Dr. Samuel Mudd’s Tea and Coffee Set


Dr. Samuel Mudd's family tea and coffee service, made by James Dixon and Sons between 1842 and 1851.

Dr. Samuel Mudd’s family tea and coffee service, made by James Dixon and Sons between 1842 and 1851.

“Your name is mud” has long been used as a way to insult another person whose actions don’t meet with general approval.  I have encountered this phrase a great deal over the last six months, as I have given lab tours and shown visitors the work conservators at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab have been doing on the tea and coffee set of Dr. Samuel Mudd.

Dr. Mudd was a Charles County physician who provided medical assistance to gunman John Wilkes Booth after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  After being convicted of conspiracy in 1865, Mudd spent almost four years at a military prison in the Dry Tortugas.  It has become a common myth that the “your name is mud” insult sprang up in reference to Samuel Mudd’s actions on that fateful April night in 1865.  Continue reading

From Hand-Set Type to Linotype and Beyond: Maryland Firsts in the Age of Mass Communication


Figure 1.  Print type in the letter “J” from the Victualling Warehouse site.

Figure 1. Print type in the letter “J” from the Victualling Warehouse site.

This artifact’s diminutive size (3 mm square) belies its importance in Maryland’s history.  I have chosen this piece of type in the form of the letter J to represent the history of printing and mass communication in our state.  This particular artifact is from the Victualling Warehouse (18AP14), a commercial and residential site near the Annapolis town dock.

The first printing press in Maryland, not surprisingly, was located at St. Mary’s City.  William Nuthead and his wife Dinah settled in Maryland in 1684 after Nuthead failed to establish himself at Jamestown as the Virginia colony’s first printer.  Nuthead ran afoul of Virginia’s governor, the Council and ultimately the King by publishing acts of the Virginia General Assembly (Virginia Gazette 2014).

Figure 2.  Historic St. Mary’s City has reconstructed William and Dinah Nuthead’s Print Shop and interprets the early history of printing in the colony to its visitors.  Photo credit: SoMdNews.com.

Figure 2. Historic St. Mary’s City has reconstructed William and Dinah Nuthead’s Print Shop and interprets the early history of printing in the colony to its visitors. Photo credit: SoMdNews.com.

Nuthead’s Maryland printing press was in operation by 1684 and he served as printer for the government, centered then at St. Mary’s City (Cofield 2006).  Archaeological excavations at the site of Nuthead’s shop have uncovered printing type (Saunders 2007).  After Nuthead’s death in 1695, his widow inherited the business (Sarudy 2011).

When the colony’s capital was moved to Annapolis less than a year later, Dinah Nuthead moved with it. There, she established herself as the first licensed female printer in the American colonies (Sarudy 2011).  Widow Nuthead agreed, under penalty of having her business shut down, only to print blank forms for government use.  Interestingly, she signed this agreement with her mark rather than her signature, suggesting that she could not read—a rather unusual state of affairs for the colony’s first female printer! Continue reading

Train Travel in Comfort Courtesy of the Maulden Perine Pottery


Figure 1.  Stoneware saggar recovered from the Lexington Street pottery of Maulden Perine and William Linton. No fragments that could be positively identified as refractories were recovered from this site.

Figure 1. Stoneware saggar recovered from the Lexington Street pottery of Maulden Perine and William Linton. No fragments that could be positively identified as refractories were recovered from this site.

We are fast headed towards winter with the re-igniting of furnaces and comforts of central heating.  Staying warm is much easier in 2014 than it was even a hundred years ago. Even so, it was possible to gather around the hearth and remain at least moderately warm inside before the wonders of central heating.  But what did people do when they had to travel in the winter months? What means did travelers in coaches and trains have for keeping warm?

The traditional way of keeping hands and feet warm in coaches was the use of lap robes and heated bricks. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, passengers on trains could thank the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as well as Baltimore potter Maulden Perine, for passenger car designs that included concessions to passenger comfort.  Continue reading

Margaret Brent, Suffragette?


Figure 1.  We have no evidence that this thimble from Mattapany was used by Margaret Brent, but it is a type of colonial artifact typically associated with women. Photo by Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Courtesy of Naval District Washington Region.

