‘The broken pitcher’

Today, art is my inspiration, at least as a starting point. The title of this blog post may seem whimsical, but it is both a practical description of our subject today and a reference to the art of centuries past. Some musicians, painters, writers named their masterpieces ‘the broken pitcher throughout the 18th and 19th centuries such as Henri Pontet, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, William Adolphe Bouguereau or Heinrich von Kleist. Artists may have been seduced by the curved shape of the vessel similar to a feminine body, or maybe inspired by earthlier meanings associated with the everydayness. Even the fragility of ceramics as easily breakable might suggest a deeper meaning…

We’ve previously written about ceramics on the blog (a lot), from transfer patterns inspired by the ancient world to toilet humour and all the way through to cuppas. Now, it’s turn of “the broken pitcher”. Not just as the inspiration for art, but also as something that can tell us about people, our topic. Broken ceramics in general, and jugs and pitchers in particular, were common parts of daily life during the Victorian Era – whether they were broken by accident, dropped from clumsy hands or smashed in a fit of rage, it’s hard to tell…

Auckland Star (17/02/1934: 4). I’m not sure if I’m understanding the illustration properly at all. It seems to me that the big man holding the teapot is blaming his wife for breaking the last jug. The man looks worried. How can he fill the jug with beer! I would say: that’s your big problem, mate!

South Canterbury Times (14/09/1889: 4). The mystery of the broken pitcher inflicted uncertainty on this woman. It seems bizarre. Splitting into pieces at a touch. Undoubtedly, I would be also wondering why that happened…

As archaeologists, we are used to dealing with broken ceramics. As we are not artists using the romantic topic of ‘the broken pitcher’ or Victorians in the 19th century struggling with their day-to-day issues, we deal with broken ceramics from a distinct perspective. During the artefact analysis we follow several steps. First, we try to put the pieces together. It’s like a game, figuring out a puzzle – as entertaining as it is handy for us. Refitting gives us the chance to determine how much of the vessel is present, and to further identify the forms and functions. Also, when you are holding the complete reassembled vessel, there’s a moment of joy and happiness. A real sense of satisfaction.

Left: The office is chocka! It’s a sea-ramic, even. Image: J. Garland. Right: After an amazing refitting job, I promise, Jessie was the authentic expression of delight. Unfortunately, we cannot check it out because she preferred to hide her face behind a pretty plate. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Technically, a jug is a vessel with a handle and spout used for storing or pouring liquids. This definition also applies to pitcher and ewer, terms that are often used interchangeably (although there are some distinct differences) for larger vessels. As it’s a bit confusing, we have our own typology here at Underground Overground, for the sake of consistency. We usually use jug to refer to milk jugs or smaller vessels, while both pitchers and ewers are large jugs. Particularly, ewer is used for those vessels that are found with matching wash basins, in relation to personal hygiene. Sadly, to find jugs, ewers or pitchers in a complete condition is as unusual as delightful. We often find them broken instead, largely just the pouring lip or part of the handle.

In defence of these fragmentary jugs, let’s say both have been identify thanks to the presence of the diagnostic elements mentioned above. Left: Gilt banded pitcher. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu. Right: Holly patterned pitcher. Yes, the name makes sense. The Holly pattern features holly leaves across the vessel. Also, the pattern name is printed on the base. Unfortunately, the mark is incomplete, making impossible to trace it to a specific manufacturer. Image: J. Garland.

Otherwise, a broken jug occasionally becomes an almost complete one after being carefully refitted. From tiny to large examples, here’s selection of the jugs, pitchers and ewers we’ve found in 19th century Christchurch.

Miniature porcelain jug. So cute and tiny. Both now and in the past, children learn through play and toys, which teaches them about roles that will be important during their adult life. Girls, in particular, were educated in the Victorian era with dolls and tea sets, enforcing their role in relation to motherhood and domesticity (Prangnell and Quirk 2009: 42). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Dark and light. Both of these are milk jugs, likely used with a matching tea set. Left: a red refined earthenware jug with a tulip shaped body and a footed base. It stands out for its metallic brown glaze. Image: J. Garland. Right: a bone china jug decorated with gilt banding in combination with the ‘tea leaf’ motif. The ‘tea leaf’ design was first introduced in the mid-1850s by Antony Shaw and its popularity increased quickly, being produced by a number of manufacturers (Kowalsky and Kowalsky 1999: 15). Image: C. Dickson.

