A Different Kind of Shot Glass

Featured Fragment – Glass Syringe Plunger

By Joe Blondino

In June 2017, Dovetail conducted excavations on the grounds of Tudor Place, a historic Federal-style mansion in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The excavations focused on an area immediately west of the main house known as the west service yard. This portion of the property currently contains a gazebo, ornamental arbors, a smokehouse (later used as a pigeon coop), and a patio area. Because Tudor Place staff has plans to renovate the structures and landscaping in this portion of the yard, Dovetail was asked to conduct archaeological investigations to ensure that no significant archaeological deposits would be disturbed. This was also an excellent opportunity to learn more about land use in this part of the Tudor Place property.

Among the 1,255 artifacts recovered during Dovetail’s excavations was a glass syringe plunger—the portion of a syringe that pushed liquid down the tube and through the needle or nozzle; it also helped to create the suction to draw fluid up into the body of the syringe. Prior to the 1950s, medical syringes were made of glass as opposed to the plastic examples we are used to seeing today. Kind of gives new meaning to the term “shot glass!”

 

Figure 1: Glass syringe plunger found at Tudor Place.

 

The medical use of syringes has a fairly long history, dating back to the 1st century A.D., when they are described by Celsus in his comprehensive treatise on medicine, “De Medicina.” At this time, syringes were used for suction rather than for injection, and Celsus describes using them to remove discharge from patients’ ears (Feldmann 1999). By the seventeenth century, experimentation with intravenous injections was taking place, although the equipment used was large and cumbersome compared to modern syringes, with one early apparatus described as being no more than a “quill attached to a small bladder” (Macht 1916:857). These types of devices required the doctor or surgeon to make a separate incision through which to insert the apparatus. In 1844, an Irish surgeon named Francis Rynd invented a hollow needle for hypodermic administration of drugs using a gravity-fed system, and in 1853, Alexander Wood began using hollow, pointed needles which could easily pierce the skin with little pain or bleeding. In the same year, Charles Pravaz independently developed a needle and syringe that would become the prototype for modern equivalents (Macht 1916).

 

Figure 2: A glass syringe without a needle attached (eBay 2017).

 

The question is, what is a syringe doing at Tudor Place? Well, the history of the property shows that it might not be such an unexpected find after all. It turns out that Dr. Armistead Peter operated a medical practice out of the east wing of Tudor Place from 1867 until 1882. Dr. Peter was a fairly well-known physician in Washington and, being versed in the latest medical developments and treatment procedures, would likely have used syringes like the one invented by Pravaz. During this time, one of the most common uses of syringes was for the injection of morphine and related drugs, and Dr. Peter may have used the syringe recovered by Dovetail to treat pain in one of his patients. Of course, since we don’t know for sure that this was a hypodermic syringe with a needle, it is also possible that it was used for some other purpose such as irrigating a wound or draining fluid from an infected area. Although we may never know exactly how this syringe was used or why part of the device was deposited along the edge of the west yard, this rather unusual artifact certainly injected a little excitement into our excavations!

 

Figure 3: Dr. Armistead Peter. Image courtesy of Tudor Place.

 

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: 

eBay
2017   Electronic document, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Wood-Cased-Glass-Doctor-Medical-Syringe-Glass-Plunger-Original-RARE-/142428023312, accessed July 13, 2017.

Feldmann, H.
1999   2000-year history of the ear syringe and its relationship to the enema. Images from the history of otorhinolaryngology, represented by instruments from the collection of the Ingolstadt Medical History Museum. Laryngorhinootologie 78(8):462‒467.

Macht, David I.
1916   The History of Intravenous and Subcutaneous Administration of Drugs. Journal of the American Medical Association LXVI:856‒860.

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.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Featured Fragment – A Lead Cloth Seal from John Lee Pratt Park

By Dr. D. Brad Hatch

Bale Seal

Figure 1: John and Jeremiah Naylor Lead Cloth Seal Recovered from John Lee Pratt Park

In August 2016, Dovetail conducted archaeological excavations at John Lee Pratt Park on behalf of Stafford County. During these investigations, archaeologists uncovered and excavated a late-eighteenth-century trash pit likely associated with enslaved laborers on the Chatham plantation property. Although no longer officially associated with Chatham, the land on which John Lee Pratt Park is now located was once owned by William Fitzhugh of Chatham and likely served as an agricultural field and home to enslaved plantation laborers. Hundreds of artifacts were recovered from this trash pit that provide important information on the lives of the enslaved people during the early Fitzhugh ownership of Chatham. Among these artifacts was a lead cloth, or bale, seal (Figure 1).

