The Eliphalet Davis records are comprised of the business and personal receipts of Eliphalet Davis, and includes a license from the Internal Revenue Department allowing Davis to carry on business as a soap manufacturer in Cambridge, Mass. Among the receipts are a few bills to his clients, but the majority are billed to and paid by Davis. The receipts are often itemized, making it possible to sketch the growth of an increasingly successful business.
The more modest bills give way to bills for thousands of printed labels for his soaps, often on special colored papers with colored ink designs and lettering. The soaps had various names, ranging from the mundane "diamond soap" to the more imaginative "veritable swoon," and Davis also started selling "Saponaceous Dentifrice" in the 1850s. Another mark of his success is that at about the same time that he paid for advertisements in New England newspapers he started paying various express services, presumably for shipping quantities of his stock to eager long distance buyers.
In addition to supplies for his business he bought basic provisions. Foodstuffs included figs, raisins, oranges, molasses, salmon, coffee and tea. In an early example of the benefits of recycling, Davis received a discount on his porter by providing his own bottles. His clothing purchases included a bonnet, moleskin hat, alpaca vest and doeskin pants. A violin and four marble hearths were two of his more luxuriant purchases.
There are several distinctive letterheads of Cambridge and Boston businessmen, especially for printers and engravers. Most printing services were performed by Dutton & Wentworth, and the principal engraver was Nathaniel Dearborn. Both businesses were in Boston, as was Ammi Cutter & Cummings, who "constantly keep for sale, LIVER OIL and BLUBBER..... Also, NEATSFOOT OIL, and the best of Winter and Summer Strained SPERMACETI OIL, TALLOW, &c." Davis bought quantities of oils, tallow and ashes in order to make his soaps.