These milk jugs are as similar as they are different. The former (left) is decorated with blue sponging, while the latter (right) displays a romantic scene with towered buildings in the foreground and a man or woman ridden a horse. Despite the lost fragment, the scene is lovely. Unfortunately, there is no manufacturer’s mark and we don’t know the name of the pattern. Image: J. Garland.

Another pair of jugs, one of which is my favourite. Left: a yellow-ware vessel decorated with a blue and white dendritic mocha design. Such decoration originated in the late 18th century was formed by allowing a drop of a chemical solution known as ‘mocha tea’ to fall onto the still wet slip of the vessel. The ensuing reaction was carefully managed in order to create the fronds characteristic of the pattern (Rickard 2006). Right: a buff-bodied Bristol glazed jug. The relief moulding displayed a pastoral scene in which people are drinking surrounded by trees. This type of relief moulded jugs, depicting sentimental, floral, gothic, biblical or patriotic themes, gained popularity in the early Victorian period, from the 1830s until the 1870s (Oswald et al. 1982). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

This is an elegant semi-vitrified pitcher or ewer, decorated with stylised foliage in relief. The pitcher had the mark ‘DUDSON’ impressed into the base of the vessel, referring to the Hanley pottery company of James Dudson, operating from 1838 – 1888. Dudson was known for producing “moulded jugs” like this one, as well as Wedgwood style Jasper wares (Godden 1991: 223). Image: J. Garland.

With appearance of the noble marble and with a faceted body, this little jug is just adorable! This style of transfer print is colloquially known as ‘marble’ based on its similarity with marble stone and the veins on its surface. This decoration is usually found in black, blue, blue or purple colours and typically used for jugs and toilet sets for many years (Kelly 2006: 122). This particular jug was found in a rubbish pit with several other near complete ceramic vessels dating from the late 1840s to the late 1850s. Image: J. Garland.

This huge black transfer printed pitcher features an aesthetic pattern, combining asymmetric floral and foliage motifs, including fruits and elements in clusters with geometric shaped vignettes. Aesthetic styles like this are fairly common on Christchurch sites during the 1880-1890s period. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

I’m sure that you remember this one. It’s an imitation of a Mason’s Imari jug, looking like those made by G. M. and C. J. Mason in their Fenton factory in the 1820s. This colourfully design is inspired by Japanese motifs and the handle is in the shape of a dragon. Image: J. Garland.

Gorgeous shape, attractive curved lip, and flowered body, plenty of roses. So far, we cannot figure out the name of the pattern. Overall, scenic or scenic or sheet floral decorative styles like this, which cover most, or all the vessel are characteristic of mid-19th century (Samford 1997). This particular vessel, which is an excellent example of an ‘ewer’ shape, was found with fragments of a matching wash basin. Image: J. Garland.

Regarding to their function throughout the 19th century, jugs, pitchers and ewers were widely used to contain and serve a variety of liquids, including water, milk, beer or wine as well as being used in relation to personal grooming and hygiene. Unquestionably, a versatile artefact. Just saying…

Anything to add. ‘A terrible, yet amazing pun’ (Jessie’s quote). Colonist (21/05/1858: 3).

New Zealand Herald (20/08/1931: 11). I wouldn’t underestimate the multipurpose nature of a jug. This could be a good revenge against that ironic husband who jokes with pitchers, water and women, by the way. If a little drastic…

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Auckland Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Colonist. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Kelly, H.E., 2006. The Glasgow Pottery of John and Matthew Perston Bell China and Earthenware Manufacturers in Glasgow. Glasgow.

Kowalsky, A. A. and Kowalsky, D. E., 1999. Encyclopedia of Marks on American, English and European Earthenware, Ironstone, and Stoneware 1780-1980. Makers, Marks and Patterns in Blue and White, Historic Blue, Flow Blue, Mulberry, Romantic Transferware, Tea Leaf, and White Ironstone. A Schiffer Book for Collectors, Atglen, U.S.A.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Oswald, A., Hildyard, R. J. C. and Hughes, R. G., 1982. English Brown Stoneware, 1670-1900. Faber and Faber, London.

