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 →
Two or three times a year, staff at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab will get a call from a local citizen who has been beachcombing along the Chesapeake Bay at Brownie’s Beach. While better known as a place for hunting fossils from the Miocene, the calls we get are about the small, colorful glass beads that are also a common find there. Many people think they have discovered Indian trade beads, while in actuality the beads are of a more recent vintage. Two likely explanations for why the beads are present at Brownie Beach have been posited: that they are washing up from a 20th-century ship that wrecked nearby or that they were souvenirs from the now-defunct amusement park once located just to the north, in Chesapeake Beach.
Today’s thrill seekers flock to Six Flags, Disney World or Busch Gardens in search of lightning-fast roller coasters and laser light shows. The precursors of these modern attractions were outdoor amusement parks, often located in waterfront resorts. Here, the double attractions of sea bathing and carnival-type rides and games drew large crowds in the summers. Continue reading →
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 →
Archaeological work done in advance of the Federal Reserve Bank construction in Baltimore in 1980 yielded the usual array of filled privies, wells and cellar holes. But under Barre Street, archaeologists discovered a twenty-foot long section of drainpipe containing thousands of early twentieth-century artifacts concreted into a solid mass filling the bottom half the pipe (McCarthy and Basalik 1980). A little documentary research revealed that the contents of the pipe were associated with a Chinese-owned commercial laundry located nearby.
Figure 1. Tool check or worker identification tag from the Baltimore Clothing and Furnishing Company.
In addition to thousands of straight pins, buttons, safety pins, coins, pieces of jewelry and other clothing-related items from the pipe, the pipe contained an oval copper alloy disk stamped “B.C. & F. Co. 2050”. This item served as a worker identification tag or as a tool check tag. Tool checks were used by factory workers to requisition tools; each tag bore the worker’s identification number. If the tool had not been returned at the end of the day, the number would be used to track down the missing tool to the employee who had checked it out. A New Jersey newspaper advertisement from 1908 revealed that “B. C. & F.” were the initials of The Baltimore Clothing and Furnishing Company (Red Bank Register 1908), a firm that, in accordance with garment trade industry standards, produced men’s suits, trousers, sport coats, and overcoats, as well as men’s pajamas, hosiery, ties, underwear and shirts (Kahn 1989:xiii). Continue reading →
For the past four years, Jefferson Patterson Park in Museum has hosted a blog entitled “Dirty Little Secrets.” We have enjoyed bringing you news of happenings at the park, about artifacts in the MAC Lab collections and about objects that have come here for conservation. But starting next week, our blog will take a new and exciting direction. Its focus will be on archaeological artifacts and how they help reveal the larger stories of Maryland’s past. Most of the artifacts highlighted will be from the collections of the Maryland Historical Trust, but upon occasion we will feature guest bloggers writing about artifacts curated at other institutions. Because the blog’s focus is changing, we are also changing its name to “Maryland History by the Object.” Continue reading →
The following article is part of JPPM’s ‘Curator’s Choice’ series.
During the mid-19th century, Irish immigrants flocked to America to escape the Great Irish Potato Famine (Figure 1). The famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1852, was brought on by potato blight, a disease that devastated the potato harvests across Europe. In Ireland, where approximately one third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food, the famine reduced the population by almost two million, many of whom immigrated to the United States (Irish Potato Famine 2012). Continue reading →
Everybody does it – don’t deny it! Each one of us has a bit of the old collector urge in them. I collect nineteenth- and twentieth-century yellow ware and, if pressed to admit it, those colorful advertising magnets that businesses give away. Continue reading →
This week’s blog is an update on our project with Huntingtown High School’s Introduction to Historical Investigations class. If you read the earlier blog entry (December 10, 2012), you might remember that the students are analyzing the household garbage discarded in a Baltimore privy (aka outhouse) during the mid-19th century. Continue reading →