DIY Currency: It Just Makes Cents

By: Katie Rezendes

With war comes shortages ¾ from food and supplies to even physical money. The American Civil War was no exception to this reality. By the second year of the war in 1862, government-issued currency was quickly disappearing as people began to hoard anything made of gold, silver, and copper. This placed many businesses in difficult situations as it hindered their ability to make and complete transactions with their customers. They came up with a simple solution: make their own money. Civil War tokens were primarily of two variations. Store cards were used to advertise a specific company with their name and location minted onto the coin. The other type was patriotic tokens, emblazoned with slogans such as: “The Constitution Must and Shall be Preserved” (American Numismatic Association user_5712 2015).

Photo 1: Patriotic Token Example (Cointalk.com 2012).

Privately manufactured store card tokens began appearing in late 1862, starting with H. A. Ratterman in Cincinnati, Ohio. A New York City barkeep named Gustav Lindenmueller was the first to bring store card tokens to New York state by the Spring of 1863, making over one million of his own coins and putting them into circulation. They were quickly accepted as currency as other businesses followed suit, and were most commonly used for streetcar fare. This ultimately came to a head when New York City’s Third Avenue Railroad went to Mr. Lindenmueller to redeem his tokens, but was denied. With no legal backing to them, the company was forced to take the loss. “The railroad had no redress, and it is not improbable that incidents of this character forced the government to put a stop to their issue”(Hetrich & Guttag 2021).

 

Photo 2: Lindenmueller Copper Token (Wikipedia 2022).

On April 22, 1864, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1864, which introduced the newly minted two-cent piece and made the privately minted coins ineffectual. By June 8 of that year, Congress made the minting and usage of non-government issued coins punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, a prison term of up to five years, or both. After this, the coins became collector’s items rather than currency (Tebben 2006).

Photo 3: Front of John Thomas Jr. Store Card Token excavated by Dovetail at Tudor Place, Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: Dovetail).
Photo 4: Back of John Thomas Jr. Store Card Token excavated by Dovetail at Tudor Place, Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: Dovetail).

On a recent excavation in May 2022, an example of a store card token was found by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) at Tudor Place, the 1815 home of Thomas Peter and Martha Parke Custis Peter (granddaughter of Martha Washington and step-granddaughter of George Washington) in Washington, DC (https://tudorplace.org/).  The token was identified in Dovetail’s Lab as an 1863 example from John Thomas Jr.’s Coffee and Spices shop in Albany, New York and produced by the Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut. One side featured: “John Thomas Jr. Coffee & Spices Premium Mills”, with the obverse side giving the location of his business: “Redeemed Exchange & Dean St’s 1863 Albany N.Y.”.

Many examples of these tokens exist today, ranging from the fairly plentiful Lindermueller tokens to ones of a more unique and rarer occurrence. Each offers a glimpse into day-to-day life during the Civil War and the effects it had on the general population.

References

American Numismatic Association user_5712
2015 History of Civil War Tokens. Member blog, American Numismatic Association. Electronic blog, https://www.money.org/collector/user_5712/blog/history-of-civil-war-tokens, accessed September 2022.

Forum Username “LostDutchman”
2012 Our Little Monitor Civil War Token Part II. Coin Talk. https://www.cointalk.com/threads/our-little-monitor-civil-war-token-part-ii.219069/,  accessed September 2022.

Hetrich, George & Julius Guttag
2021 Civil War Tokens and Tradesman’s Store Cards: a Tentative List of the Civil War Tokens, and Store Cards Issued by the Merchants of the United States. N.p., Legare Street Press, Digital.

Tebben, Gerald
An Overview of Civil War Tokens.
2006 https://web.archive.org/web/20060627014011/http://home.columbus.rr.com/tebben/COLUMBUSCWT/overviewofcwt.html, accessed September 2022.

Wikipedia
2022 Civil War Token. Electronic article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_War_token, accessed September 2022.


Anything But Boring: An African – American Boarding House in Fredericksburg

By Elyse Adams, Dovetail Lab Manager

In March 2022, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) conducted archival research and a two-day archaeological excavation at 1416 Princess Anne Street in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. These combined efforts shed light on a notable Jim Crow-era African-American-owned boarding house in the city—the only such site excavated archaeologically in Fredericksburg.

1933 Aerial Photograph Showing the House at 1416 Princess Anne Street (NPS 1933).

The house at 1416 Princess Anne Street was constructed around 1872 and sold to Susan H. Lattimer in 1905. By 1910, records indicate that the dwelling was being utilized as an African American boarding house. The building was sold to Emma Carter in 1914, the first Black owner of the property, who continued to run the building as a boarding house. The dwelling was in use as an African-American-occupied boarding house for the next 50 years.The longest inhabitants, sisters Mary E. Jackson and Nellie Smith, lived in the home from 1940 through the 1980s, eventually purchasing the residence themselves in 1978. The property was sold and demolished in 1990 after Mary E. Jackson had moved into a nursing home; the lot remained empty and fenced off until present-day construction began.

