Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A link and a book recommendation

Well, now that all that crazy wedding stuff is over, hopefully I'll be able to begin posting on a regular basis again. I'll begin by making two recommendations, one for a website and the other for a book. The website is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (better known as AFSCME) Laborlinks page (available at http://afscme.org/otherlnk/whlinks.htm#other) devoted to women's labor history. Not only is there an incredibly long list of links to various websites about women's labor history, but there's even a whole section just for "Women and Labor in the Textile and Garment Industries."

My second recommendation is for a book that I just recently read in one of my classes--Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure by Nan Enstad (published by Columbia University Press). This book recounts and provides a new interpretation of the famous shirtwaist workers' strike in New York in 1909 (in which some 15-20,000 female workers participated). I think this book is really important for the way in which Enstad critiques previous histories of this strike (which have largely been written from a middle-class, male perspective), and for the alternative reading of this event that Enstad gives. In the process, she also provides a great way of thinking about the female working class and particularly their leisure activities in new ways that don't force us to choose between viewing women workers as airheaded and prone to flights of irrational fancy and viewing women workers as rational, serious social actors. Rather, Enstad demonstrates that this is a false dichotomy. So, given that we know little about Hampden workers' lives in general, and even less about Hampden's women workers, I think that this book provides us with one way of reading the evidence we do have against the grain, giving us the ability to come up with better interpretations of the past.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Further Pacific Avenue excavations

Thursday afternoon, some friends from the Archaeology in Annapolis project - Jenn, Amelia and Matt - joined me at the Pacific Avenue Site for excavations in a trench between the main house and an old foundation wall, which we are now calling Feature 1. For those unfamiliar with the term, a feature is anything made or modified by humans (an artifact) that is too large or complex to remove in one piece. So while a brick is an artifact, a brick wall is a feature, because you could never take it to the lab and analyze it as a whole. Other examples of features might include privy pits that have been filled with artifacts and soil or stains left in the dirt from old plantings or postholes.

Anyway, Feature 1, a dry-stacked stone wall lies parallel to a several-foot deep, 1.5-foot wide trench that has been filled with soil. Because new house construction will cover up that trench, we decided to dig an excavation unit within it in order to try to discover the function of the trench and to date the soils that lay within it. The hope was that we might find a builder's trench - another kind of feature - which might help us to date Feature 1 or the house.

Jenn began excavating through a thick,compact layer of clay and silty-clay fill that was roughly 9-inches deep. Within this layer, and especially at its base, we found a variety of artifacts dating from the early 1800's through the 1930's. This included ceramics, machine-cut and hand-wrought nails, along with window and bottle glass like this Old Grandad Bottle recovered from the base of the layer. Text on the bottle dates it between the 1930's and the 1960's. The upper layer of the trench was filled in sometime after 1930, likely all at once with soils from nearby. Beneath the clay fill lay a stratum of coal ash probably tossed into the trench from the nearby basement.

While Amelia and I screened soils and kept careful records of what we were doing and finding, Matt, a skilled artist, began a measured drawing of Feature 1. He carefully sketched each stone in place, fixing the feature in relationship to other parts of the site, including our excavation unit.

So far, we haven’t been able to determine the age or function of the trench. However, this information will likely become clear as we continue to excavate. I plan to be out in the field next for a half-day on Friday, and anyone who wishes is welcome to join me. Email me for more information.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


My wife and I had the great pleasure this weekend of attending the wedding of our very own Bob Chidester to his long-time paramour, Angela Hull. The two of them tied the knot at Trinity Church of Christ in Tiffin, Ohio around 2:30 in the afternoon. Loads of friends and family attended, and were invited to a reception at the Seneca Hills Banquet Hall.
Bob wants us all to know that this is the most formally we will ever see him attired, and that the shoes pictured below are certainly the fanciest shoes that have ever or will ever to adorn his feet.

Best Wishes to Bob and Ange from Hampden Heritage!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pacific Ave. Update

I spent some time this week - along with volunteer, fellow grad student and Medfield resident Jenn Babiarz - excavating shovel test pits (stp's) at the house on Pacific Avenue. "What," you may ask, "are shovel test pits?" They are 18" round excavations, dug on a grid, that are designed to detect the presence or absence of archaeological sites and deposits of artifacts (archaeologists call these deposits "features") in a given area. In this case, we wanted to find out if an area that will be covered by new construction contained any features, such as a filled root cellar, well, or cistern. Features such as these tend to catch lots of artifacts that can provide insight into how people lived in the past.

