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How to trick a fishmonger
and other slick tales

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By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.

Samuel Moses--Samuel, Jr.--Fish story--Shaving--Theodore Moses.

DR. JOSEPH MOSES, the subject of our last ramble, had a son Samuel, a barber, whose shop was located near the theatre, opposite Robinson's store on Bow street, where the blacksmith shop now stands. He was a most excellent man. Although possessing no small share of his father's wit, he chose rather to do those things which led to the spiritual good of his fellow men, than to make sport at the expense of others. He was industrious--and after discharging his duties in his shop in the forenoon, would in the afternoon whirl the spinning wheel--and do his part in supplying the lack then felt of more extensive factories.

Among his sons was one who bore his name and followed his profession--his oldest son, probably. As we pass from Congress into Fleet street, on one of the pave stones a little south of the carriage shop, is deeply cut, S. M. `1801." Although the wear of nearly sixty years by the constant passers-by has been upon it, yet it still stands distinct--a memento of one who was determined to perpetuate his name--although perhaps not one in a thousand of those who have aided in smoothing that stone, have known whose initials were there chiseled. They were those of this Samuel Moses, 2d--whose residence was in a house near where that stone is placed.

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Shaved Fish: Two Barbershop Tales

That Samuel was a man of small stature, and in purity of life did not walk so much in the footsteps of his father as in those of his grandfather. Among the stories related of him was the device for raising a treat. One morning the change was short, and the means for a treat with a friend did not appear at hand. There was hanging in the shop a fresh cod fish for dinner. He told his companion to retire, and to return after he saw the next person enter, and to call it a cusk. Mr. Hill soon coming in to get shaved, remarked to Mr. Moses, "this is a fine cod." "Cod--cod! why sir, that is a cusk." "No, it's certainly a cod." "A bottle of spirit on it," said Mr. Moses, "and we will leave it to the first man who comes in." "Agreed," said Mr. Hill, confident in his correctness. Now enters the companion, as though it was his first appearance, wishing them good morning. "What fish is this?" asked Mr. Moses. "This is a cusk--and capital eating it is too." The treat was paid by Mr. Hill, and the joke as well as the spirit was enjoyed by the confederates.

At another time a stranger applied to be shaved. He asked the price. "Four coppers," was the reply. "I won't give but three." "Well give me three and sit down." The work was speedily dispatched, but the stranger on looking in the glass found that just one-half of his beard on one side, had not been touched. On remonstrating, Moses said that he had taken off just three coppers' worth and would for another copper finish the job. The copper was paid, and the work completed.

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Stolen Needles

Samuel Moses Jr.'s shop was on the lot directly south of Mrs. Alexander Ladd's residence. On the opposite side of the street, where the Messrs. Sise's crockery ware store now is, was also an eccentric man, Mr. John Allcock, who dealt in hardware, groceries, provisions, hats, etc., as his father had on the same spot many years before him. It was John who endeavored to make a speedy sale of chalk on hand, by announcing that it would soon become scarce, as the chalk-maker in England was dead. One day as he was in his counting-room, looking in a glass which reflected the position of his customers at the counter, he saw a young lady whom he left selecting needles, put several of them slyly in her mouth. After receiving pay for the few she exhibited, he suddenly clapped both hands against her cheeks, saying he liked to pat a pretty girl, bringing the points of the needles to the surface of the skin! It was a rash act, but was doubtless effectual in curing the girl of petty shop-lifting.

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Letter from A 1700s "Portsmouth Boy"

Theodore Moses, a brother of Samuel 2d, and grandson of Dr. Moses, is now living in Exeter, in his ninety-third year, and in the full possession of his faculties. He was the oldest "Son of Portsmouth" who returned to the gathering of July 4, 1853. He recently addressed to the Portsmouth Journal a letter, which shows he yet feels a deep interest in Portsmouth.*

*EXETER, Nov. 8, 1858.
Mr. Brewster,--Dear Sir:

I have read many of the "Rambles" in your papers, some of which have occurred since 1770 to 1779. You refer to the South School House over the lower mill-dam, where I first went to school to Capt. Osborn. They were then building a new school house lower down,--then he moved his school to his own house [No.19 South street,] a short distance below the new school house. When the school-house was finished, he moved his school there. Mr. Osborn was very excitable. One day he stayed in school and wrote a list of rules, and pasted them up in the room, which had a good effect upon the scholars. He kept school till the Revolutionary war broke out, then he went out in an armed ship with Capt. Thompson, Lieut. Shores, and Lieut. Manning. 'Twas said they discovered a ship in sight in their cruise, held a counsel and concluded not to put away for her,--and they made a song about it in Portsmouth. The school was next taken by a Mr. Holbrook.

You speak of Mr. Clarkson in your "Rambles," who lived down further south. I met him one warm day coming home from school, on Pleasant street, with his hat in his hand--he was quite a large man. Capt. Thomas Pickering, who went in the ship Hampden, I saw frequently at Mr. Tilton's Tavern. Some of the Portsmouth boys went out with him, and he was killed in an engagement. The ship came in under the command of Captain Mead, and anchored in the lower harbor. Capt. Mead came up to town in a barge. I and some other boys asked liberty of him to go down to the ship, and he let us go. When we came up she fired minute guns. The colors were half mast high.

I left my native town the first day of September, 1779. I lived eight years in New Market, then came to Exeter, lived in Exeter and New Market two years longer. Made bricks eighteen years in the summer and hats in the fall, winter and spring. Went into trade in December, 1811, came out 1847. I have lived sixty-six years in one house, on Back street near the Railroad crossing. From a Portsmouth boy in his ninety-third year.

Your humble servant,

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
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