 

Edward McMullen (Left) and Elyse Adams (Right) Perform Archaeology at the Site, Looking Northwest.

A large variety of artifacts were noted during the excavation. Most dated to the occupation period of the home from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the third quarter of the twentieth century. Most artifacts were manufactured between 1900 and 1940, the period when the home was at the peak of its use as an African-American boarding house. The personal items excavated from 1416 Princess Anne Street especially reflect the daily lives of those who dwelled there, providing valuable insight on their participation in a free consumer market in the face of social and economic limitations on Black residents during this time. Most importantly, this is the first collection of artifacts retrieved from a site with a known African American owned and occupied boarding house during the Jim Crow era. The artifacts reflect the types of products in use by the residents and an assortment of personal items which provide us with a closer and more individualized look at the lives of those who called this building home. These objects denote consumer choices in individual tastes, as many of the functional items were also highly decorative. Pictured below are several of these decorative items including hand-painted Japanese Meiji-era (1868-1912) Celadon teapot sherds, a highly ornate and relatively expensive piece.

Sample of Artifacts Recovered from a Privy Excavated on the Site. From top left clockwise: Rockingham ceramic
sherd, refined earthenware plate base sherd with maker’s mark, hexagonal aqua bottle base, clear glass goblet
fragment. Center: glass heart-shaped adornment of unknown function, a clay marble

Items such as a 1930s purse handle, a heart-shaped glass jewelry charm, porcelain doll parts, medicinal bottles, and ceramic plates and cups represent both personal and daily life for the residents.The presence of toys like doll parts and marbles may suggest the presence of children.

Sample of Artifacts Recovered 1416 Princess Anne Street. Top row: copper alloy purse clasp. Middle row: aqua patent medicine bottle neck and finish, porcelain doll head and legs, ironstone plate base with maker’s mark. Bottom row: three hand-painted Japanese Meiju-era Celadon teapot sherds.
Example of a complete Japanese Meiju-era Celadon teapot (WorthPoint 2022)
.

This expansion on the narrative of a marginalized population offers valuable details and a more complete picture of the lives of the people of Fredericksburg. African Americans, women, and children are repeatedly left out of the historical records, making an assemblage so firmly connected to such groups invaluable data to preserve. While the collection is small and the dig was limited, work here provided a notable step in telling this story.

References

National Park Service (NPS)
1933 Aerial Image of Fredericksburg. Image 18aa, box 128. Copy on file, Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

WorthPoint
2022 Antique Japanese Seto Celadon Teapot Hand Painted Enamel Flowers Meiji. Electronic document, https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/antique-japanese-seto-celadon-teapot-2029843889, accessed April 2022.


Rocker – Stamped and Dentate – Stamped Pottery

From the Wolfe Neck Shell Midden Sitein Sussex County, Delaware

By Bill Liebeknecht

In advance of a proposed trail at Cape Henlopen State Park in Sussex County, Delaware, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control hired Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) to conduct a Phase I archaeological survey of the new trail. Part of this survey skirted the perimeter of the National Register-listedWolfe Neck Site (7S-D-010), a precontact shell midden Shell middens consist of an accumulation of marine shells such as oyster, clam, and whelk related to harvesting and processing by precontact peoples living near the coastline. The site has been dated between BC 782 and AD 993, based on radiocarbon dates associated with pottery previously found at the site (Custer 1984:115; Griffith and Artusy 1977:1-–9). The Phase I survey by Dovetail recovered four pottery sherds with what is known as exterior rocker-stamped and dentate-stamped decoration (Photo 1). The sherds appear to be from a single vessel. Stamped decorations are well known from surrounding regions but are extremely rare in Delaware, suggesting that the pottery vessel may have been traded or transported to the site from outside of the state and may suggest population movement. The closest match to pottery decorated in this manner appears to be from the Point Peninsula complex located over 300 miles to the north in eastern Ontario and New York state, although similar sherds have been reported from northern New Jersey and on Staten Island (Kraft 2001:197; Mason 1981; Stewart 2018:105). The only other known sherd of dentate-stamped pottery found in Delaware is a single fragment recovered from the Island Field site (7K-F-17), a ceremonial burial site associated with the Webb Complex in Kent County Delaware. The complex is mostly mortuary with a unique group of stone tools and pottery (Custer 1984:138–140). The recovery of rocker-stamped decorated pottery at the Wolfe Neck site is the only known discovery of this ware in Delaware.

