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A STORE FOR THE BARRIO
Supplying St. Augustine had always been a problem for
Spanish authorities. After 1702 it was even more difficult
because the Creek Indians had overrun the provinces, cutting
off supplies of beef, corn and other foods they had produced,
while the number of "eaters" increased in St. Augustine.
Spain, which had neglected food production and manufac-
tures, could send Floorida only military equipment and wines.
Certain royal revenues from the New Spain Viceroyalty were
earmarked for the support of the presidio, but this was only
money, which must be used to buy provisions at competitive
prices. The only things the Spi'nish colonies were producing
and delivering as cheaply as the English were rum, sggar,
molasses, tobacco, cacao, and some kinds of cloth.
From the 1730s on, most of the goods sold in St. Augus;tijne
ca:;m from .her two northern neighbors of Carolina and New York.
Technically,',the trade was illegal, but the colonists on both
sides got around their governments' restrictions. Supplies
continued to change hands, by contract, contraband or capture.
In times of emergency, the most law abiding of governors
was obliged to seek out English goods first and get approval
later. The Havana Company itself, charged with provisioning
St. Augustine after 1740, found it necessary to contract with
northern traders. William Walton of New York was permitted to
continue shipments to St. Augustine during the French and Indian
War on humanitarian grounds, although the authorities suspected
with good reason that the Floridians were reselling his goods
It was a comfortable climate for contraband. True,
Governor Fernandez de Hleredia cracked down on some Cuban fish-
ermen .who smuggled a load of tobacco into Charleston, and
dishes, clothing and furniture from there to St. Augustine.
And Governor Garcfa do Solls arresLted a Frlench physician for
peddling articles out of his travel trunk on the streets of
the city. Nevertheless, no one :ser idiu.sly wished to expose tl.(
illicit but essential trade between Floridians and their regular
suppliers. Governor Moral Sanchez so favored the foreigners
that during his term they opened stores in town and drove
local shopkeepers out of business.
In wartime the flow of goods continued. The parties
involved were unwilling to interrupt their trade. And when
they did, goods continued to be exchanged through capture.
Like Charleston, St. Augustine harbored and provisioned corsairs,
and many a local boy went to sea in the crew of a French or
Spanish privateer. Their prizes were brought to the nearest
friendly port, with whatever was on board. Many a cargo of
English goods was sold at public auction on the St. Augustine
plaza to find its way into retail stores.
In spite of the Indian trouble that kept them behind the
walls of the city, and ta sandbar that would admit only launche;-;
into their harbor, the Floridians 'ond .something that they
could trade: oranges. When Charleston began to grow its own
oranges, Floridians exported lumber, pitch, tar, masts and
spars. Occasionally they sent north some dried fish, live sea
turtles, or deerskins. Or they re-exported items from Cuba,
like sugar and tobacco. Yet many of the ships that offloaded
at some risk onto Anastasia Island left the dock loaded only
with ballast--probably oystershells from the great shellmounds
early observers reported. The greatest attraction in St. Augus-
tine was the silver in its coffer: the situado.
We have more information on the amounts of goods that
entered St. Augustine in the mid-eighteenth century, and on the
carriers, than we do on the place of origin or manufacture.
And only now and then do we know what the item came in.
The provisions and supplies ordered by the presidio
were stored in the royal warehou.se--th, Caslillo, during the
eighteenth century--and doled out in th. proper quantities
and grades to the priests and friars, t.he soldiers, the widow; and
orphans of soldiers, the convicts and slaves, and the chiefs.
Alnmot a third of the citizens in town received a weekly ration
of some sort, charged against their wage-s or pension. Clothing,
footwear, and poncho.-style blankets were issued sparingly from
the same warehouse. It was thought that one uniform should
last a soldier three years.
A man with a family had to make his rations go a long
way. The expensive, imported flour, wine and oil were bartered
by the handful to Indians or other suppliers for the cheaper
local foods such as fish and oysters, corn and wild game.
(Slaves and convicts had to be fed comnunally or they would
barter their rations for rum. The Indians, too, would tradeL
garn: and garden produce for it.) Ev-,ry house in town had its
kitchen garden and fruit trees, along with a few hens and a
There was a slaughterhouse in town, supplied on a scmni-
regular basis by an Englishman who drove down cattle from
Georgia. Two Spanish ranches that had supplied the town were
destroyed by Oglet.horpe in 1740. There was some kind of public
market, probably one day a week, when Indians must have brought
their wares for sale, laid out under brightly colored awnings.
They sold pottery, cassina tea, firewood, medicinal herbs,
mats and baskets, and other things that persons confined within
town walls could not get for themselves. From time to time
the town crier announced a public auction on the plaza, but
only those with cash in hand could buy, and there was little
money in circulation. For lack of smaller coins the people
chopped silver pesos into eight pieces or reales, which the
English knew as "bits" or "pieces of eight."
One observer counted from ten to twelve stores in the
town. Another, who included taverns, said there were fifty to
fifty-five. Whether tavern or retail store, each one paid a
yearly license of 5 to 15 pesos plus an inspecttion fee of 1 peso
to the public notary, who served as inspector of weights and
Stores were of a temporary nature, it appears. Salvador
de Porras used his upstairs for a warehouse and retail store.
when he got a shipment of English merchandise. Certain English-
men kept their goods in a building outside the city walls;
others threw up sta-lls in the street. Many items never got to
a store at all, but were peddled house to house.
A shop that did not double as a tavern probably looked
most like a collection of barrels and boxes. There would be no
display windows, no counter, no advertising, nothing to wrap
parcels. Two types of things should be in evidence: 1) The
account sheets, of one-hole punched paper tied with a red linen
tape and hung from a peg. Each customer's account has it:; o:wn
small, almost daily entries. 2) Official weights and measures.
These would include an official measurilng stick to mark off
var;as of cloth, a liquid measure in the form of a copper cup,
and a balance scale with weights, cal led a roman. There should
al:o be an official price list, signed by the governor.
The goods for sale should be nearly the same as those
coming into the garrison on contract. Some supposed necessities
should be missing altogether, while some sort of incongruous
luxury item should be on hand, bought from a corsair. There
could be some empty bottles accumulating to be returned. Any
imported sweets should be sold by the piece. For fresh bread,
fresh meat or garden produce one would have to go elsewhere.
The person minding the store can read, write and do sums.
The owner of the goods keeps his identity a secret, since anyone
with the means to buy wholesale does not want to be thought of
as a common retail merchant. Shoppers are old folks or children
under the age of twelve, sent on an errand.