The Phillips Bros Champion Bottling Works: A Baltimore-Based Bottling Company’s Knock-Out Advertising


Some of the best advertisements are ones of memorable imagery or catchy slogans, a method still utilized in today’s marketing. With a boxing scene and a tagline of “A Knockout for Thirst” the Phillips Brothers Champion Bottling Works certainly developed these marketing methods while in production from 1893 through the mid-1930s (The Re-ly-On Bottler). Based in Baltimore, Maryland the Phillips’ Brothers Company bottled “non-alcoholic maltless beverages” and were best known for their ginger-ale (The Official Gazette 1945: 539).

Figure A: An example of a typical aqua glass bottle from the Phillips Brothers Bottling Works. The bottle and corresponding illustration (Figure B) display the Baltimore-based company’s trade-mark design of a boxing match with the victor standing over the defeated competition.
Figure B: This image supported their company’s tag line of being “A Knockout for Thirst”
(Illustration credit: Alex Glass).

The Phillips Brothers consisted of the Henry Lake, John D., Levin W. and Howard S. Phillips. The company was first started by Levin and Howards Phillips, being later joined by Henry Lake, who over time became the senior member of the brothers’ enterprise. The company was a central member of the Maryland bottling business community and an active member of the American Bottler’s Protective associations (American Bottler 1920).

The center of the Phillips Brothers company was a state-of-the-art factory, operated by top-of-the-line machinery for the time. One of the main innovative machines on their line was the Shields six-head rotary filling machine (Fig. C). With two of the Shields filling machines operating on the production line, the company went from turning out a few dozen bottles daily to 6,000 dozen bottles of soda each day.

Figure C: The Shields six-head rotary filing machine developed the brothers’ bottling company from a few dozen bottle producing company into a highly functioning, high yielding production line of thousands of bottles every day (The Re-ly-on Bottler).

The glass bottles would only interact with machinery through the entire process. First starting with a three-compartment soaking machine, bottles were soaked in three different baths of a caustic soda solution to sanitize the bottles. After being submerged in the super-heated baths at 110, 120 and 130 degrees, they were rinsed out via automatic washing machines that cycled between brushing and rinsing (The Re-ly-on Bottler). Freshly cleaned out, the bottles were then filled with the various carbonated beverages of the Phillips’ Brothers line of products. Most known for their ginger ale, the company also produced sarsaparilla and lemon, orange, and chocolate soda, as well as cola. 

Figure D: Examples of bottle paper labels for the company’s ginger ale and sarsaparilla soda brands from a private collection.
Figure E: A wooden bottle crate from the bottling company from a private collection.

The bottles were then sealed using the innovative lightning closure first patented by Charles De Quillfeldt on January 5th, 1875 before Karl Hutter took over the patent and popularized the design in 1877. This stopper design revolutionized the bottling industry as the seal created by leveraging a rubber disk into the lip of the bottle proved a reliable sealing system (von Mechow 2018).   

Figure F: The trade-mark logo of the Phillips Brothers Bottling Company stamped on a porcelain Hutter lightning bottle closure seal.
Figure G: The bottom of the same porcelain seal bears the K. Hutter name and patent date of “Feb 3 1893”.

References

American Bottler. 1920. Volume 30. Web accessed March 24, 2020.

Champion Beverages Well Named; Efficient Baltimore Company Has Catchy Slogan. The Re-ly-on Bottler: A Magazine of Idea and Ideals for the Bottling Trade. 1922. The International Cork Co. Volumes 3-6. Web accessed March 5, 2020.

The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. 1945. Volume 581.

Von Mechow, Tod. 2018. Bottle Attributes – Beer Bottle Closures. Soda & Beer Bottles of North America. Website accessed March 23, 2020.

The Rise of “Smallish Cigars” – How Cigarettes Became the World’s Most Popular Tobacco Product


Figure 1. Vanity Fair advertising sign from the Baltimore Federal Site (18BC33). Length: 12″.

In 1983, during excavations conducted in advance of the construction of the Baltimore Savings and Loan Association Building, archaeologists discovered a brick-lined privy that had been filled early in the fourth quarter of the 19th century.  The soil filling the privy contained multiple fragments of a blue glass advertising sign for Vanity Fair Cigarettes (Figure 1). 