Figure 1. We have no evidence that this thimble from Mattapany was used by Margaret Brent, but it is a type of colonial artifact typically associated with women. Photo by Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Courtesy of Naval District Washington Region.

Thimbles, like this copper alloy example recovered from Mattapany (18ST390), the 17th-century home of Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore, are often deemed women’s objects.  Of course, thimbles were employed by male tailors and other craftsmen working in trades that required needles.  But, in this blog, I am using a thimble in its more traditional sense as a women’s object.

The topic of today’s blog starts with a 17th –century female who defied contemporary gender roles.  Margaret Brent and several siblings moved to the Maryland colony in 1638, when Mistress Brent was 37 years of age.  Much has been written about Margaret Brent over the intervening centuries.  Among the unofficial titles she has been given are “America’s first feminist”, “the real first woman attorney in Maryland”, “gentleman” and the somewhat less kindly designation “spinster”.  She was the first female in Maryland to hold land in her own right, having been granted over a thousand acres in St. Mary’s County by Lord Baltimore (Neal 1982).  She appeared in court on her own behalf, seeking reparation for debts and became a trusted friend of Leonard Calvert and executor of his estate (Cinlar 2004). Continue reading

Maryland’s Fishing Industry


Bone fishhook from Everhart Rockshelter.

Bone fishhook from Everhart Rockshelter.

Returning home by air from a recent trip to Michigan, I was once again struck by the abundant waterways that bisect our little state. The Susquehanna, Potomac, Choptank, Patapsco and Patuxent are the major state rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Overall, between Virginia and Maryland, more than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers wind through the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Chesapeake Bay Program 2014). These waterways are the source of the fish and shellfish that have made the words “Maryland” and “seafood” all but synonymous.

The thought of Maryland’s fishing industry is likely to bring up images of commercial vessels with trawl nets or sports fishermen hauling in citation weight rockfish from the back of a charter boat. But this week’s artifact, a diminutive carved bone fish hook from the Everhart Rockshelter (18FR4) in Frederick County, reminds us that fishing has long been an important part of Maryland’s past (Figure 1). This rockshelter, which was excavated by Spencer Geasey in the early 1950s (Geasey 1993), was occupied for thousands of years, all through the Archaic (7500 B.C. – 1000 B.C.) and Woodland periods (1000 B.C. – A.D. 1600). One of the rockshelter residents must have used this fish hook to catch dinner from nearby Catoctin Creek. Continue reading

Recent German Heritage in Baltimore


Figure 1.  Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Figure 1. Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Back in January of this year, I wrote an essay about the first wave of German immigration into Maryland. This week, I am taking a look at the later influx of German immigrants.   I was led to this topic when I noticed that our Baltimore collections contained quite a number of beer bottles whose brewers had distinctly German names.

This early twentieth-century bottle (Figures 1 and 2), molded with the name of Baltimore bottler Israel Greenberg, was found in a privy associated with the family of German upholsterer Edward and Vera Hahn (18BC135). The row house formerly occupied by the Hahns had been demolished to make way for the new construction of Baltimore’s Juvenile Justice Center north of the harbor in the city’s Old Town (Williams et al. 2000:234). The same privy also contained bottles from the Gottlieb Bauernschmidt Strauss Brewing Company (Figure 3). Continue reading

Maryland’s Gold Mining History


After a several month hiatus due to other job responsibilities, I am pleased to be back in the blogging business!  I would like to thank Gina Velosky for allowing me to post a blog on her interesting discovery.

Figure 1.  The earthenware crucible discovered in Seneca Park by Gina Veloksy.

Figure 1. The earthenware crucible discovered in Seneca Park by Gina Veloksy.

One of the perks of my job is that I get inquiries about the identity of objects that people have found on their properties or discovered at flea markets and antique shops. This week’s essay involves a nice little piece of pottery that was found by hiker Gina Velosky in a stream in Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg.* The coarse earthenware pot was about three inches in diameter, fitting nicely in the palm of the hand, with a little lip or spout along the rim.

