Saddle band - Sal volatile

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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Saddle band

[sadle band]

OED defines 'Saddle band' as 'the band of a pedlar's pack', although the quotation dated 1604 does no more than suggest this as a possibility. On the other hand, under 'Band' it defines the bands of a SADDLE as the two pieces of iron nailed upon the bows to hold them in their proper place. The single example noted in the Dictionary Archive has no helpful context beyond that a saddle band was an item of HARNESS or SADDLERY [Inventories (1665)], but it is compatible with the OED's definition. The fact that saddle bands were stocked by the DOZEN suggests that they were in some demand; the fact that this is the only example noted suggests they were normally sold under another name.

OED online earliest date of use: 1604 in the first sense under Saddle; 1753 as bands for a saddle

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Saddle head

The early-modern saddle was made with a more pronounced front called the head. This was fixed to the SADDLE TREE. Randle Holme, who was not over lucid on the matter wrote that 'The Single Head, hath one bow in the middle of the forepart of the tree'. This was apparently the shape of a mans SADDLE. On the other hand 'The Double Head side Saddle, is with two bows one long the other short' [Holme (2000)]. This was the SIDE SADDLE. A problem of this type of saddle, and the mode of riding adopted by a woman at the time, was that she was in danger of her clothes becoming entangled in case of an accident. A patent in 1794 with a 'steel spring head to fall down' was intended to reduce the risk [Patents (1794)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Patents.
References: Holme (2000).

Saddlers nail

[sadlers-nail; sadlers nayle; sadler neyle; sadle naile]

A BRASS NAIL intended to be both functional and decorative used by SADDLErs, for example to attach a FRINGE. One mercer's inventory had listed '4 papers of smale sadlers nay' immediately followed by fringe [Inventories (1612)]. Like other decorative nails such as the COPPER NAIL and ROSE NAIL, it was rated by the SUM [Rates (1660)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as BROAD, SMALL
Found in units of HUNDRED, PAPER, THOUSAND Found rated by the SUM

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.

Saddlers tack

Randle Holme listed 'Sadlers Tacks' along with 'Tack Nails, or Card-makers Tacks. Hob Nails', among those NAILS that had heads [Holme (2000)]. It was probably a TACK with an ornamental head used largely for decoration. It may be a synonym for SADDLERS NAIL.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of THOUSAND

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).


[save; saue]

A receptacle for the safe storage of articles. In the later Middle Ages and Early Modern period this term was particularly applied to a ventilated CHEST or CUPBOARD for protecting provisions from insects and other noxious animals, often called a meat-safe, and hence entries like '1 New hanging safe for Bacon' [Inventories (1675)]. The safe was a sufficiently important contributor to food safety to attract the attention of inventors, as shown by the patent for a 'Machine ... working and binding wire for making sieves, screens, meat-safes, &c. [Patents (1793)].

According to the OED, it was only later that this term was applied to a secure receptacle, usually of iron and steel, designed to store valuables and money. In this sense it has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive.

OED earliest date of use: c1440 as a provisions store; 1820 as receptacle for money

Safe as an adjective was frequently used in promotional literature, particularly to describe QUACK MEDICINE, though many were clearly not by our standards. For example, DR JAMES POWDER was claimed to be a 'very safe and pleasant Medicine to take', despite the fact that it contained ANTIMONY [Newspapers (1760)]. Safety was also a claim made by inventors for their products; hence one that claimed to render 'safe and easy the riding in a chaise, chair, or such like vehicle' [Patents (1746)].

As a receptacle for food: Found described as JOINED, LITTLE, 'to keep MEAT in', OLD, WOODEN

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents.

Safe guard


An outer SKIRT or PETTICOAT worn by WOMEN to protect their dress when riding, so found sometimes associated with the garments they were designed to protect, as in 'vii ould gownes and safgardes' valued together at 53s [Inventories (1621)]. Safeguards seem to have fallen out of use after 1700.

OED earliest date of use: 1585

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).

Safety lamp

Safety lamp was a term applied to the miner's lamp, the flame of which was so protected that it would not ignite fire-damp, that is the inflammable gases of carburetted hydrogen or marsh-gas which is given off by COAL and which is explosive when mixed in certain proportions with atmospheric air. However, the only example in the Dictionary Archive appears in the promotional literature of a 'Manufacturer of the Patent Safety Lamp & Lanthorn Chandeliers, Candelabra, Pastiliers, Bronze Figures &c' [Tradecards (19c.)]. This suggests a LAMP for the home of a decorative nature, but one that, it was claimed, had safety features not usually present in other lamps.