These lead seals were attached to bolts of cloth starting in the Middle Ages, and perhaps as early as the Roman period, to indicate the quality of textiles (Endrei and Egan 1982:47; Noël Hume 1991:269–271). Generally, archaeologists in the new world have identified two types of lead cloth seals. One type of seal that consisted of four sections attached by lead strips was often used to indicate the payment of excise duties (Noël Hume 1991:269). The other, more common, type of lead seal consisted of a round loop and lug attached by a small lead strip. When used, the lugs on the seals were clamped over the loops using a tool that could impress marks into the lead. These two-part seals could have been used to indicate the payment of excise duties, but also often carried the marks of the cloth merchants.

Figure 2

Figure 2: 1761 Joseph Vernet Painting of Loading Cloth and Other Goods for Shipment

The cloth seal recovered from the trash pit at John Lee Pratt Park is of the two-part variety, bearing the mark of cloth merchants from England. Although worn and fragmented, this cloth seal was complete enough to decipher the phrase “John and Jeremiah Naylor & Co. Wakefield,” along the loop portion. Additionally, the lug of the seal was marked with a sailing ship. John and Jeremiah Naylor were cloth merchants from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England (Figure 2). This part of England was a major cloth producing area in the eighteenth century, and the Naylors were in operation from 1775 to 1829 (Daniels 1980:106–109). Other artifacts recovered from the trash pit suggest that this cloth seal likely dates from the first 25 years of the Naylor’s textile business.

The presence of this artifact in a trash pit associated with enslaved plantation laborers at Chatham helps to reveal the degree of access to consumer goods available to enslaved people in eighteenth-century Stafford County and the choices they made in selecting those goods. While goods, such as cloth, could have been handed down or pilfered from the manor house, it is much more likely that they were purchased by the enslaved people living at this site, perhaps from stores in nearby Fredericksburg or Falmouth. One of these stores could have been the one owned by William Allason in Falmouth, whose store ledgers indicate that he sold goods to enslaved members of the community (Martin 2008:191; Thompson 1931). Allason’s store was in operation from 1760 until the 1770s and could have been the source of the cloth represented by the lead seal.

Figure 3

Figure 3: 1853 Sketch by Lewis Miller of a Slave Dance in Lynchburg, Virginia. The blue cloth shawl and other adornment items worn by the women in this image were likely purchased from a local store.

Enslaved consumption from local stores during the late-eighteenth century was not uncommon in Virginia and much research has been conducted on enslaved consumption patterns and preferences from both archaeological and historical perspectives (Breen 2013; Heath 2004; Galle 2006; Martin 2008:173–193). Some of the most popular items purchased by enslaved people included alcohol, sweeteners, textiles, and various household goods (Heath 2004) (Figure 3). Other artifacts from the trash pit, including a wine glass stem and a fashionable creamware plate (see November 2016 post), indicate that the enslaved people at Chatham had access to these types of fashionable goods and actively sought them out. The consumer engagement among the enslaved at Chatham provided them with a more active role in shaping their material lives and identities, in addition to broadening their social networks, despite their segregation and isolation on farm quarters. These often unassuming objects excavated from enslaved contexts, like the cloth seal at John Lee Pratt Park, are able to tell the stories of everyday resistance and persistence despite the horrors and oppression of slavery.

 

 

 

 

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:
Breen, Eleanor E.
2013    The Revolution before the Revolution?: A Material Culture Approach to Consumerism at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, VA. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Daniels, Stephen John
1980    Moral Order and the Industrial Environment in the Woolen Textile Districts of West Yorkshire, 1780–1800. PhD Dissertation. University College of London, London, England.

Endrei, Walter, and Geoff Egan
1982    The Sealing of Cloth in Europe, with Special Reference to the English Evidence. Textile History 13(1):47–75.

Galle, Jillian E.
2006    Strategic Consumption: Archaeological Evidence for Costly Signaling among Enslaved Men and Women in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology. University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Heath, Barbara J.
2004    Engendering Choice: Slavery and Consumerism in Central Virginia. In Engendering African American Archaeology: A Southern Perspective, edited by Jillian E. Galle and Amy L. Young, pp. 19–38. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Martin, Ann Smart
2008    Buying into the World of Goods: Early Consumers in Backcountry Virginia. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

Noël Hume, Ivor
1991    A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Reprinted from 1969. Vintage Books, New York.

