John Williams Account Book "Account of Coffins"

Dublin Core


John Williams Account Book "Account of Coffins"


A list of coffins, who they are for, how much they cost, the material with which they are constructed, and if they have been paid off and how, written by John Williams.


John Williams’ list of coffins provides great insight into his work as a coffin maker and his social status, and that of others, in eighteenth-century New Castle society. By solely examining this list of work orders, it is possible to see which coffins are more elaborate and expensive than others. On the left hand side of the second picture, there are two orders for walnut coffins. While it has been noted that Pennsylvanians prefer walnut coffins, and Pennsylvania is Delaware’s neighbor, the use of walnut was also favored by the elite. The price of these walnut coffins, however, when compared to the coffins listed that do not specify a type of wood, were only several shillings more expensive. The most expensive coffins, seem to have been ordered by a John Welsh, who purchased two different coffins, for a cost of over two pounds, at two different times. The second coffin John Welsh ordered to be made specified the inclusion of “handles and letters” in the coffin’s design.

Examining the way in which the coffin orders were paid off can reveal information regarding the social status of John Williams’ customers. There are several instances where the cost of the coffin was noted as being paid “By Cash in full” and other instances where money was not used at all, rather some sort of bartering or trade system was in place, reflecting the type of people who comprised Williams’ customers. There were those who had money on hand, and those who had to pay “By 2 Bushels of...meal” for a coffin to be constructed. This sheds light on the varying socio-economic status and possible occupations of Williams’ customers, but it also allows a glimpse into Williams himself. His willingness to accept traded goods shows that he is willing to work with others in his community and is sympathetic and understanding of their situation and values the work that they do and the products they are able to yield. In other words, he does not turn away someone for not having enough money to pay for a coffin, he works with them and makes a deal to account for the cost of the coffin.


Account Book written by John Williams


John Williams Account Book, Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington, Delaware




Alexandra Rosenberg


John Williams Account Book, Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington, Delaware


John Williams Account of Coffins 1.jpg
John Williams Account of Coffins 2.jpg



Account Book written by John Williams, “John Williams Account Book "Account of Coffins",”, accessed June 24, 2019,