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Miles & Edwards (London)
Miles & Edwards and Charles Hindley & Sons correspondence, 1832-1875.
Physical Description:
1 linear foot (2 boxes)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Related Content:
View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
Each letter has been pasted to a piece of card stock, occasionally obscuring an address or other notes on the verso.
The collection is open without restriction.
The firm of Miles & Edwards began operation in 1822 at 134 Oxford Street, Westminster, London. It specialized in fabric for curtains and furniture, as well as linings, fringes, cords and other fabric notions. They also sold carpets and wallpaper, made curtain rods and draperies to order, and took in furniture to be upholstered. While most of their clientele was in London, they took orders from across the British Isles. Customers in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight requested fabric samples and wrote letters with their orders. Though best known for its middle class clientele, Miles & Edwards attracted customers from the highest levels of society, such as the Duchesses of Bedford and Marlborough. Charles Hindley & Sons bought out Miles & Edwards in 1844, moving into their Oxford Street premises. Under the new management, the company continued to offer a similar line of products and services, with the addition of furniture sales. Charles Hindley & Sons operated until 1892.
The collection comprises business correspondence sent by clients to the Miles & Edwards company and its successor, Charles Hindley & Sons. The bulk of the letters date from either the 1830s-1840s or the 1870s, with a few scattered letters from the decades in between. The authors of the letters were overwhelmingly female, eighty percent being written by or on behalf of women. The unknown collector of the letters evidently chose to include them based on the importance of the author. The authors include many countesses, marchionesses, earls and barons, as well as several duchesses, a maid-of-honor to the Queen, and an archbishop. Many of the women were daughters of earls or barons who had married men of the same rank. Authors of both sexes ranked as baronets or higher, or occupied important posts in the clergy or military. Some time after the collector gathered the letters (perhaps around 1880), he or she mounted them on card stock and made handwritten notes about each of the authors. In most cases, the notes include the author's first name, parentage, and marriage names and dates. The unknown annotator seems to have been interested in exploring the family ties and social position of each of the authors. Because he or she was working many years after most of the letters were written, this interest must not have been directly linked to business concerns. The purpose of the notations is not clear, though one might speculate that the annotator was simply interested in finding out more about the firm's former clientele, or perhaps was an amateur genealogist. Because the collector separated these letters from a larger group of correspondence, they cannot be used as a comprehensive source for the business history of Miles & Edwards or Charles Hindley & Sons. However, they do contain valuable information on what sorts and quantities of fabric notable English women ordered for their households in the nineteenth century. A large proportion of the letters that specifically mention fabric types include references to chintz, showing the wide popularity of this material. Several mention particular designs such as stripes or small patterns. A noteworthy example is that of Lady Grace Gore, who requested fabric samples patterned with wild hops, strawberry leaves, lilac larkspur, and shamrocks (Box 1, folder 69). Others discuss colors such as pink, green, orange or blue. The size of the orders is often quite large: several involve quantities of 20 yards of fabric or more, while one on behalf of the Countess Robilant in Turin was for 372 yards (Box 1, folder 3).
The collection is arranged alphabetically by author's name.
Subject Terms:
Carpets -- Great Britain.
Charles Hindley & Sons (London)
Chintz -- Great Britain.
Decoration and ornament -- Great Britain.
Draperies -- Great Britain.
Furniture -- Great Britain.
Great Britain -- Social life and customs.
Interior decoration -- Great Britain.
Merchants -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
Miles & Edwards (London)
Textile fabrics -- Great Britain.
Upholstery -- Great Britain.
Charles Hindley & Sons (London)

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