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The Material Culture of Needlework and Sewing

Mary C. Beaudry

Yale University Press
New Haven & London

Published with assistance from the foundation established in memory of
Philip Hamilton McMillan of the Class of 1894, Yale College
Copyright © 2006 by Yale University. All rights reserved. This book may not be
reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that
copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by
reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers
Set in Electra type by Tseng Information Systems, Inc. Printed in the
United States of America by Sheridan Books.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Beaudry, Mary Carolyn, 1950–
Findings : the material culture of needlework and sewing / Mary C. Beaudry.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn-13: 978-0-300-11093-7 (clothbound : alk. paper)
isbn-10: 0-300-11093-6 (clothbound : alk. paper)
1. Pins and needles—History. 2. Sewing—Equipment and supplies—History.
3. Needlework—Equipment and supplies—History. I. Title.
a gt2280 .b43 2006
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability
of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the
Council on Library Resources










who continued to take joy in her sewing despite losing her sight . Mary Mason Barkuloo Beaudry.In memory of my mother.


and the Artifacts of Textile Production 137 seven Stitching Together the Evidence Notes 179 References Index vii 207 227 169 .Contents Acknowledgments ix one Introduction: Small Finds. Accessories. Big Histories two The Lowly Pin 1 10 three The Needle: ‘‘An Important Little Article’’ 44 four The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 86 five Shears and Scissors 115 six Findings: Notions.


She has been called ‘‘Librarian Extraordinaire’’ with good reason! I also thank E. inspired me to research the artifacts of needlework and sewing. Director of ix . Carl Crossman’s enthusiasm on finding a monogrammed silver thimble at my site. George Miller. Linda Eaton. for his help with archival materials. she was a marvel at recommending relevant resources in the Winterthur collection and in suggesting avenues I might pursue in winkling out the sorts of information I was after. and Jane Nylander encouraged me to pursue this project and were instrumental in my good fortune in securing a fellowship to conduct research at the Winterthur Museum and Library. and I thank him for that as well as for all the many volunteer hours he donated to the Spencer-Peirce-Little Project. Parker’s insightful book helped frame my thinking. Jean Wilson. and it is not just the library and its marvelous resources that make working there so special. Mellon Senior Librarian. of course. and I am exceedingly grateful to Jean for putting me on to it in my early research. Neville Thompson. Richard McKinstry. Andrew W. told me to read Roszika Parker’s book The Subversive Stitch. enlightening me and my students all the while about ceramics and material culture in general. in both instances funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Advanced Study. through the good offices of her husband. Curator of Textiles. Gary Kulik. the SpencerPeirce-Little Farm in Newbury. Richard Candee.Acknowledgments I owe great thanks to many people for their assistance and supportiveness over the years as I have worked in my halting fashion on this book. with the opportunity to pursue research at the Winterthur Museum and Library. for her generosity with her time and expertise. in 1994–95 and in 2001. now retired. Norman Hammond. was librarian during both of my fellowship periods. Massachusetts. I am also grateful to have been blessed twice. Winterthur is. As I embarked on my research. a mecca for material culture researchers.

and including me so thoroughly in department activities. One of the delights of the Winterthur experience is the opportunity to interact with other visiting scholars. Bert Denker for help with photography and photographic resources. In 1995 I was able to continue my research in England while I was a Visiting Professor at the Department of Archaeology and Prehistory at the University of Sheffield. befriended me. Director of the Archaeological Research Consultancy at the University of Sheffield (ARCUS). Keith Brannigan. who gave me access to the research library of the Centre. Elizabeth. Carl Lounsbury. In 1995 I also had the privilege of being a Visiting Scholar at the Philips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. and John Koza for their patient guidance and insight into the collections. were most welcoming and helpful. and I am grateful to William LaMoy. and J. Vince Gaffney. allowing me to explore the museum and its archives. Among his many kindnesses was introducing me to John Widdowson. most of which have not just Essex County provenance but well-documented histories in local families. I am also grateful to David Crossley for permitting me to sit in on his lectures and tag along on field trips. and then Head of the Research School. former Director of the Forge Mill Needle Museum. David and his wife. Gretchen Buggeln for her cheerful support and assistance. Director of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. Terence Lockett. Ritchie Garrison. And. and Shirley Wadja. among which for me the most impressive was Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. and I thank then Head of Department. took me under his wing. The highlight of my time at the Peabody Essex was the opportunity to explore with Curator Paula Richter the collections in storage. for hosting me so graciously. There I was able to read many account books and women’s diaries and to conduct research in Essex County records. Tom Denenberg. also took me to many local sites of interest. Redditch. Barbara Ottaway. its current Director.and seventeenth-century embroideries.x Acknowledgments Library Operations. with its outstanding collection of sixteenth. and Jo Ann Gloger. and Daniel Finamore for his collegiality and many kindnesses. Director of the Centre for Folklife Studies at the University of Sheffield. Sue Newton and Dot Wiggins for assisting me with securing illustrations of Winterthur materials. and assisted me in innumerable ways. Jane Ward. with gloved hands) items of the sort she will never recover from the earth. and Pat Eliot for being the best. as it were. where I found many useful sources. James Symonds. . providing office space. and I enjoyed the many conversations with other Winterthur researchers Bernard Cotton. for their guidance. of course it is always a thrill for an archaeologist to be able to see and touch (indirectly. Dr. Joe Torre. Massachusetts. with its rich collection of documents pertaining to the needle industry.

Douglas Lister. Kelly Britt. Peter Pope. Maryland. Mary Praetzellis. Sally Hinkel. Assistant Editor. I must apologize in advance that they will find that I did not incorporate any of the Louisbourg material into this work and plead what I fear is a lame excuse: the data mysteriously disappeared from my computer before I could back it up. slowly stitched away at this ‘‘bit of work. I am grateful to Lara Heimert for making it possible for me to publish with Yale University Press and to Christopher Rogers. Other colleagues sent or loaned me materials that have proved helpful. Rebecca Morehouse. Edward Bell.’’ . Executive Editor. Stephen Mills. Marla Miller. Martha Pinello. opened the St. allowed me access to materials from all of the seventeenth-century domestic sites held by her museum and Dan Mouer and Robin Ryder let me roam freely through the collections held by the now-defunct Archaeological Research Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Ann-Eliza H. Rebecca Yamin. Eleanor Conlin Casella. Mary’s City collections for my inspection.Acknowledgments xi Many archaeological colleagues generously allowed me access to their collections. Carolyn White. Edward Chaney. Marta Cotterell Raffel. Linda Derry. Virginia. and Rebecca Yamin have been unfailingly supportive and always helpful with ideas about how I should approach my research and writing. Lu Ann De Cunzo. For assistance with securing illustrations and permissions to reproduce them. Roderick Sprague. I thank Sara Rivers Cofield. Lewis for helping me so much by applying their sharp eyes and sharp minds to the task of proofreading. Kathleen Wheeler. Mary’s City. Lorna Condon. Senior Satellite Editor for Yale. for making working with Yale such a pleasant experience. Suzanne Spencer-Wood. among them Sharla Azzizi. turning my stilted prose into readable English. Laura Jones Dooley. Julie King. Lewis. and Anne Yentsch. Throughout my research and writing. Julia King. Diana DiPaolo Loren. did a wonderful job copyediting the manuscript. Wilhelmina Lunt. and Ellie Goldberg. Henry Miller and Silas Hurry of Historic St. Joyce Clements. and Howard Wellman. Virginia Myles. I value their friendship and have been inspired by the writings that they have produced while I slowly. Sara Rivers Cofield. Ellen Berkland. and Silas has served as a sounding board and font of useful information over the years. Sharon Raftery. Heartfelt thanks to Karen Bescherer Metheny and Ann-Eliza H. Charles Burke and Andrée Crépeau paved the way for me to examine the spectacular collection of sewing artifacts recovered from Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. Director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Lexington Park. Maryland.


Findings .


1 Although I had watched my mother sew and had learned embroidery when young. Massachusetts. Not being inclined to pursue activities that I am not good at. Each season we found one or more thimbles and many straight pins. the site I had been excavating since 1986. But there my knowledge ended. It occurred to me that such a valued personal object could serve as the point of entry for learning about the women who once lived at this site. Like most of us. I later learned. and glass. Excavated artifacts of needlework and sewing—pins. I was a spectacular failure in the sewing portion of the home economics course I was required to take in high school. and 1 . women about whom both the documentary and archaeological records thus far have been disappointingly uninformative. even though I often excavated sites at which generations of women had spent much of their lives sewing. thimbles. or even part of one. I knew a pin or a needle or a thimble— and certainly a pair of scissors—when I saw one. among them a carved bone bobbin that. with the slowly dawning realization that many items I was finding at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury. The 1993 season turned up several objects we could not identify at first.1 Introduction Small Finds. Big Histories My interest in the material culture of needlework and sewing began in the early 1990s. And so my understanding of sewing and its associated paraphernalia was rudimentary. Their pursuits were largely invisible to me because I did not recognize the implements used in such work for what they were. and the like. clay pipes. every so often we recovered a pair of sewing scissors. That year we also found a silver thimble with a monogram. making lace. were artifacts related to sewing. I have since avoided sewing anything. especially if they were not part of the great trinity of historical archaeologists’ artifacts: ceramics. mending. needles. I could only guess at the identification of other objects. was used to make lace.

1). huge gaps remain in our knowledge of the material culture of medieval. glass.’’ Although the phrase is more likely to be used by excavators working within the British archaeological idiom than by American historical archaeologists. to women’s activities. This has led since the early 1990s to attempts to fill the gaps and remedy the silences of finds analysis by seeking out objects that have not been studied because they were deemed trivial for the very reason that they were associated with women’s domestic activities. without giving it much thought. Throughout history. settings. that ceramics. albeit often anonymously. early modern. into the category of ‘‘small finds. Historical Archaeology. Historical archaeologists tend to assume. The processes. and they have developed useful and widely employed conventions for presenting. The link is based in part on reality but also on uncritical assumptions about sewing and how sewing ties in with the lives of both men and women. and interpreting those categories of material. the appearance of Kathleen Deagan’s two volumes devoted to artifacts of the Spanish colonies. Through such customary associations various undertakings and responsibilities have become culturally designated as the ‘‘natural’’ province of one sex or another and therefore integral to the definition of gender identity through designation of gender roles. and materials employed in an enterprise are metonymically transformed into symbols of sexspecific tasks and so become emblems of gender identity (fig.2 Introduction so on—fit quite naturally. Because sewing is so universally associated with women. tools. clay pipes.3 Gender identity can be constructed and negotiated (as opposed to being simply . a state of mind pervades the field as a whole that has led to acceptance of a narrow set of conventions in thinking and writing about small finds.2 The increased interest in gender analysis among historical archaeologists has given rise to greater interest in objects that might be related to women and. artifacts of needlework and sewing often stand as evidence of women and women’s activities. Yet even though historical archaeology has burgeoned over the past four decades and is now practiced all over the globe. and animal bones are more informative and hence of far greater interest than many other sorts of finds. 1. analyzing. are ample proof that we hunger for more information about the artifacts we dig up. activities customarily performed either by men or by women have become associated with and deemed appropriate to members of one sex or the other. and the publication in 2000 by the Society for Historical Archaeology of a volume of artifact studies and of a second edition of a collection of artifact studies reprinted from its journal. especially. The frequent reprinting of Ivor Noël Hume’s Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. and modern times.

her little sewing bird. published by Jane Eayre Fryer in 1913. refer to the print version of this title. 1.] Fig. The girl’s sewing tools have come to life to keep her company during what would otherwise be tedious hours in the sewing room as she is instructed in sewing and femininity by another animated friend.1 Frontispiece for Easy Steps in Sewing for Big and Little Girls. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) .[To view this image.

. though many women may have ‘‘colluded’’ in the continuance of this construction of gender identity. Moreover. Finally. proof of gentility because of its association with nobility. and from the eighteenth century on. because embroidery was supposed to signify femininity—docility. displaying the value of a man’s wife and the condition of his economic circumstances. worthy wife and mother. by examining the classificatory logic underpinning the ‘‘gendered’’ nature of sewing. that ‘‘the meaning of our archaeological artifacts . examines how ‘‘embroidery has become indelibly associated with stereotypes of femininity’’—femininity being a ‘‘crucial aspect of patriarchal ideology. obedience. through critical analysis of documentary and pictorial sources. varied with context. in her groundbreaking work The Subversive Stitch. and a life without work—it showed the embroiderer to be a deserving. These issues can be examined by reconstructing. embroiderers. if not likelihood. . the ethnographic contexts in which sewing and needlework served practical ends and those in which sewing and needlework implements featured as symbols in myth or ritual or as expressions of sentiment in society. providing concrete evidence that a man was able to support a leisured woman. embroidery and femininity were fused and the connection was deemed to be natural. aristocratic lifestyle. and by close readings of instances in which the ‘‘usual’’ symbolic import of sewing implements is subverted through symbolic inversion and anomaly. at a time when embroidery was done more and more by women working in the home rather than by professional. Women embroidered because they were naturally feminine and were feminine because they naturally embroidered. ways in which gender identity can be signaled and can shift according to context.’’ The division began during the Renaissance. Parker notes. so much so that ‘‘the ensuing behaviour appeared innate. in the nineteenth century. they were not always passive recipients of such ideologies but responded to them: women used these ideologies and were . embroidery was used to inculcate femininity in young girls.4 Introduction assigned).5 But. usually male.’’ An ideology of femininity as natural to women evolved in the eighteenth century.4 Feminist art historian Rozsika Parker.’’ In this book I explore. embroidery came to signify femininity as well as a leisured. through the example of the artifacts of needlework and sewing.’’ She demonstrates through detailed analysis of works—written and stitched—by both men and women that ‘‘the development of an ideology of femininity coincided historically with the emergence of a clearly defined separation of art and craft. love of home. Thus the art played a crucial part in maintaining the class position of the household. During the seventeenth century. Archaeologist Barbara Luedtke wrote that it is important to attend to the possibility.

not all fancy needlework was a pastime for wealthy women of leisure. Parker’s eye-opening study provides the framework for my examination of the material culture of fancy needlework alongside the artifacts of ordinary sewing. The job of the archaeologist. tambour work. towels. ritual. quality. if this experimentation had never led to textile production. as I see it. candlewicking. mending and remaking garments. nor was all utilitarian sewing destined for immediate household use. bags. netted. ‘‘fancy work’’ (embroidered pictures. the products of weaving and needlework. embroidery has provided support and satisfaction for women and has served as a covert means of negotiating the constraints of femininity. and intended functions of the artifacts of needlework and sewing makes it possible to address the issues of the nature or quality of sewing activity and to relate this to household income and manage- . and marking sheets. and so on—since early in human history. the course of civilization. to clothing.Introduction 5 used by them. and work of either sort produced for sale outside the home. ‘‘practical’’ or ‘‘necessary’’ work (sewing. would be unimaginable.’’ cutwork. Attention to the type. economic. tapestries. muslin or ‘‘whitework. blankets. vain. Knowing this. it is clear that the artifacts of needlework from historical sites can be interpreted along several lines of social and economic relevance: everyday.7 Needlework held both homey and utilitarian as well as broader social consequence. and the persons who undertook these activities were enmeshed in a system of symbols with multiple meanings. silent. and knitting). At the same time. knotted. is to investigate the cultural complex of sewing in order to explore how needlework implements carried meaning in specific historical and cultural contexts and then to place these carefully constructed cases into wider cultural contexts. stuffed work. social. even seductive needlewoman. Spinning. women were able to make meanings of their own while overtly living up to the oppressive stereotype of the passive. Textile production and sewing of some sort have been tangled up with aspects of culture—technological. coverings of all sorts. and so on). creating strings from fibers that could be manipulated in many ways. If women had never experimented with fibers. the tools used in these processes.6 Consider for a moment the likelihood that complex civilizations could have arisen if no one had invented cordage for tying up bundles. and frivolous. and other linens was a regular component of household work done or overseen by women. canvas work. if indeed there was any. As a result. Many a needlewoman depended on the income her handiwork could generate. unthinkable. Over the centuries. laced through skins. Genteel women and girls engaged in fancy or decorative needlework as testimony to their skill in the feminine arts as well as to a social position that permitted leisure for such nonutilitarian pursuits. sewing. woven into cloth. mending.

Jane was one of seven children of Charles Peirce and Sarah Frost. It was done in 1734 by Jane Peirce when she was five years old. refer to the print version of this title.8 In the collections of the Historical Society of New Hampshire there survives a wonderful embroidered picture (fig. on the farm . when she was five years old. and she grew up in the Spencer-Peirce-Little House.2 A needlework picture stitched by Jane Peirce of Newbury. Massachusetts. to social standing and social display. and to the construction of gender identity.] Fig. in 1734. (Courtesy New Hampshire Historical Society) ment strategies.6 Introduction [To view this image. 1.2). 1.

’’ An interpretive approach acknowledges that material culture is not just something people create but an integral component of our personalities and our social lives. This is why. Alison Wylie has described this process as one of constructing cables of inference. to construct narratives that ground interpretation in the everyday lives of people in the past and in the life histories of the objects that archaeologists find otherwise mute or mysterious and strangely distant.Introduction 7 where I have spent so many seasons excavating. as it were.9 My approach is broadly interpretive. tangible evidence of needlework in service to the inculcation of and construction of feminine identity. in my case. and I have sought out many additional case studies beyond my own site to provide examples of how differing contexts lead to differing interpretations. and my aim is to move past the ostensibly simple first steps of artifact identification and dating and even beyond ‘‘engendering’’ artifacts by bringing multiple lines of evidence to bear on the interpretation of the material culture of sewing and needlework in the ‘‘active voice. My goal is to construct a rich contextual analysis of how women and men used objects of needlework and sewing and to consider the multiplicity of meanings these everyday items conveyed. The embroidered picture is a rare and marvelous survival.10 I see the analysis of documentary evidence as vital to constructing the interpretive ground. cultural. throughout this book. especially not for historical archaeologists. Trying to comprehend what things meant to people in the past is not the most easily undertaken task. but it is not altogether impossible. But I am hopeful that the guidelines I provide will prove useful for other archaeologists. and . Sometimes the best way to do this is to try to reconstruct the stories in which people and their things played active roles. I am hoping that the knowledge I have accumulated will help me understand the sewing implements excavated from the soils around the house where young Jane stitched her canvaswork picture and to reconstruct a more complete picture of the generations of women who plied their needles at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm. her metaphor is a powerful one and aptly captures what I am attempting to accomplish. In the chapters that follow I explore ways of identifying and interpreting the needlework tools archaeologists commonly find. I offer case studies that track back and forth among documents and artifacts to offer interpretations that arise from the combined evidentiary sources. for artifact analysis. This involves knowing what articles different needlework tools were used to produce and their social.11 An important step in the research process involves casting a wide net through primary and secondary sources to learn generally about the importance of needlework in women’s (and men’s) lives. deeply implicated in how we construct social relationships.

I have also attempted to present for each type of artifact a comprehensive guide to dating as well as identifying excavated specimens and suggestions for in- . scissors (chapter 5). in other words. men. thimbles (chapter 4). in my mind they are not tools of needlework but functional clothing fasteners. as I explore in chapter 2. to fasten shrouds. where relevant.13 In each chapter I present the history of the type of implement under consideration as well as a comprehensive discussion of the techniques of manufacture and. common straight pins were used to fasten both men’s and women’s clothing. and women labored to produce practical and fancy items used in sewing or worn as elements of social display. they also assume that sewing was done by women. and I do not consider buttons because although they are sewn onto clothing and usually serve as fasteners. often served as symbols of women’s status and women’s role.8 Introduction economic significance. because they were associated with women. I do not consider textiles except as they relate to sewing. lace-making. In the following chapters.12 Consider the seemingly most obvious and most trivial of all small finds—the common straight pin and the not-so-logical syllogism about pins that one often encounters in the literature. the contexts of production. and less common items associated with weaving. or both. And it is sometimes possible to differentiate what these purposes might have been. It is clear that cloth production. But because we think we ‘‘know’’ what pins mean. pins = sewing = women. we do not pay them much attention. and the social implications of different forms of needlework. I examine items of the material culture of needlework and sewing that are most likely to survive in archaeological contexts: pins (chapter 2). I am intrigued by the nature of the work involved in the production of items like pins and needles as well as the conditions under which youngsters. sewing. and the finishing of garments (chapter 6). Therefore. I think it is important to understand how changing technology brought about changes in form and functionality of objects. to serve as guides for thread in lace-making. items of personal adornment. A typical illustration in an archaeological report will show a small pile of pins from various contexts at a given site carefully set beside the other items the archaeologists assume are women’s things or part of the sewing assemblage. needles (chapter 3). conditions under which the objects were produced. But. or so most archaeologists assume. and like many before me. pins were used for many purposes beyond sewing. Pins equal sewing. to conjure spells and to ward against them. and needlework played an important part in the lives of most women throughout history and that the implements of these activities. since pins were made in varied sizes because different sizes were needed for the diverse purposes I’ve mentioned. I focus on implements or tools. to fasten documents.

My primary goal. To this end. however. I attempt to ‘‘stitch together the evidence’’ by turning to a wider consideration of the significance of sewing and needlework in the lives of men and women.Introduction 9 terpreting their intended uses. . is to provide examples of ways to construct contexts for interpretation of needlework tools. looking at sewing as a profession and as a pastime. as well as to provide for historians and collectors of needlework tools information about what sorts of things archaeologists have recovered. I conclude each artifact-specific chapter with a case study that suggests possible avenues of interpretation. and offering final thoughts on how archaeologists can use the excavated material culture of needlework and sewing to illuminate ways in which the people who lived and worked at the sites they excavate incorporated such items into their daily negotiations of personal and social identity. In the concluding chapter. My intent is to provide archaeologists with better ways of making fine-grained distinctions within seemingly homogenous categories of artifacts.

—samuel pepys. is the attitude most archaeologists take. in the archaeological literature at least.1)? This. When they excavate straight pins. archaeologists assume that all are sewing pins and tend to lump the pins together as such without regard for where they came from on the site and for what other objects they were associated with in the ground. and modern eras. handmade pins of prehistoric times. unless the pins are unusually long or have decorated heads or are otherwise distinctive.2 The Lowly Pin He that will not stoop for a pin will never be worth a pound. 2 January 1668 Common straight pins made of copper-alloy wire are recovered in impressive numbers from almost all domestic sites of the medieval. But the situation is far more complicated than this simplistic equation permits. What could seem more ordinary and trivial than a common pin (fig. Since the very earliest of times pins have served as fasten- 10 . Diary. early modern. Those found on historical sites are technologically superior though essentially similar in shape and function to the individually fashioned. at least. Pins were indeed used for sewing. 2. a widely accepted indicator for the presence of women. but they served many other functions as well. by both men and women (although accomplished tailors and professional seamstresses used few if any pins in their work). and they were even perceived at times as having magical or prophylactic powers against witches and other malevolent forces.1 THE HI ST ORY A ND A RC H AE O L O GY OF THE C OM M ON ST R A IGH T PI N Pins of various sorts are common finds on archaeological sites throughout the world. Hence the common straight pin has become. And archaeologists tacitly assume that if the pins are for sewing they must have been used by women.

