people, transactions, and objects.

Such is true of two daybooks kept by a nineteenth-century ornamental painter, David Morrill of Strafford and Norwich, Vermont. His daily activities, seasonal occupations, and family relationships are outlined in careful detail, making his financial documents valuable to students of history, art, and industry.

David Morrill was born at Chichester, New Hampshire, in 1788 to Smith and Mary (Bachelder [or Batchelder]) Morrill. At the age of six, David moved with his family to Strafford, Vermont, in the migration stimulated by the admission of Vermont to statehood in 1791. But, as one of seven children, he is listed only as 'a son, and two daughters . . . of whom I can find no record' in published genealogies.[1] This is all the more strange since Morrill and his family figured prominently in local and ultimately national politics. David Morrill served as a justice of the peace for seventeen years. Stephen Morrill, David's older brother, served as Strafford's town clerk from 1812 to 1848.[2] His brothers Nathaniel and Daniel owned a local forge. Patriarch Smith Morrill and four of his sons (including David) served at the Battle of Plattsburgh. David continued his military service in the War of 1812.[3] The Morrills increased their influence in successive generations. David Morrill was the uncle of Justin Smith Morrill, Vermont's famous senator and author of the Land-Grant College Act of 1862 that created state colleges across the nation. He was also the grandfather of Rear Admiral A. George Converse of Norwich, Vermont, who held patents related to military arsenals.[4]

Little is known of David's early years.[5] In 1816, at the age of twenty-eight, he married Elizabeth Margery Smith in Strafford. She was born in 1796, the daughter of Lieutenant Frederick and Mary (Haskell) Smith.[6] Lieutenant Smith was an original proprietor of the town and had lived there since 1768. The first town meetings were held at the Smith house, and he served as the proprietors' clerk from 1779 to 1790. Frederick Smith was famous locally for his bravery during the 1780 raid on Royalton.[7] The merging of the Morrill and Smith families provided a foundation for success.

David and 'Margery' (as she was called) Morrill had two children: Louvia (or Luvia) Elizabeth, born in 1818, and David Jr., born in 1829. The young family is not mentioned in published sources, but entries in the first daybook hint at David's new familial responsibilities. In 1830 he purchased '1 5/8 yd B.B. Cloth at 4 Dol per yard $6.60, 1 yd Cotton Coth .20 and 2 skeins silk & 9 Buttons .25.' The exorbitant price of 'B.B. Cloth' (compare $4 per yard against cotton at $.20 per yard) together with cotton and accessories suggests that a rather elaborate sewing project was under way.[8] In August of the same year Morrill bought '7 1/2 French Lustering Silk amounting to $8.44' from Harris & Co.[9] 'Lustering Silk' was iridescent two-toned silk, popular for women's dresses and men's vests in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.[10] Purchase of the material, imported from France and available at the local store in Strafford, shows that Mr. Harris and his neighbors had access to an international market. Acquiring over seven yards implies an adult-sized gown for Margery Morrill. By 1830, Strafford had moved beyond its pioneer status and joined the ranks of fashion-conscious communities.

The Morrill children are also featured in the daily ledgers. In 1831, David Morrill purchased from Sylvester Morris (a name of future significance) '1 pr small Shoes for boy at 75 cents,' and in 1832, '1 Pr Mitts for Luvia.'[11] In the same year he paid a little over $8 for six pairs of shoes made from kid, calfskin, and 'prunella' for his wife and children.[12] These entries reflect the personal needs of a growing family through its hierarchy of footwear (kid and 'prunella' being more expensive than calfskin), and an inclination for finery available from local merchants. Not only do the daybooks supply us with Morrill's family status, they allow us to imagine the needs and wants of a young Vermont family during the Age of Jackson. A more detailed analysis of one year in the life of David Morrill further elaborates on his expenditure of time and money.

The cover of the first surviving daybook states in a robust hand: 'Strafford/David Morrill's Day Book/From Jan. 1-1830 To April 9-1841.' It is also described as his second book, which is logical since Morrill was forty-one years old when he began the volume. We have not yet determined who taught Morrill his trade, but clearly his painting business was up and running by 1830.[13] The book begins with steady entries for painting sleighs, but Morrill was also a house and ornamental painter, justice of the peace, part-time farmer, breadwinner, son, brother, husband, and father. The juggling of these responsibilities is apparent by summer of the daybook's first year.

