A “Killer” Artifact for Babies

A Partial Bone Disc Recovered from the Houston-LeCompt Site

By Sara Rivers Cofield and Kerry S. González

This month we are going to revisit an artifact that Dovetail recovered from their data recovery excavations at the Houston-LeCompt site in New Castle County, Delaware. This work was 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 during the fieldwork, some of which have been discussed in previous blog posts (see April 2016, December 2015, January 2015, and March 2017). For this blog, we not only have a guest author, Sara Rivers-Cofield, Federal Curator at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab), but we are unabashedly highlighting an artifact we misidentified in 2013.

When Sara took on an analysis of the clothing-related artifacts from the Houston-LeCompt site in 2014, she photographed this partial bone disc (Photo 1) because she thought it might have been a button mold. One-holed bone discs were often used for making thread- or cloth-covered buttons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the holes for such buttons were usually much smaller. For that reason, this artifact was not included in Sara’s subsequent analysis and report.

Photo 1: Partial bone disc from the Houston-LeCompt site
(Test Unit 80, Feature 18, Strat. I, Lev. 2).

 

As it turns out, leaving the artifact out of the clothing analysis was the right decision. Earlier this year Sara was researching artifacts online when she stumbled across an Australian archaeological report showing several similar discs labeled as “bone feeding bottle nipple guards” (Stocks 2013:79, 110, 161, 184). It was an “aha” moment because she had seen nineteenth-century baby bottles that had long tubes with a nipple at the end (Photo 2). The bottles are famous for having been difficult to clean and therefore a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that led to illness and death for many infants. As a result, the bottles were nicknamed “murder bottles” and eventually were removed from the market (Baby Bottle Museum 2016). By the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, other materials like rubber and celluloid were available for bottle nipples, however according to the 1902 and 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalogs some guards were still made of bone (Figures 1-2).

Photo 2: Many babies were photographed with their bottles, perhaps to keep them happy and still for the photo session (Parent24 2018).

 

Figure 1: Disc-shaped nipple guards can be seen on bottles, nipple shields, and teething rings in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog. The description of the glass nipple shield specifies that the guard is made of bone (Sears, Roebuck Co. 1902:454).

 

Figure 2: Two teething rings/pacifiers featured in the 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalog specify that the nipple guard is made of bone (Schroeder 1971:794).

 

It was exciting to have a lead on that tricky bone disc that she remembered from Houston-LeCompt. Not long after this discovery, Sara found a complete bone guard in a collection from the City of Baltimore that had just been delivered to the MAC Lab, and this example even has a rubber lining remaining in the ring (Photo 3). No doubt there are many more of these in collections that have never been properly identified.

Now that we can recognize these bone discs for what they are, it is possible to connect the Houston-LeCompt site to an interesting era in the history of parenthood when new bottles were designed to make parents’ lives easier by letting babies feed themselves. How awful it must have been for parents to realize that their adoption of these convenient feeders could have such deadly consequences.

This artifact is just one example of the importance of retaining archaeological collections. Human beings have made an amazingly diverse array of products, and it just isn’t possible for any one archaeologist to know about them all. Archaeology is an ongoing learning process that keeps going once the initial written report is finished.

 

Photo 3: Complete nipple guard with surviving rubber in the center. From the Albemarle Rowhouse site (18BC50/40H-292).

 

 

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:

Baby Bottle Museum
2016   Murder Bottles: Baby feeding bottles that could kill. Electronic document, http://www.babybottle-museum.co.uk/murder-bottles/, accessed November 2018.

Parent24
2018    Timeline: From ‘killer bottles’ to baby cages, weird and wonderful baby gadgets from the past, electronic document, https://www.parent24.com/Baby/Fun/timeline-from-killer-bottles-to-baby-cages-here-are-baby-gadgets-from-the-past-20180522. Accessed August 2018.

Schroeder, Joseph J., Jr, editor
1971    Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1908, Catalogue No. 117: A Treasured Replica from the Archives of History. DBI Books, Inc., Northfield, Illinois.

Sears, Roebuck Co.
1902    The 1902 Edition of the Sears, Roebuck Catalogue. 1986 Edited reprint by Bounty Books, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, New York.

