Pear - Pekoe tea

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

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[peare; payre; paire]

The tree Pyrus communis, was used both for its TIMBER, which had properties similar to BOXWOOD, and its fruit. The edible, fleshy FRUIT, which had a characteristic shape tapering towards the stalk, was used for desserts, for cooking and for making PERRY. Pears were DRIED, stewed, and used to in pies, fools and puddings. Some existing varieties were known in this period, though they have not been noted in the Dictionary Archive, including Conference (1770), Doyenne d'Ete (before 1700) and Jargonelle (c1600). Two old varieties suitable for making PERRY are Thorn (by 1676) and Red (by the sixteenth century) [Masefield et al (1969)]. Although Pears were widely grown, at least some were started from SEED, unlike modern practice. Pears were commonly sold by WATER MEASURE.

OED earliest date of use: c1000

Simone Clarke

As FRUIT: Found in many varieties including Catharine, Royal Windsor Found described as DRIED, GREEN, PRESERVED, WEST INDIAN
Found in units of BUSHEL, GALLON Found rated by the BARREL

See also PEAR PLUMS.
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Masefield et al. (1969).

Pear plums

[peare plooms; peare plom'es]

Pear PLUMs have been noted in the Dictionary Archive in a long list of preserved plums among the apothecarial stock of a Cheshire retailer [Inventories (1524)]. Presumably they were the same as one or other of the pear plums illustrated in a roughly contemporary manuscript, usually assigned to John Tradescant. One illustration [Source: Roll 444.1 frame 22] shows 'The early whight pere plum' as a yellow long, pear-shaped plum that ripened in late July, the other [Source: Roll 444.2 frame 11] shows 'The Blacke peare plum' as a small, damson like plum of a blackish colour ripening in early September [Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1461]. More than two centuries later, a London retailer, had both 'White pear Plumbs' and 'Black plumbs', though whether the latter where the black pear plums of the earlier period is not clear [Inventories (1740)]. These were still avilable in the eighteenth century as there are recipes for preserving both the black and the white pear plums in Mrs Eales' 'Receipts' in the edition published in 1733 [Eales (1718, facs. 1985)].

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (early), Tradecards.
References: Eales (1718, facs. 1985).


[purle; perle; pearle]

Notice that pearl was sometimes used interchangeably with PURL, as in 'Footings, Edgings and Pearls' [Newspapers (1770)]. Notice also that Pearl was a frequent abbreviation for MOTHER OF PEARL. The term refers to a concretion formed within the shell of various bivalve molluscs, particularly the OYSTER. It is of a hard, smooth texture, and usually globular in shape. Pearls are usually white or bluish-grey, with a fine lustre, and hence highly prized as gems. Pearls were most often threaded onto a fine cord for making a NECKLACE or BRACELET, hence an advertisement for 'Fine Needles for threading Pearls' [Tradecards (1665)]. For many purposes, the cheaper MOTHER OF PEARL could be used to produce the right effect, particularly in covering handles and the like of small implements of TOILETRY. Mock pearl was also made. This could be a respectable article of trade, hence the patent for 'Making mock pearl from mother of pearl, shell, and glass' [Patents (1773)], and the advertisement for 'imitation Pearl Work' [Tradecards (1808)].

Pearls were used to a limited extent in medicine (when they may be found under their latin name 'Margarita'). As SEED PEARL they were common in apothecary shops, although they were not part of the Materia Medica, at least in the eighteenth century. However, instructions were given in the Pharmacopoeia about their preparation by grinding and they were an ingredient of some official preparations including 'Compound Powder of Crabs Claws' [Pemberton (1746)]. A proprietary version of this called GASCOIGN POWDER was widely available. Their use for the teeth in the form of PEARL DENTIFRICE and ESSENCE OF PEARL was advertised, as were the cosmetics PEARL POWDER and PEARL WATER. Although not noted in the Dictionary Archive, the OED has references to PEARL - CORDIAL and to PEARL - JULEP, indicating that prepared (GROUND) PEARL were apparently included in comforting drinks. These were probably similar to the CHALK JULEP found in the Pharmacopoeia composed of chalk, DOUBLE REFINED SUGAR and GUM ARABIC all in a water base [Pemberton (1746)].

Pearl was also the local name of the FISH usually called BRILL, the minimum size of which allowed for sale was regulated [Acts (1714)], and it was a label for the colour of pearls.

