Friday, October 5, 2012

Research - The Rabbit Hole!

This morning, I was going to try to figure out how much Joseph Newell charged to make leather breeches versus how much the leather cost.  Unlike James Gould from Newport, who consistently charged the same amount, over and over again, for a pair of breeches, it is difficult to discern at first glance, when Mr. Newell included the materials because his prices are all over the map.  Then I started to look at the dates and noticed something....

His entries pretty much petered out by 1776 and resumed again around 1783.  There are a few entries in between, but it would appear that most of his customers and/or he went off to war.  There are a few entries from 1776-1783, but I didn't notice, for example, if these wartime entries were made in a different hand or then again, he might have only served a few years or we may have misread these entries, as the dates in the left hand columns were sometimes tough to make out.

So here's why doing research is like Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole - it sucks you in, you don't know where it will take you but, oh, what interesting things you find out on the way! 

The primary exercise of seeking out account books was to explore another form of primary source in order to learn more about period clothing, what it cost and what it was made of, etc. And look at the can of worms this opened.  What about the missing years in Mr Newell's account books?  What if we explored Joseph Newell's genealogy - check out if there are any military records on him? We could go to the Massachusetts archives to see if there are any probate records connected to him.  Did he own property?  Maybe contact the New Braintree Historical Society. And what about his customers? What can we find out about them? Two words: MORE RESEARCH.

Oh no! I think I'm about to fall down the rabbit hole.

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