OED earliest date of use: 1815

Sources: Tradecards.


[saflower; safiore; saffore; safflore]

The dried petals of the thistle-like Carthamus tinctorius, extensively cultivated in southern Europe, the Middle East, India, etc.. These petals could be used to produce either a YELLOW or a RED, the former being quite common in the India where it was used to dye the yellow robes of Buddhist priests. However in the West, it was little used for this purpose, as a far better yellow could be obtained from WELD. As a red DYESTUFF it could dye both COTTON and SILK direct in an alkaline bath, producing a pleasant rose-red. This had better fastness than the yellow, but still compared ufavourably with alternatives. It was into the twentieth century one of the dyestuffs used to produce RED TAPE [Ponting (1980, pb 1981)]. Safflower was also sometimes used in the preparation of ROUGE, and in APOTHECARY as a substitute for SAFFRON, hence its popular name, BASTARD saffron.

John Houghton commented that 'Safflower is a drug that usually comes from Germany, and is chiefly cultivated about Strasburgh: here it is much used by silk-dyers, who give a good price for it ... this plant is said to be a great improverisher of land.' He described how the flowers were laid out on a clean floor to dry and turned four times a day to avoid fermentation, which would spoil the colour of the flower'. He added that 'a stove would with more advantage, and quick dispatch, prepare the flower for packing; which when thorough dry, they do in canvas bags' [Houghton]. In the eighteenth century, safflower was one of the 'dying goods' exempted from paying duty on importation [Acts (1704)], showing its continued importance.

OED earliest date of use: 1583

Found described as FOREIGN
Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, POUND, SACK Found rated for export by POUND

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Rates.
References: Ponting (1980, pb 1981).


[saphora; safora]

It is not clear what was intended in the Book of Rates of 1660 (and that of 1618) in the phrase 'Barillia, or Saphora to make glass' [Rates (1660)]; [Rates (1660)]. The OED suggests they were synonyms as a result, but in other contexts the OED gives variants similar to saphora for ZAFFRE. Tomlinson gives various alternative names for barilla, including 'Salsola soda', and several for those made from seaweeds like KELP, including 'salicor', 'varec' and 'blanquette', but not saffora [Tomlinson (1854)]. Although barilla was used in glass making, zaffre was a constituent only of the blue glass called SMALT. It may be that the compilers were confused about what were relatively new products, although this type of confusion was more common in the Books of Rates of the sixteenth century than those of the seventeenth. The Book of Rates for 1660 has three adjacent entries 'Saffora, vide Barilia', 'Saffore, the pound', and 'Saffron, the pound' [Rates (1660)]. Only the last is unambiguous. The middle one, 'Saffore' is assumed to be ZAFFRE. 'Saffore' is taken to be ZAFFRE.

OED earliest and only date of recorded use: 1618

Found described as 'to make GLASS'

Sources: Rates.
References: Tomlinson (1854).


[saphron; safron; saffrone; safforne]

The most expensive drug in the early-modern period, far exceeding in value of MACE, CLOVES and CINNAMON imported from the East, even though it was largely produced in this country.

Saffron consists of the three thread-like orange-red stigmas attached to the upper part of the style of Crocus sativus. The stigmas of the wild saffron crocus growing on hillsides from Italy to Kurdistan are much smaller than those of the cultivated flower, which grow above the level of the petals and droop over. Saffron is grown by division of the bulbs in autumn; if the plant is sown from seed it is three years before any flowers appear [Toussaint-Samat (1987)]. Each stigma is an INCH or more long and, when dried, appears like a thin thread. Several thousand are needed to make an OUNCE, which explains its high value. The stigmas were sold either loose, dried as HAY Saffron, or compressed into Cake Saffron, though neither of these terms has been noted in the Dictionary Archive. For the twentieth century, Wren suggests that the former (and this was possibly true in former times) is generally a mixture of saffron with SAFFLOWER bound together with HONEY [Wren (1941)]. Today it is used chiefly as a YELLOW colourant in savoury dishes where it also imparts a bitter taste, but in the early modern period it was extensively used in medicine as a CORDIAL and sudorific, and so may often be noted in the APOTHECARY shops.