A systematic analysis of debits (items for which Morrill was paid) in 1830 shows an interesting balance of seasonal labor and cash flow. Morrill was first and foremost an ornamental painter (versus a house painter). Most of the high-income-producing paint jobs were completed in the first four months of the year, while smaller paint jobs, agricultural labor, and justice of the peace services were concentrated in the remaining eight months. The 183 debits totaled $287.10, or an average daily income of $.78.[14] While this amount may seem low, it is important to remember that barter economies are heavily dependent on the exchange of goods and services rather than hard currency.[15] Secondly, he may not have recorded all 'cash on the barrel head' in his book, because the transactions were complete. Eighty-five debits, almost half, involve painting or the sale of paint, turpentine, and linseed oil. 16.5% of his income came from selling supplies. Fifty-three debits were entered for painting services, totaling 51% of the painting total income. These entries range from painting '2 Spit Boxes lead colour' for 20cents to 'painting Dandy Sleigh' for an astonishing $10. Of the fifty-three painting jobs, twenty-two were for painting sleighs or 'waggons' at a total of $101.03, or 35% of Morrill's total income. Compare this to the seventy-nine justice of the peace services that totaled just $19.95, or only 7% of his income.[16] Painting a variety of products including sleighs, wagons, spit boxes, a 'sett of chairs,' doors, and 'washing machines'; 'lettering signs'; and the sale of paint and supplies were his main sources of income. Morrill might focus on decorating sleighs, but he applied his paint brush to many wooden surfaces, and he lettered signs for local merchants. While a specialist in one sense, he painted a wide swath to secure his family income.

Why sleighs and wagons? If the market did not exist, Morrill would not have debited so many of his neighbors for his painterly flair in order to support his affection for 'cavendish tobacco.'[17] By the mid-nineteenth century, carriage- and sleigh-making were established American businesses crucial to trade and commerce. Large urban centers supported factories of carriage-makers in the eighteenth century, where all details of shaping wood, forging iron and steel springs, preparing leather, tooling hardware, and weaving upholstery or lace, as well as decorative painting, were undertaken in-house. Among the most famous of these manufacturers were George and William Hunter, whose coach factory in Philadelphia was the largest of its kind in America between 1786 and 1792.[18] The Hunters employed their own crew of blacksmiths, cabinetmakers, wheelwrights, painters, varnishers, and gilders, and jobbed out upholstery, usually to the wives of their principal employees. Between 1740 and 1800, Williamsburg, Virginia, supported nineteen vehicle makers and six coach painters and gilders.[19] Boston, New York, and Baltimore all boasted their own coach- and carriage-making industries. New Hampshire was famous for its Concord Coaches, which were made by the partners Lewis Downing (a chaisemaker) and Joseph Stephen Abbot (a coach-body builder), who joined their talents in 1826.[20] As coach manufacturers, Abbot and Downing simplified their production to the point where four-, six-, nine-, and twelve-passenger vehicles where all based on a standard proportion. The coaches were suspended on leather straps rather than supported by metal springs. This provided a gentler ride along the nation's budding turnpikes. The swelled side panels of Concord Coaches were often painted with highly decorative scenes, which (with the leather shock absorbers) became a trademark of their enterprise.[21]

By the early nineteenth century, coach- and carriage-makers had established businesses in the upper Connecticut River valley as well.[22] In 1844 Allen Hazen of Hartford, Vermont, was charged $55 for a 'buggy waggon' made by William Lonan that was 'warranted good & perfect in every respect.'[23] Joseph Newton and A. W. Knapp, both of Norwich, also made carriages and coaches.[24] Local carriage production implied work for local carriage painters. A notice in the Vermont Enquirer in 1830 advertised:

New Arrival. JUST received at the Norwich Bookstore and for sale very cheap for cash , Copal and Superior COACH VARNISH, and GOLD-LEAF, . . . Indigo; Verdigris; American Yellow; Spirits of Turpentine; Red & White Lead . . .[25]

Clearly the advertisement was targeted to carriage and coach painters and not to general house and ornamental painters. Morrill distinguished among coach, copal, and furniture varnish in his daybooks, although they cost roughly the same, 30cents per one-half pint.

