Artifact of the Day for May 9th, 2018 — Peterborough stoneware vessel

Such a beautiful day on site today. It’s hard to believe we have only been here for three full days! We made progress on all our open excavations, and started teaching some new skills to the students about how to map and record their excavation units. It’s looking like some thundershowers tomorrow, so we are going to head in to the lab to start processing some of the masses of artifacts we have been recovering!

Today’s artifact of the day is a little closer to home than some of the other ones featured. Often, we focus on the exotic imports of material from overseas, but we shouldn’t ignore the local domestic products as well, because they add to our picture of what the daily lived experience was of the people who lived in this house.

This is a little piece of a stoneware, which was the predominant houseware of the nineteenth century. Stoneware is a type of pottery that is fired at a relatively high temperature. It is not porous, which means it won’t soak up liquids. Before glass or plastic containers, a lot of foodstuffs came in stoneware vessels. These vessels could be in the shape of crocks, bottles, and jugs.

Our little fragment appears to be stamped as “Peterborough”, which suggests that this vessel was made locally, and circulated in the local economy. I did a little preliminary research and there were several companies that used stamped wares to sell their products.

One was William Croft, who made and sold ginger beer at 259 Reid St. I don’t think this comes from one of his bottles though, as his mark seems to use the “Peterboro” spelling.

Pair of stoneware bottles stamped "WM. CROFT/PETERBORO"Another, possibly better candidate is this vessel stamped J. Cameron, who was a wines and spirits merchant. The example pictured below is a 1-gallon molasses jug.┬áCameron likely sourced his jugs from a local potter, William Brownscombe, whose pottery was located on Murray Street (where the old YMCA is), opposite the “Old Graveyard” (which is now the Armoury/Cenotaph area). The glaze on this vessel looks very much like the “milky glaze” that Brownscombe-produced vessels had.

A newspaper ad from 1867 states that his pottery “Manufactures and keeps constantly on hand, Stone, Yellow and Rockingham Ware of every description”.

Stoneware jug stamped J Cameron

So even if our pottery piece isn’t a J. Cameron bottle, it probably was also manufactured in Peterborough, and contained some sort of foodstuff. Based on the thickness and curvature, it is probably a jug or a bottle as opposed to a crock.

We’ll keep an eye out for any more pieces in lab tomorrow that might come from our vessel that might give us more clues!