Other artifacts recovered by Dovetail from the Wolfe Neck site (7S-D-010) that indicate possible ties to Point Peninsula and the Webb Complex are a sherd of fabric-impressed pottery known broadly as “Vinette I” and the midsection of a pentangular-shaped projectile point known as a Jack’s Reef point made from a high-quality jasper (Photos 2 and 3) (Custer et al. 1990:56). The Vinette I sherd may represent the plain body of a vessel decorated with the rocker-and dentate-stamped sherds noted above. Jack’s Reef points are considered especially characteristic of the Webb Complex. A more detailed analysis will be forthcoming in the Archaeological Society of Delaware Bulletin.

 

Photo 1: Dentate-Stamped Pottery Sherd on theLeft and Rocker-Stamped Sherd on the Right.
Photo 2: Vinette I Pottery Sherd with Exterior Cord Impressions.
Photo 3: Center Portion of a Jack’s Reef Pentagonal Projectile Point.

References

Custer, Jay F.
1984  Delaware Prehistoric Archaeology. University of Delaware Press, Newark.

Custer, Jay F., Karen Rosenberg, Glenn Mellin and Arthur Washburn
1990  An Update on New Research at the Island Field Site (7K-F-17), Kent County, Delaware. Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, No. 27, New Series, Wilmington, Delaware.

Griffith, Daniel R., and Richard E. Artusy, Jr.
1977  Middle Woodland Ceramics from Wolfe Neck, Sussex County, Delaware. The Archeolog XXVIII(1). The Sussex Society of Archeology and History.

Kraft, Herbert C.
2001  The Lenape-DelawareIndian Heritage: 10,000 BC to AD 2000. Lenape Books, New Jersey.

Mason, Ronald J.
1981  Great Lakes Archaeology. Academic Press, New York.

Stewart, R. Michael
2018  A Radiocarbon Foundation for Archaeology in the Upper Delaware Valley, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York. Prepared for the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office.

One Foxy Point: A Fox Creek From John Dickinson Plantation

By: Andy Martin

This Fox Creek or Selby Bay (if you’re from Virginia) projectile point was recovered from the John Dickinson Plantation in southern Delaware.

Why is this extra cool?

Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile points are a relatively common point type that are usually dated from 1,800 to 1,100 BP, or 1,800 to 1,100 years ago. This places Fox Creek/Selby Bay points squarely in what archaeologists call the Middle Woodland period. The Middle Woodland was a time period that would have seen pretty similar environmental conditions to those we have today, and the Pre-Contact peoples of Delaware would have been spending more of their year in larger settlements and generally moving around less. The Middle Woodland tool kit reflects this change too, with a greater emphasis on ceramics for storage and cooking. But at the same time as people were becoming more sedentary, as reflected by diagnostic Middle Woodland artifacts like ceramic pots, other parts of their tool kit, like our Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile point, show how their trade networks were expanding.

This projectile point is made from a high-grade argillite, which is significant because argillite is most commonly sourced from the Lockatong Formation, a band of stone outcrops that begins in what is now Pennsylvania and New Jersey, between 60 and 90 miles from the John Dickinson Plantation. This fits a broader pattern of Middle Woodland sites, where non-local tool stones are becoming more and more common. That’s what makes this projectile point more interesting than it might initially appear. These stone tools made from non-local, or ‘exotic’ sources are evidence that, at the same time as people were becoming more sedentary, their worlds, or at least their trade networks, were are also expanding.

Fox Creek Projectile Point Recovered From John Dickinson Plantation.

But wait, there’s more!

The fact that our point is made of argillite is in some ways more significant because of the Pre-Contact sites that are adjacent to the Lockatong formation, sites like….Abbot Farm. Abbot Farm is probably best thought of as concentration of large Pre-Contact sites located at the confluence of the Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River in Trenton New Jersey, roughly 80 miles upriver from the John Dickinson Plantation. The sites at Abbott Farm date to at least the Archaic Period (beginning 10,000 years ago) on through to the Late Woodland period (ending with European contact circa 400 years ago), but we mention Abbot Farm because not only is it close to a very large argillite source, but because excavations at Abbot Farm have shown that the area is home to a lot of Middle Woodland pre-contact sites, and these sites are, in turn, loaded with argillite Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile points.

Does this mean our Fox Creek/Selby point came from Abbot Farm?

Not necessarily, and there’s no way we can prove that or would make such a claim, but what’s so fascinating about Abbot Farm is that the sites there have loads of exotic stone, some of which is from as far afield as modern-day western New York and the Great Lakes. So, what we’ve got here with our little argillite projectile point is a glimpse of an exchange network that potentially links southern Delaware to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and those NJ and PA sites then potentially linked to sites in New York and along the Great Lakes.

