Friday, May 7, 2021

Colonial Ceramics in Pennsylvania: Pearlware, 1780-1840


Continuing with our discussion of colonial ceramics and their value in the archaeological record, we are sharing a post on a familiar form of earthenware known as pearlware. In the last part of the 18th century, English potters recognized the public’s desire for a change from the popular cream-colored wares of the period to a ceramic with a whiter appearance. Although Josiah Wedgwood is credited with popularizing a light-bodied ceramic with a blue tinted glaze, the production of pearlwares was soon taken up by many other British manufacturers.

 

Pearlware ceramics are categorized by their type of decoration. Each of these varieties has a slightly different period of manufacture, a useful diagnostic tool for archaeologists attempting to determine the age of an object. Determining the period of manufacture and length of use, is important in assigning a time-period for an event or an archaeological site’s occupation. Within each category, variations in vessel shape, paste, and decoration can help further narrow the date of production due to the evolving nature of ceramic technology.  The following examples are just a few of the many designs employed by potters in decorating this refined earthenware of the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

Edged pearlware 1780-1830 

This style first appeared on creamware ceramics just before the advent of pearlwares, and it was one of the earliest and most popular forms of decoration during the 18th century on this ceramic type. There were several slight variations of the edge motif over the course of its production. Molded rims included scalloped, embossed, plain, and shell-edged.  Shell-edged wares were inspired by Rococo designs which mimicked the scalloped edges of seashells. Edges of these vessels were commonly coated in cobalt blue or green glaze.  



Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania





                           Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania
This green feather-edged pearlware plate, may have been made by J. Heath Hanley c.1780-1800. Variations in the design of the edge-wares can help archaeologists identify their manufacturer.





Hand-painted pearlware 1790-1840 

Before the invention of transfer-printing, ceramic designs were hand-painted onto the vessels by skilled artisans. Following the development of transfer-printing, hand-painted ceramics become less common.




Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

This pearlware punch bowl features a hand-painted design in cobalt blue. Drinking punch was a social affair, and the mixture may have contained curdled milk, lemon, sugar, water, and several pints of liquor, such as brandy (B. Franklin to J. Bowden, 11 October 1763, from the Bowden-Temple papers in the Winthrop family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston)




Annular Pearlware 1790-1820
Annular pearlware was known for its bold stripes in brown, yellow, and blue slip. Slip is a liquified clay with added compounds for pigment. These designs featured prominently on tankards, mugs, pitchers, and bowls. Annular designs were a versatile decoration that could be used to frame or backdrop other decorative elements. 





Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

 The annular, or banded, designs on this pitcher were created by filling a groove that was created on a wheel or lathe with slip (Hume 2001, p.131). 





Mocha pearlware 1795-1840 

These vessels exhibit a distinctive branching or dendritic design applied to a vessel, sometimes with banded designs. It was inspired by moss agate which was popular in England during this time. They were created by applying a foul concoction of tobacco in stale urine and turpentine to the slip of a vessel (according to one recipe mentioned in Rickard and Barker 2006, p. 51). This acidic mixture reacted with the alkaline slip and created the dendritic designs through capillary action. The potter applied drops of the mixture at the vessel base, then inverted the vessel to allow the concoction to flow downwards towards the rim, providing the tree-like design when up righted.  These designs were named for the Yemeni port bearing the same name through which large amounts of coffee and considerable quantities of moss agate were exported. 


                           Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
The dendritic designs of this mocha ware bowl were applied over a slip which was first applied to the bowl.



Transfer-printed pearlware 1795-1840 

Transfer-printing is a technique of transferring an image from an engraved plate onto a piece of tissue paper and then onto a bisque fired (fired once, but unglazed) ceramic vessel. Transfer-printing allowed for the mass-production of ceramic vessels bearing detailed and uniform images. This technique is still used today by some artisan potters.


                            Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania. 
This transfer printed pearlware saucer features a popular Asiatic design known as blue willow.


Each of the vessels featured in this blog was recovered from archaeological deposits in wells dating to the 17th and 18th centuries at what was once 121-123 (old# 37-39) Market Street in Philadelphia. During colonial times, this part of Philadelphia was at the center of commerce with several governmental buildings, markets, and prominent gathering places located nearby. These artifacts were recovered in 1976 as part of the archaeology conducted prior to the construction of the Market Street ramp for I-95.

