🔎 UNIDENTIFIED Very Old Cloth Bale Seal, Hoping to ID the Merchant and Markings

paleomaxx

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I just found this at an early site of mine today. It's definitely a cloth bale seal, but I was surprised to see that it was made of pewter as opposed to lead. It's also fairly large, over 1" across, which seems to be bigger the similar seals from the 1700's. Fortunately it also has very clear lettering:

PXL_20220408_180845541.jpg


PXL_20220408_180858687.jpg


I think the top line is "-ersey" but I can't make out the first letter. The second line looks to be 29 1/2 Yds referring to the length of the material. The bottom line is a mystery though. It seems to say "No. I 9 7".

Has anyone found a similar seal in the United States? The site I found it at has buttons going back to the 1750's but none after 1790 so this is almost certainly from the same time frame. It's an awesome looking piece though so I'm hoping I can get some solid background on it!
 

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Jersey Island maybe? (I agree with all your other points made)
As a guess No.197 could be the cloth pattern type.
 
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Red-Coat

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Nice find.

I don’t think the first word is “JERSEY”. I would be pretty sure it says “KERSEY”, which was a particular kind of coarse inexpensive cloth made from long wool. It’s often seen on seals from the 1660s to 1680s but potentially later too. Sometimes it’s written as “CARSEY” or “CARSAY”, especially on the earlier seals. One contemporary document notes that “Some have supposed it to denote coarse say, but more probably it derives its name from the village of Kersey, co. Suffolk.” Kersies were widely produced in England, notably in Devon, Hampshire and Yorkshire but elsewhere too.

It will be tough to track down whose seal it is and there may be more clues in the unreadable part on the other side. They usually carry numbers which relate to any or all combinations of width, length and weight of the cloth in the bale and there were numerous standardisations at various points in time. The purpose of the seal was to certify that an “alnager” authorised by the Crown had inspected the cloth, determined that it was of adequate quality, met whatever standardisation applied to it, and had collected the duty payable on behalf of the Crown. For a long time, there was a standard duty of fourpence per cloth (with variations according to things like whether the cloth was dyed, and even what colour it was) plus a fee to the alnager of a halfpenny. That might be what the “1/2” relates to, or it might be part of the dimensions for the cloth. By the beginning of the 18th Century, alnage rates were more usually set according to the market value of the cloth, governed by length.

I thought at first that the second line might begin with the abbreviation for “Yards”, but it appears the last character is a “3” not an “S”:

Alnage.jpg

There was for a while a standard for “long white” cloth, requiring it to be between 29-32 yards long (and weigh at least 80 pounds) so the “29” might relate to that. Kersies were most usually made as “narrow cloth” (as opposed to “broad cloth”), for which there was generally a maximum width of 29 inches, so that’s a possibility too. I’m no expert here, but someone who knows what they’re talking about might be able to determine what the numbers here actually mean and attribute the seal more precisely.
 
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Interesting. I think I can now see the shadow of the K at the start, so that's sorted it.
Although 100% sure its Y D over dot S. Its one of those S's with a bar on each end.

I agree with the right expert this could be nailed down a bit more.
 
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paleomaxx

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Nice find.

I don’t think the first word is “JERSEY”. I would be pretty sure it says “KERSEY”, which was a particular kind of coarse inexpensive cloth made from long wool. It’s often seen on seals from the 1660s to 1680s but potentially later too. Sometimes it’s written as “CARSEY” or “CARSAY”, especially on the earlier seals. One contemporary document notes that “Some have supposed it to denote coarse say, but more probably it derives its name from the village of Kersey, co. Suffolk.” Kersies were widely produced in England, notably in Devon, Hampshire and Yorkshire but elsewhere too.

It will be tough to track down whose seal it is and there may be more clues in the unreadable part on the other side. They usually carry numbers which relate to any or all combinations of width, length and weight of the cloth in the bale and there were numerous standardisations at various points in time. The purpose of the seal was to certify that an “alnager” authorised by the Crown had inspected the cloth, determined that it was of adequate quality, met whatever standardisation applied to it, and had collected the duty payable on behalf of the Crown. For a long time, there was a standard duty of fourpence per cloth (with variations according to things like whether the cloth was dyed, and even what colour it was) plus a fee to the alnager of a halfpenny. That might be what the “1/2” relates to, or it might be part of the dimensions for the cloth. By the beginning of the 18th Century, alnage rates were more usually set according to the market value of the cloth, governed by length.

I thought at first that the second line might begin with the abbreviation for “Yards”, but it appears the last character is a “3” not an “S”:

View attachment 2019941

There was for a while a standard for “long white” cloth, requiring it to be between 29-32 yards long (and weigh at least 80 pounds) so the “29” might relate to that. Kersies were most usually made as “narrow cloth” (as opposed to “broad cloth”), for which there was generally a maximum width of 29 inches, so that’s a possibility too. I’m no expert here, but someone who knows what they’re talking about might be able to determine what the numbers here actually mean and attribute the seal more precisely.
Thank you for the fantastic information! I looked at the back under magnification and there doesn't appear to have been any letting, just a few contemporary scratches. The fact that it was pewter threw me a bit; are there other pewter examples?

Also I would love to see some of the other examples with Kersey from the 1660-1680 period to compare it to. Are there any database sites with photos that you know of?
 
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paleomaxx

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Interesting. I think I can now see the shadow of the K at the start, so that's sorted it.
Although 100% sure its Y D over dot S. Its one of those S's with a bar on each end.

I agree with the right expert this could be nailed down a bit more.
Thank you for the great info as well! Have you posted any you've found over the years? I would love to see other examples for comparison as well.
 
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Red-Coat

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Thank you for the fantastic information! I looked at the back under magnification and there doesn't appear to have been any letting, just a few contemporary scratches. The fact that it was pewter threw me a bit; are there other pewter examples?

Also I would love to see some of the other examples with Kersey from the 1660-1680 period to compare it to. Are there any database sites with photos that you know of?

You're welcome.

This may be a ‘dynamic’ link that doesn’t work properly or lead to the correct page:

http://www.bagseals.org/gallery/mai...riteria]=kersey&g2_form[useDefaultSettings]=1


if it doesn’t work, use the link below and type the word ‘kersey’ in the search box at the top right:

http://www.bagseals.org/


You'll find other random examples by simple Googling.
 
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Thank you for the great info as well! Have you posted any you've found over the years? I would love to see other examples for comparison as well.
We find them quite often but there are thousands of types & yes some are more pewter looking than lead but they are all lead-alloy, it just varies in its mix.
Not had a Kersey one & not very many as clear as yours.
 
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