Whale line - Whole ginger

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

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Whale line

An inferior HEMP from which the 'staple' part had been taken away; a form of TOPPINGS. In [Acts (1785)] it was prohibited for use in making CABLE.

OED earliest date of use: 1778

Sources: Acts.

Wheel band

[wheele band; wheel-band; wheelband]

The contexts of the three examples of wheel bands in the Dictionary Archive are not helpful, except to suggest that this type of BAND was very cheap as in 'three wheel-bands 1d ½' [Inventories (1700)]. They were most probably bands or straps to go round a wheel; for example as the driving band of a SPINNING WHEEL.

OED online earliest date of use in this sense: 1656

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

Wheel iron

This term is not found in the dictionaries and only appears once in the Dictionary Archive in a list of tools that could be exported. It appears to have been a simple and well-established TOOL, the export of which would be unlikely to affect British industry [Acts (1786)]. It was probably a saddler's TOOL with evenly spaced spikes around the rim used for marking and partly penetrating the LEATHER before stitching. Salaman mentions a 'wheel' among several types of pricker all of which did roughly the same [Salaman (1986)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Acts.
References: Salaman (1986).

Whip saw

[whipsawe; whipsaw; whipp saw; whip sawe]

The OED's definition fits a FRAME SAW whereas the quotations suggest a whip saw as defined here. Randle Holme gave FRAMING SAW and LONG SAW as alternative names to whip saw, though there are problems with this, as the FRAME SAW was also called a framing saw. One or two workers in WOOD had both. For example, one had '2 - 7 foot whipp saws' valued at 10s, and '2 - 4 foot freaming saws' valued at 5s [Inventories (1718)]. In this case it is probable that they were both worked by two men, but one had what was called a 'taper saw' and the other had a rame, and was shorter in length. Another had 'a Frame saw and 2 whip saws and a Cross Cut saw' [Inventories (1780)]. In this case the two were probably distinct types. The SAW Holme described as a whip saw was 'a long Saw used between two persons to Saw such great pieces of timber or other Stuff that the Hand Saw will not easily reach through; when they use it, the Timber is laid upon a Trussel, and the Men stand on either side of it, and so Saw it through; he to whom the Teeth of the Saw points, draws to him, the other thrusts from him' [Holme (2000)].

OED earliest date of use: 1538

Found described as 7 FOOT
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by PIECE

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Holme (2000).


[wipp cord; wip cord; whypcorde; whipp cord; whipcoard; whip corde; whip cord]

A thin, tough HEMPEN - CORD of which WHIP lashes, or the ends of them are made. The lash itself was often made of LEATHER, as Randle Holme shows: 'The White, or Carters Whip, a lash of Leather and small Cord, tyed at the end of a long stick to whip forward his horses' [Holme (2000)]. Whipcord was also used, then as now, for 'whipping' the end of a ROPE, that is binding it round to stop fraying. It is not always easy to distinguish the two, but the entry in the Book of Rates of 1582 of 'Whipcorde the shock containing lx bundles called merline' [Rates (1582)] was almost certainly for the latter purpose, whereas the tradesman who had '1 doz & 3 peeces of whip cord' [Inventories (1686)] was probably selling the former.

OED earliest date of use: 1318-19

Found in units of DOZEN, OUNCE, POUND Found rated by the POUND, SHOCK of 40 BUNDLE

See also MARLINE.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Holme (2000).


[wisk; whiske]

A term with two very different meanings. The first was used to label an article of APPAREL. It was a NECKERCHIEF worn by women in the second half of the seventeenth century.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1654

A quite different meaning of the term appears occasionally in the Dictionary Archive, but its presence in households was probably more common than the records suggest, since this type was easily made at home and was of very little value. It consisted of a bundle or tuft of TWIGS, HAIR or FEATHERS fixed on a handle, used for brushing or dusting. Alternatively it was an IMPLEMENT of similar constructions for whisking liquids.

OED's earliest date of use in this sense: 1664

Found described as BENGAL, BLACK, INDIAN, laced, neck, NEW, OLD, ROUND, trimmed, VENUS, WHITE

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Recipes, Tradecards.

White amber

[white ambar]

The name given to a purified form of SPERMACETI, used in several medicinal products like VENICE TREACLE [Recipes (Pemberton)] and GASCOIGN POWDER [Recipes (Ketilby)]. The 'Amber pre-par'd' that was listed among the ingredients for 'The Making Plumb Pottage' [Recipes (Carter)] was almost certainly white amber.

OED earliest date of use: 1598

Found described as POWDERED, Prepared Found as an ingredient in VENICE TREACLE
Found in units of OUNCE

Sources: Recipes.

