Friday, July 2, 2010

Lead Seal with Merchant's Mark

At the Burch House we found a lead cloth seal with an interesting merchant’s mark.

Lead seals were widely used in Europe during the 13th through 19th centuries. In the 1400’s cloth manufacturers in England were required to identify their cloth with a lead seal containing their maker’s mark. Lead cloth seals were also used to indicate payment of taxes or that the cloth had passed quality control.

The cloth seal has two discs with a connecting strip. The seal was crimped onto the finished cloth.

The marks on lead seals could indicate the person responsible for quality control, or the packer, or the dyer. The style of some of the marks were that referred to as a “merchant's mark”. Merchant’s marks were built around an upright stem. There could be a cross or streamers or a “four” at the top. Often at the bottom there was an inverted V or a V over an inverted V or a W or the initial of the person’s given name. Sometimes two initials or the initial of the surname was included across the middle of the upright stem. As late as 1794 the United East India Company was using metal seals with this style of merchant mark.

The lead cloth seal at the Burch House has a merchant's mark on the side where the rivet has been crimped, and the other disc is blank. The merchant's mark has a “four” at the top. Below this is an anchor where the anchor incorporates the upright stem. Instead of a person’s initials, there appear to be the initials of a business. The merchant indicated on this seal could be D&K or O&K. Marks were not registered, and I have not been able to find out more about it.

I learned a lot about lead seals from Lead Cloth Seals and Related Items in the British Museum by Geoff Egan. And my interest in merchant marks was piqued by English Merchants’ Marks by F.A. Girling. There’s a lot more to merchant's marks than I indicated above.


Lab day scheduled for tomorrow in front of the courthouse, 9 AM until 2 or 3 PM. JGG

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