Musical Musings

Featured Fragment – Instrument Fragments of Houston-LeCompt

By Kerry S. González

Concertina and Harmonica Reeds from Site 7NC-F-139 Top row: concertina reeds Bottom row: harmonica reeds

In the summer of 2012 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted a large-scale excavation at the Houston-LeCompt site in Middletown, Delaware sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Thousands of artifacts were recovered, some of which have been discussed in previous blog posts (See April 2016, December 2015, and January 2015). A total of seven artifacts relating to free-reed musical instruments were recovered from the site, representing a concertina and a harmonica. The identifications of the instrument fragments were made based on size and thickness of each artifact and in consultation with professional musicians. The four harmonica fragments consist of one plate and one reed. Both concertina reed fragments have intact rivets.

Both the harmonica and concertina are small portable instruments, which likely made them more desirable to some. The harmonica is a relatively young instrument, as it was not invented until the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany. By the 1890s, the harmonica was being mass produced and sold by many catalog stores such as Sears and Roebuck (Public Broadcasting System [PBS] 2001). The concertina was developed during the early-nineteenth century. It remained popular through the nineteenth century but its allure rapidly faded during the early-twentieth century. Mass production of other instruments such as the piano and accordion aided in the decline in popularity of the concertina. Archival research has shown that the residents of the Houston-LeCompt site in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were tenant farmers—individuals who traveled from parcel to parcel renting land and planting crops to support their family. Finding fragments of small musical instruments at the site helps archaeologists understand the sometimes-transient lifestyle of these individuals. Although they called many areas home, music often helped provide a mental break from their day-to-day activities and create a comforting sense of place.

 

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Girl in Kentucky playing the Anglo concertina, ca. 1920

 

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Harmonica player

 

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References:

Public Broadcasting System (PBS)
2001    American Roots Series. Instruments & Innovations. Electronic document, http://www.pbs.org/americanrootsmusic/pbs_arm_ii_harmonica.html, accessed December 2014.

Archaeological Amusement

Featured Fragment – Brandywine Springs Carousel Ring

By Bill Liebeknecht

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Recovered steel carousel ring

In 1886, Richard Crook rented the Brandywine Springs facilities from the Fell family. Located west of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, Crook envisioned a resort where people would go on weekends and holidays for picnics, parties, and political rallies. Shortly thereafter, his vision shifted to using amusements to draw in the crowds from Wilmington and Philadelphia. By 1889, he had erected a restaurant and a toboggan slide in the grove down from the Chalybeate spring; by 1890, he added a merry-go-round and the amusement park was on its way (Weslager 1949:70–73). He replaced the initial merry-go-round in 1891 with an enclosed structure housing flying horses (otherwise known as a carousel) (Lawlor 2013:15). The park resembled a shore resort community complete with boardwalks and attractions.

Dovetail conducted archaeological excavations on a portion of the former resort this summer. A seemingly unappealing artifact, an iron or steel ring (pictured left), was recovered from Excavation Unit 2, Level III. This simple, steel ring is from the carousel. Riders on the outside row of animals (typically horses, but not always) could play the “Brass Ring” game. They would grab rings from the end of a wooden arm or shoot loaded with steel or iron rings and one brass ring. The rider who grabbed the brass ring was given the honor of staying on for a free ride. Steel rings taken as souvenirs have been found throughout the park, and although not a prize they are valued as mementos of days gone by (Lawlor 2013:19–20).

For more information on Brandywine Springs visit http://www.fobsde.org/

Brandywine Springs Carousel

 

Brandywine Springs Carousel at Night

 

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Brandywine Springs Food Stand

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

Photographs courtesy of Friends of Brandywine Springs

References:

Lawlor, Mark R
2013 Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, Echoes of the Past 1886-1923.  M and M Publishing. Wilmington, Delaware.

Weslager, C.A.
1949 Brandywine Springs, The Rise and Fall of a Delaware Resort.  Hambleton Company, Inc. Wilmington, Delaware.

What’s in the Attic?

Featured Fragment – Archaeology in historic Salubria’s attic

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Historic Salubria

On August 23, 2011, 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Virginia with its epicenter in Louisa County. The earthquake caused massive damage to eighteenth-century Salubria, a Georgian home located in Culpeper County, Virginia and owned by The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies In Virginia, Inc. (The Foundation).

The damage caused by the 2011 earthquake required extensive repairs to the original roof truss system, roof cladding, and chimneys. Prior to installation of associated new attic flooring, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, at the request of The Foundation, was hired to remove the detritus that had accumulated on the attic “floor” over the years. Because the process involved hand removal of soil, dust, and other materials through careful, controlled digging, the project was termed an “archaeological excavation” despite its location two stories above the ground surface.

Using the building’s structural system, Dovetail laid in a “grid” to divide the attic into 12 sections. All artifacts were bagged by section to examine the deposition of the artifacts. More than 12,000 artifacts were recovered from the attic, including over 350 pieces of cloth of varying size and material, nails, personal items, and paper.

Dovetail archaeologist hard at work!

Dovetail archaeologist hard at work!

