Friday, January 20, 2017

Promoting Archaeology at the 2017 Farm Show

The staff of the Section of Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania just completed a very busy week at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show. Our theme for this year’s exhibit was Pennsylvania Petroglyphs – a rare glimpse into the minds of ancient Native Americans.  

 The exhibit represents a major investment of staff and volunteers, but there is no question that our presentation makes a difference in Pennsylvania archaeology. We continued to see excitement in the eyes of children and adults as they sat in the dugout or as they stood gazing at the banner illustrating the Little Indian Rock petroglyphs or rubbing their hands over the resin cast of the Parkers Landing Water Panther petroglyph. 

 The dugout is still the place to take the annual family picture and thousands were taken. We spoke to over 30,000 visitors and distributed over 13,500 archaeology brochures and over 3600 temporary tattoos, free planetarium passes and magazines, including 750 copies of American Archaeology magazine, 1100 Archaeology Month posters and 670 back issues of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine. These were especially important in promoting the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the State Museum, and the Heritage Foundation. In addition, the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc (SPA) had a table for distributing information on archaeology and accepting new memberships.

Our principal goal at the Farm Show is to always share highlights of Pennsylvania archaeology with the citizens of the Commonwealth and encourage visitation to the State Museum where the learning experience continues about Pennsylvania’s archaeological past. We also strive to promote the preservation of archaeological sites in our state so that future generations can benefit from these valuable resources. The high volume of attendance is a testimony to the quality of the exhibit, the initiative of our volunteers in engaging the public and the public’s interest in archaeology. 

Pennsylvania has an outstanding wealth of archaeological resources that we believe can enhance the lives of all citizens.  Our exhibit on the petroglyphs and the information that was disseminated is another step in communicating this heritage to the citizens of our Commonwealth.  This year, visitors were fascinated with the mystery and meaning of the petroglyphs.  As you know, the archaeological resources of Pennsylvania are being destroyed at an ever-increasing pace. We need help in slowing this destruction and the Farm Show exhibit is a significant vehicle for the dissemination of information and for increasing public awareness to the threats to archaeological resources. 

Our exhibit was well received and we are beginning to plan next year’s theme and reflect on how we can improve the presentation. For example, we are considering an exhibit featuring a Susquehannock longhouse. The theme has been suggested several times in the past and it would coincide with planned upgrades in our Indian village gallery - we are open to suggestions. 

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, January 6, 2017

Archaeology Exhibit at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show

  Here we are again; it is January and The State Museum of Pennsylvania is setting up our annual exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. This is our biggest public outreach program of the year and, according to the Farm Show web site, it is the “largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits.”  Our goal is to engage the public in a discussion of the value of archaeology and to encourage visitation to the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at the State Museum. As in past years, the State Museum’s exhibit is set up in the Family Living section, located in the main exhibition hall of the Farm Show Agricultural Complex next to the MacClay Street Lobby across from the carousal. The 101st annual Pennsylvania Farm Show begins Saturday, January 7, 2017 and runs through Saturday, January 14.

            Our theme for this year’s exhibit is Pennsylvania Petroglyphs – a rare glimpse into the minds of ancient Native Americans.  It features a life size, 20 X 9 foot, banner depicting the Little Indian Rock Petroglyphs and a resin cast of the Parkers Landing Petroglyph.  We have a brochure on the Petroglyphs of Pennsylvania, including a map of Pennsylvania petroglyphs and a detailed reproduction of Little Indian Rock. This petroglyph is part of a group of seven rock islands, located just below the Safe Harbor Dam, 10 miles south of Columbia or 40 miles south of Harrisburg. The site contains approximately 300 petroglyphs and is one of the largest clusters of such carvings in the Eastern United States.

      The resin cast is named “Missibezhieu” (Mish ee pa zu) or, the underwater panther.  This was a mythical creature found in Ojibwa stories.  It is part of the Parkers Landing petroglyph site located on the Allegheny River in Clarion County. 

            The other related handouts are a Heritage Magazine article about the making of the petroglyph banner and a connect the dots handout for children. Finally, we have a petroglyph rock art activity – Connecting with the Past -  where young children can trace images from the Little Indian Rock Petroglyph thereby creating their own petroglyph.

            The banner is derived from a rubbing ( by Paul Nevin of Little Indian Rock.  It took Paul two days to transpose the designs onto several large pieces of paper.  The rubbing was then digitized ( by the Publications Division of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) under the direction of Ted Walke, former PHMC Publications Chief.  Now that this petroglyph is in an electronic format, it will significantly facilitate the analysis of these designs by researchers. 

             The exhibit is a cooperative endeavor by the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc. (SPA), the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (PAC), and The State Museum of Pennsylvania.   Members of the SPA will be on hand offering information about the organization and answering questions. If you are interested in joining the SPA; new memberships include the biannual journal Pennsylvania Archaeologist, announcements of the annual SPA meeting, newsletters and a special Farm Show bonus of three previous issues of the journal will be included. So, stop on by and see what SPA is all about!

Finally, don’t forget that our 20-foot-long replica dugout canoe is also featured in the exhibit. Everyone is welcome to stop and test it out by climbing in and imagining how it would have been to live thousands of years ago, when this was one of the main modes of transportation. While taking a “ride” in the canoe you can read our poster and look at the photos about how dugout canoes were made and how the State Museum’s archaeologists and volunteers made the exact canoe you are sitting in through traditional methods with traditional stone tools. While you are at it, get a picture of the family in the dugout.

Visit our exhibit at the Farm Show; learn about Pennsylvania archaeology and have fun with the family. 

