J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

“To be sold by Wholesale and Retail, By James Jackson”

As I research Mary Jackson and her family, I must say it would be a lot easier if they weren’t named Jackson. And if they hadn’t kept choosing first names like James, William, and Mary. But of course they weren’t the only family in eighteenth-century New England who set traps for researchers that way.

As I reported before, James and Mary Jackson had their second son baptized James at King’s Chapel on 8 May 1735. Boys named Jackson were admitted to the South Latin School in 1740 and 1742. Unfortunately, those school records don’t include full names. It’s possible that those boys were William and/or James Jackson, who would have been aged nine and seven respectively. If so, like most boys who started at a Boston grammar school in the 1700s, they never graduated, probably shifting to a writing school for better education in business skills.

This is just a guess based on their later paths, but I suspect William spent his adolescence helping Mama at the Brazen Head while James clerked for another import merchant. I’m even ready to guess that businessman was William Rand (1716-1758), who sold cloth and other dry goods “in Cornhill, The Corner Shop on the North side of the Townhouse,” per the 24 June 1751 Boston Evening-Post. In other words, very close to the Brazen Head.

This shopkeeper William Rand is often mixed with Dr. William Rand (1689-1759), who was an apothecary and a town tax collector. To confound matters further, that doctor had a namesake nephew, who in this period was a Harvard student and medical trainee and later was a counterfeiter. But I digress.

James Jackson came of age in May 1756. Already the town’s ministers were reading a notice that he intended to marry Sarah Rand—possibly the baby sister of shopkeeper William Rand, born in Charlestown in 1729. On 27 May, the couple wed at King’s Chapel. (The record there gives Sarah’s first name as Mary, just to add to the genealogical muddle. But that’s clearly an error, judging by the intention of marriage and later records of the couple.)

James Jackson thus married at an unusually young age, perhaps to a woman six years older. However, there’s no indication Sarah Rand was pregnant when they married, as many New England brides were. Instead, he seems to have been mature for his years.

James and Sarah Jackson had their own little baby James baptized at King’s Chapel on 26 June 1757, with his mother Mary standing as one of the sponsors. Five years later, on 10 Mar 1762, their son William was baptized in the same church; grandmother Mary and uncle William Jackson were sponsors.

On 26 Feb 1759 the Boston Evening-Post ran this advertisement:
Just Imported from LONDON, in the Brigantine Hannah, John Ayers Master, and to be sold by Wholesale and Retail,
By James Jackson,
At his Shop opposite Ebenezer Storer, Esq; and Son’s Warehouse in Union-street, BOSTON, very reasonable for ready Money,

A Great Variety of European and India GOODS, consisting of such a Number of Articles as would be tedious to the Reader. Likewise, a fine Assortment of Cutlery Ware, English Shoe Soles, Writing Paper, Looking Glasses, Raisins, Currants, Starch and Spices.
A similar ad followed in the Boston Post-Boy. Young Jackson had opened his own shop in the North End and was importing from Britain and beyond.

In March, the Boston town meeting elected James Jackson as one of twelve Clerks of the Market, alongside such peers as the silversmith Nathaniel Hurd. That was an entry-level elected position which the community usually gave to a young man seen as reliable and on his way up.

TOMORROW: Taking a chance with the Jackson brothers.

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