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

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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