Hoover Campaign Button: Maryland and the Great Depression


Figure 1.  Hoover presidential campaign lapel pin recovered from a drainpipe that served the Wysing Lung Laundry, Sharp Street, Baltimore.  Photo, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.

Figure 1. Hoover presidential campaign lapel pin recovered from a drainpipe that served the Wysing Lung Laundry, Sharp Street, Baltimore. Photo, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.

Measuring just 7/8” in length and just 1/4′” tall, this small, unassuming lapel pin bears little resemblance to flashy political campaign buttons of today. Its original background of deep blue paint did not survive the four decades it spent lodged in a wastewater pipe underneath the streets of Baltimore, overlooked by its owner and lost from a garment during a visit to a commercial laundry.

Herbert Hoover, who ran in the 1928 presidential election against Al Smith (whose similarly-shaped campaign pin had a red background), easily won the election, carrying 40 out of 48 states. As a Republican, he had strong support from northern Protestants and western farmers, as well as support from minority groups. In Maryland, Hoover won the primary and had a majority vote in all but two counties during the election.

Figure 2.  Hoover campaign button.

Figure 2. Hoover campaign button.

Continue reading

Evergreen House – Context and the Past


In my last blog, I wrote about amusement parks in Maryland.  In that strange way serendipity works, I was inspired to write about a similar theme this week. On a recent commute, I was listening to a “Stuff You Missed in History” podcast about the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. I had no idea the building that served as the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion was the Evergreen House on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. A quick Google Image search on both buildings confirmed the similarities between them (Figures 1 and 2).

evergreen house

Figure 1. The Evergreen House in Baltimore inspired the facade of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is set in New Orleans Square, an area within the theme park based on 19th-century New Orleans.  Designers of the haunted house searched to no avail in that city and throughout the Deep South for architectural inspiration for the Haunted Mansion. The inspiration came instead from a mid-19th century Gilded Age mansion in Baltimore, once home to the railroad magnate Garrett family and now a 48-room museum and library.  The museum’s website describes the facility as “an intimate collection of fine and decorative arts, rare books and manuscripts assembled by two generations of the philanthropic Garrett family, and a vibrant, inspirational venue for contemporary artists” (Evergreen 2014).

disneyland haunted mansion

Figure 2. The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland with Thunder Mountain in the background.

danish axe

Figure 3. Danish ax or hammer from the Mayer Collection.

Continue reading

Waterfront Amusement Parks in Maryland


Figure 1.  A sample of beads from Brownie Beach.

Figure 1. A sample of beads from Brownie Beach.

Two or three times a year, staff at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab will get a call from a local citizen who has been beachcombing along the Chesapeake Bay at Brownie’s Beach.  While better known as a place for hunting fossils from the Miocene, the calls we get are about the small, colorful glass beads that are also a common find there.   Many people think they have discovered Indian trade beads, while in actuality the beads are of a more recent vintage.  Two likely explanations for why the beads are present at Brownie Beach have been posited:  that they are washing up from a 20th-century ship that wrecked nearby or that they were souvenirs from the now-defunct amusement park once located just to the north, in Chesapeake Beach.

Today’s thrill seekers flock to Six Flags, Disney World or Busch Gardens in search of lightning-fast roller coasters and laser light shows.  The precursors of these modern attractions were outdoor amusement parks, often located in waterfront resorts.  Here, the double attractions of sea bathing and carnival-type rides and games drew large crowds in the summers. Continue reading

Stone Tools and Environmental Reconstruction at the Indian Creek Site


Figure 1.  Projectile points from the Indian Creek V Site.

Figure 1. Projectile points from the Indian Creek V Site.

We probably all have an “arrowhead” or two kicking around in a drawer or shoebox tucked somewhere into the back of a closet.  I remember finding points similar to the ones depicted here while picking butterbeans and tomatoes in the family garden when I was a child.   Now that I am a full-blown archaeologist, I have been thoroughly trained to call them “points” rather than “arrowheads” (because some of them were affixed to spears and knives rather than arrows).  Another thing that I have learned is that the sharpened edges of points and other cutting tools can be used to help reconstruct the diet and the environment of the peoples that made and used them.

