Jesse Patchen Account Book
The Winterthur Library has acquired an account book kept by Jesse Patchen (1746-1830), a tailor who worked during the 1770s in New Lebanon, NY. His 117-page manuscript is typical of its time and kind in that it records the names of customers, what was made or mended for them, the cost of the work, and payments; signatures indicate when accounts had been settled.
Patchen had about 80 customers, and from all appearances, he was successful at what he did. Albany County, NY, tax records, however, indicate he was not a man of wealth. In 1779, he is listed with real estate assets of 20 pounds, personal property of 18 pounds, and was taxed 7 pounds 12 shillings.
Patchen’s account book, in addition to being a fine record of the activities of a tailor, is important for another reason. It is directly related to the beginnings of the Shaker religious sect. Ann Lee founded the Shakers in Manchester, Eng., and in 1774, she and seven of her followers sailed for America in a leaky boat named Mariah. They landed in New York City and in 1776, moved to the first Shaker site, Niskeyuna, near Albany. Soon, the Shakers established their second community in New Lebanon.
Patchen lived and worked in New Lebanon a decade prior to the establishment of the Shaker community in that town. He did considerable work for at least eight people or members of families who would eventually become Shakers, including Joseph Meacham, who succeeded Ann Lee as Shaker leader, and Daniel Darrow, who donated his farmland to the Shaker community. Both Meacham and Darrow signed Patchen’s book.
Account books recording the interaction between craftspeople and Shakers are few and far between. Patchen’s comes close, as it chronicles relationships between soon to be Shakers and an important member of the New York village of New Lebanon.