An image of the Campbell Carriage Factory’s earliest ledger, on the theme, Deciphering the Records: Debits & Credits.

A number of different types of business record still exist for the Campbell Carriage Factory. By sampling different types of record, from the very earliest to the last, we can learn a great deal about how this factory – a rather typical carriage factory --operated over its 100 year span.

Leslie Van Patter
Paul Bogaard, Adèle Hempel
19-20th Century
2005.15.2109
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


We have learned to decipher the past of the carriage factory by looking at the building and its layout, thinking about its context, listening to what the artifacts left behind have to tell us – machines and handtools, templates and partially completed pieces, everything from the lineshaft to paint cans. We also listen to what the written records have to tell us.

In the case of the Campbell Carriage Factory there are genealogical records about the family and employees, old local newspaper accounts, as well as remnants of catalogs, shipping tags and painting manuals. We also have some of their business records. The newspaper articles are probably the easiest to decipher… in the sense of understanding what they can convey to us, but they are short and only give us a snapshot.

The business records are the most difficult to decipher but have the potential of telling us a great deal! Only the ledgers can provide detailed evidence of how things unfolded over time... a story which stretches out over 100 years.
We have learned to decipher the past of the carriage factory by looking at the building and its layout, thinking about its context, listening to what the artifacts left behind have to tell us – machines and handtools, templates and partially completed pieces, everything from the lineshaft to paint cans. We also listen to what the written records have to tell us.

In the case of the Campbell Carriage Factory there are genealogical records about the family and employees, old local newspaper accounts, as well as remnants of catalogs, shipping tags and painting manuals. We also have some of their business records. The newspaper articles are probably the easiest to decipher… in the sense of understanding what they can convey to us, but they are short and only give us a snapshot.

The business records are the most difficult to decipher but have the potential of telling us a great deal! Only the ledgers can provide detailed evidence of how things unfolded over time... a story which stretches out over 100 years.

© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.

This image captures the account of the Campbell’s Carriage Factory published in a local newspaper in June, 1870.

This is the earliest newspaper story to appear about Campbell’s Carriage Factory, re-created from a period when we have almost no other records. We learn a lot in this rather short account, but it provides only the tip of an iceberg! Almost every item of information raises more questions than this abbreviated account can answer.

Leslie Van Patter
Paul Bogaard, Adèle Hempel, Michael Doan
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


We have different kinds of business records from which we can decipher different kinds of stories. Over the decades the Campbell's purchased many bound "ledgers" into which they could record their business transactions, but there were different ways in which these could be organized. We have examples of "daybooks" and "account books" (both of which recorded the same transactions in different ways) as well as notebooks and ledgers summarizing their various businesses. As a result, we have different kinds of business records from which we can tell different stories, if we learn to “hear” what they are saying. We will look at five examples:

Ledger “A” : 1853-1861 We think this ledger records the very earliest transactions, and lists each transaction as they happened, indicating whether it represents a “debit” [the customer owes CCF for this item] or as “credit” [CCF owes someone else]. Ledgers organized in this way were usually called a “Day Book” or “Journal” and provided a running account of what took place. Selling pr Read More
We have different kinds of business records from which we can decipher different kinds of stories. Over the decades the Campbell's purchased many bound "ledgers" into which they could record their business transactions, but there were different ways in which these could be organized. We have examples of "daybooks" and "account books" (both of which recorded the same transactions in different ways) as well as notebooks and ledgers summarizing their various businesses. As a result, we have different kinds of business records from which we can tell different stories, if we learn to “hear” what they are saying. We will look at five examples:

Ledger “A” : 1853-1861 We think this ledger records the very earliest transactions, and lists each transaction as they happened, indicating whether it represents a “debit” [the customer owes CCF for this item] or as “credit” [CCF owes someone else]. Ledgers organized in this way were usually called a “Day Book” or “Journal” and provided a running account of what took place. Selling products, making repairs, providing a service were each recorded in the amount of “debt” someone owed CCF. It was recorded that way, because only rarely did anyone actually pay, at the time, for whatever they purchased (as we do, today). Also recorded, at whatever point each occurred, are the “credits” someone has gained by paying some amount down, or the amount of credit given for a bushel of potatoes the customer provided instead of cash, the hours or days of labour someone provided, or the materials the Factory is purchasing from someone else. Boards and shingles to repair the building, iron for the blacksmith, renting someone else’s horses to mount a funeral, are all recorded as “credits.” Over time, each customer builds up both debits and credits, and to keep track of where each one stands, these transactions are all (laboriously!) transcribed into a separate book: a ledger organized to record the accumulative “account” for each separate customer – an account book.

