This odd little funnel is a recent addition to the collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (Figure 1). It was discovered in the 1980s in a Baltimore privy (18BC66) filled in the second quarter of the 19th century. The shape of the rim, measuring 4.00” in diameter, suggested that it was meant to fit over another vessel. I speculated that it might have been used in the kitchen for filling jars with foodstuffs like preserves. But then I found a match for this vessel, paired with a mug, in a circa 1830s English pottery pattern book (Figure 2). Since the funnel and mug were shown on the same page as a bedpan, I began to suspect the funnel had a different type of utilitarian function. A quick call to English ceramic specialist George L. Miller suggested that it was a spitting cup.
Graffiti has been around since the dawn of humanity, it seems. Considered in the right light, some people might deem Neolithic cave art as a form of graffiti. Archaeologists working at Pompeii uncovered many examples of graffiti, much of it x-rated. In my childhood, a popular youthful pastime was to paint the town’s water tower; today tagging boxcars and the sides of buildings with names is commonplace. So it should not be surprising that some residents of 19th-century Annapolis found a similar way to immortalize themselves at the Maryland State House.
In 1694, the capital of the Maryland colony was moved from St. Mary’s City to Anne Arundel Town, which was renamed Annapolis the following year. Perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks in Annapolis is the State House, whose cornerstone was laid on March 28, 1772 (Brugger 1988). Completed in 1779, it today is the oldest state house still in legislative use (MSA 2007). Continue reading
Baltimore is a city known for its breweries and is not afraid to show it – driving into the city on Route 95, travelers are sure to see the mustachioed Natty Boh man winking at them from the top of Natty Boh Tower. National Bohemian beer, for which the Natty Boh man was named, was first brewed in Baltimore by the National Brewing Company in 1885. Baltimore’s love affair with sudsy brews goes as far back as the mid-eighteenth century. The first brewery began operation in Baltimore in 1748; since that time, over 115 breweries have operated in the city (Arnett et al. 1999:274).
In 1983, the newly-formed Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology conducted an excavation at the site of the former Clagett’s Brewery, at the corner of President and Lombard Streets. Thomas Peters opened the Baltimore Strong Beer Brewery in 1784, locating his operation along Jones Falls to take advantage of the water available for brewing the ales and beers, for carrying away brewery waste products and for constructing a wharf for export of his products. The brewery operated under as many as ten owners (including Eli Clagett) until 1880, when the property was sold to the Maryland Burial Case Company (Akerson 1990).
In addition to discovering the foundation of the brewery’s malthouse, and the on-site brick townhome and privy of Peters and his family, a number of artifacts related to the brewery operations were discovered during the 1983 excavation. Several dumps of nineteenth-century bottles, surely used for the brewery products, were uncovered. More unusual were over three dozen perforated unglazed ceramic tiles used as flooring for the malting kiln. Manufactured in Bridgewater, England by two different companies in operation in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, each tile measures one-foot square and contained 1600 small holes (Bromwich 1984). These holes allowed hot air to enter the drying room from the floor below, preventing the sprouted barley from growing so that it could be used to produce malt (Comer et al. 1984). Continue reading
In the summer of 1970, a group of students from the University of Maryland College Park participated in an archaeological field school on Heater’s Island (18FR72). Located in the middle of the Potomac River in Frederick County, Maryland, the island is accessible only by boat. Of interest to the students and the faculty teaching the field session was a short-term settlement (1699-c.1712) of the island by the Piscataway Indians. A group of about 400 Piscataway, including the tayac, resided on the island in a bastioned fortification containing 18 structures and an additional nine buildings outside of its walls (Curry 2015). Continue reading
This tiny and incredibly fragile perfume bottle, discovered in a Baltimore privy during the 1980 excavation at the future site of the Federal Reserve Bank, was made by the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company of Sandwich, Massachusetts (Boston and Sandwich 2017). The company operated between the years 1826 and 1888, producing blown and pressed glass containers (Barlow and Kaiser 1998). Measuring only three inches tall, this bottle was molded in the shape of a much larger bottle called a carboy or demijohn. These bottles, ranging in size from 5 to 16 gallons and used to transport bulk liquids like vinegar or acid, were covered in woven wicker to prevent breakage. This little cologne bottle, with its wicker molded surface, dates between circa 1845 and 1865.
In Victorian America, personal cleanliness was viewed as a symbol of upstanding character and self-respect. In America’s crowded cities, it was also an important public health matter. Wearing perfume or toilet water could certainly help cover body odor, but there was much to be said for bathing as a way to improve personal sanitation and health. Before the days of running water and plumbing, many people kept clean through what we would call today a “sponge bath”, using basins of water or small hip baths. In 1893, only 7.35% of the families in Baltimore lived in a house with an indoor bathroom. Fortunately for the rest of Baltimore’s citizens, public bathing facilities were soon to be a part of the city’s amenities.
Since at least Roman times, public baths have been a feature of urban life, but the public bath movement in North America did not begin until the mid-19th century and it gathered momentum late in that century. In fact, before the Victorian era, many western cultures actually believed that submersion in water would open the pores up to disease and sickness. Increasing immigration from Europe and crowded living situations in American cities created a critical need for public bathing facilities. North American cities were far behind their European counterparts in providing bath houses. The first year-round public bath opened in Yonkers, New York in 1896 (Piwinski 2011). Baltimore lagged behind cities like New York and Boston, with its first public bath houses, administered by the city, not appearing until the turn of the 20th century (Williams 1991:28). Continue reading
Perhaps Maryland’s most famous glass product
ion facility was the New Bremen Glass Manufactory, which began operations south of Frederick in 1785. When owner John Frederick Amelung arrived from Germany, the United States was a new nation anxious to promote industry. Encouraged in his endeavor by the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Amelung brought 68 experienced German glass workers with him to staff the new factory (Lanmon and Palmer 1976). Within five years, Amelung employed between 400 and 500 workers, who lived in a factory village named New Bremen. In 1788, Amelung advertised a range of glass vessels for sale, including “1/2 gill to quart tumblers, ½ to 1 quart Decanters…Wines, Goblets, Glass Cans with Handles, different sizes.” (Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser 1788).
Unfortunately, Amelung’s ambitious project failed to prosper and he sought financial assistance from Congress in 1790. His petition, however, failed to convince Congress and the New Bremen industry collapsed around 1795 (National Register 1972). Continue reading
It might seem like a strange leap from a Chinese porcelain plate to a neighborhood in downtown Baltimore, but the distance is really not that great if you stretch your imagination a little. In August of 1785, seafarer John O’Donnell sailed his ship, the Pallas, into Baltimore harbor (Scharf 1874:238). Loaded with export goods like tea, porcelain and silk from China, this ship was the first to directly import Chinese products into Baltimore. In 1786, O’Donnell purchased eleven acres to the east of the city and named his plantation Canton, after the Chinese city that was the source of his wealth. Within ten years, O’Donnell had expanded the plantation landholdings to 1,941 acres.
This porcelain plate, in a style commonly known as Canton, was found along with three others just like it in a brick-lined privy discovered in 1980 during the construction of the Federal Reserve Bank on Sharp Street. The privy had once stood on a tavern property operated by Robert Williams from the turn of the nineteenth century until the 1840s (Basalik 1994:356). Tavern customers could enjoy their evening repast served on a plate that had traveled halfway around the world. Who knows, perhaps this very plate arrived on one of O’Donnell’s ships! Continue reading