The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln

By Robert Mazrim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Earthenware at Cotton Hill
The Ebey-Brunk Kiln Site

By the beginning of the nineteenth century in America, even the most remote homes were stocked with a wide range of imported, massproduced goods. A large number of artifacts remain for archaeologists to unearth as a result. But, as with most of the objects that surround us today, mass-produced objects come to the purchaser with a certain distance about them, as the buyer had no direct involvement with their design or creation.

The simple utilitarian crockery used in early nineteenth century households in the Midwest was another matter. The redware lard pots or stoneware vinegar jugs made at local pottery shops, while often not much to look at, were products of custom and informal learning. A shelledged Queensware plate was a mass-produced product of an internationally popular media, but the wheel-thrown vinegar jug made near the Illinois River was still a “folk” object. Such folk objects, made and consumed locally, can often tell us more about a community than can massproduced objects that were made elsewhere and purchased by many diverse groups.

Well into the nineteenth century, unrefined redware or stoneware crockery was still made by a local potter, who probably learned the trade from a father, uncle, or neighbor. Responses to national or international changes in technology, fashion, or trade were slower within these community-based realms of traditional craftsmanship. Crockery traditions were particularly well rooted and stubborn to change: even the design of

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