What to Buy

General stores proliferated and became places where villagers met to exchange goods they grew or made at home for items they couldn’t produce themselves. Vermonters had noticeably increasing consumer choices during this era. The items in this store represent what was available to Vermonters between 1820 and 1860. Mass production made goods cheaper, and better transportation systems provided access to local markets. Merchants advertised a wide selection of goods, some made locally, others from Boston and New York, and in some instances imported from distant places such as Europe, China, and India.

New factories sprang up in many villages; items such as stoves, pottery, and glass were mass-produced within Vermont. With the factories came a new system of work. Employees were expected to begin and end work at a set time, and were paid cash wages for the hours they worked. They were not given time off to hay or harvest crops. These were full-time, year-round jobs, not seasonal employment to fill in when farm work was slow. Many large, leather-bound ledger books from these stores survive in the Vermont Historical Society collections. They show the forms of credit that made purchases possible in a time before a stable currency system. Other accounts were maintained by the factories to keep track of employees’ work and wages. Look through these copies of store and factory accounts, as well as advertisements of the period, to see the variety of goods that were sold and made in Vermont.

Image of country store interior, 1826

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