Public Buildings and Private Enterprise, Syllabubs and Slops:
Meeting America's Quest for the Finer Things in Life on the
Eve of the American Revolution
Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist


One of the most distinguishing characteristics of an American is what Thorstein Veblen labeled "conspicuous consumption.'

It perhaps would be fairer to call it the undaunted pursuit of the finer things in life, including Repast as Ritual adorned with carefully selected and decorated dishes, utensils and related furnishings.  From the arrival of the first settlers in the New World, the opportunities for self improvement and economic advancement seemed boundless to each successive wave of immigrants and the native born alike..  Class and station in life mattered little.  Money was to be made through hard work and entrepreneurial endeavors, particularly retailing goods imported from abroad.  In the 1750s Richard Tuggett, a footman would write from Annapolis, Maryland:  send "some knives, some buckles and butens and anything you think proper for I can make you money here ....," as did  Edward Watts, who pleaded: "I could, if it whas posable you could believe me after my manyfould transgressons to you all, sell your goods to great advantage."

In 1782 St. John de Crevecoeur attempted to provide a definition of

What then is the American, this new man?...He is an American, who,
leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives
new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new
government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has become an
American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose
labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.
Americans are the western pilgrims. (from "Letter III," 1782)
For those who the pilgrimage brought great wealth, it could also bring great disappointment, particularly with subsequent generations that did not have to work  hard for the material things in life, and did not aspire to a career of risk taking, and speculation in business,  which some argue today is the mark of a successful businessman.


[Memin drawings]

Charles Carroll of Homewood, for example, found himself drawn into the vortex of conspicuous consumption,  becoming addicted to alcohol (possibly affected from birth  by his mother's addiction to opium derivatives?), and wasting his life away despite all of the efforts of family and friends.  From birth he was wealthy.  From the day of his marriage in 1800 until his death in 1825 his father, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the wealthiest men  in America,  provided him with an income of at least $5,000 a year.  "There are very few persons in this state who have a net income of $5,000 a year," his father would remind him again and again.  Yet Charles could not live within it, and continued to spend far more than was allotted.

[fortune accounts]

"Had you followed my advice, and built a plain and convenient house, you would have saved at least 1/3 of the money which has been paid for your buildings and out of that saving occasional aids could have been granted for improving your farm; but without reflection you suffered yourself to be led on from one expense to another. ..."

Later his "affectionate father" would write: "your income melts away like snow before a warm sun..."

Despairing of ever reforming his son, Charles Carroll of Carrollton turned to his grandson Charles, whom he sent to Europe for his education, just as he had nearly 40 years before with the father.

[image of departure]

He cautioned young Charles to acquire the "principles of the law and the habit of application; without this habit all persons, particularly such, who from wealth may conceive application unnecessary, usually become idle and dissipated and frequently profligate; remember what I told you and be it deeply impressed on your mind that in this republick personal merit alone gives consideration and weight of character."

Charles Carroll of Carrollton's model of application to personal merit, and accomplishment more closely follows what is the stereotypical American businessman, and might well be the most distinguishing characteristic  of his fellow Annapolis resident, and sometime purchasing agent, Charles Wallace, who died in February 1812 at the age of 84.

Interestingly enough, in death, Wallace's property held some attraction to Charles Carroll of Homewood, who with his brother-in-law, Robert Goodloe Harper, were enlisted by Wallace's nephew, Charles Wallace Hanson to appraise the deceased's estate.  Charles Carroll of Carrollton was not too happy about the arrangement:


June 15, 1812

Dear Charles
I understand from Hariet that you went to Annapolis to be an appraisor of the late Mr. Wallace's property in that city: I hope that business will be transacted this day and I desire you to return to the Manor as soon as it is finished and bring with you a copy of the writing which you signed at Washington as Security for Mr. Ch. Hanson on the administration of the $7000 belonging to Mr. Wallace in the bank of Columbia, and for the application of that money according to his will if he made any; apply to Mr. Hanson to know whether he has drawn any part of that sum out of the bank and how he has applied the monies drawn out-  Do not be security for the administration of Mr. Hanson any farther than you were engaged while at the Manor. Neither you or Mr. Hanson are men of business, and you in particular are incapable of managing such concerns- I desired you to apply to Mr. Hanson for a statement of Mr. Wallace's affairs showing the amount of his property and credits and his debts-Surely after the conversation which  passed on this subject between us, you have not intangled yourself as the security for Hanson for the settlement of Wallace's estate beyond what the instrument you signed at Washington bound you to, and made you eventually answerable, which you told me did not extend beyond the $7000. I hope to see you. in a day or two I have some matters of consequence to communicate to you. Hariet and the children are well I am

Yr Affectionate Father
Ch. Carroll of Carrollton.
In the end, Charles of Homewood did his father's bidding and did not sign a bond obligating him to the distribution of Wallace's estate, although his brother-in-law, Robert Goodloe Harper did.

It is through the life and surviving account books of Charles Wallace and his partners that we have a remarkable window into the consumption patterns of Americans in the decade before the American Revolution, the setting in which Charles Carroll of Homewood (born in 1775) and his sisters grew up, and in which Charles Wallace, the former stay maker, made his fortune building the first department store (still standing in part) in Annapolis.  At the Annapolis store,  between 1771 and 1774 nearly L38,000 sterling of english made goods were offered for sale.  One scholar calculates that in 2003 dollars that would be the equivalent of $7,753,621.99.

The importance of Wallace and his partners' venture into the retailing of British goods is three fold.  It demonstrates the opportunities offered men and women on the basis of merit backed by venture capital in the immediate pre-Revolutionary world, it provides insight into how venture capital was derived (in this case in large measure from government sources of revenue) and a detailed accounting of the purchasing preferences of a large sample of American consumers that continued to expand until competition from a rising urban center (Baltimore) and a precipitous decline in agricultural income depleted the population and buying power of Wallace & Co's customer base (ca. 1790)  While there will be little attention paid to the war and the post war years in this chapter, it is important to point out that the Revolution did not bring the success of Wallace and his partners to a halt.  Indeed during the war they shifted their business to supplying the war-time needs of government, and their customers (to the degree that they could with French goods), only to return to the importing of English goods with a vengeance  after the war, shipping nearly twice the value of the prewar importation's in two years, 1785-1786.  Using the same calculations for the sterling value of the goods imported after the war as before, Charles Wallace and his partners imported the equivalent of $13,810,220.97 in 2003 dollars.

In all there are over 500 pages of detailed orders for goods sent to London between 1771 and 1774.  For the most part, all the orders were filled and very few cargoes were lost at sea.   Generally the firm ordered two substantial cargoes a year, one for the spring and one for the fall, along with orders from wealth customers like Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Charles Carroll the Barrister, and for their outlying stores and specialty merchants like the watchmaker William Whetcroft who ordered watches from England to be engraved with his name for re-sale..

But before examining what was ordered and bought, it is important to understand how Charles Wallace went about his business and to examine how he made the 'connections' that provided the venture capital he and his partners needed to make their foray into the retail market of consumer goods.

Charles Wallace was ten years older than Charles Carroll of Carrollton.  He was born in Annapolis in 1727 and by 1749 is in business as a stay maker.

[Hogarth painting of stay maker].

It does not take him long to expand into the tavern business, and by 1767, to assist his sister and her husband in establishing their coffee house on Church, now Main Street in Annapolis.


As the theme for this series of lectures is "Repast as Ritual,"  it is important to point out that men who were active entrepreneurs or were of means often did not eat at home.  In fact it is clear from the surviving accounts of the Coffee House, that Mary Wallace Howard kept a desirable restaurant where public officials and prominent townspeople of a wide variety of occupations ate dinner and attended 'clubs,' on a weekly, if not daily, basis.   The famed Tuesday Club met at Charles Wallace's in the 1750s, and in the period when Wallace was raising the capital to begin importing English goods on a grand scale,  he regularly met with the Homony and Lunatick clubs at the Coffee House.