Tobacco has a long history in Maryland; it formed the backbone of the colony’s agricultural production beginning soon after English settlement in the 17th century.  Tobacco hasn’t been called the state’s “money crop” for no reason; in 2010, tobacco revenues brought 546.5 million dollars into the Maryland economy (CDC 2012).

In addition to growing tobacco, Maryland’s citizens have enjoyed using it in a variety of forms over the centuries—“sipping” it through clay pipes in the 17th and 18th centuries, inhaling powdered snuff, puffing on cigars and chewing plugs of dried tobacco. Some users rolled cigarettes by hand, a practice that seems to have first appeared in the 17th century when Spanish street urchins rolled tobacco in newspaper (Cross and Proctor 2014:63). The smoking of these “smallish cigars” increased during the 19th century, particularly after English soldiers developed a taste for Turkish cigarettes during the Crimean War (Elliott 2009). Cigarette factories began to open in the United States after the Civil War.

William S. Kimball’s Peerless Tobacco Works of Rochester, New York manufactured several brands of cigarettes, including theVanity Fair (Figure 3) brand sold at Baltimore’s Federal Site (18BC33) (Elliott 2009, Shilling 2012:168). The company opened in 1867 and merged with the American Tobacco Company in 1890. New York City, Richmond, and Baltimore joined Rochester as production centers for cigarettes after the Civil War (Elliott 2009).  In Baltimore, the Marburg Tobacco Company and F. W. Felgner and Son were two of the “big six” U. S. cigarette firms that controlled 75% of national sales by the 1870s (Elliott 2009).

Figure 2. Bonsack’s cigarette rolling machine, as shown on U.S. Patent 238,640.

Today, six trillion cigarettes are smoked annually—enough to circumnavigate the globe 15,000 times (Cross and Proctor 2014:61). It took the invention of the automated rolling machine for cigarettes to achieve the popularity they hold today. A skilled worker could hand roll three to four cigarettes a minute (Anchor 2020).  With the invention of the Bonsack rolling machine in 1880 (Figure 2), that rate increased to 210 cigarettes a minute, or 120,000 in ten hours (Edwards 2015). The device rolled tobacco into a continuous strip of paper that was pasted and then cut into appropriate lengths with a rotary knife. James Albert Bonsack’s impetus for inventing the first reliable rolling machine was a $75,000 prize offered by the Allen & Ginter Company of Richmond, Virginia (Cross and Proctor 2014:71). The American Tobacco Company quickly adopted the machine and the availability and popularity of cigarettes began to take off. The use of automation standardized the size of cigarettes and allowed them to be more easily packaged for sale.  

Figure 3. Advertising card for New Vanity Fair Cigarettes, circa 1880s. Cigarette manufacturers were the first to use color lithography commercially (Cross and Proctor 2014).

With the increasing popularity of cigarettes, the number of purveyors of tobacco-related products in Baltimore began to soar.  The Baltimore Sun reported at the turn of the century that there were 2,000 tobacco stores in Baltimore (Rasmussen 1996).

At the turn of the 20th century, machine-manufactured cigarettes only made up four to five percent of tobacco productions consumed in the United States (Cross and Proctor 2014:69).  Cigarette smoking became fashionable among wealthy men during the early years of the 20th century and free cigarettes were provided to service members during World War I, causing smoking to become more prevalent.  Interestingly, the link between lung cancer and smoking was made as early as 1911 (CA-A n.d.:294), but the idea did not gain traction amongst the medical community until mid-century. Today, smoking is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 480,000 persons in the United States annually, making cigarettes the deadliest of consumer products. 

References

Anchor.  2020. The Bonsack Machine and Labor Unrest.  Anchor; A North Carolina History Online Resource.  Website accessed February 7, 2020 at https://www.ncpedia.org/anchor/bonsack-machine-and-labor.

CA-A. Classics in Oncology:  Isaac Adler, M.D. (1849-1918). Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Pp. 294. Website accessed February 8, 2020 at https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.3322/canjclin.30.5.294.

Center for Disease Control (CDC). 2012. State Tobacco Revenues Compared with Tobacco Control Appropriations — United States, 1998–2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). May 25, 2012 / 61(20):370-374. Website accessed February 8, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6120a3.htm.