See what we mean when we say that the world of the Middle Woodland was expanding even as its people were becoming more sedentary? That’s one of the beautiful things about archaeology, a single artifact can ‘point’ towards the way whole regions are changing, and in this case, becoming more connected.

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.

Delaware We Have Contact!: A Copper Alloy Arrowhead from the John Dickinson Plantation

By: Bill Liebeknecht

A copper alloy projectile point or “arrowhead” was recently recovered by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group during an archaeological survey at the John Dickinson Plantation near Dover, Delaware. Work was conducted on behalf of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in preparation of a new system of trails for use by visitors. The survey entailed a controlled surface collection of the entire area where ground disturbing activities will occur. The area was recorded as site 7K-D-45 in the 1970s.

Individuals with knowledge of copper Contact period artifacts from the region were consulted on this exciting find. They reported that this was likely the first copper alloy arrowhead to be recovered from Delaware. Others pointed out that the style differed from other copper arrow tips recovered from other states in the area in that it has a “tang” or shaft for attaching the head to the arrow, whereas others from the region were pierced with a central hole for attaching the arrowhead to the shaft of the arrow. Dr. Greg Lattanzi, Curator and New Jersey State Archaeologist, provided similar examples from New York and Canada. This begs the question: why is this artifact here in Delaware? The earliest-known contact between Europeans and Native Americans in Delaware was documented in 1608 during the voyages of Captain John Smith and in 1609 when Henry Hudson entered the Delaware Bay. A number of “Indian towns” are noted on earlier maps of the Nanticoke River and its tributaries. To date, very few European trade goods have been documented in Delaware.

The most likely source of the arrowhead may be from the Susquehannock Indians, who were heavily vested in the fur trade in Pennsylvania and had migrated south into Delaware during the seventeenth century. European goods, including copper, iron, and brass items, were of high trade values to the Native American groups in the region. Copper and brass items such as kettles were often recycled, cut down into various ornaments and projectile points. It may be that this projectile point was once part of a cooking vessel. One thing is certain, though, the mere presence of this artifact in central Delaware is a rare find indeed.

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.

That’s not a knife! This is a knife. Or is it?

By: Andy Martin

Today we’re talking about one of the less-discussed pieces of the Native American/pre-contact tool kit…the knife. There has been seemingly endless amounts of ink spilled about projectile points and axes and pottery but believe me (I’ve looked) there’s a lot less out there about knives, particularly in the mid-Atlantic.

Knives would have been every bit as crucial to the pre-contact tool kit as the above-mentioned artifacts, so where are they?  The short answer is that knives are definitely present on prehistoric archaeological sites, but not necessarily in the way we think of knives today.

First off, let’s touch on an important topic. Until the bow and arrow became widespread around 1,300 years ago, your safest bet when identifying a stone tool that has been bifacially worked (flaked to a cutting edge on both sides) is to call it a “biface.” Want to get more specific? Let’s call it a hafted biface (that’s the term I dig personally). Hafted simply means attached to a handle (or haft).  The hafted bifaces shown below (Photo 1) are beautiful examples from Texas showing what we mean by hafted biface.

Photo 1: Example of Hafted Bifaces (Texas Beyond History 2020).

 

Hafted biface is a broad but useful term covering both hafted cutting tools like knives and projectile points (bifaces meant to be thrown or shot at something). To further muddy the waters, hafted bifaces are what could be called ‘long-life tools.’ Making a biface is labor and time intensive, so these tools would often have different uses over their lives. A tool might begin its life as projectile point, but due to damage or the need to perform a different task, it might then be repurposed as a knife or a drill. This is where it’s important to try and think different about the tools people used in the past. Today, a knife is a knife (except for you Simpsons fans out there when it is actually a spoon, in which case we can see you’ve played knifey/spooney before). But a tool might segway from a spear point to a knife and eventually to a drill or an awl (a small pointed tool for piercing or puncturing holes) as damage and need dictated.

So if a hafted biface can be used as both a knife or projectile point, how do we go about determining which it is?

In incredibly rare instances, it’s obvious because the hafted biface in question has been found still attached to their bone or wooden handles. Unfortunately, such finds are uncommon because soil conditions in the mid-Atlantic aren’t very conducive to preserving organic materials like wood or bone. Intact hafted tools are usually recovered from oxygen-free, muddy environments like river bottoms or bogs, or dry environments like caves. On the coastal plain, where our site was located, the chemical composition of shell middens can also preserve organic materials. So, if we aren’t finding knives still attached to their handles, how do we figure out if something is a knife or a projectile point?

