Massachusetts

Fat Culls, Gingerbreads and Outrunning the Constable – 10 Ways to Describe the Rich in Colonial Times

It's a rich man's world. It was as true in the 1700s as it is today, and there were plenty of colorful ways to call someone rich. Here are ten of them (and a few extras):

  • A Fat Cull was a rich man, also called a Topping Man.
  • A Topping Mort was a rich women. They were sought after by Fortune Hunters, which meant the same then as it does today.
  • Chummage was a fee paid by a wealthy prisoner in jail to a poorer one. When prisons were overcrowded, with men packed two or more to a room, a wealthy inmate could ask his roommates to sleep in the hall or stairs, and give him more space. Chummage was what he paid them to agree.
  • If someone Cut Up Well, it meant they died wealthy.
  • If you were Equipt it meant you were well off and wearing fine, new clothes. A rich person was said to be Well Equipt.
  • If you said someone had the Gingerbread, it meant he was rich.
wealthy in colonial america

Painting: Mr. and Mrs. Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough, 1750

  • If someone was Well Inlaid, it meant they were well off, living richly. They were also described as Warm.
  • Someone who came from poverty and suddenly got rich was called a Mushroom or an Upstart.
  • An Oak was a wealthy man of good credit.
  • If you were Purse Proud, you were snooty and felt your wealth made you better than others.
  • Rum Culls were rich fools, easily cheated. A Rum Ned was a very rich man, and a Rum Swag was a shop full of very expensive goods.
  • If someone said you were Crummy, or you'd picked up your Crumbs, it meant you were growing fat and rich.
  • And if you were living beyond your means as if you were rich, but were not, you were Outrunning the Constable.

Thanks to: Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, By Francis Grose (1785) and Villainies Discovered: OR The Devil’s Cabinet Broken Open, By Richard Head (1673).

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  1. Pingback: Lewis Tappan, the Man Who Hired Abe Lincoln to Spy on Sinners - New England Historical Society

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