Asia. Thebes. Highly decorative silver hairpins are also found. first fashioned simply of thorn or fish bone. pierced ivory game board in which carved pins with heads of dogs and jackals served as the game pegs. some were dress pins. as clothing fasteners. ornately decorated pins of gold have been found at Salamis in Cyprus (eighth century bc). The pin from Paphos is interpreted as a votive pin. chiefly. and.1 The parts of a pin. An especially interesting example of early metal pins. In ancient Egypt. Tomb H. the eyelids of the dead were held fast with tiny fish bones. and throughout Europe (both on the Continent and in the British Isles). at Chiusi in Tuscany (seventh century bc). perhaps as votive offerings. or at least to fasten lengths of woven textile that served as cloaks or other garments.2 Wooden and ivory pins and sticks were found by Sir Flinders Petrie in his excavations of predynastic sites in Egypt.The Lowly Pin 11 Fig. a small. and George Herbert. Lord Carnarvon. the others were likely hairpins.’’ She notes especially the presence of items identified as dress pins in an Early Bronze Age (mid-third millennium bc) royal tomb. some hairpins. typical of the large hammerheaded pins found in Kurgan burials of the third millennium bc in the vicinity . But items sometimes identified as pins are more likely to have been spindles that once held a whorl or weight to aid in spinning thread or yarn. and from the Temple of Aphrodite at Paphos in Cyprus (sixth century bc). and bone pins have been found at Incipient Neolithic as well as at Celtic and Roman sites. By the Bronze Age pins took the form of complexly designed metal spikes. at Alaca Höyük in central Turkey. Elizabeth Barber notes that the close resemblance of some spindles (when found without whorls) to dress pins and hairpins leads to confusion over the functions of such ‘‘carved shafts. ers.3 Prehistoric peoples used pins for hairdressing. examples have been found in North Africa. 2. discovered in his excavations at el-Assasif. These have flat ends and hence are far more likely to have been spindles than pins. Exquisite. Pins of bone and thorn have been found in Paleolithic sites.

at the Sweet Track on the Somerset Downs in England.and sixteenth-century material. around ad 1000. for example. Ring-headed bronze pins were commonly worn by Norse explorers and colonists and sometimes included in Vikingperiod graves. have been found in crannogs in Balinderry. indeed. and some are enameled.12 The Lowly Pin of Nalchik in the northeast Caucasus. silver. so their recovery from bogs and wetland sites leads one to speculate that wooden pins may once have been quite common. Short. and although many retained a skewerlike form. others were turned on a lathe and embellished with a wide array of carved heads. and glass. made of bronze but also of ivory. although a comprehensive study of pins from excavations at medieval sites in London reveals that metal pins were more common during this period than many scholars have suspected. provides clues to an early form of textile production. ‘‘in abundance from almost all sites yielding fifteenth. Barber notes that tablet weaving was practiced in ancient Egypt from very early times—a good example being the girdle of Rameses III (around 1200 bc)—but that the technique was introduced into Egypt during the New Kingdom. and small statuettes.5 Many wooden pins have been found in waterlogged sites in Europe. It seems likely all were used to pin garments. some with carved heads and others with beads for heads. at least one such pin bears the impression of fabric. animals. The pin found in the Caucasus points to a region in which tablet weaving may have originated before knowledge of the technique spread to Egypt. The rather plain ring-headed pin found at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland is among the most tell-tale artifacts of the only acknowledged Viking-age settlement in North America. The decorative terminals take the form of birds. Some of these pins were decorated by impressing twisted cords into the clay used as molds for casting the pins. jet. such as the Celtic-type pin with faceted head found at Tjørnuvík in the Faroe Islands.’’ Museum of London archaeologists were not surprised by the increased numbers of pins in medieval . curved wooden pins were recovered. a single example of a very similar pin was found in a burial at Duggleby Howe in Yorkshire. Wooden and bone skewers or pins were still in common use throughout the medieval period and into Elizabethan times. these artifacts seldom survive in terrestrial sites. when metal pins were still relatively rare and expensive.and fifteenth-century deposits in London.6 Large numbers of pins were recovered from excavations of fourteenth. these ranged from two and a half inches to about six inches in length. straight wooden pins. from which elongated. as well as at other sites in Ireland and Britain. busts. serving as evidence of the antiquity of card or tablet weaving.4 The Romans had hand-forged pins with elaborate heads. Many sites from which wooden pins have been found date to the Neolithic period. not just cordage. Roman pins are extremely common finds. Ireland. iron.

it seems. for by the fourteenth century pins were manufactured in greater quantities than ever before. and another was a cast pewter circular head depicting Christ’s face surrounded by a nimbus. Documentary evidence hence reveals both trade in and use of vast numbers of straight pins. Three pinheads were of red coral.7 The study of more than eight hundred pins from six sites in London revealed that although pins with decorative heads were still being produced in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The decorated pins from the London assemblages included fifteen with attached heads of materials different from that of the shank. the fineness of metal pins. is interpreted as one of the mass-produced pilgrim badges commemorating the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket. were much less varied in form than earlier pins and lacked ‘‘the virtuosity displayed by many of the larger pins of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking epochs which would have been worn more conspicuously. The majority of the pinhead designs. Seventeenth-century men who could not afford buttons to fasten the sleeves of their doublets used pins instead.8 The importance of pins as clothing fasteners continued in the early modern era. they were much rarer than in earlier times. Princess Joan. It would appear that pins with decorated heads continued to be made and worn in England up until the seventeenth century. included twelve thousand pins for fastening her veils. as several have been found in postmedieval contexts in Norwich and elsewhere. and the heads were small.’’ Some of the decorated pins matched the ornamentation on dress accessories of the fifteenth century. however. Such pins would not have served well as cloak fasteners and the like but instead were used to fasten women’s veils—pinning the folds of linen headdresses or securing transparent veils to the hair or around the shoulders to the front of a gown. pins were used as makeshift fastenings for items of clothing such as breeches ‘‘by country folk and the poor’’ throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Bone pins seldom appear in contexts postdating the early thirteenth century. having given them dominance in the pin market. whose wedding took place in 1348.The Lowly Pin 13 layers of the city. two galleys outfitted on behalf of seven Venetian merchants docked at Southampton on their return voyage from Flanders carrying eighty-three thousand pins as part of their cargo. and a few had looped heads. It is noteworthy that the trousseau of Edward III’s daughter. A few of the London pins of both bone and copper alloy had hipped shanks (that is. and there are numerous examples of the use of pins in this manner in fifteenth-century art. with its obvious religious symbolism. as this bit of verse from 1616 . such as strap-ends on girdles or tassels on drawstring pouches. two were small blobs of glass that had been applied in a semimolten state. most of them made of finely drawn wire and fitted with small heads. ‘‘shanks with a swelling towards the tip to help prevent the pin from slipping out of position’’). In April 1440. This last pin.

lacing. and the others woollen. and so on. although mothers were warned not to keep the pincushion in the child’s basket or cradle. a close row of buttons. for example. In many places they add a stayband [headband] or a kind of headdress with two ends which hang down on the side of the head and are fastened on the breast with pins in order to make the infant hold its head straight. women used pins on their clothing in a variety of ways. a long. including those described above for securing modesty pieces. it is covered with two or three small biggins. Gorgets. or other rigid material passed down the front of the corset to stiffen and support it) and secured to the bodice either by ties or pins. ribbon ties. In the late seventeenth century. pins were important for fastening babies’ clothing from at least medieval times. whalebone. fitting the back of the head tightly but with flaps or lappets dangling against the cheeks. capelike collars typically worn by women around 1630–1660.10 Appropriate head covering for a newborn in the eighteenth century. was stiffened by a busk (a strip of wood. In the second half of the seventeenth century. Both the child’s garments and the pins used to fasten them played a role in shaping the child’s posture and future presentation of self. the term pinner was used to refer to more than one sort of woman’s garment: a ‘‘modesty’’ fill-in pinned to a low décolletage (also sometimes called a tucker). and these are tied behind the neck. Pincushions filled with pins were popular additions to the layette. a cap or coif known as a cornet. deep.’’ 9 Despite what we might consider a potential hazard to the child. and the like. apron bibs. buckles. triangular fill-in worn with low-necked bodices common in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. were closed at the neck with pins but could also be tied or buttoned in place. or. Pins would be used for fastening the tailclout (nappy or diaper) as well as the child’s headgear and swaddling.14 The Lowly Pin makes clear: ‘‘A countrey fellow plaine in russet clad / His doublet mutton-taffety sheep-skins / His sleeve at hand button’d with two good pins. was worn by some beneath the large hats that were popular at the time among women of the middling classes. and bodices worn without stomachers might be fastened together in front by pins. which would be held in place with pins. They might also pin up part of a gown to expose the petticoat below (at this time women’s gowns were open in front and the petticoat was an integral part .12 In the eighteenth century. a white cap or coif with long lappets or strips that could be worn hanging on either side of the head or pinned atop the head. among the wealthy. and the bib of an apron. women’s clothing continued to be fastened with pins as well as held together by lacing—long after men’s clothing was being fastened with buttons. the first of which is of linen. The stomacher. included several layers of bonnets known as biggins: ‘‘As to the head.’’ 11 Even once tailored or sewn clothing became common.

like pins of earlier times. an unboned bodice. [6. It fixes my Ruffles And other Pantoffles In their Plaits it keeps all my Laces.’’ that enumerated the elements of a young woman’s costume requiring the services of a pin. but in 1830 they were still recommended for baby clothes. Before pin-making was mechanized.14 It did not escape notice that women were. now in her mantua’s tail. . bristling with pins that held their costume in place. Not rashly to be touched.61.16 M A K I NG PI NS Bronze was the first metal used for pin-making. and women continued to use black steel pins on mourning dress throughout Victorian times. worn during the first half of the eighteenth century. were open robes worn with petticoats. at times. more often.15 Pricking her fingers with those cursed pins. as noted above. ‘‘Miss and Her Pin. were fashioned from bronze or other metal to serve as especially decorative clothing fasteners. But here I am concerned for the most part with medieval and later ‘‘common’’ pins or straight pins. large shawl-like ‘‘handkerchiefs’’ were often worn draped around the neck and closely pinned beneath the chin. brass wire. at the very least a creature to be approached with extreme caution. or they might pin up a train of a dress. My Kercher in Order it places. were . and an overskirt with train. as part of the layette. so it was a simple matter to gather up and pin back a portion of the gown).’’ In the 1780s. My Knot and my Hood. such pins often sported elaborately decorated heads. Mantuas or manteaus. along with a pincushion.The Lowly Pin 15 of the dress. 62] The use of pins on clothing declined once other fastenings were massproduced. Which surely were invented for our sins.13 In 1751 a book aimed at children included a poem. made from iron or. which would often be pinned up: ‘‘A pin . and each pin was forged by hand. .— Making a woman like a porcupine. wire straight pins. and double pins—two spike-like individual pins connected by a short length of chain. It stickes in the Mode. Lord Byron in Don Juan compared a fully pinned woman with an unapproachable animal.

Westminster. but their products fell short of the quality of those achieved by French pin-makers (chiefly because of problems with brass wire production in England). that was coiled on a lathe. pins. and in a seventeenth-century cesspit as well as other contexts in Norwich. then cut into pieces of two or three turns. usually of the same diameter as the pin. Essex. although sheep bones were also used) have been found at medieval and postmedieval sites in Europe. One of the resulting coils would be slipped along the pin until it was held in place by a slight flattening at the top of the shank. known as a ‘‘pin-maker’s peg. pointed individually on a pinner’s bone. the size of the heads tended to vary as well. London Bridge City. The bone was altered by sawing two or three grooves in its long axis. the bone was usually marked by diagonal file marks and frequently stained green from copper salts in the pin. which held the length securely while the pin-maker filed the exposed end to a point. Greater London. The craftsman created a point on the pin by setting the length of wire into a bone. Additional examples of pinner’s bones were found in seventeenthcentury dump layers overlying a clay floor at 14 Orange Street. as well as elsewhere in London. As a result. where it would be secured by soldering it with tin. several pinner’s bones were found. so as a result. A guild of pinners was established in London in 1356. the defect was eventually remedied by stamping the head into a smooth. the wound-wire heads overall were smaller in size than the heads of pins with solid wrought heads. which served as the main center . the pin wire was inserted into these grooves. from pits behind an early-sixteenth-century three-bay timberframe house that until 1968 stood at 59–61 Moulsham Street in Chelmsford. as the ends of the coiled head proved rough and tended to snag the material on which the pin was used. in sixteenth. In most cases the head was then fashioned from another section of wire. when in England a sheep sold for twenty pence. Geoff Egan and Frances Pritchard’s study of wound-wire-headed pins from medieval sites in London showed fairly equal numbers of spherical heads and heads that had been stamped flat. As a result. cost four pence per hundred.’’ Pinner’s bones (often horse or cattle metapodials. Southwark.18 Pin-making is similar to needle-making and almost as expensive. for instance.17 The pinner’s bone served as a holder to improve the grip of the pin-maker and avoid bending the pin.and seventeenth-century contexts at the Battle Bridge Lane site. round ball. at the end of fifteenth century. large quantities of fine pins were imported from France. The heads could be formed in various ways.16 The Lowly Pin fashioned individually by hand. by the fifteenth century several other towns in Britain had pin-makers with their corresponding guilds. Norfolk. at King’s Lynn. This technique at times resulted in problems.

In 1667 Jenks petitioned the General Court for seed money to start up ‘‘wyre-drawing’’ at Saugus. described how French pinners went about their work and illustrated his text with many detailed copperplate engravings of the pin-making process and the tools employed by the pin-makers (fig. another Frenchman. French pin-making was based in Paris. canted and sharpened. though his edict had little effect. It seems highly likely that Joseph Jenks intended that some of the wire he hoped to produce at his waterpower seat below the ironworks at Saugus. A proper pin factory did get started in Gloucester in 1626. and in 1483 Richard III attempted to protect and advance the home market by prohibiting the importation of pins. Denis Diderot illustrated several scenes in ‘‘The Pin Factory’’ in his Encyclopedia. after which the industry moved to Birmingham. the point well and round filed.The Lowly Pin 17 for pin-making. when the areas around Gloucester and Bristol became centers of manufacture.’’ 21 Even though English pins may have improved had the pinners followed their king’s command. however. well smoothed. the shank well shapen. the raw material for pin production. René-Antoine Ferchault de Réamur.19 Brass wire was used in England for pin-making as early as 1443. including its annealing furnace. brass and iron wire. the English wire-drawing industry was not truly viable until around 1700. the court approved an advance of money .2).20 In 1543 Henry VIII made a move to control the quality of pins produced in England in hopes that English pins of high quality would prove more desirable than the imported items: ‘‘No person shall put to sale any pinnes but only such as shall be double headed and have the heads soldered fast to the shank of the pinnes. and excavations on Eastgate in the same city produced evidence of a late-seventeenth-century pin factory. Gloucester and its environs remained the chief center of pin-making until the automated pin machine was patented in 1824. where more than a thousand craftsmen were employed in making high-quality straight pins. Massachusetts. would be made into pins. 2. in his Art de l’épinglier (1761). Nicholas Parish as pinners. though it seems likely that Payter and Edge were engaged in making pins (rivets) for suits of armor rather than common straight pins. in a document that referred to both John Payter in West Ward and Thomas Edge in St. and by 1744 pin-making was among Gloucester’s most important industries. Nevertheless. continued to be imported from the Continent until its import was prohibited in 1662.22 The slow progress of the wire industry in England did not prevent efforts in the colonies to establish manufactures based on wire-drawing. The first recorded mention of Gloucester pin-making dates to 1608. The Folk Museum on Westgate Street in Gloucester retains part of a pin factory.

2 A pin-maker’s workshop as depicted in René-Antoine Ferchault de Réamur’s Art de l’épinglier (1761).] Fig.[To view this image. showing the equipment and tools for drawing wire and heading pins. 2. refer to the print version of this title. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) .

who twentyfive years previously had patented in England a machine for making pins with solid heads. it was not annealed). also began a factory in Rhode Island.The Lowly Pin 19 to purchase wire-drawing tools and forty shillings to encourage the manufacture of ‘‘cards and pinns of the said wiar. the Scottish economist. who in 1776 described pin-making in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The organization and efficiency of the pin industry—‘‘a very trifling manufacture’’—caught the attention of Adam Smith. until the middle of the nineteenth century. Shortly thereafter. invented a pin-making machine. or the worker’s apron. The emergence of a fully-fledged U.’’ though it is unclear whether these funds went to Jenks or to someone else. complex operation involving many people at different stages of the production process.23 Because eighteenth-century attempts at pin production in the colonies proved largely unsuccessful. another Connecticut gentleman. Pushing this device through the coils. One piece served as the shank. Apollos Hinsley. the manufacture of copper-alloy pins was transformed into a labor-intensive.24 Once mechanization was introduced. after the heads were annealed. The head was a close spiral made on a long wire the same diameter as the shank and cut into lengths of two or three turns. and four headless shanks were placed into a holder. cut into lengths and pointed at both ends on a grinding wheel. a number of coils were put into a tray. then cut and pointed several more times until the required length was obtained (0. which began its operations in 1836. and the United States continued to import pins. Connecticut. a financial incentive was offered by the North Carolina Provincial Congress to anyone who could establish a pin industry that would compete with pins imported from England (this consisted of an offer of fifty pounds for anyone who could produce the first twenty-five dozen pins equal to British imported ones costing seven shillings. The basic steps in industrialized pin production were as follows: wire was first reduced to the correct gauge by hand drawing. At about the same time Jeremiah Wilkinson was already making pins from wire drawn at his mill in Cumberland. Dr. most colonials ordered their pins from England.18 inches). there were many pin factories in the United States. pin industry can be attributed to the Howe Manufacturing Company of Derby.98–1. During the American Revolution.25 As noted above. the pinner managed . six pence a dozen). By the early nineteenth century. The shank was left in ‘‘the hard’’ (that is. early straight pins were made from two pieces of wire. and the other was coiled two or three times to form a head around one end of the shank.S. Samuel Slocum. and a man named Leonard Chester was petitioning the Connecticut legislature for permission to erect a pin factory at Wethersfield. primarily from England. Rhode Island.

In 1797 Timothy Harris took out a patent for pinheads made from molten lead. but the firm was not successful because with Hunt’s machine only pins from soft wire could be made. in 1824 American Lemuel W. Wright patented a machine that forced the head up from the shank and formed it in one movement. The heads were then secured to the shank with pressure by a machine similar to a drill press. shaft. So it is easy to understand that there were many attempts to make a onepiece pin until at last the technique was perfected. and lead could be used for this purpose. spirally wound type of head continued to be produced and sold. producing forty to fifty solid-headed pins per minute. and the top die was allowed to fall. In 1817 American Seth Hunt patented an ‘‘upsetting’’ machine to make pins with heads. Useful Arts. usually a small drop-stamp that consisted of a weight that could be raised on guides by a foot-operated treadle. Kirby. and ‘‘Dorcas’’ was used as the trademark for the pins the company produced. F. then allowed to fall under its own gravity. England.20 The Lowly Pin to pick up a head on each shank (there is some indication that children sometimes performed this operation).800 pins per person per day. with a different craftsman (or woman) undertaking each of eighteen distinct operations. bought Hunt’s patent. Finally. mercury. He eventually sold out to Daniel Foote Tayler. Adam Smith remarked that the redistribution of labor. squeezing the spiral heads onto the shanks. and Company of Gloucester. this was a lengthy process. A lone pinner could produce just twenty pins a day.26 Most pins were tinned ‘‘by placing the pins in a boiling aqueous solution of argol (crude potassium bitartrate—the reddish deposit from wine vats) containing granules or thin leaves of tin. We can see in pin-making the beginnings of assembly-line production. Gloucester. Beard. Once tinned. A booklet issued by the company in 1860. who often recover only the headless shanks of early pins. Tayler. In all.27 The disadvantages of the straight pin with applied wound-wire head are obvious to most archaeologists. The bottom die of the anvil had recesses into which the headed shanks were positioned. detailing one craftsman to each task. so pins with the harder. in 1840 the company again was sold and moved to Birmingham. the pins were ‘‘barrelled’’ in a manually turned bran tub to be polished. and point in one process. increased production to 4. who adapted Wright’s machine to make 170 pins per minute. It seems likely that it was Tayler who sold the first solid-headed pins in London in 1833. so it is easy to understand why Smith held up the pin industry as a milestone of industrial progress. explained how . Wright set up business in London and later moved to Strough.28 In Birmingham the company continued to operate under the name of D.’’ Alternatively—albeit with considerable risk to the pinners’ health—a solution of an alloy of tin.

dating individual pins is nearly impossible—not even the standard of workmanship provides reliable evidence of the time of manufacture. the company’s advertising recommends ‘‘Dorcas’’ pins for dressmaking. Metal pins were made in France by the fifteenth century. So such pins. ones that had not begun to tarnish or rust. F. but the method of making a two-piece brass pin with wound-wire head was invented by the middle of the sixteenth century and continued until around 1830 when Wright’s patented pin-making machine came into use. would have been employed for such a purpose. and stainless steel. R. F. with up to five turns versus the two or three turns of earlier wound heads. much in the way we use staples or paper clips today—the assumption being that only relatively new pins.The Lowly Pin 21 solid-headed pins were made and illustrated the various stages in manufacture. The wholesale cost of a pound of pins ranged from one shilling. if any. could readily be found in the same context as pins that look just like earlier pins. The company known as Newey.31 It is possible to determine the approximate age of selected individual pins only because pins were sometimes used as a means of attaching the pages of a dated document. Tayler in 1934. but this practice was far from universal. a pin speared through the pages of an old document may be perceived as being out of its nor- .29 In the second half of the nineteenth century. though definitely of late-eighteenth-century date.30 DAT I NG PI NS Although there are some broad criteria for distinguishing early straight pins from later ones. In the late eighteenth century some spirally wound globular heads were replaced by a conical shape made up of wire of a smaller diameter than the wire used for the shank. The major change occurred when the modern form of pin with ‘‘upset’’ head was introduced in the early nineteenth century. By 1880 pin-making was fully automatic. Tylecote’s metallographic examination of pins ranging in date from 1548 to 1875 demonstrated quite clearly that there was little. Of course. The result was a dramatic decrease in the cost of pins. The English pin industry alone produced almost a hundred million pins daily and became the chief supplier to world. which had been producing shoe buckles since 1798. difference in pins manufactured between the midsixteenth and at least the late eighteenth century. absorbed D. and in modern times Newey Goodman Limited has continued to make pins from brass. carbon. the mass production of pins coincided with the introduction of cheaper steel and sophisticated power-driven machinery. three pence to three shillings—and it took on average ten thousand pins to make up a pound.

and these are dated only by the secure context of the site rather than on any other criteria. The earliest European straight pins in the Americas likely are those found at the Spanish site of La Isabela. England. they are indistinguishable from thousands of other pins found on colonial and European sites dating from the fifteenth century until the early nineteenth century. would have been pinned with the smallest pins possible. All of the pins I discuss . veils. 2. Apart from the fact that they are longer than most pins found at sixteenth-century Spanish colonial sites.’’ and hence linked directly to women. Kathleen Deagan. including ruffs.575 pins were recovered from the sixteenth-century all-male Free Grammar School in Coventry. It has also been suggested that fine ‘‘dressmaker’s pins’’ were much in demand in the late medieval period for the wearing and pleating of ruffs on men’s clothing and hence might be more indicative of the presence of men and boys than of women—1. relegated to the ‘‘sewing assemblage.33 It seems likely that veils and garments of fine materials.1). —Instructions on Needlework and Knitting . and larger pins were used for holding headdresses. . the pins used should not be larger than what is needful to hold it firm.22 The Lowly Pin mal ‘‘use context. in discussing pins found on Spanish colonial sites in La Florida. clothing pleats. . indicates that small pins were used for dressmaking and tailoring. and professional tailors and seamstresses were less likely to use large numbers of pins than less experienced persons engaged in home sewing. for they are all copper-alloy wire with wound-wire heads. Archaeologists will find that paying attention to pin sizes and being aware of the various uses to which pins could be put will perhaps pay the reward of helping them realize the full interpretive potential of their finds. In fixing work. 1829 Most historical archaeologists tend to lump all pins together regardless of size and to assume that almost all straight pins can readily be classified as sewing pins.32 PI N SI Z ES A ND T Y P ES General Rules and Remarks. particularly with light or fine fabrics. If only it was truly so simple! Pins varied in length and thickness because they were intended for different purposes (fig.’’ but the survival of pins in archival contexts reminds us that these objects were used for many things besides holding together fabric awaiting stitching and that as archaeologists we should be alert to the multiple uses to which pins might be put. .3). for example. and folds in place. In the discussion that follows I have attempted to set out rough guidelines for distinguishing one type of pin from another (table 2. founded by Columbus and occupied between 1493 and 1498.

2. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) .[To view this image. refer to the print version of this title. Of particular interest is the depiction of a range of pin types in the left center of the lower portion of the image. the accompanying text provides suggestions for appropriate uses for each size of pin.3 Another workshop scene from Art de l’épinglier illustrating various stages of wire-drawing for making pins.] Fig.

white pins. double cawkins. were known variously as minnikins. lillskins. and iron pins. red pins and red number pins. minifers Tiny pins.1 Types of pins and their approximate lengths and diameters (wire gauge) Pin type Approximate length Approximate diameter Lills Sewing pins Short whites Long whites ‘‘Blanket pins’’ or corkins Double long whites Lace pins Wig pins Mourning pins ‘‘Shroud’’ pins 1/2 in.5 mm 3 in. the smallest sort of Pins. or lillikins.’’ in other words. (3–7 cm) 1 mm 1. there is no way to provide a firm typology based on contemporary terms.’’ and it seems that ‘‘even contemporaries had difficulty distinguishing particular types and materials’’ of pins.6 cm) variable 7.35 . pins coated with tin. pins made from brass. So although I have made every effort to provide a rough guide to pin nomenclature.24 The Lowly Pin Table 2. Lills could be used in pinning fine fabrics before stitching them together but were most commonly used to pin veils and other elements of women’s garb in place. though dress pins is probably a bit more on the mark than dressmaker pins. lillskins. And it goes without saying that the very same straight pins could be used in active production processes such as sewing and lace-making or more passively as fasteners for clothing and wrappings—including shrouds—in addition to serving as implements for ‘‘making the toilette. (7. (24–30 mm) 1–3 in. angel pins. lillikins. A source from 1706 offers this definition: ‘‘Minnekins.’’ As noted above.05 cm) variable variable 3 mm variable 3 mm variable variable fall within the broad category of common straight pins and hence the differences among them are often not very great. such tiny pins. (12 mm) <1 mm 1 in. less than half an inch in length and less than four hundredths of an inch in diameter. (19. sources from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries refer to ‘‘white pins. lills. us’d by Women for their clothes. In the archaeological literature these tiny pins are variously called dressmaker or dress pins.5 in. minifers. Documentary sources can prove confusing as to nomenclature. black pins.34 lills. as hairpins or wig pins. could also be interpreted as having been used in pinning men’s and boys’ ruffs. minnikins. when recovered from the appropriate temporal (and social) contexts.

and so on) Large pins. derives from the phrase corking-pin. were general-purpose pins used for various tasks. in contrast. corking-pins. were known as double long whites or blanket pins and were intended for fastening the folds of heavy blankets. intended to be worn on mourning dress. therefore. ‘‘Laundry Pins. are defined as ‘‘pins of medium size.39 mourning pins Mourning pins.36 Middlings. middlings were typically among the pins kept ready to hand. pin-makers called them short whites.The Lowly Pin 25 common sewing pins (short whites and middlings) Ordinary or common sewing pins tended to be just over one inch long and about one sixteenth of an inch in diameter. and 180 buttons). After 1850.38 blanket pins or double long whites (corkins. scraps and rolls of twill tape.’’ and hence as long whites as opposed to short whites or double long whites (see below). according to The Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Apparently. A late-nineteenth-century deposit excavated in the Five Points neighborhood of New York produced well over two hundred packages of common straight pins along with other items indicative of a commercial sewing operation (for example.’’ The lesson learned from this is that most households of the nineteenth century and earlier would be likely to have pins of various sizes to hand for a variety of sewing and other needs. one Miss Mitford referred in 1824 to pincushions capable of containing ‘‘a whole paper of short whites and another of middlings. 222 hooks and eyes.37 The matter of determining which pins were most likely used in everyday sewing is complicated by the fact that nineteenth-century pin packaging often touted the fact that the purchaser would take home pins in ‘‘Useful Assorted Sizes’’ or simply ‘‘Mixed Pins. mourning pins were made from tempered steel wire that took on a . around three inches long and about one-eighth of inch in diameter. furnishings. The term corkins (also spelled cawkins).’’ Middlings. fifty thimbles. calkins.’’ In a pinmaker’s case dating from 1690 they were termed ‘‘Double Long Whites alias Calkins. meaning ‘‘a pin of the largest size. somewhat mysteriously.’’ while some wrappers specified that all the pins in a given packet were ‘‘short whites’’ or. and so forth. were originally made of iron and coated with black varnish made up of linseed oil and lampblack. seam bindings.’’ Other sources quoted by the OED refer to such pins not in reference to blankets but as stuck into a gentlewoman’s stomacher or fastening a man’s riding skirt.

exposing the metal.26 The Lowly Pin dark purplish color. and nineteenth centuries. ‘‘offered in the required black an assortment of straight pins. or japanned pins. to make the necessary purchases rather than be seen in public herself. reports of lacquered pins from late-sixteenth-century contexts in England. thin.41 In the seventeenth.42 Before the nineteenth century most elements of mourning garb were made at home.44 lace pins Lace pins (for making bobbin lace) were of fine brass wire.’’ At the sixteenth-century Free Grammar School in Coventry. In their book Pins and Pincushions. eighteenth. colors (blue.’’ A widow who retired into mourning would be expected to send someone else. People in mourning were expected to wear dull and nonfigured fabrics. There are. four lacquered pins were recovered: ‘‘the plating or lacquering survived as a thin smooth black matt finish.43 It seems that the main use of black pins was to hold mourning veils in place. lose their distinctive coating after spending any time in an archaeological site. Huntingdonshire. like many of their tinned counterparts. however.’’ 40 I am unaware of archaeologists reporting the recovery of mourning pins (nor have I noted any in the collections I have studied). but it is most likely that any of the varnished or japanned pins made before the tempered steel pins became common would. hat pins or safety pins. the description of two of the copper-alloy pins of late-sixteenth-century date found at Hall Place. in 1856 merchants in Richmond. St. For instance. avoiding shiny silks and reflective jewelry. making them ‘‘neater. or shows other interference. in around 1880. adherent and ‘metalliclooking’ sulphide skin. stronger and sharper than the older. purple).’’ It is therefore worth keeping an eye out for possible examples of mourning pins among straight pins recovered from contexts with good preservation conditions. especially during the early stages of deep mourning. Neots. two hundred such pins sold for one pence. but black pins for mourning had to be directly purchased from local merchants. fabrics appropriate for mourning garments. hints at possible mourning pins: ‘‘much of the object is covered with a smooth. were black or similarly dark in color as well as nonreflective. This is quite easily distinguished from the underlying ‘untarnished’ metal where the skin either has broken off. Virginia. a servant or slave. though they could of course have been used to fasten other elements of the mourning garb in the same way that tinned copper-alloy pins were used to fasten elements of everyday costume. blacked. For instance. . perhaps. women often wore mourning hoods or face-covering veils that were also called falls or weepers to indicate their symbolic removal from society during their period of mourning.

and. commonly used during Jacobean and Georgian times.’’ 48 Shorter pins were used by wig-makers for securing the mounting ribbon to a wig foundation or block before the woven hair was knotted onto the netting base.46 wig pins Longman and Loch illustrate a group of extremely long pins ‘‘dating back to the Jacobite Rising in 1745. or artificial addition of hair. lace-makers would repair the pin by replacing the lost head with a bead. (2) A hairpin for use in a postiche. similar to a thin knitting needle and used to give a final arrangement and position to the hair of a dressed postiche. formed by pins without heads. metallic peg. Loch illustrate three lace pins used in making different styles of bobbin lace—torchon. but it seems unlikely that these resembled straight pins in any way. pointed at one end and blunt. These seed-. and a reader might mistakenly infer that such pins were used on clansmen’s kilts or on the plaids they wore as mantles across the body and over the shoulder. they give no explanation for why the differing sizes were relevant to the type of lace being made. and Honiton. Longman and S. so it seems likely that both sexes used wig pins. These pins may have been used to secure a postiche. Buckinghamshire. and so on). they would then use these to mark the beginning point of a repeating motif in the lace pattern they were executing.The Lowly Pin 27 E. with sealing wax. An Illustrated Dictionary of Hair Dressing and Wig Making defines a pin as ‘‘a short.’’ but Diderot refers to these as ‘‘tacks made from pins. as well as ornamentation (pompoms. feathers. or sealing wax–topped lace-making pins were known as hariffes.’’ and illustrates what appear to be small nails or tacks rather than pins. or with a cleavers seed (seeds of goose grass that were soaked in milk to lighten their color or in vinegar to darken them. real or false. or with a small head at the other. . the smaller the pin). bead-. .47 Men and women wore wigs. the . Used to secure postiches to malleable blocks or cushions. very plain. to a wig.’’ A postiche pin is more closely defined: ‘‘(1) A long.45 If the head came off a lace pin. round steel rod. D. the skin was rubbed off and the seed put on the shank.49 A variety of pins was also in use for dressing wigs as well as natural hair. where it dried and tightened). One writer instructs the wig-maker to ‘‘carry the thread to little hooks . thin. neither too small nor too large. Many lace-makers deliberately created for themselves a set of pins with special heads. are likely wig pins.’’ The illustration of these pins with seeming reference to Scottish freedom fighting is confusing. These so-called Jacobite pins are approximately seven and a half inches long. respectively— each being shorter than the next. although not identified as such. but the key to the size of pin chosen for making a particular lace pattern was the fineness of the thread (the finer the thread.

2. N. however. He. Master wigmaker Monsieur de Garsault wrote in 1767 that ‘‘it is a bad maxim when fixing the Wig to hold it in place in the centre of the top of the head with one large. scarecely perceivable from the natural hair. down and silk puffs. or postiches in place. likewise. wig. that he carries on his business in Chestnut-street between Front and Second-streets.51 upholsterers’ pins It is possible that upholsterers’ pins could be found in archaeological deposits. wash balls.’’ the latter in some cases resembling the familiar modern two-pronged hairpin. hair pins from nos 1. upright pin.4). the genuine London court plaister.50 Some elaborate hairstyles called for the use of extremely large numbers of pins simply to keep the hair.B. which penetrates the net and imbeds itself in the wood. were offered for sale in an undated catalog of upholstery needles. shaving powder boxes. likewise. to make them seem superior and more desirable to customers than those made by others. Hair-Dresser Takes this method to acquaint the public. They were made of cast steel wire in English gauges 16 and 17. pads or cushions.’’ It seems as though wig-making and wig dressing involved use of pins that were more like small tacks or in some cases hooked-wire straight pins.52 K EE PI NG PI NS The competition among pin-makers to create a market for their pins. powder bags. wash boxes. sells perfumes. Gentelmens wigs and scalps. in the wearing of wigs or in fashionable hairdressing. He makes Ladies toupees pads braids and cusions: French and Italian curls. The latter did sometimes come into play. so were clearly intended to be used in conjunction with heavy upholstery needles to hold upholstery fabric in place while it was being stitched. Such pins. this will not prevent the wig from slipping when it is combed. the top end is bent into a slightly ovoid eye—and both largeand small-eyed upholsterers’ pins were available (fig.28 The Lowly Pin hairpins were referred to as either ‘‘singles’’ or ‘‘doubles. though it is unlikely that such pins would be mistaken for common straight pins. in lengths of three and three and a half inches. rather than a typical head. Hairdressers advertised for sale all of the accoutrements for tending to wigs and for producing fashionable and elaborate hairstyles: William Anderson. however. ‘‘Single’’ hairpins (often called hair needles) could also be very long and decorative and were intended to be seen. . to 21. hair ribbands. and combs.

pins were an expensive commodity. valuable.) led to much innovation and imagination in the packaging of pins for sale. and by 1785 in papers. pincushions and pin holders were important possessions for anyone who sewed (or clothed themselves) regularly. or novel items. large eye. As a result. A find of sixteen tinned copper-alloy pins with wound-wire heads grouped in a ‘‘‘paper-ofpins form’ ’’ in the lower levels of a Waltham Abbey latrine pit filled around 1669 may. Pin papers sold for a penny or less and were made until the 1930s.The Lowly Pin 29 Fig. however. for instance. top. I summarize .55 The array of materials and shapes devised to serve as pincushions almost beggars description. but because pincushions are so favored by collectors. however. bottom. Fancy metal and card boxes of pins and needles were sold until 1939.53 By the 1840s pins (and needles) were sold in decorative cardboard and metal boxes.d. The Lewis.5). With a single sweep it collected a pin between each tooth. of course.4 Upholsterers’ pins. after that in boxes. Wright and Bayliss catalog for 1886. ‘‘Sticking’’ pins in crimped paper was a job done by women and children using a comb-shaped tool that passed through a shallow tray containing loose pins. which the ‘‘sticker’’ then pushed into crimped paper. Before 1744 they were sold in loose lots.54 Because there was no was economical method for heading pins before the eighteenth century. rough wooden containers with a label at one end—for one penny apiece (the same barrels were also used as containers in which boot and trouser buttons were sold). For the sake of considering the possibilities. as advertised in an undated catalog of upholstery needles from Berbecker and Son. 2. there are any number of publications with seemingly endless illustrations of pincushions. offered to label containers with the name and address of the shop that sold them rather than the maker’s information. By 1800 most pins were sold ‘‘stuck’’ in colored paper (fig. interested in attractive. (After Berbecker and Son n. point to an earlier date than is commonly accepted for the distribution of pins stuck in paper. and it is most unusual for archaeologists to find anything that falls into any of these categories. small eye. Collectors are. How pins were packaged and sold changed dramatically over time. 2. This company also offered pin barrels—small.

refer to the print version of this title. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) .[To view this image. and polishing. Shown below are details of equipment used in these processes. large knitting ‘‘pins.] Fig. tinning. 2. hooks and eyes. wire screen. such as staples.’’ and wig pins or tacks. tools for ‘‘sticking’’ and packaging pins and examples of other products of the wire-drawer’s art.5 A plate from Art de l’épinglier illustrating the steps in finishing pins. including pointing.

As the presence of the chain implies. every well-dressed woman carried with her a small emergency supply of pins. These were sometimes referred to as emeries to distinguish them from regular pincushions stuffed with sawdust or the like. bone. these could be made from very fine silk knitted or woven into a pleasing pattern (fig. The metal pin poppet is embossed in an alternating pattern of straight and wavy encircling lines made up of punched dots. Cushions decorated with pinhead designs became popular beginning in the early seventeenth century for special occasions such as birthdays and marriages. archaeologists find pin poppets of bone. And some pincushions were never used in needlework.6). fashioned from solid ivory or other materials. The interior. they are decorated with simple lathe-turned incised lines and rouletting. though. between 1600 and 1830 large.57 Some pincushions were filled with emery powder. remained popular up through the early nineteenth century. pin balls were meant to hang from a woman’s waistband so that she would always have a supply of pins to hand. I describe and discuss these finds in chapter 3. or ivory with a tight-fitting lid (and perhaps a tiny pincushion inside).59 These examples are made of materials that seldom fare well in the archaeological record. Because archaeologists call these items needlecases. In the eighteenth century practical items known as pin balls were popular. around half an inch in diameter. The example illustrated here has an encircling silver band and chain that might survive in an archaeological context. often in small cylindrical cases known as pincushion boxes or pin-poppets. Most pincushions were made entirely of fabric. or of fabric on a foundation of card. although they likely held both needles and pins. Longman and Loch illustrate what they characterize as three rather crudely made pin poppets. decorative pincushions were popular items in women’s dressing rooms. and it has a hinged lid. The turned wooden examples come in two pieces that fit tightly together.56 In the sixteenth century. but they could have held pins as readily as they did needles. 2. at times these could be made of fragments of special garments. which is not inaccurate. and many were probably made by women at home as a pastime or as gifts . was fitted with a stuffed pad of velvet or satin into which pins could be stuck. and pin poppets of bone are regularly found by archaeologists. As noted above.58 The pin poppet. two of wood and one of metal. Unlike the vast majority of pincushions.The Lowly Pin 31 what I can and commend the reader to the collectors’ literature for further details. These they almost invariably refer to as needlecases. these held toilet pins and hatpins. a small box of wood. which enabled the sewer to polish rusty needles by plunging them repeatedly into the cushion. the pin poppet is a good candidate for survival in archaeological contexts.

Some pin disks were kept in sewing boxes and matched the other items in such fitted boxes in material and design. again possibly for exchange as gifts. disk-shaped pincushions gained popularity at the beginning of the nineteenth century. these could be easily made at home. In these.] Fig.61 . refer to the print version of this title. or wood joined by narrow velvet or silk ribbon. sawdust. cotton wool. each covered with material and sewn together so pins could be pushed into the edge. but the possibility that they did exists! It seems impossible. they could be stuffed with sheep’s wool. often freestanding but sometimes attached to a sewing clamp. bone. or a brick. Courtesy The Winterthur Museum) to give to friends. or bran. (Object no. I cannot imagine anyone arriving at the conclusion that an excavated brick or quantity of lead shot once was part of a pincushion. the pincushion was sandwiched between two disks made from plain or decorated ivory.32 The Lowly Pin [To view this image. these averaged less than two inches in diameter.6 An eighteenth-century English pin ball with embroidered decoration and encircling band and waist chain of brass. mother-of-pearl.1365. A design popular from the early 1800s was made from two circles of card. Practical pincushions tended to be plain and large. some weighted pincushions contained lead shot. to support such an interpretation without corroborative evidence. a piece of metal. 1966. 2. tortoiseshell. The diameter of the band is about 2. however.4 inches.60 Small.

This proved to be the case during excavations at the intersection of Old Market Street and Maryport Street in Usk. as in disk cushions.. a pcell of linnen. 2s. Also interesting is that even though most of the items listed (except the buttons) tend to be associated with women or women’s work (it seems likely that the cupboard cloth ‘‘wrought with needleworke’’ was embroidered by one of the women of the household). 3s. however. & winding blads. This tiny basket (less than two inches tall) at one time would have held a small cushion of fabric stuffed with sawdust . where a large. punched dots. a silk-covered pincushion with many copper-alloy pins still stuck into it. 6 s. silver bodkin. the pincushion is listed separately from the pins and needles. stone-walled cesspit produced. The household inventory of George Burrill. Several types of pincushion had harder material forming at least a portion of the object. a pcell of lace. among many other interesting late-seventeenth-century artifacts. Gwent. 2 silver buttens. and so forth. 2s. lists several items of or associated with needlework: one cubberd cloath wrought with needleworke. and the churns. implying that they were kept in separate places in the home. taken at his death in 1654 in Lynn. 4s. Sr. 4s. needles 11i. Most pincushions were made of some sort of fabric and hence are not likely to be found in archaeological contexts unless organic preservation is exceptional. Wales. 6d. cast silver animals. Consider the following example from seventeenth-century New England. velvett & ribbin. thimble. for they appear on occasion in household probate inventories.62 Interestingly.The Lowly Pin 33 We know that colonists had and used pincushions. 2 linnen wheeles 2 churnes & other lumber pinns. 6d. yearne. it is a small basket (or bucket) fashioned of sheet brass with a decorative frieze formed of small. the swift or yarn winder (‘‘winding blads’’). so it is possible to find holders for pincushions or at least fragments of these. 4s. pincushen & a remnant of stuff. these are all listed as part of Burrill’s estate and not reserved to the widow’s portion or dower. including the small wheels for spinning linen. A charming pincushion holder was excavated from a seventeenth-century privy in Boston as part of the Central Artery–Third Harbor Tunnel project (also known as ‘‘The Big Dig’’). It is clear even in these selected entries from Burrill’s estate inventory that his household was well-to-do and that the woman of the household possessed fine sewing tools—the silver thimble and bodkin—but she was also responsible for spinning her own yarn and churning butter in addition to producing fancywork such as the ‘‘wrought’’ cupboard cloth. Massachusetts. 11i.