Coaches, carriage, and sleighs required tough, durable painted surfaces to protect the wooden bodies and wrought iron undercarriages from the rigors of nineteenth-century turnpikes, bad weather, and general wear. A hard, lustrous, durable finish to coaches and carriages required multiple layers of paint and varnish with intermediate phases of sanding, rubbing, and thorough drying. A Complete Guide for Coach Painters describes at least seven steps for painting the undercarriage and thirteen steps for painting the coach body. These include laying paint foundations, hard filling, priming, 'puttying up,' guide coats, pumicing, disguise coats, body coats, transparent coats, rubbing varnishes, polishing, mending, and final coats. The book also includes a chapter on 'Old Carriages Painted Afresh,' in which 'the main condition is to ascertain exactly what is the actual state of the old paint.'[26]

Traditional coach and carriage painting could take from six months to a year to complete. Given the American reputation and attraction for speed, it is not surprising to learn that an 'American method' was devised in the mid-nineteenth century to cut painting time to about two weeks.[27] The 'new' method depended on uniformly prepared compounds to create a non-absorptive and elastic surface.[28] Accounting for a full two weeks per vehicle, Morrill probably spent up to 238 days finishing the seventeen sleighs and wagons (of comparable size to a carriage) listed in the daybook, which documents the proportionately high cost of a freshly-painted sleigh.

What did Morrill's sleighs look like? With no extant examples, it is virtually impossible to know precisely how his vehicles were decorated. He did not describe the painted features of his work except in one reference to a wagon 'full striped.' The only other reference to decorating techniques in the daybooks was for 'Ornamenting Sleigh in Gold Leaf,' for which Edgar Haynes paid him an astounding $18.[29] Contemporary carriage-painting manuals, such as The Painter, Gilder, and Varnisher's Companion (Philadelphia: H. C. Baird, 1861) and magazines like The Coach Painter, tell us that dark colors such as black, dark blue, green, and maroon prevailed on the bodies. They were trimmed with verdigris, yellow, and gold leaf. One author shared his bias in stating, 'Striping is the most agreeable part of coach painting.'[30] Heraldic devices, monograms, and fanciful scrollwork were also common. Another motif familiar to Morrill was the scenic panel popularized on the sides of Concord Coaches:

The most striking thing about a good Concord coach was its color and decoration. If ornamentation was included, the lower door and quarter panels were set off with large scrolls of the richest possible combination of color. The middle door panel was completed with a picture in a painted border of oval, shield, or rectangular shape. [31]

Bucolic landscapes, farm scenes, exotic panoramas, and even portraiture are found on Concord Coaches. These images were derived from readily available print sources or were conjured in the mind of the

decorator. In May 1864, Ira B. Allen of Hanover ordered from Lewis Downing (at the time not

associated with Abbot) a

Paint Body nice Dark Green Carriage Nice Straw fine stripe letter Dartmouth--Neat on Rail. Letter Ira B. Allen --on false sill to footboard Very Neat Ornament a Rich Picture in Door & Footboard Panel Nice Striped in corners--no border but striped neat & tasty.[32]

The Concord company customized paint orders, including color, design, lettering, and borders. While we do not know Morrill's specific painting repertoire, the contents of his library, nor his knowledge of print sources, we can identify some pigments that he kept in stock. These colors are the key to unlocking the mystery of his ornamental flair.

Morrill purchased from local merchants a full spectrum of paints, including venetian red, vermilion, lampblack, 'Permanent Green,' 'Rospink,' 'fustian' color, burnt umber, Turkey umber, French yellow, Spanish white, and white lead. He also purchased '1 Book of Silverleaf' and '3 Books Gold Leaf.' Dark coloration on sleigh and wagon bodies were the fashion, and Morrill had the materials to highlight them with scrolls, lettering, and 'striping.'

Given the range of prices charged by Morrill for painting vehicles, from $6.00 to $18.00, it seems clear that a hierarchy of design was available. A 'full Stripe' wagon cost $8.50, compared with a sleigh, which generally cost $10. A one-time charge of $3.11 to Jefferson Blaisdell 'to Painting on Waggon' suggests some detail, patch work, or 'painting afresh.' Morrill was also hired to paint parts of vehicles. He charged John Blaisdell Jr. $.34 'For painting Cutter Toungue & Dasher,' and other customers 'For crossbar and Roll to sleigh $.20,' and 'trimming waggon wheels $.33.[33] This implies that vehicle bodies were the money-makers for Morrill.

The Strafford daybook concludes in 1841. Morrill did not begin the next volume until 1857, leaving us with a sixteen-year gap in his life. David Jr.'s premature death in 1833 at age four was followed twelve years later by Margery's; she died at Strafford in 1845. Morrill, who is listed in the 1820 United States Census records as living in Strafford, does not reappear until 1850, when he is recorded in the Agricultural and Business Census for Windsor County. At that time, he reported an annual revenue from '91 pairs of blinds, 7 Sign Boards, 11 Carriages, and Other Painting' totaling $919. Carriages were still his most lucrative product.[34] In 1852, he was registered on the Norwich Grand List.

The second daybook begins much like the earlier one. An initial proclamation states, 'This Book Commences with Morrill & Kelly Thence with D. Morrill,' followed by 'D. Morrill and Michael Kelly's Work together on Sleighs and Buggies I was to pay him when I received mine.'[35] The first entries document the partnership with Michael Kelly, a young painter who was probably a journeyman just starting out. By 1857, Morrill was sixty-nine years old and ready to pass along the tricks of the trade. In 1858, he charged young Kelly for paints, brushes, and varnish and compensated him a total of $26.74 for his work on seven buggies. In 1867, Michael Genty was indebted to Morrill for $25 'For Tuition in Painting, Art of,' which was paid in part by 'work painting.'[36] This reference is important because it declares Morrill's self-definition as an artist, not 'just' a painter. Other names appear in the daybook throughout the 1850s and 1860s as helpers or assistants, including Nelson Messenger and Albert Nye, who later advertised in local business directories as ornamental and house painters.[37]

Morrill diversified his work during this period, not only painting and varnishing sleighs and wagons but also school desks, 'pailings for a grave,' blinds, doors, 'verandas,' chimney pieces, chairs, cradles, and floor clothes. In one instance he charged his customer for 'fire-proof paint.' The most striking difference between the two daybooks is the amount of house painting listed in the second. Many of the houses in which Morrill worked still stand. With some investigation, graining, stenciling, or other decorative painting may be linked to his hand.

What happened in the interval between the two daybooks is difficult to determine. The gap might be explained if another daybook survived. Did Morrill join the westward migration and then return, as many did? Did he set up business elsewhere without purchasing property? The time lapse remains a mystery. Less mysterious is why Morrill landed in Norwich. Scrutiny of the names in both account books finds two common threads: Sylvester Morris and Shubael Converse. Morris was David Morrill's contemporary. He moved to Strafford from West Randolph, Vermont, in 1827 and for ten years ran a tannery. Entries in Morrill's daybook find Morris 'credited by sewing 2 rips in my Shoes.'[38] Morrill paid Morris for shoes and shoe repair with eight writs and executions (performance of judicial duties). The work suggests Morrill's level of education and skill with words as well as paint. Sylvester Morris had a reputation for compassion for his neighbors and friends, often suffering financially in order to assist others . 'He had a fatal habit of signing notes with his friends, and the bond of kinship upon him was irresistible,' described his biographer and granddaughter, Kate Morris Cone. [39] Morris also figured in the Norwich daybook when, in 1868, Morrill painted rooms, window frames, blinds, and a portico for Deacon S. Morris.[40] Given Morris's reputation for lasting friendships, a lifelong liaison between the two men is not inconceivable.

The second common strain in both books is Shubael Converse. The son of Shubael and Phoebe Converse, he was born at Randolph, Vermont, in 1805, and was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1828. Soon afterwards he settled in Strafford, where he practiced medicine until 1837. In 1833, Morrill charged Converse for writs, executions, and court fees in conjunction with a case against Daniel and Phineus McNorton.[41] In 1841, Converse married Morrill's daughter, Louvia Elizabeth, in Strafford.[42]

The Converses lived in Norwich, where in 1837 Shubael had purchased the business and brick homestead of Doctor Horace Hatch at the southern end of Norwich village.[43] It is not coincidence that in 1855, David Morrill purchased 'a certain piece of land . . . being in Norwich Beginning about 3 rods and four feet west of the south west corner of Shubael Converse's Garden.'[44] He described the real-estate purchase in terms of his own paint shop and had advertised as a 'sign and house painter' in Norwich beginning in 1852, some time before the documented land purchase.[45] Morrill did not buy the land directly from his son-in-law, but its relationship to the Converse garden is hardly by chance. A photograph taken in the 1940s shows the proximity of the two properties. A tiered, picturesque fountain in the Converse garden firmly establishes their close association.

