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.
The supermoon of August 2014 competes with the Domino sign on the waterfront in Baltimore. Photograph Jerry Jackson of the Baltimore Sun. http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2014/08/ supermoon-seen-around-the-world/#1
Domino Sugar, with its iconic neon sign, has been a Baltimore institution for over 90 years. The plant was built in 1922, but Baltimore’s sugar history extends back to the late eighteenth century. After becoming a major port of entry for raw sugar during the Revolutionary War, Baltimore took its place as a regional center for sugar production, with eleven refineries in operation by around 1825 (Williams et al. 2000; Magid 2005). Similar refineries in Washington D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia were all established in the early nineteenth century in reaction to international trade restrictions imposed by the Napoleonic Wars (Williams et al. 2000:279).
Among the archaeological collections curated at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab is an assemblage from the sugar processing plant owned by Augustus Shutt and John Tool, in operation between 1804 and 1829 on Green (now Exeter) Street in Baltimore (Magid 2005). Continue reading →
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 →
Note from author: I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Ed Chaney, Deputy Director of the MAC Lab and Dr. Julia A. King, St. Mary’s College of Maryland in the preparation of this blog. Any errors are my own.
Figure 1. Tulip shaped tobacco pipe from the Pine Bluff site. Tobacco had social and spiritual significance for native peoples and in some cultures, stone pipes were used in treaty ceremonies.
This week’s Maryland artifact is a tobacco pipe recovered in the 1970s during an excavation at the Pine Bluff site (18WC20) near modern-day Salisbury in Wicomico County. The pipe, made from fired clay, is in a shape associated with the Susquehannock Indians and often described as a “tulip” pipe. Other materials found during the excavation, including gun parts, glass pharmaceutical bottle fragments and English ceramics, suggest that some components of this possible village site post-dated English contact (Marshall 1977).
By the time of English colonization, the Eastern Shore had been home to Maryland’s native peoples for at least 13,000 years (Rountree and Davidson 1997:20). Archaeological surveys have revealed evidence of short-term camps, villages and places where resources were procured and processed. The abundant natural resources of the Eastern Shore—fish, shellfish, wild game and wild plants—made this area a favorable place to live. Continue reading →
Figure 1. The two center safety pins with stamped numbers marked net bags in commercial laundries and were used to track individual orders. The smaller open pins surrounding the safety pins were probably used to pin paper tags on finished clothing. The object to the top center is a soapstone pencil, used to mark stains.
During the 1980 excavation of the Federal Reserve site (18BC27), archaeologists uncovered the remains of a stoneware drainpipe that was clogged during the 1920s with debris from a commercial laundry. When the pipe was broken open by earthmoving equipment, it was found to have filled over time with artifacts set in a concreted matrix of iron corrosion. Among the artifacts recovered from the pipe were laundry bag net pins—the two odd looking safety pins with the stamped numbers seen in the photograph to the left. Since these large brass safety pins were rustproof, they could be attached to the net bags that separated individual orders in the washing machines. The solid flat heads were stamped with number designations that could be used to track bagged laundry to specific individuals. These pins are still being manufactured today for use in commercial laundries. They were just a few of the large number of commercial laundry-related artifacts found in the pipe. Continue reading →
Returning home by air from a recent trip to Michigan, I was once again struck by the abundant waterways that bisect our little state. The Susquehanna, Potomac, Choptank, Patapsco and Patuxent are the major state rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Overall, between Virginia and Maryland, more than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers wind through the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Chesapeake Bay Program 2014). These waterways are the source of the fish and shellfish that have made the words “Maryland” and “seafood” all but synonymous.
The thought of Maryland’s fishing industry is likely to bring up images of commercial vessels with trawl nets or sports fishermen hauling in citation weight rockfish from the back of a charter boat. But this week’s artifact, a diminutive carved bone fish hook from the Everhart Rockshelter (18FR4) in Frederick County, reminds us that fishing has long been an important part of Maryland’s past (Figure 1). This rockshelter, which was excavated by Spencer Geasey in the early 1950s (Geasey 1993), was occupied for thousands of years, all through the Archaic (7500 B.C. – 1000 B.C.) and Woodland periods (1000 B.C. – A.D. 1600). One of the rockshelter residents must have used this fish hook to catch dinner from nearby Catoctin Creek. Continue reading →
Figure 1. Hoover presidential campaign lapel pin recovered from a drainpipe that served the Wysing Lung Laundry, Sharp Street, Baltimore. Photo, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.
