Can anyone define this word for me? "mehdze"

In the course of doing some local (Oregon Coast, US) history research in old newspaper archives, I came across a shipping report of departures and arrivals @ Astoria (Columbia River) for the week of 2-8, Feb.,1853. I noticed that several of the arriving ships are listed as carrying “mehdze” for a number of different recipients. Being unfamiliar with the term, I attempted to look it up.

The ONLY connection I could find in Google was with some character in a recent fantasy game! The Oxford English Dictionary online does not recognize the term and a search of ALL archives on from 1850–1950 ONLY finds ONE other newspaper mention: an 1870 Phila., PA merchants listing showing one purveyor of “mehdze.”

The sort of blanket use of the term for several cargoes and recipients suggested to me that it might be (have been at that time) an abbreviation or acronym of some kind roughly equaling “misc.” today. But several extensive archives of abbreviations and acronyms online do not list “mehdze.”

So, I’m wondering if, in this large community of merchant mariners, there’s someone who recognizes that term in connection with maritime cargoes (or anything else for that matter!!). Suggestions most welcome!

It may be an odd way to abbreviate “merchandise”, you’ll find more hits in old papers if you search for “mehdse”

Hard to tell if it’s even really “e” vs mchdze/mchdse


I think you’re right. Too simple! I never thought of “merchandise”!!

Multiple reproductions of that 1853 newspaper clip make what we see here a bit hazy, but the original digital copy (from old microfilms I’m sure) is pretty clear. And it’s clear that at least 2 of the entries are “mehdze” with the 2nd letter clearly an “e” and the 5th clearly a “z.” I think it was the “z”, and the lack of any “c” or “r” that threw me off of thinking of “merchandise.”

But I’ve looked at a lot of old newspapers from before the Civil War era and they were pretty fast and loose with spelling and pretty free with abbreviations. I think maybe when type was set by hand, one letter at a time, typesetters probably resorted to any shortening they could think of to save a few letters. But, as I said, in 100 years of (hundreds of papers across the US), I only found ONE other paper (in Philly) that used that exact abbreviation once. So the 1853 Portland Weekly Oregonian must have had a typesetter who was into his own fairly unique set of abbreviations. Interestingly, I could not find that abbreviation used in other editions of the same paper!

Thanks for pointing out what I was missing!

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I agree it’s pretty clearly a “c” in both instances, so “merchandize” it is.