This odd little funnel is a recent addition to the collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (Figure 1). It was discovered in the 1980s in a Baltimore privy (18BC66) filled in the second quarter of the 19th century. The shape of the rim, measuring 4.00” in diameter, suggested that it was meant to fit over another vessel. I speculated that it might have been used in the kitchen for filling jars with foodstuffs like preserves. But then I found a match for this vessel, paired with a mug, in a circa 1830s English pottery pattern book (Figure 2). Since the funnel and mug were shown on the same page as a bedpan, I began to suspect the funnel had a different type of utilitarian function. A quick call to English ceramic specialist George L. Miller suggested that it was a spitting cup.
Perhaps Maryland’s most famous glass product
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
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.
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
Alcoholics Anonymous, the highly successful organization that helps individuals fight alcohol addiction, was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935 (Anonymous 2015). The organization (commonly known as “AA”) remained small before the 1939 publication of the group’s philosophy and methods of practice. The “Big Book”, as it came to be known, set out the all-important Twelve Steps of Recovery and contained personal stories from group members—another critical component of the organization. Alcoholics Anonymous has become an international organization; in 2012, AA Census estimated that there were 114,642 groups and 2,131,549 members (S., Arthur, 2014).
This English-made ceramic teacup (Figure 1), dating to the second quarter of the nineteenth century and found in a Baltimore privy (Basalik and Payne 1982), is a tangible reminder that overuse of alcohol is not just a modern-day problem. The cup contains a printed design of a man and woman flanking a shield-shaped motif from which sprouts an oak tree. A banner above the heads of the figures proclaims “Firm as an Oak”, while banners beneath their feet state “Be Thou Faithful Unto Death”. The male and female each appear to be holding flags, although these portions of the cup are missing. Complete vessels suggest that the flags would have read “Sobriety” (male) and “Domestic Comfort (female).
The cup’s motif, sometimes referred to as “The Teetotal Coat of Arms”, symbolizes the moral reform movement that supported abstinence from alcoholic beverages. This crusade, aimed at the working class, was popular in both Britain and the United States in the nineteenth century (Smith 1993). Continue reading
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.
We are fast headed towards winter with the re-igniting of furnaces and comforts of central heating. Staying warm is much easier in 2014 than it was even a hundred years ago. Even so, it was possible to gather around the hearth and remain at least moderately warm inside before the wonders of central heating. But what did people do when they had to travel in the winter months? What means did travelers in coaches and trains have for keeping warm?
The traditional way of keeping hands and feet warm in coaches was the use of lap robes and heated bricks. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, passengers on trains could thank the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as well as Baltimore potter Maulden Perine, for passenger car designs that included concessions to passenger comfort. Continue reading