Street numbers redux

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Sep 27 14:20:57 UTC 2013

My last communication on this subject, on Aug. 9, was agreement (with
Victor) that house numbering probably arose in London around
1762--1768, with the proclamations ordering the removal of hanging
signs in the City of London and in Westminster (and the Paving Acts)
and the Postage Act.  And IIRC we had not found house numbers in the
American colonies until the time of Revolution, first in
British-occupied New York City.

I have now encountered house numbers -- or at least shop numbers --
in Boston in 1739, for shops in Dock Square leased by the town of
Boston to various tenants.  Unlike Long Wharf, where warehouses were
numbered, Dock Square was on dry land.  In 1733 a public market
building was opened there.  The notion of a controlled selling place
and time was unfavorably received, and in 1737 the market house was
demolished.  In 1742 Faneuil Hall opened in Dock Square.

My source is "A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of
Boston: Records of Boston Selectmen, 1736 to 1742" (Boston: Rockwell
and Churchill, 1886), also known as Volume 15.

In those records various town-owned shops in Dock Square are
explicitly referred to by eight different numbers between 2 and
11.  The earliest reference I saw is "At a Meeting of the Select men,
Aug. 29, 1739" (p. 196):

"Mr. Mark Trecothick, Desires to Hire of the Select men, the
Townships [sic; perhaps meant to be "Town's Shop"?] in Dock Square
No. 4. where he has been a Tenant for some time past under mr. Thomas
Boylston, Deceas'd."  [I have lowered the superscript "o" in "No."]

Many other instances of numbered shops can be found from the index,
under "Dock Square, town's shops at".


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list