Thomas Dyott’s Selfie, 1826-Style

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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

Maryland’s Fishing Industry

Bone fishhook from Everhart Rockshelter.

Bone fishhook from Everhart Rockshelter.

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

Recent German Heritage in Baltimore

Figure 1.  Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Figure 1. Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Back in January of this year, I wrote an essay about the first wave of German immigration into Maryland. This week, I am taking a look at the later influx of German immigrants.   I was led to this topic when I noticed that our Baltimore collections contained quite a number of beer bottles whose brewers had distinctly German names.

This early twentieth-century bottle (Figures 1 and 2), molded with the name of Baltimore bottler Israel Greenberg, was found in a privy associated with the family of German upholsterer Edward and Vera Hahn (18BC135). The row house formerly occupied by the Hahns had been demolished to make way for the new construction of Baltimore’s Juvenile Justice Center north of the harbor in the city’s Old Town (Williams et al. 2000:234). The same privy also contained bottles from the Gottlieb Bauernschmidt Strauss Brewing Company (Figure 3). Continue reading

Hoover Campaign Button: Maryland and the Great Depression

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.

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 2.  Hoover campaign button.

Figure 2. Hoover campaign button.

Continue reading

Evergreen House – Context and the Past

In my last blog, I wrote about amusement parks in Maryland.  In that strange way serendipity works, I was inspired to write about a similar theme this week. On a recent commute, I was listening to a “Stuff You Missed in History” podcast about the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. I had no idea the building that served as the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion was the Evergreen House on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. A quick Google Image search on both buildings confirmed the similarities between them (Figures 1 and 2).

evergreen house

Figure 1. The Evergreen House in Baltimore inspired the facade of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is set in New Orleans Square, an area within the theme park based on 19th-century New Orleans.  Designers of the haunted house searched to no avail in that city and throughout the Deep South for architectural inspiration for the Haunted Mansion. The inspiration came instead from a mid-19th century Gilded Age mansion in Baltimore, once home to the railroad magnate Garrett family and now a 48-room museum and library.  The museum’s website describes the facility as “an intimate collection of fine and decorative arts, rare books and manuscripts assembled by two generations of the philanthropic Garrett family, and a vibrant, inspirational venue for contemporary artists” (Evergreen 2014).

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Figure 2. The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland with Thunder Mountain in the background.

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Figure 3. Danish ax or hammer from the Mayer Collection.

Continue reading

Germans in Maryland

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.

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

The Battle of the Scissors – Union Strife in Baltimore’s Garment Industry

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.

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

Heralding Your Political Affiliations on Your Tableware, So to Speak

The mended Rhenish Hohrware jug found at Westwood Manor (18CH621).

The mended Rhenish Hohrware jug found at Westwood Manor (18CH621).

This magnificent Rhenish stoneware jug was recovered from Westwood Manor (18CH621), the residence of planter and innkeeper John Bayne, who lived in the Zekiah Swamp in Charles County in the late seventeenth century. Although the Zekiah was a sparsely settled frontier region on Maryland’s western shore at this time, a number of community institutions—public roads, houses of worship, mills, general stores, and a courthouse—had developed in the Zekiah by the end of 17th century (Strickland and King 2011; Alexander et al. 2010: 21-22), creating a landscape of interconnected people, plantations and community services.

Recent reanalysis of artifacts recovered at Bayne’s residence during a 1996 excavation suggested that the Manor’s occupants and their clientele were striving to reconstitute an English material world in the colony. Along with a variety of expensive and presentation quality ceramic and glass vessels, the assemblage included an elaborately decorated ivory walking stick handle, a silver spoon and other luxury items. Continue reading

The Port of Baltimore

Figure 1.  Coconut shell from the Federal Reserve Site.

Figure 1. Coconut shell from the Federal Reserve Site.

So, I have to admit that this week’s artifact is not the most attractive object I have used on the blog. In fact, since you probably can’t even identify it, I will tell you that it is a fragmented coconut shell. This coconut was enjoyed by a family living in the Otterbein neighborhood of Baltimore in the late nineteenth century and recovered from a cellar at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27). Coconuts are obviously not native to Baltimore, preferring instead to grow in more tropical climes. Thus, this coconut shell can be used to launch a brief history of the Baltimore harbor, since it almost certainly arrived in the city via the port. I was inspired to write on this topic when I heard a story on the radio last week about the longshoremen strike at the Port of Baltimore.

Maryland’s General Assembly authorized the Port of Baltimore in 1706, twenty three years before the town itself was officially established (Brugger 1988). Named for Lord Baltimore, the original port was located at the head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River, in what is today the popular visitor destination known as the Inner Harbor. Baltimore’s Mid-Atlantic location meant that the port remained relatively ice-free throughout the winter, allowing trade to be conducted throughout the year. The port was later expanded to include Fell’s Point to the east and southeast. In the nineteenth century it added Canton, located south and east of Fell’s Point. Continue reading

What the Baltimore Orioles and Babe Ruth Have in Common (Besides the Obvious, That Is!)


Baltimore Orioles logo.

Because it is summer and the height of baseball season, I have decided this week’s blog will focus on the Baltimore Orioles, Maryland’s only major league baseball team. The connection with archaeology and artifacts from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory collections may not be immediately apparent, but stick with me—we will get there! Continue reading