White annell water

Presumably a WATER in which ANISEED was the main flavouring, but the descriptor WHITE remains without explanation. Annelseed was a not uncommon variant spelling of ANISEED, and may have contributed to a confusion with FENNEL, another umbelliferer. Fennel was also used medicinally.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of GALLON

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

White argol

The pale pinkish TARTAR deposited from WHITE WINE when it is completely fermented, found adhering to the sides of the CASKs as a hard crust. It was a DYESTUFF and used as an assistant in the mordanting process [Ponting (1980, pb 1981)]. In the shops and the stock of dyers, only argol has been noted, suggesting that the wine from which the product originated was not important. However, white argol was rated more highly than RED ARGOL, which suggests the former may have been more desirable.

OED earliest date of use: 1875

Found rated by the C of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT

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

White box

[w't boxis; wt' boxes; whyte boxis; white wood box; white boxes]

WHITE boxes appear too frequently in the Dictionary Archive for them to have been mere boxes that happened to be white. It is correct that several examples suggest that they were items of very little value, and these may have been boxes made of white CARDBOARD or cheap SCALE BOARD; for example 'fyve whyte boxis' were listed among the stock of a substantial tradesman along with his HABERDASHERY valued in all at 6d [Inventories (1573)]. Another had '3 neasts of white Boxes' valued at only 15d, as well as 'one white box no 22' at 4d, presumably with 22 compartments [Inventories (1682)]. On the other hand, the 'nest of great wt' boxes & other Lumber about the Chamber valued at 7s' [Inventories (1622)], even allowing for the lumber, suggests something altogether more substantial and more costly. Although it is possible that this was a nest of boxes painted white, or one with white draw boxes, it may have been made of a pale non-resinous wood that imparted neither colour nor taste to the contents, and so desirable to those selling APOTHECARY, GROCERY or HABERDASHERY.

Not found in the OED

Found described as GREAT Found in a NEST

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

White comb

[wh't curry combe; white curring combe; white combe]

A type of HORSE COMB for dressing the hair of a HORSE, apparently distinctive for more than its colour. In one entry, white combs were listed alongside MANE COMBs, suggesting they were probably a form of CURRY COMB, as variants like 'wh't curry combe' indicate [Inventories (1668)]. They appear to have been of less value than the BLACK COMB.

Not found in the OED online

Found defscribed by BONE
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

White ginger

[wtt ging'r; w'tt ginger; w'tt gingar; wt ging'r; wight ditto; wh't ging'r; white ging'r; ground ginger and wight ditto]

Scraped GINGER roots, also known as 'uncoated Ginger' (although not in the Dictionary Archive), as opposed to 'Coated' or BLACK GINGER. White ginger was prepared by washing and scraping off the dark outer skin and drying in the sun. Opportunities for fraud were endless. The ginger could be bleached or dipped in a whitening agent like CHALK [Simmonds (1906)], but the end product, if genuine, was more desirable than untreated ginger. White ginger was invariably more expensive than the black; comparative valuations noted include 72s and 22s per C respectively [Inventories (1694)]. By the pound the white was usually valued at about 9d and the black at 3d-5d.

OED earliest date of; use: c1430

Found described by sliced
Found in units of BAG, BOX, C, cent, HUNDREDWEIGHT, LB, QUARTER

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Recipes.
References: Simmonds (1906).

White hellebore

[hellibor alb; heliberus albus; elleberas albus; eleaberis albus]

The English name for the medicinal herb Veratrum album, which has the same properties as other HELLEBOREs and was used in the same way. Its roots, which were the part used, are still used today ground into powder and used against caterpillars, particularly the Gooseberry sawfly [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)].

OED earliest date of use: 1398 under Hellebore

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Synge (1951, new ed. 1956).

White hemp

The term shows that the possibilities of whitening hemp were being explored in the late-seventeenth century, even when it was intended for CORDAGE [Patents (1678)]. It is probable that in one hand bill [Tradecards (n.d.)] this term was used in the sense of a whitened product rather than one that was intrinsically white, and indeed, the BLACK HEMP that was associated with it in the document was not so processed.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.

White leather

[w't leather; whit-leather; whitleather; white tanned leather; white sheeps leather; white sheepe lether; white leath'r; whit leather]

Also known as whitleather, it is a pliant, soft LEATHER of light colour that was TAWED rather than TANNED. Given that it was the process that gave the name, rather than the actual colour, entries like '19 pair Mens & Womens White Leath'r Black gloves' [Inventories (1741)] are not uncommon.

OED earliest date of use: 1366-7

Found described as LARGE Found describing PELT, SKIN
Found in units of DOZEN, HIDE

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

White mastic

[mastich white]

A term found only in the Books of Rates, where it appears to have been used to distinguish MASTIC from RED MASTIC

Not found in the OED

Sources: Rates.

White mercury

[w'te mercury; w'te mercurie; w't mercury; wt mercury; w't mercuri; wht mercury]

A common name for the metallic form of MERCURY, used to distinguish it from other forms such as CINNABAR (the most important ore of mercury) or MERCURY PRECIPITATE, both of which were usually red [Inventories (1624)]. It may also have been applied to the white MERCURY PRECIPITATE and to the white corrosive MERCURY SUBLIMATE [Pemberton (1746)]. Phillips suggested it was used to 'eat away Corrupt or Proud Flesh, to cleanse old Ulcers, etc.' [Phillips (1706)]. Typical valuations noted were 4d-5d per OZ.