Thompson, Edith E. B.
1931    A Scottish Merchant in Falmouth in the Eighteenth Century. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 39(2):108–117.

“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

 

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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.

Syphilis, Small Pox, and Scurvy! Oh My!

Featured Fragment – Riverfront Bottle

By Kerry González 

Image

Hand-finished bottle recovered by the Dovetail team

Dovetail Cultural Resource Group recovered this hand-finished bottle from a Civil War context (shown to the left) during an excavation in October 2015. The site, 44SP0069-0001, is located in the City of Fredericksburg and dates to the mid-eighteenth through early-twentieth century. The finish on this bottle is hand tooled, and the bottle itself was mouth blown into a dip mold and displays an intact cork. As part of the laboratory process, Dovetail x-rayed the bottle (shown below), which revealed the presence of residue of the original concoction within the bottle. Ruth Armitage of Eastern Michigan University’s chemistry department then analyzed the contents of this artifact along with student, Mishka Repaska. They found traces of turpentine, mercury, and possibly animal fat within the sealed bottle. Given the presence of mercury, along with the shape of the bottle, it is believed to be representative of a patent medicine.

This is not an uncommon find on an archaeological site as patent medicines were prolific throughout the nineteenth century. During this time most recipes were not patented and were usually nothing more than a couple of extracts with high doses of alcohol (Hagley 2016). Producing and selling these medicines was a major industry in America during the nineteenth century, all claiming to cure numerous kinds of ailments (Hagley 2016). Although the exact use of this particular medicine is not known, Civil War soldiers often carried similar bottles with them to cure a variety of ailments such as syphilis, diarrhea, small pox and scurvy.

X-ray1_cropped

X-rayed bottle revealing residue

 

1

Image capturing the devastating effect of syphilis during the Civil War. Lowry 1994

 

2

Image capturing the devastating effect of syphilis during the Civil War. Lowry 1994

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.

Informative Links:
http://www.hagley.org/online_exhibits/patentmed/history//history.html 

Image(s) Source:
Lowry, Thomas P.
The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1994.

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.

Digging by the River

Featured Fragment—Riverfront Park

During the summer of 2013 Dovetail conducted excavations at the Riverfront Park in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Many cultural features were identified, including a large icehouse which served the residents of Fredericksburg. While excavation of this feature produced a plethora of artifacts, one particular piece of ceramic is highlighted in this blog to showcase how archaeologists use tiny fragments to look at the bigger picture and determine, in many cases, the type of vessel the piece originated from. Below is a small fragment of an overglazed printed creamware which was popular beginning in the 1760s. This particular piece is printed with a Corinthian column and even though only a small portion of the column is visible, archaeolgoists were able to identify the motif once depicted on the vessel. The ‘classical ruins’ motif was found on bowls as well as trenchers and was a direct reflection of the neoclassical revival being embraced by everyone beginning in the mid-eighteenth century (Kaktins 2015). Surviving pieces can still be found today on auction websites.

This type of research and analysis is a common component of archaeological work. Knowing how artifacts relate to a site and its occupants, is key to understanding site history as well as overarching historic patterns.

full platter Creamware copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glowing Glass Discovery

Featured Fragment—Vaseline Glass

In a recent excavation Dovetail Cultural Resource group found several fragments of what is known as Vaseline glass. This glass ranges in color from yellow to green and was manufactured from the 1840s to 1940. What is interesting about this type of glass is it was made with Uranium, which is the reason for its distinctive color. This type of glass was produced until WWII at which time the shortage of Uranium put an end to its production. What is the best way to identify Vaseline glass? If put under a black light, the glass will light up. The Uranium makes the glass emit radiation and glow, or a Geiger counter can be used to determine whether it is radioactive. The vessel found by Dovetail registered at 0.15 milliroentgens per hour. Is this a dangerous level? No, the amount put out by this type of glass is small and not harmful.

Image of Vaseline Glass. On left: yellow tumbler base and body fragment. One right: tumbler under black light.

Image of Vaseline Glass. On left: yellow tumbler base and body fragment. One right: tumbler under black light.

 

Joe Blondino using Geiger counter on Vaseline glass.

Joe Blondino using Geiger counter on Vaseline glass.

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Informative links:

http://www.vaselineglass.org/?page_id=56