 

The colonial ceramics recovered at various sites across the Commonwealth are an important tool for studying our past. They reflect consumer behavior, ethnic choices and in the case of those wares later produced in Philadelphia, the beginning of manufacturing in our state. Those industrious individuals that produced wares from local clays in a similar manner as they had in England, created an industry that would see Pennsylvania become a leader in manufacturing of durable goods for decades to come. We invite you to view additional examples of colonial ceramics on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s on-line collections

 

This image, dated 1800 from Birch’s Views of Philadelphia, looks North on Second Street at Market Street. It shows the old courthouse and the steeple of Christ Church. The structure from which these ceramics were recovered was located a few doors from the right-most building shown here.             
(Image: Library of Congress)

References 


Godden, Geoffrey A.

1970 Encyclopedia of British pottery and porcelain marks. London: Barrie and Jenkins

 

Hume, I. N.

2001 A guide to the artifacts of colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press.


Sussman, L.

1977 Changes in pearlware dinnerware, 1780–1830. Historical Archaeology, 11(1), 105-111. 

 

Rickard, Jonathan, foreword by D. Barker, and photography Gavin Ashworth.  

2006 Mocha and related dipped wares, 1770-1939. Hanover: Published by University Press of New England.


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

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Colonial Ceramic Series – Tin-glazed earthenware


This week we go back to our series on early historic ceramics often recovered on archaeological sites and their significance in the historic and archaeological record. Past posts have discussed Jackfield (1745-1790), Scratch blue (1744-1775), Slipware (1675-1770) and Creamware (1762-1820) ceramics. Colonial ceramics of the 17th and 18th centuries are typically divided into three categories: Earthenware, Stoneware, and Porcelain. These categories are derived from the clays used in manufacture as well as the firing techniques.

 Tin-glazed ceramics, often called delftware, are a soft-bodied earthenware ceramic first produced in northern Europe in the early 1600’s. Found earlier in other locations, tin-glazed ceramics represent attempts throughout the Middle East and Europe to copy porcelains produced in China during the 15th and 16th centuries. They were also the first white, painted pottery produced in England (Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland). Known as tin-glazed due to the addition of tin-oxide to the lead glaze, these ceramics have a thick white glaze referred to as tin enamel, readily identified by its eggshell appearance. 

Tin-glazed earthenware salt dish, found at the Byrd Leibhart site (36Yo170). Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania



Tin-glazed earthenware bowl, found at the Market Street site (36Ph1). Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

As with most types of ceramics, tin-glazed earthenwares were decorated using various techniques, each coming and going in and out of popularity at various times. Since the date range when each of these techniques was used can be identified, they are a useful tool for dating archaeological sites and features. Though there are a number of different design methods used on tin-glazed earthenwares, a few of the more common styles found on Pennsylvania sites include the following. 

Sponge decorated tin-glazed earthenware fragments, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Sponge decorations are created by the application of a cobalt oxide using a sponging technique. This decoration looked like blue sponging after the vessel was fired and dates between 1708 and 1786. A similar looking decoration called powdering occurred when the vessels are powdered in manganese, which results in a purple-sponge decoration after firing. Powdering decoration was used on tin-glazed ceramics between the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  

Oriental landscape motif tin-glazed earthenware mending fragments, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.


Another type of decoration identified is the oriental landscape motif, which was also done with cobalt oxide and resulted in a blue landscape decoration on the fired vessel. This form of decoration was most commonly produced circa 1720’s - 1780.

Fazackerly decorated tin-glazed earthenware fragment, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.



A less common decoration style is the Fazackerly style of decoration, a distinct style with floral motifs and multiple colors including greens, yellows, purples, reds, and blues. This style of decoration dates circa 1760-1770. Due to this limited production date range, ceramics found with this style of decoration can be especially useful in narrowing down the age of a site or feature. 

Blue circular floral motif on tin-glazed earthenware, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.


Finally, one of the most common decorations found on tin-glazed earthenware on Pennsylvania archaeological sites is the blue circular floral motif. Again, this decoration was produced by using a cobalt oxide to create a blue floral design on the fired vessel. This form of decoration dates circa 1650-1770.

These are just a few of the different decoration styles found on tin-glazed earthenwares, but they each are useful for archaeologists in identifying site function and time period. By the mid-18th century, creamware was in production and as a more refined and durable earthenware this began to replace tin-glazed earthenwares. By the late 18th century, production of tin-glazed earthenwares were in significant decline.