OED online earliest date of use: 1706 under Corrosive

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746), Phillips (1706).

White mustard

[w't mustard]

A HERB, Brassica alba or Sinapsis alba, now grown largely as a salad vegetable to be eaten at the seedling stage, but formerly grown for its pungent MUSTARD SEED. According to Marshall, as quoted in the OED 'the white is the garden sort, the black being cultivated in fields for its seeds to make flour of'. It was usually deemed too mild for use on its own, but the seed were mixed with that of BROWN MUSTARD according to taste and to assist in the production of the ESSENTIAL OIL of MUSTARD that is the main source of taste [Simmonds (1906)]. White mustard has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive, apparently intended for consumption, but it was advertised by the seed merchants in the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth, invariably in conjunction with brown mustard, for example [Tradecards (n.d.)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1731

Sources: Inventories (early), Tradecards.
References: Simmonds (1904).

White pins

[w'tt pins; wt: and red pins; wt: & red pins; white pynnes; white pinnes; white and red pins; white & red pins; whit pins; pynnes red & white; pinnes white]

Presumably PINS that had been blanched in contrast to RED PINS in the early part of the period, and to BLACK PINS in the eighteenth century. Blanching consisted in covering the pins with a coating, either of BLOCK TIN for the best quality, or with a mixture of TIN, QUICKSILVER and LEAD. This not only gave an inferior product, but was also dangerous as a careless prick or scratch was 'very difficult to be cured' [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)]. Probably the disappearance of pins labelled as white pins among the stock of retailers after 1660 may be explained by an improvement in the quality of pins available so that virtually all were white and there was therefore no need to label them.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as GREAT, SMALL

Sources: Inventories (early), Patents, Tradecards.
References: Rees (1819-20, abridged 1972).

White rod

[white rode; white and brown basket rods]

Withies stripped of their bark while the sap is still running for making WHITE HOOPs and BASKETs; hence entries like 'White and brown Basket Rods' [Newspapers (1790)].

Not found in the OED online in this sense

Found in unit of BUNCH

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.

White sugar

[w'tt sug'; w't sugar; whyte suger; whyt sugar; white sugger; white suger; white shugar; white or clayed sugar; sugar white; sugar browne and white]

Usually a REFINED SUGAR in one of its many forms

OED earliest date of use: 1562

Found described as FINE
Found in units of BARREL, HOGSHEAD, LB, OZ Found exported by C Found imported from Portugal, America and the Canaries Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, POUND

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

White vinegar

[w't vyneg'; white french vinegar]

Almost certainly an alternative name for WHITE WINE VINEGAR, although it could be DISTILLED VINEGAR.

Found described as FRENCH
Found in units of GALLON

Sources: Inventories (early), Tradecards.

White vitriol

[wt vittrioll; white vitrioll; white and green vitriols; vitrol alb]

Zinc sulphate is the commonest salt of zinc and is now prepared by dissolving the metal, oxide or carbonate in dilute sulphuric acid, formerly known as OIL OF VITRIOL or SPIRIT OF VITRIOL [Partington (1953)]. There was much interest in the eighteenth century in extracting the various sulphates from their ores. For example, a patent of 1780 proposed a method of extracting 'alum, sulphur, and white and green vitriols, from lead-glitter, blue-stone, and iron-ores [Patents (1780)].

OED earliest date of use: 1676

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Tradecards.
References: Partington (1953).

White wine vinegar

[white-wine vinegar; white wine-vinegar; white wine viniger; white wine and distill'd vinegar; white wine and common vinegar; white wine and burgundy vinegar]

VINEGAR made from WHITE WINE. Robert May included a recipe for making white wine vinegar at home [Recipes (May)], but most was probably made in France by the method described under FRENCH VINEGAR. The vinegar was also used to make a SYRUP [Recipes (Evelyn)], in which form it was probably used for drinking or medicinally as a base for masking unpleasant tastes.

OED earliest date of use: 1620

Found described as BEST, TRUE

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Recipes, Tradecards.

Whole ginger

[whole and ground ginger; hole ginger]

Whole ginger may be no more than a synonym for ginger that has not yet been turned into GROUND GINGER or BEATEN GINGER, for example [Tradecards (18c.)], in which case valuations will be comparable with other unprocessed ginger. However, Simmonds suggests that it was particularly applied to those unscraped rhizomes of the GINGER plant, Zingiber officinale, that had grown old and fibrous before being harvested. They were prepared by washing in boiling water before drying, but were otherwise similar to BLACK GINGER [Simmonds (1906)]. The poor quality of the product in this sense is reflected in the price - a valuation of 2d the LB has been noted.

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Simmonds (1906).