Cloth merchant

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Cloth Merchant's Shop, Brooklyn Museum

Cloth merchant is, strictly speaking, like a draper, the term for any vendor of cloth. However, it is generally used for one who owned and/or ran a cloth (often wool) manufacturing and/or wholesale import and/or export business in the Middle Ages or 16th and 17th centuries. A cloth merchant might additionally have owned a number of draper's shops. Cloth was extremely expensive and cloth merchants were often very wealthy. A number of Europe's leading banking dynasties such as Medici and Berenberg built their original fortunes as cloth merchants.

In England, cloth merchants might be members of one of the important trade guilds, such as the Worshipful Company of Drapers.

An alternative name is a clothier, but that tends to refer more to some one who organised the production and sale of cloth, whereas a cloth merchant would be more concerned with distribution, including overseas trade.

The largely obsolete term merchant tailor also describes a business person who trades in textiles. In England, the term is best known in the context of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, a Livery Company of the City of London which is also a charitable institution known for its Merchant Taylors' schools. (The Company preserves the antiquarian spelling "taylor".)

Notable cloth merchants[edit]

See also[edit]