Street View: 9 Suppl.
Address: 371 Strand
London as it is today: where to go and what to see during the Great Exhibition (1851) described all there was to see in London for “the visitors to the metropolis in this eventful year” and one of the attractions described and depicted was Exeter Hall in the Strand. For this blog post, we are very pleased to see that the neighbouring tailor’s shop of Edward Cahan at 371 Strand made it into the illustration, as it is always a good thing to have corroboration of Tallis’s information. Although there are a few differences, the overall picture of Cahan’s property is much the same in the elevation shown in Tallis (top of this post) and in the illustration for London as it is today, especially the large glass shop window in three sections can clearly be seen in both pictures.
Edward Cahan had only had his shop in the Strand for a few years before the book on London as a tourist attraction was published, as in the last quarter of 1838, when his daughter was born, he was still registered in the Bloomsbury district. In January 1837, Cahan testified in a case of theft from his shop that he was ‘a tailor, and live[d] in Little King Street’.(1) In April 1835, he had enrolled in one of the lodges of the Freemasons and was then recorded as living in Upper King Street. More moves followed as Pigot’s Directory of 1839 saw him at 3 Little Queen Street, Holborn, and the 1841 census and the 1843 Post Office Directory found him at 389 Strand. But then, in the 1845 Post Office Directory, he is listed at 371 Strand where Tallis’s 1847 Street View Supplement found him.
In January 1846, Cahan had registered a design for ‘The Omnium’ coat or cape. It was something of a hybrid affair that could be worn with the arms inside or out. Cahan seems to have been a bit of a clothing designer as in 1851 he marketed his ‘Anaxyridian trousers’, apparently meant to be worn when riding a horse, in which posture it was to “remain as a fixture to the heel without straps, produc[ing] a handsome fall over the instep’(2), or, as The Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue to the Great Exhibition phrased it, “the peculiarity consist in the cut, which is so arranged that they remain a fixture to the heel without straps; and dispense with braces”. Well, if that is not useful, what is?
If all this suggests that Edward Cahan was doing rather well for himself, you would be mistaken, as in May 1848 he was ordered to surrender his effects to the Commissioners of the Court of Bankruptcy.(3) He somehow got himself out of that mess and dividends were paid to his creditors from December 1848 onwards.(4) But, in 1854, he, and his partner James Vicat the younger, were in trouble again.(5) No more is heard of the financial problems for a while, but in 1858, Edward, “late of no. 371 Strand”, is residing in the Debtor’s Prison. He is described as formerly of no. 371 Strand, residing at no. 15 York Street, Covent Garden, then at 9 Wellington Street, Strand, and then of 24 Leicester Square, part of the time letting lodgings.(6) Once again, he manages to stave off his creditors, but in 1861, things go wrong yet again and he is ordered to surrender himself to the Bankruptcy Court. He is then described as of 371 Strand and 2 Golden Square, tailor and dealer in jewellery.(7)
The 1861 bankruptcy notice in The London Gazette was the last mention of Edward Cahan that I found; he seemed to have disappeared into thin air. His eldest son Nicholas can be found at various addresses in the subsequent censuses until his death in 1922, but Edward is gone. There is, however, more to be told about his origins. The 1841 census is not very informative about people’s origins, it just lists a Yes or No for the question whether one was born in the county and if not, whether in Scotland, Ireland or abroad. The children of Edward and his wife Esther were all given a ‘Yes’, so born in London (their eldest son Nicholas was missing from the 1841 census), but Edward and Esther had a hard-to-interpret squiggle in the space for non-Londoner. The 1851 census fortunately gives more detail. The family is then living at 15 York Street and Edward is listed as born in Poland (place name looks like Sloncia) and Esther and Nicholas in Riga, Russia. Riga, on the Baltic Sea coast, is now the capital of Latvia, but in the 19th century, Latvia was part of Russia.
In 1852, despite the bankruptcy threats, Cahan petitioned for naturalisation and from the documents, we learn that what appeared as Sloncia in the census was in fact Slonem, now usually spelled Slonim, in the province of Grodna, now in Belarus, but then – as Cahan described it – “in that part of Poland now subject to the Emperor of Russia”. He asked for naturalisation as he has been in England for 18 years and had always worked and paid his taxes, and might in the future be investing his property in land. As an “alien” he cannot buy freehold, so he would like to become a British citizen. He is assisted by four people who confirm that he is who he says he is and that they believe that he is “a respectable and loyal person”: Thomas Robertson of 17 Holles Street, tailor, Edward Allport of 2 Dalston Lane, trimming warehouseman, Robert Mason of 8 Mason’s Row Dalston, gentleman, and James Vicat of 15 Gresham Street, woollen manufacturer. The latter no doubt related to Cahan’s partner in the 1854 bankruptcy case.(8)
Slonim and Grodno had a large Jewish population and judging by Edward’s last name and the first names of his wife – Esther – and daughters – Polina Yetta and Rachel, coupled with the fact that I cannot find any baptism or burial records in parish records, might suggest that the family was of Jewish origin, although they may no longer have been actively practising their faith. The membership list of the Freemasons’ Lodge of Joppa to which he belonged also showed a lot of Jewish names.(9) I am afraid that the Cahan trail runs cold after the 1861 bankruptcy notice, and I will have to leave it at this. If anyone has access to Jewish records and can find the Cahans, I would certainly be interested in hearing the results. Please leave a comment if you can add to this post.
(1) Old Bailey case t1837010-535.
(2) The Daily News, 3 February 1851.
(3) The London Gazette, 9 May 1848.
(4) The London Gazette, 19 December 1848.
(5) The London Gazette, 10 October 1854.
(6) The London Gazette, 19 and 22 October 1858.
(7) The London Gazette, 17 December 1861.
(8) National Archives, Kew, Naturalisation Papers, Certificate 1351 issued 28 February 1852, HO 1/43/1351.
(9) According to a footnote in The Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine of December 1845, ‘the Lodge of Joppa (London) consisted of nearly all Jews’.
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