Baltimore and the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society


Figure 1.  Temperance Movement cup found in the fill of the privy.

Figure 1. Temperance Movement cup found in the fill of the privy.

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

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Rockingham Hunt Pitcher and the Baltimore Pottery Industry


18BC27 (side 1)

Skillful application of the mottled Rockingham glaze serves to highlight the stag hunt motif on this Bennett pitcher.

During the 1980 excavation done prior to the construction of Baltimore’s Federal Reserve Bank, archaeologists removed the contents of numerous mid- to late nineteenth-century wells and privies from a neighborhood that served as home to first and second generation European immigrants. One of these privies had become the final resting place for a magnificent example of Baltimore’s nineteenth-century pottery industry. This Rockingham pitcher, molded in a detailed hunting scene depicting hounds attacking a stag and a boar, was manufactured around 1855 by E. and W. Bennett of Baltimore (Claney 2004). The Bennett firm, in production between 1846 and 1936, was one of the best known North American manufacturers of Rockingham glazed wares (Ketchum 1987:21). This firm’s wares are prized by collectors today for their finely detailed molded patterns, as well as quality of their mottled glazing (Brooks 2005). Continue reading

The Birds and the Bees


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

Lake George Plate—Mystery Solved!


Earlier this summer, JPPM intern Sharon Osofsky studied artifacts from a mid-19th century privy in Baltimore. One interesting artifact tossed into the privy pit was a white earthenware plate printed with a scene of Lake George, New York (Figure 1). The back of the plate had a mark (Figure 2) that indicated that it had been manufactured by the British pottery firm of William Ridgway and Company. Continue reading

New Information about Post-Colonial Ceramics


Once again, we have added to the MAC Lab’s Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland web site – new information on three Post-Colonial ceramic types is available for your researching pleasure; white felspathic stonewares, alphabet wares, and Japanese Geisha Girl (!) porcelain. The Diagnostic Artifacts web site was created to assist professional archaeologists as well as the interested public to recognize significant types of artifacts found in Maryland. Check out Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland today!


White Felspathic Stoneware


Geisha Girl Porcelain