Prangnell, J. and Quirk, K., 2009. Children in Paradise: Growing up on the Australian Goldfields. Historical Archaeology, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 38-49.

Rickard, J., 2006. Mocha and Related Dipped Wares 1770-1939. New Hampshire University Press of New England, Lebanon.

Samford, Patricia M., 1997. Response to a market: Dating English underglaze transfer‐printed wares. Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 1‐30.

South Canterbury Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Keen to have a cuppa

This week on the blog, a bunch of teacups classified according to how cute I think they are. It won’t be as fun as talking to God on the porcelain telephone, but teacups also give us heaps of scope!

Thinking about it – depending on your taste, most of you will be either tea or coffee drinkers (or maybe both, if you’re really breaking boundaries), as is the case in our office.  On the other hand, all of us can relate to making a storm in a teacup or feeling that something it isn’t our cup of tea, regardless of whether we actually drink tea or not. So, this Friday afternoon, grab your cuppa, relax and get lost for a moment in the teacups of yesteryear…

With your and, of course, Jessie’s permission, I’ve borrowed her rating system because we are already familiar with that. Well, except that this time the ranking is back to front, so that our expectations can increase from the beginning to the end.

Cute rating: not at all. Bone china vessels are frequently found on Christchurch sites, and although they’re a bit of cut above the basic refined earthenware vessels, they’re usually relatively plain in decoration. These were fairly affordable, and perfect for your daily caffeine dose. Left: gilt banded teacup, featuring a thin line on the rim and body. Right: sprigged teacup. This technique is easily identifiable by the small blue applied moulded sprigs of floral and foliage motifs, frequently used in the mid-late 19th century (Brooks 2005: 43). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: everyday, as these were very popular in the 19th century. Fair enough. Left: Rhine pattern. A typical romantic pattern displaying a castle and people in a boat sailing on the river surrounded by large trees. Right: Asiatic Pheasants teacup. This pattern is likely the most common floral pattern of the 19th century, but is usually found in a pale blue colour rather than black. Both decorative styles were relatively low-cost but a tidy option for drinking coffee or tea. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: boring? Not at all. I kind of like it, to be honest. The garland on top features repetitive dots and a ribbon with geometric elements hanging. This set seems a bit solemn, but these would have been a perfectly functional vessel for a morning or afternoon tea. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: understated, in a lovely shade of pink. I love this type of aesthetic design. This style often places emphasis on asymmetry in design, combining geometric shapes with fans, birds, bamboo and blossoms inspired by Japanese imagery (Samford 1997: 19). Aesthetic decoration is relatively common on Christchurch sites dating to the 1880-1890s period. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: relatively elegant teacup and saucer set. This motif was identified as the Napier pattern through the mark, which also indicates that it was made by William Brownfield, a Staffordshire potter, who operated from 1850 to 1871 under this name (Godden 1991: 110). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: attractive because of its naïve semblance. As the name indicates, sponged decoration is formed by the application of a sponge (Brooks 2005: 42). Also, this teacup and saucer set have extra points from me as the repetitive spirals remind me a little of the koru, the Māori symbol of creation, which also symbolises how life both changes and stays the same. Getting thoughtful and meditative at this stage… Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: minimalist fancy (by me). I guess this one is quite difficult to fit into our cute ranking. But I needed to include it. A teacup with plenty of insects! It puzzles me a bit! Ladybugs and butterflies are lovely little creatures though…but I don’t have the same feeling with the ants, cockroaches, beetles or what’s that? I’m not too sure. Perhaps, this teacup might be the best choice when offering a hot drink to someone who doesn’t please us to much… On the other hand, it could also be the favourite cup of an entomologist! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: very. With exotic connotations, an excellent companion for a relaxing moment – let yourself be seduced by (admittedly English depictions of) the Ancient Orient and the Moorish culture, travelling to India, Persia or wherever you want. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out (so far) the name of this pattern, which displays a variety of elements: buildings with minarets, palm trees, columns and three men with beards and black robes, it looks like one of them is teaching, lecturing or just rambling on, while the others listen. These patterns are based on English impressions of ‘exotic’ locations, showing a romanticised imagery of those, don’t necessarily depicted as they were. Anyway, lovely! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: majestic, as grand and noble as the rearing equestrian statue suggests. This one is a slightly different shape from the others, making it even prettier -the teacup has a flared rim and a sophisticated handle, both of which grant it a superb style. This pattern name is Walmer, inspired by the Walmer Castle, a defensive structure built by Henry VIII in the 16th century to defend the Downs of southeast Kent against foreign invasion (Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: the best of the bunch (in my opinion). Jessie is holding a precious treasure in this photo. Who doesn’t want this delightful cup and saucer? No words to describe how lovely they are! Also, this set has everything that we, as archaeologists, could ask of an artefact – the vessels are nearly complete, decorated with the flow blue technique displaying a beautiful Asiatic inspired scene and there is a mark on the base with the name of the pattern and the manufacturer! The pattern is Amoy, which use to be the name of the port city of Xiamen in China. The scene shows two Chinese figures, one is seated, and the other is standing. There is a fringed parasol between them and they are flanked by trees and other plants…an idyllic spot for a cuppa (or a smoke, as we can see from the pipes in the hands of the two figures). The maker’s mark indicate that they were made in England by Davenport c. 1844 (Mason 1982: 15). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Unquestionably, the consumption of both tea and coffee became an important part of New Zealand culture from the 19th century onwards. The archaeological record confirms this popular habit through the range of teacups and saucers found on Christchurch sites, and around the country. Nowadays, smoko, morning and afternoon tea are all essential in our daily lives to give us the energy for the day or, paradoxically, as a moment of personal relaxation or an enjoyable social moment with mates and friends. Keen to have a cuppa? Always.

