Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Ecology, Commerce, Conflict and Transportation along the Anacostia River" Part III, Commerce

This paper was co-authored by Mike Roller and Julie Schablitsky and presented at the 2010 Conference for the Society for Historical Archaeology. It is based upon their work in Bladensburg. Here is Part III:

The Market Master’s house is a ca. 1760 stone structure built by Christopher Lowndes, a prominent merchant and slave trader in the region. He operated several businesses including a ropewalk and an import business in the structures he built in the town of Bladensburg. Among the artifacts recovered at the Market Master’s house was a fragment of black transfer-printed creamware printed with an inscription. Research resulted in finding an image of a matching teapot, helping us to complete the inscription. It reads: “When this you see, Remember me, And bear me in your mind; Let all the world, Say what they will, Speak of me as you find”. On the rear of the teapot is a poignant image of a couple parting, the man gesturing towards a three-masted sailing ship. Transfer-printing on creamware, often with a nautical theme to commemorate a sea voyage to the colonies, was mass-produced for export to the American colonies by Wedgewood in the third quarter of the 18th century (Nelson 1980:93).

The poignant message and image reminds us of the ties of commerce that connected Bladensburg to a global network of trade that reached across the ocean to England where tobacco was sold and goods, as well as people, were collected for export. This network also extended to Africa where human labor was collected for the long sea journey that resulted in death for many, and misery for the rest. Bladensburg would have been a major destination for global trade, with its deep harbor and location convenient to the dispersed tobacco growing population of early Maryland. Traces of these ties, and the society they engendered are revealed by the archaeology, and serve us as a way of engaging the public about this history. The nautical scene made us think of the many people that made their way to Bladensburg and to other American colonies, some with fortunes, some with dreams, and many against their will.

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