Looking carefully at the edge of the tool to see how it was used is probably the best…wait for it….tool in our arsenal for determining how a hafted biface was used.  In the case of projectile points, such as arrowheads or spearheads, you see very specific types of damage such as impact fractures—cracks that result from an arrow or spear striking a target or the ground resulting in a tip or other fragment breaking off. A great example of this is the Brewerton Corner Notched projectile point in the photo below (Photo 2, center artifact). On hafted bifaces that were used as knives you tend to get very different type of damage relating to a prying or twisting motions; this damage is referred to as a “transverse fracture.” You will also see damage on the sides of the tool related to the knife being used in a sawing motion.

Photo 2: These Projectile Points Were All Recovered from a Site in Northern Delaware. From left to right, we have a possible Bare Island, a Brewerton Corner Notched, and a Poplar Island. Recent research has shown that Bare Island and Poplar Island projectile points appear to have been in use from the Late Archaic (starting about 5,000 years ago) to the Middle Woodland (ending about 1,000 years ago) periods. The Brewerton Corner Notched point has a tighter date range of 5100-4300 years ago, within the Late Archaic period.

 

Let’s take all this data and apply it to an artifact Dovetail recently found in Delaware. First a word about our hafted biface. It’s about 47.46 cm long and 14.78 cm wide, or a little longer and thicker than a golf tee (Photo 3). It’s made of jasper, a stone found in many streams and rivers in the mid-Atlantic as well as in quarry sites in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. One such quarry site in Delaware is just a few days walk from where our artifact was recovered. As seen in the photo below, it is narrow and has serrated edges on both sides of the tool. It has also been “heat treated,” as evident by the purple base. Purposefully exposing stone to heat for a long period of time makes certain stones easier to work. The Brewerton Corner notched projectile point, pictured above, is a beautiful example of a heat-treated (also referred to as thermally altered) stone tool.

Photo 3: Thermally Altered Hafted Biface Found in Delaware by Dovetail.

 

So is the artifact in Photo 3 a knife? We think it is, and this analysis comes down to use wear. First you can see the fracture on the distal (or top) end of the hafted biface and it appears to be more of a snap or transverse fracture than an impact fracture. This means that the point may have broken while it was being used to cut or pry something as opposed to striking a target or the ground. Second, the serrations and damage along the sides of the tool makes it likely that our biface is a knife. It’s possible that our knife began its life as a more traditional-looking projectile point and broke before being further worked and used as a knife.

So, the next time someone tells you “that’s not a knife, this is a knife,” you can tell them “it’s certainly a hafted biface, now let’s check the sides for use wear!”

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:

Texas Beyond History
2020    Texas Beyond History. Electronic document https://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/trans-p/images/Carved-Rock-hafted- bifaces.html, accessed May 2021.

“Poppin’ Medicine Bottles”

Featured Fragment –“Poppin’ Medicine Bottles”

By Katie Merli

Medicinal, pharmaceutical, and chemical bottles have a distinctive look to them, even today. Informative labels, child-proof closures, and even the well-known “Mr. Yuk” stickers from our youth set these bottles apart from other vessels. Physical modifications to bottles containing dangerous medicines separate them from their more innocent counterparts stashed away in the medicine cabinet. By the late 1800s, it was common for “chemical” or “poison” bottles to be brightly colored (generally cobalt blue or brilliant green), have embossed lettering/designs, or have the obvious labels of “POISON.” In case that wasn’t enough, some even sported the skull and crossbones to further get the point across. This was all done to ensure that the half-asleep person groping through their bathroom cabinet in the dark, as well as the illiterate, would understand that the contents inside were not meant for excessive or for any human to consume and should be used carefully (SHA 2021).

Two different examples of these “poison” bottles were recently found at the Heiskell-White archaeological site in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. One is a complete 3-inch tall, triangular shaped, cobalt blue bottle made by McCormick & Co. (yes, that McCormick). Their “Bee Brand” bottle (circa 1890s–1902) (Photo 1), with its bright color and noticeable shape, would have most likely contained laudanum (Figure 1). A tincture of opium and alcohol was used in the treatment of pain, cough, diarrhea, and a variety of other medical debilitations since the eighteenth century; this medication was relatively widespread and readily available. Less aggressive versions of laudanum are still prescribed today.

Photo 1: McCormick & Co. “Bee Bottle” Found During Excavations at the Heiskell-White Site in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

 

Figure 1: On Left: Oxalic Acid Label From Cassiday’s Drugstore, Downtown Fredericksburg On Right: McCormick & Co. Laudanum Bottle Label (www.dawnfarm.org 2014).


