Ten 1870-1923 Receipts That Tell The Story of Alexandria, Virginia

Ken Lopez
Posted by Ken Lopez on Apr 26, 2021 8:26:10 AM

Nothing reflects the story of a town better than its everyday businesses. If you can trace the purchases from those businesses, you can interpret what its residents valued at the time. This was especially true before automobiles as people would purchase everything they needed close to home.

Fortunately, the businesses of late 19th century and early 20th century Alexandria kept good records in paper form. Many of those records still exist today, and many are represented in the OurHistoryMuseum collection.

The era of 1870-1923 includes one of the great economic expansions in American history. Fueled by technological innovation, the economy transitioned from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy.

Below are ten receipts randomly selected from the OurHistoryMuseum collection. Collectively, they paint a picture of a vibrant town transitioning from the horse and buggy to the automobile. Presented chronologically, even in this small sampling of receipts, we can see the transition occurring. Notice how this set starts with turkeys and cabbage being purchased in bulk delivered by a railroad, then includes some horse and buggy supplies, and ends with a receipt from a funeral home featuring "auto service."

Please leave a comment about what you notice. A keen eye will spot surnames that are still a part of the business community, changes in the way Old Town addresses are handled in the late 1800s, and the introduction of the telephone. What is the single most interesting thing that you notice?

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Topics: Alexandria, VA, Franklin Street, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, King Street, Union Street, Thomas Perry, Henry Baader & Sons, James F. Carlin, Worth Hulfish, J. Robert Baker, J.T. & J.G. Beckham, Globe Mills, W. Clifton Cunningham, Patrick Street, William F. Roat, R.H. Horner, John P. Agnew, Schooner John F. Kranz, Jno. W. Emmert, B. Wheatly, Places, Things

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OurHistoryMuseum is a crowdsourced and virtual history museum that anyone can contribute to. We are prototyping with our hometown first — Alexandria, Virginia. The app will be available nationally in early 2022. In the meantime, sign up for our blog or follow OHM on social media (both at the bottom of this page) to keep updated.

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