Cross, Gary S. and Robert N. Proctor.  2014.  Packaged Pleasures; How Technology and Marketing Revolutionized Desire.  University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Elliott, Richard. 2009.  The Early History of Cigarettes in America. Brandstand Vol 34: (Spring 2009). Website accessed February 8, 2020 at http://cigarhistory.info/Cigarette_items/Cigarette-History.html.

Edwards, Phil.  2015.  What Everyone Gets Wrong About the History of Cigarettes.  Vox.  April 6, 2015.

Rasmussen, Fred.  1996.  Cigars Boasted Guardians Figures: In Smoking’s Heyday, Indian Statues Stood Outside Many of the City’s 2,000 Tobacconists.  December 1, 1996.  Website accessed February 7, 2020 at https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1996-12-01-1996336203-story.html.

Shilling, Donovan A.  2012 They Put Rochester on the Map; Personalities of Rochester’s Past.

Prohibition, Beer and Baltimore


Figure 1. Beer bottle dated c. 1910 from the
Monumental Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

As I perused social media and news feeds early in January, I kept coming across stories about the benefits of a dry January. An alcohol-free month was not in my cards, however, because an early January archaeological conference meant lots of social beers with colleagues. 

One hundred years ago this month, in January of 1920, citizens of the United States began to experience a long, dry period as Prohibition got underway. Congress passed the 18th Amendment in October of 1919, following it on January 16, 1920 with the passage of the Volstead Act, designed to enforce Prohibition.  The amendment made it illegal to produce, transport and sell alcohol in the United States. With the exception of Maryland, every U.S. state passed state-level versions of the Volstead Act (Walsh 2017).

Resistance to Prohibition was strong in Maryland, which had elected “wet” governor Albert Ritchie in 1920 (Ciammachilli 2019). This resistance even earned Maryland its nickname of the “Free State” in 1922 (Walsh 2017). Lawmakers in Baltimore especially opposed Prohibition.  Despite opposition within the city, however, the effects of the ban on alcohol were almost immediate, with the closing of bars, saloons and breweries (Levy 2016).  Of Baltimore, the American newspaper wrote that “gloom fell over the wet trade” (cited in Walsh 2017).

Baltimore has always been a city of breweries. The city’s first breweries were established in the first half of the 18th century and produced British-style ales. The bird’s eye view of the city shown on the 1869 Sasche Map illustrates at least 15 breweries, some of them with beer gardens. This preponderance of breweries can be traced back to the increasing German immigration, beginning in the 1840s. Germans brought with them a love of lighter lager beers, whose production began to predominate in the city’s beer manufacturing.  

Figure 2. Illustration of George Bauernschmidt’s brewery as shown on the 1869 Sasche Map of Baltimore. Baurenschmidt opened his brewery in 1864 and remained in operation until 1898, when he and a number of other breweries consolidated into the American Brewery Company. Digital version of the map available at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3844b.pm002540/?r=0.093,0.004,0.101,0.062,0.

Beer bottles are a common find at archaeological sites, beginning in the second half of the 19th century.  The Monumental Brewing Company bottle shown in Figure 1 was found in a privy sealed around 1910 at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) in the Otterbein neighborhood of Baltimore.  The Monumental Brewing Company opened in 1900, but went out of business in 1920, at the start of Prohibition.  

Baltimore’s breweries reacted in one of two ways during Prohibition.  Some manufacturers, including the National Brewing Company and the American Brewery, went out of business (Levy 2016).  Others, like Gunther and Globe, managed to keep their doors open by manufacturing “near” beers—beverages that contained less than one half of one percent of alcohol by volume (Levy 2016).

General opinion holds that Prohibition was a failure (Buck 2013). Alcohol consumption was only moderately reduced by the legal restrictions, while organized crime centered on the illegal production and sale of alcohol soared.  Opposed to the 18th Amendment, Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken famously wrote, “there is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more”. The U.S. ban against the production, transportation and sale of alcohol was ultimately to last for 13 years. In 1933, the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition, making the 18th Amendment the only constitutional amendment ever repealed in our country.  Baltimore’s breweries rebounded and are still successful today.

References

Buck, Betty. 2013. The Failed Experiment of Prohibition.  Baltimore Sun.  Website accessed January 27, 2020 at https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-beer-20131204-story.html.

Ciammachilli, Esther.  2019.  Booze!  Causing Political Fights in Maryland for 100 Years.  WAMU 88.5 American University Radio, March 4, 2019.  Website accessed January 27, 2020 at https://wamu.org/story/19/03/04/booze-causing-political-fights-in-maryland-for-100-years/.

