Heater’s Island Jesuit Ring


Figure 1.  Jesuit Ring with a round face that depicts the crucifixion (Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab).

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


Keeping Clean in Charm City – The Rise of the Public Bathhouse in Baltimore


Figure 1. Perfume bottle molded in the shape of a wicker covered demijohn.  Bottle dates c. 1845-1865.

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.


Figure 2. Bathing before the advent of running water and plumbing involved hauling and heating large quantities of water. 

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

An Amelung Decanter?

Perhaps Maryland’s most famous glass product

18bc27 feat 30 decanter

Decanter discovered in a Baltimore privy filled  around the time of the Civil War.  Attribution to the Amelung New Bremen Factory is not certain, but it did produce similar decanters in the late 18th century.

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

Fort Frederick – Frontier Outpost in Washington County


Bone buttons and button blanks from Fort Frederick.  Photo:  MAC Lab

In the mid-1750s, the Maryland frontier was a place of uncertainty and fear as the threat of war loomed large. French expansion from the north into the Ohio River Valley was at odds with Britain’s claims to control of the North American colonies as it spread ever-westward.  By the 1740s, British had begun trading with Native Americans in the Ohio Valley, infringing on previously-established French trade relationships. Tensions eventually erupted into armed conflict in May of 1754, with French forces defeating George Washington during a dispute over control of the French Fort Duquesne.  Several additional defeats the following year led the British to officially declare war on France in 1756 (Cowley and Parker 1996). The French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War) ended in British victory in 1763 with the French ceding New France east of the Mississippi to Great Britain.

Fort Frederick, located in Maryland’s Washington County, was built as an English stronghold during the French and Indian War. Serving primarily as a staging area for the British, the fort did not see any battles during the war, although provincial troops from Virginia and North Carolina, county militia groups and a company of royal regulars were garrisoned there for frontier duty.  In 1763 the fort was occupied briefly, both by troops and nearby residents seeking protection during the Pontiac Rebellion. During the American Revolution, captured British troops were imprisoned at the fort (Fort Frederick 2017).  The fort was eventually abandoned altogether and the land sold and farmed.  Today, the fort walls and some of the buildings have been reconstructed to their 1758 appearance and it serves as a state park. Continue reading

The Maryland Jockey Club and the Introduction of Organized Thoroughbred Racing in North America

Iron stirrup recovered from the stable (1711-1730 context) at the Smith St. Leonard site (18CV91).

Iron stirrup recovered from the stable (1711-1730 context) at the Smith St. Leonard site (18CV91).

May and June bring the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes—and Maryland is proud to claim the Preakness as its own.

Horse racing has a long and storied history in Maryland and this stirrup from the Smith St. Leonard Site (18CV91), a 1711-1754 tobacco plantation in Calvert County, is representative of the state’s long history with horses. This site contains remains of the only known eighteenth-century stable (c. 1711-1730) in Maryland, from which this stirrup was recovered. Estate details from the inventory, taken at the time of plantation owner Richard Smith Jr.’s death in 1715, reveal that he was breeding horses for sale.  The value of the individual horses however indicates they were work, rather than racing, animals (Cohen, personal communication 2010).

This conclusion is perhaps not surprising, since Thoroughbred breeding and racing did not really get underway in Maryland until the mid-eighteenth century; indeed the first Thoroughbred horse in the American Colonies was imported to Virginia in 1730 (Robertson 1964:16). 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

Richard Bennett III – Colonial Tycoon

Figure 1: 18th-century ceramics from the Bennett’s Chapel site.

Figure 1: 18th-century ceramics from the Bennett’s Chapel site.

Moderator’s note:  This week’s blog entry was written by Adam Oster.   Adam is a graduating senior at Patuxent High School in Lusby, Maryland.  He will be attending the US Naval Academy next semester.  He started his internship at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab in March, 2014.  

For my internship at Jefferson Patterson Park’s MAC Lab, I was assigned the job of cleaning and labeling artifacts from a site on Bennett’s Point in Queen Anne’s County. The artifacts came from the area in and around the ruins of Bennett’s Chapel, which is the burial place of Richard Bennett III, one of the richest men in colonial history. Many of the artifacts were from later time periods, but the few early 18th-century artifacts which I cleaned included pottery shards, a few of which mated to each other like puzzle pieces. When I was asked to write this blog post, the staff at the MAC Lab suggested that I research the background of Mr. Bennett. So, once I finished labeling all of the artifacts, I began to look at pieces of history.

Richard Bennett was one of the first tycoons ever. His entire life, he purchased acres upon acres of land whenever the opportunity presented itself. By his death, he owned 23,000 acres, one of the only colonial merchant fleets, and the Wye Mill (famous for the Wye Oak, which was only 160 years old at the time). His influence was felt across the entirety of the Maryland Eastern Shore.

Mr. Bennett did not own any land in Calvert County, yet there are interesting connections which tie this millionaire to Calvert

Figure 2: Artist’s conception of the Smith house where Elizabeth Bennett lived.  Painting by Tim Scheirer.

Figure 2: Artist’s conception of the Smith house where Elizabeth Bennett lived. Painting by Tim Scheirer.

County, to the MAC Lab at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, and even to a house two miles from my own. Buried next to Richard Bennett is his wife, Elizabeth Rousby (I will try not to make this post a list of genealogies). Elizabeth was the daughter of Barbara Morgan and John Rousby, and her childhood home was located on Rousby Hall Road in southern Calvert County, barely two miles from my own home and my high school, and thus Mr. Bennett is tied to my neighborhood. His connections reach further still. Even when I am driving from school to the MAC Lab, I am driving toward the history of Richard Bennett. When Elizabeth was very young, her father died and her mother remarried to Richard Smith Jr. Elizabeth moved with her mother to Mr. Smith’s residence, located on the land that is now Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. The Smith house site, now known as “King’s Reach,” was excavated by JPPM archaeologists in the 1980s. Elizabeth was very young when her family moved, so the Smith residence could be where Richard Bennett visited and courted her. As Richard Bennett’s wife, Elizabeth Rousby was influential in her husband’s career. All of the land on Bennett’s Point, including that on which the chapel and the Bennett house resided, was inherited by Elizabeth Rousby from her maternal aunt. The chapel where Richard and Elizabeth are buried can also be credited to Elizabeth and her side of the family; Elizabeth’s aunt asked for the chapel to be built as a part of her last will and testament.

Today, Richard Bennett is mostly forgotten, and his fortune was largely divided at the time of his death. What information I was able to garner about Bennett shares similarities with the artifacts from his chapel. What I learned of him needed to be pieced together from multiple sources, just as the shards were pieced together. What I learned about archeology from my internship is that history must be pieced together just like its artifacts.