Stocks, Robyn
2013    Miscellaneous, Organics and Non-structural Metals Report: Darling Quarter, Darling Harbor. Vol. 3, Section 8.2 of the Casey & Lowe Darling Harbor report. Electronic document, http://www.caseyandlowe.com.au/pdf/darlingquarter/DarlingQuarter_Volume_3_Section_8.2_Misc_Report_Part1.pdf, accessed November 2018.

A Brush with a Hog

A Brush with a Hog: Cleaning Your Teeth in the Nineteenth Century

By Kerry Gonzalez

In 2018, archaeologists from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), Applied Archaeology and History Associates, Inc., and Dovetail Cultural Resource Group worked on four sites along Frederick Road (MD 144) in Howard County, Maryland. The survey is part of a stewardship initiative by MDOT SHA to explore the history and development of the MD 144 corridor, known historically as the Baltimore and Frederick-Town Turnpike and the National Road. As part of this work, Dovetail will be processing the field and artifact data, as well as producing a final report on four sites. While the archival research and data analysis is ongoing, the site appears to be a mid nineteenth century dwelling that may have served as a store.

This month’s blog highlights a bone toothbrush recovered from the Poplar Springs excavations (Photo 1 and Photo 2). Mid- to late nineteenth century examples like this one, once contained animal hair bristles held in place by copper alloy wiring (Photo 2). While hog bristles were the preferred hair for toothbrushes, horse and badger hair were also used at various times (Pittman 2018).

Bone Toothbrush Fragment image

Photo 1: Bone Toothbrush Fragment Recovered From Excavations at Poplar Springs Site.

Close up of toothbrush - Image

Photo 2: Image Taken with Microscope Showing Intact Bristles and Copper Wire.

Mid-to-Late 19th Century Bone Toothbrush - Image

Photo 3: Mid-to Late-Nineteenth Century Bone Toothbrush Recovered From Clagett’s Brewery (18BC38) in Maryland (JefPat 2018).

 

The first bristled toothbrush was invented during the Tang Dynasty (AD 619–907) in China (Library of Congress 2013). While the bone or bamboo toothbrush with hog bristles was used throughout China during and after the Tang Dynasty, it was some time before this invention reached Europe. Prior to this, Europeans would clean their teeth (if they chose to do so) with a rag or chew stick (Samford 2002). It was not until 1780 that William Addis reportedly invented what we know today as the toothbrush. The legend says:

Addis became involved in a dispute that got out of control, and was thrown into Newgate prison, charged with starting a riot. Languishing in a dark and dank jail cell, Addis had time on his hands, and a foul-tasting mouth. The story has it that he spied a broom in a corner of a room, and was struck with inspiration. Retrieving a bone from the jail cell floor, he somehow drilled holes into it and obtained bristles from a sympathetic jailer. [Museum of Everyday Life n.d.]

Toothbrushes were being mass-produced across Europe by the 1840s, and by 1857 the first U.S. patent was filed by H.N. Wadsworth. This patent outlines how the new and improved angle of the bristles “keeps the gums healthy and vigorous” among other things (Samford 2002). However, while toothbrushes likely cleaned better than the previously used rag or stick, the bristles often broke off leaving sharp ends that punctured the fragile gum tissue and thus led to nasty oral infections. Animal hair continued to be used in toothbrushes until 1938 when the first toothbrush with nylon bristles was presented to the market (Pittman 2018). The bristles on this new and improved toothbrush were still very coarse and it was not until the 1950s that softer bristles were introduced.  So, while you are brushing your teeth tonight, be thankful that the toothbrush was invented and that you are not using a chew stick or rag to clean your teeth.

 

 

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:

Museum of Everyday Life
n.d.      Prison, Suicide, & the Cold-Climate Hog. Electronic document, http://museumofeverydaylife.org/exhibitions-collections/previous-exhibitions/toothbrush-from-twig-to-bristle-in-all-its-expedient-beauty/a-visual-history-of-the-toothbrush. Accessed August 2018.

Library of Congress
2013    “Who Invented the Toothbrush and When Was it Invented?” Everyday Mysteries:  Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress.  Website accessed February 23, 2017 at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/tooth.html.

Pittman, Bill
2018    Thomas Jefferson’s Toothbrush. Electronic document, http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/may03/iotm.cfm. Accessed August 2018.

Samford, Patricia
2002    Bone Handled Toothbrushes. Electronic document, https://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/SmallFinds/Toothbrushes/index-BoneHandledToothbrushes.html, accessed August 2018.

