Victorian change packets: little envelopes for your small change


16 Responses to “Victorian change packets: little envelopes for your small change”

  1. Paul Renault says:

    Crowell’s in Sydney, Cape Breton, was (I think) the last department store in Canada that used pneumatic tubes to ferry the customers’ payments and change back and forth from the sales floor to the cashiers.  This system was used in a lot of department store in days long gone.

    It would make sense that these ‘change packets’ were used by the tubes’ cashiers for returning the change to the customer.

    • jimh says:

      You’re onto something.
      Remember drive up windows at banks with tubes?
      I seem to remember that cash, coins, and receipts were dispensed in little cut-away envelopes, not just in the tube by themselves.
      Yes, I am officially old.

    • sockdoll says:

      Pneumatic tubes was my first thought as well. I remember going to some department store in the Kingston, NY area several years ago, where the clerk sent a customer’s payment off to some central cashier via pneumatic tube and a short while later received the change and receipt for the purchase.

    • Timmo Warner says:

       I remember the tubes still being used when I was a kid in Sydney. I’m glad you reminded me of that.

      I seem to recall the change being in the carriers that zoomed through the tubes directly and not in packets, but it was my mother doing the purchasing and not myself so I could be wrong.

    • Geoff Hamilton says:

      And pre-pneumatic tubes, the change was passed back to the sales clerk along a system that operated a lot like a clothesline. The common thread of all this is that at department stores it was common, even as late as the 1950s, for cash to be handled at a single location (presumably for security), so some means of returning the change to the buyer had to be used. Hence the envelope.

      Remember too that more currency was coin back then; a penny was worth about a dollar at the turn of the last century, so most transactions would involve exchanges of coin.

      • Paul Renault says:

         When I was in Scotland, some 35 years ago, you could still get a glass of whisky and pay with a 50p piece.

  2. jimh says:

     It’s ironic that robots are offering sage life advice now.

  3. LogrusZed says:

    OK Boingers, what the flip is “Ivory Jelly” and “Reading Biscuit”? I tried a search and all I got for the former was buttplugs, as for the latter I got biscuits from Reading (a locale, not the product of literacy).

    I’ll accept the locale-story for the cookies, but seriously WTF is ivory jelly? I’m curious because I own both an Xbox-360 and a PS3 and therefore qualify as some sort of invalid.

    • jandrese says:

      Probably ground up elephant tusk in petroleum jelly sold as a cure for what-ails-ya. 

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      what the flip is “Ivory Jelly”

      Sounds like a Victorian euphemism for pearl jam to me.

    • Spikeles says:

      You need to qualify the search with more information. For example, instead of “Reading Biscuit”, try “Huntley and Palmers Reading Biscuit” and you would have gotten Huntley Palmers. Biscuit Makers from Reading.

      As for Ivory Jelly. Qualify that with “callards ivory jelly” and you’ll get this article. Which says Callards Ivory Jelly is “CALLARD’S IVORY JELLY for INVALIDS. This jelly is made from pulverized ivory; is rich in phosphates and bonesalts. Very delicate in flavour, cooling, refreshing, strengthening. No sick room should be without it. In half-pint jars, IS. 6d. each ; post free, IS. lobd.”>

  4. Kevin Pierce says:

    The St. Francis hotel in San Francisco washes their coins, originally to prevent the soiling of gloves, more now out of tradition: 

  5. RJ says:

    The dainty little change baggies made it easier for the fops to hand over their money when a scary plebian passed too closely on the sidewalk.

    Juvenile rats would steal the little baggies, too, into which they’d poo, set aflame and leave on neighboring rats’ doorsteps. That’s actually how the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started. The whole cow story was a cover-up because of how embarrassed Mrs. O’Leary was to have those fruity little change sacks on the property. That’s why we never heard much about it from Mr. O’Leary.

  6. milovoo says:

    I can’t help wondering if it might have developed because one did not go in person but was more likely to send one of the household staff to the grocer’s and the envelope would prevent them from getting any ideas on the way home … or, maybe I’ve just watched too much Downton Abbey.

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