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Bill-head of Philip Margas, Merchant, Bucklersbury

This remarkably simple bill-head hides the fact that was issued from one of London's specialist shops. Philip Margas's shop was located in Bucklersbury and sold luxury items and foodstuffs. In addition to chosing a modest bill-head, Margas seems to have veered away from newspapers advertisements, yet the shop had an incredible reputation and draw, as indicated by this statement in London Chronicle, which appeared under 'News' rather than 'Classifieds':

On Monday night her Majesty, attended by the Duchess of Ancaster, was at Margas's India Warehouse in Bucklersbury, where she drank tea; and, after seeing the curiosities there, she returned through the City to her Palace
(3 February 1767)

The sale of the shop's stock in May 1769, after Philip's widow passed away, gives a tantalising impression of the opulent items for sale: 'India Pictures... lacquered Ware... tea-boards... with great Variety of curious India Goods in carved Ivory and Mother of Pearl, Tortoishell, Rice, Bronze, Copper, &c.' also 'her valuable stock of fans, fan sticks and mounts', perhaps the inspiration behind the choice for the trade card's emblem.

Philip Margas was the son of Charles Margas, a China-man (an importer and seller of porcelain), who continued his father's line of business. Horace Walpole referred to Philip in his diary as an importer of china. Philip's brother, another Charles, worked as a broker, selling porcelain from the Worcester Factory. Porcelain, with its origins in Asia, was also a luxury good. Founded in 1751 the Worcester porcelain factory became the largest and the most commerically successful in the country, having developed a superior formula to produce more resilient wares. The factory had no outlet in London and Charles Margas (the younger) was one of the men who took advantage, organising a sale on 1 March 1754 of 40,000 pieces of Worcester porcelain. As well as tea wares the factory also produced extravagant dessert dishes for the display of fruit such as this one illustrated below from the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection. The factory perfected coloured grounds to use on expensive products. Pale yellow grounds were first produced in the mid 1750s but the full range appeared in 1768, the year Margas issued this bill recording the purchase of mangos.

The bill above is signed by J. Griffiths on behalf of 'Mrs Margas'. Philip had died in June the previous year, and his widow, Catherine, continued to run the business until her death in 1769. It demonstrates that some women, although perhaps hidden behind a man's name, were important members of a business, capable of taking over completely if or when the need arose (see another page in the exhibition for further discussion of women in business during this period.

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