More than Just Another Brick in the Wall

Featured Fragment – A Mysterious Artifact from the Squirrel Creek Site

By D. Brad Hatch, Ph.D.

This month’s blog continues our series highlighting the artifacts recovered from the Squirrel Creek site in Randolph County, North Carolina. On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at the site, guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014). The artifact discussed below initially appeared to be one of the most unassuming in the collection, but in the end, was one of the most confounding for us in terms of its use.

During the excavations around a standing stone chimney, archaeologists recovered a cast iron block measuring 8.5 inches long by 3 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide and weighing 24.5 pounds (Figure 1). This object, known in the field as the “iron brick” due to its size and shape, was discovered in a layer of fill that extended into the western hearth and appeared to have been pushed up against the chimney sometime during one of the logging episodes that occurred on the property in the twentieth century, after the site’s occupancy (Figure 2). The purpose of the object was the focus of much speculation on site and continues to be, even now.

Figure 1: Iron Block Recovered from the Squirrel Creek Site.

 

Figure 2: View of the Western Hearth where the Iron Block was Found.

Based upon its association with the hearth, several hypotheses have been put forth relating its use to heat or food. Some have suggested that it could have been used as a source of heat. Having been heated in the fire, the iron block could have been placed in a container to act as a foot, bed, or food warmer. Another hypothesis is that it could have been used a small anvil for light metal working in or around the house. Perhaps the best-documented hypotheses for the use of this object comes from one of the descendants of a previous owner of the site.

Hal Pugh is the fourth great grandson of Samuel Trogdon, who owned the property on which the site is located in the late-eighteenth century, approximately 30 years before the dwelling at the site was constructed. Mr. Pugh was consulted extensively, both during and after the excavation, due to his expertise on North Carolina pottery (more on this to come in a future post). However, when he saw the iron block, he immediately recognized a similar object passed down through his family (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Pugh Family Iron Block (Courtesy of Hal Pugh).

According to Mr. Pugh, the cast iron block in his possession is 6.25 inches long by 2.25 inches tall by 5 inches wide. This block sat “on my grandparent’s hearth… [and] they used it as a base for cracking nuts…(usually walnuts and hickory nuts). My dad said they kept it on the fireplace hearth. He said they would sit around the fire in the fireplace in the fall & winter, crack the nuts and throw the shells in the fire. When they got through any smaller fragments of nutshells left over were simply swept in the fire.”

Considering that the iron block at the Squirrel Creek site was found in the hearth as well as the familial and local connections of the block in Mr. Pugh’s collection, it seems logical that both objects served similar purposes. Unfortunately, we have not found any other examples of an object like this in North Carolina or elsewhere, so we have been unable to confirm this interpretation. It is our hope that this post has shed a little light on this unique object and the process of artifact interpretation, and it may encourage other people to come forward with similar artifacts for comparison. If you have seen one of these, please let us know (Figures 4 and 5). You can contact me at bhatch@dovetailcrg.com.

Figure 4: Pugh Family Iron Block. Dog for scale (Courtesy of Hal Pugh).

 

Figure 5: Iron Block Recovered from the Squirrel Creek Site. Dog for scale.

 

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: 

Overton, Brian
2014    Archaeological Data Recovery Plan: Site 31Rd1426, Randolph County, North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Transportation Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Let’s get ‘fired’ up!

Featured Fragment – Cast Iron Andirons

By Kerry S. González

In October 2016 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at a multi-component site with the primary core representing an early-nineteenth through early-twentieth century domestic occupation (31RD1426&1426**) located in Randolph County, North Carolina. The project was completed on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, in compliance with their Data Recovery Plan, and the overall Phase III assemblage contained nearly 25,000 artifacts. This blog is the first in a series of entries highlighting the plethora and variety of objects recovered from the site.

The first artifacts discussed in this series are a pair of cast iron andirons, sometimes referred to as fire dogs. These form a matching pair but neither is complete however they mirror the pair shown in the image below.  They are in different stages of corrosion and were recovered from separate contexts approximately 20 feet apart on either side of the central chimney once associated with a standing dwelling.

Andirons Recovered From Site 31Rd1426/1426**.

 

Image Showing Complete Set of Andirons in the Same Style as Those Recovered From Site 31Rd1426/1426** (Wiles 2017).

