Saturday, June 30, 2012

Importers' Marks from St. Louis

Keeping on the St. Louis theme for a bit…

I’m working on a study of pre-Civil War artifacts recovered during the 1990s from several downtown neighborhoods. On this post, I thought I’d show some rather rare “importers’ marks” found on ironstone (and whiteware) plates dating to the 1840s and 1850s.

Large scale American wholesalers of British “Queenswares” (the generic term for refined British earthenwares from pottery centers such as Staffordshire) often created direct relationships with the manufacturers of the table and teawares sold in their stores. In some cases, the names of these American merchants were printed directly on the pottery (alongside the makers’ names). A number of St Louis wholesalers (dating as early as the late 1820s) had such relationships with British potters, and some of their names are marked on pottery excavated in St Louis and the surrounding communities.

Here’s a sampling of St Louis makers’ marks. These are pretty rare – they appear on fewer than 5% of the marked specimens that we recover archaeologically. Besides providing a glimpse into the nature of the international trade in mass-produced goods during the mid 19th century, these artifacts also serve to illustrate the very important role St Louis played in shaping the material landscape of the Midwest before the Civil War. A very large percentage of the pre –1860 material culture that is excavated across Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (as well as further up the Missouri River) began its journey in a warehouse in downtown St Louis.

A colleague of mine is preparing an overview of St Louis importers, so stay tuned….

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Forgotten Eighteenth Century House in St Louis?

Speaking of archaeological features in St Louis (see my last post), here’s a remarkable structure that’s about to become archaeology. The remains of this stone house are located between Lafayette Square and Choteau Avenue. These photos were taken in the mid 1990s, and I’m sorry to report that the building has since lost one of its exterior walls.  It’s now just a picturesque ruin, but I’m wondering if anyone recorded the house when in was in better shape. 
The house as it looked in the mid-1990s.

The sign posted on the front of the house during the 1990s claimed it was constructed “circa 1790” by a “French fur trader” called  Joseph Mottard.

Does anyone out there know anything more about this site? I hope someone recorded it back in the day…. 

Ruins of the house in 2010.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aspects of Urban Archaeology

I took this photo in an 1840s-1850s residential neighborhood in St. Louis. A house once stood here, torn down long ago. More recently, the lot was paved over with asphalt. The fill of the cellar associated with house gradually compacted and slumped, causing depressions to form in the asphalt above. Now, when it rains, pre-Civil War archaeological features are plainly visible. Imagine what may lie beneath.