Mad as a hatter
Victualer, cordwainer, huckster, fishmonger . . . making sense of occupations of yesteryear
"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!"
The story of "Alice in Wonderland" was a favourite tale to many of us. As Cliff, and I roamed the wooded area of our farm, we were always hoping to discover a rabbit that would lead us to a wonderland, such as Alice found. We never did find the wonderland, but we did have a one-eared rabbit called Hoppy.
Being preoccupied with our outdoor games, we never gave a thought as to how the "Alice in Wonderland" character, Mad Hatter, got his name, It really was not one of our concerns. It has only been since I began tracing roots that I came to associate the Mad Hatter with his job of making hats. Did you know that the chemical used in hat making sometimes affected the mental state of the person?
Occupations of yesteryear were quite different from the ones we would see listed in a census or directory of today. Victualers, for instance, supplied food or were butchers. Coopers made barrels. Fishmongers sold fish. Cordwainers worked with leather. The men who made pulleys for block and tackle were blockmakers. Huckster were peddlers of small wares. A candle maker or seller was called a tallow chandler. Farmers who owned land were yeomen. The sexton looked after the church and usually dug the graves. Clothiers made or sold clothing. Another name for carpenter or cabinet maker was a joiner. Riggers fitted the rigging on ships. Saddlers were harness-makers. Sawyers sawed the wood in a sawmill. Shipwrights helped build or repair ships. Wheelwrights made or repaired wheels.
Other occupations are self explanatory: shoe cutter, tanner, sausage maker, teamster, tinsmith, cartman, silk dyer, silversmith, stonecutter and soapboiler.
As a child, I visited Ada on Adelaide Street. Her stories of being a milliner and making fancy hats for the fashionable ladies of Saint John fascinated me. The highlight of my several-day stay with her was a trip uptown on the street car to visit Manchester Robertson Allison's - MRA's. Once we stepped inside the doors, Ada headed immediately to the hat department with me in tow. We would try on hats of every shape and style. For a time, I forgot I was just a country kid and fantasized I was a city socialite.
Queries have been grouped together to cover the year 1998 and can be viewed at Queries-1998
Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.
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