Andirons were used in fireplaces to elevate large burning logs. This allowed oxygen to easily circulate around the logs and feed the flames, rendering a more efficiently burning fire. Because fireplaces often served two purposes, heating a room and as a heat source for cooking, it was important to have a constant fire in the hearth; this was greatly aided by the andirons.

Eastman Johnson Painting “The New Bonnet” Showing Andiron in Similar Style to the Ones Recovered From Site (The Metropolitan Museum of Art [MET] 2017).

Andirons have been used in fireplaces for centuries. For those with means, andirons were often highly embellished and served in both their utilitarian capacity and as an interior decoration.  The practice of using andirons as a canvass for artistic expression began during the medieval period when blacksmiths began adding embellishments to andirons. For example, an andiron from the fourteenth century was forged with a serpent head extending from the top (Apartment Therapy 2018). Throughout the Renaissance period and into the eighteenth century, andirons continued to be designed with motifs such as ancient Greek and Roman statuary or molded in the form of animals. An elaborate set of andirons on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston were reportedly used by Marie Antoinette at Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s rustic retreat, located in the park of the Chateau de Versailles. These andirons display two goats eating grapes from a central urn. Beneath the goats is a relief of cupids and grape vines (Museum of Fine Arts Boston 2018).

French Andirons (Museum of Fine Arts Boston 2018).

While decorative andirons clearly reflected the tastes of their owners, the andirons found at site 31RD1426&1426**—although plain—speak volumes. The occupants of the site were tenant farmers who eked out a meager existence in the North Carolina Piedmont but they still sought technological items that helped to render a more efficient (and warmer!) household.

So, as you are sitting in your home this winter trying to stay warm, contemplate the possible shapes and styles of andirons and what you may have commissioned if you had the monetary freedom to do so.

 

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: 

Apartment Therapy
2018    Quick History: Andirons. Electronic document, https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/quick-history-andironsretrospe-149729, accessed January 2018.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2017    The New Bonnet, Accession Number 25.110.11. Electronic document, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/25.110.11/, accessed January 2018.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston
2108   French Andirons. Accession Number 27.521.1-2.11. Electronic document, http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/andiron-505383, accessed January 2018.

Wiles, Tom
2017   Repurposed fireplace andirons holds planter box. In Pinterest [Personal Page]. Electronic document, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/314266880220703842/, accessed June 2017

A is for Artifact

Featured Fragment – Marriott Alphabet Cup

By Kerry S. González and Dr. Kerri S. Barile

For this month’s blog we are reaching way back into the archives to one of Dovetail’s first large-scale projects. In early 2006, the City of Fredericksburg and the Inns of Fredericksburg LLC employed Dovetail to investigate the history of a lot on the corner of Caroline and Charlotte streets in Fredericksburg, Virginia, now the location of the Courtyard by Marriott. The study, completed over the course of several months, uncovered more than 300 years of layered occupational history, a common occurrence on urban archaeological sites (Photo 1). These included: 1) part of the foundation of Roger Dixon’s early- to mid-eighteenth-century store; 2) the rear section of the circa 1773–1832 Indian Queen Tavern; 3) a rear work area associated with the Indian Queen; 4) a late-1830s Servant Quarter built over both the eighteenth-century building and the Tavern; 5) an 1840s brick alley wall; and 6) an early-twentieth-century porch stoop. All told, over 70,000 artifacts were retrieved during Dovetail’s excavation, two of which will be highlighted in this post.

Photo 1: Overview of the Marriott Excavation Area Showing the Many Foundations Exposed During the Archaeology Study.

The two artifacts presented in this blog are from an alphabet cup, an uncommon find on archaeological sites. These two fragments represent two sides of one brown transfer print whiteware cup. Alphabet Wares were most commonly produced on plates, with cups seemingly being less favorable to potters. They were first made in England beginning in the late-eighteenth century with production continuing throughout the twentieth century (kovels.com). These vessels were made for children with the intent of teaching them their A,B,Cs. As seen in Photo 2 the alphabet letters on the cup found at the Marriott site are printed in a large, easy to read format. Alphabet Ware plates typically had decorated centers with scenes appealing to a child, such as animals or children’s activities. Cups were decorated with similar childlike motifs like the example shown in Photo 3 that depicts a lazy day on the river.

Photo 2: Alphabet Ware Cup Fragments Recovered During Marriott Excavation Decorated with a Brown Transfer Print and Daisy Motif.