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Brooks, A., 2005. An Archaeological Guide to British Ceramics in Australia 1788-1901. The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology & La Trobe University, Australia.

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Mason, V., 1982. Popular Patterns of Flow Blue China. Library of Congress, Wallace Homestead Book Company, Iowa.

Samford, Patricia M., 1997. Response to a market: Dating English underglaze transfer‐printed wares. Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 1‐30.

Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017. Welmar [online] Available at:  http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/tcc2/data/patterns/w/walmer/ [Accessed 13 December 2016].

Toilet humour

This week on the blog, a selection of chamber pots for your perusal, ranked according to my entirely objective, and not at all arbitrary, assessment of how fancy they are. This is accompanied by my very best attempt at using as many euphemisms for talking to God on the porcelain telephone as I can bring myself to type. Starting right now.

(Fair warning, I got most of the euphemisms from the internet. I’m not entirely convinced that they’re all actually things that people say. I also struggled to say most of them out loud, let along type them up in a blog post, so these are some of the more innocuous ones…)

Fancy rating: fairly fancy. Who doesn’t want a lovely flared rim chamber pot decorated with cows in which to see a man about a horse (how confusing).  This one, which we’ve featured here on the blog before, is decorated with the pattern “Cattle Scenery” and dates to the 1850s-1860s. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Fancy rating: understated fancy. This porcelain throne is literally porcelain, unlike the others in this post, which are all refined earthenware. It may not have the charming farm animals or gaudy colours of its compatriots, but this is the kind of commode used by somebody who actually says commode and refuses to refer to doing one’s business at any time, by any kind of phrase. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: boring but perfectly serviceable vessel for going where even the emperor must go on foot. I don’t really have anything to say about this one. It’s…respectable? Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: middling fancy, with aspirations of grandeur.  A person could check the plumbing using this and remain secure in the knowledge that while they may not own a castle, they can at least squat over the towers of one when they want to. This particular potty was found on the site of a china shop, so, unlike most of the chamber pots we find, it might not have actually been used. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: classical overtones, with points for the purple. This pattern is known as the ‘Alma’ pattern, or rather, is one of several 19th century patterns known by that name. It may refer to a small river in the Crimea that was home to a significant battle between the armies of Britain, France, Turkey and Russia during the Crimean war. I very much doubt that the Crimea, its rivers and the war, were on anybody’s mind while using this to change the water on the goldfish (seriously, who says this!?), but you never do know. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: stately. A slightly different shape to some of the others, this chamber pot is both tall and sturdy, with an imposing cold marble look to it and a spacious interior. The sort of porcelain – or marble – throne from which one reigns over one’s bodily functions, as one should. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: as fancy as those “paintings” we used to make as kids with some paint and half a potato carved to act as a stamp. I kind of like this one, though. It’s somehow cheerful. If you had to visit kermit (apparently it’s Cockney rhyming slang, see if you can work it out), it’s not a bad option. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: very. Decorated with the pattern ‘May Morn’, this glossy, beautifully shaped chamber pot is possibly the most elegant vessel for answering the call of nature that I think we’ve found to date. Maybe we should all decorate our toilets with scenes of springtime in the country. It (like most of the chamber pots in this post) would likely have been part of a bedroom set that included a wash basin and pitcher. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: not at all. Plain, serviceable and child-sized, this is the most basic of vessels in which to sprinkle the tinkle. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: relatively elegant, entirely inoffensive repository with which to refresh the body. Late Spode, made by W. T. Copeland in the latter half of the 19th century. Image: Underground Overground Archaeology.