The coarse nature of the piece, and particularly a large firing flaw along the outside surface, pointed to its utilitarian nature. It was definitely not a pre-contact Native American vessel, since it appeared to have some slight traces of glaze or slip on the interior. The piece was intriguing and unlike anything I had ever seen, so I showed the photo to several colleagues. Historic St. Mary’s City archaeologist Silas Hurry solved the mystery, suggesting that it might have been used in metalworking as a crucible.

From there, solving the mystery of this little pot was easy! The vessel was a crucible for assaying gold. The assay process has been used for centuries to determine the metal content of ores that contain precious metals. Seneca Creek State Park contains a defunct gold mine, in use between the 1850s and 1950s (RunDC 2014).

Having lived in North Carolina, which had its own gold rush and actually minted gold coins beginning in the mid-1830s, I was familiar with that state’s gold mining history. But I was unaware that Maryland, too, had gold mining in its past. Gold was first reported in in Montgomery County in 1849 (Kuff 1987). The timing of this discovery coincided with the California gold rush, which eclipsed Maryland’s discovery.

Figure 3.   Water tower and other structures associated with the Maryland Gold Mine.  The longest lasting mine in the state, it closed just prior to World War II.  It is located in the C & O Canal Historical Park.

Figure 2. Water tower and other structures associated with the Maryland Gold Mine. The longest lasting mine in the state, it closed just prior to World War II. It is located in the C & O Canal Historical Park.

Maryland’s gold was panned from streams as well as removed both from traditional, deep mines. The state’s first mine—the Maryland Gold Mine near Great Falls in Montgomery County—was not opened until 1868 (Slagle 2011).   Some artifacts from the Maryland Mine are held today at the Gold Mining Camp Museum at Monroe Park in Goldvein, Virginia (Faquier County 2014). Over the next eighty or so years, many other lode mines were placed in the northern and central parts of the state, particularly the Great Falls area along the Potomac River. Despite the number of mines, the amount of gold actually recovered was quite limited–only 5,000 ounces of gold are recorded by the U. S. Mint as having come from Maryland during that period (Nelson 2000).

The death knell of Maryland’s mines came during the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt froze the price of gold, making the cost of mining exceed profits from the precious metal (Kelly 2011). There is still an active interest in prospecting for gold in Maryland, with numerous websites guiding enthusiasts towards locations where small amounts of gold can be found through panning.

Figure 3.  Gold in a quartz matrix, also known as a gold specimen.

Figure 3. Gold in a quartz matrix, also known as a gold specimen.

By all account, the Seneca Creek StatePark mine never produced much gold (nor did any of Maryland’s other mines, compared with other gold-producing regions). But I like to think of that little crucible, lost for perhaps a hundred or more years in the stream bed, representing someone’s dreams of striking it rich.

*Ms. Velosky recognized the historical importance of her find and turned it over to staff at Seneca Creek State Park, so its story can be shared with the public. While finding pieces of the past is exciting, the public should be aware that any artifacts found on state parks are the property of the State of Maryland.

References

Fauquier County. 2014  Monroe Park and the Gold Mining Camp Museum. Website             http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/parksrec/index.cfm?action=Monroe accessed July 3, 2014.

Kelly, John. 2011  Maryland Mine: Fueling Gold-Filled Dreams in Montgomery in Days Gone By. Website http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/maryland-mine-fueling-gold-filled-dreams-in-montgomery-in-days-gone-by/2011/04/14/AFrys3kE_story.html accessed July 2, 2014.

Kuff, Karen R. 1987  Gold In Maryland. Website http://www.mgs.md.gov/geology/minerals_energy_resources/gold.html accessed July 2, 2014.

Nelson, Jack.  2000  Gold and Other Minerals of Rock Run, Montgomery County, Maryland. Mineral News, Vol. 16, No. 3, March, 2000. Accessed July 7, 2014 at http://web.archive.org/web/20060924104119/www.mineralcollecting.org/articles/15.shtml

RunDC. 2014  Black Hill Regional Park, Little Seneca Lake. Website http://www.rundc.com/Doc/MD/Montgomery/BHLSenecaL.htm, accessed July 2014.

Slagle, Jake. 2011  A Maryland Native Gold Classic. Mineral Bliss.   Website http://mineralbliss.blogspot.com/2011/07/maryland-native-gold-classic.html accessed July 2, 2014.