The Indian Creek V Site (18PR94) in Prince George’s County, Maryland dates to what archaeologists call the Archaic Period (9500 B.C. – 1250 B.C.). Excavations there revealed that Maryland Indians returned to the site regularly over thousands of years to obtain plants from the surrounding floodplains and wetlands.  A peat bog on the site preserved the largest collection of Archaic plant remains yet found in the region, of great value in reconstructing past environments (LeeDecker and Koldehoff  1991).  An assemblage of seeds, pieces of nutshell, and small charred wood fragments was recovered at the Indian Creek V Site. Over 10,000 fragments from 63 different plant species represented a wide variety of fruit, tubers, starchy seeds, nuts, shoots, and leaves. These plants would have been used for food and also as medicines, smoking material, and insect repellant. In addition, a pollen core from a nearby peat deposit provided a vegetation record for the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, allowing a detailed environmental reconstruction. Continue reading

Germans in Maryland


Figure 1:  This 25.5 x 23.5” plate from a five-plate stove is one of eight from the site that bear German or Pennsylvania Dutch motifs.

Figure 1: This 25.5 x 23.5” plate from a five-plate stove is one of eight from the site that bear German or Pennsylvania Dutch motifs.

The Antietam Furnace (18WA288), more properly known as the Mt. Aetna Iron Furnace, operated between around 1761 and 1783 in what is now Washington County. Excavations conducted at the former site of the furnace revealed a number of industrial structures and evidence of the production of pig iron, hollow ware and stoves (Frye 1984).  Some of the most interesting artifacts from the site included stove plates containing inscriptions in German (Figure 1).

Although Antietam Furnace was not owned by individuals of German descent, proprietors Daniel and Sam Hughes apparently knew their local customer base well – of the eight complete or virtually complete stove plates that were recovered from the site, all were molded with German and Pennsylvania Dutch-style motifs in the forms of tulips, hearts, birds of paradise and blessings in German (Figure 2).  From its earliest beginnings, Maryland has been home to a large population of German immigrants and the Hughes brothers were banking on these stoves finding ready customers among them. Continue reading

Epidemic Typhus in Baltimore


The double-sided comb has closely spaced teeth for removing the small lice.  The vulcanized rubber comb is stamped “India Rubber Comb Co. Goodyear Patent May 6, 1851”.

Figure 1. The double-sided comb has closely spaced teeth for removing the small lice.

18BC27-36B295 (2)

Figure 2. The vulcanized rubber comb is stamped “India Rubber Comb Co. Goodyear Patent May 6, 1851”.

When I found this vulcanized rubber lice comb in a Baltimore privy (Figures 1 and 2), I originally thought I would use it as a way to focus on public sanitation and the increasing importance of public health beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century.  It seemed that a discussion of drains, sewers, street cleaning and clean water supplies was in order.  But as I dug a little deeper into sources for the blog, another direction began to emerge.  With the arrival of winter, many people I know are battling the flu or actively trying to avoid getting it.  Thus, in this season of communicable disease, the comb became a way to discuss epidemics and, in particular, typhus epidemics. Continue reading

Maryland’s Shipbuilding Past – the Steward Shipyard Dogshore


The Stephen Steward Shipyard (18AN817), located on the West River in Anne Arundel County, is one of state’s best-documented and preserved eighteenth-century shipyards.  Steward’s thriving enterprise was both large and complex, including workshops and storage buildings, as well as housing for the free craftsmen and laborers, indentured servants and slaves employed there.  During the second half of the century, Steward and his workers constructed seagoing vessels ranging from 20 to 270 tons for both the transatlantic and Caribbean trades.

The MAC Lab’s Chief Conservator Nichole Doub takes measurements of the Steward Shipyard dogshore.

The MAC Lab’s Chief Conservator Nichole Doub takes measurements of the Steward Shipyard dogshore.

Archaeological excavations conducted at the site in the 1990s revealed this impressive artifact – a dog-shore.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines dog-shore as “each of two blocks of timber used to prevent a ship from starting off the slips while the keel-blocks are being removed in preparation for launching”.  This dog-shore, fashioned from a branching tree trunk, is an ideal object to represent the shipbuilding industry in our state.

Thomas Paine perhaps most clearly stated the importance of our nation’s shipbuilding industry in Common Sense (1776):  “Shipbuilding is America’s greatest pride and in which she will, in time, excel the whole world” (Paine 2008:53).  Because they benefited from the colony’s ability to produce seaworthy craft, shipbuilding was the one colonial industry that England did not attempt to regulate (O’Neill 2010).  Building and owning ships was also appealing to American colonists, not only for the economic benefits of the industry, but also because it provided American merchants with greater commercial independence from the British.  In the Chesapeake, ships were important for transporting the region’s primary crop—tobacco—to Europe. Continue reading