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