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, December 16, 2016

Made in America: Philadelphia Queensware Pottery in the Early 19th Century

During the early nineteenth century, conflict between England and France led to an American trade embargo that restricted the importation of goods from these countries. Soon after, English hostilities on the high seas that led to the War of 1812 also stopped the flow of foreign goods to America, including fine British ceramics. The lack of certain imported goods led to the establishment of a number of new American industrial enterprises to fill the void.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, a form of thin, cream-colored ceramic called creamware was being manufactured in England. One style of creamware was made popular by British Queen Charlotte and became known as Queensware. Queensware enjoyed immense commercial popularity and was one of the items banned during the embargo and subsequent war.

Creamware Cup (left) Shown with a Copy in American Queensware (right)

Utilizing local clays, some possibly dug from within the city, Philadelphia potters attempted to make their own versions of Queensware and other fine British earthenware ceramics. However, the use of local clays produced a more yellow vessel body rather than white or cream colored. Some potteries, such as the newly-formed Columbian Pottery, offered a British-trained potter to make the enterprise seem more authentic. By 1808, Scottish-born Master Potter Alexander Trotter was producing earthen tablewares for the Columbian, including yellow tea and coffee pots, sugar boxes, jugs, baking dishes, chamber pots, and other items. The Columbian’s goods were advertised “at prices much lower than they can be imported” and at rates that “are less than half the price of the cheapest imported Liverpool Queensware” (Myers 1980).


Manufactured Queensware, at the following reasonable
Chamber Pots                                        4s a $2 25 per doz
Ditto ditto                                               6s     1  80   ditto
Wash Hand Basons                                4s     2         ditto
Ditto ditto                                               6s     1  60   ditto
Pitchers                                                  4s     2  70   ditto
Coffee Pots                                            4s     5          ditto
Ditto ditto                                               6s     4          ditto
Tea Pots                                               12s     2  25   ditto
Ditto                                                      18s     1 80    ditto
Pitchers                                                  6s     1 80     ditto
Dinner Plates 75 cents per dozen-all other sizes, with every other article of Queensware, in proportion
 Copied from a Price List for Columbian Pottery Wares in Relfs Philadelphia Gazette and Daily Advertiser 1813

Philadelphia Queensware Pitcher and Teapot from PHMC Collections

Trotter’s wares became popular and were soon advertised for sale as far away as Alexandria, Virginia and other cities along the east coast. Trotter continued his work in Philadelphia until around 1815, when the Columbian Pottery closed up and he moved to Pittsburgh. For a short time period Trotter continued manufacturing Queensware in the Pittsburgh area, where he produced vessel forms that were “similar to those of the Potteries in Philadelphia” (Myers 1980).

By 1810, another Scotsman, Captain John Mullowny, was advertising similar ceramic articles for sale at his Washington Pottery on Market Street. Mullowny also appears to have been successful in his ventures and by 1812 he had added specialized production techniques and included engine-turned and press-molded Queensware vessels in his inventory (Myers 1980). An advertisement from that same year lists the many vessel forms produced by the Washington Pottery (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser 1812).

  The public are informed that Soup and Shallow
PLATES are now ready for delivery in addition to the
following articles, of which a constant supply is always
kept up.
Gallon, Quart, Pint & Half Pint Grelled & Plain PITCHERS
Gallon, Quart, Pint and Half Pint BOWLS,
STEWING DISHES that will stand the fire,
Quart, Pint and Half Pint MUGS,
MILK PANS, &c, &c, &c.
  The Plates manufactured at the Washington Pottery,
will be found by experience superior to imported plates,
when necessary to stew on a chafing dish or embers, as
they will stand the heat without cracking.
 1812 Ad Copied from a Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser for the Washington Pottery

Following the end of the war in 1815, many of the potteries continued to manufacture Queensware vessels; however, the resumption of trade with Britain meant that the finer quality Staffordshire wares were available once again and at rates similar to the American-made knock-offs. Ceramics, as well as other British goods, flooded the market in 1815 and 1816 in an attempt to stifle the new American industries. Soon it became apparent that the Philadelphia potters could not compete with England’s finer pieces and most of the Queensware producers were out of business by 1820.

The State Museum collections house a number of examples of Queensware recovered from archaeological sites located mainly in the city of Philadelphia. Evaluation of these pieces indicates that the quality of the Philadelphia wares is somewhat lacking. Many issues related to the Queensware pieces appear to be associated with the production and firing of the vessels including: overfired, burned, or bubbled glaze; kiln furniture marks; uneven or missing glaze; crazing; smeared clay; and pitting. Every piece identified as Queensware exhibited at least one, if not several, of these flaws.

Closeup of Queensware Cup Showing Cracking and Missing Glaze (Center Top) and Speckling

 Due to its yellow color, Queensware is often mistaken for yellowware (1828-1930). However, the Queensware pieces have thinner walls and very little decoration, as opposed to yellowware. Queensware colors fall generally into the yellow spectrum but there is a greater variation in shades. Yellowware often exhibits linear bands of varying colors (blue, white, cream) or has a white interior whereas Queensware does not.  And Queensware vessels more often take the form of tea pots, cups and saucers, pitchers, and chamberpots, while common yellowware forms are often mixing bowls, basins, milk pans, molds, and baking dishes.

If you found this blog of interest and would like more detailed information, articles regarding Queensware will be published in an upcoming issue of The Journal for Northeast Historical Archaeology. Additional information on Philadelphia ceramics and citations for this blog can be found in the following sources:

Miller, George L. and Amy C. Earls
2008   War and Pots: The Impact of Economics and Politics on Ceramic Consumption Patterns. In Ceramics in America 2008.

Myers, Susan H.
1980   Handcraft to Industry: Philadelphia Ceramics in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology, No. 43. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser
1812   October 27.

Relfs Philadelphia Gazette and Daily Advertiser
1813   April.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .