Monday, July 11, 2011

Insight into the designation of the word 'merchant'; "Samuel Meeker, of Philadelphia, Merch't."

From the Pennsylvania Gazette 28 Oct. 1797, (see the front page of the paper below)**Click to enlarge, and view all the interesting articles that Meeker, Deman, & Co. sold!

When Samuel Meeker’s marriage was announced in the local press, he was called a Merchant: "1792 Mar. 3 - Samuel Meeker, of Philadelphia, Merch't., to Jane daughter of Jonathan Hampton, Esq. of Elizabeth Town." Today, the word merchant would mean ‘businessman’, or ‘financier’, in fact, nothing special. But at the turn of the century, and certainly in earlier times, the term merchant was a title that signified something to be proud of, it signaled reputation. “At a remove of two centuries this may appear somewhat prosaic, but in colonial America, where most people made a living by toil, the station of the merchant was something quite rarefied. They lived by their wits, but more than that, they lived by their character: partners and investors had to rely on a merchant’s word as his bond; finanical arrangements rested on individual credit, established through a past record for fair dealing. It was presumed that these assets flowed from a scrupulous sense of personal integrity....” "Robert Morris – Financier of the American Revolution" by C. Rappleye.p25

The world of the merchant at this time, saturated with wartime uncertainties and with minimal means to achieve even a reasonable level of communication, was filled with tremendous risk; fortunes were made and lost overnight. To survive in such a world, an individual had to be smart, capable, and trustworthy; he could be counted on in difficult times. I think these qualities can be seen in Samuel Meeker's portrait.

No comments:

Site Meter