When Wearing a Cage Was All the Rage: Crinoline and Hoop Skirts in the 19th Century

Featured Fragment – Cage Crinoline Fragments

By Kerry S. González

In January 2017, Dovetail conducted excavations at the site of a proposed Riverfront Park in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This was the third time Dovetail visited the area along Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg—reflecting its abundant prehistoric and historic activity. Over 10,000 artifacts were recovered from the three separate excavations, but for this month’s blog we are highlighting the cage crinoline fragments that were recovered from a feature identified as a Civil War trench (for more on the trench see our blog from January 2017).

The cage crinoline fragments recovered during the excavations were made of an iron alloy with some fragments sheathed in a copper alloy (see below). The cage crinoline became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, and by 1856, W.S. Thomson received a patent for the metal-caged crinoline (Thomas 2014).

 

Sample of Cage Crinoline Fragments Recovered From the Riverfront Park Site.

 

The purpose of the cage crinoline was to create a structure for the fabric of a woman’s skirt that was laid over top of the structural system. This cage was constructed of wire hoops and woven tapes, and the metal wire hoops were used to create the cage “that supported the ever-widening hems without the extra weight of layered petticoats” (Rivers Cofield 2015). The hoops were held in place by white metal alloy tubes that cinched around the wire hoops. However, the space created under the skirt by the cage made pantaloons, essentially baggy pants, vital for the virtue of the wearer to remain intact as well as to help keep the legs warm.

 

Image of Circa 1858 Cage Crinoline (The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2017: Accession number C.I.45.79.10).

 

Example of Wrapped Wire Hoops and Metal Attachment Tubes (Rivers Cofield 2015).

 

The small fragments recovered from the Riverfront Park site displayed a typical composition, with the ferrous metal hoop fragments and copper alloy tubes very apparent. This type of artifact is a great example of a ‘small find’ that could be easily misidentified, especially considering the fragmentary nature of the object. It is our hope that this blog can shed some light on this type of artifact and help lead to more accurate archaeological identifications.

 

 

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: 

Victoriana Magazine
2016   The Crinoline or Hoop Skirt. Online documentation. http://www.victoriana.com/Victorian-Fashion/crinoline.htm, accessed December 2017.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2017   Cage Crinoline, Accession Number C.I.45.79.10. Electronic document, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/104430, accessed March 2017.

Rivers Cofield, Sara
2015   Houston-LeCompt Personal Adornment. Appendix I of the Archaeological Data Recovery at the Houston-LeCompt Site (7NC-F-139;N-14517), New Castle County, Delaware. Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Thomas, Pauline W.
2014   Crinoline Fashion History. Electronic document, http://www.fashion-era.com/crinolines.htm, accessed March 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.

The Size Does Matter!

Featured Fragment – Clipped Coins in Colonial America

By Kerry S. González and Mara Katkins 

Real_merge_whole coin.

Photo 1: Complete Spanish Real Similar to the One Found at 44SP0642.

For this month’s blog post, we have decided to join forces with Mara Katkins with George Washington’s Ferry Farm to showcase some of the clipped coins found in the Fredericksburg region.

In the summer of 2015 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted Phase III excavations for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fall Hill Avenue Expansion Project in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During the excavation of site 44SP0642 a silver clipped Spanish Real (pronounced re-AL) was recovered from a borrow pit dating to 1775–1795 (Photo 1 and 2). This date range was obtained from an analysis of diagnostic artifacts, primarily ceramics, collected from the different filling episodes within the pit. The partial Real was marked with a date of 1721, years prior to the interpreted filling of the borrow pit—an indication of the value of a precious metal like silver.

A number of coins cut into segments have also been excavated at Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington (site 44ST0174) as well as from Historic Kenmore, the home of Betty Washington, sister of George Washington and wife of Fielding Lewis (site 44SP0073). The half coin pictured below (Photo 3, center) was recovered from the yard area of the first European dwelling on the Ferry Farm property, dubbed the Maurice Clark house. Clark was an indentured servant whose term was up in 1710. It appears that he had just enough time to build a 20 x 30-foot post-in-ground building on the Ferry Farm property and enjoy about six months of freedom before he died. The land was eventually purchased by the Strother’s, who built a dwelling there in 1728. The Washington family bought the parcel and moved into the house in 1738. They remained there until 1772, when George’s mother, Mary, was the last one to leave. The quarter and eighth coins pictured in Photo 3 (left and right) were recovered from the backyard area of the Washington home. A very similar coin, cut into a quarter, was excavated at Kenmore, built in the mid-1770’s.

Clipped Coin_Dtail

Photo 2: Clipped Real Recovered During Dovetail’s Excavation at Site 44SP0642. On left: obverse of clipped coin. On right: reverse of clipped coin.

The presence of Spanish coins on colonial sites is due to the pervasively contentious relationship between the colonists and the British government.  Parliament believed that the colonists should be providing Britain with precious metals instead of taking them across the ocean (Jordan 1997). In response to the dearth of available British currency, the colonists began to use foreign coins when bartering was not an option. While bartering of tobacco and wampum were generally acceptable for most exchanges, certain British exporters would only deal in silver, thus the need for other forms of currency (Jordan 1997).

Most clipped coins found on archaeological sites are quartered or halved, however even smaller divisions of coins were not uncommon (see Photo 3). Clipping silver and gold coins was a common way of making change in the colonial period as coins were made to be worth their weight in precious metals, in this case silver. It was also an easy way to make small purchases. Not only were coins clipped into sections, they were also ‘trimmed’ by removing the edges of the coin, essentially retaining some of the precious metal for future purchases. Recovering artifacts such as these clipped coins offers insight into the sometimes tumultuous economic setting of colonial and early American life in the states.

FF_Coins Final

Photo 3: Clipped Coins Recovered From George Washington’s Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore. The center coin came from the Clark House, while the left and right coins were found in the Washington yard.

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.

“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.