This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
While questions as to the sufficiency of the description of the subject-matter are raised most frequently in contracts for the sale of realty, they are not confined to that class. The same test applies to other kinds of subject-matter in contracts within the statute of frauds as applies to contracts for the sale of an interest in realty. Technical accuracy of description is not necessary; but as the entire contract must be proved by writing, the description must be such as to specify the subject-matter so that one familiar with such subject-matter can identify it, without further evidence of the intention of the parties direct. Thus in contracts to answer for the debt of another the debt may be described as incurred for the "house and barn completed for Mr. B,"1 or as the bill that A "owes your concern,"2 or by reference to the "amount of debt and damage contained in a writ," giving the names of plaintiff, defendant and officer making the service, together with the date of the service.3 So a contract to sell goods in a territory not sufficiently defined4 cannot be supplemented by oral evidence if not to be performed within a year from the date of the making thereof. If the memorandum refers to two or more kinds of chattels to be sold and does not show how much of each is bargained for, it is insufficient.5 On the other hard, if the vendor has the option of delivering which ever kind of chattel he pleases the memorandum is sufficient.6 A contract for the sale of "the same cattle picked out by said Woods on Jan. 27, 1893," sufficiently describes them.7 Abbreviations shown to have a definite meaning in the trade, or business do not make the memorandum defective. Thus a memorandum: "Will deliver S. R. & Co. best refined iron 50 tons within 90 days at 5 et. p. lb. 4 of cash. Plates, to be 10 to 16 inches wide and 9 ft. to 11 long. This offer good till 2 o'clock Sept. 11, 1862. J. N. F. J. B. R." was held sufficient.8 So a telegram, "Bought 13 at 11 5/8," and a telegram in reply, "We confirm purchase Wagner 11 5/8 like sample," is sufficient; the extrinsic evidence showing that the contract was for the sale of hops made by the agent Wagner.9 If the contract provides for the delivery of a certain number of "bales" of cotton, and the evidence shows that this term is ambiguous and denotes more than one weight, and that the parties had a specified agreement as to what weight was meant, the memorandum is insufficient.10 If the consideration expressed is a promise to dig a well on certain specified lots, it is sufficiently definite without locating it more exactly or defining its character further.11 Terms of a contract fixed by law, such as the time of begin to teach, where the opening of the term is fixed by the rules of the district,12 need not be expressed in the memorandum.
60 Hartshorn v. Smart. 67 Kan. 543; 73 Pac. 73.
1 Star Brewery v. Farnsworth, 172 I1l. 247: 50 X. E. 228; affirming 70 111. App. 150.
2 Haskell v. Tukesbury. 02 Me. 551; 69 Am. St. Rep. 529; 43 Atl. 500. (The letter being addressed to the creditor.)
3 Savage v. Robinson, 93 Me. 262; 44 Atl. 926.
4Rahm v. Kleiner. 99 Va. 10; 37 S. E. 292. (It not appearing whether the contract was to sell goods in all the Southern States or only in seven out of the eleven.) In Kaufman v. Mfg. Co.. 78 la. 679: 16 Am. St. Rep. 462; 43 X. W. 612. a contract to sell goods in a certain city "and the territory tributary thereto" was held sufficiently definite.