Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Horace Pierce and Son Account Book
Scope and Contents of the Collection
Horace Pierce, born in 1805, began his business career as a Royalston, Massachusetts blacksmith in 1828. The following year his son Milo, who would eventually join his father in business, was born. The first two-thirds of the account book, in a ledger fashion, documents Pierce's work as a blacksmith in the largely agricultural town of Royalston. His work typically involved shoeing horses, fixing irons, mending sleighs, shovels, or chains, and sharpening picks, plows, or axes. Payment often took the form of agricultural produce, shoes, coal, old iron, wood, and labor, in addition to cash.
In the 1840s, Pierce turned increasingly to making pails of various sorts and sizes. Joined in business by his son Milo, Pierce also increased his workforce, while maintaining some business as a blacksmith and also a sawyer. The last third of the volume reflects the growth of Pierce's manufacturing business between 1847 and 1850. The number of customers waned, but such merchants as Ephraim Murdock, John Bower, and the firm How and Damon, purchased several thousand dollars worth of pails annually. In addition, Pierce kept the accounts of his employees in this part of the ledger, with information on monthly wages, charges for boarding, and days lost to work. The 1850 manufacturing census listed eight workers earning wages of $175 a month, however, there was a tremendous variation: William Whitney was hired for $11 a month in 1848; that same year, Jeremiah Wheeler earned $24. Benjamin Brown, on the other hand, was paid by the piece. On January 1, 1850, for instance, he earned $165 for turning 12,324 pails over the previous (undetermined number of) months. There were also accounts of supplies purchased.
Turning the volume upside down and reading from back to front, it is possible to pick up Pierce's business in 1855 and follow it through in day-book fashion until 1857. In these years, in addition to the pail business, Pierce appeared to have run a general store, although pails remained his principal occupation. Indeed, as late as 1870, Pierce & Son sold over $6200 worth of pails annually, employed eight workers, and had a capital investment of $3500.