Stand prickle - Steel toy

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

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Stand prickle

The term has not been noted in the dictionaries and it appears only once in the Dictionary Archive in a domestic context among the equipment round the fireplace [Inventories (1716)]. Probably it was a form of TOASTER that stood in front of the fire, rather than being held in the hand or attached to the GRATE.

Not found in the OED

See also PRICKER.
Sources: Inventories (late).

Standard boxes

[standerd boxes; standed of boxes; boxes standerds]

Also found as 'Standing box' [Inventories (1587)], the term has not been noted in the dictionaries though there are several examples in the Dictionary Archive before 1700. The entry of 'xij standard boxes & ij nests of boxes' [Inventories (1615)] shows that it was not an alternative term for a NEST OF BOXES, although it may have served the same purpose. Two meanings of 'Standard' given in the OED suggest other possibilities. Standard boxes could be those that stood upright and opened at the top, or they could simply be boxes that had a degree of permanancy, unlike those made of cardboard or rough wood.

Not found in either form in the OED

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



The term bore many meanings, only a few of which appear in the Dictionary Archive. These are discussed below.

It was originally only applied to a commodity or the like that had a foremost place among the exports of a country - hence the WOOL staple in England, and the 'Merchants of the Staple' [Acts (1565)].

OED earliest date of use in these senses: 1423

The term's meaning was extended to cover any important products. For example, John Houghton wrote of CARAWAY, after a partially successful attempt at growing it on a large scale, that it had become 'one of the staple pieces of husbandry' [Houghton], while a manufacturer and patentee of a type of VELVET claimed that he had 'united the staple Manufacture of this Kingdom, Woollen with Cotton' [Tradecards (1801)]. The meaning was further extended to apply to the chief component of anything, as in 'any Hemp whatsoever from which the Staple part thereof shall have been taken away' [Acts (1785)].

OED earliest date of use in these senses: 1615

A very different meaning, and the most common in the Dictionary Archive, is for a rod or bar of IRON, pointed at each end and bent into a 'U' or into three sides of a rectangle. It was designed to be driven into a wooden post or plank to serve as a hold for a HASP, BOLT or HOOK. In the early-modern period a staple was a substantial item, often valued by the DOZEN or even by the piece. The exception seems to have been VALANCE staples that was presumably intended to fix the bed valance to the frame, and were numbered in one case by the THOUSAND [Inventories (1667)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1295

Found described as spring, VALANCE Found describing LOCK
Found in units of DOZEN, THOUSAND

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.


FISH not fully cured, also known as GREEN FISH. However, staplefish was capable of being kept longer than FRESH FISH since one quotation in the OED online dated 1545 recorded some being shipped from Amsterdam in HOLLAND.

OED online earliest date of use: 1477

Found rated by the C of 100 fish

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.


[sterche; starche]

A substance made from WHEAT, used in the form of a gummy, liquid paste made with water, or ground into a powder. Starch-making was a time consuming process, taking approximately a month. BRAN was steeped in water and ROCK ALUM, rinsed in a series of tubs of water and dried. Although evidence of starch-making in England dates from the fourteenth century, starch did not become an article of trade until the importation of RUFFs and other articles of fine LAWN and CAMBRIC made by Dutch manufacturers, such as PILLOW CASEs, NAPKINs and TABLE CLOTHs. Starch was imported in large quantities from the Low Countries from the 1530s and 1540s, and manufactured on a commercial basis in England from the 1560s. In a more viscid state, starch was used to stiffen LINEN or COTTON fabrics in laundry work, and to dress other TEXTILEs. Prior to the availability of manufactured starch, home-made stiffening agents included MILK, GUM ARABIC and SIZE. Starch was also used to size PAPER, and when mixed with SUGAR, it was used to make a paste that was coloured and moulded into a variety of shapes. Ground starch was used to make HAIR POWDER, a process outlawed by 4 GEO2 C14, during a period of grain shortage. In 1794 a patent was issued for 'Colouring starch for ... making hair powder.' [Patents (1794)].