Levy, Sidney.  2016. Lost City:  Local Taverns and Big Breweries. Underbelly. Maryland Historical Society.  February 18, 2016.  Website accessed January 27, 2020 at http://www.mdhs.org/underbelly/2016/02/18/lost-city-local-taverns-and-big-breweries/.

Walsh, Michael T. 2017. Baltimore Prohibition:  Wet and Dry in the Free State. American Palate; A Division of the History Press, Charleston, S.C.

First Central Bank of the United States


Figure 1.  Front of a cast iron bank from the Nathan Mansfield privy (c. 1850-1870) at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) in Baltimore.

This flat piece of cast iron (Figure 1) was once part of a coin bank produced around 1872 by J. & E. Stevens of Cromwell, Connecticut. Known as a still bank (to distinguish them from mechanical banks, which had moving parts), this little repository was a bank shaped like a bank building (Figure 2).  To make matters even more interesting, this artifact was recovered from an archaeological excavation in Baltimore at the future site of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, on Sharp Street.


Figure 2.  Complete J. & E. Stevens bank from a private collection.

This archaeological artifact thus seems like a good entry into an exploration of our nation’s early central banking history.  Today’s Federal Reserve Bank is the country’s third central banking system.  The first—the First Bank of the United States—operated from 1791 to 1811 and was the brainchild of our nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton (Figure 3).

The newly-formed United States was left facing a sizable public debt at the end of the Revolutionary War.  Hamilton’s voracious reading habits, coupled with his experience as a clerk for a Caribbean merchant, left him with a sound understanding of economic systems.  Prior to proposing a national bank, he helped found the Bank of New York in 1784 (PBS 2019). He envisioned the formation of a central bank that would stimulate the economy and provide much-needed credit for building the new nation.  Hamilton’s 1790 proposal to Congress for a national bank was passed into law in early 1791. Hamilton’s other fiscal achievements included establishment of the U. S. Mint, consolidating the states’ debts into a national debt handled by the US Treasury and creating taxes on domestic production to help fund the military (Federal Reserve 2019).


Figure 3.  Alexander Hamilton, circa 1790. By Charles Shirreff – Magnet, Myron (2013) The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735–1817, W. W. Norton & Company, p. 492 ISBN: 978-0393241884., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61422753.

The First Bank of the United States, located in Philadelphia (Figure 4), was chartered for twenty years.  The Federal Government held twenty percent ownership in its ten million dollars of capital. The bank fulfilled numerous financial/fiscal roles:  tax collection, credit extension, issuing standard currency, making commercial loans, handling foreign exchange and serving as a depository for government funds. In addition to rapidly stabilizing the national economy, the bank helped position the United States on equal financial footing with European nations.

Figure 4. Bank of the United States, in Third Street Philadelphia [graphic] / Drawn, Engraved & Published by W. Birch & Son.; Philadelphia: W. Birch & Son, 1799.

From its beginning, centralized banking met with opposition.  The agrarian southern states, as represented by politicians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were against the bank, while the more industrialized northern states were in favor.  The split eventually helped lead to the formation of our nation’s first two political parties – the pro-bank Federalist party and the anti-bank Democratic-Republicans.  Opponents saw the central bank as an overreach of executive branch power—similar to the opposition by state-chartered banks, who felt central financial control was an insult to state’s rights and unwanted competition.  

Republican control of the executive branch, beginning at the turn of the 19th century, led to the bank’s charter not being renewed at the end of its initial twenty-year term. Due to the dissolution of the First Central Bank in 1811, the United States was faced with economic difficulty during the War of 1812, when there was no central bank to fund the military (PBS 2019). James Madison, initially an opponent to centralized banking, supported the creation of the second centralized banking system in 1817.  Andrew Jackson did not renew the charter for the Second Bank of the United States in 1836 and it was not until 1913 that the third iteration of central banking – the Federal Reserve—was created (Britannica 2019).

References

Britannica Online Encyclopedia.  2019  Bank of the United States.  Encyclopaedia Britannica. Website accessed December 17, 2019 at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Bank-of-the-United-States.

Federal Reserve.  2019  Alexander Hamilton.  Federal Reserve History.  Website accessed December 17, 2019 at https://www.federalreservehistory.org/people/alexander_hamilton.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  2019  Alexander Hamilton; Establishing a National Bank.  American Experience.  Website accessed December 17, 2019 at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/establishing-national-bank/.