[insert Hogarth of Men's club]

Hogarth has left us study of a London's men's club from the late 1720s, which provides some indication of what a similar evening in Annapolis may have been like.

Glenn Campbell of Historic Annapolis is preparing a major work on the Homony Club which deserves close treatment for what it reveals about politics and socialization in Annapolis in the years leading up to the Revolution.  For the purposes here it is instructive to focus on the accounts of two attendees of the Homony Club who fled Annapolis as loyalists and left their bills unpaid at Mrs. Howard's Coffee House.  Unfortunately the full length Charles Willson Peale portrait of Lloyd Dulany has been lost save for a description by the painter:

I have begun a whole length of Lloyd Dulany leaning with his cane against his hip, the right leg across the left, a sword hilt turned back, the point coming forward.  I think this attitude does admit of good graceful lines if well drawn, '

but there is a copy of a portrait of another prominent deadbeat, Sir Robert Eden, the last colonial governor, who has also left us an account.

[eden portrait]

[accounts of Lloyd Dulany and Robert Eden: note especially December 26, q771, January 23, 1773, and February 6, 1773, which were known meeting dates of the Homony Club]

Note the frequency with which Dulany and Eden at supper and attended 'clubs' at the Coffee House.  The Ritual of Repast among the elite and the aspiring entrepreneurs was as likely to have been at a club as at home.

Indeed when Washington attended the Annapolis Races he dined at Mrs. Howard's Coffee House.

[Washington's account]

Other prominent members of the Homony Club included the Deputy Commissary, Elie Valette who published a book about the work of his office and who was responsible until his death in 1780 for all the estate records filed for probate in Annapolis.  I wish we could locate the original of this portrait as it is one of the few casual family scenes  at home in Annapolis. Although both Peale and Valette were members of the Homony Club,  in 1774, after the club disbanded, Valette was slow to pay Peale his fee, leading to a battle of words in the columns of the Maryaland Gazette. :

If a certain E. V. does not immediately pay for his family picture,  his name shall be published full length in the next paper

Charles Peale

Mr. Elie Valette, Pay me for painting your family picture

Charles Peale

Mr. Charles Wilson Peale, Alias charles Peale-- Yes you shall be paid; but not before you have learned to be less insolent.

Elie Valette

[Valette portrait]

The name "Homony" was derived from a dish made from finely ground corn which another member and secretary of the Homony Club, William Eddis, another prominent government official, described as::

 Indian corn, beaten in a mortar, and afterwards baked or boiled, forms a dish which is the principal subsistence of the indigent planter, and is even much liked by many persons of a superior class. This, when properly prepared, is called homony, and when salt beef, pork, or bacon, is added, no complaints are made respecting their fare
While we do not know Mrs. Howard's menu, we have a good idea where she probably got her recipes.  Among the first cargoes of goods that Charles Wallace ordered for himself (I assume on behalf of Mrs. Howard) was a new edition of Hanna Glasse's  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by a Lady, a cook book that was also ordered by S. T., probably Sara Turner, who was a close friend of Elizabeth Bordley, and whose painting apparently still hangs in the Chase Lloyd House in Annapolis.

[insert glasse.html]

Charles Wallace made the most of his socializing with the political and economic powers of the community, who in turn were also some of the most powerful men in the colony..  He realized that that because of the prudent investments of the colony's legislature in backing their emissions of paper money with stock in the Bank of England that a reserve of credit might be had for the asking.  By 1773 there would be $38,500 sterling to draw upon if Wallace could find a way to access it, which he did.  But first he needed to plan how we would go about buying goods in England for a profitable return at home.

