Note from the author: I would like to thank Justine Schaeffer, Naturalist/Director at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum for reading a draft of this blog and correcting several errors.
Figure 1. Ground glass lens and slate pencil fragments recovered during excavations of the Banneker homestead. Photograph courtesy of Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
Sometimes artifacts that aren’t all that impressive in appearance turn out to have really interesting histories. The circular fragment of glass in Figure 1 is a ground lens from a telescope or similar optical instrument. The objects surrounding the lens are slate pencils, used for marking on slate tablets. What makes these artifacts notable is that they were excavated from the eighteenth-century home of Benjamin Banneker (Hurry 2002). A self-taught astronomer and mathematician, Banneker is known as America’s first African-American man of science. He was born in 1731 to free parents in Baltimore County, Maryland and grew up on a small farm in present-day Oella (18BA282).
Taught to read and write by his grandmother, an English woman who married a former slave, Banneker later attended a small Quaker school (Bedini 1972:39). As an adult, Banneker became friends with George Ellicott, son of a nearby land and mill owner. The Ellicotts were Quakers who contracted with the Banneker family to provide their mill workers with produce. Although twenty-nine years Banneker’s junior, George Ellicott shared many of Banneker’s interests. Continue reading →
Note from author: I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Ed Chaney, Deputy Director of the MAC Lab and Dr. Julia A. King, St. Mary’s College of Maryland in the preparation of this blog. Any errors are my own.
Figure 1. Tulip shaped tobacco pipe from the Pine Bluff site. Tobacco had social and spiritual significance for native peoples and in some cultures, stone pipes were used in treaty ceremonies.
This week’s Maryland artifact is a tobacco pipe recovered in the 1970s during an excavation at the Pine Bluff site (18WC20) near modern-day Salisbury in Wicomico County. The pipe, made from fired clay, is in a shape associated with the Susquehannock Indians and often described as a “tulip” pipe. Other materials found during the excavation, including gun parts, glass pharmaceutical bottle fragments and English ceramics, suggest that some components of this possible village site post-dated English contact (Marshall 1977).
By the time of English colonization, the Eastern Shore had been home to Maryland’s native peoples for at least 13,000 years (Rountree and Davidson 1997:20). Archaeological surveys have revealed evidence of short-term camps, villages and places where resources were procured and processed. The abundant natural resources of the Eastern Shore—fish, shellfish, wild game and wild plants—made this area a favorable place to live. Continue reading →
Figure 1. The two center safety pins with stamped numbers marked net bags in commercial laundries and were used to track individual orders. The smaller open pins surrounding the safety pins were probably used to pin paper tags on finished clothing. The object to the top center is a soapstone pencil, used to mark stains.
During the 1980 excavation of the Federal Reserve site (18BC27), archaeologists uncovered the remains of a stoneware drainpipe that was clogged during the 1920s with debris from a commercial laundry. When the pipe was broken open by earthmoving equipment, it was found to have filled over time with artifacts set in a concreted matrix of iron corrosion. Among the artifacts recovered from the pipe were laundry bag net pins—the two odd looking safety pins with the stamped numbers seen in the photograph to the left. Since these large brass safety pins were rustproof, they could be attached to the net bags that separated individual orders in the washing machines. The solid flat heads were stamped with number designations that could be used to track bagged laundry to specific individuals. These pins are still being manufactured today for use in commercial laundries. They were just a few of the large number of commercial laundry-related artifacts found in the pipe. Continue reading →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →