[Ads-l] a suttling vessel, 1782

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat Jul 9 15:13:38 UTC 2016

On behalf of a local museum, I have been researching the boat traffic on
the Hudson river in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  The following item
has turned up.

            PUBLIC AUCTION.  At the Coffee House. .. .  The Sloop INDUSTRY,
She is about 35 tons burthen, is a fast sailor, and well calculated for the
Blue Point or river trade, or as a suttling vessel, is of a light draught
of water, and well found.  ***

            Royal Gazette, February 27, 1782, p. 3, col. ?

The OED's entry hasn't yet been swept up in the tide of revision, but its
time must be near.   The definitions all point to selling prepared food and
drink.  I take the Royal Gazette to mean by "a suttling vessel", a boat
that sails from one landing to the next on the Hudson, selling from its
cargo to the locals, and that the cargo would be unlikely to include
prepared food, but rather food-stuff and also perhaps cloth, hardware, and
crockery -- whatever the locals would want to buy.  (Did I mention rum and
brandy? -- big sellers on the Hudson, back then.)

Whether or not this passage offers a new nuance on the meaning of
"suttling", it at least offers a new compound.


suttle, verb:

*a.*  intr. To carry on the business of a sutler. Chiefly in vbl. n.

1648    H. Hexham Groot Woorden-boeck   Zoetelen, to Suttle [1678 sutle],
or to Victuall.

1707    E. Ward Wooden World Dissected 69   He [sc. a gunner] can no more
abstain from sutling on board, and running Goods a-shore, than he can
refrain from talking Bawdy in modest Company.

1757    G. Washington Writings (1889) I. 467   To prevent
irregular suttling.

1787    Ld. Nelson 29 Dec. in  Dispatches & Lett. (1845) I. 263,   I have
been obliged to punish him for suttling to the Ship's Company and making
numbers of them drunk.

1904    Athenæum 10 Sept. 339/3   Dismissed for dishonest
greed—for suttling, false musters, or turning their ships into merchantmen.

*b.* in vbl. n.  *suttling* used attrib., esp. in   *suttling-house* n. a
house where food and drink are supplied, esp. to soldiers; also  *suttling
booth*,  *suttling department*,  *suttling place*,  *suttling shop*.

1691    London Gaz. No. 2653/4   Mr. Creggs at the Suttling-House in the

1710    R. Steele & J. Addison Tatler No. 260. ⁋3   She came to him in the
Disguise of a Suttling Wench, with a Bottle of Brandy under her Arm.

1747    Gentleman's Mag. Apr. 197/1   The suttling house at the Tilt Yard,

1777    J. Howard State of Prisons (1780) iv. 110   No sutling place to be
kept in this house of correction.

1809    General J. Wilkinson Speech in Congress 19 June (1853) 2439,   I
shall make such arrangements in the sutling department as entirely to
exclude the use of ardent spirits which have been the bane of the service.

1826    W. Hone Every-day Bk. (1827) II. 111   Suttling-booths..appeared
now on the Thames.

1832    J. Campbell Mem. I. ii. 35   He..set up a suttling-shop with the

a1833    J. T. Smith Bk. for Rainy Day (1845) 265   We entered the parlour
of the ‘Canteen’, that being the sign of the suttling-house of the Palace
[Hampton Court].

Sutler, noun:

*a.* One who follows an army or lives in a garrison town and sells
provisions to the soldiers.

[with citations from 1590 to 1889]

†*b.*  gen. One who furnishes provisions. Obs.

1710    Brit. Apollo III. No. 43. 3/1   He came to a Sutlers to Dine.

c1710    C. Fiennes Diary (1888) 304   Houses for Suttlers for to provide
for the servants.

1793    Earl of Dundonald Descr. Estate Culross 55   Many of the Scots
Owners of Collieries acting as Sutlers, and supplying their workmen..with

Also: "the Blue Point trade" is likely to have meant carrying oysters.  I
see an ad in a New-York newspaper from 1758 offering land on the south
shore of Long Island "which abounds with Fowl, Fish, and Oysters" and
includes a lot called "Blue Point".  N-Y Mercury, May 15, 1758, p. 1, col. 1

Nowadays there is still a village called Blue Point on the eastern shore of
Long Island, but it seems that the oysters are likely to come from Long
Island Sound.


bluepoint, n.1

  Orig.: an Atlantic oyster,  *Crassostrea virginica*, obtained from a bed
off Blue Point (in early use chiefly attrib.). In later use: an Atlantic
oyster obtained from various locations on the Atlantic coast of the United
States, or from cultivation elsewhere.

1789   in  *Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc.* (1869) XI. 24   Judge Hobart..treated
us with Blue Point oysters from the shell.

1832    J. F. Watson *Hist. Tales N.Y.* 165   He remembered well when
abundance of the largest ‘Blue-Point’ oysters could be bought.

1868    G. Rose *Great Country* 25   [Oysters] are called by many names;
‘saddle rocks’, ‘blue points’, and ‘Shrewsburys’, being the most popular.

1909    ‘O. Henry’ *Roads of Destiny* xx. 343   He got along fine with the
olives and celery and the bluepoints.

1951    *Good Housek. Home Encycl.* 578/1   The large American Blue
Points (now cultivated in the British Isles)..are bought for cooking.

2006    *Time Out N.Y.* 28 Sept. 34/2   Plan to consume raw and
fried bluepoints, oyster stew..and pints of stout.


George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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