The cost of Saffron meant that there was much concern about it being dried efficiently. Richard Bradley reported that Saffron was often scorched or unevenly dried and proposed his own design for a Saffron kiln. He also accused the driers of deliberately under-drying the Saffron, in order to obtain more money for their crop, which was sold by weight. An acre of ground in Cambridgeshire reportedly yielded 16 - 18 POUNDs of Saffron. The centre of production was Saffron Waldon in Cambridgeshire, though John Houghton claimed to 'have seen some excellent saffron from Herefordshire' and indeed he thought that it could be grown anywhere with a soil that is light and sandy. He added 'We have also Saffron from Spain, and several other places, most of which is called Spanish-Saffron. This is a sort much worse than of our own growth, and of much less value; altho' of late some have gotten the art to mix English and Spanish together, as to make it difficult to know the best from counterfeit' [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: c1200

Found in units of DRACHM, LB, OZ, QUARTERN (of a LB), SCRUPLE Found imported from GERMANY, HOLLAN, PORTUGAL, SPAIN by the LB Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Recipes.
References: Toussaint-Samat (1987), Wren (1941).

Saffron tobacco

A type of TOBACCO found occasionally in the shops during the eighteenth century. It is not clear what made this tobacco distinctive, but it may have been no more than being of a YELLOW colour. Several sorts of tobacco were thus described, including TOBACCO STEM [Inventories (1733)] and SHAG TOBACCO [Inventories (1779)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as CUT, FINE Found describing SHAG TOBACCO, TOBACCO STEM
Found in units of HOGSHEAD, CWT, LB, QUARTER

Sources: Inventories (late).

Sail cloth

[sale-cloth; sailing cloth; saile-cloth; saile cloth; sail-clothe; sail-cloth]

Generally, the term means CANVAS made out of either HEMP or FLAX, or any other TEXTILE used to make SAILs, whether for ships and boats, or for windmills. However, the Dictionary Archive suggests that the materials required for these two were not necessarily identical. Sail cloth intended for the navy was an important component of NAVAL STORES and was closely regulated both for content and for measure. For example [Acts (1604)] and [Acts (1696)] each assumed that sails would be made of POLDAVY or MILDERNIX, both a variety of canvas from France. Later acts included other fabrics; for example [Acts (1713)] named HOLLAND DUCK and VITRY CANVAS. As British manufacture became more successful, Parliament attempted to ensure that quality and consistency were maintained; for example [Acts (1736)] set out standard lengths and a system of numbering to reflect the weight of a standard length of sail cloth. [Newspapers (1767)], advertising for sale the stock of a Liverpool flax dresser, included sail cloth YARN, another indication of the growing specialisation in the manufacture of sail cloth in England.

While Parliament tried to discourage imports and to raise the standard of British sail cloth, the Lancashire gentleman, Nicholas Blundell, may have been more typical of the private users of sail cloth, whether for boats or windmills, whose activities would not necessarily have been constrained by official regulations. Apparently Blundell either found canvas unsuitable for his windmill or he was looking for cheaper alternatives, causing him to experiment with a variety of fabrics. He made one set of sails out of LINSEY WOOLSEY [Diaries (Blundell)] and another out of HAIR CLOTH [Diaries (Blundell)]. On another occasion he did use more conventional materials; in [Diaries (Blundell)] he set out the costs incurred in taking 72 LB of HEMP YARN of his own growing and spinning through to the making of 75 YARD of sail cloth.

Sail cloth attracted the interest of inventors, not so much those seeking improvement in the process of manufacture, but rather those proposing methods of reducing the damage done by mildew, as for example [Patents (1763)].

OED earliest date of use: 1205 in the sense of a piece of cloth designed to be used as a sail; 1615 for the textile as such

Found described as BRITISH, ¾ broad, ENGLISH, FOREIGN, Lincey wolcy double twill, of HOLLAND, of Ireland, of RUSSIA, YARD WIDE Found made of COTTON Found describing YARN
Found in units of BOLT, ELL Found imported from DANTZIG, Germany Found rated by the PIECE

See also SAIL DUCK.
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes.

Sail duck

DUCK particularly suited for making SAILs; an alternative name for SAIL CLOTH.

OED earliest date of use: 1795

Found described as of RUSSIA
Found rated by 120 ELL

Sources: Rates.