Two Transportation Firsts – the Old National Pike and the National Road


Figure 1. Stone mileage marker from the National Road. Scale is one-meter long. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab and the Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highways Administration.

As travelers drive along our nation’s highways, their eyes are literally assaulted by a never-ending stream of billboards and towering signs advertising fast food restaurants, shopping centers and gas stations.  Useful information for the traveler to be sure, as are the green reflective signs that display the distance to cities and towns farther along the road. What a different experience we would have had as a traveler in the 19th century. Simple marker posts crafted of carved stone were the norm two centuries ago, providing travelers with directional and mileage information.

This gray limestone marker once stood in Maryland along the Old National Pike, which stretched from Baltimore to Cumberland, Maryland. Maryland holds the distinction of being the first Mid-Atlantic state to finance and maintain its road with a tolled turnpike system. Funded by a group of Baltimore banks, the road was built by several turnpike companies, including the Baltimore-Fredericktown Turnpike Company, beginning in the first decade of the 19th century.  Stone markers were spaced at mile intervals along the road, which joined the National Road at Cumberland. 

Mile marker 119 arrived at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in 2018 for cleaning prior to its upcoming installation at the National Road Museum in Boonsboro, Maryland. It is believed to have been removed from the road right-of-way in the Flintstone area around 1987, when Interstate 68 was constructed.

As the U. S. population began moving west of the Allegheny Mountains into the Ohio River Valley in the late 18th century, the need for easy and reliable overland travel became more pressing.  In 1806, the U. S. Congress authorized the Thomas Jefferson administration  toconstruct another transportation first.  The National Road was the first federally funded infrastructure project of our new nation (Longfellow 2017).  The government used part of the proceeds of land sales in Ohio to fund the project. The National Road eventually extended all the way from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.

Figure 2. Extent of the National Road. Courtesy of the National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/fone/learn/historyculture/nationalroad.htm

The road itself had its origins in a military road constructed in 1754 and 1755 by General Edward Braddock’s troops during the French and Indian War (NPS 2015).  The twelve-foot wide road extended from Fort Cumberland to Fort Duquesne, in what is now Pittsburgh.  Construction actually began on the National Road in 1811 (Jensen 2019), first with improvements to Braddock’s Road, followed by extending the highway from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, West Virginia.

The construction suffered a series of stops and starts over the following decades, but the road had reached Vandalia by 1839, an ultimate distance of 620 miles (Jensen 2019). The twenty-foot wide road made possible travel to the Midwest for stagecoaches carrying people and mail, and Conestoga wagons carrying freight.  Towns offering services like taverns, blacksmith shops and livery stables sprang up and thrived along the length of the road.

The development of the railroad spelled a temporary death knell for the National Road, but it saw a resurgence after the invention of the automobile and the rise in popularity of motor touring (NPS 2015).  In 1926, the National Road was designated as U. S. Route 40 and served as a major east-west artery until the interstate system was established in the 1950s with the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act. Today there are websites and blogs devoted to driving the length of Route 40, with a focus on the highway’s historical context and attractions (Brusca 2019; Srinivasan 2019).

Stone mileage markers began to disappear early in the 20th century, with the introduction of standardized highway signage.  Today, 69 stone mile markers are still standing along the route of the Old National Pike in Maryland and they have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places (MHT 2019).  The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highways Administration’s Cultural Resources Section has created an inventory of historic mile markers throughout the state using ArcGIS, a geographic information system.  The inventory contains description, location, and condition information for each marker, as well as photographs.  Interested readers can find out more at https://maryland.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=374856d5ea864183847d22b158af102a.

Acknowledgments:  The author would like to thank Dr. Julie Schablitsky, Chief of the Cultural Resources Division at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and Terry Maxwell, Public Involvement Coordinator at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration for their assistance with this post.

References

Brusca, Frank.  2019  Return to Route 40; A Half Century of Landscape Change along a Transcontinental American Highway. Website accessed November 20, 2019 at http://www.route40.net/page.asp?n=1.

Jensen, Rich.  2019  National Road:  America’s First Interstate. Website accessed November 10, 2019 at   http://www.historynet.com/national-road-americas-first-highway.htm.  