We hope you will continue to follow our blog to learn more about the incredible ceramics that have been recovered by archaeologists from across the Commonwealth. The preservation of these objects provides a personal glimpse into the lives of early colonists and of the potters who produced them. German and English immigrants who became potters in Philadelphia, Lancaster and York developed their methods and refined the clay available locally to produce ceramics that would replace those from Europe and led the way for many artisan crafts throughout the colony.

Advancements in science have allowed archaeologists to analyze clay sources and trace them to regions and in some cases potters.  Archaeologists have the unique ability of finding the stories of everyday life through the evidence of the past, even if it is only a broken piece of pottery.

References:

Hume, Ivor Noel

1969      A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (reprint)

Diagnostics Artifacts in Maryland: https://apps.jefpat.maryland.gov/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/Colonial%20Ware%20Descriptions/Tin-glazed.html. Accessed April 19, 2021.

Britannica Tin-glazed Earthenware: https://www.britannica.com/art/tin-glazed-earthenware. Accessed April 19, 2021.


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

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Uncovering the History of Cuff Links

Although cuff links are still used today, they are typically not part of everyday attire.  Beginning in the 17th century changes in the tunics and shirts that men wore brought about the use of cuff links.  Prior to this time, shirts were held together by strings or ribbons.  Shirts were worn next to the skin and often under an over coat or cloak.  The visible parts of the shirt, namely the collar and cuffs, became places for ornamentation.  


Attribution: Auckland Museum, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


During the 1600’s, tailors added stitched holes in the cuffs of shirts which enabled two small “buttons” attached by a chain link to close the cuffs and hold them in place.  These “sleeve” buttons or cuff links came in a variety of shapes and materials that were often a mark of status for the wearer and they were commonly used by members of the upper class as well as military officers.  As a result of general trends in design, the shape of the button can suggest a relative time period but not an exact date.  For example, octagonal shaped buttons were popular in the early part of the 18th century however, by about 1760 they were replaced by a round or oval shape.  




The shape of the link can also offer clues, from the late 1600’s through the first half of the 1700’s a flattened U-shape link was popular while the pyramid shape and circular eye shanks generally date to after the 1750’s.




As many of our followers are aware, The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology has been conducting archaeological excavations at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park (36DA0159) in Dauphin County for 14 years. This was the location of a French and Indian War era fort in the 1750’s and evolved into the affluent estate of Mr. McAllister in the 1780s.  As mentioned previously, cuff links were and continue to be a status symbol generally worn by men of the upper class including military officers.  Perhaps it is not surprising that our excavations have recovered several impressive cuff links from either the Fort period and/or Mr. McAllister’s occupation. Currently, we are conducting a detailed analysis of these objects to refine their dating.  All the cuff links pictured in this blog were recovered during our excavations at Fort Hunter.  

Although they look like they could be emeralds, the above cuff link insets are made of glass.









Beautifully hand painted enamel decoration



We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of the small and often overlooked history of cuff links and some of the beautiful examples that have been recovered from our excavations.

We often use the expression “History is just beneath our feet.”  These small artifacts are examples of an object that many would perhaps overlook in the historic record and find insignificant, thus missing the larger picture of the people who wore these objects. Social status, consumer behavior and the tangible evidence of daily life are preserved in these artifacts. Preserving the archaeological record includes all evidence from the past and reflects our cultural heritage. Please help us in continuing to preserve and protect the archaeological record. 

References

White, Carolyn L.
2005 American Artifacts of Personal Adornment, 1680-1820: A Guide to Identification and Interpretation AltaMira Press. Toronto



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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Morphological and Technological Characteristics of Early and Middle Woodland Pottery from the Susquehanna and Delaware Valleys

Origins

Archaeologists working in different parts of the world have found that major changes in ceramic technology occurred thousands of years ago and it appears that now the origin and early development of clay pots emerged in East Asia. In fact, the earliest pottery on record, radiocarbon dated around 18,000 – 20,000 years old, was found in two caves in China and excavations at other Asian and European habitation sites indicate that pottery making began much earlier than previously thought. Pottery was an independent invention in the New World and dates many thousands of years later. In fact, the earliest dates are from shell midden habitation sites that are 4000 years old along the coasts of northern South America and southeastern United States. More time passes before the concept is adopted by Middle Atlantic and North Eastern Native American cultures as fired clay vessels become the ideal alternative cooking method for prepare food. 

