Molasses - Mouth water


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Molasses - Mouth water', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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[molossus; molossos; molossoes; molosses; moloss'; molos's; moll's; mollossus; mollosses; molleses; mollasses; mollashoe; mollases; molises; mellasses; mellases; melasses; malloses; mallasses; mallaces; malasses]

The thick viscid syrup drained from RAW - SUGAR in the process of manufacture, also the SYRUP obtained from SUGAR in the process of refining, though in technical language molasses is applied to the drainings of raw sugar, and TREACLE to the SYRUP from sugar in the process of refining. Molasses were apparently used as an adulterant of TEA, a practice banned along with many others in 1731 [Acts (1731)] and subsequent acts. They were distilled into STRONG WATERS, and RUM. In England, this product was sometimes called molasses spirits, for example [Inventories (1699)]. Adam Smith observed that a sugar planter expected to pay the whole expenses of cultivation with the returns on his molasses and his RUM so that what he made on his SUGAR was pure profit [Smith (1776)].

Molasses was not common in the shops before 1660, but thereafter it was stocked quite commonly as trade with the WEST INDIES and America opened up. It started to be less common once SUGAR was dropping in price.

OED earliest date of use: 1582

Found described as BARBADOES, DAMNIFIED, ENGLISH, of Ramenles (see RAMEAL)

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates.
References: Smith (1776).

Mole trap

A TRAP to catch MOLEs that could be set in their underground runs. Since the SKINs were useful it was important that the trap did not damage it, so the traps were designed either to capture the mole alive in a box or to break its back. Most mole traps would have been in use, and therefore not visible to the appraisers of a probate inventory. It is likely therefore that they are under-recorded.

OED earliest date of use: 1651

Sources: Diaries, Tradecards.

Money box

[mony boxe; money-boxe; money-box]

A BOX in which money is kept, especially a closed box into which savings or contributions are put through a slot. Whether in this form or not it has also been noted in the shop, apparently serving as a till in the same way as the SHOP BOX.

OED earliest date of use: 1585

Found described as TURNED
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the DOZEN, GROSS of 12 DOZEN

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


[mopp; map]

Note that 'map' is a variant of MOP as in [Houghton]. The term refers to a bundle of coarse YARN or RAGS fastened to the end of a handle and arranged to soak up liquids easily, and used in cleaning floors etc., and nautically for laying on PITCH. Houghton gives some useful detail on the complex way a cheap household IMPLEMENT was made. A bundle of MOP THRUMS, weighing sometimes as much as ½ LB or even a LB was attached by a nail to the MOP STICK, sometimes known as a MOP STALE or MOP STAVE. The more securely to retain the thrums a disc of HORN was placed between the head of the nail and the thrums. These discs were the waste products of SPECTACLES makers, who sold the horn cut out of the frames for the glass to the mop makers at 6d HUNDRED [Houghton]. Other oddments of horn were 'sold to the map-makers to put on the ends of the map-sticks to stop them from splitting'. Mops seem to have been valued at 6d - 12d a piece.

OED earliest date of use: 1496

Found described as for houses and carriages, of all sorts, BEST, HALF POUND, LARGE, LONDON, POUND, SMALLer
Found in units of DOZEN

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

Mop stale

[mop stele]

A HANDLE or stick to which a MOP may be attached. The term is probably identical in meaning to MOP STICK and MOP STAVE. The complexities of attaching the MOP HEAD to its handle in order to make an effective IMPLEMENT are described under MOP.

Not found in the OED

See also MOP.
Sources: Inventories (late).

