Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shopping in the Acre - 1850s

Even by the early 1830s, the Irish who settled in the Acre had established businesses and shops to supply their daily needs.  Anything you needed was right there, just a few blocks away.  The Lowell City Directories hosts dozens of shops and craftsmen within the different neighborhoods, including the Acre.  Some of the businesses may seem foreign to us today and have disappeared from our vernacular.  Many of the Irish businesses were located along Merrimack Street near Suffolk and along Lowell Street, now Market Street.  The following businesses were listed in various Directories from the 1850s.  Imagine carrying your Saturday shopping lists as you walked the Acre in the 1850s.

Patrick Cummiskey was very likely a relative of Hugh.  The shop is listed in the same vicinity of Hugh's, though Hugh had stopped selling liquor. 
Coopers were quite necessary and would have been found in most towns and cities.  Pretty much everything you had was stored in a barrel.  Remember most homes did not have closets and cabinets in this period so barrels were used for storage.
West Indies Dry Goods stores were the 7 Eleven of the day.  They had a little bit of everything and could be found on many street corners.  The Directories have long lists of stores throughout the city. 
Not everyone owned a horse but if you did, it needed shoes.  Once again, the Directories have long lists of horseshoers located throughout the city.  Like today, people could rent a horse for a short trip.  Burke must have been like a Hertz Rent A Car or Town Fair Tire.

Up until one point in the 19th century, shoes were not bought with a left or a right, merely a square toe.  Boots were not only fashionable as Mr. Sullivan states in his ad, but a necessity since horses were the norm and left their droppings everywhere.  Soon Humphrey O'Sullivan will come along and create an invention that turn the industry on its "heel."
Reading newspapers of the period, it becomes apparent that the Irish are repeatedly being branded as the purveyors of spirits.  Again and again, one reads how the Irish operate most of the rum shops of the city.  There are mentions in the same period as these ads of Irish cellars, illegal rum shops located in basements of homes and tenements.  The police logs quite blatantly lists arrests of "Irish drunks."


  1. Thanks for another great article. My Irish immigrant in the 1850s-1860s ran a (general) store in the South End on Gorham Street.

  2. Let me know what it was, and I'll check for you. And thank you for the comment. I was speaking with another blogger and commented that sometimes we don't know if what we do is of value. Sharing as you did keeps the energy going. Blessings in the New Year.

  3. Always enjoy reading Lowell history, especially the Irish, drunk or not, by far the wittiest, fun loving people in the world!!!
    Thank you for your it!!