[insert 1767 ad re: commissioners]

In 1766 (and again in 1767)  Charles Wallace packed his bags, and left for London  where he evaluated the suppliers and returned with relatively small cargoes to test the market.  He left his future partner, John Davidson, behind as his attorney in fact, returning by October 1, 1767 with imports which he sold at his store in Church Street, probably located near or at the Coffee House.

[insert wallace 1767 ads]

While in London he spent a day with the promising young artist Charles Willson Peale who was then studying with Benjamin West.  Peale would return to be a member of the Homony Club, but apparently never painted Wallace's portrait.

[ads html]

By 1771, Charles Wallace was ready for his foray into the import business.  He enlisted the partnership of a fellow merchant, John Davidson, and Joshua Johnson, the younger brother of a prominent lawyer and member of the Homony club, Thomas Johnson.  Both Davidson and Johnson were from relatively humble origins.  Johnson was one of many sons of a Calvert County planter whose brothers had done well in the law, iron works, and land speculation in western Maryland.  Johnson would be sent to London as the buyer, leaving Wallace and Davidson to build a new building of stores on the dock and to market the goods at home.  Later Johnson would recall to Wallace  the "memory of those Jocoase evenings that you used to sett, at your house with your feet up against the jam & plan for the public."...." [Letterbk 1, pp. 11-12]

Johnson left with a bill of credit in the amount of L3,000 sterling with which he secured nearly L4,000 sterling worth of goods for the first cargo home.   The Bill of Credit was drawn on Hanbury & Co. in London, and probably represented an equal investment on the part of the three members of the firm,  but it is likely that it represented in part if not all, loans to the partners out of the Loan Office drawing on the bank stock credit the General Assembly had in London.  While that assertion cannot be fully documented, it clear that in order to build their stores on the dock and order more goods, Charles Wallace undertook the construction of the Maryland State House, the cornerstone for which was laid by Governor Eden in 1772.

[insert mg report]

As a result, Charles Wallace secured another line of credit of nearly L5,000 sterling on the Colony's London bankers,  a line of credit that helped the firm weather a severe depression that hit the tobacco and goods import trade in 1773, and build a magnificent store on the dock to house their imported ware..

[insert commissioners ledger account with Wallace]

It is likely that the same architect, Joseph Horatio Anderson, designed the four part Wallace Davidson Johnson Building on the Dock in Annapolis and the State House, although it is also plausible that Wallace or William Noke modified the construction drawings to a simpler design than was first proposed.  The earliest drawings by Anderson for the State House have survived and are quite elaborate, but not the actual construction drawings.  What we do know is that both buildings, the State House and the Wallace Davidson Johnson stores,  are strikingly similar.  One would dominate the town and the other the waterfront.   In 1883 the stores would burn, leaving at least the exterior walls of the Wallace, Davidson and Johnson store on the corner of Cornhill/Fleet and Market Space to survive to the present.

Their quarter of the WDJ building  was not ready by the time the first cargo of goods arrived, and the firm sold it at the former home of Governor Calvert on State Circle (now the Calvert House Inn).

By the second cargo, the store on the dock was finished, but the State House would take another 7 years to be ready, during which time Wallace had full use of the Colony's credit for construction of the stores, the statehouse, and the purchase of more goods.

[wdj bldg now and then]

To be fair, a war intervened to slow construction on the State House.   In 1779, Wallace resigned as builder of the State House.  The government occupied the building that year but the roof and dome leaked badly.  By 1784 Wallace was defending himself, claiming that his original report to the Assembly on what he had accomplished was now lost and that he was still owed L500 currency, but acknowledging that the workmanship was not what he had wished it to be, and that he even redid the apartments for the Provincial Court out of his own pockets.  Considering that he pursued a number of his own debtors before that very same Court and its state successor, it probably was a wise investment.

Apparently he had no such construction and maintenance problems with the  building on the dock and it continued in use as stores, Wallace selling his interest in the corner store building to John Davidson in 1797.