Steatite bowl (Loan from Dauphin County Historical Society)



The earliest portable cooking containers found in the Middle Atlantic region date to approximately 3600 years ago during the Transitional Period (circa 4300 – 2700 years ago). These bowls are carved from a soft stone known as steatite. In Pennsylvania, this rock is found in Lancaster County and Native Americans needed to travel to that region or obtain it through trade to acquire their bowls. Steatite is heavy and difficult to obtain so it is easy to understand the many advantages that clay pots had over stone bowls. The following presentation will review the morphological and technological characteristics of Early Woodland (circa 3200 – 1200 years ago) and Middle Woodland (circa 1800 – 1200 years ago) pottery in the Susquehanna and Delaware Valleys. 

Classification and Form

Researchers identify changes in ceramic technology through a classificatory system based on physical attributes. Form, temper, surface treatment, and decoration are among, but not limited to, the criteria used in typologically assigning categories to pottery. With few modifications the attribute system, has been and continues to be, the traditional format that researchers use to analyze prehistoric pottery from archaeological site contexts. Below are a few general trends in the evolution of Early and Middle Woodland pottery.

It is important to note that the various forms of Early and Middle Woodland pottery are markedly different from later pottery types of the Susquehanna and Delaware valleys. Vessel volume/capacity, vessel shape and the variations that are present in vessel decoration are hallmarks that distinguish different pottery types. For example, Early Woodland pots are generally less well made with coarse rock temper than Middle Woodland pots that appear well made with finer temper inclusions. In the Middle Atlantic regions of the lower Susquehanna and lower Delaware valleys, pottery forms begin as flat bottomed, straight sided pots (some with lugged handles) that are followed later by sub-conical and conical forms without handles. Middle Woodland pots often exhibit a decoration along the collar or rim over a smoothed or cordmarked surface.

Cordmarking is a surface treatment for pottery using a wooden paddle wrapped with twisted cord. This is done while the pot is still wet and roughens the surface making it easier to hold after firing. This technique is the principle form of marking pottery surfaces for the next 2000 years. Nets and twined fabrics wrapped around wooden paddles served the same function and appear during Middle Woodland times.  

Artist illustration of pottery making using a cord-wrapped paddle (First Pennsylvanians, 2015)




Construction Methods and Design

Building the pot required the potter to add temper, such as roasted and pulverized mussel shells or some type of granulated rock to the clay as a binding agent that prevented shrinkage and weakening, prior to and during, the firing process. The principal method of constructing Early and Middle Woodland pottery was to weld together stacked coils or fillets of tempered clay with a wooden paddle or stone palate. These tools were manipulated with the potter’s palm as each clay section was added and modeled into place.

Pot exteriors were roughened for better handling in later use. Nets, twisted cords, or rarely, textiles, were some of the materials used to create the roughed surface. One, or a combination of these materials, was applied to the surface of pots before firing. Early Woodland examples were rarely modified with designs beyond the application of cordmarkings on their interiors. Alternatively, the interior lip and rim areas of Middle Woodland pots were frequently decorated with a stamped decoration using a tooth or peg-shaped tool. Some of the Middle Woodland pots from the Delaware Valley are highly decorated with zones of line incising and elaborate punctations, often carefully executed in geometric patterns.

Firing

Once created, the pot was set aside for a period to air dry.  After sufficient time had passed rendering the pot stable, wood was stacked around the pot and ignited. As the pot’s temperature normalized with the heat of the fire, more fuel was added, eventually covering the entire pot and the firing brought to a higher temperature. If conditions did not remain stable during firing, or the pot had not sufficiently dried, the entire process generally failed.

Restored Pots of the Early and Middle Woodland Periods

Some examples of Early and Middle Woodland pottery in museum repositories.

Early Woodland vessel from Bare Island site(36LA0056)




Bare Island site (Susquehanna Valley, Early Woodland) – Large pot with Plain exterior. Steatite temper. Flat bottom with straight sidewalls. Plain rim. 

Early Woodland vessel, Oscar Leibhart site(36YO0009), Private Collection





Oscar Leibhart site (Susquehanna Valley, Early Woodland) - Large pot with cordmarked exterior. Crushed quartz temper. Conical form with unmodified rim.

