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


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

Baltimore’s Canton Neighborhood


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

flask 2

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


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

Levering and Brothers, Baltimore Importers of English Ceramics and Glass


This little advertising plate was found in the fill of Feature 30, a brick-lined privy that was used by the family of Nathan Mansfield, a Baltimore blacksmith.

This charming little 10-sided plate, measuring a mere 4″ in diameter, was discovered at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) in a privy filled with household garbage between 1850 and 1870.  It was most likely a giveaway by Levering & Brothers, located on Lombard Street in Baltimore. This business began as Levering Brothers in 1852 and later became known as Levering and Brothers (Walthall 2013).

The printed text in the well of the plate proudly proclaims Levering & Bro.  as “Importers of China Glass and Queens Ware also Window Glass & Stone Ware at Factory Prices.”  This little plate is not quite as elaborate as a circa 1856 Levering platter owned by Winterthur Museum; it shows a wide range of printed earthenware (jugs, coffee pots, tureens, and a chamberpot), a glass decanter and several lighting fixtures (Winterthur 1956.0015).  These two pieces may have been giveaways to stores who purchased their ceramics and glass for resale (Miller, personal communication 2016).


An advertising platter from the Winterthur Museum collections. Clinton Levering’s import business, also shown as being on Lombard Street, is believed to have preceded that of Levering and Brothers.  This vessel has two small holes along its top edge, presumably for displaying it on a wall.  Winterthur Museum, Delaware.

Ceramics from Great Britain, and particularly earthenware produced in the Staffordshire region, had long graced the tables of American citizens. The two Baltimore advertising plates show that English pottery manufacturers still enjoyed a ready market in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. While a number of pottery manufactories operated in Baltimore in the 19th century, most produced more utilitarian earthen and stoneware, and not refined tablewares.  Therefore, it was necessary to maintain relationships with the British producers of ceramics and glass.

Ceramic importers, like Levering and Brothers, ordered wares they thought would be in demand with their American customers (Ewins 1997, Miller and Earls 2008:70).  Many of these wares would be resold to country stores.  In 1850, Baltimore was the second largest city in the nation, and its harbor served as an important point of entry for imported goods from all over the world.  With three railroad lines running from the city by 1850 and a fourth (the Western Maryland Railway) about to begin construction, it was also a major point of departure for those same goods to travel west and north to eager consumers. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that North American potteries in West Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio began to supersede the British hold on the American ceramic market.


Ewins, Neil.  1997 “Supplying the Present Wants of Our Yankee Cousins …”: Staffordshire Ceramics and the American Market 1775-1880. Journal of Ceramic History. 15 .

Miller, George L.  2016  Personal communication.

Walthall, John.  2013  Queensware Direct from the Potteries; U.S. Importers of Staffordshire Ceramics in Antebellum America, 1820-1860. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey Champaign-Urbana and the Transferware Collectors Club, San Francisco.  Studies in Archaeological Material Culture No. 1.

Rocket’s Red Glare – The Battle of Baltimore and the Birth of the Star Spangled Banner

12 pounder

Figure 1.  A 12 pound solid shot found during dredging in the Patapsco River near Fort McHenry.

Resting for many years deep in the silt at the bottom of the Patapsco River, adjacent to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, this 12 pound cannonball’s underwater fate belies its brief moment of glory. For this cannonball was fired during the momentous battle that led to the genesis of our country’s national anthem.

We all know the story from our elementary school days. Francis Scott Key, a Maryland-born lawyer, was inspired by the sight of the U. S. flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the September 1814 Battle of Baltimore.  Although British shells rained down relentlessly for 25 hours, the fort held (Lineberry 2007). Key, watching the battle throughout the night from about eight miles away, was relieved to see in “the dawn’s early light” the American flag flying above the fort – a sign of American victory.  Later that morning, Key penned a poem he entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Within a month, it had been published in at least nineteen American newspapers (NMAH 2016). Key himself set the poem to music, using a popular English melody written around 1775 and entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  The first documented public performance of Key’s work set to music occurred on October 19, 1814 at the Holiday Street Theater in Baltimore (SI 2016).  The song was later retitled “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Although it was a popular patriotic song throughout the nineteenth century, “The Star Spangled Banner” did not become our country’s national anthem until 1931.


Figure 2.  A View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry.  Print by J. Bower, Philadelphia, 1816.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort McHenry. 


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