 

Photo 3: Nineteenth-Century Brown Transfer Printed Cup with Boat Motif on Complete Cup Representing the Same Design on the Cup Found During the Marriott Excavations (Ebay 2017).

This semi-hands-on learning style was not unique to Alphabet Ware or even the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During medieval times and through the eighteenth century, children used what is known as a hornbook (Figure 1 and Photo 4). A hornbook was a paddle-shaped piece of wood with a piece of parchment or paper containing a lesson affixed to the board. The parchment or paper was mounted in a frame and covered with a very thin piece of horn or mica to keep the parchment intact and safe from a child’s dirty hands. The handle portion was purely to make holding the learning device easier for both the child and the instructor, be it a parent, nanny, or tutor. The lessons typically consisted of letters (sometimes both upper and lowercase) above Arabic numbers followed by the Lord’s Prayer.

According to Moya Cove (2006), the eighteenth-century learning style known as the ‘gingerbread method’ was a direct result of the phonic-based hornbook. In a move away from the monotony of learning letters from a board, teachers and parents alike strove to revive learning by making letters out of gingerbread (Cove 2006). However, years prior to making actual letters from gingerbread dough, baked goods decorated with letters were sold in open market stalls (faqs.org 2006).

Regardless of when and how children learned their letters, the idea of integrating learning into daily life and activities has remained a constant throughout history. Today, homes with children likely have more educational aides than can ever be used. And to think, 200 years ago, simple gingerbread dough and a cup with letters was more than enough. Perhaps they also practiced letters with a stick in the dirt but they certainly managed without all the bells and whistles we have in 2017.

 For more information on Alphabet Wares visit the Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland Webpage which has an excellent article on this type of ceramic and date ranges for the various styles.

Figure 1: ‘Miss Campion’ Holding a Hornbook, 1661 (thenonist.com 2003).

 

Photo 4: Typical Hornbooks (thenonist.com 2003).

 

 

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: 

Cove, Moya
2006    Sounds Familiar: The Historic of Phonics Teaching. In, Phonics: Practice, Research and Policy, edited by Maureen Lewis and Sue Ellis, pp. 105–112. Paul Chapman Publishing, Thousand Oak, California.

Ebay
2017    Staffordshire Alphabet ABC Mug. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Staffordshire-Alphabet-ABC-Mug-4-boys-and-a-row-boat-/141806025511, accessed May 2017.

faqs.org
2006    ABC Books. On-line documentation. http://www.faqs.org/childhood/A-Ar/ABC-Books.html, accessed May 2017.

Kovels.com
2011    ABC Plates; Collectors’ Concerns. http://www.kovels.com/20009070881
63/Collectors-Concerns/abc-plate.html, accessed 2011.

Thenonist.com
2003    The Humble Hornbook. On-line documentation. http://thenonist.com/index.php/
thenonist/permalink/the_humble_hornbook/, accessed May 2017.

“I Ain’t Gonna Study War No More, Down by the Riverside….”

Featured Fragment – Archaeology in Downtown Fredericksburg

By Joe Blondino and Dr. Kerri Barile

In January 2017, the City of Fredericksburg sponsored an archaeological dig at the site of the new Riverfront Park on Sophia Street in the downtown historic district. The site (44SP0069-1) was first explored in August 2013 during preliminary studies as part of the City’s park planning initiative. The archaeological survey, conducted by Dovetail, uncovered the foundations of 14 buildings, including several 18th and 19th century homes, a pre-Civil War ice house, privies, and a possible slave quarter. A portion of the site was accidentally disturbed during area construction in the fall 2015, exposing archaeological features and human remains. The City and Dovetail conducted additional work on the site in October 2015 to conduct salvage excavations on the disturbed features. The remains of a probable antebellum slave quarter and the backyard of the circa 1750 Rowe-Goolrick House (the foundation of which is now under a nearby parking lot) were uncovered, as well as Civil War trenches and a stone boundary wall.  The Rowe-Goolrick House, like many dwellings in town, was used as a hospital during the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, and the human remains found during the dig may have belonged to Union soldiers who died while under treatment at the hospital. DNA analysis and other scientific techniques are currently being employed to possibly identify the lineage of the remains.