From the beginning of its commercial manufacture starch was highly regulated. The Elizabethan government granted a series of patents of monopoly to raise money for the state coffers, including one for starch-making in 1588. In the face of hostile public opinion, patents for goods such as SALT, VINEGAR, AQUA VITAE, AQUA COMPOSITA, TRAIN OIL and starch were abolished in 1601 [Thirsk (1978)]. While there were complaints that supplies of starch were limited prior to this legislation, from the 1600s and 1610s onwards, fears were periodically expressed concerning the use of wheat for making starch during times of scarcity, when there were insufficient quantities for food. This led to the proclamation of 1607, introducing the licensing of starch-making that was to be monitored by magistrates, and restricting the varieties of wheat and bran to be used. The piece of legislation must have been unsuccessful for a series of similar legislative measures were periodically introduced at after bad harvests throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (ACTS 10 ANNE C26, 26 GEO3 C51 and 36 GEO3 C6). By the beginning of the eighteenth century several initiatives started to look for alternative sources of starch, to ensure that most available wheat was used in food manufacturing. A series of patents were introduced to manufacture starch from POTATO and horse CHESTNUT [Patents (1717)], [Patents (1768)] and [Patents (1796)]. RICE is in fact the best source of starch for treating fabrics, though it is doubtful whether this was known during the early-modern period.

OED earliest date of use: c1440

Found described as BLUE, BRITISH, COMMON, dirty, made up, WHITE

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Simmonds (1904), II/118, Holme (1688), Thirsk (1978), 83-93.

Starch box

A box-like receptacle use in making STARCH in which it was dried. It was described in some length in an act of 1711 as the 'Box of green Starch, or Starch before it be so dried containing Fifty seven Inches in Length, and Ten Inches in Breadth ... and Eight Inches in Depth, or in the Whole, Four thousand five hundred and sixty six solid Inches, shall be esteemed One hundred and twelve Avoirdupois Pounds Weight of Starch dried and perfectly made' [Acts (1711)]. A later act require that 'Makers of Starch shall make use of regular, square or oblong Boxes only, for boxing and draining their green Starch' [Acts (1731)]. Probably it was to some extent like the SOAP BOX described by John Houghton as a 'box, that lets down all its sides with hinges' in which the SOAP could be colourd and allowed to harden [Houghton] though a free draining bottom that retained the starch and let out the water would have been essential.

OED earliest date of use: 1617 under Starch

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

State board of plumes

A term noted only once in the Dictionary Archive in the promotional literature of a tradesman offering to arrange funerals. It has not been noted in the OED, nor in the authorities. However, an estimate for a funeral supposedly 'without pomp' in 1721 included 'A Lid with Plumes of ditto [ostrich feathers] on the body for the journey' [Litten (1991, pb 1992)], valued at £4. This was probably similar. Given the large estimated cost it is unsurprising it was offered as a service rather than for sale, along with 'Hearses and Horses, ... Escutcheons, and every Appendage relating to Funerals' [Tradecards (18c.)].

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Litten (1991, pb 1992).


[steaves eaken; staves aker; staves acre; staveaker; staphisager; staphis agria; stamaker]

An herbacceous plant, Delphinium staphisagria, which was also known as Larkspur. It is native to Asia and Southern Europe. Highly poisonous, it has been cultivated continuously from classical times until the present day for its SEED, which is a parasiticide [Grieve (online)]. It is likely that the entries in the Dictionary Archive refer mostly to the seeds, because, for example, the term Stavesacre appears among the DRUGs in the Books of Rates. Other contemporary sources confirm its status as an ingredient in medicinal preparations applied externally such as COMPOUND OILs and PLAISTERs. Nicholas Culpeper wrote that it 'kills lice in the head', and fortunately, for the well being of his readers, he advised 'I hold it not fitting to be given inwardly.' [Culpeper (new ed.)].