The second bottle found on the site has a small cylindrical shape with embossed lettering. Only a light aqua color, it is a less obvious example of a poison/medicinal bottle (Photo 2). “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup,” made by Curtis & Perkins, was given to infants and children to help sooth teething, fussing, diarrhea, etc.; the primary ingredients being morphine and alcohol (Figure 2). With alarming dose recommendations (roughly 6 to 20 times as much as laudanum depending on the child’s age), it is no wonder that this syrup quickly became known as a “baby killer” medicine as one teaspoon contained enough morphine to kill the average child (Museum of Healthcare 2017). By 1911, the United States passed the Pure Food and Drug act, forcing Curtis & Perkins to remove morphine from their recipe and “soothing” from their label. With this change, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was able to be produced and used through the 1930s (Museum of Healthcare 2017).

Photo 2: Curtis & Perkins Bottle for Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup Found During Excavations at the Heiskell-White Site in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

 

Figure 2: Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup Trade Card (Museum of Healthcare 1887).

By the 1890s, various drug advertisements, especially for children’s medicine, began to advertise their “harmless” nature as a means to avoid association with these dangerous alternatives (Sears, Robuck & Co. 1897).

Both of these medicines were easily obtained and led many people, young and old, to become addicted to the substances. Small artifacts such as these, especially when found intact, give archaeologists a sense of what the people of the time were turning to for their day to day maladies, and remind us that maybe we don’t have it quite as bad today.

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: 

Dawnfarm.org
2014    Opiates and Medicine: Where are we, America? Electronic document, https://www.dawnfarm.org/wp-content/uploads/OpiatesAndMedicineHANDOUTS_09-23-20141.pdf, accessed February 2021.

Museum of Healthcare
2017    Mrs. Winslows Soothing Syrup: The Baby Killer https://museumofhealthcare.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/mrs-winslows-soothing-syrup-the-baby-killer/, accessed February 2021.

Sears, Robuck & Co.
2007    1897 Sears Robuck & Co. Catalog, Page 39, accessed February 2021.

Society of Historical Archaeology
2021    Poison and Chemical Bottle Styles https://sha.org/bottle/medicinal.htm#Chemicals%20and%20Poisons, accessed February 2021.

 

Common Cents Archaeology

By: Joe Blondino

Most of the artifacts that archaeologists find don’t give us an exact date for when they were used or deposited on a site. Typically, artifacts are assigned a “type”, and each type has a date range that is generally accepted based on previous research. For example, the projectile points that we refer to as the “Palmer” type date to between 10,000 and 9,300 years before present (Gardner 1989), and “creamware” ceramics date to between 1762, when they were introduced by Josiah Wedgwood, and about 1820, when other wares came into fashion (Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum 2002). However, we occasionally get lucky enough to find objects with very precise dates, and perhaps the best example of this are coins, which often bear the year in which they were minted. Dovetail archaeologists had the good fortune to find such an artifact recently at the Hieskell-White archaeological site (44SP0816) in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. While excavating the cellar floor of the circa-1795 house, archaeologists recovered an 1822 penny, giving them a terminus post quem (“TPQ” in archaeologese) for the layer in which the coin was found (Photo 1 and Photo 2). This Latin phrase translates to “time after which,” and refers to the earliest date that a particular layer of sediment could have been deposited. This means that if a coin from 1822 was found in a certain layer, then that layer could not have been deposited earlier than 1822, or the coin couldn’t have gotten there unless there was some sort of disturbance…or time travel. In this case, the 1822 date works perfectly for the site!

Photo 1: 1822 Coin Found During Excavations in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

 

Photo 2: Second Coin Recovered From Excavation, Dating to 1808.

The coin found at the Hieskell-White site doesn’t look like a modern penny, as it is significantly larger. These are generally referred to as “large cents” to differentiate them from the modern-sized penny, which wasn’t introduced until 1857. The 1822 date happened to be easy to read on this particular example, but sometimes the date on a coin can be difficult to make out if the coin is particularly worn. In these cases, there are still other clues we can go by to narrow down a possible date range. If the date on the Heiskell-White coin hadn’t been discernible, we might still have been able to see the outline of the bust on the obverse (or “heads”) side of the coin, which would have told us that it was a “Matron Head” cent that was only minted between 1816 and 1839. This is still a tighter date range than we get from many other artifact types (Coin Collecting Guide for Beginners 2014). Some older coins from Europe may feature the likeness of the head of state at the time the coin was minted, which can give us similarly tight date ranges. So the next time you drop a coin, don’t fret—you may just be giving future archaeologists an important clue to dating their site!

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:

Coin Collecting Guide for Beginners
2014    United States Large Cents. Electronic document, https://www.coin-collecting-guide-for-beginners.com/large-cents.html, accessed December 2020.

Gardner, William M.
1989    An Examination of Cultural Change in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene (circa  to 6800 B.C.).  In Paleoindian Research in Virginia: A Synthesis, edited by J. Mark Wittkofski and Theodore R. Reinhart, pp. 5–51. Special Publication 19. Archeological Society of Virginia, Richmond.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
2002    Creamware. Electronic document, https://apps.jefpat.maryland.gov/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/Colonial%20Ware%20Descriptions/Creamware.html, accessed December 2020.