Measuring just 7/8” in length and just 1/4’” tall, this small, unassuming lapel pin bears little resemblance to flashy political campaign buttons of today. Its original background of deep blue paint did not survive the four decades it spent lodged in a wastewater pipe underneath the streets of Baltimore, overlooked by its owner and lost from a garment during a visit to a commercial laundry.
Herbert Hoover, who ran in the 1928 presidential election against Al Smith (whose similarly-shaped campaign pin had a red background), easily won the election, carrying 40 out of 48 states. As a Republican, he had strong support from northern Protestants and western farmers, as well as support from minority groups. In Maryland, Hoover won the primary and had a majority vote in all but two counties during the election.
Figure 1. Projectile points from the Indian Creek V Site.
We probably all have an “arrowhead” or two kicking around in a drawer or shoebox tucked somewhere into the back of a closet. I remember finding points similar to the ones depicted here while picking butterbeans and tomatoes in the family garden when I was a child. Now that I am a full-blown archaeologist, I have been thoroughly trained to call them “points” rather than “arrowheads” (because some of them were affixed to spears and knives rather than arrows). Another thing that I have learned is that the sharpened edges of points and other cutting tools can be used to help reconstruct the diet and the environment of the peoples that made and used them.
The Indian Creek V Site (18PR94) in Prince George’s County, Maryland dates to what archaeologists call the Archaic Period (9500 B.C. – 1250 B.C.). Excavations there revealed that Maryland Indians returned to the site regularly over thousands of years to obtain plants from the surrounding floodplains and wetlands. A peat bog on the site preserved the largest collection of Archaic plant remains yet found in the region, of great value in reconstructing past environments (LeeDecker and Koldehoff 1991). An assemblage of seeds, pieces of nutshell, and small charred wood fragments was recovered at the Indian Creek V Site. Over 10,000 fragments from 63 different plant species represented a wide variety of fruit, tubers, starchy seeds, nuts, shoots, and leaves. These plants would have been used for food and also as medicines, smoking material, and insect repellant. In addition, a pollen core from a nearby peat deposit provided a vegetation record for the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, allowing a detailed environmental reconstruction. Continue reading →
Figure 1: This 25.5 x 23.5” plate from a five-plate stove is one of eight from the site that bear German or Pennsylvania Dutch motifs.
The Antietam Furnace (18WA288), more properly known as the Mt. Aetna Iron Furnace, operated between around 1761 and 1783 in what is now Washington County. Excavations conducted at the former site of the furnace revealed a number of industrial structures and evidence of the production of pig iron, hollow ware and stoves (Frye 1984). Some of the most interesting artifacts from the site included stove plates containing inscriptions in German (Figure 1).
Although Antietam Furnace was not owned by individuals of German descent, proprietors Daniel and Sam Hughes apparently knew their local customer base well – of the eight complete or virtually complete stove plates that were recovered from the site, all were molded with German and Pennsylvania Dutch-style motifs in the forms of tulips, hearts, birds of paradise and blessings in German (Figure 2). From its earliest beginnings, Maryland has been home to a large population of German immigrants and the Hughes brothers were banking on these stoves finding ready customers among them. Continue reading →
Figure 1. The double-sided comb has closely spaced teeth for removing the small lice.
Figure 2. The vulcanized rubber comb is stamped “India Rubber Comb Co. Goodyear Patent May 6, 1851”.
When I found this vulcanized rubber lice comb in a Baltimore privy (Figures 1 and 2), I originally thought I would use it as a way to focus on public sanitation and the increasing importance of public health beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century. It seemed that a discussion of drains, sewers, street cleaning and clean water supplies was in order. But as I dug a little deeper into sources for the blog, another direction began to emerge. With the arrival of winter, many people I know are battling the flu or actively trying to avoid getting it. Thus, in this season of communicable disease, the comb became a way to discuss epidemics and, in particular, typhus epidemics. Continue reading →