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.
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 →
Archaeological work done in advance of the Federal Reserve Bank construction in Baltimore in 1980 yielded the usual array of filled privies, wells and cellar holes. But under Barre Street, archaeologists discovered a twenty-foot long section of drainpipe containing thousands of early twentieth-century artifacts concreted into a solid mass filling the bottom half the pipe (McCarthy and Basalik 1980). A little documentary research revealed that the contents of the pipe were associated with a Chinese-owned commercial laundry located nearby.
Figure 1. Tool check or worker identification tag from the Baltimore Clothing and Furnishing Company.
In addition to thousands of straight pins, buttons, safety pins, coins, pieces of jewelry and other clothing-related items from the pipe, the pipe contained an oval copper alloy disk stamped “B.C. & F. Co. 2050”. This item served as a worker identification tag or as a tool check tag. Tool checks were used by factory workers to requisition tools; each tag bore the worker’s identification number. If the tool had not been returned at the end of the day, the number would be used to track down the missing tool to the employee who had checked it out. A New Jersey newspaper advertisement from 1908 revealed that “B. C. & F.” were the initials of The Baltimore Clothing and Furnishing Company (Red Bank Register 1908), a firm that, in accordance with garment trade industry standards, produced men’s suits, trousers, sport coats, and overcoats, as well as men’s pajamas, hosiery, ties, underwear and shirts (Kahn 1989:xiii). Continue reading →
The mended Rhenish Hohrware jug found at Westwood Manor (18CH621).
This magnificent Rhenish stoneware jug was recovered from Westwood Manor (18CH621), the residence of planter and innkeeper John Bayne, who lived in the Zekiah Swamp in Charles County in the late seventeenth century. Although the Zekiah was a sparsely settled frontier region on Maryland’s western shore at this time, a number of community institutions—public roads, houses of worship, mills, general stores, and a courthouse—had developed in the Zekiah by the end of 17th century (Strickland and King 2011; Alexander et al. 2010: 21-22), creating a landscape of interconnected people, plantations and community services.
Recent reanalysis of artifacts recovered at Bayne’s residence during a 1996 excavation suggested that the Manor’s occupants and their clientele were striving to reconstitute an English material world in the colony. Along with a variety of expensive and presentation quality ceramic and glass vessels, the assemblage included an elaborately decorated ivory walking stick handle, a silver spoon and other luxury items. Continue reading →
Figure 1. Coconut shell from the Federal Reserve Site.
So, I have to admit that this week’s artifact is not the most attractive object I have used on the blog. In fact, since you probably can’t even identify it, I will tell you that it is a fragmented coconut shell. This coconut was enjoyed by a family living in the Otterbein neighborhood of Baltimore in the late nineteenth century and recovered from a cellar at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27). Coconuts are obviously not native to Baltimore, preferring instead to grow in more tropical climes. Thus, this coconut shell can be used to launch a brief history of the Baltimore harbor, since it almost certainly arrived in the city via the port. I was inspired to write on this topic when I heard a story on the radio last week about the longshoremen strike at the Port of Baltimore.
Maryland’s General Assembly authorized the Port of Baltimore in 1706, twenty three years before the town itself was officially established (Brugger 1988). Named for Lord Baltimore, the original port was located at the head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River, in what is today the popular visitor destination known as the Inner Harbor. Baltimore’s Mid-Atlantic location meant that the port remained relatively ice-free throughout the winter, allowing trade to be conducted throughout the year. The port was later expanded to include Fell’s Point to the east and southeast. In the nineteenth century it added Canton, located south and east of Fell’s Point. Continue reading →
Figure 1. Leather shoe found at Birely Tannery in Frederick, Maryland. Researchers at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation concluded that it was a slave shoe.
Looking back at my blogs over the last three months, I have quite unintentionally fallen into theme-based posts. During the summer, I tended towards sports-related topics and in September and early October, it seemed my posts all had to do with education, as students made their way back to classes. I’m going to break out of that mold and explore a variety of topics over the next few months. This week’s post begins with a leather shoe, deemed to have been made for a slave and found at the Birely Tannery site (18FR575) in Frederick County. This modest footwear will serve as a vehicle for examining the institution of slavery in our state.
The first people of African descent arrived early in the Maryland colony’s history. Mathias de Sousa, a mulatto servant who accompanied Father Andrew White to the colony in 1634, was among the first (Brugger 1988:43). As in the neighboring Virginia colony, some of Maryland’s African population during parts of the seventeenth century appeared to have been employed as servants, working a set period of indenture before gaining their freedom. But as the century wore on and English sources of indentured labor started to evaporate, Maryland’s African population began, as in Virginia, to experience greater levels of discrimination, eventually facing lifetime bondage. Changes in British trading laws with Africa, as well as an increase in the price of tobacco at the beginning of the eighteenth century, allowed more planters the ability to purchase African labor (Brugger 1988:46), thus setting the scene for Maryland to become a slave colony. A law passed in 1664 enslaved all African-Americans brought into the Maryland colony (Proceedings and Acts). Continue reading →
One of the creepier artifacts that we curate at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab has got to be this set of dentures from a residential neighborhood in the Fell’s Point section of Baltimore. Curatorial assistant Erin Wingfield came across this unusual artifact several years ago while re-housing a collection of artifacts from the Queen Street Lot (18BC52) and she made it the focus of one of her Curator’s Choice essays:(http://www.jefpat.org/CuratorsChoiceArchive/2012CuratorsChoice/Oct2012-TheDisturbingHistoryOfDentures.html). The porcelain teeth are attached with metal pins to the vulcanized rubber (vulcanite) gums and palate.
Figure 1. Vulcanite and porcelain denture fragments from the Queen Street Lot site (18BC52).
When I discovered that Maryland was home to the world’s first dental college, I couldn’t resist hauling out the dentures for an encore performance! The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was chartered in 1840 by the Maryland General Assembly. The mission of this college, founded by Drs. Chapin A. Harris and Horace H. Hayden, was to provide a systematic formal education for dental practitioners (UMSD 2013).
The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was the birthplace of the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and served as a prototype for other dental colleges established throughout the United States. Its establishment is considered one of three crucial steps that laid the groundwork of the dental profession in the United States (BCDS 2013); the other two steps were the formation of the American Society of Dental Surgeons and the creation of the first dental journal, the American Journal of Dental Science. All three of these important steps occurred between 1839 and 1840 (Ring 2005). Continue reading →
Archaeologists working on historic sites often find fragmented slate pencils once used on writing slates, but it is less typical to recover flat pieces of slate once used as writing surfaces.
As I creep to work this time of year behind bright orange school buses on two-lane county roads, I am inspired to write about the advent of public education in Baltimore. Without a doubt, the perfect artifact to illustrate such an essay is this delightful little writing slate recovered from the site of the Juvenile Justice Center in Baltimore City (18BC139). Found in a privy filled between 1815 and 1830, this slate was incised front and back with a grid and numbers from 1 to 72. The unworn areas along the finished top and side edges of the slate suggest it had originally been set into a wooden frame. Although fragmentary, the slate’s original dimensions were approximately 4 x 6 inches. Stationers sold slates by the second half of the eighteenth century, but no real evidence supports their educational use by children until the nineteenth century. Research suggests that Joseph Lancaster, an English proponent of mass education, was at least partly responsible for the widespread development of slate as an educational tool beginning in the early nineteenth century (Hall n.d.). Continue reading →