Riverfront Park site (44SP0069-1) overview

As plans for the new Riverfront Park are developed, additional archaeological work is being conducted on the site as part of the City’s commitment to historic preservation and archaeological study. Dovetail returned to the site in January 2017 to complete the excavations of the disturbance area begun in 2015. The goal was to further explore the building foundations, back yard area, and Civil War trenches that were found during the earlier work. The team also wants to assure that all human remains possibly buried in the area are removed and properly treated. As of the authoring of this blog, Dovetail has identified a section of a Civil War-era entrenchment as well as archaeological features related to the 18th century occupation of the area, such as post holes and refuse pits.

Artifacts recovered during the excavations also highlight the 18th and 19th century activities of the lot. Fragments of ceramics, nails, bottle glass, and personal items such as smoking pipe fragments and shoe buckles have been recovered. Particular artifacts of note include three Burnside carbine cartridges and a lid to a cast iron Dutch oven (pictured below). The Burnside cartridges almost certainly relate to Civil War activity on the site. The .54 caliber Burnside carbine was designed in the mid-1850s by Ambrose Burnside, who would later lead the Federal Army during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The breech-loading Burnside carbine, being relatively small and quick to load, was used primarily by Union Cavalry. However, with tens of thousands of them issued to Federal troops, they were not an uncommon weapon and captured Burnsides could have been used by Confederates as well. Although it is not definitively a military object, the Dutch oven lid is consistent with cookware that would have been used by groups of soldiers preparing and consuming communal meals.

Recovered Burnside carbine cartridges

Recovered Burnside carbine cartridges

Information gleaned from the work will be presented in a report, at public talks, and in interpretive panels to be mounted at the site as part of the park design. The success of the archaeological project relies on the teamwork of many groups—the City of Fredericksburg, Rhodeside & Harwell (park designers), Downey & Scott (construction managers), Dovetail, and others. Partnership, coordination, and communication have assured that this notable site is explored and the history of this area is shared with future generations.

Dovetail archaeologists, Stephen Mohs, uncovering a dutch oven lid

 

intact dutch oven

Example of an intact dutch oven

 

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.

Footsteps in the Attic

Featured Fragment – Salubria’s Hidden Shoe

By M. Chris Manning

100_7739

Slipper recovered by Dovetail from the attic at Salubria, a mid-eighteenth century Georgian home in Culpeper County, Virginia.

The slipper shown to the left was recovered from an ‘excavation’ in the attic at Salubria, a mid-eighteenth-century Georgian home in Culpeper County, Virginia. This shoe is believed to have been purposefully placed or concealed within the eaves during a mid-nineteenth-century renovation of the roof. The shoe dates to the early nineteenth century and is composed of woven wool with a leather backing and leather sole. Linen lined at least a portion of the shoe, although it is difficult to tell if the entire piece had a lining. Natural wear and a high degree of rodent activity have compromised much of the interior of the shoe.

In the United States, more than 250 cases of concealed shoes have been reported, almost all of which have been described as “old” or “worn,” like the shoe found at Salubria. Fireplaces, hearths, and chimneys are the most common location for concealed shoes, followed by ceilings and subfloor spaces, inside walls, and in attics and roof cavities. The majority of deposits consist of a single shoe or boot, but “families” of several unmatched shoes are also common. Statistically, a little less than half of the examples reported in the U.S. consist of children’s shoes (46 percent), and there is a fairly even distribution among the adult men’s and women’s shoes.

Several theories for shoe concealment have been proposed: a builder’s tradition, a fertility charm, a method for attracting beneficial household spirits, a means of repelling harmful spirits, witches, and demons from entering a building, and as a general good luck charm. In British and Irish folklore, shoes and clothing were believed to both attract and repel supernatural household spirits. These helpful spirits came out at night to lend a hand around the house and farm, often doing the more tedious work while the family slept. In addition to doing odd jobs, many of these spirits also acted as protectors of the family, the home, and the livestock. Although generally benign and helpful, domestic spirits had a capricious streak and liked to play pranks on members of the household. Gifts of shoes and clothes were frequently offered to placate the domestic spirits; however, for some unknown reason, some were inexplicably repelled by offerings of clothing. Numerous tales of both helpful and mischievous spirits being “laid” with a gift of clothes can be found throughout the British Isles. One literary adaptation of this belief was famously conveyed through the popular book series Harry Potter, in which Dobby the house elf is freed by the gift of an old sock.