Longfellow, Rickie.  2017  Back in Time; the National Road.  U. S. Department of Transportation. Federal Highway Administration.  Website accessed November 10, 2019 at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/back0103.cfm

Maryland Historical Trust (MHT).  2019  Old National Pike. Maryland Historical Trust MEDUSA. https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/Medusa/PDF/Allegany/AL-I-B-077.pdf.

National Park Service (NPS).  2015  The National Road.  The National Park Service.  Website accessed November 10, 2019 at https://www.nps.gov/fone/learn/historyculture/nationalroad.htm

Srinivasan, Sriram. 2019   Driving the Historic National Road, from Start to Finish.  Travel Codex.  Website accessed November 20, 2019 at https://www.travelcodex.com/driving-the-historic-national-road-from-almost-start-to-almost-finish/.

The Life of Josiah Henson


In 1849, Maryland citizens could purchase a newly-published book whose origins began in their own state. Entitled The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, this volume recounted Henson’s life, including his childhood as an enslaved individual in Charles County. In and of itself, the publication of slave narratives—personal accounts of life in bondage—was not an unusual occurrence during the antebellum period. What makes this volume stand out is that it served as the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The second most translated book ever published (after the Bible), Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped galvanize the abolitionist movement in the United States (Robbins 2019).

Even without the Stowe connection, Henson (Figure 1) was an interesting man in his own right. While Henson stated his birth date as 1789, he may have actually been born closer to 1798 on a plantation known as “La Grange”. Subjected as a child to multiple acts of cruelty and violence, Henson eventually ended up in present-day Rockville, Maryland, where he became an overseer for Isaac Riley. Escaping enslavement with his family in 1830, Henson relocated to Canada and helped to found the British American Institute of Science and Industry and the Dawn Settlement, a community for former slaves. Henson became active in the Underground Railroad, serving as a conductor, as well as speaking extensively about his experiences as a way to raise money for refugee slaves. He also became a Methodist minister. Before his death in 1883, Henson had visited Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and been the guest of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House (Brock 2018).

Henson has sparked a great deal of intellectual curiosity over the years and recently this interest has taken an archaeological turn. In 2009, archaeologists working for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks began archaeological exploration at the Josiah Henson Site (18MO653). One of the goals of the project was to discover archaeological traces that could be dated to the period that Henson and another twenty enslaved individuals lived at this site. This multi-year project was featured in 2014 on an episode of the archaeological reality show Time Team America. A museum dedicated to the community enslaved at Riley’s plantation will open in late 2020 at the Josiah Henson Park.

Figure 2. Copper alloy pie crimper from the Josiah Henson Birthplace site.

In 2016, a group of archaeologists from St. Mary’s College of Maryland did work at a property known today as La Grange (18CH928) near Port Tobacco, where Henson was born (Webster et al., 2017). It was during testing of a trash midden area between the house and the quarter that a small copper alloy artifact was discovered. It was originally part of a kitchen tool known as a pastry wheel or pie crimper, used for cutting and trimming pie dough (Figure 2). The small wheel would have originally been set in a handle that allowed it to rotate freely (Figure 3). Although dating to the same period as Henson’s life at La Grange, it is unlikely that he ever used or even saw this object. Cooking was considered women’s work and the plantation kitchen would have been located near the main house and in an area probably off-limits to children.

Figure 3. Early 19th-century brass pastry wheel from a private collection. Length: 4″.

References
Brock, Jared. 2018. The Story of Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Smithsonian. Website accessed October 28, 2019 at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/story-josiah-henson-real-inspiration-uncle-toms-cabin-180969094/.


Henson, Josiah. 1849. The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. Arthur D. Phelps, Boston.


Robbins, Hollis. 2019. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Matter of Influence. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Website accessed October 28, 2019 at https://ap.gilderlehrman.org/essays/uncle-tom%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2s-cabin-and-matter-influence


Stowe, Harriet Beecher. 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. John J. Jewett & Co., Boston.

Acknowledgments:  The author would like to thank Cassandra Michaud of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks for providing information about the excavations at the Josiah Henson Park.

A Fish for All Times – Atlantic Menhaden’s Long History in the Chesapeake



Figure 1. Mid-nineteenth century barrel excavated at the Brown’s Wharf site (18BC59).  Photograph courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.

