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Business Ownership

Boston and Newport Merchants Correspondence
Mss 732 1732-1790 B797
Includes a letter from Jane Curtis, an eighteenth-century Boston, Massachusetts, merchant.

Melatiah Bourn Collection
Mss 732 1732-1790 B797
Contains receipts dated 1750 from three female merchants in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mrs. Browning Collection
Mss 77 1859-1865 B885
Account book of a woman who owned a notions shop in Hardwick, Massachusetts, during the mid-nineteenth century.

Business Card Collection
Business cards from the second half of the nineteenth century include advertisements for businesses owned by women.

Charles C. Chandler Collection
Mss 77 1785-1811 C455
Account book kept by a storeowner and farmer was used later by his widow.

Miss Sarah Curtis Collection
Mss 871 1862-1866 C891
Two account books for a dry goods store in Hampden, Maine, owned by Sarah Curtis between 1862 and 1866.

Dike Family Collection
Mss 1 1804-1881 D536
Includes accounts for Mrs. Polly Dike, who ran a farm that had livestock, apple trees, grain, and a cider mill.

R.G. Dun & Company Collection
Mss 791 1840-1895
Consists of 2,580 volumes of handwritten credit reports on individuals and firms from the United States, the western territories, Canada, and the West Indies.

Frost Family Collection
Mss 77 1727-1884 F939
Includes accounts for domestic labor and textile production, as well as the account of Peggy Frost Chesley, who owned a sawmill at the end of the eighteenth century.

Hancock Collection
Mss 761 1728-1854 H234
Includes letters, receipts, and accounts documenting transactions with various female merchants in eighteenth-century Boston, Massachusetts, as well as mid-eighteenth century letters written by Mary Hancock Perkins to her son while he was a student at Harvard.

Louis E. Kirstein Collection
Mss 776 1909-1942
The office files of Louis Kirstein, Vice-president of Filene's of Boston (1911-1942), contain material throughout on the professional role of his secretary; correspondence with women working for charities; material on women working at Filene's; and personal correspondence with his sister, wife, and daughters.

Theophilus Parsons Collection
Mss 8995 1862-1882 P271
Collection includes receipts for women who sold dairy products.

Raff and Gammon Collection
Mss 692 1894-1897 R136
Includes letters from Annette Reynolds, who was buying and selling Vitascope films in upstate New York.

Don Juan Stoughton Collection
Mss 91 1794-1820 S889
Letter book containing Stoughton's correspondence with the Widow McRoberts & Company in Cadiz, Spain, mainly regarding her interest in Spanish ships, as well as letters from Mrs. John Stoughton regarding the settlement of her husband's estate.

Thomas S. Taylor Collection
Mss 77 1807-1863 T238
Includes accounts for Mary Barber, who ran a tavern in Kingston, Rhode Island, in the 1820s.

Trade Card Collection
Collection of nineteenth-century trade cards provides insight into American gender imagery and family consumption patterns, and includes several cards advertising businesses owned by women.

Trade Catalog Collection
Collection of nineteenth-century trade catalogs provides insight into the development of domestic technology and the emergence of consumer products, and includes catalogs for businesses owned by women.

Ellis B. Usher Collection
Mss 201 1800-1868 U85
Contains the accounts and papers of Hannah Usher, who ran her husband's store and sawmill after his death in 1855.

Wendell Family Collection
Mss 733 1722-1865
Includes women's personal correspondence, essays and school papers, and John Dorr's diary and eulogy for his wife, Esther Goldthwait Dorr. The collection also contains letters written to Anne Rindge between 1742 and 1748 regarding her shipping interests, and the papers of Dorothy Wendell, who ran a cattle farm in the early part of the nineteenth century.

J.J. White Paper Company Collection
Mss 495 c.1929-1945
Records of a paper company co-owned by Mary Cardarelli and sold in 1963 to Phoenix Building Products, co-owned by Mary A. Reynolds.



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Trade card, ca. 1883, advertising Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.

Although nineteenth-century ideals about women's place in society encouraged women to remain in the home and to leave business endeavors to men, women owned and operated a wide variety of businesses. Some women discovered trades in which being female actually helped their business. Lydia E. Pinkham is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Pinkham manufactured and sold her "vegetable compound" in her home, initially giving it away but sometimes selling it. Beginning in 1875, Pinkham and her family advertised the product as a curative for a variety of "female complaints," establishing a company that would soon be a phenomenon in the market for patent medicine.

According to Pinkham's advertisements, the compound could cure ailments from insomnia and depression to cancer of the uterus. Although Pinkham was herself a strong supporter of the temperance movement, her product contained a high percentage of alcohol, which she did approve of for medicinal purposes. She recommended three large spoonfuls a day of her "medicine" in order to ensure good health.

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Trade card, ca. 1890, showing Lydia Pinkham’s grandchildren.

Although Lydia was the original manufacturer of her remedy and the author of early advertising copy, the company was run by her sons. It relied heavily on the use of Lydia Pinkham's name and association with the company as a marketing tool. Her face appeared on bottles of her medicine and in the advertisements, as did images of her robust and healthy grandchildren. Her own good health and long life advocated the validity of her product. Pinkham published pamphlets and books that discussed various issues related to female health and customers trusted her advice and knowledge. They were encouraged to write to "Mrs. Pinkham" for advice until well after her death in 1883. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the company still responded to requests for advice in Pinkham's name and her product remained popular far into the twentieth century. The records of the Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company are held at The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

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