No, You’re Not.
Just a quick note today, regarding the classification of every merchant or vendor catering to the living history trade as a “sutler.”
Here’s the thing: words mean things. And the word “sutler” is not a catch-all for “people who sell things.” It’s a very specific word for a very specific type of selling to a specific clientele.
Specifically: a sutler sells goods and provisions to military troops, under contract with said military. They sell, to soldiers, items that soldiers might like to have, that the military does not provide them. Here’s a great short article on types of things a sutler actually did do and sell at mid-century.
At mid-century, a sutler doesn’t sell items to the general populace. They don’t sell goods for dressmaking, or women’s bonnets, or children’s things.
A modern merchant or vendor who provides lines of historically-accurate merchandise, or supplies and aids to create the same, is a merchant or vendor or shopkeeper, or store.
Let’s make the 2015 living history season the year we stop using “sutler” for everything… or for anything outside of the historic impression of “licensed contract merchant of items for soldiers and sailors.”