Katherine Nanny Naylor. Deagan illustrates an example with a decorative knob at the narrow end of the tube and holes at the wide end. Made of hammered sheet brass. 2. whose place in local history was secured when she sued successfully for divorce in one of seventeenth-century Puritan Boston’s most sensational cases. Cross Street Backlot Site. 2. no such items have to my knowledge been identified from French.] Fig. The sheath consisted of a tapering tube of rolled copper alloy or sheet brass with a small hole in the side for fastening the sheath to the garment. to date.63 pin sheaths Kathleen Deagan reports finds of pin holders or sheaths from Spanish colonial sites in Florida and the Caribbean. (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Commission. refer to the print version of this title. Boston) or emery (fig. The purpose of the sheath was to protect the person wearing a pinned garment from pricking his or her fingers. or Dutch sites in the Americas.7 Pincushion basket recovered from a seventeenth-century privy in Boston. the item is 2.34 The Lowly Pin [To view this image.64 . English.65 inches wide. Even more remarkable is the fact that this find can be linked with its former owner. Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.28 inches high and a maximum of 1.7).

even paupers were buried in coffins provided at the expense of local parishes. all but three of the others had been lowered into their graves in simple shrouds or winding sheets. but through the century coffin use grew more common. pin fragments. King of the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum exposed the remains of a house and related features as well as a small burying ground—the earliest colonial cemetery yet reported in Maryland—containing eighteen graves.The Lowly Pin 35 I N T ER PRET I NG PI NS : A RC H A E OL O GIC A L C ASE ST UDI ES pins. at least for the inner shroud—an outer wrapping of stouter material was sometimes used. the preferred material was linen. the truly noble Calverts —were buried in expensive coffins of lead. either in simple wooden coffins or with nothing but a shroud or winding sheet. it was occupied from around 1658 to 1680. however. Only seven of the individuals buried here were placed in coffins before being laid to rest. and at times green staining resulting from the total decay of a pin lying against bone were found with all but four of the bodies interred in the Patuxent Point burying ground. or near the skeletal remains. and in a single . Excavations directed by Julia A. Copper-alloy pins. On the early-seventeenthcentury Maryland frontier. others. In Britain shrouds or winding sheets were in use by at least Saxon times. against.65 The body of the deceased was sometimes first clothed in a shroud—which by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often resembled a long. were fastened wholly or in part with copper-alloy straight pins. whereas the elite—indeed. Many shrouds or winding sheets were sewn together along their edges. in some cases the presence of pins on. winding sheets. decorated with frills at the front—then wrapped in a winding sheet. Most people who died in the colony’s early years were buried in family or plantation burying grounds rather than in a church or churchyard. From the sixteenth through the seventeenth centuries. the ordinary person was fortunate to be buried in a coffin at all. backless nightshirt covering the body from the neck to the feet. when coffins were common for all but the poorest folk.67 Because shrouds seldom survive in the ground. Maryland. was one of many small plantations along the Patuxent River in the seventeenth century. the evidence for their use is often circumstantial. shrouds were often tied up at either end and bound around with canvas swaddling bands for ease in carrying the body.66 The Patuxent Point site. and by the middle of the seventeenth century in England. and shrouds: treatment of the dead in seventeenth-century maryland In Europe coffins were in common use for only the very wealthy until the early seventeenth century. in Calvert County.

delicate pins more likely to be used on such women’s garments as veils than on heavy fabrics. all but one of the individuals buried in coffins had copper stains. 2. This is in keeping with treatment of the dead at this time: the clothing of the deceased would be removed and he or she would be laid out and bathed before being dressed for burial. the tiny. These were lills. Only two pins were intact: one was about nine-tenths of an inch long (the example with the ovoid head). The data from the burying ground teach us several things about the use of shrouds (table 2. so I measured and recorded information on only eight pins.2). however. 2. Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum) instance a tiny scrap of linen from a shroud survived because it was still attached to a particularly well preserved pin (fig. but those with heads (seven of the eight) had wound-wire heads. with a small fragment of winding sheet or shroud adhering to it. including those for which I saw only the catalog entry. The lills. One pinhead was somewhat ovoid. with their very thin shanks.] Fig. some of them fragmentary. head shape of the pins. refer to the print version of this title. and all examples in the assemblage.8 A straight pin from 18CV271. indicating that they were buried in a shroud or some garment fastened with pins. the other one and six-tenths of an inch long. Most important. but they also could have fastened delicate linen fabric used for shrouds or other burial clothing.68 Forty-two common straight pins were recovered from the Patuxent Point site (domestic compound plus burying ground). while four were very thin and relatively short. in one case. were shorter than the pins with normal-sized shanks. leaving only a tell-tale green stain on the bone. Lot 281. All were corroded.36 The Lowly Pin [To view this image.69 . and. There was. (Courtesy Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab.8). only fifteen of these came from graves. diameter. variation in the length. Most of the pins were not available for study when I examined the collection. The careful recording of copper staining on the skeletal remains by Smithsonian physical anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker and his team provides additional evidence of shroud pins that decayed completely. Patuxent Point Grave 3. had evidence of a tin wash.

33–38y) 15 (F. U = immature. sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae Two areas on occipital None Left humerus. buried in clothing? None Key: F = female. left frontal near coronal suture and at bregma. left tibia (two areas). 1.2–1. 25–30y) No No — 1 18 (M. 13–14y) 17 (F. left parietal. sex undetermined. two areas on posterior aspect of left frontal Left frontal. interior surface left mandible Left parietal. 10–11y) 10 (M? 30–35y) 11 (U. left frontal just above left orbit. right mandible near third molar Left temporal (front and back). 55–60y) Yes — 3 (F. rear of right parietal Right frontal above right orbit.2 Evidence for use of pins in burials from Patuxent Point Burial no. c. y = years old.5y) Yes — No No No Yes — — 1 1 — — 12 (M. inferior surface of left mandible Left parietal. lateral side of right orbit. of pins 1 (F. age) Coffin No. 13y) 14 (M. Jones. 9mos) No 3 5 (U. Brass button and clay pipe found near pelvis. (sex. and Turowski 1996 .4y) Yes — 6 (U. 28–33y) 9 (U. alveolar and medial surfaces of right maxilla. 38–45y) No — Copper staining Right parietal. mos = months old Source: Ubelaker. possible African ancestry. frontal. 24y) Yes — 2 (F. posterior side and medial aspect of distal right humerus. 26–32y) Yes Yes No 2 — 3 15a — — 16 (U. 15–17y) No 1 19 (M.The Lowly Pin 37 Table 2. 27–32y) No 1 13 (U. 37–43y) No 2 4 (U. occipital. left femur. first thoracic vertebra Right and left sides of mandible. junction of lambdoidal and sagittal sutures None. sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae. M = male. 15 None Center of left parietal. 8–9y) 7 8 (M. cervical vertebra Fetus or possible newborn buried with No. right temporal Feature proved not to be a burial None None Frontal near bregma Maxilla above incisors.

The numbers of stains left on the bones of the dead from Patuxent Point indicate that more pins were used than survived to be recovered by archaeologists. It is not clear what this means. why? A single pin was also found in his grave. were extremely dear and hard to come by. most likely linen. is almost nil.70 At Patuxent Point. Were his clothes left on him while he was nevertheless wrapped in a shroud? Does this indicate differential treatment of the dead based on cultural or racial distinctions? We shall probably never know the answers to these questions. This might explain why some individuals were buried without coffins: putrefaction might set in too quickly to wait for a coffin to be made. along the torso. and this evidence. especially those who were not well off. might have used straight pins instead. although there was no copper staining on his bones. a thirteen-year-old of indeterminate sex had two well-preserved pins and copper staining on two areas of the occipital bone (sides of the head). Burial No. A chin strap to hold the jaw in place might be pinned to the cap. combined with the relatively low number of coffins used. likely a breeches button given its location at the pelvis. Interestingly. the likelihood that someone would be buried in their clothes when all goods. would have worn little in the way of recognizable clothing fasteners such as buttons. 13. buckles. so I have no difficulty interpreting the pins in the Patuxent Point graves as pins used to fasten winding sheets or perhaps to affix chin straps or face cloths.38 The Lowly Pin In the Chesapeake in summer the laying-out period would likely have been brief.71 In some cases the shroud was also fastened at other places. It would appear from the location of the staining that in almost every case the shroud was quite literally a ‘‘winding sheet’’—a length of textile. or even hooks and eyes on their clothing. given the relatively few pins used. The location of the pins could also suggest the use of a chin strap or face cloth. No. this in the form of a single brass button. so it is intriguing that he was buried in his clothes and with a clay pipe. women in particular. as might a face cloth that could be used to cover the face before the coffin was closed. Only one burial. Some. and it was common for the face to remain exposed until the coffin was closed so that the spirit of the deceased could depart. By the 1630s in England the deceased was dressed in a shirt and cap in addition to a winding sheet. in- . but the number nevertheless is small.72 It should be clear from my earlier remarks that most seventeenth-century folk. On the seventeenth-century frontier. 18. Was he singled out for some reason? If he was the only individual buried in his clothes. most especially textiles and clothing. though probably not both. had any evidence of ordinary clothing. this individual was identified as a young man of African ancestry. wound around the body beginning at the feet and secured with one or more pins at the head.

petticoats (note that petticoat was synonymous with skirt in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).’’ These individuals. both tailors and seamstresses were so skilled that they needed few straight pins. So we do best to attribute the tooth-wear to grasping needles between the teeth or using the teeth in lieu of scissors to cut thread. that they left their home or homes in England. instead simply holding the fabric in hand as they stitched. we would have no clue that perhaps part of the household’s income may have been based on the pair’s expertise as tailor and seamstress. whereas seamstresses specialized in garments made ‘‘in the flat. pins are still commonly equated with sewing regardless of whatever nods or lip-service is given to their other poten- . and so forth. It seems that their efforts to gain wealth and start a family on the colonial frontier ended all too abruptly. 8 and 15) had distinctive grooves on their front teeth. thread.74 Tailors tended to specialize in heavy garments that required shaping to the body. as I remarked at the beginning of this chapter. The two individuals were close in age and of European ancestry. Without the tooth-wear so prominent on these two former members of the Patuxent Point household. the woman probably died in childbirth. to try to make their fortune at growing tobacco in the stump-ridden fields of southern Maryland. but the lack of such grooves on other adults in the small number of individuals buried at Patuxent Point suggests some measure of specialization and reminds us that men were just as likely to make use of sewing implements as women. worked steadily at sewing activities.The Lowly Pin 39 dicates limited investment in mortuary ritual without much effort to retain postmortem social distinctions that were undoubtedly very important in life. domestic contexts: can we pin anything down? Almost every archaeologist is aware that most items used in sewing might have served other purposes.75 There was no abundance of evidence for sewing activities in the domestic compound at Patuxent Point. where they pursued the professions of tailor and seamstress. Douglas Ubelaker interpreted this as ‘‘evidence of the long-term practice of holding or pulling some artifact between the teeth.73 Two of the adults interred in the Patuxent Point burying ground (Burial Nos. or objects of a similar shape. But. There is insufficient evidence of similar tooth-wear among the colonial population as a whole to know whether only professional tailors and seamstresses would exhibit this sort of damage to their teeth. It is of particular interest that one was a woman and the other a man. it seemed. only the twenty-seven additional straight pins and the crown of a copper-alloy thimble were found. We may speculate that they were a couple. such as coats and jackets. possibly pins.’’ such as shirts. but as I have noted. shifts.

Mary’s City.3). and Museum of London researchers have concluded that ‘‘the gauge of wire does not seem to correspond to the size and weight of the head or the overall length’’ of fifteenth. But what. I described how pins might be grouped according to length and gauge as a way of sorting out pins according to their different intended uses.75 cm 3. I myself did not consider this a relevant attribute when I embarked on my study of archaeological collections. Only rarely. Lengths of pins varied within both dated and undated contexts.00 cm 2. so I am fairly confident that length alone is a sufficient criterion for distinguishing among pin types. the seventeenth-century capital of Maryland. of pins Minimum length Maximum length Phase I (1638–1665) Phase II (1665–1685) Phase III (1685–1715) Undated contexts Total pins and fragments 24 21 26 167 238 1. but each occupation phase presented a range of pin sizes. higher numbers of common pins have been recovered. does even the most painstakingly thorough of the measurers among us think to measure pin diameters. recovered 153 complete and eighty-five fragmentary common straight pins. shorter pins being made of very thin wire gauge.40 The Lowly Pin Table 2. John’s Finds context No. Silas Hurry noted that there were no changes in the physical appearance of the pins over time. yet. too many of us assume that more pins simply mean that more sewing went on at a site. however.00 cm 2.80 cm Source: Hurry 1980:1 tial uses. although only seventy-one of these pins could be assigned indisputably to the occupation phases delineated by the archaeologists. that for these later examples. length and gauge are closely related.and sixteenth-century pins. which is not surprising since we know that pins changed little from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. As archaeological recovery techniques have improved. longer ones of thicker gauge wire.3 Common straight pins and pin fragments from St. John’s at St. Pin Sizes and Types. if anything. the dated deposits ranged from 1638 to 1715 (table 2. is to be gained by paying such close attention to some of the smallest of small finds? 76 Excavations at the site of St. My observations of seventeenth-century and later pins suggest. rather than attempt to examine variability among pins in order to ascertain the possible range of uses to which they might have been put. In the previous section. The smallest .00 cm 2.95 cm 2. however.

John’s pins to pins found at several other Chesapeake sites.1–3. Jordan’s Journey: Mouer and McClearen 1991.5 >3.4).78 . of course. John’s were part of the sewing assemblage. 1992 pins were. because deposits were not screened. By far the majority of pins from St. strengthening Hurry’s interpretation that many pins from St.6–1. this is not the most convincing interpretation. in other words. Only the St.The Lowly Pin 41 Table 2.0 3. lills or small dress pins. Excavations at St. see these sources for details on each site: Compton: Lewis Berger and Associates 1989. John’s.4 Common straight pins and pin fragments from five seventeenth-century Chesapeake sites (pin length in cm) Site/context Compton (c. John Hicks: Stone 1974. If we wanted to admit all possible explanations. a possible thimble case made of bone. used pins in many ways.5 2. the John Hicks homestead in Maryland. like most of their contemporaries. near Hopewell. John’s were short whites or middlings. But the variable lengths of the pins found here tell us that the successive inhabitants of the site.5 Fragments Total – – – – 8 3 1 – 3 – 6 7 – – 56 1 18 4 2 10 – 3 – – 7 – – – – 1 – 1 – – 36 10 30 4 5 118 Source: Personal inspection of each item.9 2. Mary’s City site. the results are almost certainly an artifact of recovery techniques (table 2. general-purpose sewing or dress pins. The other sites produced small samples of pins. Virginia. either because the plow zone was stripped off. a stiletto or graver. have samples of pins large enough to reveal the same range of pin sizes and types found at St. while the largest were calkins or double long whites used for pinning heavy folds of cloth used in furnishings or on cloaks and other garments. we might also offer the explanation that some people were so successful in ‘‘keeping pins’’ that pins do not show up in the archaeological record—but given that sites excavated carefully for the recovery of small finds almost invariably produce impressive quantities of pins. John’s produced a wide range of other sewing tools (six thimbles.6–3. two needles and a bone needlecase.5 1. or because the household was so low on the economic scale that its members simply could not afford to have a good supply of pins on hand.0–2. Mattapony: King and Chaney 1999.77 If we compare the St. and nine pairs of scissors—though not all of these were sewing scissors). and site PG307 at Jordan’s Journey. 1651–1684) John Hicks King’s Reach Mattapony Jordan’s Journey E1. King’s Reach: Pogue 1990.

5 2.5 5. recovery of pins was good.9 2. who.5 Common straight pins and pin fragments from a seventeenth-century midden at Tilbury Fort. providing 337 pins and pin fragments.0 Fragments 7 143 30 12 2 143 Total 337 Source: Moore and Reed 2000:68 At an English site. with its occupants of low economic status. of pins 1. But they also use ancillary evidence from the site—a bone needlecase—to support an alternative explanation that some of the pins could have been used for sewing and mending. but they also conclude that the high number of pins in the collection (and relative lack of other types of clothing fasteners) is closely linked to the poverty of the fort’s occupants. Archaeologists Peter Moore and Graham Reed attribute the preponderance of a single pin size to lack of access to pin manufacturers. so the large number of pins must be explained in other ways.6–3.6–1.0–6. it is difficult to assert that the military context of the English fort. It is clear that a contextual analysis of Tilbury Fort leads to a somewhat different interpretation of how pins were used there in contrast to the Maryland site of St. Tilbury.0–2. versus the domestic context of the frontier site. Most of the Tilbury Fort pins range from about eight-tenths of an inch to just over an inch in length (and hence classify as middlings). The archaeologists who examined this site mistakenly claim that pins were cheap in the seventeenth century. Essex.1–3.79 Because large numbers of pins were recovered from both sites. John’s.42 The Lowly Pin Table 2. England Pin length (cm) No. like the country bumpkin described earlier. with its well-to-do occupants.0 3. could not afford to fasten their clothing with anything much fancier than common straight pins (and they note that uniforms for the lower ranks of the military would have had few if any embellishments along the lines of ruffs and the like). Essex.5). is the key factor in explaining the high numbers of pins at . however. this was not the case until the nineteenth century. with a head count producing a minimum pin count of 247. all found in a redeposited midden (table 2. as we have learned. seventeenth-century Tilbury Fort in Tilbury.

Until we have a good corpus of samples from sites that have been excavated with great care taken in the recovery of small finds.The Lowly Pin 43 either site. rate of recovery of pins is highly variable depending on the excavation and recovery methods employed at each site. . we may have to consider potential sampling bias as the overriding factor limiting our efforts in interpreting common straight pins. As I noted above.

and hence owned. leather. or other materials together. As relatively rare and often fragmentary finds. Florida. the shape and treatment of which are among a needle’s most functionally diagnostic attributes.’’ When a needle is found. What is more. and only a very few have been found at other Spanish colonial sites. In this chapter I set out criteria for making distinctions among needles in hopes of pro- 44 .’’ none have been recovered from sixteenth-century contexts at St.1 Deagan is right to stress that needles were exceedingly important. Kathleen Deagan reports that even though needles were ‘‘indispensable household items. they are the most diagnostic and irrefutable evidence of sewing and are the least likely of sewing tools to have been used often for purposes other than those for which they were intended. which has notoriously poor preservation qualities. or Santa Elena in South Carolina. This does not mean that no one ever used ‘‘the wrong needle’’ for sewing or embroidery. sometimes broken at the eye. it is often incomplete. but they were also considerably more costly than pins and probably curated more carefully. She remarks. History and Description of Needle Making. needles tend to elude efforts at interpretation. 1865 A survey of the archaeological literature for finds of needles is almost as frustrating as the proverbial quest for a needle in a haystack. needles seldom survive burial in archaeological sites. be it fine or coarse. The task for the archaeologist who does find a needle or needles at a site is to consider what purposes a particular needle may best have served. indeed. then. Augustine. ‘‘Not only were most of the needles after 1500 made of steel. but when we find a needle we know it was likely used for stitching fabric. Needles were even more expensive than pins and were used.3 The Needle ‘‘An Important Little Article’’ The modern needle—one of the most useful implements in the world. in far smaller numbers than pins. —abel morrall.

and holding one’s petticoats out of the mud. A number of early Neolithic sites in Anatolia. so to speak. sometimes hafted to a handle. possibly with Rochambeau’s French ladies at Newport or Salem. but lacking a hole or eye through which fiber. who answer to the description of gentlewomen still. I remember hearing one of the fine Newburyport ladies. showing off their hands as well as their skills. Some early awls. as you can verify by the next sewing you take up. the user could have whipped or ‘‘snooded’’ a fiber at the notch in the manner that fishers attach their line to a hook.2 How to Hold a Needle Gracefully The graceful preceptress goes on with directions for sitting. for dancing. The following passage from Harper’s Bazaar in 1874 includes proper needle holding and use among the accomplishments a girl should be taught as part of her grooming toward gentility.000 years ago). An awl is a pointed implement for punching holes in fiber or skin. perhaps evocatively. by the nose. gestures. sinew. and by the Gravettian and Magdalenian phases were quite finely made. made from splinters of bone. Needles held social significance beyond their functionality.The Needle 45 viding a guide for the archaeologist who is interested in saying something about a needle once it emerges from the archaeological haystack. THE HI ST ORY A ND A RC H A E OL O GY O F NEEDL ES The modern needle is the direct descendant of the flint or bone awls used by humans beginning in the Lower Paleolithic. And she was right. to push the needle nearly its whole length through at each stitch. Iraq. about 26. the social pressure on women to keep their hands busy with their sewing at all times meant that much sewing was done in public. instead of pulling it out. however. or thread can be inserted. they were valuable and often personal items (though few were monogrammed or inscribed) that had close associations with parts of the body (hands and fingers) and with particular postures. for holding one’s needle. bear a notch or collar cut near the blunt end. for one thing.000 to 20. Some of these nice customs may have been carried to our shores. maintain that it was most graceful to ‘‘sew with a long point’’—that is. Nobody will allow that these hints are superfluous who notices the varied awkwardness which women fall into who are habitually thoughtless on these points. appear. true needles. In the Solutrean phase of the Upper Paleolithic (more than 20.000 bc. and sequences of motion. Advice manuals aimed at women made it clear that women could put this to their advantage by holding their needles properly. Right up through the nineteenth century. and Greece have pro- .

to trade for stockfish. As a result. when for a time the merchants of these English cities. Norway. and because they were used one at a time. a bronze needle was found in the same context as one made of bone. of copper alloy. including St. sent their ships directly to Iceland instead of to Bergen. archaeologists find far fewer needles than pins. Both bone and metal needles were used. The first true eyed metal needles. Most were pack needles. the finer needles that do survive often have two or three eyes.5 Needles. archaeologists have found needles made of iron. people had fewer of them. At medieval sites in Britain. Steel needles first were made in China and spread to the Middle and Near East. Neots in Huntingdonshire. This trade continued at least partly on a clandestine basis. Most early needles were used for heavy work and were never intended for fine sewing. cloth. used to sew up parcels for storage and transport in pack-cloth. There was little change in the form of these implements or in their method of manufacture from Saxon times until the introduction of iron needles. Copper-alloy needles survive more readily than iron ones.3 Roman needles varied in form. although bone was preferable to the metal needles of the time because the metal tended to corrode and stain the fabric it was used on. needles are relatively rare finds. the bodkin. to prevent the thread from slipping. and bone needles and thread-pickers have been found at late Saxon sites in Britain. but copper-alloy needles were too crude for domestic sewing. bronze. Argyll. were found at Tepe Yahya in Iran in layers dating between 3600 and 3200 bc. Although the frequency with which needlecases appear on historical sites is testimony to the care taken to curate needles and pins and to keep them from rusting.4 In historical times. In part this is because iron and steel used to produce needles are less well preserved in the ground than the copper alloys from which most pins were made. and thread were among the exports traded to Iceland out of the English ports of Boston and Lynn in the early fifteenth century. a practice that was common up to the nineteenth century. and it seems likely that it was during Roman times that a special-purpose needle. Needles found on historical sites are customarily fashioned from steel wire. developed. sewing needles were more expensive than pins. Scotland. and bone—at Breachacha Castle. Coll. although cheaper iron needles were probably present in far greater numbers than their low survival rate indicates.6 . until Boston and Lynn suffered a decline in the mid-fifteenth century. fed up with the German monopoly over the fish trade.46 The Needle duced bone needles. Damascus and Antioch became centers for fine needlemaking during the time of the Roman Empire. suggesting that they were in use at the same time.

