Letters to Amos Rhodes, 1793

These letters include discussions of the market for shoes in Philadelphia. Students will gain an understanding that the successful sale of items require more than just producing them. Consideration of fashion and supply and demand as drivers of sales are evident here.

Philadelphia 4 m.20.1793

My dear Friend,
Thy favor with the shoes &ceby Capt Chapman came safe to hand – am sorry to inform

you that Shoes are extremely dull2 and are selling by several traders from L(ynn) & Salem at 5/3 gum bottom Florentine3 – 4/6 to 4/9 Lasting – I really don’t believe there ever were so great a glut in (the) market4 – if thine had been all large court & common heels5, they would have sold much better, french heels are getting much out of use – our first Ladies now wear Spring & court heels – I advise thee not to take any shoes for this place with pinch heels – got very large ones and with common & court heels.

I have sold none higher than 6/ even the best buff6 – Irson sold Buff his best at that and 6 months Cr. – I shall write thee by post, first —

I am with much
E Breed

A Rhodes —

1 &ce = ”etc” = and so on
2 Dull = not selling
3 Gum bottom Florentine = a fancy women’s shoe
4 Glut in the market = lots of people are trying to sell the same items
5 Court & common heels = lower heels are coming into fashion and high, “French” heels are going out
6 Buff = light tan colored

Philadelphia 5 m.16.1793

My dear Friend,
I herewith enclose thee a bill (of) lading1 for Sundry goods2 the invoice shall send on by

I wrote thee a few days since by the post – Capt. Needham leaves us tomorrow and by what

I can learn he intends to be in the Shoe business – Viz3. to lend the Shoemakers money on the usual Interest with the privilege of taking his pay in Shoes and for them to allow him 5 pct. O **** from Selling, let him for what price he can – this mode of business will no doubt do for him, but how will it prove for our business & why it is my opinion and always has been that I can never do any thing here while Shoes are brought here and sold in such a manner, but if it must be so I prefer Capt. Needham to many others – he has a right to do it – it is a free country.

I think if several of us could join and take such a quantity of Shoes at Lynn as to make them more difficult for so many Hawkers4 to get, it would be an advantage, but we might as well think of raising Egg rock5 from its bed and bringing it to Philadelphia on our shoulders to exhibit for a show in the streets – and in fact by this I think we should make much more money – farewell –

Eben Breed

Amos Rhodes, Esq.

1 Bill of lading = receipt or bill
2 Sundry goods = various items
3 Viz = therefore
4 Hawkers = sellers
5 Egg rock = a rock in the ocean off the coast of Lynn


Eben Breed, Letter to Amos Rhodes (May 16, 1793 and April 20, 1793). Lynn Museum and Historical Society, Lynn, MA.