OED earliest date of use: a1259 in the first sense; a1672 as a FISH

Found (mostly as an abbreviated form of MOTHER OF PEARL) describing BODKIN, BUCKLE, CANE head, EAR RING, INSTRUMENT, KNIFE, ORNAMENT, PENKNIFE, PIN, RATTLE, SEAL, SPOON, STOPPER, STUD, SYRINGE Found described as Beaten, Prepared Found used to make BRACELET, NECKLACE
Found rated by OUNCE - TROY

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Pearl ash

[pearl-ashe; pearlashe; pearlash; pearl ashe]

Pearl ash, originally usually in the plural, was a refined form of POTASH, that is the potassium carbonate of commerce, so called from its pearly hue. It was an important source of ALKALI and so was the subject of several patents, the earliest in 1749 [Patents (1749)]. Although mainly used in all such ways as the slightly cruder potash was, it also appeared under 'Kitchen requisites', presumably for use as a scouring powder [Tradecards (1800)].

OED earliest date of use: 1727-41

Found described as ENGLISH, FOREIGN, GERMAN
Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Acts, Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.

Pearl barley

[purld barley; perle barly; pearle barly; pearle barley; pearl & ffrench barley; hord perlaru; barley pearl]

BARLEY reduced by attrition to small rounded grains, used in making BARLEY WATER, broths and soups. It was frequently prescribed as food for the sick and is consequently found rated among the DRUGS, and is therefore occasionally found (usually abbreviated) in Latin as 'Hordeum perlarum'.

OED earliest date of use: 1710

Found used to make AQUA HORDEATA, BARLEY WATER, Pudding, Tissan
Found in units of C, LB, OZ, QU Found rated by C, HUNDREDWEIGHT

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

Pearl coloured

[pirle coler'd]

The colour of PEARL or the similar MOTHER OF PEARL

OED earliest date of use: 1750

Sources: Diaries.

Pearl dentifrice

Supposedly a POWDER made of POWDERED or prepared PEARL, but probably made of some cheaper material like MOTHER OF PEARL or FISH scales. It was used for cleaning the teeth. It may have been of similar composition to PEARL POWDER, but its use was distinct. It was patented along with ESSENCE OF PEARL by Jacob Hemet in 1773, 'for preserving the teeth and gums, and remedying the disorders to which they are subject' [Patents (1773)]. Hamet did much to promote his preparation, calling himself 'Dentist to her Majesty and the Princess Amelia' and recommending 'to the Public his newly-discovered Essence of Pearl, and Pearl Dentifrice' [Newspapers (1770)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as Hamet's, Hemet's

Sources: Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.

Pearl powder

Also known as Margariton, this was a cosmetic POWDER, almost certainly composed of finely ground PEARL, probably in the form of the less valuable SEED PEARL or MOTHER OF PEARL. It was used to impart whiteness to the skin and was widely advertised in the eighteenth century. In some instances, the term may have been used instead of PEARL DENTIFRICE.

OED earliest date of use: 1632

Found described as 'for the face', GENUINE, from INDIA, TRUE Found as an ingredient of GASCOIGN POWDER Found in units of OUNCE

Sources: Newspapers, Recipes, Tradecards.

Pearl water


A fashionable TOILETRY preparation of the eighteenth century, probably made from powdered PEARL. In one advertisement it was alternatively called 'The true Tincture of Pearl' [Tradecards (18c.)]. Its use was not given, but elsewhere it was described as 'for the Face and Neck' [Newspapers (1770)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as ORIGINAL

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

Pectoral balsam of honey

[balsam of honey]

Pectoral BALSAM of HONEY was a proprietary or QUACK MEDICINE widely advertised in the latter half of the eighteenth century as prepared by Dr Hill, sometimes even Sir John Hill [Porter (1989)]. It was claimed to be a cure for coughs and other conditions of the lungs, and even for Consumption (Tuberculosis), the most dreaded of complaints [Newspapers (1761)]. The balsam in question was probably BALSAM OF TOLU, a recognized specifically for such ills.

Found in units of BOTTLE

Sources: Newspapers.
References: Porter (1989).

