Passing the Block

Figure 1. David C. Green’s billhead.

Excerpted from The Chronicle Vol. 56, no. 4, December 2003.

by Elton W. Hall

Among the Providence, Rhode Island, tool and hardware dealers in the second quarter of the nineteenth century were Henry Reynolds Green and his son, David C. Green. Henry appears in the 1830 Providence Directory in the partnership of Green & Belcher, Hardware & Cutlery at 11 Broad Street. By 1836, Belcher had been replaced by Henry’s son, and the store moved to 25 Weybosset Street. The 1841 directory indicates that David had taken over the business and was running it himself. Perhaps after their partnership of five years, his father was confident in his son’s ability to carry on and was content to enjoy retirement. Presumably they remained on good terms, for they shared a residence at 60 Pawtuxet Street. After another five years, Green was on the move, first to 29 Broad Street then to 53 Westminster Street, where he styled himself an importer of cutlery and general hardware as well as a dealer in carriage lace, patent leather, elliptic springs, axles, and harness trimmings. He also described his business as a “one price tool store,” which meant that he offered no discounts. To promote that part of his business, he had a nice billhead with a wood engraving illustrating a bench plane, an axe head, and a hatchet (Figure 1). The cut was surrounded by a border with type. But early in 1849, Green sold the business to Chester Pratt and is not listed in the 1853-4 directory.

Pratt appears in the 1836 directory as an accountant at the foot of Dorrance Street. By 1841 he had gone into the crockery business, and by 1844 was in the partnership of Pratt, Elliott, & Tillinghast selling crockery, glass, etc. at 85 Westminster Street, where he was still listed in the 1847-8 directory. But as the second billhead shows, the following spring he bought Green’s hardware and tool store, in which business he continued for some years, joined by his own son in 1858.

Figure 2. Chester Pratt’s billhead.

The billhead of Chester Pratt, dated 20 April 1849, shows that he was offering the same line of goods at the 53 Westminster Street address as the successor to David Green (Figure 2). Except for the added fact that he was Green’s successor, the text of the billhead is the same as Green’s. The typography and choice of typefaces is entirely different, and Pratt may have used a different job printer for his stationery. However, the same wood engraving that Green used, slightly the worse for wear, appears in the same place on the successor’s bill. One would not criticize a thrifty entrepreneur for maximizing his assets.

Thanks to fellow EAIA member and Rhode Island tool scholar Rick Slaney for providing some of the above facts.

Elton W. Hall, a frequent contributor to The Chronicle, is the former executive director of the EAIA