Córdoba became a great needle-making center. John Stow. guttered. required conventionally manufactured needles that had been eyed. to accommodate the thickness of thread. iron wire was made by forging. These were imported. and tempering. and tempered. where. Steel metallurgy originated in China. the earliest sources of supply being the Near East. whose craftsmen were renowned for their metalwork and for their tapestries. they had no eye but rather curved at the blunt end into a closed hook. producing needles of drawn iron wire pointed at one end and looped at the other. hardening. The process consisted of cutting a piece of copper-alloy wire to the desired length. Early iron needles were made of forged wire. Next.8 Iron needles continued to be made in a similar fashion for several centuries after the development of wire-drawing.11 . wrote in his Survey of London and Westminster (1598) of a ‘‘Spanish needle’’ of steel introduced into England. who had been a tailor in his youth. wire-workers. and others. Although the Flemish method of making needles was a simple process requiring the most rudimentary of tools. The first eyed needles of drawn iron wire appeared in the fifteenth century and were a product of the Low Countries.9 Steel needle-making requires a knowledge of heat treatment through annealing. spread to the Near East. although simple instruments that served as needles had long been made by blacksmiths. These served well enough at a time when the population consisted mainly of peasants clothed in leather and loose-woven cloth.10 There is no evidence that needles were manufactured in England before the mid-sixteenth century. copper-alloy needles were made individually by local craftsmen. with the point at the other end. tapered. A guttering iron was used to file a groove around the eye on both sides. however. The English needlemanufacturing industry dating from the late 1550s was introduced by Flemish refugees. and England imported its domestic and sail needles from these suppliers. forming the eye by striking the flattened part with a punch on the anvil. it consisted of about twenty operations. during the Middle Ages. flattening the eye end on an anvil with a small hammer. In the late Middle Ages needles were also produced in Spain and Flanders. more complex tailoring and embroidery. During the fourteenth century a European needle industry began at Nuremberg. then clearing the hole with a sharper punch on a lead cake. the wire was gripped in a pair of grooved pliers while the point was formed and the head trimmed and smoothed with files. and was carried by the Moors into Spain.7 Before the tenth century. when a technique for wire-drawing was invented.The Needle 47 M A K I NG NEEDL ES Before the seventeenth century.

then placing the packed rings in a furnace and heating them. The needles. and the top of each set in turn was smoothed off before the wires were removed. were hardened. one through each of the eyes. now called points. Eyeing consisted of punching out the thin film of metal that remained after stamping. It arrived at the needle-mill in coils cut into doubles or needle lengths. The heads and eyes were impressed by a man using a very heavy kick-stamp drop-hammer that handled thirty thousand doubles a day. about eight inches in diameter. The twin needles were then threaded (spitted) onto two parallel wires. with abrasive (usually emery paste) and a solution of soft soap. but the men at first refused to work with them and went on strike. The lengths were straightened by tightly packing two iron rings. troughlike bench with a heavy block of wood on top. They were then transferred to a flat iron slab. After the lengths were annealed. as it was called. As a result. they were passed to the pointers. Originally the lengths were pointed with a hand-operated grindstone. with the wires. . but ‘‘eyeing’’ could be done more cheaply by women. this was done by young women seated at screw presses. and finally scoured or polished. by women as well as by children as young as three years old. In 1846 an automatic pointing machine and extractor fan were introduced. tying it at each end. A number of sets were placed on a long. two of whom worked flat out to keep up with the stamper. then a groove was cut for the thread to lie in. Drop-stamps formed two eyes in the center of each length. usually made of steel. where a curved iron bar with slots fitting over the rings was used to roll them backward and forward until the wires were perfectly straight (this took about twenty minutes). rolling up the cloth.12 Scouring removed oxidation and discoloration brought about by tempering and consisted of placing from fifty thousand and a hundred thousand needles on a large piece of stout cloth such as canvas or sackcloth. A pointer revolved twenty-four or more wires back and forth with his thumb against the stone. who by the eighteenth century used water-powered grindstones. eyed lengths were then fixed between wooden clamps and screwed in a vise while the surplus of metal (the flash) was filed away. The two sets then were broken apart. The spitted. and binding it thoroughly with cord. pieces the length of two needles. sprinkling the set. Inhaling particles of stone and steel caused pointers to contract pneumoconiosis—‘‘Pointer’s disease’’ or ‘‘Pointer’s rot’’—and few lived beyond thirty years of age. after which the wires were annealed again. was drawn to requisite gauge.48 The Needle Wire. The wires were then taken to the stamping and eyeing shop. pointers were paid four pounds a week compared with an average of ten shillings paid to other workers. fearing a reduction in wages. then tempered to restore their resilient state. sharpening both ends of a length.

Scouring by hand was long and laborious. was chiefly pastoral in character before the introduction of rural industries. dried in rotating barrels of hot sand. and given a final polish with an emery stone. one at each end of the bench. the industry spread into such rural areas as Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire. or sawdust. They were then washed.16 The earliest wills of needle-makers date after 1650. As a result. the most important development in the industry was the adaptation of water mills for this purpose. this pattern continued until the middle of eighteenth century. the several other nearby industries (for example. largely bog and wasteland. and lowered costs. which greatly increased production. when the small master began to give way to the industrial capitalist employing domestic outworkers. cap-making. Bridgnorth in Worcestershire. The trade initially was conducted in London and Colchester. saddlery. A second scouring gave the needles a high finish. The needles were then packaged and labeled for sale. bran. the raw materials for needle-making. but the group had been active beforehand in attempting to control the industry and fix prices.13 After the initial scouring. but by the early seventeenth century needles were made at Dorchester and Chichester. and Studley and surrounding parishes in the Worcestershire-Warwickshire border area. the interior of the eye was polished. The needle industry began to concentrate in the rural West Midlands. many producers were forced out of London by restrictions voted by the guild members. But here there were deposits of coal and iron. gloving. This region. whose effective control extended only within a ten-mile radius of the capital. what is more. The bundles were rolled beneath the blocks for between eight and eighteen hours. Finally.The Needle 49 Before waterpower was introduced to the scouring process.15 The Worshipful Guild of Needlemakers was incorporated in 1656 in London.14 Needle-making was so readily divided into discrete stages that an economy of scale could easily be achieved by a strict division of labor. usually a master employing a handful of journeymen and apprentices. the needles were removed from the set and washed with soap and water before being bundled up again with polishing powder. this time an oxide of stone. improved quality. and people willing to work them. shoe-making. the block was propelled back and forth by two men. Much Wenlock in Salop. and leatherwork) created a ready market for needles. in all probability the trade . The typical unit of production tended to be small. The English needle-making industry grew apace after the late seventeenth century because of two developments: increased demand and the emergence of an impoverished labor force caused by an upswing in agricultural production that brought success to some but forced many people off the land.

until after World War II. Some of largest factories made needles from start to finish. London makers were required to employ only those who had been apprenticed and to use only steel wire. but there were a few specialists. Worcestershire. A William Lee. Attempts at creating an American industry were largely unsuccessful. By the 1680s at least two dozen needle-makers were at work in the area. in 1775.17 The products of the English needle industry eventually outstripped the quality of European needles. Redditch supplied 90 percent of the world market for needles. a dozen of whom had been trained in the workshop of William Lea. Advances in technology were certainly important but not widespread before 1750. A family was supplied with raw materials and tools by a merchant who collected and sold the finished article. Because Redditch was the center of needle production for the world market. The needles thus produced were expensive. presumably left London. who appears to have arrived in Studley during the second quarter of the seventeenth century. that were equal to needles from Great Britain of the price of two shillings. As a result.50 The Needle was first introduced by William Lea. which just scoured needles. rural needle-makers were free to employ anyone they wished and could use whatever materials and methods they chose. during the American Revolution. These factors permitted the needle industry in the West Midlands to expand and rise to preeminence. sorted from sizes one to twelve inclusive. At its peak. In contrast. Forge Mill at Redditch. Needle-making thus remained a cottage industry before the full-scale adoption of mechanization and the factory system. including Forge Mill. soon after 1712 the West Midlands dominated the trade. they were able to undercut the London market in high-quality steel needles and to introduce cheap iron needles at less than one-fourth the price of best goods. but toward the end of the eighteenth century some families began to specialize and became expert in one of the many operations.18 The earliest needle mill. who had been indicted in London for use of an ‘‘unlawful engine’’ (a wheel-turned grindstone). the North Carolina Provincial Congress offered an incentive of fifty pounds sterling for the first person who could within twelve months manufacture twenty-five thousand needles. No one seems to have met these requirements. was probably commissioned no earlier than 1730. including the United States. but it would not have grown so quickly had there not been such acute poverty in the district in the mid-seventeenth century. Makers were able to expand sales and increase market share because they were free from guild restrictions. six pence sterling per thousand. which slightly increased production and lowered cost. and he may be the same individual who showed up in Studley soon after. and they were discouraged from innovating. it is the likely place of origin .

22 . but surely it is useful to be aware of what the possibilities might have been. Two size scales were used: the most common was applied to ordinary sewing and darning needles.1). and so on: the higher the number before the slash indicated the largest size. numbering 1 to 10 for those in general use. form.19 T Y P ES O F NEEDL ES Even a cursory survey of site reports reveals that most historical archaeologists are content to identify a needle as such. and specialty needles. the cross-section of the shank. but the basic types of eyed needles fall into a limited range: sewing needles. and quality of the needle (fig. impossible to state with certainty that people really used any item solely for the purpose for which it was designed. mass production led to a dramatic drop in quality as well as in price. and placement of the eye. The salient characteristics that distinguish one type of needle from another are the shape. tapestry needles. is now the National Needle Museum of England. but the scale stretched out at either end to accommodate both extremely large and extremely small needles. Sewing needles came in ten sizes. of course. The smaller needles were simply given numbers above 10. which remained in operation until 1958. assume that it was used for some sort of sewing.’’ The largest needles used numbers such as 1/0.1). but to some extent the scales were interchangeable (table 3. smooth.The Needle 51 for almost all excavated examples of sewing needles. 3. and leave it at that. darning and embroidery needles. making it possible for ladies to copy etchings by sewing fine black and gray threads or human hair on a ground of white silk. as factories produced millions of needles a day for different types of needlework. The range of needles is truly impressive. 2/0.21 An undated publication by Henry Milward and Sons clarifies the size classification system employed by needle-makers in the nineteenth century. while another scale was used for tapestry and chenille needles. and shape and form of the point. in addition to the overall size. ‘‘for which there is a certain demand. In some instances. size. Tapestry and chenille needles were sized according to the British Standard Wire Gauge and began with size 13.20 The mass production of high-quality. up to 16. Forge Mill. length. Few realize that closer inspection of these small finds could prove worthwhile for interpreting what types of sewing the occupants of a site engaged in or at least for what purpose a needle may have been intended. But by the end of the eighteenth century needles of extreme fineness (less than a hundredth of an inch in diameter) were readily available. It is. strong needles was assured by the invention of crucible steel in the eighteenth century and of needle-making machines in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

2a). whose blunt end terminated in a V-shaped notch that was slit so that thread. 3.23 A novelty introduced in the 1850s was the calyx-eyed needle.1 The parts of a needle. round eye with a long groove beneath. termed milliner’s or straw needles. sewing needles Sewing needles are made with a bevel eye and are known as sharps.52 The Needle Fig. most betweens have bevel eyes. and are used by tailors. Shorter than sharps. is termed a carpet needle. betweens. being made in sizes 1–9 only. 3. and staymaking. they resemble sharps but are shorter. As with sharps. Blunts are shorter and thicker than betweens. Because they have extra-strong points. but some are made with guttered eyes. fig. when pressed downward into the notch. enabling the sewer to do fine stitching on heavy fabrics. blunts are suited for heavy work. in sizes 14–18. and milliner’s or straw needles (fig. could be sprung into the eye. These are long versions of sharps.2b). 5–7. shoe-binding. Most have a bevel eye. blunts. Sharps is the traditional name for ordinary needles used in domestic sewing. but some professional sewers prefer a guttered eye (a small. they are also stronger. coming in sizes 8–12 for delicate domestic sewing and in ‘‘middle’’ sizes. They are manufactured in sizes 1–12. 3. made with a bevel or guttered eye in sizes 1–10. Such needles were marketed for those with failing eyesight and as a solution for threading a fine needle. A very large needle of a similar type. Vari- .2. fig. 3. for quilting (hence these sizes are sometimes called quilting needles). Betweens are widely used by experienced needlewomen and by tailors. Work such as hat-making and basting require needles of extra length. such as bed-ticks.

and short long eyes.012 .76 0.—Sharps.021 . which are similar needles with sharp points.27 1. —mrs.018 .34 2.25 darning and embroidery needles The needles principally used are tapestry needles. Fancy Knitting.011 .046 .037 . &c. or plastic holder.69 0. which are used for the same purpose.46 0. The Ladies’ Complete Guide to Crochet. these would not rust in conditions of high humidity.040 .) Diameter (mm) 6/0 (heavy) 5/0 4/0 3/0 2/0 1/0 1 2 3 4 5 (medium) 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 (very fine) 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 . and with long eyes.94 0.034 . ann s.63 1.027 .86 0.61 0. and are like common needles.050 .030 ..02 0.28 0. and Needlework. stephens.09 1.25 0.016 .072 .064 .010 .1 Manufacturer’s size scale for needles Sewing needle scale Tapestry and chenille scale Diameter (in.—as cloth.30 0.014 .092 .42 0.27 1.009 2.53 0. 1854 .080 .024 .056 .35 0. cardboard.043 . unlike steel needles.42 1.03 1.83 1. but very short.The Needle 53 Table 3. and are used for working on thicker substances than canvas. which are thick and blunt. and have a long open eye.24 Sewing needles of gold and silver were produced for the tropical climates of many of the British colonies and elsewhere.23 ous other needle-threading devices were eventually replaced by a simple wire on a small metal.

besides being clumsy. Embroidery or crewel needles are for most ordinary embroidery work. refer to the print version of this title. it will make a hole in the work.3). A large round eyed needle is necessary for chenille and three corded silk. Netting and Crochet-Work. short and long darning needles. and produce an unpleasant effect. as their name implies.26 tapestry or art needles Tapestry needles. for tough work or for spanning large holes. Double-long darners. 1887 For worsted work a rather coarse darning needle should be used. 3. b. similar to very fine double-long darners. Needles and Brushes and How to Use Them: A Manual of Fancy Work. are made in sizes 14 (large) to 9 (small). Never work with too small a needle. bevel eye typical of sewing needles. they are sometimes called rug needles. but with a long (darner) eye to facilitate threading of stranded threads and silks. Sizes 14–18 (large) are sometimes called wool or yarn darners. to take wool and stranded cotton (fig. coming in sizes 1–12 in the same lengths as sharps. —The Ladies Self Instructor in Millinery and Mantua Making. so this use was not recommended. and fine lacework. some have gold burnished on the eye. —jane eyre. Some women preferred to use embroidery needles for ordinary sewing because they were easier to thread. are used for tapestry work employing wool on a scrim or net base. Canvas-Work.2 a.] Fig. 3. Extra-short embroidery needles called primary needles were made exclusively for schoolgirls. Knitting. 1853 Darning or mending and embroidery needles have a long eye. beads. along with grooves. If the needle is too large. these were easy for small fingers to thread and to use. Darners for domestic use are made in sizes 14 (large) to 12 (small). Beading needles. were made in very fine gauges from sizes 10 to 16 (small) for work with sequins. These are sometimes called ‘‘Long-eyed sharps’’ or ‘‘Whitechapel’’ numbers 1–10. as it will drag the material. Made in . and for floss silk a fine one. Embroidery and Applique. The slight bulge around the long eye tends to make a largish hole in the material on which it is used. sizes 1–12 cotton darners. to ease the passage of the thread.54 The Needle [To view this image. however.

(After Milward n.3 The five main types of needle eyes.4 The three principal types of needle points. and other woven materials. .The Needle 55 [To view this image.:10) sizes 13–26. long. 3.d. Left to right: bevel. tapestry. Sewing needles tend to have a bevel eye and lack any bulge around the eye to prevent the needle from dragging through or leaving a conspicuous hole in the material. glover’s.] Fig.] Fig. Chenille needles. used for embroidery on linen. The normal has a long and gradual taper to ease passage through the material and sharpness on the extreme point to effect initial penetration. canvas. to prevent tearing of the leather. they have blunt rounded points and an especially large ‘‘tapestry eye’’ (extra-long and extra-wide) to facilitate threading the wool (fig. tapestry. The terms cross stitch needle without point or with point were sometimes used to describe tapestry and chenille needles. are identical to tapestry needles but have a sharp or normal needle point. refer to the print version of this title. refer to the print version of this title. (After Milward n.4). 3. 3. respectively.:9) [To view this image. the tapestry point has a gradual taper to a shoulder and blunted point for use on a net or scrim base. guttered.d. and the glover’s needle has a cutting edge reaching to the point. Left to right: normal. grooveless.

Lace needles are very long (seven and a half inches) and fine and made with a grooveless eye in special gauges numbered in reverse direction from normal (table 3. Any of these types of needles might be found on archaeological sites of a domestic. oval eyes (fig 3. The cutting edges insure that the leather is cut.5c). and extra light. The first four types come in light. single three-square point.2). and single three-square and spear-point grip. For example. 3. single three-square point. A round point is the normal needle point.3). The catalog of upholsterers’ needles published by Julius Berbecker and Son lists and illustrates six types of straight needles: single round point. Gimp needles are intended to take thick thread (gimp thread ) used in making buttonholes and are made only in heavy gauges. all with smooth. 3. Sail needles range from two and a quarter inches to four and a quarter inches in length (English gauge sizes 7 and 9–17). Straight upholsterer’s needles come in sizes ranging from four to twenty inches long. .27 Upholsterer’s needles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. and double round point (heavy only). double round point. Curved leather needles are made from flat wire. have a bevel eye and a triangular point with cutting edges that taper gradually to an extreme point (fig. commercial. although some are so specialized that one would expect to find them only at sites where they were made or sold or where the special activity for which they were intended was carried out. craft-industrial. Singles have only one point.5b). glover’s needles. the better for piercing canvas (fig.56 The Needle specialty needles There is a wide range of specialty needles. heavy.5a). The range of specialty needles shown here represents only a small selection of special-purpose needles with distinctive characteristics that made them suitable to their intended tasks. the last two only in heavy and light weights. table 3. not torn. I list many of the types of needles advertised by Julius Berbecker and Son of New York in its undated trade catalog (probably early twentieth century. used for any number of tasks. doubles have a point at either end. have a somewhat elongated. By the nineteenth century manufacturers of specialty needles produced elaborately illustrated trade catalogs that advertised a dizzying array of needle types. double three-square point grip. made in two lengths (sizes 3/0–9). or military character.5). 13–18. double three-square point. most having nothing to do with home sewing (fig. To give just a hint of the variety a retailer could choose from. guttered oval eye and a point with a triangular cross-section. by the needle’s penetration. 3. Curved upholsterer’s needles come in the following forms: single round point (regular and ‘‘extra quality curved or cord needles’’). while a three-square point is triangular in cross-section and a spear-point has a diamond-shaped cross-section.

f. 3. right.] Fig. glover’s needle.5d). long oval eye). brush or matting needles (top. refer to the print version of this title. . straight single three-square point. upholsterer’s needles (top to bottom: straight single round point. oval eye. collar needles (left. (After Berbecker and Son n.5 Specialty needles: a. flattened end with a relatively small. straight double three-square point. Carpet needles are made of extra-silver steel. straight double round point. and curved single three-square point). curved single round point. with an oval eye. 3.) Collar needles range from four to seven inches in length and come in full curved and half-curved versions (fig.d. ordinary eye. sail needle. b. in round point and three-square point models.The Needle 57 [To view this image. d. Regulating needles are made of forged cast steel and have a thick. pack needle. bottom. full curved. c. e. half curved).

Regulating needles.2 A list of specialty needles available from the firm of Julius Berbecker and Son Upholsterers straight single round point light heavy extra light straight single 3-square point light heavy extra light straight double round point light heavy extra light straight double 3-square point light heavy extra light straight double 3-square point grip heavy light curved single round point light heavy extra light curved single 3-square point light heavy extra light curved double round point heavy extra quality curved or cord. best cast steel Sadler’s needles. best cast steel. cast steel forged (reduced edge) Harness needles. with spring eye and cutter straight bent Sail needles. American pattern Flour needles Bagging needles. 3-square point Ham bag needles Packing needles light heavy Bagging needles. full curved Collar needles. best cast steel Glover’s needles Long darning needles Short darning needles Embroidery needles Light carpet or milliner’s needles Broom needles Brush needles Bag machine needles Steel sail hooks with brass swivel Light and heavy double points made in short and long points .d. single round point xx light xxx light curved leather heavy light Collar needles. oval eye) round point. forged cast steel and tempered light heavy Carpet needles (extra silver steel. extra fine quality.58 The Needle Table 3. half curved Source: Berbecker and Son n.

fig.or four-square points similar to those on upholstery needles (fig. it is altogether possible that such needles might be found in archaeological contexts. which listed goods on consignment in old England as well as goods in New England.012 1 . Needles of various sizes are also used in thatching.016 4 .’’ along with ‘‘soweing needles.. among the latter ‘‘6 doz.The Needle 59 Table 3. thatchers employ needles to hold bundles of thatching material in place on a roof and for inserting tarred twine in the thatch.6). for securing the stuffing inside a turkey or chicken) are large needles with large eyes and often with curved three.28 Matting needles are extremely long needles (eleven to twelve inches in length) used for weaving mats (brush needles. fall into the same general category as matting needles. recorded in Essex County. 3. they do not require tapered sharp points). the evidence for knitting appears in the form of scraps of garments recovered from contexts with good preservation conditions for tex- .021 7 Bagging and packing or pack needles are generally used to stitch together bales of goods shipped for trade (fig 3. pack needles. By the middle of the nineteenth-century mat-weavers had shifted from bone to iron needles once fur traders recognized that there was a ready market for them. Massachusetts.018 5 .5e).021 6 . 3.29 Yet another type of specialty needle that deserves mention has nothing to do with sewing or needlework. in 1677–1678.5f. Culinary or flesh needles used in cookery (for example. Minnesota. Often. 6d.010 2/0 . the indigenous peoples of North America used long bone needles to weave bullrush mats. They are often found at fur-trade posts in the Americas and are sometimes listed in probate inventories of traders’ goods.’’ An example identified as a baling needle was found in excavations in the kitchen area of the British North West Company’s trading headquarters at Grand Portage. archaeological finds of knitting tools are rare.011 1/0 . although I have not seen any reported in the literature. 5s. but even though knitting was common and widespread. It was five inches long and made from a round steel rod hammered into a diamond-shaped cross-section.014 2 . such as that of Edward Wharton.3 Size scale for lace needles Gauges In inches Size . knitting needles Knitting is an ancient technique and has been practiced by many cultures.014 3 .

