In searching for something special for the holiday season, I came across this poem, provided by Jim Chrismer, taken from The Aegis and Intelligencer. There was no date and the author is only listed by initials, but I thought it would be fun to share this "Christmas card" with you. Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season as you walk through 19th century Bel Air.
– Carol Deibel
Bel Air Business Directory
By W. T. S.
Ye strangers who may come to town
We're glad to see your faces,
Please notice our directory
Ere you visit business places.
For all your wants, these 'Christmas times,'
We've made provision ample,
Call round and see, (and bring your dimes,)
We're pleased to show a sample.
And when with business you've got through
Or before you have begun, sir,
You may have an inclination to
Regale the "inner man" sir.
So if your "whistle dry" should feel,
Stop on Courtland Street and wet it,
And if you want a good, square meal,
Down at Hanna's you can get it.
The Hotels on the other street
All set out tempting diet,
If you want something good to eat,
Just call around and try it.
Next yet you want a good segar,
Made of tobacco ripe sir,
Go to Archer's - that's not far:
Or will you get a pipe sir?
At his place you will also find
An assortment of hardware,
And Mr. Ames is inclined
To deal with you "snug and fair."
Your list next calls for "shoes and boots;"
At Mr. Knoller's look around
If you find nothing there that suits
There are other shops "up town."
To do your sewing all the year,
With expedition rarely seen,
Go to Robinson and Barton here,
And buy a "Weed" Machine.
Norris & Bro. have a full stock
In woolens and in cotton
If you want a watch-key or a clock
Call in next door on Watten.
Yes, Watten, he can furnish time,
So visit all the places;
Just call in at the bonnet stores
For ribbons and for laces.
And if you want an overcoat
Try Armstrong, he makes rousers,
Nolan can fit you on a vest,
And Groome will make your trousers.
If, you've not found the thing you want
Be easy, never mind it,
But quietly just wend your way
To Herman's, there you'll find it.
Find him at his old business stand
(He has to pay not rent,)
And take your greenbacks in your hand,
He'll knock off "five per cent."
You next will call on Tommy Kerr,
For butter pans and paddles,
Mr. Fulton keeps nice carriage gear,
And also makes good saddles.
If your carriage will no longer stand,
And you wish to get another
Just call around with cash in hand
On John Hanna and his brother.
And if you want to advertise
Call on Rutledge or on Baker,
Of Martin get your Christmas Pies
Down by Dean's the undertaker.
Garrison sells paint, plain or gay,
Wall paper, bright or pale,
And Mr. Spicer o'er the way
Will hand you out your mail.
Now you can read the foreign news,
Of shipwreck or of battle;
Friend Jeffrey will mend your shoes
And Joe Coale buys your cattle.
Bouldin will sell your bread or flour,
And yeast to make it rise.
Cohen or Prigg sell "seasoning"
For pudding and mince pies.
At Del Haven's shops they'll shoe your mule,
Make a horse-cart or a harrow,
And if you'd like to wheel around
They'll make you a wheel-barrow.
You now for some time have been out
Seen the stores and their possessions
Let's have a "little talk" about
Our men of the professions.
If you want a powder or a pill,
Just call in on Doctor Lee.
Or there are Doctors Hall and Will;
Take your choice of the three.
Our town dentist is expert
With forceps or with lance,
But if you don't want your feelings hurt
Keep aloof from Doctor Dance.
And if you wish advice in law
To a lawyer's office go, sir,
They're the smartest fellows ere you saw,
Tell all you wish to know, sir.
We've a little fellow here, folks say,
Is a literary dabster,
For talent he'd scarcely yield to Clay,
And he stands square up to Webster.
Another who through legal lore,
Is a live, progressive marcher;
He's no marksman of a common school,
But a "crack shot," as an Archer.
There are other members of the bar,
Whose tactics all admire
Mr. Snowden is our clergyman,
His son Thomas is the squire.
And at the M. P. parsonage
You'll find a clever preacher.
And down at the Academy
P.C. Taylor is the teacher.
If on lotteries your mind should dwell
Try Hymen's happy bands, sir;
Ned Sawyer will a "ticket" sell,
And Parson Flaney "tie your hands," sir.
You see in making rhymes we fly
From one thing to another.
Regard next verse, I'll bid "good bye"
Nor give your further bother.
So now I've given you all "a card,"
Keep your conscience clear this winter,
And leave a Christmas present for the bard,
With F.W. Baker, printer.
Editor's note: Carol Deibel, author of "Bel Air Chronicles," a history of the town of Bel Air, guesses the poem was likely published sometime in the 1870s or 1880s based on some of the names she is familiar with. In addition, she notes that the references to carriages, saddlery, mules and horse-carts pre-dates the arrival of the first automobiles in Bel Air in the early 1900s. F.W. Baker, whose name is mentioned in the final stanza, was owner, publisher and editor of The Aegis & Intelligencer – later to be shortened to The Aegis – from 1864 to 1904.
Our thanks also to The Historical Society of Harford County and its executive director, Maryanna Skowronski, for furnishing this wonderful look, in photo and verse, at a Bel Air Christmas from more than a century ago.