Tagging 19th-Century Style: Maryland State House Acorn


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Figure 1. Charles Willson Peale, A Front View of the State-House &c. at Annapolis the Capital of Maryland, ca. 1789.   This illustration was made soon after the completion of the dome.  The acorn is barely visible above the dome.  Maryland State Archives.

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

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Beer in Baltimore – Two and Half Centuries of Sudsy Brews


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The Natty Boh man atop Natty Boh Towers.

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).

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Two of the malting tiles found at the Clagett’s Brewery site.  The tile on the left shows the malting floor surface side, while the tile on the right shows the underside, with the deep cell structure.

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

Heater’s Island Jesuit Ring


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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

An Amelung Decanter?


Perhaps Maryland’s most famous glass product

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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

Baltimore’s Canton Neighborhood


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Chinese porcelain “Canton” plate, painted in characteristic blue landscape motif.  From the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27). Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.

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

Thomas Dyott’s Selfie, 1826-Style


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Benjamin Franklin

In  April 2015, this blog featured a tea cup decorated with a motif that supported the nineteenth-century temperance movement in the United States. To read go to Maryland History by the Objects Archives. The object that is the subject of this current post had a decidedly more complex message with regards to alcohol.

The pale green pint flask was found in a privy filled sometime between 1830 and 1860 at the Schifferstadt Site (18FR134) in Frederick County, Maryland. Molded in a horseshoe shape, the flask was manufactured around 1826 by the Kensington Glass Works of Philadelphia.  One side of the bottle features the bust of one of Philadelphia’s most famous residents, Benjamin Franklin, with the inscription “WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY”.  The reverse side shows a likeness of Thomas W. Dyott, encircled by his name.  Figural flasks like this one were produced in great numbers in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century and often honor historical heroes and contemporary celebrities (Palmer 1993:385). Continue reading

Fort Frederick – Frontier Outpost in Washington County


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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