1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Benjamin T. Chandler Family Records

 Merchant, of Providence, R.I.

 Records, 1793-1909. Bulk, 1798-1811.

 Size: 1.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 439

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, May 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Providence merchant Benjamin Thurber (1734-1807) was operating a dry goods store in Providence by 1766, and using a "Sign of the Bunch of Grapes" for advertising. His only child Alice (1761-1798) married Lemuel Chandler in 1781, who was then taken in as a partner in the family business.

            In 1797, Alice (now a widow) opened a new store under the "bunch of grapes" sign. When she died the following year, her father Benjamin Thurber assumed control of the business. Her young son Benjamin T. Chandler (1784-1815) also assisted in the business. In 1804, Chandler opened his own store in competition with his grandfather. Thurber retired in 1806, and Chandler inherited the "bunch of grapes" sign.

            On July 30 1807, Chandler sold his store and his stock to the new partnership of Watson & Gladding. This partnership advertised themselves under the sign of the bunch of grapes. In October, Chandler opened a new store several blocks away, used the grapes woodcut in his advertising, hung up "the old sign of the bunch of grapes." These two signs competed for at least eight months before Chandler desisted. Chandler continued in the retail business, running his last advertisement in early 1810, and recording his last business transaction in early 1811. He married Mary Tillinghast, and had a daughter Elizabeth (Chandler) Earle (1815-1858). He died in 1815 at the age of 31.

            Watson & Gladding evolved into Gladding's, one of Providence's premier department stores. It continued in operation until 1972, using the bunch of grapes as its logo. It was thought to be the longest continuous use of a trade sign in American history.


1766    Benjamin Thurber's (1734-1807) store advertises with "Sign of the Grapes."

1768    "Thurber & Cahoone" under sign of grapes.

1781    Thurber's only child Alice marries Lemuel Chandler (1758-1789)

1782    "Thurber & Chandler, late of Pomfret, Conn." at sign of grapes, "near Maj. Thayer's Tavern." (Connecticut Gazette, April 27 1782)

1784    "Thurber & Chandler" running ad in Worcester Gazette, 3/11/1784, in partnership with son-in-law Lemuel Chandler.

c1785 Chandler moves to New Hampshire.

1789    Lemuel Chandler dies, and widow Alice (Thurber) Chandler returns to Providence

1797    In June, Thurber's daughter Alice (Thurber) Chandler (1761-1798) opens for business under sign of grapes, using her own name. Settles in new location in Amos Throop' s store on North Main, across from Episcopal Church.

1798    Alice Thurber dies, and is succeeded in business by her father Benjamin Thurber, in same store, under sign of grapes. Thurber is assisted by his grandson Benjamin T. Chandler (1784-1815)

1798    Benjamin Thurber appears in the direct tax records as a tenant of Amos Throop's wharf across from church.

c1800  Benjamin Thurber moves his store to 30 Williams Street in the southern part of town.

1804    B.T. Chandler's last transaction in Benjamin Thurber's invoice book, May 2.

1804    Benjamin T. Chandler (aged 19) opens his own store in October, in competition with his grandfather. He is located at 9 Cheap Side.

1805    Benjamin Thurber, still under sign of grapes, runs last Gazette ad on September 7.

1806    Last transaction in Benjamin Thurber's invoice book, July 3

1806    On July 19, Benjamin T. Chandler moves to No. 6 Cheapside, "late the dwelling house of Ebenezer Thompson" (Providence Gazette)

1806    On November 8, Benjamin T. Chandler begins using the grapes logo and advertising the sign.

1807    Benjamin Thurber dies on April 28 

1807    On July 30, Benjamin T. Chandler sells stock, sign and store to Watson & Gladding (see journal). Watson & Gladding advertise "at the sign of the bunch of grapes."

1807    In October, Benjamin T. Chandler opens a new store at 6 Market Square in competition with Watson & Gladding. Uses grapes logo in ads and advertises "at the old sign of the grapes" through at least May 7 1808.

1807    On November 19, Benjamin T. Chandler marries Mary Tillinghast (1786-1867)

1809    On May 30, brother Lemuel Chandler (1788-1819) begins signing off on commissions.

1810    Benjamin T. Chandler runs his last ad on February 10

1811    Accounts still appearing under B.T. Chandler's name, with brother Lemuel Chandler (1788-1819)

1815    Benjamin T. Chandler dies. Widow Mary (Tillinghast) Chandler remarries to Capt. John Gladding (1777-1851) (no close relation of the Gladding department store family)

1858    Benjamin T. Chandler's only child Elizabeth A. (Chandler) Earle (1815-1858) dies.

1867    Mary (Tillinghast) (Chandler) Gladding dies, leaving one child: Benjamin C. Gladding (1825-1914).



The Bunch of Grapes 1:4 (October 15 1910)

Chandler, George. The Descendants of William and Annis Chandler, 310-312. Worcester: Hamilton Press, 1883.