In addition to attracting and repelling household spirits, concealed shoes may also have been used to protect the home from more nefarious supernatural beings. In the U.S., burning shoes was said to repel witches and ghosts, while shoes under the bed would keep away nightmares and nocturnal spirits. According to one account, “If someone comes to your house and you think they are a witch and you don’t want them to come in, lay an old shoe in the door; and if she is a witch, they cannot step over the shoe” (Hyatt 1935).

It was widely believed that demons, witches, and their familiars were able to enter a house through cracks, keyholes, chimneys, and other small apertures. This may be why concealed shoes are most commonly found in liminal spaces that mark the boundary between the outside world and the interior of the house, like where the Salubria shoe was found.

The shoe and other artifacts recovered during Dovetail’s Salubria ‘excavation’ ended up in the attic through a variety of human and animal activities. Items, like the shoe, were purposefully brought to the attic and concealed to protect the home from things that go bump in the night.

 

glanvill1-thumb

A 17th-century house under attack by demonic spirits and non-human beings (Glanvill 1682:frontispiece).

 

manning-postcard-cropped

Early 20th-century postcard from England, associating old shoes with horseshoes and good luck. From the collection of M. Chris Manning, used with permission.

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:

Glanvill, Joseph
1682 Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions, In two parts. T. Newcomb for S. Lownds, London, England. Electronic document, http://sceti.library.upenn.edu/sceti/printedbooksNew/index.cfm?TextID=glanvill_1&PagePosition=3, accessed October 2016.

Hyatt, Harry Middleton
1935 Folk-Lore from Adams County, Illinois. Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation, New York, NY.

History Well-Preserved

Featured Fragment – Nineteenth-Century Pickle Bottles

By Kerry González 

photo-merge_final

Gothic Revival style shown in the design of the pickle bottle

Recent excavations by Dovetail, conducted on behalf of Stafford County, recovered two cathedral-style pickle bottles (displayed below). They were located within two separate trash pits at a Civil War-era encampment in the town of Falmouth in Stafford County, occupied between 1862 and 1863. The area is now part of Pratt Park.

Bottles such as these were often used to hold foods that had been preserved through drying, smoking, pickling, etc. (Society for Historical Archaeology [SHA] 2016). This process, developed by M. Nicolas Appert, began during the Napoleonic War era as a means to help the military store foods for longer periods of time (SHA 2016). Appert’s process, formalized in 1809, began with direct heat which killed the bacteria in the food. This was followed up by the installation of an airtight seal over the mouth of the vessel to avoid additional contamination. Oddly, scientists of the time, Appert included, did not fully understand how or why the process of heating and sealing of a container preserved perishables for long periods of time; they just knew it worked (SHA 2016).

The ornate pint-sized bottles shown here exhibit a wide mouth, which allowed for bulky and large foods, such as pickles, to be packed and removed easily. The design of the bottle features beautiful elongated cathedral windows; it is a reflection of the Gothic Revival style en vogue during the mid-nineteenth century in America (SHA 2016). This revival not only affected the style of bottles of the time but architecture as well. Houses reflective of Gothic Revival style often feature steeply pitched roofs with a central cross gable lined with decorated vergeboards (ornate trimwork lining the roof eaves), a one-story entry or full-width porch, and windows with Gothic detailing, including drip molds, pointed arch (lancet), or false shaping (McAlester 2013 267–268). Clearly it was a popular motif and one that extended to even the most seemingly ordinary of objects—the humble pickle jar.

picklebottlepicklebottle2_reverse

 

 

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:

Society for Historical Archaeology
2016 Society for Historical Archaeology Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, accessed September 2016.

McAlester,Virginia Salvage
2013 A Field Guide to American Houses. Alfred A.Knopf, New York, New York.

Hugh Smith & Co. Stoneware

Featured Fragment – Stoneware Sleuthing

By Joe Blondino

new stoneware_edited-1

Recovered Sherd of Hugh Smith & Co. Stoneware

During the summer of 2015, Dovetail conducted exploratory excavations on the grounds of Tudor Place, a historic Federal-style mansion in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  The excavations focused on the yard of the building now housing Tudor Place’s administrative offices. This building, known as the Dower House, was a dwelling constructed sometime around 1867, roughly 50 years after the completion of the Tudor Place mansion. The house was built on what was once a portion of the grounds of Tudor Place itself, prior to the subdivision of the property into smaller parcels. As such, Dovetail’s excavations revealed artifacts related to the occupation of the Dower House, as well as earlier artifacts relating to the main Tudor Place mansion and other associated buildings and activities.