Middle Woodland vessel from Muddy Run (36LA0103)




Muddy Run site (Lower Susquehanna Valley, Middle Woodland) – Large pot with netmarked exterior. Crushed shell temper. Conical form with cordmarked rim decoration. 

Middle Woodland vessel, Marysville site 




Marysville site (Susquehanna Valley, Middle Woodland) – Large pot with dentate stamped exterior.  Crushed igneous rock temper. Sub-globular form with slight neck constriction. Plain rim. 

Late Middle Woodland, Three Mile Island (36DA0050) Private Collection




Three Mile Island site (Susquehanna Valley, Late Middle Woodland)– Large pot with cordmarked exterior. Crushed angular rock temper. Sub-globular form with slight neck constriction. Plain rim.

Early Woodland vessel, Byram site (28HU39)




Byram site (Middle Delaware Valley, Early Woodland) – Large pot with plain exterior. Crushed rock temper. Flat bottom with exaggerated out-sloping sidewalls. Rectangular form. Plain rim.

  
Middle Woodland vessel, Abbott Farm, New Jersey


Abbott Farm site (Lower Delaware Valley, Middle Woodland) – Large pot with exterior fabric marking and zoned decorations. Crushed shell temper. Conical-shaped form. Plain rim. 

Middle Woodland vessel, Zimmermann site (36PI0014)




Zimmermann site (Upper Delaware Valley, Middle Woodland) – Large pot with exterior cordmarked/dentate stamped exterior. Crushed angular rock temper. Sub-conical form with dentate stamp rim decoration. Moderate neck constriction. 
Interestingly, Middle and especially Early Woodland pots are generally large compared to Late Woodland (1100 AD – 1550 AD) pots. This may reflect the size of the social group using the pot. During Late Woodland times, people were cooking for household groups. During Early and Middle Woodland times, cooking may have been conducted communally, involving several family groups. 

Although Early and Middle Woodland pottery varies in quality, shape, temper and surface treatment, the evolution of pottery types in the Susquehanna and Delaware Valleys seem to evolve in tandem suggesting potters, although experimenting with a variety of techniques, seem to be in communication with one-another. This is in contrast with Late Woodland times when distinctive styles emerge between the Delaware and Susquehanna Valleys. 

Thank you for visiting and please do so again when This Week In Pennsylvania Archaeology and the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology presents other blogs in the series “Pots from the Past”. 

References

 Carr, Kurt W. and Roger W. Moeller
 2015         First Pennsylvanians, The Archaeology of Native Americans in  Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.   Harrisburg.   
                                                                           
Cross, Dorothy
1941 The Archaeology of New Jersey. Volume 1. The Archaeological Society of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Museum. Trenton.
1956 The Archaeology of New Jersey. Volume 2. The Archaeological Society of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Museum. Trenton.


Hurley, William M.
1979 Prehistoric Cordage: Identification of Impressions on Pottery. Manuals on Archeology 3. Taraxacum Inc. Washington.

Kinsey, W. Fred 
1972 Archeology in the Upper Delaware Valley. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg.

Ritchie, William A., and Richard S. MacNeish
1949 The Pre-Iroquoian Pottery of New York State. American Antiquity 15(2):97-124. Menasha.
Rye, Owen S.

1981 Pottery Technology: Principles and Reconstruction. Manuals on Archeology 4. Taraxacum Inc., Washington.
  

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

Monday, March 22, 2021

Colonial Ceramics Series - Creamware



This week we continue our series on early historic ceramics recovered from archaeological sites and their significance in the historic and archaeological record. Past posts have discussed Jackfield (1745-1790), Scratch blue (1744-1775), and Slipware (1675-1770) ceramics. Colonial ceramics of the 17th & 18th century are typically divided into three categories: Earthenware, Stoneware and Porcelain. These categories are derived from the clays used in manufacture as well as the firing techniques. 

Creamware cup replicates the form of Chinese Porcelain cups





Chinese Porcelain cup from collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania



Creamware, sometimes referred to as cream-colored ware, is a clear lead glazed refined earthenware ceramic first produced in the Staffordshire region of England in the 1740s. The first and defining characteristic of creamware is its off-white or cream-colored body, and paste. This is attributed to iron impurities in the source clay. Another tell-tale sign of creamware can be found where the clear lead glaze collects and pools in the crevasses of a piece, often apparent around the base or foot ring. In these areas where the glaze is thickest it will appear green or yellow green in color. 

