Big Cheese

Receipt for cheese purchased from Horr, Warner & Co., dated September 7, 1886. Author's collection.

Receipt for cheese purchased from Horr, Warner & Co., dated September 7, 1886. Author’s collection.

I recently came into possession of a few pieces of Wellington-related ephemera that I wanted to share with you. “Ephemera” in archival terms refers to those pieces of printed material that were never intended to be saved, disposable items such as play bills, ticket stubs, and receipts. Such items can be highly collectible due to their rarity, and more importantly, can be wonderful research tools. I mentioned in an earlier post that a collection of ephemera related to John Watson Wilbur’s hardware store–including invoices, checks, business correspondence, and railroad shipping receipts–is now held by Winterthur, one of the preeminent decorative arts museums and archives in the country.

I have two very similar receipts for cheese purchases, both made by the same wholesale grocery business in Circleville, Ohio. In 1886, Weaver & Shulze purchased ten boxes of cheese from Horr, Warner & Co. for a price of $30.42. A handwritten note on the receipt informs that “Eastern buyers are making free inquiries for cheese and are bidding up to get them,” which was apparently inflating the local price. If Weaver & Shulze were hoping to get a better deal elsewhere in Wellington, they did not find it when they purchased ten boxes of “Nickel Plate F” cheese from J. P. Eidt seven months later. He charged them $36.24 and noted unapologetically, “These are old Cheese. New ones not In yet.”

Receipt for cheese purchased from J. P. Eidt, dated April 16, 1887. Author's collection.

Receipt for cheese purchased from J. P. Eidt, dated April 16, 1887. Author’s collection.

Prior to his days as a manufacturer and wholesale dealer in cheese, John Peter Eidt had run a business on the east side of North Main Street. It was located in the same building (no longer standing) where Wah Sing would later move his laundry operation after the American House was torn down at the turn of the twentieth century. I have found two lengthy descriptions of Eidt’s shop in The Wellington Enterprise, and I want to include one in full because I think it gives a wonderful sense of the availability of goods and services in the village. This was written in 1879, but you may be surprised by how very modern it sounds. “J. P. Eidt. Bakery and Lunch Room, North Main St., is one of the necessary institutions of Wellington business life. Mr. Eidt succeeded L. G. Black in this establishment, two years ago, since which time he has succeeded admirably. He is a practical baker and a thoroughly competent business man. The sales-room in front is filled with a choice stock of Fancy Groceries such as Spices, Flavoring Extracts, Canned Goods, Teas, Coffees, etc., while in the line of Confectionery, a complete assortment is kept, from the fine French Candies to the Taffy, Stick, and Pan Candies. Mr. Eidt manufactures these goods himself. A full line of Cigars and Tobacco is also kept. The show-cases are filled with all kinds of Pastry, Bread, Cakes, Rods, Lunns, Pies, Crackers, etc. Back of the sales-room is a lunch-room neatly fitted up, where a Hot Meal, Oyster-Stew, or Cold Lunch can be had at any hour and the satisfaction that it has given has gained for the proprietor a lucrative custom. Back of this room is the Bake-Shop, which is supplied with all the necessary fixtures for doing baking and is always neat and tidy. Since Mr. Eidt took possession of the establishment he has made some decided improvements in its arrangements and it is now one of the best places in town to drop into and get a good cup of tea or coffee or a lunch. All kinds of Fruits are dealt in and Ice-Cream in its season. We wish the proprietor success for he deserves it” (2-6-1879, pg. 3).

John P. Eidt. From "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pg. 136. Photo by author.

John P. Eidt. From “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pg. 136. Photo by author.

A notice-cum-advertisement published in October of the same year informed the public that Eidt was receiving oysters directly from Baltimore, Maryland two times per week. “Persons who wish to get them in large quantities for parties and social gatherings of any kind, will find it to their interest to get them of him. Give him two days notice (the time it takes to get them) and he will get them for you in good order” (10-30-1879, pg. 3). The businessman also used clever and novel advertising techniques, such as publishing a correspondence purportedly between himself and one “Mr. Santa Claus” to announce that Eidt would once again be Santa’s “headquarters” for the Wellington Christmas trade (12-11-1879, pg. 3).

In April 1879, Eidt married Ermina (Minnie) Roser, the daughter of local cheese dealer John Roser. Two years later, the baker sold his stock, rented out his facility, and entered the cheese business with his father-in-law. The industry must have seemed lucrative and secure to Eidt, still in his twenties; nearly eight million pounds of cheese and more than one million pounds of butter were shipped through Wellington in 1879, the high-water mark of production. But even as Eidt and others ventured into the trade, they could not know that within thirty years, Wellington would no longer have a single cheese factory, nor would the region produce a single pound of cheese.

Headstone shared by J. P. and Ermina Eidt, and her parents, John and Caroline Roser. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, OH. Eidt seems to have gone by the name Peter, as it is inscribed on both this stone and also his individual marker. Photo by author.

Headstone shared by J. P. and Ermina Eidt, and her parents, John and Caroline Roser. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Eidt seems to have gone by the name Peter, as it is inscribed on both this stone and also his individual marker. Photo by author.

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