I could bring myself to use it, but points to “humping the cats loin” for the strangest euphemism I came across.

Jessie Garland

All things great and small

Here at Underground Overground Archaeology we try not to sweat the small stuff – particularly because the small stuff we find is often super cool and makes us say “aww, that’s cute!”, similar to the way many people react when they see baby humans next to regular sized, adult humans.

For example: one product, in two very different sized pots (it’s John Gosnell’s Cherry Toothpaste – first produced in the 1850s). The image on the left shows the size we commonly find in 19th century Christchurch assemblages. The one on the right was a unique find for us. It’s super cute, but it wouldn’t have held a whole lot of toothpaste. Images: left and right: C. Dickson.

Big things coming in small packages are quite literally the bread and butter of an archaeologist. We have often mentioned the theory of how the smallest or most ordinary of objects can illustrate the histories of people and places in ways we might not expect. This was an idea first brought forward in the 1970s, by – American archaeologist, James Deetz, in his bookIn Small Things Forgotten.’

While many of the artefacts we find are small fragments, or what Deetz would consider small things anyway, there are also those that we would classify as “mini sized.” These tiny versions of some of our commonly found Victorian artefacts don’t appear to be particularly rare among online collectors, but information regarding their functions is rather scarce. When faced with identical artefacts with such extreme size differences, our best guess is that these may represent samples of a product – much like a tester you would find in a pharmacy today. Although humorous to imagine, it seems a little farfetched that a mini-sized champagne bottle would have been found in a 19th century boarding house minibar, or that a mini toothpaste pot was fashioned as travel size to fit in your carry-on baggage. Moreover, the subject of vessel reuse is one that constantly plagues our ability to accurately attribute vessel function to our finds, and intrinsically assigning the normal contents of a ‘regular’ sized vessel to a ‘sample size’ vessel, seems even more problematic than usual. For instance, the volume of the mini ring-seal bottle pictured below suggests that it probably wouldn’t hold more than one serving… So champagne for one anyone?

Less is more? Here are some smaller versions of some larger alcohol bottles. On the right is a tiny version of one of the most common 19th century artefact finds – the black beer bottle. The left image shows the size comparison of a champagne shaped ring seal bottle – these were made in several different volumes, but the mini size is rare. Maybe sometimes people just weren’t overly thirsty. Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

Maria and I with two very different sized flagons, wearing two very similar tops…. Coincidence? …Actually yes. These vessels may have once held a number of beverage types, including cider, beer, wine or water. The large vessel was made by Stephen Green’s Imperial Pottery in Lambeth, between 1820 and 1858. The small vessel was manufactured by George Skey and Co., Tamworth – a known maker of ginger beer between 1860 and 1936 (Lorenzor 2011). Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

It is a small world after all, and maybe sometimes people only needed small amounts of certain products? The tiny bottles that we occasionally find may have been deliberately sized as such because their original contents were perishable and consumers didn’t use much at once. Cosmetics come to mind in this case.

Our in-house hand model, Jessie, is sporting two very small vessels which come in several different colours to suit every skin tone. We aren’t entirely sure what these tiny bottles originally contained, but the one on the left has black residue on the interior.