Pooling of clear lead glaze in base with slight yellow green tint

(Head House, Philadelphia) Collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania





“Importation of Chinese porcelain into Europe provided a great catalyst for the experimentation in the quest for the secret of making porcelain.” (Miller and Hunter 2001:135). Without diving into the complex chemistry involved, creamware is the result of one of those experiments. By 1760 the popularity of creamware began to overshadow earlier attempts to mimic porcelain, such as tin-glazed delft wares and salt-glazed stonewares, and well-established potters like Wedgwood and Whieldon were producing creamware in quantities to meet demand.

Creamware would continue to be produced through 1820 with a variety of decorations including clouded-creamware, or Whieldon, molded patterns like queensware, as well as hand-painted and transfer-printed designs. As with the earlier ceramic types, creamware also found itself falling out of favor by the 1790s with the introduction of pearlware, another refined earthenware, whiter in appearance than creamware and closer to the goal of a porcelain-like ceramic that consumers coveted.

Below is a small creamware mug from the Market St. excavations in Philadelphia. This specimen exhibits a hand painted dark brown annual band near the rim and base, and also has a dark brown transfer-printed star and sprig motif on the body of the mug opposite the handle.

Creamware mug from 36Ph1




We hope you will continue to follow our blog to learn more about the incredible ceramics that have been recovered by archaeologists from across the Commonwealth. The preservation of these objects provides a personal glimpse into the lives of early colonists and of the potters who produced them. German immigrants who became potters in Philadelphia, Lancaster and York developed their methods and refined the clay available locally to produce ceramics that would replace those from Europe and led the way for many artisan crafts throughout the colony.

Advancements in science have allowed archaeologists to analyze clay sources and trace them to regions and in some cases, potters.  Archaeologists have the unique ability of finding the stories of everyday life through the evidence of the past- even if it is only a broken piece of pottery.

References:

Miller, George L. and Robert Hunter

2001      How Creamware got the Blues: The Origins of China Glaze and Pearlware. In Ceramics in America, Robert Hunter editor, Chipstone Foundation.

 

Noel Hume, Ivor

1969      A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Alfred A. Knopf Publishers

 

Miller, George L. Hunter, Robert (editor)

2008      Book Review of Creamware and Pearlware Re-examined. Thomas Walford and Roger Massey, editors In Ceramics in America, Robert Hunter editor, Chipstone Foundation..

 

Websites:

Creamware - Wikipedia

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland

HistoricCeramicTypesChart.pdf(maryland.gov) (PDF)

 

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


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Broken Pottery’s Role in Archaeology - Colonial Ceramics Series


This week we continue our series on early historic ceramics often recovered on archaeological sites and their significance in the historic and archaeological record. Past posts have discussed Jackfield (1745-1790) and Scratch blue (1744-1775) ceramics. Colonial ceramics of the 17th & 18th century are typically divided into three categories: Earthenware, Stoneware and Porcelain. These categories are derived from the clays used in manufacture as well as the firing techniques. Scratch blue is a salt-glazed stoneware, as its name implies it is a harder, more durable ceramic. The clay body is vitrified meaning non-porous, due in part to firing it between 1200-1300 degrees Celsius.


 Earthenware ceramics 


 Earthenware ceramics are fired at lower temperatures in the range of 900-1050 degrees Celsius. This lower firing means that the vessel doesn’t naturally hold liquids, and required a glaze be applied to either the interior or exterior surface for it to hold liquids. Not all vessels were glazed, flowerpots are an example of unglazed earthenware. This category of pottery was relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, making this the most prolific of the ceramic types of the period. Porcelain required white clays that could withstand kiln temperatures over 1300 degrees Celsius. They were more difficult to produce and their delicate nature meant they were not as commonly used in working class households. Archaeologists rely on ceramics not only as a tool for dating archaeological sites and features, but also to examine socio-economic conditions and consumer behavior. For many people a broken piece of pottery is viewed as rubbish, for an archaeologist it can contain a wealth of information and lead to an understanding and appreciation for the occupants of the site or household, and the potter who produced the ware. 


