Jack chain - Jersey reel

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

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Jack chain

[jacke chaine; jackchaine; jack-chain; jack chayne; jack chaine]

OED suggests that a jack CHAIN was 'a chain each link of which consisted of a double loop of wire, resembling a figure of eight but with the loops in planes at right angles to each other; the links were not welded'. However, no explanation or evidence is given for this type of manufacture nor is any connection made with a JACK. The quotations given in support are ambiguous since it is not clear whether the chains in question were actually designed to be used decoratively or whether one normally used them with a JACK for SPIT roasting or whehter they were used as pretended badges of office. Certainly, the examples in the Dictionary Archive almost all unequivocally link the chain to the jack, as in 'a jack w'tt lyne chaine & pullies' [Inventories (1667)], or 'a Windup Jack Chain & Weight compleat' [Inventories (1718)]. One eighteenth-century JACK chain sketched by Seymour Lindsay is clearly a chain, conventionally made [Seymour Lindsay (1970)].

The jack chain was used with the jack worked by CLOCKWORK in which the chain and weights controlled the release of the spring. Continuous chain was also used to link the jack with the spit.

The actual term, 'jack chain' is rarely found though one tradesman had some in stock; '12 yds of Jack Chain' [Inventories (1716)]. More common are entries describing what was noted at the fireside, like 'Jack with Chaine and weights' [Inventories (1670)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1639 under Jack chain

Found described as OLD, SMALL Found made of IRON
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Seymour Lindsay (1970).

Jack cord

[jack cording; jack coard]

A continuous CORD that ran round the pulleys on the JACK and the SPIT, transferring the movement from the former to the latter. It was often plaited to make it run more easily though the pulleys [Tomlinson (1854)]. It was not the same as the JACK CHAIN, which attached the CLOCKWORK to its weights, though the two terms were not always precisely used. Randle Holme, for example, wrote of 'a Jack or Pulley Broach, ... haueing the pulley made fast at the end of it, for the Jack chaine or cord to turne in, thereby to turne it about before the fire' [Holme (2000)]. Occasional entries give both as in 'One Jack Chain and Cord and one Spit' [Inventories (1779)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000), Tomlinson (1854).

Jack pudding

[jack puding]

A mythical buffoon found in the stock of folk tales in many European societies, who eats pudding at a prodigious rate. One retailer stocking CHILDRENS TOYs had 10 valued together at 4d [Inventories (1682)], which suggests that they were something fairly simple; another had only one described as 'varnished', which suggests that it was made of WOOD [Inventories (1671)].

Not found in the OED in this sense

Found described as varnished

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


The term is probably derived from the Urdu name of the region in India where it was originally manufactured. It was a TEXTILE in the form of a thin closely woven COTTON fabric, thicker than MUSLIN and thinner than NAINSOOK. Jaconets were originally imported from India, although Milburn did not include them among INDIAN - PIECE GOODS. They were later made in Britain.

OED earliest date of use: 1769

Found described as BOOK, FINE, five quarters wide, six quarter wide, SPRIGGED, STRIPED Found describing HANDKERCHIEF, MUSLIN Found used to make HANDKERCHIEF
Found measured by the PIECE

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Milburn (1813), Montgomery (1984), 269.

Jamaica ginger

GINGER from the island of JAMAICA in the West Indies. Jamaica came later into the hands of the British and so the production of ginger also started later, the main interest in any case being SUGAR. However, Jamaica ginger was by the early-twentieth century some of the most esteemed in the world, being a pale buff colour throughout and cutting evenly. The rhizomes are planted there in March or April. They flower in September, but they are not lifted until the January of the next year, earlier if required as GREEN GINGER [Simmonds (1906)].

Found in the form of BLACK GINGER, WHITE GINGER

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Simmonds (1906).

Jamaica marrow

Possibly an alternative name for the avocado, although this association has not been noted in the dictionaries. 'Marrow', however, does appear in some of the nick-names for this fruit [Food.Oregon (online)], and it was certainly grown in Jamaica. It is used in COSMETIC preparations today, among other things, as a hair conditioner [Chemistrystore (online)]. In the eighteenth century already, Jamaica marrow was used to make a POMADE 'for weak hair' [Tradecards (1794)].

Not found in the OED

Found used to make POMADE

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Chemistrystore (online), Food.Oregon (online).

Jamaica sugar

[jem'ico suger; jemacoe sugar; jemaco shuger; jemacco sug'r; jamacco sugar; jamaca sugar; jama' sugar; gamaca sugar]

Jamaica, an island in the WEST INDIES, was both wild and difficult in the seventeenth century with its spine of high mountains offering succour to the existing population and escaped slaves, and visited as it was by frequent hurricanes and earthquakes. Although taken from the Spanish in the 1650s, SUGAR production under the British only developed slowly and was not fully developed until the 1720s. It became an island of large, inefficient estates reliant on a huge number of slaves. It may not surprise therefore that Samuel Johnson called it 'a place of great wealth, a den of tyrants, and a dungeon of slaves'. But it also became the centre of the British West Indies and the entrepot of all trades involved with sugar [Hobhouse (1985)].

In the Dictionary Archive, Jamaica sugar first appears in the late seventeenth century, and continues to appear until the mid-eighteenth. It was not a label that attracted esteem apparently, so it has not been noted in promotional literature.

Not found in the OED

Found described as FINE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Hobhouse (1985).



Found as 'Jamdannies' in other sources, jamdani was a TEXTILE of fine COTTON or SILK, patterned in the loom and imported from Bengal [Montgomery (1984)]. In one source it is designated as the 'most expensive production of the Dacca looms' [Taylor (1851)]. It was defined as a MUSLIN in 1700 [Acts (1700)].