Pectoral balsamic tobacco

A QUACK MEDICINE apparently made in Edinburgh, but distributed into the north of England. The maker claimed it was 'prepared according to the Principles of Galen, and approved of and prescribed by the Physicians in Scotland, for curing all Sorts of Distempers of the Lungs' [Newspapers (1760)]. This advertisement, the only one in which it has been noted, is a good example of pseudo-medical puffery and one that reads strangely to modern eyes given what is now known about TOBACCO. The inclusion of the name of the second-century physician, GALEN, who can have known nothing of that plant, is a not-uncommon devise to enhance such products, In fact, this so-called tobacco may have contained no genuine tobacco at all, thus avoiding all problems of duty and excise, but made entirely of other leaves.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.

Pectoral lozenges

[pectoral and balsamic lozenges]

LOZENGEs designed to act against 'coughs, colds, catarrhs, asthmas, hoarsenesses, sore throats, and incipient consumptions' [Newspapers (1790)]. Diseases of the lungs were of major concern in the early modern period, with the threat of the often fatal consumption (now called Tuberculosis) ever present. It was a favourite arena for the producers of QUACK MEDICINEs such as Benjamin Dawson and Thomas Howe, whose products, judging from the known ingredients, would have done little more than to ease a tickling cough, or perhaps encourage expectoration. 'Pectoral' seems to have been a favoured word, presumably because it lent a spurious sound of respectability to the products; hence it is found in several preparations such as BATEMANS ORIGINAL PECTORAL DROPS, PECTORAL BALSAM OF HONEY, PECTORAL ESSENCE OF COLTSFOOT and PECTORAL BALSAMIC TOBACCO.

Competition was intense. While Thomas Howe patented his 'Pectoral Lozenges' for the cure of consumptions, asthmas, coughs, and other disorders [Patents (1788)], Benjamin Dawson used less conventional methods to protect his product, claiming that 'by order of his Majesty's Commissioners, the imitation ... would be a capital offence', along with the more orthodox device of having his name 'engraved on every genuine box'. Unusually for the period, he offered to give away 'for trial, to those who have coughs, a small quantity of the following LOZENGES' though it was not made clear how this service to prespective customers would be have been effected [Newspapers (1790)].

Found in units of BOX

Sources: Newspapers, Patents.

Pectoral of tolu

BALSAM OF TOLU, one of the drugs introduced from America, was believed to have beneficial effects on the lungs and chest. Given the context of the one example of pectoral of Tolu in the Dictionary Archive, it was probably no more than an alternative name for TOLU LOZENGES [Tradecards (1800)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as LOZENGE
Found in units of small BOX

Sources: Tradecards.

Pectoral pills

[pectorall pills]

Similar to, or identical with, PECTORAL TROCHES.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Pectoral rolls

[pectorall rowles; pectorall roules; pectorall roles,]

A pasty mass of medicinal ingredients formed into a roll. One quotation from Milton in the OED indicates that it was to be taken internally. Although found among APOTHECARY stocks before 1700, thereafter PECTORAL LOZENGES seem to have been the preferred form of medicament.

OED earliest date of use: 15-- under Roll

Found in units of OZ

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

Pectoral troches

[pectorall trochiskes; pectorall trochis]

Pectoral troches is probably only another name for PECTORAL LOZENGES. Pectoral troches are not found in the Pharmacopoeia, but they appear among APOTHECARY WARE before 1700, as do PECTORAL PILLS, which were probably the same only smaller, and PECTORAL ROLLS. Thereafter they seem to have been replaced, by name if not by content, by the lozenges. There were many ingredients believed to be efficacious in treating lung conditions, but which were used in any given example is not known.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB

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

Pegging awl

[pigging aulblade; peging auleblade; pegging awleshaft]

A TOOL used by the shoemaker for punching holes in the LEATHER ready for inserting the pegs in a SHOE. Randle Holme illustrated it among the shoemaker's tools, but did not describe it. It appears to have been similar to any other AWL [Holme (2000)], though it may be that the blade was slightly curved like the 'stitching awl' [Holme (2000)]. His sketch suggests this, but the finished picture does not. Both the pegging AWL BLADE and the pegging AWL HAFT have been noted in the Dictionary Archive.

OED earliest date of use: 1765 under Pegging

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

Pekoe tea

The name is derived from the Chinese term 'pak-ho', which may be translated as 'white hairs'. This referred to the downy leaves at the tips of the shoot picked for a first crop in April and made into a superior kind of BLACK TEA. Pekoes were therefore among the most expensive teas, even in the 1780s being advertised at 8s to 10s per LB, when common black tea was half that [Newspapers (1780)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1712

Found in units of LB

Sources: Acts, Newspapers.