The thousands of pieces of paper found in the attic are a direct reflection of both the humans who lived at Salubria and the animals who carried the goods to the attic. One of the most remarkable intact paper fragments was a personal letter from 1862! This haunting letter speaks of the first student death at Farmville Female College (Longwood University) and speaks of the demise and death of Molly Priott (see transcription below the letter).

Front of letter from the Farmville Female College.

Front of letter from the Farmville Female College.

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Back of letter from the Farmville Female College.

 

The death of our dear Mollie is as great a shock to us as it can possibly be to you my precious friend – we did not know the poor child was sick until Sunday when we all thought she had neuralgia, at a late hour last night the Dr. pronounced her disease congestion of the brain – her mother at 10 o’clock last night, no later when I left her, did not seem to apprehend any danger – at five this morning word came to me that she was dying. I went hastily up…[unreadable]

the children, half conscious, half unconscious, of their loss. – I have just left her, little May and I being the last to look upon the loved face of mine the last kiss upon her brow. The coffin is closed and we can not see her more until we all go home where you and we will live again with our beloved.

We have service in the chapel this evening at six, and Mr. Preot goes with the corpse to Petersburg to-night. Write to Mrs. P or come to see her to-morrow. – I feel so obliged to you for your sympathy, it is the first death in our school and keenly felt by Mr. [La chonde] and myself.

I hope to see you soon. – God bless you, my dear, dear friend and be to you all He has promised. Love to you mother and the children –

Tuesday 14th Jan, 1862, Truly and fondly your friend

R…

The 12,000-plus artifacts found during the excavation shed light on the lives of the residents of Salubria. Because this type of “excavation” is rare, these fragile, perishable artifacts are typically lost. This was truly a unique and amazing, albeit filthy, experience for Dovetail!

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Dr. Kerri Barile, Dovetail’s president, after a day in the attic!

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

To learn more about Salubria, or Germanna Castle, visit http://germanna.org/.

Dolls of many parts

Featured Fragment – Houston-LeCompt archaeological site’s dolls

For hundreds of years, dolls have been a staple in homes with young children.  When discovered archaeologically, these playthings reveal much about the culture of those who played with them.  Dolls belonged to girls and were used not only for play, but to teach gender specific management skills such as being a good hostess, wife, and mother (Krofft 2014; 58).   As historical archaeologist and author Jane Eva Baxter reiterates, “Adults use toys as a means of defining age, gender, social class, and as a mechanism for delegating particular tasks, behaviors, and attitudes” (Baxter 2005).  Even today, dolls are used to encourage children to act like adults and ‘playact’ household tasks such as taking care of their baby, hosting tea time, or going to the store.

Fiona Doll low brow china doll

“Fiona”, a Hertwig low brow china doll with blue ribbons painted at knees. Stewart 2013

A number of doll parts were recovered from the Houston-LeCompt site in New Castle County, Delaware. The site, which dates to the late-eighteenth through early-twentieth century, began as a middling farmstead and transitioned to a tenant-owned farm in later years. Doll parts recovered from the Houston-LeCompt site include arm, leg, face, hair, and feet fragments belonging to a variety of doll types.

The jointed arm fragments, pictured below, belong to all bisque miniature dolls made of unglazed porcelain called bisque. These dolls were first produced in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in Germany and France and populated children’s doll houses. Most all bisque miniature dolls are unmarked; therefore, deducing exact origins and dates is difficult without the doll’s clothing.

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Sample of Bisque miniature doll jointed arms from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware

Bisque Miniature doll

Bisque miniature doll with jointed arms and legs. Ebay.com 2015

Bisque porcelain leg fragments were also recovered at the site—some with markings, some without. Those with markings allow for further analysis and identification. The porcelain leg fragments recovered belonged to china-limb dolls, a doll with a head and limbs made of porcelain attached to a non-porcelain body. These fragments allow for easier dating due to their reflection of fashion at the time of production. As in today’s world, a doll’s fashion changes to stay up to date with the latest trends. One leg fragment recovered has a blue hand-painted ribbon at the knee, similar to the low brow “Fiona” china doll pictured above. Elaborate stocking and garter decorations, like the blue ribbon, became popular later in the nineteenth century.  Another fragment recovered was a pink heeled shoe. Because the shoe has a heel, it is presumed to be dated post-1870, as that is when heeled shoes became increasingly popular.

legs

Hand-painted china-limb doll leg, china doll foot, and bisque china-limb doll leg recovered from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References:

Bach, Jean
1983 The Main Street Pocket Guide to Dolls. The Main Street Press. Pittstown, New Jersey.

Baxter, Jane Eva
2005 The Archaeology of Childhood: Children, Gender, and Material Culture. AltaMira Press. Walnut Creek, California.

Ebay
2015 Image of Bisque miniature doll with jointed arms and legs, accessed December 21, 2015,http://www.ebay.com/itm/321844012225

Krofft, Heidi E.
2012    Growing Up A Washington: Childhood in 18th-Century Virginia.University of Massachusetts Historical Archaeology Program. Boston, Massachusetts.

Stewart, Jennifer
2013 Image of “Fiona,” a Hertwig low brow china doll with blue ribbons painted at knees, accessed December 21, 2015 https://quintessentialantiquedolls.wordpress.com/tag/dorothy/

Artifacts recovered for the Delaware Department of Transportation and the FHWA