Such contexts tend to be waterlogged and ‘‘cessy’’ (in other words. At Jorvik (Viking York in England). though the U. The art of knitting with two (or more) needles spread throughout Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. but needles used in nålebinding remain elusive. and were used for flat work.S. Double-pointed straight needles.’’ knitting seems to have been a logical development out of netting. leaving us to surmise that the textile scraps may have been recycled for purposes of personal hygiene. Wooden needles were usually made only in the largest sizes. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) tiles. and plastic—certain materials being better suited to one sort of work than another. as some people are more comfortable working with long needles and others with short ones. and in Norway many milk-straining clothes were made in this way.08 inches in diameter).31 to . in matched pairs. Knitting needles have been and continue to be made in a wide range of materials—including wood. 3. c. sometimes called sock needles. steel. a rare example of a complete woolen sock in nålebinding dating to the tenth century was found. English standard gauge sizes 1– 24 run from largest to smallest (about . sizes 0–10 1/2 are numbered from smallest to largest. 1912. The diameter of the needle varies according to the sort of work being done. employing a single coarse needle.60 The Needle Fig. and an early variant of knitting known as nålebinding (knotless netting) or looped needle netting. This technique was used for making stockings and gloves.6 Culinary or flesh needles available from the Friedrick Dick Company catalog. aluminum. It is therefore not surprising that knitting needles seldom accompany garment fragments in such deposits. slender rods tapered at either end. while U. standard differs from the English standard. from cesspits or privies).30 Although ‘‘its origins have not so far been traced with any great success. though straight needles can be either single or double-pointed. varying in length and diameter according to the sort of work being done. standard gauges for knitting needle sizes exist.S. was common in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. bone.31 Most knitting needles are straight. The length of the needles used depends both on the article being constructed and the preference of the knitter. are used in sets of four or five to pro- .

So little is known about how people actually went about knitting in earlier times that it is a matter of some debate. The needles are slender rods. Wooden knitting needles were recovered from late-nineteenth. California. then it makes sense that they will be found in greater numbers at more recent sites. with a rounded point at either end. these curve in a complete circle but nevertheless have two pointed ends. Both surviving textiles and wall murals reveal that knitting was well established in the Near East by the first century ad. and a maximum diameter of slightly over a tenth of an inch. Circular knitting needles used for constructing seamless tubular articles are made of flexible materials such as metal. Some knitting needles have a knob at one end.32 The earliest examples of knitted garments are from the mid-third century ad.07 of an inch.S. about eight inches long.’’ because in contemporary knitting it is critical for a pair of needles to be identical in both length and diameter. part of the Cumberland/Gloucester Street sites in the Rocks neighborhood of Sydney. Although the first knitting needles were probably made of bone. such as socks or mittens. England. especially given the likelihood that the wool yarn used by early knitters was unlikely to have been of standard gauge. steel.10 of an inch and . over time they have been made of a wide array of materials. and so on. for instance. nylon. this layer has been interpreted as representing the floor of a tenement. that taper to a rounded tip at each end. A Roman knitting needle was found at Silchester. The gauge comes out to be about size 11 in the modern English system.34 If the relative rarity of knitting needles from archaeological sites results from poor preservation conditions. Single needles . system. from Dura-Europus in Syria. it is made of a copper alloy. including wood. such straight needles with single points are used for producing flat work and are among the most common of knitting needles used today. celluloid. Though they are the same length.33 Two copper-alloy needles were found together in an excavation layer dated to the late fourteenth century in Viking York. Whether this was the case in the past is difficult to determine from existing evidence. in excavations that took place between 1874 and 1878. or plastic. size 2 in the U. in which case they might be called knitting pins. Australia. those dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A single bone knitting needle was found in the ‘‘underfloor accumulation’’ from the third quarter of the nineteenth century at the Armsden house. as noted above.and early-twentieth-century sites excavated in advance of the Cypress Freeway Relocation Project in West Oakland. Historians of knitting puzzle over whether these two needles could possibly have been a ‘‘set.The Needle 61 duce work in the round. the needles vary in diameter (. eleven and a half inches long. respectively) and hence correspond to English size 12 and 14 knitting needles.

a handle into which a steel hook was fitted. The handle swells out at one end to ensure a firm grip and often was made hollow to hold the long.7). Two examples are noted as having diameters of an eighth of an inch. has screw threads at its top intended for just this purpose.35 tambour hooks Tambour work was all the rage in the eighteenth century. a privy in an alley between Baxter and Pearl Streets in New York’s Five Points neighborhood. corresponding to U. Some of the needles in these larger groupings were of the same size and hence may have constituted matched sets of knitting needles. The tambour-worker holds the hook in her right hand above the frame. which is very large.62 The Needle were found in a privy associated with the French family (about 1880) and a well associated with the Curtis household (about 1890). some tambour-workers used a specially designed open-ended thimble with a deep notch in its center front. in Europe as well as among the elite in Europe’s colonies. or tambour needles. an elegant ivory handle for a tambour hook recovered from Feature H. produced thirteen needles. Often a point protector was screwed over the actual hook when it was not in use. filled about 1880. contained five knitting needles. often being held in position by a small wing nut (fig. Like some early tambour hooks. Indeed. the Five Points example was elaborately decorated. and with the left hand guides the thread underneath the frame. as noted above. The West Oakland knitting needles are all of wood. but it seems likely that most of these items were lost rather than deliberately discarded. In the middle of the eighteenth century. Careful study of the needle sizes (gauges) could produce information about the sorts of garments or other items (for example. upon which the work was done. while the Railroad Exchange Hotel well. sometimes on a stand. filled before 1890. The tambour hook itself consisted either of a handle and hook all in one piece or. The term tambour comes from the French word for drum. An early-nineteenth-century tambour hook handle found in the cabin referred to as Triplex Middle at the Hermitage in Tennessee. especially early-eighteenth-century French ones. more commonly. referring to the drum-shaped frame. when they were not in use.S. in a more or less vertical position. knitting needle size 10. fine blades of the hooks. small handbags) they were used to produce. filled about 1905. interpreted as the home of an enslaved African woman who pos- . this could be screwed on to the top part of the handle when the work was being done. The well of the Pullman Hotel. 3. wooden needles tend to come in large sizes and to be used for producing large flatwork items. The needle was kept in the notch and guided down by means of it. The resulting work resembles the chain stitch in embroidery.

and Mrs. that crochet is as ancient as knitting and may derive from it because it is a similarly simple technique. whose hints on crochet appear in her charming My Crochet Sampler.37 Crochet hooks have been made of a wide variety of materials and come in many sizes. —miss lambert. came into common use. (Courtesy The Winterthur Museum. is simpler yet elegantly lathe-turned in a series of cordons and balusters. but this was superseded by a simple metal fitting into which the steel hooks could be slotted. 1849 Miss Lambert. ranging from ‘‘a very fine steel hook for fine threads to large wooden . or steel. Eventually the handle and hook were made in one piece.’’ It seems likely. bone.7 English tambour hook (1780–1820) with steel needle portion fixed to a carved and stained bone handle.The Needle 63 [To view this image. and by around 1800 the crochet hook made of the same material overall. albeit of differing materials. refer to the print version of this title. usually ivory. A steel crochet-needle is generally advisable. Early crochet hooks normally came in two parts.—with expert workers. 3. Initially the hooks were held fast in the handle by a wing nut. it makes the most even stitches. defines crochet as ‘‘a species of knitting originally practised by the peasants in Scotland with a small hooked needle called a shepherd’s hook. however. Edgar Sittig) sessed advanced skills as a seamstress and needlewoman. My Crochet Sampler. Gift of Mr. and many early handles were hollow so that the spare hooks could be stored in them.36 crochet hooks Hints on Crochet.] Fig. consisting of a handle into which different-sized steel hooks were fitted. but it is easier to work with an ivory needle.

of course. steel. some of them mass-produced. and the shaft straight and even. and the spread of netting as a technique may have followed the spread of hemp cultivation from central or southcentral Asia by early Neolithic times to Europe. Nets.64 The Needle ones for coarser yarns. nine to fourteen inches long. aluminum. at least by 15. tablecloths. archaeologist Jillian Galle notes that this tool might have been employed alternatively to pull thread through eyelets or in other forms of openwork. Such finegauge hooks would have been used with fine thread or exceedingly fine yarn for fashioning popular Victorian decorative items like doilies. in deposits from five households there were bone crochet hooks and from two others. The defining characteristic of the crochet hook is of course its hooked end. The bone crochet hooks are about four inches long and only three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. among the handcrafted items was a crochet hook with a flat handle. they are polished from use.39 The Triplex Middle cabin at the Hermitage in Tennessee produced many artifacts of needlework and sewing. and antimacassars. and their hooks are tiny. running from smallest to largest from A to K. and China. were used for fishing and . The bone handle of what was possibly a crochet hook was recovered during excavations at Champlain’s Habitation at Place-Royale in Québec City.000 bc) in Europe. and wood. but without its hook we can say little else about it. plastic.000 bc and perhaps earlier than 20. finely turned bone handles into which steel crochet hooks would have fitted.’’ Typical materials include bone. but intact examples provide clear evidence of the sort of crochet work for which the hook was intended and what sort of yarn or thread would have been used in conjunction with it. and it is interesting to consider what the resulting work would have looked like. Crochet hooks are sized both by numbers equivalent to those used to gauge knitting needles and by letter. on special hooks for working the afghan stitch the hook tends to be large. String skirts and hairnets of twisted fiber string have been documented as early as the Gravettian phase of the Upper Paleolithic (that is. Tibet. It is difficult to identify a cylindrical shaft as a crochet hook if the hook end is missing.40 netting needles Netting is among the most ancient of crafts that use fiber to create a loosely ‘‘woven’’ product suitable for many purposes. or for hairnets and baby clothes. The flatness of the tool’s handle would have required a different grip and a somewhat different set of motor skills than a typical cylindrical hook. Excavations in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco produced many sewing-related artifacts from households of an ethnically diverse nineteenth-century working-class community.38 Crochet hooks are rarely reported in the archaeological literature.

and as potential supporting evidence. England. or yarn used and the size of the openings in the net. A copperalloy netting needle. Norway. the tools appropriate to the task make little more than cameo appearances in the medieval and postmedieval archaeological literature. so it is impossible to know if the other end of the implement took the same form. As finer meshes were required. or wood and is in essence a long. Flat. until the needle was full and ready for use.43 . it is a good candidate for a bone netting needle. In fact. and so the netting needle came into use.The Needle 65 for hunting as well as for containers of various sorts. many fishing-related artifacts were found in the excavations (a fish hook. was usually pointed at both ends and served as a base upon which the loops were formed. It has a pronged end. but its shaft is broken. Netting needles and their accompanying gauges vary in length according to the fineness of the work to be done. with prongs or forks at either end. An object made of bone and identified as a yarn twister was recovered from a sixteenth-century site in Trondheim. A copper-alloy object found at the seventeenthcentury site of Renews. used in combination with a short gauge made of wood or bone.42 Because most netting tools were made of perishable organic materials (wood being most common). and other objects). a finer implement was needed. The gauge. and the style and thickness of netting differed dramatically depending on the nature and size of the fibers. this identification is somewhat problematic given that the extant end of the implement takes the form of a closed rectangle rather than the pronged-fork shape typical of netting needles. The implement is just under thirteen inches long. bone. thin needle with a large. reels. Thread was wound from one prong down the blade to the other prong and back again. thread. Newfoundland. flattened or spatulate. bent but about five inches long. A netting needle is usually made of iron. they are not commonly found on terrestrial sites unless they are made of metal. rulerlike tools with a groove along one side were used as gauges for the fringes that finished off many net-work articles. The fact that the site at Renews was a fisherman’s dwelling is the chief rationale for calling this item a netting needle. was found in layers dating about 1200–1230 at the site of Weoley Castle. open. forklike or pronged eye at either end. boat rivets. Nevertheless. despite the near ubiquity of net-making across cultures and throughout time. although exact matches have not yet been found. although because it was broken this is not its full length. also called a mesh or spool. the needles ranging from three to four inches to eight to ten inches long. Birmingham. ensuring that they would all be the same size and could be easily slipped off.41 The earliest netting tool was likely a simple shuttle with a V-shaped notch at either end. has been identified as a possible netting needle.

Sussex. notes that a kind of bodkin is used in osier basket-making. although in those trades a wide variety of awls would be used. The term bodkin also referred to hairpins (as in the above quotation from Dryden) and to sharp. rather crudely made but well polished from use. What is more. to keep the cut ends from unraveling. these were made as presents and souvenirs and were stamped with phrases and the like. were popular after 1750.45 Geraint Jenkins. has an elongated eye through which lacing or cord can be threaded. unlike a decorative hairpin. new Neats-leather shooes that creak. The Mistaken Husband. sometimes more than seven inches long. stiletto-like daggers. but earwax was thrifty and readily available—and cleaning out the ears contributed to personal hygiene. sometimes with an ear-spoon or earscoop at one end. Those of the mid-seventeenth century can be quite large. The type of bodkin used for lacing up clothing lacks the sharp. awls used in traditional leatherwork and boot-making may closely resemble bodkins. tapered point of the stiletto (although it may have enough of a point to do double duty as an awl) and. was found at the medieval village site of Pevensey.’’ The same holds true for interpreting archaeologically recovered bodkins. in his book Traditional Country Craftsmen.66 The Needle bodkins She shall have a rough Demicastor with a sugarloaf crown. although some bodkins made for threading ribbons were flat and others may terminate in a knob.46 A pierced bone bodkin.44 Bodkins were used by both men and women for dunning in drawstrings and for threading and re-threading ribbons. which varies in length from three to ten inches.47 Silver bodkins with initials and other inscriptions. their chief purpose has always been to thread bands or cords through corsets and bodices. to make openings in the weave for the insertion of rods the craftsman uses a wooden. —john dryden. By . ‘‘any early reference to these implements must therefore be read with care and interpreted according to the immediate context. though relatively rare and highly valued in the seventeenth century. or bone bodkin. and murrey worsed stockings. iron. 1675 One expert on needlework tools states flatly that the ‘‘only difference between a bodkin and a needle is size. cords. a silver Bodkin to rectify her stairing hairs. As a result. and laces. Well-to-do women were likely to purchase beeswax for this purpose. The earscoop was designed to gather earwax for use on sewing thread. coifs and cross-cloaths numberless.’’ but it is worth noting that the term bodkin has multiple meanings. although of course archaeological contexts seldom equate with use contexts.

This suggests that they were ordinary bodkins for lacing and dunning-in purposes (and for personal hygiene) and would have had little cachet as hair ornaments. they do turn up at medieval and postmedieval sites often enough to excite the interest of finds specialists. especially bejeweled ones. the costumes and the settings—as well as the quality of the bodkins or headdress pins—depict a range of economic and. social standings among the sitters. Some bodkins were also used as hair needles. but mechanization of the needle mills brought about the production of metal bodkins in mass quantities. England. Most fancy headdress pins. The excavated Norwich bodkins were all made of base metal— copper alloy—and according to the published descriptions. Several examples from the Chesapeake (for example.The Needle 67 the late eighteenth century. married women wore their bodkins on the right-hand side of the bodice. all had rectangular eyes. This most definitely seems to be of the hairpin variety and not for other purposes. rather. both in Virginia) have been identified as headdress pins and noted as artifacts reflecting social status. Bodkins found a new use upon the invention of elastic in 1840. a Dutch painting showing a woman wearing a bejeweled silver hairpin (which could quite easily be a fully useful bodkin tucked up under her cap) and a monogrammed silver bodkin found in Norfolk are used as illustrations to support the interpretation of the Norwich finds. three silver and four copperalloy bodkins from Jamestown and a copper-alloy bodkin from Jordan’s Journey. tucked under the cap (in some parts of the Netherlands a woman’s marital status was indicated . however. Bone bodkins with simple or no decoration continued to be made into the nineteenth century.48 Though bodkins are relatively rare finds. unmarried women on the left. shows a woman of middling or perhaps lower status wearing a hairdress pin with a decorative tip and lacking an eye. The notion that the bodkins found on seventeenth-century Chesapeake sites are headdress pins arises chiefly from North American archaeologists’ reliance on a single publication that contains a somewhat misleading treatment of bodkins in a study of items of personal adornment from medieval and postmedieval sites in Norwich. In the village of Hindelopen in Friesland bodkins were worn threaded through the cords of the bodice. Other Dutch bodkins were multipurpose tools. and after 1900 many were sold on cards as ribbon threaders and given fanciful names. presumably. bodkins were shorter but were still handmade and thick in section compared with later tools. The treatment is misleading because the actual finds are not illustrated.49 Seventeenth-century Dutch artists painted both young and mature women wearing bodkins tucked into their caps. are worn by well-to-do women. and one had an earscoop. Judith Leyster’s painting Joyful Company (1630). some of which were stamped.

produced many artifacts dating from between 1670 and 1710. during negotiations with native leaders. in 1642. Linking the names or initials to specific individuals can seem a daunting task. Randle Holme. married Hans Kierstede. in his Academy of Armory (1688). Janowitz specializes in Dutch colonial archaeology and has studied the artifacts recovered from many large excavation projects at sites in New Amsterdam. governor of New Netherlands. and not all bodkins were. when finds specialist Meta Janowitz learned of the bodkin’s existence. She knew that a Sara Roelofs (also known as Roeloff or Roeloffsen). she later served as interpreter for Peter Stuyvesant. bodkins are in truth more interesting and complicated cultural artifacts than one might think. Curiosity about the bodkin’s former owner has led Janowitz to conduct intensive research and bring to light many details of the life of this complex and fascinating woman.51 . but archaeologists who succeed in making connections between the small objects and their former users are sometimes able to reconstruct ‘‘lost biographies’’ of women whose lives are not chronicled in traditional histories. who was the daughter of the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. and finely made decorative bodkins. usually of silver. a privy in the rear of the Kierstede home lot. as a class of object. equally suited to social display. very close to the West India Company headquarters and warehouses. They moved into a house on the Strand. This perhaps accounts for the isolated find of a silver bodkin bearing her name in an Oneida site far from the city of New Amsterdam: the bodkin may have been presented as a gift or special token of friendship. when Sara Roelofs lived at the site with her second and third husbands and her children. illustrates a rather chunky bodkin and calls it a hairpin. but he also notes that the term bodkin was applied to several rather different objects. Bodkins were important and highly charged personal possessions.50 Excavated seventeenth-century silver bodkins at times bear the initials or name of their former owners. might have a second hole near the end through which a jewel could be depended. excavated during the Broad Financial Center project. they were not all hairdress pins. the name inscribed on it struck a chord. former location of the headquarters of the Dutch West India Company on Manhattan Island. in most cases not engraved by a silversmith but inscribed or scratched into them by inexpert hands. A distinctive silver bodkin inscribed zarra*rvlofsen was recovered during excavations at a historic-period Oneida Indian village in the 1960s. For Sara Roelofs it surely was a treasured personal possession. a surgeon. among them the Broad Financial Center site.68 The Needle by whether she wore her bodkin on the left or the right side of her cap). It seems that before her marriage to Kierstede. It therefore is unfortunate that North American archaeologists have tended to use the Norwich households study so uncritically and to embrace a somewhat rigid line of interpretation about bodkins. she had spent time among Native Americans and learned their language.

8). Major Nicolas Sewall. A site investigated before the expansion of the Officers’ Club at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. who renamed the parcel Charles’ Gift in honor of her second husband.8 Detail of copper-alloy bodkin. recovered from a late-seventeenth-century trash deposit at the site of Charles’ Gift in St. 3. Susannah. makes the object all the more personal. not the genuine article. produced extensive evidence of the late-seventeenth-century occupation of land patented to William Eltonhead in 1648. It seems likely that the bodkin once belonged to Nicolas Sewall’s wife. MD) Two other seventeenth-century bodkins offer similar possibilities for investigating lost biographies of early colonial women—although in both cases the possibilities remain unexplored. What is important for our purposes is that among the thousands of artifacts recovered from a late-seventeenth-century trash deposit at the site was a bodkin bearing the initials ‘‘SS’’ (fig. Charles Calvert. for the Sewalls were wealthy and of high social standing. Little is known about Susannah Sewall’s life and how she and her children fared while her husband was preoccupied with political troubles. yet the one discarded at the site was an imitation. into the bodkin. The fact that her initials were chiseled. The property devolved to Jane’s son. but the method of personalizing the object was also less costly than inscription by a silversmith or goldsmith. book clasps. fine ceramics. It is also intriguing that the ‘‘SS’’ bodkin is made of copper-alloy with silver or tin plating.] Fig. refer to the print version of this title. in 1668 the property ‘‘known by the name of the Mannor of Little Eltonhead’’ was awarded to Jane Sewall. not engraved. Mary’s County. Maryland. Scale in centimeters. (Courtesy Naval Air Station Patuxent River. and a rare pipe clay statuette representing the British monarch. A woman of Susannah Sewall’s status would likely own a silver bodkin. Other finds from the site include elegant items of personal adornment. not inscribed. whose initials were chiseled. Mary’s County. who became embroiled in the political struggles between Catholics and Protestants and between colonists and local Indians that overtook Maryland at the end of the century. formerly tinned or plated with silver. Maryland. especially when the family was left behind at .The Needle 69 [To view this image. 3. The initials ‘‘SS’’ are probably those of Susannah Sewall.

and this may be why an otherwise valuable and useful object was discarded. Here again the initials seem to have been scratched or chiseled in after the item was produced. lists ‘‘a .52 At the Mill Pond site in Boston. it seems that up through the eighteenth century. Massachusetts. Massachusetts.’’ (Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Commission) Charles’ Gift when he was forced to flee to Virginia. Research might shed light on why the bodkin seems to indicate small measures of thrift alongside efforts toward the appropriate and fashionable presentation of self.9 A silver bodkin recovered from fill of Boston’s Mill Pond. Among the most personal of finds was a silver bodkin of late-seventeenth-century date bearing the initials ‘‘EI’’—or perhaps ‘‘EJ. The detailed inventory of John Lowell of Newbury. as a means of linking it to its owner.] Fig.53 NEEDL E C ASES A ND NEEDL E PAC K AG I NG It is difficult to say exactly when people would have been able to purchase needles in ready-made packaging. dry goods dealers received needles wrapped in small paper packets. treasured their bodkins enough to personalize them and probably used them in social display. Soil within the land-making structures contained artifacts representing the rubbish of Bostonians’ daily lives. at the very least. it is monogrammed with the initials ‘‘EI. refer to the print version of this title. Its form and style are typical of seventeenth-century bodkins.70 The Needle [To view this image. and industry. 3.’’ since in the seventeenth century a ‘‘J’’ was often written as an ‘‘I’’ with cross-marks through it. The eye of this bodkin is broken and twisted. like women elsewhere. commerce. but it is evident that women in early Boston. and sometimes they show up this way in probate inventories. archaeologists explored features built on original land along the Mill Pond’s shoreline as well as structures built in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as shoreline revetments and to receive fill to create new land. dated 1647. We do not know who owned this bodkin.

