As owners of a small business, Anna and Laura Tirocchi were obliged to keep many kinds of records. They had employees, so they had payroll records and time books and employee address books. They purchased many things for the business, ranging from fabric and trim for the custom dresses they made, to supplies for the business (needles, letterhead, boxes, etc.), to inventory for the shop. We found boxes and boxes of records relating to these purchases–orders, invoices, correspondence, shipping papers, and ledgers to record all the transactions.

The sisters kept careful records concerning their clientele. There were customer address books, measurement books, and files of correspondence with customers. They also kept some photographs and newspaper clippings featuring their clients and, presumably, the dresses they had made for them, especially wedding party dresses. Daybooks recorded orders and transactions, which the bookkeepers later copied into customer ledgers that recorded all the purchases by client during a specific period of time.

Vendor account books recorded transactions by vendor, and inventory books recorded the stock of the shop. The Tirocchi sisters kept a great deal of vendor promotional material, including model books showing garments that could be ordered by number, and swatch books containing samples of fabric. There were also a number of business and trade cards, attesting to the variety of vendors who did business with A. & L. Tirocchi. There were also, of course, tax records, as well as customs declarations and travel receipts from the European purchases and the buying trips.

The shop’s records were kept by hand, although there was a typewriter for correspondence, customer bills, orders, etc. Record keeping was not automated as it is today, so much of the same information–about clients, for example–had to be duplicated year after year.

The records do show different handwriting, even within a short period of time. The owners themselves may have made some of the entries, but they always employed a bookkeeper to manage the record-keeping of the shop. Lydia Herbert was the longtime bookkeeper, although Laura’s son remembers that Laura herself did much to keep the business organized while Anna tended to the creative side of the shop and dealt with customers and vendors. In the last years, Laura’s daughter Beatrice took over as bookkeeper.

Madame Tirocchi probably realized that keeping up with the details of the business was not her strength and was no doubt grateful for Laura’s help in this regard. The remaining correspondence with customers and vendors, which often makes reference to details in shop records, makes clear that she did understand that the success of the shop depended on good record keeping. Even after the shop closed, Laura understood the importance of saving these records. Today, the records are an invaluable resource for understanding their business.

[ printable version ]

  The Family
  The Business
      Butler Exchange
      Move to 514 Broadway
      The Middle Years
      Last Days
  The Clients
  The Workers




You can read about of all the business records, and learn how they were used to reconstruct the history of the Tirocchi shop.