Shift - Shop bill

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

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Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl, 'Shift - Shop bill', in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820( Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl, 'Shift - Shop bill', in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820( Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

Nancy Cox, Karin Dannehl. "Shift - Shop bill". Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. (Wolverhampton, 2007), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.

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An article of APPAREL; a body garment of LINEN, COTTON or the like and in early use applied indifferently to men's and women's underclothing but subsequently to a woman only. During the seventeenth century it began to replace the earlier name of SMOCK, apparently because it was seen as a more 'delicate' expression. In the nineteenth the garment was again renamed from the same motive, as a 'chemise'.

One retailer had 'A p'cell of shift Buttons' [Inventories (1690)]. The term does not appear in the OED online, but presumable a shift button was similar to a SHIRT BUTTON, and was designed to fasten a shift at the neck.

Instructions on how to cut out a shift economically using only 2 ELL of HOLLAND instead of the usual 2 Ell ¼ were given in an anonymous pamphlet dated 1695 and entitled the 'Way to save Wealth' [Anon (1695)]. It is noticeable that SCISSORS were needed very little in this operation.

OED online earliest date of use: 1598

Found described as FINE, FLAXEN, GIRL, OLD, READY MADE Found describing BUTTON Found made of CALICO, HOLLAND, TEAR OF HEMP, WOOL
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Anon (1695).

Shining sand

This term seems to have been applied to any fine WHITE SAND that glistened in the light. Shining sand had a variety of uses. In the Dictionary Archive it has been found among INKs and STATIONERY [Tradecards (19c.)]; [Tradecards (1794)] presumably for use as a drying agent where blotting paper would now serve. In the late eighteenth century one sort of shining sand, so-called, was mined near Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and sent to GLASS makers in London and Bristol for use of the glass manufactories. John Houghton confirms that the strewing sand and that used for glass making could be one and the same when he wrote of 'a very white sand such as we strow upon writing which is commonly bought from Maidstone in Kent & Isle of Wight'. This, he claimed was used for making 'the best FLINT GLASS instead of powdered FLINTs' and for the best CRYSTAL GLASS. However, he did not use the term shining sand [Houghton].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.

Ships thimble

[ship's thimble]

A term not found in the dictionaries, but probably an alternative name for a 'Sailor's THIMBLE', which was itself a synonym for one meaning of a 'Thumb stall'. This was described in a quotation in the OED on Rigging and Seamanship dated 1794 as 'a ferrule, made of iron, horn, or leather, with the edges turned up, to receive the thread in sewing. It is worn on the thumb to tighten the stitches.'

Not found in the OED online as such

Sources: Tradecards.


[shyrtt; shyrte; shyrt; shurte; shurt; shirtt; shirte; shirrt; shertt; sherte; shert]

An article of APPAREL, an undergarment for the upper part of the body, made of LINEN or HEMP, more rarely COTTON, FLANNEL, SILK, or some other washable material. Originally it was a garment for both sexes worn next to the skin, however, it became more frequently applied to men's clothing and was often worn over an undershirt. In this sense it was invariably sleeved. Shirts were usually worn with a SHIRT BAND and fastened either with SHIRT STRING or with SHIRT BUTTONs.

There is much evidence that shirts were made at home either by the women of the house [Diaries (Pepys)] or to order [Diaries (Burrell)]. Costs of making a shirt were rarely recorded, possibly because they were made within the household, but the barrister Timothy Burrell in 1713 'Paid To G. Virgoe, for 3 shirt clothes for him, 15s., and for making the shirts, 1s. 6d. [Diaries (Burrell)]. This suggests 6d a shirt, at about one tenth of the cost of the fabric used. Although almost any LINEN CLOTH or HEMPEN CLOTH could be used, there was a type of fabric called SHIRTING especially for the purpose. When home made, buttons were required [Diaries (Blundell)], as well as THREAD, shirt bands or other finishings.