Among the artifacts recovered was a sherd of blue and gray salt-glazed stoneware (pictured above). This type of ceramic was commonly used in the nineteenth century and is frequently recovered on archaeological sites. Vessels made of this ware included crocks, storage jars, and other utilitarian forms. These vessels were usually produced locally, as they were relatively easy to make and fire and few people wanted to pay the added cost involved in importing such commonplace, practical vessels from far away. Tablewares like plates, bowls, and teacups, on the other hand, were meant to impress, and would be imported from overseas manufacturers who were set up to produce more beautiful and delicate ceramics.

Despite how common salt-glazed stoneware is on archaeological sites, Dovetail archaeologists got an unusual bonus with this particular fragment: it was embossed with the name of the manufacturer. The sherd was clearly stamped with the name “HUGH SMITH & CO.” A bit of research revealed that stonewares were being manufactured under the Hugh Smith name in nearby Alexandria, Virginia in the nineteenth century, showing that the residents of the Tudor Place property were indeed obtaining locally produced stonewares. As thrilling as it was to discover this level of detail in the archaeological record at the site, it gets even better—we could narrow the manufacturing date range of our sherd down to only a few years. As it turns out, pottery bearing the Hugh Smith name started being made around 1821, but only used the “HUGH SMITH & CO.” mark until 1825, when it was exchanged for the slightly abbreviated “H. SMITH & CO.” Not only did we find out where this fragment was manufactured, but we narrowed the production date down to a period of only five years! Although it is difficult to say when the vessel was broken and discarded, this nonetheless provides us with valuable information about the consumer habits of members of the Tudor Place household during a very brief window of time and allows us to make inferences about more general patterns of consumer behavior during that period.

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 the Alexandria, Virginia pottery that produced the sherd, go to: https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/archaeology/default.aspx?id=33638#smith

 

Time For Tea

Featured Fragment – Mended Pearlware Tea Bowl

By Kerry S. González

Tea Bowl

Pearlware Tea Bowl

Several hundreds of years before tea was being consumed in the Americas (and even Britain), it was widely consumed in Asia. European traders residing in Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries adopted the habit of daily tea drinking, and tea quickly found its way to Britain. Starting in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century, tea began to be defined as “a feminized drink.” Its role in defining the domestic sphere and the concept of womanhood grew stronger as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries wore on (Gray 2013:25). The association became so close that, eventually, women were compared to china, and “china came to stand as a metaphor for virtue” (Gray 2013:28). This same ideology was brought to the Americas, where tea quickly became a beverage staple.


The importance of tea to early American households was highlighted at the Houston-LeCompt site in New Castle County, Delaware, a site investigated on behalf of Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A total of 107 fragments of teacups, tea saucers, and teapots was recovered from the site, serving as an indication of its roll in daily consumption patterns. The time range associated with pearlware (circa 1775−1840), the most common type of teaware recovered (n=57), likely associates these artifacts with the Houston family occupation (1780s–1820).


Decorated pearlwares from the Houston-LeCompt site exhibited a range of designs, though blue decoration predominated in different decorative patterns. The Houstons likely purchased individual pieces rather than sets of pearlware to fill out their tea set. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, pattern books that marketed pearlware to the mid-range market illustrated designs individually, rather than as sets. Only the most elaborate, and therefore expensive, designs were marketed as sets, primarily to the upper class, and research and the archaeological investigations have proven that the Houston’s were not upper-class citizens. While it was possible to put together matching sets, it does not appear that middle-class consumers regarded matching sets as essential.


The tea bowl recovered from the Houston-LeCompt site (pictured above) is an early type of pearlware known as China Glaze with cobalt hand painting in a Chinese House motif. It is similar to the tea bowl being used in a 1725 painting entitled “An English Family at Tea” by Joseph Van Aken (pictured below). Although not all fragments from this tea bowl were recovered during the dig, the mending completed by Dovetail’s archaeological lab illustrates the vessel’s form and decoration. The pattern is a direct imitation of more expensive porcelains of the period. While the Houstons may not have assembled matching sets or imported porcelains, they still aspired to a more refined and fashionable aesthetic.

English Family At Tea

Van Aken, Joseph. An English Family at Tea. 1725.

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:

Gray, Annie
2013 ‘The Proud Air of an Unwilling Slave’: Tea, Women, and Domesticity, c. 1700–1900. Springer Publishing. New York, New York.