The 'Paint Shop' was the first building encountered on the west side of Main Street and is clearly articulated on an 1855 map of the streetscape. Eleven years later, Frederick W. Beers's Atlas of Windsor Co. Vermont (1869) assigned the plat to 'D. Morrill's Paint Shop.' Morrill first appeared on the Norwich Grand List in 1852 with property valued at $150 (his tax bill: $1.50). His property value increased annually, reaching a maximum of $300 in 1859. The value then tapered off to $250 between 1861 and 1865 and fluctuated from $164 to $200 until 1874.[46] The fluctuation in value is explained in terms of a lucrative local economy bolstered by sheep farming and the presence of Norwich University. The dip in value after 1865 is explained by the devastating fire of the University's south barracks in 1866. In August of that year, the institution moved to Northfield, Vermont, removing a strong economic force from Norwich.[47]

Morrill's shop was also linked to the university. Like many buildings in the nineteenth century, it was reconfigured from an earlier structure. During a dispute between the Norwich University Board of Trustees and founder Alden Partridge, the school was temporarily housed

. . . in a small wooden building which used to stand on the approximate site of the present Episcopal Church. This building was later moved across Main Street, the first house at the left as one enters town, and for years served as David Morrill's Paint Shop.[48]

Photographs of the building show a frame dwelling, gable end to the street and a Greek Revival porch at the front door. Photographs at the local historical society show the building in disrepair by 1968. A view from the southwest shows the back ell where vehicles were wheeled into the shop. The building was razed in 1970.[49]

A professional painter would certainly look at the buildings of Norwich University, situated prominently on the Village green, as prime business potential. Norwich townspeople benefited financially from the university's location. The local tailor made uniforms. Some cadets boarded with local families. Firewood was sold. Families and alumni dined at the Norwich Inn. Foodstuffs necessary to support a school of over two hundred teenage boys provided a large local market.[50] Morrill's Norwich daybook contains several entries showing cadets and tutors paying for painting, plastering, and 'papering' (wallpapering) their rooms, varnishing carpets, and 'graining' furniture.[51]

In the 1890s, Henry Partridge reminisced 'how entertaining it was to visit Uncle David's shop and view some of the products of his brush, notably the band wagon with its prancing steeds, and load of musicians, arrayed in gorgeous uniforms.'[52] The inspiration for the scene may have come from several sources, or given artistic license, may have been an amalgamation of memory and current events. First, Colburn's Coronet Band, a post-Civil War group, played and paraded in Norwich on several occasions. Photographs from the 1880s capture the brass-buttoned musicians promenading in double line. Second, military parades on the Norwich Green were frequent events, as young cadets rehearsed formations both for military and ceremonial service. A handwritten bill from 1848 records a 'gig' by the Hartford Brass Band, payable by Norwich University. The invoice details 'Services of the Band. . . the Drummer . . . the use of a horse . . . Dinner at Norwich Hotell.'[53] These troupes and musicians proceeding by Morrill's shop window would not have gone unnoticed. Finally, Morrill would almost certainly have participated in or at least attended the annual coach and stageman's parade held at Concord. A retrospective description of the 1840 festivities grabs attention:

Coaches . . . some with bodies of scarlet and gold, some with mountain scenes painted on the doors. Others of sunshine yellow, gay with red and black striping, silver-trimmed harnesses . . . Now it came, horses stepping high, jingling harnesses furnishing accompaniment for the key bugles playing 'Begone Dull Care' or 'Johnny What Can the Matter Be.'[54]

Partridge's vivid recollection of Morrill's work suggests elaborate decorative treatment on the sleighs and wagons that went beyond monograms, stripes, and scrolls. In fact, it suggests decorative painting similar to the panel vignettes on the popular Concord Coaches.

A second clue to Morrill's painterly style is found in a recently discovered carte-de-visite. The scene appears to be painted on a shade or panel and is inscribed at the bottom: D. Morrill, Ptr AE 77 Yr. The carte-de-visite was produced by his Norwich neighbor, photographer S. P. Burnam. The scene is taken from the Holy Bible, Exod. 3:1-6, the story of the burning bush. In this rendition, flames glow within a towering Vermont white pine tree while smoke billows from its crown. A gargantuan angel appears in the middle of 'the bush' while Moses cowers, head in his hands, surrounded by bored sheep. A mountainous background and craggy foreground frame the scene. The hand of a traditional coach painter can be seen in the lower edge, where decorative scrollwork is clearly derived from published decorative patterns available in contemporary manuals. The use of the indigenous pine tree for the 'burning bush' lends a vernacular, almost whimsical interpretation to the story. Morrill did have some experience in painting the human form. In 1840, he charged his brother, Stephen, $2.50 for 'a likeness' (or portrait). Stephen was a long-standing civic leader in Strafford. If the portrait survived -- and is someday found -- we will have another medium to reconstruct the painterly style of David Morrill. These details provides a sliver of insight into Morrill's personality, which seems to have been both earnest and creative. The patron for this decorative curtain or shade is not yet determined.

