Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Undertaker and Home Furnishings Dealer Account Book
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The owner of the business recorded in this account book served the needs of Wrentham, Massachusetts-area families from the cradle to the grave, as both a purveyor of home decorating supplies and furnishings (including cradles) and an undertaker.
The owner's identity remains uncertain. The Massachusetts Register and Business Directory for 1878 lists both Henry Bemis and G.O. Fuller as undertakers in Franklin (formerly part of Wrentham) but not as dealers in home decoration supplies or furnishings, which in the account book seems to be the greater focus of the business. There are no undertakers listed for Wrentham. Additional research into Wrentham's town history did not yield further possible identities.
Most of the goods sold were rolls of paper (probably wallpaper) and borders by the yard, along with carpeting and painting supplies. Among furnishings sold were bedsteads, spring beds, hair mattresses, pillows, chairs, looking glasses, plates and cups, sinks, lamps, and brooms. The company also repaired and upholstered furniture.
Most accounts were settled by cash; occasionally goods were exchanged (soap, eggs, berries, tables, and chairs) or services were accepted (hair cutting, work). Major customers were City Mills Felting Company, A.H. Morse, J.A. Guild, Joseph Hutchingson, Charles Scott, and Foster Smith.
Of great interest are the accounts for undertaking services performed sometimes for the town and at other times for individuals. To be found among these accounts are the charges for a casket, box, shroud, pillow, packing in ice, laying out, flowers, wreath, hearse, carrying to tomb, removing from tomb to graveyard, and grave digging.