David NIC. MULLER / NICHOLS, Printer, Engraver.

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The Only Known Example of a Very Early, Broadside, Business Directory for Westport, Connecticut
[New York, 1854]



NIC. MULLER (Printer)/ NICHOLS, David (Engraver) [New York: dated October 1854]  BUSSINES (sic) DIRECTORY OF WESTPORT.  20 ½ X 25 ½ inches.  Two-stone lithograph (red and blue) mounted on heavy card stock.  Two mended 4-inch splits at right and left, a few other mended splits entering printed surface, some edge chipping, still remarkably well-preserved of this type. 


It is believed this very early, large, colorful image, with its many quaint yet well-detailed illustrations, once hung in the town’s train station to afford visitors a quick glimpse of what Westport in the mid-19th century had to offer commercially.  We have found no other examples of this remarkable artifact in either private and institutional collections or in auction or other market records.  The Library of Congress, the Connecticut Historical Society and Yale University do not hold examples of it.


This work vividly reflects a town that was growing more prosperous and whose economy was moving away from agriculture to light manufacturing.  The 20 advertisements present a wide variety of goods and services, including those clearly pitched to the affluent.  Among them is even a fine restaurant—the Metropolitan Oyster & Dining Saloon—illustrated with an image of dapper gentlemen in a top hat being served multiple plates.  Also, it’s noteworthy that the very existence of such a broadside indicates that even at this early date in the town’s history, just 19 years after its founding, Westport was eager to promote itself.


This recently uncovered work both helps fill in the picture of life in Westport in the mid-19th century and suggests avenues of further research.  In fact, most of the businesses advertised here are not mentioned in Woody Klein’s excellent history of the town, Westport, Connecticut.  One such was the “Saugatuck Hill Seminary For Young Ladies” that once stood near the railroad station and was endorsed by many of the town’s leading citizens as listed in the ad.  L. Tuttle was shirt manufacturer; Parkis, Vincent & Hinman were shipbuilders; two companies, Thomas R. Lees and R. T. Palmer, produced cotton cordage, twine, ropes and other textile-based products; Dr. B. St. John was a “SURGEON AND MECHANICAL DENTIST,” who made house calls (“Persons waited upon at their residences for examination and short operations if desired”—yikes!)  Clearly not a marketing genius, Dr. St. John’s ad is illustrated with a forbidding array of dental implements and false teeth. An emblem of the town’s growing prosperity was the business of J. W. Hill, MERCHANT TAILOR, who provided “Clothes cut in the latest style” and “Gentlemen’s Furnishing Goods of every description…”  The above-mentioned restaurant also sold oysters both wholesale and retail that could be “promptly shipped to any part of the country.”


The embarrassing misspelling in the title of the broadside aside (“BUSSINES”), this was a well-produced work, in which nearly all of the business advertisements are accompanied by attractive illustrations of their products.  The item is an early example of color lithography that appeared in the United States in the late 1830s but was not more often seen until the mid-19th century.  


 A note stating this broadside once hung in Westport's train station accompanied it when it was acquired by the esteemed, late, Westport Americana dealer, William Guthman, in 1986; see provenance below. In addition, physical evidence, such as the work’s vibrant two-color printing, tack holes in the corners, and the heavy stock on which it was mounted, suggests the work was both intended for display and was in fact displayed.  That the item was made for this single purpose would help explain why no other examples of it are known.

Provenance: Private Collection from Guthman Americana (1999) from Russell Carrell (1986).


 


 

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