Morrill was also involved in the painting of the local Congregational Church, although this work is not documented in the daybook. The biblical scene described above may have been commissioned by the church or Morrill's pious friend Sylvester Morris. Morrill was paid for 'Varnishing Meeting House Desk,' but that is the solitary church-related entry. The church building itself provides another clue to Morrill's versatility and livelihood. The superstructure supporting the tower is boldly signed D. MORRILL Oct 1855. In 1853, the church had been 'moved from its original site' on the northwest corner of the green 'to its present site on Church Street.' The move was an 'operation which was regarded with great misgiving by the townsfolk. It was predicted that the steeple would certainly fall. But the doughty Dr. Shubael Converse insisted that it could be done--said he would supervise the moving, and if any damage came to the steeple he would pay for a new one himself.'[55] His father-in-law's signature in the steeple carries the burden of proof. Morrill lived to be an old man. He is listed in a newspaper column entitled 'NORWICH LONGEVITY' among 'The names of persons who have died in Norwich since 1870 above the age of 70 years.' David Morrill heads the list for 1878, having lived to the age of 89.[56] That was no mean feat for a professional painter using toxic lead and varnishes on a daily basis for most of his life. Perhaps Morrill's secret lay in Henry Partridge's closing description of him: 'A firm believer in the mystic order, Mr. Morrill governed his daily life by the square and rule, and passed to his reward some years since, having reached a ripe old age.'[57]

If we were to take the genealogist's word, David Morrill would exist solely as an unknown son. Combining references in primary and secondary sources with artifacts provides a more complete picture of social and economic history. In this instance, we can begin to understand the matrix of David Morrill's long life: his evolving profession, style, artistic aspirations, daily bread-and-butter income, family status, relationships with neighbors (as 'Uncle David,' in the image of a benevolent and friendly older man), as well as the general economic conditions of the upper Connecticut River valley during the mid-nineteenthth century. Here lies the importance of non-traditional sources. They lessen subjectivity and bias in historical interpretation and clear the path for fresh analysis and understanding of human behavior.[58] Without them, one can hardly imagine a lifestyle in Norwich, Vermont, where sleighs are decorated with white pines, musicians, and horses. One can speculate what the recalled description means. The survival of a carte-de-visite secures the description in Morrill's hand and not in our twentieth-century interpretation of the printed word. His signature in a church steeple shows us the alphabetic vocabulary used for 'lettering' signs. The daybooks reveal the personal and business life of a man for whom there was 'no record' and show the importance of multiple access points for historical analysis and the rich, colorful clues waiting for discovery.


1Annie Elizabeth Morrill Smith, Morrill Kindred in America, 2 vols. (New York: The Grafton Press, 1931), 2:86. Other Morrill family genealogies include Lois Lucille Fooshee Williamson, Morrill Lineage, (Augusta, Ga.: 1980?); Francis Vandervoort Morrell, The Ancestry of Daniel Morrell of Hartford (Hartford, Ct:. J. W. Morrell, 1916); and Charles Henry Morrill, The Morrills and Reminiscences (Chicago and Lincoln: University Publishing Company, 1918).

2The Vermont Historical Gazetteer 2 (1871), 1068. Morrill was also a justice of the peace for thirty-eight years.

3There are no pension or veterans' records for David Morrill pertaining to either military involvement, as determined from a request for pension records, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., 17 February 1995. Evidence of his military service is from Vermont Historical Gazetteer 2 (1871), 1070, and Merritt Elton Goddard and Henry V. Partridge, A History of Norwich, Vermont (Hanover, N.H.: 1905), 94.

4See The National Cylopædia of American Biography 36:293-294, and Dictionary of American Biography , s.v. 'Morrill, David.' Further, a letter written by Justin Morrill to his uncle on 27 July 1856 describes their mutual interest in family history, especially the Morrill family links to the Mayflower: 'You will see the stock which came over in the Mayflower is widely scattered.' (Vermont Historical Society, MSS23-46.)

5Morrill was working as a painter in Strafford by 1818, as described in Gwenda Smith, The Town House (Strafford, Vt.: Strafford Historical Society, 1992), 93.

6Strafford Historical Society, Strafford, Vermont, Morrill Family Records. My thanks to Gwenda Smith for providing this elusive family history.

