Friday, June 18, 2010

What a load of crock!

Hi all,
Perhaps you remember the blog from last week with a photo of me excavating a stoneware crock? Well, we have the piece all cleaned up and ready to be presented! I hope the suspense wasn't to much for you all.

The name on this piece of American Gray Stoneware is "B.C. MILBURN," and below the name is the abbreviation "ALEXA." Click on the image to get a close-up of the words. Well, Pete did a bit of sleuthing and got in touch with an archaeologist down in Alexandria to see if he could gather some information on this Milburn character, and sure enough, he did!

Benedict C. Milburn started out in St. Mary's County, but traveled to Alexandria (abbreviated ALEXA on this vessel) to apprentice with a potter, as did his predecessor at Wilkes Street, John Swann. It is possible that the two worked together as early as 1822, with Milburn taking over operations in 1833, and finally purchasing the business in 1841. The mark on this crock, with Alexandria abbreviated, was the mark Milburn used from 1847 until he died in 1867, giving us a nice narrow date range! Many of Milburn's works were decorated with brushed cobalt in a slip-trailing technique, creating elaborate patterns. The designs vary from intricate works to more general designs, such as the blue vine on our crock. This type of decoration on stoneware faded following the Civil War, likely due to the cost of materials and labor.

Milburn's stoneware traveled far and wide in the mid-Atlantic and has been found in southern Pennsylvania and West Virgina. Port Tobacco, Maryland may be significantly closer to Alexandria, but we still are happy that this crock found its way here! It shows that in the mid-1800s there was a Port Tobacco-Alexandria connection, not to mention it is nice to find such a large piece! Over the next week we hope to work on mending this vessel, as there is a good chance we have most if not all of it. We will be sure to keep you posted.

Remember to come to Port Tobacco tomorrow for some washing, 9-3, if you have the time and interest!

Have a great weekend!


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