Thursday, 28 June 2012

Thirteen to the Dozen

In a recent session of sorting pattern leaflets at Lee Mills, we found a small batch of Templeton's  leaflets which seem to have been the company's own copies - they have hand-written notes on them with dates and costings.  The dates are between 1938 and 1940.

Templeton's leaflet 602

Leaflet 602 is for a "Twin set in 'Opalsheen' knitting wool".   (Opalsheen was a mixture of wool and "art. silk" or rayon.)  It is dated 27/4/39 and the costs associated with it are listed:

Photo & Block           £5 - 15 - 6
Printing                      £8 -  0 - 0
Design (Singleton)   £6 -  6 - 0

(These are of course in pre-decimal currency, i.e. pounds, shillings and pence, when there were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence to the shilling.  So £5 - 15 - 6d is £5 + 15 shillings (75p) + 6 old pence (2½p).)

The total cost is £20 - 1 - 6d, and then there is a slightly baffling bit:   "= 20.878d per doz. of 13".   From other leaflets in the same batch, it's clear that Templeton's had leaflets printed in batches of 3000.  In that case the cost of 13 leaflets would indeed be 20.878d.  (And I'm glad I could work it out on a calculator, and not by hand, as I suppose the person who wrote the note had to.)  So I guess that if a retailer ordered a dozen leaflets, they actually got 13.  

Very odd!  I know that a baker's dozen means thirteen, and the story I heard is that long ago the penalties for selling short measure were severe, so bakers would add an extra loaf to each dozen to be on the safe side.  But it seems extraordinary to find the same practice surviving to 1940.  (But perhaps only in Scotland?)

It seems that Templeton's were not making a lot of profit on their pattern leaflets.  No. 583 ("A smart suit in "Mystic" fancy yarn", dated 22/2/39)  retailed at 3d, and it cost more than 2d to produce each one. The printing costs were especially high in that case, (£14 - 10 - 0d) because it was an 8-page leaflet.  Leaflet 602, also retailing at 3d, is only 4 pages, and the unit cost was less than 2d.  But that assumes that Templeton's could sell the entire batch of 3000, and presumably there was some profit for the retailer too. 

Templeton's leaflet 583
In fact, 3d seems very cheap by today's standards.  According to a historical inflation calculator I found here, 3d in 1939 is worth about 66p now - much less than the current price of spinners' pattern leaflets.

By the way, the company that produced these leaflets was James Templeton & Son Ltd. of Ayr.  I don't know whether there was any connection with James Templeton & Co. of Glasgow, who made carpets.  We went to a wedding two years ago at the former Templeton carpet factory - a very fancy building on Glasgow Green, modelled on the Doge's Palace in Venice.  If anyone knows of any connection between the two companies, I should be glad to know.    

1 comment:

  1. I have an acquaintance who is a descendant of the Templetons of Ayr. I can put you in touch with her - please contact me via distantsun AT gmail DOT com and I'll see what I can do.