7The Vermont Historical Gazetteer 2 (1871), 1067-1083.

8'B. B. Cloth' remains mysterious. It may have been a reference to bombazine, which was a cloth made of 'silk warp and worsted weft in a 2:1 twill weave' (Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America, 1650-1870: A Dictionary Based On Original Documents . . . [New York: Norton, 1984], 172.) Elias Lyman advertised the sale of 'Brown Battiste & Cambricks' in the Vermont Enquirer, Thursday, 27 May 1830, but this does not appear likely to be the identity of 'B.B.,' given batiste's relatively modest linen composition.

9Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 2, p. 17.

10'Lustering' (or lustring) was a 'light, crisp, plain silk with a high luster' (Montgomery, Textiles, 283), a 'taffeta which had been stretched and, while under tension, smeared with a syrupy gum.This dressing was dried with the aid of a small brazier and gave the material a glossy sheen. Lustrings were mostly plain, striped, changeable, or decorated with chiné patterns, but they could have large patterns similar to those on other silks' (Peter Thornton, Baroque and Rococo Silks [N.Y.: Taplinger; London: Faber and Faber], 27; quoted in Montgomery, Textiles, 283).

11Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 2, p. 65.

12Prunella is defined as 'A strong stuff, orig. silk, afterwards worsted, formerly used for graduates', clergymen's, and barrister's gowns; later, for the uppers of women's shoes' (The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., s.v. 'Prunella'). See also Montgomery, Textiles, 328-329.

13Although the Morrills had moved to Vermont, it is possible that young David could have been sent to live with relatives in the Chichester area for training in a trade; such arrangements were customary at the time. Chichester is near Concord, and it is interesting to speculate whether David could have trained with the firm of Abbot-Downing, famous for its ornamental coach painting. An advertisement for a 'stout boy' of sixteen or seventeen years of age to help in Downing's shop is reproduced in Elmer Munson Hunt, 'Abbot-Downing and the Concord Coach,' Historical New Hampshire (November 1945), 3.

14For a discussion of relative economic values see John J. McCusker, 'How Much is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States, in American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass., Proceedings 101, pt. 2 (1992), 297-373.

15For instance, Reuben Blanchard pays off his debt to Morrill 'By 2 days making fence (Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 2, p. 95). Orlando Bundy paid his bill by supplying the Morrill family with a 'griddle to stove' (Account Books, Strafford 102,vol. 2, p. 66). By 1869 Morrill is paid $1.25 for '1 Days Work' painting for Allen Hazen of Hartford, Vermont (Vermont Historical Society, MS-43).

16Percentages taken from tabulations of 1830 credit and debits of David Morrill's Account Book (Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 2, pp. 1-29). 19 Paint Sales total $33.23 (11.57%); 53 Painting/Varnishing Services total $146.85 (51.1%); 13 Oil/Turpentine Sales total $14.08 (4.9%); 79 Justice of the Peace Services total $19.95 (6.9%); 10 Food Related Purchases total $29.38 (10.2%); 2 Debits as Executor of the Hosford Estate total $10.67 ($3.71); 9 Miscellaneous Records total $7.39 (2.5%)

17Morrill purchased 'Cavendish' tobacco six times between January and July 1830, usually by the half pound.

18Richard E. Powell Jr., 'Coachmaking in Philadelphia,' Winterthur Portfolio, 28 (1993), 247-278.

19Powell, 'Coachmaking,' 249.

20William Louis Gannon, 'Carriage, Coach, and Wagon: The Design and Decoration of American Horse-drawn Vehicles' (Ph.D. diss, University of Iowa, 1960), 134-137. See also Jack D. Rittenhouse, American Horse-Drawn Vehicles. . . (Los Angeles, Calif.: Dillon Lithograph Company, 1948), 46-48; Historical New Hampshire 20:3 (Autumn 1965), the whole issue devoted to the Concord Coach; and Edward Rowse, Concord's Waggon Men (Privately printed, 1976).

21Ornamental painters associated with the firm include James Frothingham and John Burgum. See Hunt, 'Abbott-Downing and the Concord Coach,' 6-7. For painting examples see 'A Gallery of Abbot-Downing Vehicles,' Historical New Hampshire 20:3 (Autumn 1965), 26-38.

22See Walton's Vermont Register and Farmer's Almanac (the title varies over the years) for a listing of carriage and coach makers, including spring makers.

23 Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, Vermont, Allen Hazen Papers, MS-43.