Before 1660, personal clothing, including shirts, was sometimes recorded in full, for example [Inventories (1588)]. Thereafter complete listings of APPAREL became uncommon, though shirts were sometimes detailed among the LINEN, for example [Inventories (1680)]. In the shops, READY MADE shirts were available throughout the period. Samuel Pepys, for example, assumed he would be able to buy one when he needed it [Diaries (Pepys)].

OED earliest date of use: 1000

Found rated by the DOZEN

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

Shirt band

[shurteband; shurt band; shirts band; shirteband; shirte bonde; shirte bande; shirte band; shirtband; shertband; sheort band; bands for shirts]

In the singular, the term denotes a NECK BAND or COLLAR to be worn with a SHIRT round the neck, and in pairs or twos, possibly as a band to go round the wrist and confine the sleeve of a shirt. The context will sometimes but by no means always make clear which was intended. For example, in the entry 'vj paire of Ruffes a fallinge bande ... and a shirte bande [Inventories (1578)], the band was probably for use round the neck, while those in '... ij shertbands ij payre of sleeves w't some other smale linnens [Inventories (1593)] may well have been for the wrists. Shirt bands were one of the small items of APPAREL that were obtainable READY MADE. Under this name they have only been noted before 1660, but as BAND they continue.

OED earliest date of use: 1532/3 in the first sense; not found in the second sense

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).

Shirt buckle

[shirts; shirt buckel]

An alternative way to the SHIRT BUTTON or SHIRT STRING for fastening a SHIRT. From an act of 1790, it appears they were frequently made of SILVER, presumably since other metals would have stained the fabric when washed. The advertisement for 'Shirt Buckles and Bofant Pins' [Newspapers (1790)] suggests a product with pretensions.

Not found in the OED online

Found made of SILVER
Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Acts, Inventories (late), Newspapers.

Shirt button

[shirtboton; shirt and wastecoat buttons; shirt & waistcoat buttons; buttons for shirts; buttons (shirts)]

A small BUTTON suitable for fastening a SHIRT. Shirt buttons were probably made most often of MOTHER OF PEARL or BONE to avoid the risk of staining the fabric when shirts were washed, which would have been a risk with metal buttons. The shirt button largely replaced the SHIRT STRING as a way of fastening a shirt. The number of shirt buttons for sale suggests that making shirts at home remained common even when READY MADE ones were available in some shops.

OED earliest date of use: 1851

Found described as DIAMOND top, FLAT, WHITE
Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (late), Tradecards.

Shirt of mail

[sherts of mail]

ARMOUR composed of interlaced rings or chain-work or of overlapping plates fastened upon a groundwork.

Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Rates.

Shirt string

[shurte lace; shurt stringe; shirte stringe]

A STRING used to lace up the front of a SHIRT. Shirt strings largely went out of use to be replaced by the SHIRT BUTTON.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as SHORT
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).


A TEXTILE in the form of a LINEN CLOTH or HEMPEN CLOTH for making SHIRTs; specifically, a kind of stout cotton cloth suitable for hard wear.

OED earliest date of use: 1604

Found described as SCOTCH Found describing HOLLAND
Found in widths of 3 QUARTER (27 INCH), YARD Found in units of ELL, YARD

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.

Shoe bill

A kind of NAIL used in shoemaking, possibly an alternative name for a SPARABLE, which was also known as a 'sparrow bill'. In one of the two examples in the Dictionary Archive shoe bills were listed along with SPRIGs, a similar type of nail [Tradecards (1791)].

OED earliest date of use: 1874 under Shoe

Sources: Tradecards.

