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Miles & Edwards and Charles Hindley & Sons correspondence

Call Number: MSS 4
Scope and Contents
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).
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired April 2005, Paul Mellon Fund.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by letter writer's name.
1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Related Names
Miles & Edwards (London)
Charles Hindley & Sons (London)
Language of Materials