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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cagwin & Noteware: Carson, Nevada book dealers

When is a book dealer not a book dealer? Maybe never, as long as books are offered for sale. But diversification, which vintage ephemera confirms has long been a trademark of the bookselling business, can sometimes obscure the store's bookselling identity. Still, it's interesting to see the array of goods in various locations that got bundled with books in a store's inventory. Old billheads convey a good sampling of that business history.


Examining this 1897 billhead from Cagwin & Noteware (great name!) of Carson, Nevada (Carson City, I assume), books are mentioned first in the tagline under the company's name, which makes me think of them as book dealers. And I'm assuming here that Cagwin & Noteware's core business was books and related reading and writing matter. But books quickly fade into the background as you scan across the billhead below and the impressive offering of other goods.

Newspapers, a common offering in book shops, is followed by the uncommon Cutlery and expected Stationery. Cutlery? Books and knives--why not? Carson City in 1897 was just a generation removed from the Old West.

Check out the left side of the billhead and find more unusual items for a bookseller to stock. One could find artist's materials as well as decorative goods for the ladies (no gender bias intended, we're exploring the nineteenth century) that included window shades, curtain poles and fixtures, optical goods (not sure about the decorative qualities there), mouldings, and picture frames. And not to forget the men (fishing tackle, guns, ammunition) or the kids (toys) or the students (school and blank books) or, last but not least, the musicians (music books and sheet music).

Cagwin & Noteware had everything but a velocipede-power lathe... no, wait, they had one of those, too. The Nevada Appeal (present-day newspaper) has a column, Past Pages, that reprints interesting newspaper items from Nevada's past. A column from last month included something for Cagwin & Noteware, 120 years ago: All sorts: Don't fail to examine that patent velocipede-power lathe at Cagwin & Noteware ... constructed to work wood and iron.

I was going to say Cagwin & Noteware sold everything but the kitchen sink, but I'm not so sure they didn't sell one of those at some point. As is the case today with many brick and mortar shops, a bookseller in earlier times had to diversify. Cagwin & Noteware got pretty creative with diversifying their inventory.

Though they identified themselves as book dealers first, they were smart to offer a variety of things their customers needed and equally smart to advertise it on their billheads. Some book dealers in certain areas just couldn't afford to be thought of as selling only books. But I'll bet I never run across another book dealer who also sold velocipede-power lathes!

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