BRIDE AND HER GIFTS
Trade in Duplicate Presents Is Growing Year by Year.
RICH PEOPLE SELL THEM
Interesting Incidents Related by the First Dealer.
Wife of a Millionaire Disposes of Three Costly Solid Silver Salad Bowls.
When buying a wedding gift, look well to it that you have not given that identical article to some other bride. The extent to which duplicate presents are made is something to be wondered at, but the extent to which they are got rid of would probably cause their donors to wonder still more. When the bride writes to you on delicately tinted, daintily scented paper that your gift to her was gloriously gorgeous and the thing of all things that she most longed for, don’t pat yourself on the back and compliment yourself on your rare powers of selection and excellent taste; don’t even believe a word that she says unless you have an affidavit that no other piece of silver, jewelry, bric-a-brac, or whatever it chances to be, was ever made like it anywhere in this world. For unless this is the case, before your missive reaches you your gift, which has cost you so much anxious thought, time, and maybe money, may have been exchanged or sold outright along with a dozen or more Just like it. This business of exchanging and selling duplicate wedding gifts is by no means new. It has been going on for almost a quarter of a century, but it is getting bigger and bigger every day. J. H. Johnston, who was the originator of the duplicate-wedding gift business, delights to talk about it when he can get his mind off of literature and art long enough to come down to anything so commonplace as swapping wedding presents.
“One learns a great deal about human nature in buying and exchanging wedding gifts,” he said, in response to a question, “and I see and hear many amusing things. How did I come to go in this business? Well, away back in 1876 one day an advertisement of a sale of misfit carpets caught my eyes ‘Misfit carpets,’ I said to myself, ‘misfit carpets. If misfit carpets, why not misfit wedding presents;’ and immediately I advertised that I would buy and exchange duplicate gifts. From the first the scheme took well.
“In buying and exchanging wedding presents one naturally hears very curious stories and a romance revealed in one minute might be drawn out into a volume by a skillful novelist. Brides, as a general thing, have a great deal of sentiment about their wedding gifts, even if they get a great many of one kind. They rarely sell them outright for cold cash, but prefer to exchange them. The majority bring them to us soon after this wedding, though not a few have so much sentiment that they keep them for years before they can make up their minds to part with what has been graciously bestowed on them the day of all days in their life. In the course of a day it is not uncommon to buy and exchange barrels of silver and jewelry is also exchanged.
Fee in a Divorce Case.
“A short time ago I bought thirty dozen after-dinner coffee spoons from a bride who had kept back enough to supply her needs, and only last week at newly married woman from Detroit sold us eleven fine cut-glass bowls. I once bought three solid silver tea sets from a bride who had received six, and I also bought ten solid silver salad bowls from one person. As I said, most brides prefer to exchange their gifts rather than sell them. Occasionally we get hold of wedding presents, not always duplicates, that have cost their owners a distinct sacrifice. One day I received a letter from a lawyer, a well-known man down In William street, asking me to call at his office, as he wished to see me on business. . The next day I went down, and found him at his desk. He turned immediately to two office boys and said:
“’Edward, you and James bring in that trunk from the next room.'”
The. boys returned staggering under the weight of a tremendous trunk, and, taking a key from his pocket, the lawyer opened it and began taking out piece after piece of the most magnificent silverware.
“‘Some time ago.’ he said, ‘I had a client for whom I had to get a divorce from her husband. She had no money to pay me, but gave me some of her wedding presents, and here they are. I’ve kept them a long time, thinking that she might some day redeem them, but she never will, and I want to sell them to you.’
“A great many people have an idea that only poor people and those in moderate circumstances exchange or sell their duplicate wedding presents, and, indeed, that most of the sliver sold to dealers come from people who have to sell to relieve pressing wants. The great bulk of silver and the greatest number of duplicate gifts come from the wealthiest people.
“For instance, one day a carriage drove up to the door with the swellest of swell coachmen and footmen on the box. The footman jumped down, opened the door, and two magnificently dressed women got out and came in. One of them, after looking about a bit, asked the price of a little silver clock which I had bought in Amsterdam the last time I was there. I told her $35, and she said:
“‘All right; I’ll take that.’ Going along the case, she picked out half a dozen articles, saying that she would take them, and then she said: ‘By the way, won’t you send your porter out to my carriage and have him bring in some silver that is there?”