  Fragments of 18th century pottery recovered at Fort Hunter (36Da159)



Our focus this week is on another earthenware ceramic appropriately termed slipware for their manor of decoration. This coarse buff or yellow-bodied clay was frequently decorated with a combed pattern utilizing iron oxide or manganese slip under a clear to pale-yellow glaze. Slip is a combination of water, clay, and minerals developed by the potter to create a solution for decorating pottery.  Some vessels were decorated with dark spots or dots, leading collectors to identify these as “dot” wares. (Hume 1970) Produced in England (1675-1770) it is associated with a district known as Staffordshire, but other English and Dutch potters were producing slipware as well. These distinct vessels with dark brown decoration and yellow-gold colored body occur frequently on 18th century sites in Pennsylvania. Their period of manufacture is longer than that of Jackfield or Scratch-blue stoneware, but variations in pattern, level of clay refinement and the later use of clay molds aids in refining dates of manufacture and in some cases, the potter. 

Various forms of combed slipware from the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania



\

Image of slipware vessel, comb slip decoration with dot pattern on rim.

Collections of The State Museum, Archaeology




Curated among the broken pieces of pottery from excavations in Philadelphia in the 1970’s, is an assemblage of slipware recovered from 121-123 Market Street.  Excavation of the well discovered at this location, produced an assortment of pottery, wine glasses and a William III half-penny (1694-1702). Archaeologists analyzed the artifacts recovered from the well and determined the well had been sealed around 1760, creating a time capsule of its use by the household. Reconstructed vessels would later connect these broken pieces of slipware pottery with their creator, Samuel Malkin (1668-1741). 


Samuel Malkin plates, close-up of initials S and M on either side of dot




Samuel Malkin’s pottery has been traced to Burslem, North Staffordshire, England during the period of 1710-1740. His pottery was among hundreds of small craft potteries located there, and it is estimated that by 1800, they employed more than seven thousand workers. Among the reconstructed slipware vessels from Philadelphia were several vessels with relief-decorated designs. Two of the vessels  contained large dark brown dots, four crosses and the letters S and M. Identified as press molded, this method of production was employed by others, but Malkin was one of the last utilizing this technique, and by the end of the 18th century this process had greatly declined. The use of relief decoration allowed for more elaborate designs than wheel thrown vessels and while labor intense to produce, these “signature” pieces provide a direct link to the potter.  The increased demand for quality ceramics not only in England but also in the colonies provided a market for skilled potters such as Malkin.


Two additional vessels reconstructed from the well provide a more iconic image of these early potters and demonstrates the social and cultural artistry often employed by these skilled craftsmen. The design of these vessels described as “sunfaces” are attributed to Samuel Malkin based on research by David Orr (personal communication). Dr. Orr, retired Senior Regional Archaeologist for the Northeast Region of the National Park Service, has examined multiple vessels created by Malkin and believes these to be among his creations. Orr has suggested possible religious connotations depicted by the celestial suns and the multiple examples of biblical phrases on other Malkin vessels. It’s doubtful we will ever know why these faces were chosen or their symbolism for the consumer, but the craftsmanship of Samuel Malkin nearly 300 years ago is preserved in those broken pieces of pottery allowing future generations to appreciate and understand his story.


1 Probable S. Malkin plate on display at The State Museum of Pennsylvania






2  Sunface plate in collections of The State Museum




We hope you will continue to follow our blog to learn more about the incredible ceramics that have been recovered by archaeologists from across the Commonwealth. The preservation of these objects provides a personal glimpse into the lives of early colonists and of the potters who produced them. German immigrants who became potters in Philadelphia, Lancaster and York developed their methods and refined the clay available locally to produce ceramics that would replace those from Europe and led the way for many artisan crafts throughout the colony.

Advancements in science have allowed archaeologists to analyze clay sources and trace them to regions and in some cases potters.  Archaeologists have the unique ability of finding the stories of everyday life through the evidence of the past- even if it is only a broken piece of pottery.

Please visit our website for additional objects from our collections at; https://www.phmc.pa.gov/Museums/Online-Collection/Pages/default.aspx

For additional examples of Samuel Malkin pottery visit the on-line collection of the British Museum;

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG74295

 

Bibliography

Dean, Darron. "A Slipware Dish by Samuel Malkin: An Analysis of Vernacular Design." Journal of Design History 7, no. 3 (1994): 153-67. Accessed February 25, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1316113.

Hunter, Robert. 2003. Ceramics in America 2003. Milwaukee, Wis: Chipstone Foundation. Samuel Malkin in Philadelphia: A remarkable Slipware Assemblage. David G. Orr

Noël Hume, Ivor. 1970. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf






























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