Thursday, June 17, 2010

Buttons, Beads, Thimbles, and...???

Hi folks!

This lovely Thursday finds the PTAP crew diligently working in the lab, washing and cataloging the seemingly infinite supply of artifacts from our excavations at Burch House. For today's blog I thought I would put up a couple of pictures of some of our interesting small finds.

The category of small finds would not be complete without the inclusion of buttons! Those of you out in the field have probably noticed that we have been coming across a lot of buttons while screening, as well as beads, thimbles, clothing pins, buckles, and clasps. It seems to me that there was a lot of crafty stuff going on...perhaps Mrs. Burch made a bit of money working as a seamstress?

To the left are two different examples of bone buttons we have been finding. The one on the far left is a bone disc with a single hole. It clearly is a button...but I am not sure how a button with a single hole was affixed to clothing. Any ideas? This type of button is typical of the 18th and 19th century. This broad range of dates is not super helpful for dating-generally it is quite difficult to date individual buttons, an exception being those from military uniforms which often have particular designs. The second button is also bone, but has an area on the back where a metal loop was attached in order to sew the button to a coat.

As for the beads, it seems highly unlikely that they were trade beads given their design and the context in which they were found. Many of them were from more recently deposited soils, and were not in strata containing aboriginal material. I actually have been quite surprised by how few aboriginal artifacts we have been finding around the Burch House, given the number of flakes and fire-cracked rock found during other excavations at Port Tobacco. Many of the beads we have found are small round glass beads, often being black or blue in color, as is the one to the right.

The thimbles we have found are all similar. They are made from a copper alloy unlike older thimbles which were often made of brass, are undecorated, and are average in size (meaning they look very similar to modern thimbles!) I will try to get a picture of one of them up tomorrow or next week.

Of course, we have no definite evidence that someone living in Burch House was a seamstress, I am merely speculating such based on the artifacts. On that note, I leave you with a an artifact so mysterious, not even we can figure it out! My bet is that it is some sort of finger guard that would be used during quilting or sewing-what do you all think? Click on the images to the left and right for a close-up!

Not to worry, we are saving plenty of artifacts for our volunteers to wash on Saturday!



Artemis Cooks said...

The wood button form with one central hole is a button form. Thread could be wrapped over it, or more commonly, fabric to match the intended garment was wrapped around it, and then sewn to the garment.

The "finger guard" is, I think, a tailor's thimble.

Judy said...

One-hole bone buttons are meant to covered with a circle of cloth. Line of stitching placed around edge of cloth & drawn snugly around button "mold." One sews the cloth "shank" onto the garment. These single-holed blanks show up in military archaeology sites (Staten Island NY is one) as well as on extant clothing -- mostly 18th century but some early 19th as well.
Hope this helps!
Judy Rees McMillen, former Director of Education Staten Island Historical Society now living just outside Albany NY -- but I grew up in La Plata and one of my best friends was Rosemary Barbour (in fact she still is!)

Jim said...

Thank you both for your comments. Eventually we will find photographs of complete examples of both objects to post alongside our finds.

Mark said...

I believe the last item is a pick for a musical insturment, perhaps a banjo.

Sara said...

There are banjo picks that kind of look like that, but I think the ridges point to use as a thimble. I've seen thimbles just like that in books on needlework tools.