The porter returned with three of the handsomest solid silver salad bowls I’ve ever seen anywhere, and she asked me how much I would give her for them. I told her $150, and the difference between that and the cost of the things she had just purchased was $75. I had just made a deposit in the bank and didn’t have enough cash to give her, so I asked if she’d take a check. She said of course she would, and when I asked her name to make it out, imagine my surprise when she gave me the name of a forty millionaire banker. She caught my expression and laughingly said:
“I received nine big sliver salad bowls among my wedding presents. Don’t you think that six are enough?”
My answer was, ‘I certainly do, and I don’t blame you for turning them into goods such as you desire or cash, and what applies to her applies to every other bride.”
Erasure of Gift Marks.
“Are not these duplicate gifts frequently marked with the monogram or full name of the owner?” was asked.
“Yes, but we have a process of refinishing silver so that no vestige of engraving is visible.” visible.” was the reply. “Indeed, as I said, so many brides have so much sentiment about gilts that they store rather than sell or exchange them. After a while, however, they find that the storage costs so much that they make up their minds to part with what was once so dear, and so here they come with a lot of battered or abused silverware. We give them a fair cash valuation for it, or other articles, put their goods in order, and sell them–frequently for other brides. There is an epergne there which was made to order at one of the most fashionable houses in the city. It was given to a couple on their fiftieth anniversary and cost $650. It is a magnificent piece, and when put in order you would never know it. The next time it is sold the selling price will be $150. Why the owners disposed of it I cannot say. Possibly because they didn’t want the responsibility of caring for it and were not disposed to pay storage on it.”
The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 27 November 1898: p. 30
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Duplicates, particularly in glassware and silver, were a perpetual problem for the newly-married. One invariably ended up with nine pitchers and no useful table-linen. This clerk understood the bridal frustration:
ABOUT WEDDING PRESENTS.
One Who Knows Tells Something of Their Purchase and Exchange. Practical Gifts Preferred by the Up-to-Date Bride
Duplicates and the Surprises That Bob Up When Mistakes Are Remedied.
“It would be a good thing if somebody would inaugurate the bridal fad of sending along with wedding invitations a printed list of articles most acceptable in the gift line. People somehow seem to imagine that only the gew-gaws of life appeal to a newly-wedded pair, and they make a mighty big mistake. The purchasers of a rare piece of Dresden would probably be as insulted as surprised if they could see it handed back a few days after the honeymoon in exchange for a novelty in coffee pots or a substantial whisk broom and holder.
This is what a salesman in a well-known bric-a-brac establishment said the other day after just completing an “exchange” with an interesting young couple who were lamenting together over half a dozen duplicates in Bohemian glass.
“Now that pair,” he continued, as they left the store, “must have sent out their wedding invitations just about the time we were having a bargain run on flower vases. There was, I remember, quite a rush for them at the time, for people are just snobbish enough to want to have our stamp on a box, no matter how trivial the article it contains.
“Those Bohemian glass vases were snatched up right and left. Six of them have found their way into the possession of that couple. They wanted to know how many of them they could exchange. The girl said, quite candidly, that they would never have enough flowers to fill half of the vases, and as for ornaments bouquet holders minus blooms were about as superfluous as bonbon baskets without any sweets.
“Oh yes, we have some funny experiences in bridal present exchanges. It’s amusing at times to see how surprised a customer is when she finds she can’t exchange her ten-dollar knickknack for some article that runs up into the fifties.
“If two women are together when they discover the price of some gift which they have very much over-estimated they draw off and begin a whispered, “Well, did you ever? I never would have believed he could have been so mean.’ “Twelve dollars and a half, and he’s able to pay a hundred. I shan’t forget it.’ And so on.
“The other day a progressive young woman brought in an article that had been purchased here, something I believe in silver and glass for the dressing table, and wanted to exchange it for a sterling silver corkscrew.
“Nine times out of ten an exchange supplements something practical for a purely decorative affair. People don’t buy wedding presents with much discretion. I could give them points. I know, for experience with duplicates and exchanges has taught me not a little wisdom in that line. But they want to make a lot of show for their money or they want something altogether unique and between the struggle for quantity and a desire for originality, the practical, acceptable things in stock are entirely overlooked until the recipient of so much decorative riff-raff comes in and effects an exchange for something more necessary to every-day living.”
Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 8 June 1895: p. 11
For other posts on the subject, such as some gift-exchange contretemps, how quiet weddings are a blunder if one wishes a well-laden gift table, and wedding gifts as a source of worry for the conscientious guest. As for the wedding gifts received by then-Princess Elizabeth, in the photo at the head of the post, one imagines that the bride did not worry about receiving duplicate diamond tiaras.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.