Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: Merchandise in 1821 Grocery Stores (Part 2)

Apr 15, 2021

Advertisement for new goods and groceries at D. & S. H. Armour, Jackson, Mo.
Credit Independent Patriot, December 8, 1821, page 4.

Welcome to the Missouri Bicentennial Minute from the State Historical Society of Missouri. Missourians could choose a wide array of medicines from stores in 1821. Many were types of patent medicines. Most were probably of limited effectiveness, but at least some of the ones classified as “bitters,” when mixed with liquor, made a variety of mixed drinks.

A number of these were opiates. Bateman’s Drops for chest and other complaints and laudanum and paregoric for pain relief, and Godrey’s Cordial, amazingly used to treat some ailments of infants, are examples. Others included Stoughton’s Bitters, an alcohol and herbal concoction for gout; Anderson’s, Lee’s and Hahn’s Pills; British oil, which was a liniment containing ammonia; liquorice ball, used as a mild laxative; and Opodeldoc, a soap and camphor liniment which actually has come degree of effectiveness.

Depending on which craftsmen already had businesses in a community, the store might have tin ware, leather, and finished items such as coffee mills.

While most Missourians either grew or had access to sheep for wool and flax for linen, these cloths were on the heavy side for warm weather. Inexpensive cotton cloth was cooler to wear in summer, and mass production in eastern mills and resulting lower prices occurred by 1820. Stores stocked inexpensive muslin, plaid prints, shirting cloth, chambray, and calicoes. A variety of other cloth types were available, but were more expensive—different colors, Irish linen, cashmere, and rarely silk. Wool blankets, including Mackinaw or Hudson’s Bay Point, were available.

Finally, clothing items rounded out the inventory at the mercantile store in 1821. Most of these were out of reach for the average citizen, but they might purchase a hat if no hatter operated in their settlement.