24Walton's Vermont Register for any year. John F. Sollers Sr., 'One Gold Coach, Eighteen Farrow Hens,' Vermont History News 44:5 (1993), 74-79, discusses Newton's business.

25Vermont Enquirer, 14 October 1830, [3].

26Arlot, A Complete Guide For Coach Painters, trans. A. A. Fesquet (Philadelphia: H. C. Baird, 1873), 39.

27Gannon, 'Carriage, Coach,' 163, describes the 'American Method' of carriage painting as 'much quicker and as satisfactory as older, more expensive methods taking from six months to a year to complete. By the American method a carriage could be painted in from fourteen to twenty days, depending on drying conditions.'

28Franklin B. Gardner, The American Method of Carriage Painting (New York: Economical Printing Co., 1877).

29See Sollers, 'One Gold Coach,' 76-77, for another reference to a 'gold' or 'gilt' coach ordered by Martin Van Buren during a campaign trip to Vermont in 1840.

30Arlot, Complete Guide, 37.

31Gannon, 'Carriage, Coach,' 138.

32New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire. Abbot-Downing Papers, Coach orders, volume 1, page 154. Photocopied reference in Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Collections file, 27-11.

33A 'toungue & dasher' are the tongue and front wall of a one-horse sleigh.

34 Photocopies of relevant pages from the Windsor County agricultural and business schedules of the 1850 Census are housed at the Norwich Historical Society. Carriage painting comprised 41% of the total revenue. 91 Pair blinds--$180; 7 Sign Boards--$80; 11 Carriages--$384; Other Painting--$275. Microfilm copies of Vermont and New Hampshire agricultural and industrial census schedules from 1850 to 1880 are available in the Jones Microtext Center in Baker Library.

35Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 3, pp. 3-7.

36Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 3, pp. 91-93.

37Hamilton Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Windsor County, Vt., For 1883-84 (Syracuse, N.Y.: Printed at the Journal Office, 1884) lists over 74 carriage, wagon, and sleigh manufacturers working in Windsor County, Vermont. This number is outdone only by blacksmiths, carpenters, and livestock breeders in the area. Painters and paperhangers are also represented in the directory, totalling 118. Thirteen of them indicated specialities in 'carriage, sign & ornamental.'

38Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 3, p. 31.

39Kate Eugenia Morris Cone, A Sketch of the Lfe of Sylvester Morris (Boston: Printed by Alfred Mudge & Son, 1887), 18-19.

40Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 3, p. 106.

41Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 2, pp. 90-91.

42Strafford Historical Society, Morrill Family Records.

43Goddard and Partridge, History of Norwich, 198-199.

44Norwich, Vermont, Land Records, Book 11, p. 412.

45Walton's Vermont Register and Farmer's Almanac (1852), 50.

46Norwich Town Clerk's Office, Norwich, Vermont,

Norwich Grand List, 1851-1875.

47Philip Aylwin White and Dana Doane Johnson, Early Houses of Norwich, Vermont, 2d ed., ed. Marjorie Yule Butler and Abbie Metcalf for the Norwich Historical Society (Norwich, Vt.: Norwich Historical Society, 1973), 72-74.

48White and Johnson, Early Houses, 74. See also Goddard and Partridge, History of Norwich, 110.

49Architectural fragments, including window sash and porch columns, were retained by the Norwich Historical Society. See Norwich Historical Society File 68-18.

50For a general account of this relationship, see the Norwich University file, Norwich Historical Society.

51Account Books, Strafford 102, vol. 3, pp. 10-11.

52Goddard and Partidge, History of Norwich, 142.

53Invoice, 'Norwich University to Hartford Brass Band/For the Services of the Band $14.00/For the Drummer $.50/For the use of Horse $.50/For Dinner at Hotell $2.63/Amount $17.63/ . . .' Norwich Town Records, Miscellaneous Records, Packet 4.

54From H. D. Hodgkinson, 'The Eagle Flyer,' Vermonter 5:2 (March-April 1967), 19.

55White and Johnson, Early Houses, 70.

56The News, White River Junction and West Randolph, Vermont, Thursday, 29 November 1888. Clipping in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. DH-7, Box 1.

57Goddard and Partridge, History of Norwich, 142. Morrill was apparently interested in freemasonry.

58For a detailed discussion of the validity of historical studies with non-traditional sources, see Cary Carson, 'Doing History with Material Culture,' in Material Culture and the Study of American Life, ed. Ian M. G. Quimby (New York & London: Norton, 1978), 41-64.

Last Updated: 5/3/12