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Old East End Letterheads & Receipts

March 9, 2020
by the gentle author

It is my delight to publish this selection of local examples from Philip Mernick‘s astonishing ephemera collection of East End letterheads and receipts. Many are remarkable for the beauty of their typographic design as well as revealing the wide range of industry and commerce. 

The oldest slop shop in Wapping sold clothing for the slave trade. Click here to read about slave clothing

This advertisement was printed on a one million mark bank note from the German reich, giving it novelty value and also making a bold political statement to customers

All letterheads and receipts courtesy of Philip Mernick

You may also like to take a look at

The Trade Cards of Old London

14 Responses leave one →
  1. March 9, 2020

    Compared to contemporary receipts these artefacts are incredible. They speak volumes about the time they were issued and the level of service that was offered. The typography and design is so imaginative and enriched by the stylish handwriting on the different pieces. Why would you want to keep a modern receipt? The ink fades after a few weeks and no one ever writes on them.

  2. Julia harrison permalink
    March 9, 2020

    What a marvellous collection: i love everything about them from the letterheads to the fine copperplate handwriting. How wonderful to be conserving these fine examples of social history, each one holding a story. I wonder how Philip would advise one to store such ephemera with a view to keeping them safe from harm?

  3. March 9, 2020

    I think this is a very nice article!, thank you for sharing this article guys!

  4. philip Marriage permalink
    March 9, 2020

    To an old typographer’s eye these are a sheer delight – more please!

  5. March 9, 2020

    These are an absolute joy and the handwriting and letterheads a work of art. So pleased these have been preserved from the days when good service and courtesy prevailed.

  6. Clive Jennings / Fitzrovia Flaneur permalink
    March 9, 2020

    Just wonderful! A window into a lost world of commerce, where it was deemed important that the grandeur of the merchant was reflected in their stationery. I particularly like Jeremiah Rotherham’s insistence on including every individual door number that his impressive premises occupied.

    Spitalfields life has given me much pleasure over the years – the stories are so absorbing and engaging that I rarely have time left to leave a comment. Well done, Sir.

  7. Bernie permalink
    March 9, 2020

    Peerless ephemera!

  8. Pauline Taylor permalink
    March 9, 2020

    I, as another old typographer, echo Philip Marriage’s words, this is real graphic art unlike much of the rubbish seen today. People then cared about producing attractive images and paid much more attention to their handwriting as well. I notice that one or two receipts have a hole in them, presumably as a result of being kept on a spike which is how many people kept their receipts, my father-in-law still kept his like that until the 1980s.
    Thank you gentle author for enlightening us to what a slop shop was, I was also very puzzled about that.

  9. March 9, 2020

    Please — arrange the fainting couch, because I am about to swoon.
    As a collage artist, I have a long-standing love of ephemera, arcane typography,
    ancient crumbling paper, perforated (!?) official indicia and stamps, scribbled ledgers and
    receipts, tra la. I love this posting for so many reasons — and I salute the Master Collector-in- charge here. These momentary slips of blessed paper could have — poof! — disappeared in the cosmic undertow. Yet, thanks to Philip Mernick and GA, we have this visual banquet.
    I tried mightily to declare a favorite — and finally gave up.

  10. March 9, 2020

    The Bryant & May one is especially nice, it’s a long time since I’ve seen that deep azure paper

  11. andyinsdca permalink
    March 9, 2020

    One of my favorite things to do with things like this is check out what’s at the address currently. Alas, most of these are long gone, but I had one of the coolest meals in a cool location in London when I was there by address hunting – I had some old Michelin guides that had their address, 81 Fulham on there. So, I looked and there was a restaurant in that location. They’d restored the building and it was fantastic.

  12. March 9, 2020

    What a feast for the typographical senses!

    There are two places I know of in the Boston area that still use handwritten receipts:
    Joann Rossman, Purveyor of the Unnecessary & the Irresistible.
    And, ironically, Cambridge Typewriter Co.

    Still some lovely souls out there and I relish shopping at both places.

  13. March 10, 2020

    These are so beautiful. Thank you for publishing them. My great great grandfather, George Chapman, came to Melbourne, Australia (where the family lives to this day) from 33 Primrose St, Shoreditch in 1852. Upon arrival, rather than going to the gold fields, he set up a musical instrument business and started up one of Melbourne’s first concert bands. I have a digital copy of the letterhead of his music store and it looks just like one of these, which he would have been very familiar with from his life in East London. Seeing these other examples has helped me fill in a few more gaps in the jigsaw puzzle of what his life might have been like before he brought the family over the seas to the Australian colonies. Thank you also to Philip Mernick. I’m very grateful.

  14. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 11, 2020

    I have only just had time to study these in detail but what a treat it has been!

    So many fascinating insights into their lives and so many questions arising…

    For example – D. Jones sells “genuine milk” – was there fake milk around at the time?

    J. Hickling sold groats – what were they?

    What did Jeremiah Rotherham make or sell? (They had massive premises along several streets so it must have been a considerable enterprise…)

    James Collier brags about being “purveyors of mustard to the international exhibitions” – who knew that mustard was so important to those events??

    There are also some fabulous descriptions of goods which really evoke the Victorian age. For example the straws and velours and school hose sold by Boyes and Rosenthal who also claim that Honours Caps are a speciality (this immediately evokes the British Empire!) And all the paraphernalia sold by the saddlers where horses are “neatly fitted”..

    And then I spotted that James Richardson supplied negro clothes for the slave trade – this was something I wasn’t aware of but I will follow the link to find out more.

    And then the German bank notes – wow!

    Thank you for sharing such a fantastic collection – I hope there are more to come.

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