Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to John Pemberton, February 15, 1724

     Robert Carter writes to Liverpool merchant John Pemberton, February 15, 1724, to complain about the last shipment of slave shoes from him because the shoemaker -- "a rank cheat " -- had marked sizes as larger than they were. He orders replacement shoes to be "the best Strong plain Carmens Shoos that You can buy for Money."

Letter from Robert Carter to John Pemberton, February 15, 1724

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Feb. 15th. 1723/4

Mr. Jno. Pemberton

Sir --

     Since the Sailing of Fowler, I have overhauld the
Shoos You sent me last Year, they prove Very ordinary the Shoomaker
hath bin a rank cheat & hath markd many of the Shoos at high sizes
When the biggest of them do not Exceed the 12s. I shall be at a mighty loss
to fitt my largest people, The Shoos You sent me the Year before
were very good & answerd their Sizes very well, I am doubtfull
Your next which I Expect are coming will be of the same Stamp wth.
these last, therefore for fear of the worst I desire You will take the
[ ... ] [firs] t Opportunity You have, to send me in Six doz. of the best Strong

-2 -

plain Carmens Shoos that You can buy for Money, one half of them
to be of the large 16s. the other of the 14s. You must not stick at price
And I would also have two doz. of large mens French Falls and
two doz. of Woms., I am in hopes I may get these Shoos by next Fall
or at farthest Early in the Winter, I would beg Yor. Sons particular
care in the buying these Shoos , that I may be well servd according to
my desire,

Yors. to Command

per Keiling


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1723 July 4-1724 June 11, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.

Robert Carter generally used a return address of "Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than "Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especially to merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity to the heading on the draft.

[1] A carman was a "man who drives a car; a carter, carrier," and Carter seems to mean here a worker who wears good, stout shoes for his job. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online )

[2] According to a variety of sources on the web including the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, French falls were a type of high buff leather boots with a wide top that was turned over forming a cuff around the leg. P.A. Bruce wrote in his Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century "The Assembly had, in 1660, adopted rules . . . Each county was instructed to erect a tan-house and to employ tanners, carriers, and shoemakers. There was appointed for each house an overseer . . . To the persons presenting hides he was required to sell plain shoes at the rate of thirty pounds [of tobacco] a pair. French falls of the largest size were to be sold to such persons at the rate of thirty-five pounds [of tobacco] a pair, whilst those of the smallest were to be sold at twenty pounds." A knowledgeable staff member at Colonial Williamsburg has emailed the editor "The main puzzlement is, that French Falls were made for men, women, and children, and for well over 100 years. No one can fathom any known style or type of footwear that fits that description with certainty, at that price range, that's not slippers. The leading UK footwear historian, June Swann, has never found a definitive answer as to what they were either. Maybe one day we'll figure it out." ("Classics of American Colonial History," ttp://; 5/1/2007; p. 482; and email, Dominic Saguto to the editor, 5/22/2007)

[3] Captain William Keiling commanded the Betty. ( Survey Report 6800, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia )

This text, originally posted in 2002, was revised February 21, 2011, to add footnotes, and to strengthen the modern language version text.