Shoe buckle

[showe bockls; show buckel; shooe buckle; shoo buckle; shoo buck; shoe-buckle; shoebuckle; shoe buckell; buckles for shoes]

A fastening for the SHOE in the form of a BUCKLE, and more commonly also an ornamental buckle worn on the front of the shoe. The shoe buckle began to replace the SHOE LACE during the second half of the seventeenth century and allowed the wearer to use the SHOE to make statements about a person's status and social identity. They had the futher advantage that, while the shoe remained the same, the buckle could be changed to suit different circumstances, since buckles in the eighteenth century were not a permanent part of the design. Given the importance of shoe buckles, it is not surprising to find they featured prominently in advertisements; hence entries like 'his Shoes buckled rather low, with square fashionable Buckles' [Newspapers (1780)], and 'great Choice of Silver Shoe-Buckles of the newest Patterns' [Newspapers (1757)]. YELLOW METAL buckles seem to have been popular with the less well to do, hence the description like the one of a runaway wearing 'new strong Shoes and Yellow Buckles' [Newspapers (1760)]. Shoe buckles went out of favour at the end of the eighteenth century, to be replaced by the method of fastening they had originally replaced, the SHOE LACE or SHOE STRING [Riello (2006)].

OED earliest date of use: 1482

Found in units of DOZEN, LB, Lot, PAPER, SET

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.
References: Riello (2006).

Shoemakers pincers

[showmakers pincers; pynsors for shomakers]

Shoemaker pincers, which appear several times in the Dictionary Archive, may have been what were described in a quotation used by the OED dated 1875 as Lasting-pincers. These were a TOOL used to grip the edges of the upper leather of a boot or shoe and draw it over the LAST. Randle Holme gave two alternative tools used by shoemakers with a similar name: The first were 'termed Shoomakers Nippers, being contrary in the Shanks to common Pincers, as having a sharp point in the end of one; and a slit in the other, to strain up a Tack or Nail', while the second were the 'Hammer pincers' identical to the first, but for a flat plate attached to the side to enable the pincers to be used as a hammer [Holme (2000)].

Sometimes the pincers were not specifically named, but the context makes it clear as in 'Hammers & pincers & Rasps wth other Shoemakers Working Gear' [Inventories (1719)]. Saddlers seem to have had a similar tool; one in the Dictionary Archive had 'p'sers and pareinge knives, pinsers and nippers' [Inventories (1685)]. The similar-sounding 'Shoeing pincers', however, were used, not by shoemakers or saddlers, but by SHOVEL makers [Inventories (1711)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1875 under Lasting

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

Shoemakers tack

[showmakers tack; shoomaktack; shoemakers tacke; shoe tack; shoe nails and tacks]

A short NAIL or TACK with a square head [Holme (2000)]. They were used by shoemakers in the construction of SHOES. Randle Holme described two sorts, 'the Sole Tack' with only 'a single nick about the square head: and the Heel Tack, which is much larger and longer', with 'a double, some a treble nick about the head' [Holme (2000)]. From his description, and the accompanying illustration, it would seem that the head was intended to stand proud and act as a stud.

Found in units of GROSS, M

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


[shoppe; shopp; shope; schoppe; schop]

A house or building where goods are made or prepared for sale and sold. Foreign visitors were apparently impressed with the quality of English shops and used adjectives like ELEGANT and HANDSOME to describe them; some local shoppers, on the other hand, seem to have personalized the shops they patronized; for example Samuel Pepys wrote of 'my glove and ribbon shop' [Diaries (Pepys)].

A shop could also be a room or section of the premises where a particular type of goods were kept and/or displayed, for example the 'marcers shop' and the 'potticarie shoppe' of Peter Gough of Worcester in 1573 [Inventories (1573)] or the 'Lynnyng shope' of Richard Holden of Rugby in 1545 [Inventories (1545)]. Although not so designated, many shops were in fact WORKSHOPs, with a descriptor that indicated the process carried on in that room. For example, Thomas Heeley, a Birmingham button maker, had a 'Pullishing shop', a 'Linking shop', 'a Turning shop', a 'Grinding shop' and a 'Carding shop' as well as the shop in which his goods were offered for sale [Inventories (1764)].

Although not noted in the Dictionary Archive, 'shop' was used as a vernacular descriptor in some plants with medicinally valuable properties, such as shop comfrey - Symphytum officinale; shop EYEBRIGHT - Euphrasia officinalis; shop lungwort- - Pulmonaria officinalis; shop speedwell - Veronica officinalis; shop VALERIAN - Valeriana officilanis [Wright (1898-1905)].

