Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Artifacts in Focus: "Home Rule" Pipe Bowl Fragment

For the next few entries we will talk about interesting artifacts we have encountered while cataloging and washing. This first artifact was found at the Market Master's House earlier this summer. Janet Donlin from the CHRS lab writes:

"While washing artifacts in the Center for Heritage Resource Studies lab, we discovered a fragment of a pipe bowl with the words “HOME RULE” and a graphic below the words depicting a Celtic harp with clovers bordering the bottom. This artifact was uncovered from Test Unit 6 on the eastern side of the house and tells us a little bit about the person who might have owned it.

“Home Rule” refers to the Home Rule Movement in Ireland during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This movement was a reaction to the Act of Union, which was enacted in 1801 by the Irish Parliament, uniting the country with Britain. In the 1830’s, an Irish lawyer named Daniel O’Connell began a “Repeal of the Union” movement which inspired the Home Rule movement in later years. In O’Connell’s time, many people argued for a repeal of the Act of Union. The Home Rulers took a lot from the arguments of those who supported repeal, but argued more for a strictly Irish parliament to govern their country and less for a total split from Britain. The Home Rule movement was most active from the 1870’s and on, and eventually led to the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, which created two home rule parliaments in Ireland, one for the North and another for the South.

Finding this slogan on a pipe bowl in America shows that some Americans, many of whom were themselves of Irish birth or descent, were in sympathy with and supported the Home Rule movement in Ireland. University of Maryland Department of Anthropology Professor Stephen Brighton has written a paper about tobacco pipes with Irish-related symbols depicted on them. In his article, entitled “Symbols, Myth-Making, and Identity: The Red Hand of Ulster in Late Nineteenth-Century Paterson, New Jersey”, he tells us that pipe smoking was a popular social activity in the nineteenth century and that often smokers displayed causes they were sympathetic to or things that they supported on their pipes. Whoever owned our piece of pipe, therefore, was in some way connected to the Irish Home Rule movement. Whether they were Irish emigrants, had family or friends in Ireland, or were just a supporter of the cause is all up to conjecture, but little clues like this give archaeologists like us a small piece of insight into the lives of those who passed through the town of Bladensburg."


  1. Would like to know more about the home rule pipe , I found 2 pipes and 3 bowls with the words home rule on them , would like to know more thanks

  2. The article described above by Dr. Brighton, of the University of Maryland, is a good resource, with some references you can follow up on. If you send an email address to the project email (bladenarch@gmail.com) I can send you the article. Dr. Brighton is interested in mapping in the locations of Home Rule pipes to see their relationship to historic Irish communities. Would you be willing to share this information with us?


  3. i found one in my front yard i would like to know how it got to stony point new york along with an axe head and a railway spike

  4. how did a pipe end up in stony point New York?