Shopping list from 1919

I recently came into the possession of a wonderful  little notebook.  The book was used by a shop in 1919 to record customer purchases  bought on credit.


Sample page from shop notebook recording credit purchases.

The notebook  which is an example of the wonderful penmanship, provides a list of the purchased and  cost of goods.  It also provides a glimpse into  rural life in 1919.

The main purchases were candles, matches, salt,  tea, bread, tobacco, cigarettes, snuff and pipes with occasional purchases of eggs, starch, pipes, and polish.

It’s easy to forget that people in rural Ireland  would not have had access to electricity  in 1919.  Although many  towns and parts of cities were supplied with electricity prior to Independence many people did not get electricity until the 1940s and some till the 1970’s  (Mac Philib 2011).  So its easy to see why candles were  on everyone’s shopping list.

In modern Ireland we all know the dangers of smoking tobacco, so I was surprised to see cigarettes , tobacco and snuff mentioned so often and purchased by approximately 99% of the customers.  Snuff a rarity today was especially popular and  turns up on almost every page of the notebook.  Some people purchased it along with cigarettes.  I wasnt sure exactly what snuff  was.  I remember an elderly neighbour who I used to visit as a child  taking snuff which she kept in a small tin in her apron pocket .  According to Wikipedia Snuff is a smokeless tobacco  made from ground  tobacco leaves. It is inhaled or “snuffed” into the nasal cavity and was very popular .

Reading this book also  made me realize how self-sufficient people were.  There is never a mention of  dairy products, vegetable or meat.  In rural Ireland  most people had access to milk and butter they produced themselves and they also would have grown their own vegetable.  No mention of  treats such as chocolate or coffee which I certainly couldnt live without.


Mac Philib, D. 2011. Rural Electrification. A changed Ireland.


2 comments on “Shopping list from 1919

  1. Finola says:

    Fascinating! This was still being done when I was a child in the 1950s. My mother bought groceries on credit and paid at the end of the week. Cigarettes would have featured in her order too!

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