If we take a break from beverages and bottles, we can consider the small artefacts that are known as ‘miniatures’ (the type of bric-a-brac one finds on a mantelpiece). These items have been relatively overlooked by archaeological interpreters and theorists in the past, primarily because their origins and meanings are less understood than those of items that were used as part of daily domestic or commercial tasks. Indeed, the way we even sometimes refer to miniatures carries connotations of reduced importance, calling them “trinkets,” “trifles,” or “dainty” (Mullins 2001: 159). Perhaps I’m also guilty of this, having called the toothpaste pot “cute” earlier. It’s been thought that lesser archaeological value has been historically attributed to these ‘knickknacks’ because they are recovered from archaeological sites in comparatively smaller numbers, and have less meaning attached to them than other artefacts (Mills 2015: 250). Even modern-day enthusiasts and collectors of miniatures are often more concerned with the rarity, and thus greater monetary value of their antiques, so the original functions and meanings of these items are further ignored (Mills 2015: 250).

As a result of this gap in the discourse, we don’t know all that much about miniatures. While it’s true that they’re not found as commonly on historical archaeological sites as items that are ‘’utilised’ for everyday functions, we do still come across them. So it begs some questions – how did people acquire them? How did the manufacturers of miniatures decide what to make? And how were they promoted to potential consumers? (Mills 2015: 256). Nineteenth century advertisements for miniatures are scarce, despite the phenomenal increase in marketing that occurred during this century (Mills 2015: 256). But we can guess that many of these ‘luxury?’ items must have been inexpensive and versions of them were probably readily available to most people because miniature forms are found on archaeological sites widely spanning many different socio-economic groups.

Beverage break! Some of the Underground Overground Archaeology staff (including a very fresh-faced Luke), enjoying a cup of afternoon tea. Personally, I require more tea than this during my breaks, but that’s just me…

Despite the small issue of the gap in our knowledge, the idea has been put forward by scholars that “A reduction in dimensions does not produce a corresponding reduction in significance” (Stewart 1993: 43). As miniatures could often be considered more ‘luxury’ items (in this case, luxury refers to something that is not used as a part of everyday living), they offer us a rare opportunity to speculate about values and thoughts, rather than about everyday activities. The latter of these can be seen through household artefacts, and the theory behind their use can get a little mundane when they only show us home maintenance, cooking, cleaning, eating, grooming, child care etc. It’s been theorised that “while many artefacts can reflect the thinking of their owners indirectly (fashionable tea wares, for example), miniatures can depict attitudes and meanings since they were not acquired to be used, but for what they symbolized” (Mills 2015: 254).

But theorising/speculating about the meaning of miniatures is not without risk. Attributing meaning to any object is problematic because an individual’s ownership of an artefact can’t always be assumed, and connecting ‘backstories’ to possessions can reflect the biases modern interpreters (Mills 2015: 255). One of the main ways this happens with miniatures is by assuming that “small” equals “toy” and “toy” equals “child”. This is something we often do when finding miniature items like ceramic dolls, marbles and miniature tea sets on Christchurch archaeological sites – and as with other places in the world, documented evidence of children’s presence on these sites is not always found to back up this presumed ownership. Of course, children are not always recorded in historical sources, but this is beside the point. Meanings behind the creation, initial appropriation and continued possession of artefacts can be acquired, changed, and abandoned over time— for example, what starts as an item of childhood entertainment may be nostalgically kept by an adult, or even sometimes may be first acquired by an adult (Mills 2015: 255). This could explain the presence of things like miniature tea sets in our assemblages when we know that only a bachelor lived on-site historically. To confuse the issue further, the concept of childhood as a distinct from adulthood was not also widely recognised by all parts of Victorian society until the mid-19th century (Mills 2015: 255). Child labour was the norm among the Victorian lower classes at this time, but sentiments of youthful innocents requiring protection and education grew, and as a result, so did childhood leisure time. Prior to this, some children still had opportunities to play, but not in the ways children do today, and we can’t assume that all children played with ‘toys’ in the way that we think of them now.

A tiny dog and some tiny bricks. The bricks represent an artefact that we would typically classify as a ‘toy’ or ‘children’s artefact’. The bricks are called ‘kiddibricks’ – first made in Christchurch 1893, by Percival Adams (who was the son of a brick-maker). He made a miniature model of a brick-making press (which made miniature bricks; Truttman 2011). The name “kiddibricks” probably says it all, but these are essentially a precursor to Lego, and I know a few adults who love a good Lego set.