OED earliest date of use: 1858

Found described as FLOWERED, SPOTTED

Sources: Acts.
References: Montgomery (1984), Taylor (1851), Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).

Japan earth

[japon earth]

An astringent substance containing up to 40% or 50% of tannin obtained from the leaves and young shoots of Uncaria or Nauclea gambir. When first brought to Europe in the seventeenth century it was thought from its appearance to be an EARTH and called TERRA JAPONICA, under which name it is more commonly found. Surprisingly, given that it was a medicinal preparation, in the official recipes for both MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE, substance 'Japon earth' was given its English rather than its Latin name [Recipes (Pemberton)]; [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1710 under Japanic

Found in units of DRACHM

Sources: Rates, Recipes.


[javeling; jafflin]

Either a light SPEAR thrown with the hand, or a pointed weapon with a long shaft used for thrusting like a PIKE or HALF PIKE. The 1582 Book of Rates included complete javelins described as 'Javeling staves with heds the staf' as well as the heads and STAVEs separately [Rates (1582)], suggesting that they were imported both assembled and unassembled. The javelins seem likely to have been of the second type. In the only other entry in the Dictionary Archive it is not possible to deduce which was intended [Inventories (1671)]; it could even have been a CROW bar [Wright (1898-1905)].

OED earliest date of use: 1513 in the first sense; 1520 in the second

Found rated by the STAVE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Wright (1898-1905).

Javelin head

[javeling hed]

The striking part of a JAVELIN, usually in the form of a sharpened piece of IRON or other metal, roughly triangular in shape. It was similar to the PILE HEAD.

OED earliest date of use: 1552

Found rated by the HEAD

Sources: Rates.


An uncommon COTTON - TEXTILE imported from India. It is possible that this term was used only briefly in British trade in an attempt to avoid the heavy duties imposed on MUSLIN; a stratagem an act of 1700 was designed to thwart by defining jecolsies as MUSLIN [Acts (1700)]. Jecolsies were not included among Milburn's list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)], which further suggests that it was not a common term even in India. They have not been noted in the shops in the Dictionary Archive, suggesting that if and when they were available for sale, it was probably under the generic term of muslin.

Not found in the OED

Found described as FLOWERED, PLAIN

Sources: Acts.
References: Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).



A TEXTILE not found in the other works of reference, which appears twice in the Dictionary Archive. The first example was among the stock of a staymaker. From the context of the other fabrics he advertised, it seem likely jennet was a tough LINEN CLOTH [Newspapers (1790)]. However, in the second jennet is coupled with VELVET and had been use to cut a PIECE from which to make BREECHES, suggesting something more decorative [Newspapers (1790)].

Jennet may occasionaly be found as a variant spelling of GENET and GINNET.

Not found in the OED

Found described as STRIPED

Sources: Newspapers.



The jenny, or spinning jenny, was an early form of spinning machine, introduced by James Hargraves in the 1760s and patented by him in 1770, in which several spindles were set in motion by a band from one wheel. 'Jenny' was not a term its inventor used in his patent [Patents (1770)] but the jenny was welcomed in Nottingham, where its thread was popular with STOCKING FRAME knitters, and then in Lancashire by the weavers of COTTON. The number of machines increased rapidly; it has been estimated that about 20,000 were in operation in England by 1788 [Ashton (1948)]. Initially designed for only a few spindles and worked by hand, the jenny was ideally suited for cottage workers and fitted easily into the existing domestic economy. However, it was rapidly developed to cope with many more spindles than had been used in Hargraves' original design. For example, one advertisement in 1790 was for '17 New Jennies' with 100 Spindles each, and one with 150 [Newspapers (1790)]. The skills required to make these new machines involved rather more than those of the usual joiner, hence advertisements like the one for 'a Couple of Joiners, who understands making Jennies' [Newspapers (1790)]. The skills became even more complex when machines like the jenny were made of iron and were run by waterpower, and later by steam power. By then, it was not so much joiners that were required, but engineers.

A jenny could spin a fine thread but it was soft, and not suitable for the WARP in most circumstance. Some features of the jenny were incorporated in Samuel Crompton's mule invented in the 1780s, which to a large extent replaced the earlier device in the first few decades of the nineteenth century.

OED earliest date of use: 1783 under Spinning Jenny

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Ashton (1948).

Jenny twist

A YARN produced on the JENNY, possibly either a twist of more than one yarn, or single one twisted more tightly to give added strength. An advertisement for 'a Quantity of Jenny Twist' in 1790 also wanted 'Reel'd Weft' suggesting the twist had some added quality from that the reeled WEFT did not have [Newspapers (1790)]. The same advertisement indicates that by the end of the eighteenth century, the numbering of yarns was well established and that spinners could adjust their machines to produce the thickness required. Assuming that the system remained constant into the nineteenth century, the numbers indicated how many SKEIN of that fineness would make up a HANK or OUNCE [Perkins (1853)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Perkins (1853).

Jersey comb

An alternative name for a WOOL COMB [Holme (2000)]

OED earliest date of use: 1688 under Jersey

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

Jersey gear

[jarsey geare]

A set of GEAR to be used in the WEAVERS LOOM for weaving fabrics like SAY made wholly or partly with JERSEY. Some weavers were capable of weaving a variety of types of TEXTILE. For example, one had 17 sets of GEAR apart from his '7 Jarsey geares' [Inventories (1684)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Jersey reel

[jarsey reel]

A type of REEL on which to wind THREAD. Randle Holme illustrated a JERSEY reel, and indicated that it had a simple CLOCKWORK mechanism that caused a hammer to fall at each full turn of the reel [Holme (2000)]. The only example in the Dictionary Archive suggests it was used to wind the thread from a SPINNING WHEEL rather than in the setting up of a LOOM [Inventories (1720)].

Not found in the OED

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