Ledger “C”: 1886-1920 This book presents the “accounts” as they accumulated over more than 30 years, one account for each customer. Accounts were added to this ledger as new customers came along, so they are not listed alphabetically. A slip-in index had to be provided, just to find where a customer’s account was located in over 800 pages!

The main use of these accounts was to match accumulated debits against accumulated credits, and see where things stood. A business might hope that customers would “settled up their accounts” from time to time, but we can see that some of these accounts were carried along for years and years.

(We assume there was an “account book” into which were transferred the journal entries from “A”, but it has not been found. Similarly, we assume there was a daybook or journal from which the accounts were recorded in “C”, but that ledger is also lost. And we are missing completely, records from 1862-1885.)

Owner’s Notebooks: 1897-1929 For a number of years overlapping ledger “C” the owner kept a small “notebook” with him. In it he kept a tally of just how many vehicles had been sold (to whom and for how much), how many vehicles on runners was tallied separately, and a third list is of customers for whom substantial repairs were made on their carriage (or wagon, or sleigh) and had been re-painted. Finally there were running lists of those for whom they had provided a funeral. Contained in a stack of about 8 notebooks (each bound in red leather) are these annual summaries covering more than 30 years.  These may be unique in all of Canada.

Last Ledgers: 1940s-1951 We also have a number of ledgers and daybooks from the last decades of the CCF business, and we will provide examples from two of these. One of these is organized as a “daybook” with each item added as it came along. It shows the kind of sales and repairs still being carried out into the mid-1940s. The very last ledger is also organized chronologically, but at this point business was so slow there seems to have been no effort to transcribe these records into a separate “account book”, and the ledger is used to record transactions at the carriage factory and also at the Campbell’s farm and other business affairs. This ledger records the very last transaction associated with the carriage factory in March of 1951.

© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.

An animation based on the first Daybook kept by the Campbells covering 1853 to 1862, allowing one to zoom in on chosen items.

In the earliest records from the Campbell Carriage Factory we already find carriages, wagons, carts and pungs being sold and repaired … plus, on these two pages, a loom, repairing a spool wheel, and a shoe bench. In return, they sometimes received cash, but as often it was paid by labour or other goods in trade. It suggests an economy still based on bartering. There's even credit for 20 bushels of potatoes!

An animation presenting the first Daybook kept by the Campbells covering 1853 to 1862. Opened to the first two pages, there are two items flashing. When chosen, the first of these zooms in on the earliest record of a carriage being sold, and transcribes the item:
“August 12, 1853 James Anderson is "debited" 15 pounds sterling for one new carriage.”
When choosing the second flashing item, one zooms in two listings:
“Oliver Wood is credited with 19 days of work, worth 7 pounds 12 shillings, but has to pay each day for putting his horse out in the Campbells’ pasture.”

Tantramar Interactive Inc.
Leslie Van Patter, Paul Bogaard
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


An animation based on Account Book “C” with accounts from the 1880s to the 1920s.  One can zoom in on one of these.

This ledger was organized by individual accounts, listing the credits and debits accumulated by each customer over many years. This page is identified as the on-going accounts of Wm. C. Milner, one of the Campbell’s better customers. We can see debits for repairs to a carriage, a child’s carriage, a sleigh, and even a Surrey, as well as various kinds of farm equipment. He also purchases a fancy new carriage. And on the right-hand side, we see that from time to time Milner makes partial payments by cheque or cash.

An animation presenting Account Book “C” with individual accounts from the 1880s to the 1920s. Opened to the account of Wm C. Milner there are items flashing. When chosen, one zooms in on these listings:
“ June 8, 1897 Milner is debited $120 for a new "Phaeton". In July he adds “mud fenders,” and two year's later he is being charged interest. (In 1904 the Phaeton is back in for repairs.)”