Mop stave

Probably identical in meaning to a MOP STICK and MOP STALE. The complexities of attaching the MOP HEAD to its handle in order to make an effective IMPLEMENT are described under MOP.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of DOZEN

See also MOP.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Mop stick

[map-stick; map stick]

This term is also found as 'map stick', which may have a different meaning. It could be that a map stick is what Randle Holme described as a 'Stay or Mol Stick, of some called a Rest; [which] is a light yet strong Stick about a Yard long; it is to rest the Arm upon when working' [Holme (2000)]. Alternatively it could have been applied to the implement discussed by John Houghton [Houghton]. He informs us that the best bits of HORN left over from its main uses, were 'sold to the map-makers to put on the ends of the map-sticks to stop them from splitting' and that the discs cut out of the HORN framework of a pair of SPECTACLES were sold to the map makers to help retain the head of the map on the map stick. It would seem that Houghton may well have been using the common variant of MOP, and that his map stick should more properly be labelled a 'mop stick', even though using horn to make what was a fairly primitive tool seems unlikely. The reference to 'A P'cell of wooden legs or hampers mop sticks & lumber [Inventories (1660)], strongly suggests the handle of a MOP. Against this, it was unusual to talk of the handle of an IMPLEMENT as its stick, though notice BROOMstick, where a term like STAFF or stele was more common.

Not found in the OED

See also MOP STALE.
Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early).
References: Holme (2000).

Mop thrums

THRUMS, or pieces of rag or old cloth cut into strips from which the head of a MOP could be made. [Tradecards (18c.)] suggests that LINEN thrums were the most desirable, presumably because they were more absorbent.

Not found in the OED

See also MOP.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


The MOP was most often made with the head, composed of a bundle of rags or the like held together largely because it was fixed to the handle or MOP STALE. 'Mop head' is not defined by the OED, and it has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive among the miscellaneous stock of an upholsterer [Inventories (1780)]. In this context it was probably similar to the implement called elsewhere in the Archive a CLAMP.

OED online earliest date of use: 1735

Sources: Inventories (late).


[murrion; morian]

An alternative name for a HEAD PIECE; that is, a kind of HELMET, without visor or beaver (the lower part of the face guard), and with or without a extension at the back to protect the neck. Morions were worn by foot soldiers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Randle Home illustrated several types of 'Morion, or steele cap', one of which had a 'shut to secure the face'. He included an interesting comment about the symbolic meaning of this type of helmet. 'The steele cap betokeneth wisdome as well as Valour: therefore to wear the helme of a gentleman, who ought to be truly generosus is to look the right way, viz: to virtue; which otherwise is an emblem of nothing else but cowardly security' [Holme (2000)].

OED earliest date of use: 1563

Found described as graven, plain
Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Rates.
References: Holme (2000).



LEATHER made from GOATSKIN tanned with SUMACH, it was originally produced in Morocco or other north African states, and later in the Levant and Turkey. The true method of manufacture, as described by James Collins, involved soaking the skins in a weak ammoniacal liquor (preferably made with dog's dung), then sowing them into a bag filled with a strong solution of SUMACH and placing the bag into a weaker solution of the same. The skins were then placed one on top of the other, and pressed, forcing the sumach right through the skin. The whole process was repeated several times [Collins (1877)]. Later imitations used leather made from SHEEPSKIN and LAMBSKIN and morocco was imitated in England by the end of the seventeenth century. George Dodd describes it as a 'glossy-coloured leather, whose surface presents a wrinkled and fibrous appearance', and he described the process in similar terms to that used for the true product. Because of the expense of the DYESTUFF, morocco was often dyed only on the upper surface by painting on the colour. The distinctive texture of the surface was produced by working the tanned and dyed leather with a grooved ball. The leather was used particularly for book binding and UPHOLSTERY [Dodd (1843, reprint 1967)].

OED earliest date of use: 1600


Sources: Tradecards.
References: Collins (1877), Dodd (1843, reprint 1967).

Morris pike

[morrys pyke]

Supposedly of Moorish origin, it was the standard PIKE in England and Scotland, being sixteen to eighteen FOOT long.

OED earliest date of use: 1487

Found rated by the DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.