We knew going in that our chances were fairly slim. The area had already had some earth-moving occur, and asbestos clean-up removed a lot of soil. Nonetheless, I wanted to be reasonably sure that we didn't miss anything. We began by picking a datum point - a reference point on the landscape that isn't likely to move - and measuring a grid from there with long tapes. We then laid in ten excavation areas, each six meters apart in two rows within the impact zone of the new construction. Over the course of several hours, we excavated each of these down into the undisturbed subsoil. We located a number of artifacts, including some marbles, pieces of nineteenth century ceramic, and machine cut nails, but did not find evidence of buried features. We did however, take notice of a large foundation wall in the area that had sustained some damage from construction equipment.

We were glad to learn that the new construction would not hurt any important archaeological resources. Trenching activity in the previous week appears to have cut through an intact feature at the back of the lot, turning up a number of artifacts. We were also intrigued by this large foundation wall and plan to go back on Thursday to excavate within that trench. Hopefully, deposits we find there will give us some insight into the dating and purpose of that wall. Eventually, we hope to do more extensive excavations throughout the yard of this house, that will help us determine the construction date of the building, and more importantly tell us something we don't know about the lives of people who lived in nineteenth-century Hampden.

Update: I've invited Jenn to contribute to this blog. Anybody that comes out to volunteer can have a chance to post as well. Very exciting. Be sure and email if you are interested in joining us for some excavations.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Women's Labor History at CCBC

Rosie the Riveter

The CCBC Labor Studies program will celebrate Women’s History Month with a special class on women in the workforce during World War II.

Thursday, March 16, 2006
5:45—8:30 p.m.
Room H-205 (the gym building on the Dundalk campus)
There will be a showing of the video The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, with a discussion by Veronica Clark, the chairperson of the local “Rosies.” This discussion is part of the Labor History II course at the college.

The public is invited and it’s free.

Call Bill Barry for more information (410) 285-9563

Friday, March 03, 2006

Emergency Archaeology in Stone Hill

About a week and a half ago, community leader and activist Guy Hollyday called to let me know that a house on Pacific Street in Stone Hill was under rennovation, and that the owners were interested in including archaeology in the process. It turns out that the house was a large old stone farm house, which I've always thought would be an important place to dig because it seems so different from the other houses in the area.

While most houses in the neighborhood are duplexes, this one is a stand-alone two and a half story with two telescope additions, which are now separate properties. The new owners, Mark Thistle and his wife Robyne Lyles, are undertaking a massive project to rennovate the property. They've begun by stripping old paint and paper, and removing a later rear kitchen addition (pictured above). They plan to replace that addition with an updated kitchen, but before they do so, are willing to let some archaeology happen. Replacement of the metal roof is another major project.

Construction workers have already recovered a number of artifactsfrom the area, such as those pictured at right, which range in date from the early nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. Included in this small assemblage are a number of bottle fragments, the rim of a whiteware chamber pot, a sherd of a beautiful annular-ware teapot, as well as tobacco pipes, machine cut and hand-wrought nails and so forth.

I plan to do some limited excavations during the week of March 12. Likely I will dig a few shovel test pits in the area where the new addition will be constructed to see if significant subsurface deposits or features are present, but I also have a number of other research goals in mind. Included in these are the location of the building's privy or privies, location of a possible builder's trench to help date house construction (Architecural historians suspect that the house was built much earlier than the rest of the neighborhood, and artifacts from a builder's trench could help confirm this). Additionally, we'd like to learn more about a strange wall and trench (pictured below) of unknown function.

I've spent the last week or so trying to drum up a little grant support for this project, but to no avail. So I will be out there doing a little work over my spring break, pro bono. I would certainly welcome company from anybody interested in a little impromptu archaeology. I will likely get a few volunteers from groups around the area, but the more the merrier. If you're interested in helping out, please send me an email for further details. I will likely do the work early in the week, since I have to be out of town later in the week. If you'd like to see a few more images of the house, including some off Mark's fairly amazing handiwork check out my flickr photo set from my visit to the site last Friday.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Class on Workplace Discrimination

The Announcement below comes from CCBC Labor Studies Program Director (and Hampden Community History Workshop Participant) Bill Barry Be sure to check out his great online project on Sparrows Point labor heritage.

With claims of workplace discrimination rising, it is essential that everyone understand the laws and enforcement procedures, as well as the impact of the law on non-discrimination clauses in your union contract.
The Labor Studies Program is presenting
a special class on workplace discrimination, with featured speakers:
M. Patricia Tanner, Enforcement Supervisor
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Lee Hoshall, Assistant General Counsel
Maryland Commission on Human Relations (and Lauraville resident)

TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2006 6:00-8:45 p.m.
CWA Local 2101
8035 Harford Road (Parkville—near Exit 31-A of the Beltway)

These speakers are part of the Labor Law II class and are experts in their field. They will discuss elements of the law, latest developments, and the enforcement procedures for each agency.
This class will be free and open to all of you, with plenty of time for Q and A.