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 purchasesorders, 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 shops 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 informationabout
clients, for examplehad 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
Lauras 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, Lauras
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
Lauras 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
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