[mortt'r; mortter; mortrs; mortresse; mort'r; mortle; morter; mortarr; moortar]

The term is most commonly applied to a vessel of hard material such as BRASS, having a cup-shaped cavity, in which ingredients used in pharmacy, cookery etc. are pounded with a PESTLE. Combined, the two instruments were popular with apothecaries to compound drugs and were, therefore, the symbol of the profession. Tradespeople usually had a range of mortars adapted for different purposes, some being very large. One had '2 greater mortars of Brasse w'th pestills' weighing 88 LB and valued at £2 6s 8d, 'lesser mortars of Brasse w'th pestills' weighing 10 LB worth 5s, 'one leaden mortar w'th pestill' at 4d, and one 'marble morter & pestill' worth 3s 4d as well as '2 marble stones w'th molars' also valued at 3s 4d [Inventories (1637)]. Many mortars had pestles made of a different material, a bass mortar frequently had an IRON pestle [Inventories (1545)], a stone one had a wooden pestle [Inventories (1625)]. Different materials had different properties; hardness, hence BRASS and IRON were needed for SPICES, but STONE and WOOD were better for leaves, hence the GREEN SAUCE MORTAR. One dealing in exotic goods claimed that his ANCHOVY were 'Boned and pounded in a Marble Mortar' [Tradecards (1800)]. Mortars were also common in the domestic kitchen, but there was usually only one, and the cook of the middling sort of people did not have the luxury of choice in this respect.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: c1000 for the mortar alone; 1272 for mortar and pestle

In a completely different sense a mortar was a form of ARTILLERY capable of firing a shell at a high angle. In this sense, the term appears only once in the Dictionary Archive in a patent for a 'Chariot of artillery, musket proof, holding two small field-pieces and two hand mortars' [Patents (1693)], though the small COEHORN appears in one act.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1558

A quite unrelated meaning applied to a form of cement, and again only appeared in patents among a list of similar products used in the building trade 'Lime. stucco, plaster, mortar, cement, and manure, from cockle, oyster, and other sea shells' [Patents (1744)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: c1290

Found in units of DOZEN, LB, POUND Found rated by the POUND (BRASS)

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Seymour (1987).

Mortise chisel

[mortiss chissell; mortis chissell; mortice chissel; mortese chissell]

Randle holme described the mortise CHISEL as 'a Chissel broad in the sides and thick in the face part, so consequently stronger than other Chissels, that it may abide heavyer Blows with the Mallet; it hath a deep Basil, and is used to cut deep square holes called Mortesses in a piece of Wood: They are of several bignesses answerable to the breadth of the Mortesses they are to make' [Holme (2000)]. Mortise chisels became increasingly important as more and more JOINED furniture was made with mortice and tenon joints. Typically joiners and other wood workers seem to have had five to six mortise chisels, presumably each of a different width.

OED earliest date of use: 1678 under Mortise

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

Mosaic hat

The context of the only example in the Dictionary Archive - 'fine Mosaack, Leghorn and Straw Hats' [Tradecards (1743)] suggests a HAT made by plaiting some similar substance to STRAW, probably to give the appearance of mosaic. The OED refers to the use of STRAW and thin strips of wood as in TUNBRIDGE ware, but gives no refeence to such hats.

Not found in the OED

Found described as FINE

Sources: Tradecards.

Moscow ketchup

The only example in the Dictionary Archive appears in a list of keeping SAUCEs along with various other KETCHUPs and PREPARED SAUCEs, seemingly named so as to evoke cold places such as SIBERIAN KETCHUP and ESKIMO SAUCE [Tradecards (19c.)]. The names were presumably chosen to highlight a given selling point, but whether this was related to ingredients or some other quality is not clear.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.


[mosello quilting; mosello; marsailles quilting]

Mossoul is a form of EMBROIDERY of Eastern origin, and it may be what was intended in the advertisement for a 'Great Choice of Patterns for Ladys Work, in the newest Taste, as Mosello Quilting, Embroidery, Brussels, and for Cross & Tent Stitch Work' [Tradecards (18c.)]. Mossoul, as described in a late-nineteenth century source, was similar to CREWEL worked either with Crewel or SILK on a LINEN or WOOLLEN base. Herringbone was the main stitch used in such a way that the whole ground was filled with stitching, each item worked in one colour without shading and the whole pattern outlined in a single contrasting colour using rope stitch [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)].

Not found in the OED

Found describing QUILTING Found described as LADIES WORK

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Caulfield & Saward (1885, facs. 1989).

