Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dry goods, &c.

A picture of retail past, in Ellettsville, Indiana:

Cort’s store is a leisurely place that sells a great many things, and nobody is urged to buy anything. There was an assortment of men’s and boys’ clothing, dry goods, hardware, kitchen equipment. A stack of milk buckets, tin pans, and small tools were displayed carelessly in the window. There were the red and black plaid caps that are standard equipment for farm men and boys; the soft, warm, brown gloves; the stiff canvas gloves; blue denim overall jackets; assorted boots and overshoes.

Rachel Peden, Rural Free: A Farmwife’s Almanac of Country Living (Bloomington, IN: Quarry Books, 2009).
What are dry goods anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary: “A name (chiefly in N. Amer.) for the class of merchandise comprising textile fabrics and related things; articles of drapery, mercery, and haberdashery (as opposed to groceries).” Merriam-Webster: “textiles, ready-to-wear clothing, and notions as distinguished especially from hardware and groceries.” First use: 1657. An OED citation: “Sellers and buyers of produce, hardware, dry goods and what-not.” I love the what-not, and its cousin, things of that nature.

This passage made me think of a store from my Brooklyn childhood, “the dry goods store,” the only name I have for it, on New Utrecht Avenue, a street in permanent semi-darkness under the elevated train line. I remember merchandise on tables and in boxes: household chemicals, kitchenware, and what I now know were dry goods — underwear and socks, the packages priced with a marker or grease pencil. No farm fashions though. Wrong universe.

Also from Rachel Peden
Against school consolidation

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