Earle, Pliny. The Earle Family: Ralph Earle and his Descendants, 50, 75-77. Worcester, Hamilton Press, 1888.

The Providence Plantations, 296-297. 1886

Gladding, Henry C. The Gladding Book. Providence, 1907.

"One Hundredth Anniversary of the B.H. Gladding Dry Goods Company," October 1905

Providence Gazette, various issues, 1766-1810.

Tillinghast, Rose C. The Tillinghast Family 1560-1971, 82-83. Published by author, 1972.

Return to top

Scope and content:

            The business records of Benjamin T. Chandler comprise the bulk of this collection. They span from his earliest days as his grandfather's assistant from 1798 to 1804, to his first store that operated from 1804 to 1807, to his second store that operated from October 1807 until his apparent retirement from business in 1811. Only a portion of these business records were actually compiled under the "sign of the bunch of grapes," including the two invoice books dated 1798-1806, and the various account books under Chandler's name from November 1806 to December 1807. The account books from 1804 to 1811 are nearly complete, and give a detailed picture of Chandler's goods and customers.

            In addition to Chandler's records, this collection includes individual account books by several members of his extended family, including William Earle (1727-1804), William Earle (1808-1878), Benjamin C. Gladding (1825-1914), John Gladding (1777-1851), and Jacob B. Thurber (1797-1863).

Return to top


            These papers were all apparently collected by Benjamin C. Gladding, and descended to his granddaughter Mary T. (Gladding) Babcock (1896-1948). She donated at least six volumes in 1941, in memory of her great-grandmother Mary T. Gladding. Six months after her death, her husband Donald S. Babcock donated a collection of "Benjamin T. Chandler account books" which apparently constitute the remainder of this collection. Other papers donated by Babcock in 1948 and 1950 have been collected in the Joseph Tillinghast Family Papers (MSS 754).

Return to top

Processing note:

            These records were originally cataloged in the 1970s as the "Gladdings Department Store Records," but no finding aid was compiled They were reprocessed in 2001, and the misleading title was changed. One volume, a ledger kept by the firm of Tillinghast, Gorton & Tillinghast dated 1797-1811, was transferred to the Joseph Tillinghast Family Papers (MSS 754) at that time.

Return to top


Benjamin Thurber (1734-1807). Grandfather of BTC.

Box 1, folder 1. Invoice book, 1798-1801 (with Alice Chandler and B.T. Chandler)

Box 1, folder 2. Invoice book, 1802-1806 (with B.T. Chandler to 1804)

Benjamin T. Chandler (1784-1815).

Box 1, folder 3. Commission book, 1809-1811 (in conjunction with brother Lemuel)

Box 1, folder 4. Daybook, 1805-1806

Box 1, folder 5. Daybook, 1806

Box 1, folder 6. Daybook, 1806-1807

Box 1, folder 7. Daybook, 1807-1810

Box 1, folder 8. Invoice book, 1804-1808 (and one transaction by Lemuel Chandler, 1813)

Box 1, folder 9. Journal, 1804-1806

Oversized volume 1. Journal, 1806-1808; commission book, 1809

Box 1, folder 10. Journal, 1808-1810

                        (also unidentified ledger, 1793; Lemuel Chandler notes, 1802, 1805)

Oversized volume 2. Ledger, 1804-1808


William Earle (1727-1804) and William Earle (1808-1878). BTC's wife's grandfather; and his BTC's wife's cousin (also became BTC's son-in-law).

Oversized volume 3. Account book, 1796-1833:

            Brig Hermes accounts, 1796-1797

            Sloop Hiram accounts (one page), 1799

            Daybook (one page), 1800

            Ledger of account with mother Sally W. (Arnold) Earle, 1830-1833

Benjamin C. Gladding (1825-1914). Son of BTC's widow by second marriage.

Box 1, folder 11. Estate administration ledger and journal, 1878-1909

John Gladding (1777-1851). Second husband of BTC's widow.

Oversized volume 4. Invoice book of general store, 1825-1828

            (loose pages inserted: accounts with heirs of Joseph Tillinghast, 1830-1841)


Jacob B. Thurber (1797-1863). Possibly a cousin of BTC.

Box 1, folder 12. Ledger, 1815-1816

Box 1, folder 13. Ledger, 1816

Return to top


"Bunch of Grapes"

Chandler, Alice (Thurber) (1761-1798)

Chandler, Lemuel (1788-1819)

Earle, William (1727-1804)

Earle, William (1808-1878)

General stores - Rhode Island - Providence

Gladding, Benjamin C. (1825-1914)

Gladding, John (1777-1851)

x Gladdings Department Store Records

x Grapes

Hermes (brig)

Merchants - Rhode Island - Providence

Providence, R.I. - Commerce

x "Sign of the Bunch of Grapes"

Thurber, Benjamin (1734-1807)

Thurber, Jacob B. (1797-1863)

Tillinghast, Joseph (1734-1816)

End of finding aid - return to top