Mother of pearl

A smooth, shining iridescent substance forming the inner layer of some shells. It was frequently abbreviated to PEARL. It was also used to make imitation pearls; hence a patent for 'Making mock pearl from mother of pearl, shell, and glass' [Patents (1773)].

OED earliest date of use: 1510

Found described as ROUGH Found describing BUTTON, COUNTER, FISH, SHELL
Found among the DRUGS in the 1784 Rate Book, rated by the POUND

Sources: Newspapers, Patents, Rates.


An alternative name of MUGWORT or WORMWOOD, now known as Artemisia vulgaris. Nicholas Culpeper declared that 'it makes women joyful mothers of children and settles their womb', hence the name. He added that 'There is no better herb to take melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it, and make a merry, cheerful blythe soul than this herb'. He recommended it be made into a CONSERVE or a SYRUP [Culpeper (1792)]. It is a 'Sirup of motherwort' [Inventories (1634)] that it appears in the Dictionary Archive.

Like most labels of this type, motherwort was applied to other plants, including Leonurus cardiaca.

OED earliest date of use: 1387

As syrup: Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Culpeper (1692).

Motto ring

Rings were given, sometimes in quite large numbers to mourners and friends. Some were personalized by containing a fragment of the deceased's hair or the like [Llewellin (1991)], but it seems that some were available with appropriate text, like those in the advertisement for 'Mourning Motto Rings' [Tradecards (19c.)]. An alternative name was 'Posy ring'.

Not found in the OED

Found described as Mourning

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Llewellyn (1991).

Mountain green

Also known as Hungary green. Rosamund Harley writes that the term, mountain GREEN, was an unusual eighteenth-century name for the PIGMENT prepared from the basic COPPER carbonate called malachite, and in England GREEN BICE [Harley (1970)].

Richard Rolt gave an alternative account of mountain green, describing it as a sort of 'greenish powder', 'found in little grain like sand, among the mountains of Kernaufent in Hungary, and those of Moldavia'. It was the same material that 'the ancients call 'floscæris', prepared by casting water, or rather wine, on copper, red hot from the furnace, and catching the fumes thereof on copper plates laid over for the purpose, or by dissolving copper plates in wine, as in making verdigris. 'The painters use this colour for a grass-green, which is sometimes counterfeited by grinding verdegrease with ceruse' [Rolt (1761)].

OED earliest date of use: 1727-52

References: Harley (1970), Rolt (1761).

Mouse trap

[muse trap; mowse trappe; mowse trap; moustrapp; moustrape; moustrap; mouse-trap; mousetrap; mouse trapp; mouse trape]

A trap for catching mice. It is usually a small cage or devise to which the bait is so fixed that when the mouse seizes it a spring is released that either closes the door or breaks the animal's back. Judging by contemporary illustrations, the former was the more common. A different form is constructed to catch and kill two or three mice without being re-set.

The value of mouse traps was low, at best only a penny or two. They were probably rarely recorded in a domestic setting, so little reliance can be placed on recorded incidence, though anxieties about vermin and their threat to food [Fissell (1999)], suggest most substantial houses must have had mouse traps.

OED earliest date of use: c1475

Found described by OLD, ORDINARY
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Fissell (1999).

Moutarde a la ravigote

[mutarde a la ravigotte; moutarde a la ravigotte]

A MUSTARD in the FRENCH style, presumably one that included HERBS of which the most important was probably TARRAGON. According to a quotation in the OEd, and dated 1877, the 'French give the name of Ravigote to an assemblage of four herbs, tarragon, chervil, chives, burnet minced small, and supposed ... to have a rare faculty of resuscitation'.

Not found as such in the OED, but for Ravigote alone the earliest date is 1830

Sources: Tradecards.

Mouth water


An alternative, and earlier, name for a mouthwash, that is a therapeutic wash for the mouth, called also by John Houghton a GARGARISM [Houghton]. With a diet heavily overloaded with MEAT, and with only primitive dentistry, the mouth tended to smell malodourously. As a consequence, there was great interest in mouth washes and the like in the hopes of sweetening the breath. An OED quotation dated 1597 indicates that some mouth washes were made of BARLEY WATER.

OED online earliest date of use: 1597

Sources: Houghton.