Living on a Prayer: What a Rosary Fragment Can Tell Us About the Urban Landscape in Alexandria, Virginia

By: Kerry S. González

In recent excavations in the City of Alexandria, Dovetail recovered a portion of a rosary, specifically the crucifix and a section of the antiphon. Rosaries are used in Catholicism as a form of meditative prayer, and each rosary contains three parts: the introduction or the antiphon, the five decades, and the conclusion. The introduction consists of the cross and the four beads following it, which represent the Apostles’ Creed, one Our Father, and three Hail Marys for the three divine virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. The next part are the five decades (10 Hail Marys said in a row), and the conclusion is the closing prayers. This artifact was found within the rubble fill of a basement, all that remains of a dwelling located at 1312 King Street.

The home itself, according to historic maps, was a two-story brick building (Figure 1). Dovetail’s recent excavations confirmed the presence of this building, which was constructed in what is known as a common bond. Additional information on the building was also obtained from the dig, such as the basement was white whitewashed, it had divided rooms, a French drain helped shed water, and a relieving arch likely held the weight of brick chimney above (Photo 1). While the architecture of the building at 1312 King Street isn’t the focus of this blog, a picture helps visualize the home and its occupants.

Figure 1: 1896 Sanborn Map Overlay (Sanborn Map Company 1891). Pink indicates brick building and yellow indicates wooden frame.

 

Photo 1: Partially Exposed Foundation Wall and Relieving Arch Associated with 1312 King Street.

The rosary pictured here has the name J.W. Comeau inscribed on the back (Photo 2). Initially it was assumed that Comeau must have resided at 1312 King Street for the rosary to have been deposited within the basement fill, but research on Mr. Comeau suggests that he actually lived across the street. A newspaper ad from 1919 infers that he lived at 1303 King Street, now part of Pacers Running, and was offering his services for painting and papering (Figure 2). He possibly worked at the Paint Shop located at 1304 King Street (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 2: 1919 Advertisement (Alexandria Gazette 1919).

While this artifact tells us little about the occupants of the site investigated by Dovetail, it nonetheless provides a link to the residents of the block as well as the City of Alexandria during the early-twentieth century. It also tells us how fill and artifacts in urban contexts often end up away from their original location. Not only is this artifact a good example of how cities have always, and continue to, change through cutting and filling episodes, it is tangible pieces such as this section of a rosary that make what we do as archaeologists and historians exciting.

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:

Alexandria Gazette
1919    “Painting and Papering” https://virginiachronicle.com/?a=d&d=AG19191202.1.5&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–, accessed November 2020.

Sanborn Map Company
1891    Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from Alexandria, Independent Cities, Virginia. Sanborn Map Company, Aug, 1891. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn08968_003/.

Diamond-Notched Tobacco Barn a Precious Gem?

By Danae Peckler

Tobacco barns may still be something of a common sight in central and southern Virginia, but their days are increasingly numbered. Listed as one of Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Properties in 2009, many are being reclaimed by the rural landscape that they once defined. Since 2009, Preservation Virginia has documented and repaired some of these iconic buildings to preserve the history and heritage of tobacco faming in Virginia and parts of North Carolina. This work has involved recording hundreds of flue-cured tobacco barns, named for the method used to process the crop, identifying unique examples like the Fitzgerald-Hankins Tobacco Barn in Pittsylvania County, Virginia (Photo 1 and Photo 2).

Photo 1: View of Fitzgerald-Hankins Barn Looking West Taken in 2010 (Courtesy of Preservation Virginia).

 

Photo 2: Detail of Northeast Corner Showing Tie Plates at Eaves of Fitzgerald-Hankins Barn (Peckler 2020).

To better understand the history of this barn, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) joined with Sonja Ingram, Tobacco Barn Project Manager, Professor Michael Spencer, Chair of University of Mary Washington’s (UMW) Historic Preservation Department, and Tessa Honeycutt, a UMW preservation graduate and Preservation Virginia intern, to research and document this resource in the summer of 2020. The building had been vacant since the 1960s, but became ruinous after a series of storms in 2019. This joint documentation occurred just prior to its demolition in September 2020.

The Fitzgerald-Hankins barn was a 20-x-20-foot, single pen, unhewn, log building—but do not mistake simple for inferior; it likely stood for more than 150 years! This form of tobacco barn, or “tobacco house” as they were called from the eighteenth to the late-nineteenth century, were built from the late 1700s into the early 1900s, yet the Fitzgerald-Hankins barn stands apart for its diamond-notched corners (Giese 2004:3) (Photo 3).