During the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology’s 1987 excavation of the Brown’s Wharf site (18BC59), archaeologists uncovered an unusual find—a complete wooden barrel whose staves were held together with split tree branch bands (Figures 1 and 2).  Barrels like this one, which dated to the mid-nineteenth century, were used for storing virtually anything, including grain, salted meat, cider, whale oil and dried and pickled fish.  And indeed, removing the soil filling the interior of this barrel, revealed – among other items like a metal funnel, a shoe, rope and a broken champagne bottle—sixty menhaden (Figure 3), whose bodies had been preserved in a tarry substance (Stevens 1989).

The Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a native North American schooling fish in the herring family, ranging from Nova Scotia to Florida (Figure 4).  Small and oily, menhaden are not considered an appetizing meal for humans, but are prey for larger fish like weakfish, striped bass and bluefish. Menhaden’s primary food source is phytoplankton.

Figure 2. Unidentified archaeologist excavating the Brown’s Wharf barrel. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.

Menhaden have had a long and important history for the Chesapeake Bay region. Although long used by Native Americans as fertilizer, perhaps the earliest written record of menhaden was penned by Captain John Smith, who described them as “lying so thick with their heads above the water, as for want of nets (our barge driving amongst them) we attempted to catch them with a frying pan.” (Smith 1624).  Although not favored as a human food, menhaden have been used in paint, as a bait fish, for fertilizer, as animal feed, in human dietary supplements and as lamp oil (Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2019).  Large numbers of processing plants sprang up along the Atlantic coast for converting menhaden into these valuable products.

Figure 3: BCUA curator Louis Akerson and archaeologist Scott Simmons examining the contents of the barrel. Reprinted from The Evening Sun, Perry E. Thorsvik.

Almost four hundred years later, a time-traveling John Smith would be disheartened at the menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay.  Once menhaden oil began to replace whale oil for lighting and as an industrial lubricant in the late nineteenth century, menhaden populations began to decline (Franklin 2008; Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2019). These numbers continued to plummet as overharvesting went on throughout the twentieth century, with the menhaden fishery being the largest in the Atlantic.

Some conservationists refer to menhaden as “the most important fish in the sea”, since they form a vital part of the marine food web (Franklin 2008).  With menhaden numbers depleted, populations of phytoplankton, “a major cause of algae blooms and brown tides” (Carini 2017), explode, to the detriment of the coastal waters.  Studies by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) have shown the striped bass population suffering malnutrition because of the reduced menhaden population (Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2019).

Figure 4. The Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Brevoortia_tyrannus1.jpg, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1674101

In an attempt to curb population reduction, the ASMFC voted in 2012 to cap the harvest of menhaden at 20 percent less than the previous three year’s catch (Carini 2017).  A population study completed in 2017 showed that menhaden numbers are increasing, but still not at levels considered healthy for the ecology of the Atlantic coastal ecosystem (Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2019; Carini 2017). Since the Chesapeake Bay is the source of almost 87% of the menhaden harvested in the Atlantic (with Virginia fisherman allocated over 85% of the harvest), the population recovery has not been as successful in the Bay (Dunn 2017).  Although small in size, menhaden loom large in the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem and conservation measures need to continue.

References

Carini, Frank.  2017.  Menhaden:  The Most Important Fish at the Moment.  EcoRI News.  Website site accessed July 30, 2019 at https://www.ecori.org/aquaculture/2017/11/10/menhaden-the-most-important-fish-that-the-moment.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  2019.  Atlantic Menhaden; the Chesapeake’s Unsung Hero.  Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Website accessed July 30, 2019 at https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/more-than-just-the-bay/chesapeake-wildlife/menhaden/.

Dunn, Joel.  2017.  Bay’s History Depended on Menhaden; Its Future Will as Well.  The Bay Journal.  Website accessed July 30, 2019 at https://www.bayjournal.com/article/bays_history_depended_on_menhaden_its_future_will_as_well.

Franklin, H. Bruce.  2008. The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America.  Island Press, Washington, D. C.

Smith, Captain John.  1624. The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer Isles. I.D and I. H. for Michael Sparkes, London.  Electronic version available at https://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/smith/smith.html.

Stevens, Kristen L.  1989.  An Investigation of the Archaeological Resources Associated with the Brown’s Wharf Site (18BC59) on Thames Street, Baltimore, Maryland.  Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology Research Series No. 28.  On file at MHT.