Wallace also borrowed from his church, St. Anne's, and  privately. By 1775 his largest single private creditor was Ann Tasker, recently deceased widow of a prominent government official, Benjamin Tasker (d. 1768),  to whom he owed L6,000 currency.  It is not known if and when he paid this debt off, but he did buy her house and falling gardens when it was sold as confiscated British Property, and lived there until he died in 1811, leaving Charles Carroll of Homewood and Robert Goodloe Harper to inventory what remained of his personal estate.

Who were the customers of the Wallace, Davidson, Johnson store at the Annapolis Dock and what did they buy?

Time does not permit a thorough analysis of the over 500 pages of detailed listings of goods ordered, from whom they were purchased, and when they were shipped.  That is left to a more exhaustive study in which I hope to enlist the help of transcribers and editors.  Pages of all the orders are on line at a new web site called where you are invited to participate in transcribing, identifying and annotating..

Permit me to close with just a few striking examples of fashion and furnishings as they relate to dress, entertainment, and the table.

One of the earliest special order customers of Wallace Davidson and Johnson was Anne Catherine Green, printer to the colony and printer of the Maryland Gazette.  Charles Willson Peale painted her portrait ca. 1770 with a paper in her hand proclaiming her 'printer'.   In January 1772 the Maryland Gazette was running out of paper and Ann Catherine Green used her credit with Charles Wallace to secure not only 50 reams but also some finery that would set the style and create  future orders for a large number of Cardinals (red hooded cloaks) for sale at the store.

[AC Green's portrait.html]

The richness and the variety of the goods offered by Wallace, Davidson and Johnson between 1771 and 1774 is staggering.  One can only imagine the rooms filled with goods on the arrival of the Spring and Fall cargoes.  Much of what is found in the order books is recognizable and easily categorized.



linens and oznabrigs (a type of Linen taking its name from a German town)



silver goods

and even Toys, books, and musical instruments.

Charles Wallace would order glass, copper, and carpenters for the new buildings. He apparently even had to buy the drawing instruments that either he or his builder/architect needed to lay out the construction drawings for the stores and the statehouse.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton would become one of the best customers of the firm, ordering his goods with them directly from London.  In his orders can be found the first clothing that Charles of Homewood's sisters wore.

Not all the entries are as familiar today as they once were.

Take for example Slops and Syllabub glasses  The former were outer and inner garments, while Syllabub was a drink made from heavy cream and wine, served in a special fluted glass which apparently sold well at the store.

"Take a quart of thick cream, and half a pint of sack, the juice of two Seville oranges, or lemons; grate in the peel of two lemons; half a pound of double-refined sugar, pour it into a broad earthen pan, and whisk it well; but first sweeten some red wine, or sack, and fill your glasses as full as you chuse; then as the froth rises take it off with a spoon, and lay it carefully into your glasses, till they are as full as it will hold."
From Charles Carter The London and Country Cook (London: 1749)
[[ final html of sample pages]


Generally, as Lorena Walsh and Barbara Sarudy  has amply demonstrated, towns like Annapolis were provisioned by the countryside and their town gardens, but they set their tables and ate their meals with the finery they bought from abroad, especially England.  During the Revolution and after Americans would develop a taste for French goods and other european goods, while at the same time there was increasing clamor for American made, with Alexander Hamilton among the most articulate advocates for American Manufacture. To some extent those changes found their way into verse and song.

[roast beef midi and html].

What I hope you will take with you today is that while Americans of all generations have  exhibited a great fondness for Repast at Ritual, and  for the finer things in life,  even to excess, they did so within the context of a profound belief that such consumption was a right of all, not a privilege of the few.  From Charles Wallace to Sears and Roebuck, to Sam Walton, Americans found themselves offered a bewildering array of affordable and not so affordable goods, promoted and marketed by risk taking entrepreneurs, many of whom failed in the attempt, yet leaving undaunted that spirit of optimism and adventurous acquisition that appears to be so characteristic of what is An American.

Thank you