Chapmen were middlemen, travelling traders-a cut above the common pedlar-bringing goods from fabric to furniture to households often in rural areas.
Hard work, long days and nights travelling dangerous and difficult roads brought no sure success. Some Chapmen advertised before they came to town, developed catalogue selling and extended credit.
Pedlars, chapmen and hawkers in the 17th century were poor and highly mobile; the Hawkers and Pedlars Act, 1696-7, registered and licensed 2,500 of them at £4 per head. Chapmen emerged as the more significant middlemen, distributing the latest consumer goods from ports and industrial regions to shops and households. They were so important to spreading the sales of early cotton and linen goods that in 1704 they were exempted from the tax on hawkers. Lancashire chapmen in the cotton industry flourished from the mid 18th century. Others sold glass and chinaware, hawking goods about the country in panniers on pack horses. Birmingham chapmen cattied portable showrooms of brass, steel and silverware, locks, cutlery, candle sticks and tea urns.
(The above courtesy of Maxine Berg, author of "Luxury and Pleasure in 18th Century Britain" (Oxford University Press)
Another source says that the surname Chapman is believed to be occupational from the Old English word "ceap" meaning a merchant, trader or barterer.
Early records show a Hugh Chapman in the Curia Regis Rolls in Yorkshire in 1206 and a further entry for an Alice Chapman appeared in the Pipe Rolls in Derbyshire in 1207.
The ancient motto for this family was CRESCIT SUB PONDERE VIRTUS latin for "Virtue thrives beneath oppresion".
We are also mentioned in the bible!
In the KingJames Version in 2 Chronicles 9:14:
Beside that which chapmen and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon.