The Sparkling Susanna Sewall by Edward Chaney

Patricia Samford was so pleased to have the very first guest blogger on Maryland History by the Object.  Colleague Ed Chaney agreed to prepare this post while she is away in Maine hiking around Acadia National Park.  Thanks, Ed!


Susanna Sewall’s bodkin
Photo courtesy of Naval District Washington

In 1999, archaeologists at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River recovered a silver-plated bodkin inscribed with the initials “SS”.  A bodkin is a blunted, needle-like object that was commonly used by colonial-era women as a tool to aid in dressing, or worn in a cap as a fashion accessory.  The “SS” bodkin was found at the late 17th-century home of Nicholas and Susanna Sewall (18ST704), so it presumably belonged to her (Rivers Cofield and Chaney 2007).  You can learn more about this rare and interesting object at:“SS”Bodkin.html, but in this article I want to focus on a fascinating event that centered on Susanna.  Continue reading

SS Columbus Paddle Wheel – Steamboat Transportation and Trade along the Chesapeake Bay


The SS Columbus paddle wheel underwent conservation treatment in Louisiana and arrived at the MAC Lab for curation when the lab opened in 1998.

By far the largest artifact in the MAC Lab collections, weighing in at a whopping 15,000 pounds (give or take), is the paddle wheel shaft from the SS Columbus (International Artifact Conservation 1998).  Built in Baltimore and launched in 1828, the Columbus plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, transporting cargo and passengers between Baltimore and Norfolk (Holly 1994).  On November 28, 1850, a fire broke out onboard the steamship, resulting in nine fatalities and the sinking of the vessel near Smith Point, Virginia.  Although the location of the wreck had been known since the 1970s, a decision was made to bring up the 22 ft. long paddle wheel shaft, as well a number of other pieces of the vessel, after the Army Corp of Engineers dredged adjacent to the shipwreck in 1990 in order to deepen the shipping channel (Irion and Beard 1995). Continue reading