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.
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.
According 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. http://news2.nnyln.net/plattsburgh-sentinel/serch.html.
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. <http://astragalpress.com/carriage_trimmers_manual.htm>.