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.

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References:

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

A Wooden Well in Action

Featured Fragment – The Armstrong-Rogers Well Pump

By Joseph Blondino and Kerry S. Gonzalez

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“Old Woman at Pump” from Picturesque Views of Rural Occupations in Early-Nineteenth Century England

During a data recovery at the Armstrong-Rogers site, a mid-eighteenth through late-nineteenth century domestic site in Delaware, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group excavated a unique well pump. The remains included several wooden components used to draw water from the well. The octagonal-shaped pump shaft or tube consisted of a hickory log approximately 7.5 feet long by 1 foot in diameter with a hole bored through its center. Two wooden “collars” roughly elliptical in shape with a hole in the center to hold the pump tube sat at the bottom of the well shaft and served as the pump seating, keeping the pump tube in place. The pump was operated by a lever that raised and lowered a valve through the pump tube which drew water through the lower portion of the wooden tube. Each pump would bring more and more water until a near-continuous flow could be easily maintained.

The imagery shown in this post displays the wooden pump positioned in the well shaft and how water was pumped through the well to reach the spigot at the ground surface. These marvelous illustrations were created by Brian Crane of Versar and sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. DelDOT has been a notable proponent of alternative studies to thoroughly understand the materials that have resulted from the Route 301 work. This joint effort between DelDOT, Dovetail and Versar is a great example of an increased quality and quantity of data that can come from archaeologists working together. It also highlights how understanding historic technology can be a crucial component when interpreting archaeological material.

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Illustration by Brian Crane, Versar. Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)

 

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Illustration by Brian Crane, Versar. Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)

 

 

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Time Keeps Ticking

Featured Fragment – Houston-LeCompt Site clock parts

Clocks have been an integral role in the home for centuries. Measuring time was needed for many aspects of home life but clocks were also used to display status. As Richardson Wright said in 1927, “It is said that the house of every substantial farmer in the days following the Revolution had three ornaments—a polygot bible, a tine reflector and a wooden clock” (Smith 1997). During the late-eighteenth century, people were beginning to purchase things like knives, forks, looking glasses and clocks to create the look and feel of a more gentile surrounding within their middling households (Bushman 1993). This circulation increased with great enthusiasm in the first half of the nineteenth century (Bushman 1993).

(Left) 1896 Advertisement from Oskamp Nolting & Co. Publications showing one style of Ansonia Alarm Clock (ebay 2014). (Right) Circa 1910 Ansonia Clock (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors 2014).

(Left) 1896 Advertisement from Oskamp Nolting & Co. Publications showing one style of Ansonia Alarm Clock (ebay 2014). (Right) Circa 1910 Ansonia Clock (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors 2014).

 

The clock parts shown below were recovered during the excavation of the Houston-LeCompt site in Delaware. These items represent various internal parts of an Ansonia alarm clock dating to the late-nineteenth through early-twentieth century. Clock parts are found on my archaeological sites although, not typically in great numbers. The high density of parts from the Houston-LeCompt site are attributed to the alarm clock possibly breaking and subsequently having its parts spread across the site.

Sample of Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Clock Parts from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware.

Sample of Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Clock Parts from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware.

Recovered for the Delaware Department of Transportation and the FHWA

 

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