Photo 3: At Left, Image of Diamond-Notching at Southeast Corner of Fitzgerald-Hankins Barn (Peckler 2020); At Right, Sketch of Diamond Notching (Kniffen and Glassie 1966:55).

 

Figure 1: Map Depicting “Distribution and dominance of methods of horizontal log construction. Based on approximately one thousand individual examples. Differences in weight of terms are indicative of relative importance” of Corner Notching in Eastern United States (Kniffen and Glassie 1966:61).

One of a few distinctly “American” forms of corner timbering, diamond-notching is rare with relatively few survivors of this type remaining across the country. In fact, just six of 230+ historic tobacco barns surveyed by Preservation Virginia in Pittsylvania County were built using this method (Ingram 2015). Cultural geographers and architectural historians have noted the relative scarcity of this type and tied it to Swedish traditions, though current research more appropriately traces the four-sided diamond notch as an evolution of the Finnish six-sided diamond notch (Jordan et al. 1987; Kniffen and Glassie 1966; Personal Communication, Douglass Reed 2020). Regardless of the diamond notch’s European roots, the four-sided version emerged in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country with the highest concentration of this type of log buildings documented in south-central Virginia (Jordan et al. 1987; Kniffen and Glassie 1966) (Figure 1). Scattered examples of diamond-notched buildings identified in central Tennessee, eastern West Virginia, and central and eastern North Carolina largely date from the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries (Cooper 1999; De Graauw 2020; Gavin 1997). However, little data has been compiled on this type of log construction in recent decades.

A handful of diamond-notched tobacco barns in surrounding counties have been identified from materials at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources archives, but six extant examples in one county is an outlier. Why do so many survive in Pittsylvania County? Did the people there maintain the diamond-notching tradition longer than in other parts of the state or even the country?

Oral history from property owner, James Hankins, states that the logs of the barn were cut by an enslaved woman—something he heard from the grandchildren of Thomas Fitzgerald (1818–1892). The son of a wealthy family with large land holdings, Thomas was gifted a 640-acre tract of land, nearly twice the size of the County’s average farm, from his father in 1846. Buying and inheriting additional land over time, Thomas came to control more than 1,700 acres that he managed through tenants, overseers, enslaved laborers, and sharecroppers. On his home farm, Fitzgerald reported owning 27 enslaved people in 1860, many of whom may have resided in one of four slave dwellings there—far less than the 300 people held in bondage by the county’s largest slaveowner—and produced substantially less tobacco than his contemporaries (U.S. Agricultural Census n.d.; U.S. Slave Schedule 1860). Keeping with a diversified farming strategy, Fitzgerald turned to milling in the decade after the Civil War, operating a grist and flour mill in 1870 (U.S. Manufacturing Census 1870).

Although a specific construction date for the Fitzgerald-Hankins barn could not be determined prior to its demolition, its diamond-notch construction suggests an early-nineteenth-century date. Given its longevity, it is no surprise that the barn has been modified on multiple occasions to suit market preferences and changes in tobacco technology. While these alterations obscure its past, they are also the reason that it survived into the twenty-first century prior to its September 2020 demolition.

And where there were once many, now there are five.

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:

Cooper, Patricia Irvin
1999    Migration and Log Building in Eastern North Carolina, Material Culture 31(2):27–54.

De Graauw, Kristen
2020    Historic Timbers Project. Electronic document, https://historictimbersdendro.wee
bly.com/?fbclid=IwAR2BEMBe5sYPz0Uv0fbhdhdeB7ruTgQqPAktKcX3Vwx7xiUNzdTDxOW45PA, accessed August 2020.

Gavin, Michael
1997    The Diamond Notch in Middle Tennessee. Material Culture 29(1):13–23.

Giese, Ronald L.
2004    Historic Virginia Tobacco Houses. Middleton, Wisconsin. Copy on file at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Archives, Richmond.

Ingram, Sonja
2015    Pittsylvania Tobacco Barn Survey, Final Report. July 2015. Preservation Virginia. Copy on file at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Archives, Richmond.

Jordan, Terry G., Matti Kaups, and Richard M. Lieffort
1987    Diamond Notching in America and Europe. Pennsylvania Folklife 36(2):70–78.

Kniffen, Fred, and Henry Glassie
1966    Building in Wood in the Eastern United Station: A Time-Place Perspective, Geographical Review 56(1):40–66.

U.S. Agricultural Census
n.d.      Non-Population Census Schedules, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, 1850–1880. Electronic database, www.ancestry.com, accessed July 2020.

U.S. Manufacturing Census
1870    Non-Population Census Schedules, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Electronic database, www.ancestry.com, accessed July 2020.

U.S. Slave Schedule
1860    Slave Schedule, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Electronic database, www.ance
stry.com, accessed July 2020.