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Archive for the ‘Old Words’ Category

“Queensware” in Kansas

Posted in Old Words  by Steven on October 5th, 2014

Working through some archives this week, I came across a letter to a doctor in Fort Scott, KS from a captain in his old Civil War regiment, asking whether he thought a “queensware shop” would do well there.

Wondering if I were reading the word correctly, I consulted Google and found that queensware is a name for “a type of light white earthenware with a brilliant glaze developed from creamware by Josiah Wedgwood and named in honour of his patroness, Queen Charlotte.” Charlotte was the wife of King George III of Great Britain. The Wedgwood Museum website gives more detail:

Wedgwood’s innovatory cream coloured earthenware was called Queen’s Ware after the successful completion of his first commission for Queen Charlotte secured in the summer of 1765. With the delivery of ‘A complete sett of tea things’ which included a dozen cups for coffee, six fruit baskets and stands, six melon preserve pots and six hand candlesticks, Josiah was permitted to title his cream coloured earthenware ‘Queen’s Ware’. No evidence has been discovered to determine exactly when the service was delivered to London but it was evidently sometime before the 9 June 1766, when a notice in Aris Birmingham Gazette, (a pre-eminent Midlands newspaper) announced: “Mr Josiah Wedgwood, of Burslem, has had the honour of being appointed Potter to Her Majesty.”

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Old Words: All “Shook” Up

Posted in Old Words  by Steven on May 21st, 2012

While working on some whaling account ledgers, I came across entries for “shooks.” Thinking at first that I’d misread the handwriting, I skipped over it, but found the same item in the next ledger, in a clearer hand. Googling “shooks,” the Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that a shook is “a set of staves and headings for one hogshead, cask, or barrel”  and that the earliest written record of the word is from 1796. To find an illustration of a shook for a whaling barrel, I turned to Photo Curator Micheal Lapides of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, who kindly supplied this 1859 illustration of men on the New Bedford wharf tallying barrels of whale oil landed from an arriving ship. The man with the calipers is measuring the barrels to make sure that they’re the correct size:

courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Barrels of Whale Oil - New Bedford, Ma., 1859


The shooks are in the foreground. Barrels were carried disassembled like this to save space that could be used for bringing more food and supplies. The hoops for the barrels were carried in bundles as well.  Every whaler had a carpenter, cooper (barrelmaker) and blacksmith on board, so it was a simple matter to assemble the barrels as needed while the whale blubber was cooked down on the huge furnaces on the deck. Here is a close-up of the shooks from the illustration:

courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Close-up of the barrel "shooks" from the illustration

Another interesting note- Whale oil barrels were standardized at 31.5 gallons. The modern “barrel” unit of measurement for petroleum oil is 44 barrels.