Tantramar Interactive Inc.
Leslie Van Patter, Paul Bogaard
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


An animation based on Notebooks kept by the Campbells from the 1890s to the 1920s, with samples from 1911 presented.

Each year from the late 1890s to the late 1920s George Campbell, and thereafter one of his sons, kept a tally of vehicles from the factory. One list was of all new vehicles on wheels, another page listed new pungs (including anything on runners) -- the pages shown, here -- and they also recorded how many had been repaired and painted. In 1911 that latter list ran to 78. The number repaired, in other words, was roughly equal to the total of new vehicles (with wheels + with runners) and that proportion remained fairly constant for decades.

An animation based on the Notebooks kept by the Campbells from the late 1890s to the 1920s. Pages from 1911 are presented with two highlighted. When the first is chosen, one zooms in on the page and this explanation is provided:
“New vehicles for 1911 totaled 48, including different sizes of "truck" (a farm wagon) and carriages with three types of body on three different choices of undercarriage.”
When the second is chosen, the zoom in provides this explanation:
“New pungs totaled 25, some with "Piano" bodies, some with "Corning," and at least one with double seats.”

Tantramar Interactive Inc.
Leslie Van Patter, Paul Bogaard
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


An animation based upon the last Daybook kept by the Campbells, with listings to 1945.  An item from 1944 is presented.

These two pages from the last Daybook list repairs to sleds, carriages, pungs… and many examples of the funeral business to which the Campbell’s had turned as their main enterprise. It also captures the very last pung ever made and sold.

An animation based upon the last Daybook kept by the Campbells, with listings to 1945. Two pages from 1944 are presented, with one flashing item, recording the last pung ever sold from this Carriage Factory. When chosen, one zooms in on the listing with this transcription:
“January 1, 1944, Carl McLeod is debited $95.00 for a new pung (with other marks indicating this transaction was transferred to another account book).”

Tantramar Interactive Inc.
Leslie Van Patter, Paul Bogaard
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


This image shows the McLeod pung, just as it was received by the family who donated it back to the Factory, now a Museum.

Having kept their pung carefully stored away for more than 60 years, the McLeod family decided the right thing to do would be to give it back to the Factory where it was made... now a museum. The Museum has yet to do any restoration on this pung, but already has plans for where it will be placed on display, because -- as the very last pung made and sold after 100 years -- it is now one of their proudest possessions!

Paul Bogaard
Leslie Van Patter, Adèle Hempel
c. 1945
2006.39.10
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


An animation based on the last Ledger kept by the Campbells, focusing on the last wages paid to George Rogers.

In the last years of the carriage factory the Campbell’s kept this “ledger” which included transactions at the carriage factory (listed as the “shop”) as well as from their farm and other “general” transactions. Notice the “cash” and “ledger” headings which indicate they were by this point using a double-entry system of accounting. The ledgers of the CCF record the employment of George Rogers from when he began as a teenage apprentice, to these -- the very last wages he drew -- 66 years later! The books were finally closed on the Factory three years later.

An animation based on the last Ledger kept by the Campbells, recording various business transactions including the last records from the Carriage Factory. On the page presented, from early 1948, there are only wages recorded for the “Shop,” including two flashing items. When chosen, one zooms in on these lisings, with this transcription:
“January 9 & 15, 1948 George Rogers is paid $9.00 & $13.00 for his last few days of work. (Jas. O'Neal is also shown, earning $20.00 a week.)”

Tantramar Interactive Inc.
Leslie Van Patter, Paul Bogaard
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The “Ledgers Talk” Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

• Learn about the process of historical research working on complex documents;

• Explore the wide variety of records we rely upon to provide historical accounts;

• Establish the differences between relying upon different kinds of historical documentation;

• Learn about the various forms of business record keeping;

• Learn about early systems of debit & credit, and the complications of even single-entry bookkeeping;

• Identify, research, and describe the shift from Canadian currency based upon pounds sterling to that based on the dollar;

• Demonstrate an understanding of how one can graph data drawn from historical records;

• Discuss and analyze how one can create an interesting account from historical evidence that is never complete.

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