Regardless of their original contents or meanings, mini-sized artefacts and “miniatures” are always a welcome find on our historic sites. We may not be able to come to many conclusions about their place in the historic world, but it pays to remember, it’s the little things that count.

Chelsea Dickson

References

Lorenzor, M., 2011. Tamworth Time Hikes: George Skey´s Wilnecote Works [online] available at: https://tamworthtimehikes.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/george-skey%C2%B4s-wilnecote-works/

Mills, R. 2015. ‘Material Culture in Miniature: The Historical Archaeology of Nineteenth-Century Miniature Objects.’ The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archaeologies of the Nineteenth Century. Alisdair Brooks (eds): 243-273. University of Nebraska Press.

Mullins, P., 2001 Racializing the Parlour: Race and Victorian Bric- a- Brac Consumption. In Race and the Archaeology of Identity. Charles E. Orser, editor, pp. 158– 176. University of Utah Press, Provo

Stewart, S., 1993. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Duke University Press, Durham nc.

Truttman, L., 2011. ‘A Little Brick Story.’ Timespanner [Online] Available at: https://timespanner.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/little-brick-story.html

Bits and bobs

This week, a few of the fabulous things we’ve been finding recently.

A French clay pipe, moulded to show a Native American figure crouching at the front of the bowl, with tobacco leaves decorating the bowl to either side of him. We don’t yet know who the figure is, but the pipe is likely to have been made by one of the larger French houses, such as Fiolet or Gambier. Image: J. Garland.

Edward’s “Harlene” hair tonic. This was made by Reuben Goldstein Edwards in London from c. the 1880s onwards (or so he claimed in 1903, when he registered Harlene as a trademark). It was advertised in New Zealand newspapers in the late 19th century as “the best hairdressing for strenghthening, beautifying and preserving the hair”. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

What we think is an imitation Mason’s Imari jug, in the style of those made by G. M. and C. J. Mason in their Fenton factory in the 1820s. The design is heavily influenced by Japanese motifs and the handle is in the shape of a dragon, with the feet forming the base and the face roaring at you over the rim. Unlike the known Mason’s jugs, this particular example has only an impressed mark reading “IRONSTONE CHINA” on the base, rather than “MASON IRONSTONE CHINA”. Image: J. Garland.

The stem from another clay smoking pipe, decorated with a sleeping (maybe) lion. Image: J. Garland.

Charles Hockin was a London chemist who also made photographic products and inks later in his career. It’s unclear exactly when his business was established, but he seems to have been operating from at least the 1840s onwards. He made a range of products, but seems to have been known for his Seidlitz Powder, a “gentle medicine” that appears to have also been a kind of salt, marketed as a remedy for stomach ailments. Image: J. Garland.

The bowl and socket of a two piece pipe, moulded to look like eagle talons holding an egg. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

A trade token. Not as unusual as they once were in Christchurch archaeology (we’ve got a few now), but this particular one is from Melbourne, which is a bit unusual. This one reads HIDE & DECARLE / ELIZABETH STREET / MELBOURNE / GROCERS AND WINE MERCHANTS and dates to 1858. Image: J. Garland.

This is a bit fancy. Also a bit gaudy. Known as a lustre vase, they seem to have been a popular Victorian object (for the more wealthy in society), designed for the table or the mantle in the home. While our one doesn’t quite have all it’s pieces, it does a fragment of drilled glass with a copper chain still attached – this would have held the long dangling chain of glass prisms. This is a pretty fantastic find for us – we don’t usually find fancy goods in rubbish pits (you don’t normally throw those out if you can help it), so, despite it’s gaudiness, we think it’s kind of awesome. Image: J. Garland, and Ebay.

A pipe bowl decorated with a goat. Because, why not. Image: J. Garland.

Look at her, in her cute little nightcap. She is judging you. She is definitely judging you. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

A very dramatic Ruins patterned plate with a Copeland/Late Spode mark. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

This is possibly my favourite artefact from the last few months. It’s an appointment card for a W. C. T. U. meeting in New Brighton, found in the ceiling of a house occupied by the regional and national president of the organisation in the early 20th century. For those of you who don’t know, the W. C. T. U. refers to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organisation that played a significant role in the women’s suffrage/political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the members, and leaders, of the Christchurch branch was the one and only Kate Sheppard. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.