Monday, March 12, 2012

An Artist in the Family

On our long ride to RootsTech, I was telling my friend about my great grandfather, Joseph Mossey (Massé). He was a carriage trimmer. My friend asked what a carriage trimmer was and while I thought I knew, I hesitated. I decided if I am going to get to know my ancestors, I should get to know what it is they did and be able to explain that to others.

Naturally, I began by googling “Carriage Trimmer”. I found a website that categorized professions. My Joseph was an artisan. That was a pleasant surprise. My mother and grandmother were excellent needleworkers in knitting, embroidery and sewing and my grandfather, George Mossey,  was, according to my mom, a great cook. And, now his father was an artisan in his own right.

How did I learn about my great grandfather’s abilities? I was doing some newspaper research. I found a site that has indexed the newspapers of northern New York. This ad I found in The Plattsburgh Sentinel caught my eye and gave me a smile. My great grandfather was “one of the best carriage trimmers”!1 How thrilling that someone would actually print such nice words about one of their employees who also is my ancestor.

Newspaper -- Plattsburgh Sentinel, 1883, MOSSEY, Joseph

In my search, I also found a book that is a reprint of a book that was apparently the carriage trimmer’s Bible back in the 1880s and maybe was one my great grandfather referred to in his business.

The Carriage Trimmer's Manual-greyAccording to the description on the website, “…the book describes the complexity of materials—leathers, silks, laces—and range of skills (upholstering, tufting, stitching and binding, cutting enameled leathers, making leather sockets, welting, fabric selection, etc.) required for this branch of the carriage trade.” The book also contains “recipes for cleaning, oiling and blacking leather, polishing metals and restoring ivory, among others.” It goes on to describe the tools used in the carriage trimmers arsenal, such as stuffing sticks, round knives and shears.2

Looks like I’ll be going back to Google to learn what many of those terms mean which will give me a better idea of what my great grandfather really did for a living.

(Can you hear the buttons popping off my shirt?)



1. Unknown author, . "Merritt." Plattsburgh Sentinel [New York] 20 Apr 1883, Vol. 28, No. 47 1. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.

2. "The Carriage Trimmers’ Manual Guide Book and Illustrated Technical Dictionary." Astragal Press. Astragal Press, An Imprint of Finney Company, 2012. Web. 12 Mar 2012. <>.


  1. Margie The Campbell House at the MAC here in Spokane has one of those fancy carriages like your great grandfather worked on in their Carriage House, so you might want to check it out next time you get to Spokane.

  2. Mom, this is pretty cool to have one of our ancestors in a newspaper!!! How many others have you found in newspapers with glowing reports about them? Very interesting to hear about his profession. I didn't know there was such a thing as a carriage trimmer. It is also neat to have an ancestor who did not have a "typical" profession for that time.

  3. Did a carriage trimmer turn out to be what you thought it was at first, Margie? I wonder if other old newspapers might reveal images of carriages trimmed by your great-grandfather. Whenever you go to a historical village now you will probably eye up the details of any carriages you see. The trimming may not have been preserved from the 1880s but it would give you a great idea of the details he worked with. It was very nice of the owner to speak so highly of his employee.

  4. Hi Nancy,
    I guess I thought it was about what it was but didn't really take in the amount of detail it involved. Plus, had not thought about having to choose appropriate fabric and having to work with so many different fabrics. It might be fun to find a copy of the book and really get a better understanding of what it means to be a carriage trimmer.
    I sew, so am very familiar with different fabrics and sewing them so I can really appreciate his talent as I would never even dream of beginning to re-upholstering a chair let alone a car or carriage.
    Thanks for stopping by. I have 4 new posts I am working on but am playing gramma this week.