10). needlecases and pin poppets were necessary accessories for almost every woman from very early in time. such as combs. pockets are non-existent. they were treated with considerably more care and respect than they receive at our hands today. or perhaps needles would have been inserted through a scrap of textile that was placed inside the case. particularly embroidery. Since for many centuries even the simplest tools. were at first relatively expensive items and all too easily lost. along with other implements like cosmetic sets. and each had a slot in the side and a separate .57 Few needlecases are known from late medieval sites. that needlecases were worn by women from chatelaines as a status symbol as well as for convenience. and any articles. only five examples have been identified in deposits from London. In the earliest forms of garment worn in Western civilisation. It would have been closed by a plug or bung at one or both ends and was worn suspended from a ring at its midsection so that it hung horizontally. therefore. work tools. knives. and so on. figured among desirable female accomplishments in medieval and early modern Europe and in its colonies: ‘‘it is not surprising.55 In chapter 1 I discussed how prominently needlework.54 Needles. keys. The earliest of these was found in a pit filled in during the twelfth century and was made from the long bone of a bird. 4s. and thus for reasons of both safety and convenience it was necessary for women to carry their sewing implements about with them. Sweden. and a typical example of such a needlecase was found in the ninth-century Viking occupation phase at High Street in Dublin.’’ 56 Tubular bronze cases found with needles still in them are common finds from the Viking period in Europe. Metal rings would have been inserted through the holes to allow the case to be suspended from a chain or girdle. This example from London is comparable to earlier examples from many sites in northern Europe as well as one from Birka. like pins.58 The other examples from London came from deposits dated to the late thirteenth and late fourteenth centuries.The Needle 71 boxe—4 papers of needles. such as needles or pins. it was pierced in the center of the shaft with two pairs of holes. made of bird bone. were scarce and difficult to come by. it required a plug or closure at either end. were attached by chains or cords to the waistbands of both males and females. Ireland.’’ Among the stored items in the collections at the Winterthur Museum is a box full of once fine but now-rusted sewing needles separated into packets made of folded blue paper (fig. likely because many were made of organic materials that have decayed. Because this needlecase was fashioned from a segment of long bone. 3.

carefully folding them into paper packets. 3. then counting out a specific number of needles of a given size.[To view this image. refer to the print version of this title.10 A collection of needle ‘‘packets’’ from the Winterthur Museum collection. These represent the practice of shopkeepers of purchasing needles in bulk. (Courtesy The Winterthur Museum) . for sale to customers. in this instance thick blue paper.] Fig.

5 inch. 3. refer to the print version of this title. it notes ‘‘a needle Case & 5 needles. the needles and case represented a good portion of the wealth he had in goods. especially production of bone cylinders of this sort. length: 3. through which a thin cord or thong could be passed. exterior diameter 1 inch. These had small slots made of an extra strip of metal soldered onto either side of the main cylinder. but many are single-hole bone discs that were intended to serve as button blanks or button backs and would have been covered with textile that matched the garment onto which they were . but one of the cylindrical needlecases had a secondary compartment inside that still contained an iron needle made from drawn wire. Mary’s City) cap. Because so little is known about these objects—where they were manufactured and when—I have made every effort to track down information about bone working. interior diameter 0. a tailor in Salem. almost every one of the fifteen seventeenth-century Chesapeake site collections I examined produced at least one turned bone pin poppet (fig. Note screw threads at either end. (Courtesy Historic St.11). that was submitted in 1677. The sheet-metal needlecases were folded or rolled (the former being rectangular and the latter cylindrical) and the seams soldered. none retained their caps. 3. while three metal needlecases were fashioned from thin copper-alloy sheeting. 6s. indeed. Massachusetts. but most worked bone objects recovered from sites in the Americas were intended as clothing fasteners. six shillings. with the head flattened and punched to form a tiny eye.11 A lathe-turned bone needlecase from the St. One case was made of calf leather.19 inches. Maryland. in hopes of shedding a little light on this category of artifact. Mary’s City.’’ Since White’s total estate value was only five pounds. John’s site (ST1-23-53C/CIA) at St.] Fig.The Needle 73 [To view this image. Bone artifacts are relatively common finds. The only documentary evidence I have found for needlecases in North America is an entry in the inventory of goods that belonged to John White. Some of these are complete buttons in and of themselves.59 Bone needlecases or pin poppets turn up regularly on colonial and later sites in North America.

consisting of the artifacts as well as manufacturing waste (usually flat portions of cattle bone. is often found in contexts associated with plantation workshops or with the living quarters of enslaved Africans (for example. reviews the debate over whether the working of bone. which they undoubtedly did in some contexts. the production of scales or side-plates for knife and fork handles. but similar deposits of manufacturing debris have been found in Europe at both medieval and postmedieval sites as well as from a number of late-eighteenth-century British and American military sites in North America. the archaeological evidence points . Evidence for manufacture of bone buttons or button blanks. into cylindrical objects that served various purposes. As a result. ivory. including lathe-turned bone. but also for fashioning gaming pieces and other objects. and other material. large deposits of horn cores are often cited as evidence of the initial steps in this process. in his comprehensive study of the technology of skeletal materials. Such waste is also found at almshouses and other institutional sites. although the horn had to be rendered flat after it was softened. so it would not be done by just anyone who wanted to have an implement or object made of bone. bone was used at times). hollow shaft.74 The Needle sewn. In cattle the metapodial is the solid. permitting an increase in both output and elaboration of examples. Bone turning clearly involved skill. at Monticello in Virginia) as well as at the encampments and villages of free or selfemancipated Africans (for example. More efficient lathes were developed in the late sixteenth century. rather. Kitts. West Indies. Arthur MacGregor. and even reptile. at Brimstone Hill in St. straight bone right above the foot. that is. especially metapodials. But elsewhere there is evidence for bone working of another sort. it has a straight.61 Early lathes are almost unknown from archaeological contexts. that is. This has given rise to the interpretation that African craft workers fashioned these items. antler. the reworking of sawn cattle bone. and horn in early times was merely a handicraft or a true industry. metapodials were commonly used for bone working. as did scale-making. not just for making the items listed above. Philip Armitage has noted that the long. though other mammal. but the type most likely used for bone turning before the late sixteenth century would have been either pole lathes of the sort shown in early manuscript illustrations or smaller bow-driven lathes. But there is little conclusive evidence for the existence of a true industry for this work.60 Bone button-making made use of flat portions of animal bone that would otherwise have been discarded as butchery waste. straight shaft of these bones—cattle hind-limb metatarsals—was ideal for turning on lathes to make knife handles and for splitting into slivers to make pins and bodkins. Fort Mose in Florida). and ivory. Horn was another material used for making scales.

] and the points of these are frequently polished from contact with the yarn. MacGregor thinks that many deposits cited as evidence of bone or antler workshops are more likely representative of the efforts of itinerant craftsmen rather than a full-scale industry—although by the late sixteenth century. several specimens of an implement the archaeologists refer to as tridents. handles. England. comb cases. and a tubular flute-like object made of a sheep tibia. Other sites in Hamwih did produce a large range of objects made from animal bone and antler. needles. produced an impressive array of both manufactured bone artifacts and waste from bone working dating to the tenth-century civilian occupation of the site. others were fashioned like awls and have been interpreted as pin-beaters or thread-pickers ‘‘for use in textile manufacture[. whistles. however. cattle or horse metapodials for comb segments. skates and prickers used by skaters. The archaeologists noted that the natural tubes resulting from the removal of the articular ends of the bones could be used for handles. The types of bone artifacts recovered included at least one comb (close inspection proved that most combs were made of antler.64 In Anglo-Danish York. Germany. spindle whorls. there was a clear preference for making certain objects from specific bones: fused cattle femurs for spindle whorls. places such as Nuremberg. where at one site seven of eight pits examined were filled almost entirely with sawn-off distal and proximal ends of mammal long bones. because of the improvements in lathe technology. pins. which is already needle-shaped. became centers of ivory working. and at least one from a cow metapodial).The Needle 75 to itinerant craftsmen making objects on demand and leaving behind relatively little waste and a few rough cuts. built in the late ninth century by local inhabitants on the former island of Walcheren in the province of Zeeland. leading to the assumption that the shafts of the long bones were taken elsewhere in the settlement for the next stage of manufacture. including weaving tools.’’ Another use to which bone was put in Danish York was the production . thirteen needles and needle-shaped objects made from the bones of large mammals (several from the pig fibula. and to a lesser extent bone. or hinges but do not suggest they would have been made into needlecases. and pins. Netherlands. as a refuge against Viking invasions.’’ 63 Extensive excavations in the western part of the fortified settlement of OostSouburg. and antler for knife handles. which is much tougher than bone). knife-handles. game-pieces.62 Abundant evidence of bone working and production of bone cylinders was found in the Saxon settlement of Hamwih beneath modern Southampton. gaming pieces. combs. There was no evidence for the manufacture of any finished articles on the site. was used for combs. a bead. a brooch. spindle whorls. ‘‘antler [of red deer]. Some of the bone ‘‘pins’’ were pierced and hence probably served as needles. England. At Hamwih. and bodkins.

however. indicating industrial production of some sort. and objects decorated with dot-and-circle ornament that were apparently intended for use as handles. New Hampshire.76 The Needle of skates. a depot established to supply Elizabethan fleets with meat products and other late seventeenth century. and cordons. Two have screw threads. ‘‘a number of putative bone cases survive. Germany. in contexts dating about 1540–1645. dice. beading. finished articles were not found in conjunction with the primary production phase. Also found in eleventh. which contained several fine bone needles though none of metal and notes that needlecases ‘‘manufactured from the shafts of hollow long bones are commonly found in pagan Saxon cemeteries on the Continent. was remarkable for the increase in the number of sawn cattle limb bones. is similar to the Basing House examples. which. a fragmentary example from the Jackson House in Portsmouth. All three are rather finely turned. at the Royal Navy Victualling Yard opposite Tower Hill in London. thus bringing us no closer to knowing their place of manufacture. Much of the material consists of combmakers’ waste and rejects.through twelfthcentury levels at High Street were carved bone trial-pieces (experimental or practice carvings). The middle period of occupation. Excavations on High Street in Dublin produced evidence of intensive working of bone and antler from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. was found at the site of Bridewell Palace in the City of London.’’ He mentions one case from the Limes fort at Stockstadt. come from a domestic rather than industrial context. and another from Champlain’s Habitation in Québec City)—although a rather sophisticated bone needlecase from the late-seventeenth-century Josiah Winslow home site in Plymouth. including sawn cattle metapodials. England. the function of which the archaeologists could not identify. these are animal ribs or long bones inscribed with elaborate panels of interlaced animals and geometric motifs.67 MacGregor. in his exhaustive typology of artifacts fashioned from skeletal materials notes that once metal sewing needles became available they ‘‘entirely displace[d] all those of bone’’ and that. with embellishments such as baluster-type curves. indicating that they may once have had tight-fitting closures. Once again. archaeologists found several bone objects—combs made from flat sections of bone as well as three turned bone cylinders. other objects made of bone and antler include game pieces. Massachusetts.65 At Basing House. for storage of these metal needles. Also in London. These cylindrical bone objects found at Basing House are the closest parallels I have found to the lesselegant items from seventeenth-century sites in North America that have been identified as needlecases (for example. archaeologists found considerable evidence for the manufacture of horn and bone objects.66 Evidence of bone working during the mid. in Hampshire. of which numerous examples have been found. 1635–1726.’’ .

sewing clamps. and many cases of this type were found at Birka in Sweden.69 A good example of the shorter. This may have been a ‘‘cotton barrel’’ or thread box instead of a needle. and initially they were used for both pins and needles. with the needles being stuck through cloth pulled into the tube on a string. cotton barrels. About the mid-eighteenth century. the constituent parts of which are linked by integral screw threads. and pincushion holders. however. cylindrical form of needlecase.or pin-case. instead. lace bobbins. was plugged with iron at one end. came into fashion’’ in the late seventeenth century. several elements being combined to form sewing sets. threaded at one end. these pinpoppets were very popular and made charming little gifts. presumably loss of a lid spelt catastrophe for the owner and perhaps that is why the cases were discarded. from being several inches in length became only about 2in high. silk winders. eighteenth-century version of a pin poppet was found at Notley Hall. with threads at either end for closures. but archaeological evidence. Medieval needlecases were open at both ends. yarn measures. about two inches long. they became specifically made to contain pins and. Some are of composite construction. Such a case from Jarlshof. He notes that ‘‘many of these are elaborately lathe-turned and intricately carved or pierced. Shetland. Maryland. A somewhat similar bone object. but they seem to have passed from fashion by the end of the eighteenth century. Missing its cap that quite obviously was a tight-fitting screw-thread clo- . and the pin-case . was found at a small 1840s sawmill camp on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. the threaded lid fitting one end of the case was also recovered. She also notes that pin-poppets were probably a development of the long. since few examples are known from the 1800s. In days when it was still customary for women to carry a small supply of pins about with them in order to be able to rectify any small mishap which might occur to their gowns or their many ruffles and laces. thimble cases. Mary’s County. indicates an earlier date for their use and distribution. with a hole cut at the other end for a cord to pass through. he mentions the late-eighteenth-century explosion in the output of sewing accessories in bone and ivory.70 Only rarely are bone needlecases found with both their closures.’’ 68 One expert on needlework collectibles claims that ‘‘small cylindrical cases known as pin-poppets. including needlecases. St.and seventeenth-century needlecases.The Needle 77 Viking age needlecases found in Scotland were fashioned from the pneumatic leg bones of goose-sized birds and sometimes have a transverse perforation in the center. or pin-dollies. it is just about two inches long and one inch in diameter. . . wax boxes. from North American sites if not European ones. But MacGregor says nothing about sixteenth.

Massachusetts (fig. however. bone pin poppet. Boston) sure is the lathe-turned.12 A late-seventeenth-century lathe-turned bone needlecase from the Katherine Nanny Naylor privy. but needlebooks often proved unsatisfactory because they could not prevent the needles stored in them .12). in contexts dating from 1700 to 1720. It is possible. 3. London. 3. Cross Street Backlot Site. (Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Commission.78 The Needle [To view this image. refer to the print version of this title. that some screw-thread tops were covers for awl-like tools such as prickers or stilettos. elegantly rouletted.71 Women could display their skills by fabricating their own needlebooks and decorating them with fancy embroidery or canvas work. recovered from the late-seventeenth-century Katherine Naylor privy in Boston. Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Boston. and these are just the sort of lids that would have been used on bone needlecases. Two bone lids with screw threads and carved tops were found at Aldgate.] Fig.

not the object).73 I N T ER PRET I NG NEEDL ES Never use a bent needle. the bodkin being the larger of the two. Such rollers. and their products were highly prized and expensive. In passing a needle. in the Georgian era such cylindrical needlecases were in wide use. were also fitted out with a roller that held the foundation loop for the netting. French and Italian manufacturers were highly skilled at carving mother-of-pearl into needlework cases and manifold other sewing accessories. too. hapgood. gold. contexts earlier than the third quarter of the seventeenth century) are difficult to classify according to the criteria that became common once needles were mass manufactured. because they would also be put into service for some types of lacework and occasionally for tambour work. tightly closed cylindrical cases generally proved more suitable. —olive c. and wood. were commonly kept in needlework boxes rather than in the netting needlecase. Tubular needlecases were made from a variety of substances. Until the end of the eighteenth century the terms were used interchangeably and could refer either to a small case holding only a few sewing needles intended for feminine use or to a case holding a bodkin. Some of the earliest were made in the form of small figures carved from ivory. School Needlework: A Course of Study in Sewing Designed for Use in Schools. Netting boxes. 1893 Needles found in medieval and early modern sites (that is.The Needle 79 from rusting. much plainer examples were made from wood or animal bone. and so on). netting needlecases were intended to hold the meshes or gauges as well as the needles. purses. beadwork. Embellishment of needlecases followed whatever designs were fashionable at the time. hairnets. between 1750 and 1815. for instance. had special cases. . cylindrical ones somewhat larger than those for regular needles. including ivory. tortoiseshell. usually for work making large.72 The difference between a needlecase and bodkin case is size. straw marquetry. Lathe-turning also allowed for smoothing and decorating as well as cutting grooves for threading. when used for daintier work. The vast majority of these were tubular because they were turned on a lathe (except those made of mother-of-pearl). as it makes uneven stitches. bone. sturdy. keeping the point towards yourself. but men as well as women owned bodkin cases. there was something of a craze for straw work done by prisoners of war. these averaged three inches in height and were divided in the middle with the top screwing into the bottom. Netting needles. Similar. because bodkins could be used by either sex for lacing up garments. the ornamental turning lathe was invented at the end of the seventeenth century and subsequently improved (in order to revolve the tool. workaday nets (versus bags. hand the eye of the needle to the person.

There are exceptions.5e. with a flattened head and tiny round eye. known as Old Portsmouth. one of iron and two of copper alloy. round in cross-section. not everyday sewing or embroidery. Five copper-alloy needles were recovered from various occupation phases at Rattray. most were long (the intact examples were about two. or the Netherlands. England. it is about three inches long and so was likely used for something other than everyday sewing. were produced individually. often at the eye. with a very small punched eye and extremely sharp point. All but one of these (the head of which was broken off ) had been flattened on one side only and had round. The iron needle. from a fourteenth-century context. in Spain. a Scottish royal burgh near Aberdeen occupied from the late twelfth through fifteenth centuries. punched eyes. the shape and size of the needle’s eye. of course. The other copper-alloy needle. based on what can be observed from published descriptions and drawings. and as mentioned above. attempt a provisional interpretation of the archaeological specimens. The tip of this needle is broken off. Among the small finds were three needles. 3. A mid-eighteenth-century level produced a rather stout-looking needle with an oval cross-section and elongated oval eye. early needles found in the British Isles or at sites of any of Europe’s early colonies are all likely to have been manufactured on the Continent. it is difficult to assign them to typological categories with precision. and three inches long. and the two broken specimens were one and three and a half inches in length) and were probably intended for fairly rugged work. is long and slender. from an early-eighteenthcentury level at Oyster Street.74 Excavations at Oyster Street. as well as the presence of a gutter or groove. These needles would have served in textile work and leatherwork for a variety of sewing and stitching tasks. two and a half. and as I have noted. was about four inches long and very pointed.80 The Needle Early needles. As discussed above. most of the examples of which I am aware are broken. it closely resembles pack needles such as the one illustrated in fig. including a complete long-eyed copper-alloy needle of a fairly large size recovered from a domestic context at Place-Royale in Québec City that I would tentatively identify as a darning needle. are the most diagnostic . Germany. Here I discuss finds from a variety of sites and. in the portion of the town of Portsmouth. None are fine sewing or embroidery needles. even those made from machine-drawn wire. but the curve on the shank appears to be its original form. Archaeological examples of early needles of iron or copper alloy are relatively rare.75 Needles are relatively rare finds at North American sites. Both of the copperalloy needles were from eighteenth-century contexts. produced many finds postdating about 1600 from both domestic and industrial or commercial contexts.

& I seing it not wondred at it. My survey of the literature and experience suggest to me that rugged. both standing up. the next best criterion is overall size or ruggedness (length and gauge) of the needle. and. Soe I then thought by her words she . These excerpts from a court case from seventeenth-century Ipswich. Massachusetts. it may have been an upholstery or collar needle or was perhaps used in leatherwork. Then the said Roper stood up and moved her stoole again seeming to looke for it. then he stept of the seat in my lapp. it glanct on the waynscott and so I hear it gingle on the flore. and with her other hande moved her stoole. suspecting then that the said Sara Roper had taken it up. and I saw the child drop the bodkin downe. Then afterward in the tyme of contribucon. then the flore being cleare. where I saw it fall and I did apprehende she was taking it up to give it me. bodkins were far more than a type of needle. if one is lucky. they were highly important and charged with special significance in terms of personal identity and status. and laying one hand on the waynscott and poynting with the other said it were in that crack. and Sarah Day her chayer. An excavated needle that seems bent or curved should be inspected closely to determine whether the curve was intentional. A TA L E OF A BODK I N Because bodkins were often worn on the person and inscribed with the owner’s name or initials. the taper or shape of the point. If the eye is missing. The attention given them in seventeenthcentury court cases as well as in other sources points to the potent role these small objects played in the construction of personal identity. Then I saw the said Sara put downe her hande betwixt Sara Day and her selfe.The Needle 81 criteria for distinguishing among types of sewing and special-purpose needles. but she pullde up her hande againe. however. Soe being in type of exercise. but lett it alone till after Sermon. betwixt Sara Day and the said Sara Roper. illustrate the point: Elizabeth Hunt’s complaint made before Samuel Symonds: That the last Sabboth day (being the second day of may) my child stoode uppon the seat by me with my bodkin in his hande. I the said Elizabeth Hunt stood up looking over the waynscott. I wished them not to trouble themselves. laying hold on the waynscott. shewing my desire to have them looke a little for it. if so. A spear-shaped or three-square point may indicate a needle intended for use by an upholsterer or leatherworker.76 One special-purpose needle that survives well is the bodkin. special-purpose needles are far more likely to survive in archaeological contexts than fine sewing or embroidery needles. with the bodkin in his hande. the cross-section of the wire used for the needle.

of what she would make me guilty of. the next morning I gave it to my sister. and we can proove an utter falsehood as to the case. Copy of Sarah Roper’s answer to the complaint made before Samuell Symonds: Whereas in your warrant you are pleased to charge me wth stealing your bodkin. for it is a meere contradiction as he that is wise may easily discern. but could not get it. in which supposition you are all much mistaken.77 Silver bodkins figure prominently in two other Ipswich court cases. in her receiving her bodkin without any due order of law. by reason the owner received it without any damage. further in case goodman hunt had bene greived with me. But he refuseing to carry it. & therefore said nothing to goodwife hunt. neither did I see it nor feele it. which is altogether false I stole it not. Then after the people were all gon I looked diligently for it. and were twice bequeathed by women in their wills (table 3. she proveth her self accessory to the law. who read the name & said it was goodwife hunts bodkin. I was turning up the cuff of my sleeve. And as the bodkin was suddenly lost soe it was suddenly found & as speedily returned to the owner[. Mr. pulled downe my cuff. Her accusers probably maliciously assumed that she had lost status when she lost her husband. the wife of John How was presented by the grand jury ‘‘for wearing a silk scarf and silver bodkin when she was a widow’’—but the case was discharged. are sometimes listed in probate inventories. but she will goe about to prove me a theef. In this instance. Massachusetts sumptuary laws forbade ostentation in dress by anyone whose income was less than two hundred pounds a year. for I said may be the woman will be troubled for it. And prsently after.78 .82 The Needle saw it. but apparently the court quickly determined the case to be otherwise.4). I thinke it had bene his place to have complained. if I mistake not. untill I came home and a little before night. I suspect How’s purported transgression hinged on her transition from married woman to widow. I went to goodman Smiths to see if [I] could see goodwife hunt to tell her that I had sent the bodkin by my sister but when I saw my sister there I thought she had given it her. And in your complaint you say you suspected that I had taken it up. & there I found a bodkin. & feeling some thing there. for I doe affirme that I tooke it not up. In 1663. I doe further apprehende goodwife hunts complaint to be groundles. I spake to my brother to carry it.] And therefore I suppose noe reason of charging me with it. sitting in the howse. Wilson being present but we could neither of us finde it. & not his wife likewise in case nothing will please her. & that I have stolen her bodkin then. or to make any complaint against me for it. which I prsently shewed to the folke in the howse. who deliverd it to her at the buriall of goodwife Whipple And when the people came to the burying place. as you were in yor charge. for example.