Sailors clothes

Although 'sailors' clothes' were included among SHIPS STORES in one act in the 1780s [Acts (1781)], the term probably meant nothing more than clothing suitable for wear by sailors. There was no such thing as a UNIFORM for ratings at that date. However some 'seafaring men' who broke out of prison in 1780 were said to be 'in sailors Dresses', so there seems to have been some idea of what was recognized as appropriate, even though each of the four were dressed differently [Newspapers (1780)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Acts.

Sal alkali

Sal alkali has not been located in any of the standard dictionaries. It was made rateable in 1657 [Rates (1657)], where it was listed among DRUGS. It seems probable that it was a crystalline form of MINERAL ALKALI or of POTASH [Partington (1953)].

Not found in the OED

Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.
References: Partington (1953).

Sal ammoniac

[sallarmoneck; sall ar moniacke; sal-ammoniac; salammoniac; sal volatile ammoniaci; sal armonrac; sal armoniacum; sal armoniacke; sal armoniack; sal armoniac; sal armon; sal armomacke; sal ammoniacum; sal ammoniack]

A SALT now known as Ammonium Chloride, but formerly as Muriate of Ammonia or salt of Ammon, as well as Sal Ammoniac. According to folklore it was prepared from the soot formed on burning camel dung near the temple of Jupiter Ammon in Libya, although in the Middle Ages it was also obtained from volcanoes in central Asia. It is probable during the early-modern period that it was not distinguished fully from Ammonium sulphate, which also occurs in volcanic districts [Partington (1953)]. Sal amoniac, under the name of Sal-ammoniacus, was included in the Materia Medica of 1746 [Pemberton (1746)].

The sal ammoniac that forms in volcanic rocks is released through fume vents. There is no liquid phase as the mineral crystallizes from these fumes by sublimation. The crystallization occurs as the gases are escaping and crystals tend to be short-lived. Sal ammoniac is very soluble in water so that the crystals will dissolve and disappear during the first rain, if they are not removed by collectors first [Mineral Galleries (online)]. These difficulties, as well as the ever-present wish to replace imports with home production, led to several attempts to manufacture it in Britain, the first patented in 1749. The patentee, William Sedgwick, claimed he could make the salt using 'Bones, horns, blood, etc' of 'greater purity than any hitherto imported' [Patents (1749)].

It was used in dyeing and in medicine, particularly in SAL VOLATILE, hence 'Sal Volatile Ammoniaci' in the 1784 Book of Rates [Rates (1784)]. It was also used to remove the oxide coatings from metals to improve adhesion of solders in the processes of TINning IRON and COPPER, as Timothy Burrell observed when a tinker re-tinned one of his SAUCEPANs [Diaries (Burrell)]. The reactive powers of sal ammoniac attracted the attention of alchemists seeking to convert metals into GOLD.

OED earliest date of use: c 1386

Found described as FOREIGN Found used to make a vermin killer, an inflammable agent applied to PAPER, a TOOTH POWDER, and found used to repair SAUCEPANS
Found in units of LB, OZ, STONE Found among the DRUGS in the Rate Books, rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, POUND Found imported by LB

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates.
References: Mineral Galleries (online), Partington (1953), Pemberton (1746).

Sal tartari

Salt of TARTAR. Pemberton gave a recipe of its preparation from 'any species of tartar' that should be wrapped in wetted BROWN PAPER and 'exposed to the fire that its oil [presumably OIL OF TARTAR] be burnt out, then boil it in water, and collect its salt' [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: c1386

Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Sal volatile


In the eighteenth century, the term referred to an aromatic preparation of 'dulcified', that is softened SPIRIT OF SAL AMMONIAC with the addition of ESSENCE of LEMON and the ESSENTIAL OILs of NUTMEG and CLOVES. In the pharmacopoeias of the time it was called 'Spiritus volatalis aromaticus' [Pemberton (1746)]. In trade, it appears operators were less fussy about its correct preparation and included under the same name the volatile salt made from HARTSHORN, and hence 'Sal Volatile Cornu Cervi' made from CORNU CERVI or HARTSHORN appeared immediately after 'Sal Volatile Ammoniaci' [Rates (1784)]. Both preparations were used as SMELLING SALTS and as a restorative in fainting fits.

OED earliest date of use: 1654

Found as SPIRIT of Sal volatile Found described as AMMONIACi, cornu cervi
Found in units of OZ Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates, Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746).