York Widow’s 1798 Inventory Shows People Had a Lot of Stuff 200 Years Ago
York County Heritage Trust’s free summer organ concerts on the Tannenberg organ are held every Friday from 12:15 to 12:45 beginning Friday, July 8. They will continue through July and August, thanks to the York Chapter, American Guild of Organists.
Many people know the story of the YCHT Tannenberg organ, the last organ built by master Moravian organ builder David Tannenberg in 1804. Painted on the organ is an inscription (in German) that says it was a gift of the widow Barbara Smith (1724-1798) who must have been well-to-do to afford to leave such a gift to Christ Lutheran Church.
A look at her estate papers gives a glimpse into the life of the 73-year-old widow. One of the first steps in settling an estate was to take an extremely detailed inventory of the deceased’s goods, complete with valuation. The items listed on Barbara’s household inventory had a total value of 222 pounds, six shillings and 11 pence (Pennsylvania currency). For comparison, her “dwelling house,” which I assume was also quite substantial, was sold by her administrators for 700 pounds, so the value of her belongings was also significant.
Below is a sampling of the more than 100 items enumerated in Barbara’s inventory, showing the detail from an expensive clock to a pile of dung.
1 Eight day Clock and Case 18/0/0
1 large Looking Glass 3/15/0
1 ten plate Stove and pipe 4/10/0
1 Large Bible 1/17/6
1 Wild Cherry Cloaths Press 10/0/0
1 old Oil Cloth Umbrella 0/3/9
4 old pictures and 1 old Sieve 0/1/6
1 Chaff Bed and Bedstead 0/15/0
7 old small Bags with dried Apples, Cherries & Hops 0/7/6
14 Pewter plates 0/17/6
1 small dutch Oven 0/2/6
1 Cow 6/0/0
a quantity of Hay 0/15/0
a quantity of Dung 0/7/6
1 Cow Chain & old Ax and Spate 0/4/6
24 ¾ yard Flax Linnen 3/14/3
1 pair of Stays 0/0/6
3 Bed Sheets 1/10/0
10 Tea Cups and 10 Saucers 0/2/6
7 Silver Tea Spoons and 1 Sugar Tongs 1/2/6
1 old Blanket 0/2/6
Barbara’s administration papers to finally settle her estate in 1805 are also a wealth of information, including itemized costs to construct the Tannenberg organ. More on that later.