OED earliest date: 1400

Simone Clarke

Found among the DRUGS, rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Culpeper (new ed.), Grieve (online).

Stay band

[staye band; stayband]

The context of the only example in the Dictionary Archive, 'Staybands & Rubbers all 2s' among the stock of a haberdasher of hats suggests an article of HABERDASHERY similar to STAY TAPE, used for binding or stiffening the rim of a HAT [Inventories (1694)].

Not usefully found in the OED online

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

Stay tape


A form of BINDING, more properly called 'Stay binding' according to Caulfeild and Saward, extensively used by tailors and the like when making up garments to bind button holes and selvedges [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)]. Quotations in the OED show that stay tape along with BUCKRAM came to personify the tailor and what were seen as his exorbitant bills. That this came to be so, suggests also that stay tape was an important component of many garments. By the late nineteenth century stay tapes were made in various colours and widths; the same may have been true much earlier, although coloured stay tape, except for WHITE, does not appear in the Dictionary Archive, and no defined widths been noted [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)].

OED earliest date of use: 1698

Found described as BROAD, NARROW, SMALL, WHITE
Found in units of BUNCH, DOZEN, GROSS, PIECE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Caulfield & Saward (1885, facs.1989).


[stickodus; sticados; stechadoss; stechados; stecades; steachas]

The old name for Lavandula stoechas. The OED, following two citations, suggest that 'stechados' was also known in English as FRENCH LAVENDER. It is not a label used today.

Stechados is a distinctive LAVENDER, differing from Lavandula spica, the common lavender, in that the inflorescence is crowned by a set of showy bracts that are the main attraction of the plant. It is sweetly scented, and was therefore used in TOILETRY, but also to a minor extent in medicine; hence SYRUP OF STECHADOS.

OED earliest date of use: 1516

Found in units of LB
Found among the DRUGS in the Rate Books, rated by the POUND

See also STOECHAS.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.

Steel chain

STEEL chain was not a superior form of IRON CHAIN in the early modern period since STEEL was too precious a commodity to be used in that way, but a form of fine, often decorative CHAIN used, for example, to make WATCH CHAIN. Steel was used in this way because of its strength, making the job of the snatch thief harder, but also for its ornamental appearance. It is generally found in the stock of the TOY makers, as in 'Steel and Gilt Chains' [Newspapers (1780)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.

Steel hemp

The female plants of HEMP, Cannabis sativus, or the fibres extracted from it. Due to a misunderstanding of the nature of the plant, which did not match early-modern ideas of gender, the slower growing and more robust female was given male names. As well as being called steel hemp, it was labelled carl hemp and winter hemp, the latter because it was harvested at the onset of winter. Steel hemp was valued more highly than the weaker FIMBLE not only because it produced fibres suitable for making the ROPEs and SAIL CLOTH much needed for ships, but also for its HEMPSEED, essential for next years crop, and for the OIL that could be extracted from it.

Although steel hemp has been noted in the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth, it only became common in the stock of retailers and merchants after the Restoration (1660). At this time it was usually valued between 9d and 12d LB.

OED earliest date of use: 1618

Found measured for sale by BUNDLE (said to be 25 LB), LB, QUARTER Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

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

Steel toy

According to the OED, a small article made of STEEL such as a HAMMER, PINCERS, BUCKLE, BUTTON HOOK, NAIL etc. This definition certainly corresponds with a quotation dated 1833 given by the OED, but examples in the Dictionary Archive suggest that in the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth the term was applied more exclusively to fashionable items that had been made largely of steel. This interpretation is suggested by the way steel TOYs were advertised and the articles with which they were associated in the texts; for example, 'Enamel, painted, gilt and Steel Toys' [Newspapers (1780)], 'Fancy Steel Toys of every description' [Tradecards (19c.)], Whitehouse & Stow Jewellers Gilt, Black & Steel Toy Manufacturers' [Tradecards (19c.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1833

Found described as FANCY

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.