April 3, 2024

‘Shopping in an 1850s Canal Town: A Material Culture Mystery Story’ Will Be Topic of Online Presentation on Tuesday, April 9

In the museum collection of the C&O Canal National Historical Park is a shop ledger from a merchant in Williamsport, Md. Tracking purchases made between 1856-58, the ledger provides tantalizing glimpses into the everyday lives of its customers. Using the ledgers and overall knowledge of canal life in the mid-1800s, Blyth McManus, the curator of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9, will lead a live online presentation about life in those times.

"Shopping in an 1850s Canal Town: A Material Culture Mystery Story" is part of a series from Montgomery History. View the presentation on April 9 via Zoom at History Conversations (montgomeryhistory.org).

Materials like flour, spices and produce do not usually survive long enough to become part of the archeological record, but these are often the details that help today’s world connect to the human side of history. It is also a glimpse into women’s history. Although many (but not all) of the names are men, often the women did the actual shopping using their husbands’ accounts.

The owner of the ledger and the location of the shop are unknown. However, the ledger provides important historical context to the park and the local area, gives researchers a glimpse into everyday life, and potentially provides additional context to the area’s archeological sites. New perspectives await in the pages of this mystery ledger.