OED earliest date of use: 1297

Found described as APOTHECARY's, back, BEAUTIFUL, blacksmith's, BRANDY, butcher's, CABINET, CAKE, carding, casting, chandlers, CHINA, CLOCK, COAT, COFFEE, COMB, commodious, cooper, corn chandler, COUNTERFEIT, country, CRYSTAL, desirable, drafte, druggist, ELEGANT, eligibly situated, engravers', EXCELLENT, fellmonger's, fixed, fore, forge, FROCK, FRUIT, GLASS, GLOVE and RIBBON, good accustomed, GREAT, grinding, grocers, HANDSOME, heading, heckling, high, house, inner, IRONMONGER, linking, LITTLE, long established, low, MALT, medicinal, MERCER's, middle, MILLINERs', nether, NEW, OIL, OLD, old established, open, outer, OYSTER, PERIWIG, PERUKE maker's, PIN, polishing, PRESS, private, public, Quaker, RETAIL, saddlers, SALT, SMALL, smith's, SNUFF, SPIRIT, splendid, stationer's, street, TALLOW, TEA, TOBACCO, TOY, turner's, turning, upper, WARE, weaving, well accustomed, wheelwright's, WHOLESALE, WOOL Found described in qualitative terms as BEAUTIFUL, commodious, COUNTERFEIT, desirable, ELEGANT, eligibly situated, , EXCELLENT, good accustomed, GREAT, HANDSOME, LITTLE, long established, NEW, OLD, old established, Quaker, SMALL, splendid, well accustomed Found described by type as COUNTRY, fixed, open, private, public, RETAIL, WHOLESALE
Found described in occupational or product terms as APOTHECARY's, blacksmith's, BRANDY, butcher's, CABINET, CAKE, chandlers, CHINA, CLOCK, COAT, COFFEE, cooper's, corn chandler's, CRYSTAL, druggist, engravers', fellmonger's, FROCK, FRUIT, GLASS, GLOVE and RIBBON, grocer's, IRONMONGER, medicinal, MERCER's, MILLINERs', OIL, OYSTER, PERIWIG, PERUKE maker's, saddlers, SNUFF, SPIRIT, stationer's, TEA, TOBACCO, TOY, turner's, wheelwright's WOOL Found described implicitly as a WORKSHOP, with the processes carried on therein, carding, casting, COMB, drafte, forge, grinding, heading, heckling, linking, MALT, PIN, polishing, PRESS, SALT, smith's, TALLOW, turning, WARE, weaving, WOOL Found described in locational terms as back, , fore, high, house, inner, low, middle, nether, outer, street, upper Found describing CHAMBER, loft

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Wright (1898-1905).

Shop apron

[shop linnen and aprons]

A BLUE APRON was supposedly part of the conventional wear of tradesmen particularly appropriate for the grocery trade [Diaries (Josselin)]. Whether that applied to all shop aprons, or what else made them distinctive, is not clear.

Not found in the OED

Found described as worn
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Shop bed

Apprentices traditionally slept in the shop, particularly before shops became places of exhibition as well as of sale. The Lancaster ironmonger William Stout, for example, wrote of himself and his fellow apprentices 'laying in the shope' [Stout (1967)]. Although phrases like 'a bed in the shop' are not uncommon, a shop bed as such has only been noted once. It may mean no more than the 'bed in the shop', but it may indicate one purpose built so that it can easily be tucked away during the day, but is not built in as a fixture.

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Stout (1967).

Shop bill

A written or printed advertisement giving the name of the tradesperson, the business address and sometimes a selection of the goods or services on offer. By the mid eighteenth century and the improvements in printing, it was possible for tradespeople to have fancy hand bills and bill headings like the one for the London bodice makers, Catherine and John Middleton [Tradecards (1730s)]. Some stationers and similar retailers advertised blank shop bills, for example Edmund Cresswell of Manchester [Newspapers (1757)] and Matt Darley of London [Tradecards (1791)].

OED earliest date of use: 1780

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.