16s.7s.George Burrill. a walking Cane. a bodkin and small things 2s. 4s.]. Massachusetts. RF 6: Essex County. Bodkins mentioned in seventeenth-century Essex County. RF 6:301 PR 1:179 PR 1:233 PR 3:122 Source Sources: PR 1: Essex County. Massachusetts. 2 silver buttens.6s.6d. Henry Sewall. a bodkin. 2s. 2 knives 2s. RF 8:281 Source PR 1:46. probate inventories Table 3.’’ Charge discharged not guilty guilty Punishment PR 1:139 RF 3:70 RF 3:239ff. Sr. a pen knife& a bodkin. widow 1654 1656 1676 1677 1680 1680 Newbury Newbury Salem Lynn Rowley Residence silver bodkin. 3 gold rings.1s. Massachusetts. Estate value to Alis Haws her worst Philip & Cheny gown & two petticoat & a wast coat & two Aporns wth all smale linnin sutable to it & a siluer bodkine & a payer of pillowbeers I give to my Daughter Elizabeth all the remainder of my Howsehold stuff Childbed linning & else weareing Apparrell 1 siluer Tunn 1 siluer tipt Jugg 3 siluer spoones one gold ring.18s. 1s. hamer. sisers. thimble.6d. £330. [Mrs. £11. John Cole (wife’s trunk) John White. 2 deskes Bequest C. awl. One wine cup. 2 glas bottles. PR 3: Essex County. 1 bodkin. court cases Decedent Date B. £5. Bodkins mentioned in seventeenth-century Essex County. £25. Quarterly Court 1917. 6s.. RF8: Essex County. Probate Court 1916.11d. Bodkin. 1li. Relevant entries Frances.8s. RF 3:85–86 Source PR 3:417 PR 3:371 PR 3:301. Hawes Elizabeth Lowle of Newbury 1641 1650 wife of John How Sarah Roper Grace Stout 1663 1670 1682 not given Ipswich Ipswich Residence for wearing a silk scarf and silver bodkin for stealing a bodkin for stealing linen & owning ‘‘a silver thimble. Massachusetts. (bodkin here a tool) silver bodkin. Massachusetts. wills Decedent Date A. 4 silver spoons. Probate Court 1920. 3s.20s.6d. Massachusetts. tailor William Sutton Rebecca Howlet.4 Bodkins in seventeenth-century Essex County. wife of Robt.6d. Sr. 1 siluer bodkine. Massachusetts. £848. Bodkins mentioned in seventeenth-century Essex County. a Trencher Knif. a small old Chest. Quarterly Court 1913. Massachusetts: the documentary evidence .4d. Massachusetts.. RF 3: Essex County. Quarterly Court 1921 Name of accused Date £64.

pointed object. Samuel Hunt and his wife. it would appear. As Ulrich notes. who had received the stolen goods. especially among the community’s would-be gentry. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich details Roper’s testy relationships with her neighbors. Ulrich notes that the toothpicking incident was wholly a figment of Elizabeth Hunt’s imagination. most particularly to her nearly destitute friend Mary Bishop. But what is of interest is that the way the case played out hinged on what Sarah had done with her stolen goods: she distributed them to others in need. that is. An interesting aspect of the testimony during the appeal is Elizabeth Hunt’s claim that she had visited the house where Sarah Roper was employed and there had seen her picking her teeth with Hunt’s bodkin. whom Ulrich notes was a busybody and. those who aspired to be among the peers of Patience Denison. when the judge ruled that there was a suspicion of theft. but Patience Denison knew down to the smallest item exactly what had been taken from her household. a maidservant. Presumably this was intended to convey to the court Roper’s disdain for her betters. Testimony in the Hunt versus Roper case indicates that Elizabeth Hunt’s bodkin fell or bounced into the cuff of Sarah Roper’s dress sleeve and that she had returned the bodkin as soon as she found it.79 The upshot was that Patience Denison had to be satisfied simply with dismissing Sarah Roper—and was forced into the awkward and embarrassing position of prosecuting the impoverished Mary Bishop. Elizabeth. who had been playing with it. with stealing Goodwife Hunt’s bodkin after her young son. charged a young woman. and kind as a good housewife should be. this incident lingered in the memories of Ipswich housewives. In her book Good Wives. appealed for a stronger sentence. In 1665 Roper’s employer Patience Denison complained to the court that she had over the course of a year stolen at least ten pounds’ worth of goods and provisions from the Denison household. What intrigues me most about the episode is that Elizabeth Hunt chose to keep her baby quiet in the meetinghouse by handing it a long. dropped it during Sabbath services. Sarah herself indicated she thought Patience Denison was stingy rather than charitable. dispensing the sort of charity toward the poor that was expected of Patience Denison ‘‘as a wealthy and socially prominent member of her community’’.84 The Needle The case of alleged bodkin theft from 1670 is more complicated. The Denisons were well off. Sarah Roper was no stranger to the Ipswich court. Ulrich says that she ‘‘had given him the bodkin much as a mother today might . Even so. a pushy snob who felt that Sarah Roper needed to be taught a lesson about deference to her betters. wise. Sarah Roper. the Hunts had Sarah brought up on a charge of theft and. Testimony by Goody Bishop suggested that Sarah was. One such woman was Elizabeth Hunt. in effect.

Ulrich notes that Hunt’s motive in pursuing the charge likely stemmed from her resentment at being seated so close to someone whom she deemed an inferior. they were invested with meanings and with power. utterly peculiar and local? I suspect not. made of silver and monogrammed with her initials or name (this is how its rightful owner was determined). Hunt was dogged in insisting that Roper was a thief even though it was clear that Roper had returned the bodkin as soon as someone was able to read the name on it to her. often personalized—and because they were used by women and men to present and clothe their bodies by assisting them to lace themselves into their clothing. still part of a settler colony and a community in the making. and an attempt to reconstruct the discourses in which their findings once so potently figured.80 What lesson can the archaeologist take away from the cultural field we can reconstruct for seventeenth-century Ipswich. which at the time of this case was not much different from that of Sarah Roper (otherwise. where silver bodkins were so obviously highly charged with meanings about personal identity. It was thus a valuable and highly personalized possession and not an item typically owned by women of Elizabeth Hunt’s social rank. But a child could easily put its eye out with a bodkin! I suspect that Elizabeth Hunt the social climber had an ulterior motive for selecting the bodkin above other objects with which to amuse her child. George has characterized as ‘‘conversing by signs.81 . the public airing of Roper’s illiteracy while presumably Goodwife Hunt could read gave Hunt ammunition in her battle to force the community to recognize a social divide more wished-for than real. it seems likely. and because they were normally carried about on the person or even worn by women as part of outward social display as they peeked provocatively out of a woman’s head-hugging coif. as Ulrich points out. This made public the fact that Roper could not read. social rank. This requires close observation of the field or ground (the cultural context) in which their finds once operated. Hunt’s bodkin was. I think that we can interpret artifacts like bodkins from seventeenth-century and earlier contexts as only one of many objects through which discourses about self-identity and personhood were enacted.’’ Archaeologists would do well to attend to the ‘‘mnemonic power of goods. the two women would not have been seated so close to each other in the meetinghouse).’’ as Ulrich has urged historians to do. Bodkins were only one of many ‘‘small things’’ that were deeply implicated in the process historian Robert Blair St. and community notions about behavior appropriate to assigned social roles and gender categories? Was the situation in Ipswich.The Needle 85 hand a child her car keys or a bracelet’’ to distract it. Because bodkins were so personal—indeed. Though this was not unusual.

Her accuser. and like it extremely. a silver waistcoat hook..’’ 1 Why would a woman’s thimble found at the scene be conclusive evidence that Grace Stout was the thief? Other depositions provide clues to the line of reasoning the court followed in convicting Stout. having been caught red-handed and dismissed a year and a half earlier by Joseph Porter. among them a horn bottle. Samuel Pearce. stockings. a whisk. and when the theft was committed his wife was gone from home . —m. but on many occasions she produced cash to purchase a variety of goods. a bonnet. an earthenware porringer. Several testified that. Members of the community seem to have eyed her suspiciously even earlier. Jr. a carved box with a drawer in it and two locks. . Girlhood. . and three yards of ribbon. holroyd.4 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble I have worked with my Thimble. Massachusetts. linen cloth. . in Ipswich. a bodkin. when he was missing some money. a gilt box.2 86 . he accused her of taking it—and she produced it. when anyone asked. where he purchased for her a silver thimble. and he also was away often. He found her rummaging in his chest. because they found a woman’s thimble near the place where the linen was. eyewater. lace. but in the end a thimble was the instrument of her downfall. 1793 In 1682. a silver rump hook. Once. j. The court-recorded depositions reveal that Moses Pengry. was supported in his charge by the depositions of a series of witnesses. complained that Grace had stolen seven shillings and some linen from him: ‘‘His reasons were because she sometimes watched with his wife in the same room where these things were. She had a history of stealing from her employers. lutestring. ribbon. Stout professed to have no money. Grace Stout was convicted as a petty thief. she gave money to Nathaniel Knoulton when he went to Boston. because she passed daily by his house morning and evening to Goodwife Foster’s where she worked.

and perhaps she did fancier work as well. She stole from people she worked for and apparently from others as well. with both her earnings and her ill-gotten gains. In this instance a woman’s thimble became ‘‘matter out of place’’ in a deeply felt social sense as well as a clue that led to a thief ’s conviction.’’ The good citizens of Ipswich were just as offended by her impudence. would include items that enabled her to ply her skills better. Grace Stout was perceived as ‘‘social dirt. concluding she had spent more money than she could have come by honestly. the court seems to have required the further ‘‘proof ’’ that Stout was spending above her means. The court calculated how much she had earned against how much she had ‘‘laid out since coming to Ipswich. This was taken as corroboration of various people’s accusations. who they said ‘‘was a notorious thief. because several people attested that she never seemed to have any money or that they had no complaint against her (no one appeared to be what one might consider a strong character witness). Stout retorted that ‘‘she scorned to steal a shilling.3 The case of Grace Stout and her silver thimble shows how objects become highly charged with import and send messages that seem confusing because they are saying more than they seem to say. Grace Stout may have sought to strengthen her identity as a needlewoman by taking pleasure in the seemingly innocent ownership of a few fine sewing implements—and perhaps an elegant carved box to store them—but this overt display of consumption beyond her means and station made her contemporaries uneasy and suspicious. and not fit to live in any honest man’s house. But a housemaid with a silver thimble was overreaching herself. medical fees. she replied that if she had as much as ten shillings ‘‘she would eat the keeler that then she was kneading bread in. . Grace’s duties as housemaid involved mending and sewing.’’ including fines for abusing the tithingman. This tale is compelling evidence that .’’ ‘‘a liar and very naughty in all respects . So in a certain sense her purchases. and so on. but at other times she gave money or gifts to children and had money to spend on costly items such as a silver thimble. at least by the standards of late-seventeenth-century Massachusetts.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 87 People felt aggrieved and victimized by Grace Stout. Grace Stout inverted the social order in more than one way.’’ When accused of having a ‘‘pretty deal of money’’ by Mary Pearce and her daughter. her purchases. . however: after hearing that a shilling had been taken from Thomas Clark’s daughter.’’ Through her behavior.’’ a threat to the social order both tangibly through her appropriation of others’ goods and symbolically through her ownership and display of objects above her station. she never had a cent when asked for a loan. that she had a way to get money that nobody knew and never should know.

written by thimble collectors who often mention and illustrate archaeological examples. 4.1 The parts of a thimble. Erika Hill’s article ‘‘Thimbles and Thimble Rings from the Circum-Caribbean Region. Edwin Holmes assesses the archaeological literature acidly: ‘‘It appears however that thimbles have never received much attention from archaeologists and what little has been said about them is often nonsense. lumping everything from Egyptian to early American finds under the category of ‘‘early thimbles.’’ 4 For historical archaeologists interested in facts as opposed to ‘‘nonsense. Gay Ann Rogers claims that thimbles have inspired more prose than any other needlework tool). 1500–1800: Chronology and Identification’’ (1995). even humble or seemingly inconsequential needlework tools such as thimbles (fig. conversely.’’ Ivor Noël Hume’s brief treatment in his Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. many sources perpetuate misinformation about the origins and antiquity of metal thimbles (more on this below). Volume 2: Portable Personal Possessions (2002) are the most .1) figured prominently in the construction and negotiation of identity and served as symbols of status or. 1500–1800. 4. Collectors’ literature can be maddeningly vague about the dating of thimbles.’’ and according to one expert. but what they write is not aimed at archaeologists and hence tends to be of spotty and limited use to those who need to be able to make proper chronological attributions as well as meaningful interpretations of a fairly common artifact type. Collectors may draw on archaeological evidence from museums and published sources. and Kathleen Deagan’s discussion of thimbles in Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean.88 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble Fig. as indicators of behavior or ambitions unbefitting a person’s perceived or assigned station in life. but authors of such works often fail to cite sources for the archaeologically recovered specimens. THE HIST ORY A ND A RC H A E OL O GY O F THI M BLES There is a good-sized body of literature on thimbles (indeed. But it must be said in fairness to the collectors that archaeologists have seldom been of much help to them in their pursuit of the history of thimbles.

numerous and seemingly ordinary. Von Hoelle examined all of the European museum specimens identified as Roman in origin and concluded that none date earlier than the ninth century ad. I make liberal use of collectors’ works as well as archaeological sources and unpublished artifact assemblages I have studied in my research. who has written several books on thimbles and thimble-makers. or ivory that had been threaded with thin strips of leather or sinew. The origins and antiquity of thimbles as well as their eventual mass production and global distribution in the early modern era are of interest. so although I emphasize thimbles likely to be found at historical sites postdating European expansion. and Deagan have provided. offering a comprehensive guide to identification and dating of thimbles from the earliest times up to the twentieth century. have a history that is not without controversy. John von Hoelle. The history of thimbles before the sixteenth century has been reconstructed by thimble collectors who have consulted archaeological evidence. Hill. . the evolution of the thimble is closely linked to developments in textile production and metalworking and other technologies of manufacture.5 In the following discussion I expand on the information that Noël Hume. it has been tacitly assumed that the Romans were the inventors of the thimble (Von Hoelle describes this as ‘‘the myth of the legendary Roman thimbles of Herculaneum . Thimbles. The thimble was invented to protect the finger and thumb in the production of needle-sewn goods and garments. One author remarks that thimbles have been ‘‘universal’’ since about 300 bc in Syria and elsewhere throughout the world.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 89 useful sources to date. I also outline a framework for exploring the interpretive potential of thimbles from a variety of archaeological contexts. Syer Cuming of the British Archaeological Association in which he mistakenly attributed thimbles found at the site of Herculaneum to the early Roman occupation layers there. quoted by British and American authors for more than a hundred years’’). As a result they offer only tantalizing glimpses of the interpretive potential of thimbles found at archaeological sites. such a ‘‘seam- . In seeking the truth. This led him to look beyond the Roman Empire for the origin of the thimble. both for needles and for thimbles. remarks in his Thimble Collectors’ Encyclopedia that since the publication in 1879 of a paper by H. Each source is necessarily limited in length and hence in coverage. As a result. bone.6 In early prehistoric times it seems likely that it was women (though it could have been men) who laced skins together using blunt bodkins of wood. but just when they were invented and by whom remains a point of debate. though the results often are more anecdotal than systematic (both because of the spottiness of archaeological publication of such finds and the lack of stratigraphic control in many early excavations). I also look back in time to trace the lineage of thimbles. .

so an item known to archaeologists as a needle-pusher. but no physical examples of what these products may have been survive. spindles. people carefully selected stones of the right size and shape and drilled them specifically for needle-pushing—tools of this sort have been found at many Neolithic sites in Europe. no pushing implement was required for the bodkin because the awl had already done the work of making the holes for the lacing material to go through. and Anatolia and Palestine had developed high-quality linen production well before linen weaving became common in Egypt around seven thousand years ago. was brought into use to aid in the pushing and to protect the fingers or thumb doing the pushing. This prompted the development of a smaller imple- .000– 8000 bc) in Europe. based on finds of what have been interpreted as shuttles. or acutrudium. ivory. this consisted of a rock or small piece of wood. but there is growing recognition among archaeologists that evidence exists for some type of woven textile production during the Upper Paleolithic. Germany. Other examples from North Africa. No needle-pushers from this time have been reported.90 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble stress’’ would undertake her lacing only after she had used an awl or similar tool to punch holes in the hide. have a deep trough or groove drilled into one face of the pebble from which the tool is formed. necklaces. Prehistoric needles were made of a variety of materials—bone. Fabrics such as linen were lighter in weight than skins and coarse fabrics and hence required less effort to sew. but some very fine-eyed needles have been excavated from both Gravettian and Magdalenian sites. Eventually. beneath this hole were indentations drilled to catch the needle.9 Flax was used for textiles in Anatolia by the seventh millennium bc. and perhaps even decorated clothing.7 Strong pressure was needed to push a needle through a leather hide. thorns— and were thinner and more polished than their bodkin predecessors. and China. By the Mesolithic or Incipient Neolithic period (about ten thousand years ago). finds of pierced shell and tooth beads in Gravettian burials in France dating before 20. headgear. southern Russia. with a large hole near the top into which a small finger would have fitted (though one author posits that this hole was drilled to permit the tool to be suspended around the needleworker’s neck on a cord).8 No evidence exists for the production of cloth per se before around 7000 bc. These finds have given rise to the growing acceptance of the notion that some sort of basketry or simple weaving was practiced at this time. A particularly striking example was recovered at the site of Eilsleben.000 bc suggest at the very least string sewn or netted into bracelets. near Magdeburg. it is made of black amphibolite. and a spindle weight. Africa. averaging about three inches in length. the bodkin had evolved into a pointed needle with large eye. as well as weavelike patterns carved onto bones at Magdalenian sites (about 15.

and they invented the steel needle and sewing ring. It seems likely that the silk trade also brought to the West the metal needle ring or sewing ring that later developed into what we now term a thimble ring. Although the concept of the needle ring reached Persia before the seventh century and Byzantium by the ninth century. the ends were not soldered together but left unjoined so that an individual could easily fit the ring to his or her finger or thumb. and in some cultures needleworkers protected their fingers by sewing small. Many examples made of bronze. the majority were made ‘‘in the flat’’ from a thin strip of metal and rolled to form a ring. leatherworkers. caplike finger shields of leather or fibrous material. Byzantine. and a version survives in the form of the sailor’s palm. few metal thimbles with good provenance have been found in sites dating before the ninth century ad in Europe—although some imported Chinese-style rings may have come along the . the earliest ‘‘thimble’’ was probably a simple piece of leather wrapped around the finger to absorb the pressure of the needle. and heavy canvas and leather sewing by men using cast-bronze needle-pushers. brass. and sewers of heavy woolens. and their advantage over those of bronze or iron was quickly perceived. the context of the find dates it to about 1200–1000 bc. half thimble. and Han dynasties. Steel needles were absolutely necessary for sewing fine silk and were originally produced for Chinese silk workers. or zen-huan. This type of implement was used throughout the Middle East until the late eighteenth century. The cast-bronze pushers are thought to have been used by men who stitched heavy canvas for sails and tents. Many examples of these acutrudia have been found at sites of Roman. Sewing rings sometimes were elaborately decorated. half needlepusher. Manchu. sometimes with overlapping ends. some are elaborately decorated.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 91 ment that could be worn on a finger or the thumb. as early as the second century ad.10 During the Bronze Age (about 3000–800 bc) the palm-held needle-pusher evolved into a cast-bronze implement with an elongated oval shape. other types of hybrid pressure tools. Although some were cast in one piece. A stone grooved on one side to accommodate a needle and on the other to fit over a finger was excavated at the Egyptian site of el-Lisht. by carpet-makers. Sung. were also used. The silk trade brought steel needles to the West sometime during the first century bc. and silver have been excavated from sites dating to the Tang.12 Archaeological evidence reveals that the Chinese were using metal needle rings. and Ottoman occupation. Scholars posit that sewing in Iron Age and Classical times fell into two broad categories: stitching of lightweight textiles by women using leather wrapping to protect their fingers.11 The Chinese were the first to discover the process of alloying carbon with iron to make steel.


The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble

silk routes with other goods. Even the thimble rings found at pre-ninth-century
Roman sites seem to have been imported.13
Excavations of the Byzantine occupation levels (ninth through thirteenth centuries ad) at the sites of Antioch, Ephesus, and Corinth have yielded dozens of
bronze ring-type thimbles, similar to early Chinese examples, whereas the Roman and Greek occupation layers of the same cities have produced no thimbles of any sort. The earliest thimbles in the Middle East likely were made of
camel bone. The city of Ctesiphon, near modern Baghdad, Iraq, was destroyed
in the seventh century ad and never reoccupied; here, excavators recovered two
ring-type thimbles made from sections of camel bone. Two copper-alloy thimble
rings were recovered from predynastic tombs at Naqada, Egypt, by Sir Flinders
The type of thimble of greatest interest to archaeologists working at sites of
medieval and postmedieval date are those made not of exotic animal bone but of
brass, because brass thimbles could be mass-produced and hence were the most
affordable and the most widely distributed. Metalworkers of the early Islamic
empire developed the large, heavy, cast-bronze thimble that completely covered
the tip of the finger or thumb, and this type of thimble became nearly universal in later times. Brass thimbles of the Islamic empire were made in three basic
styles, defined by Von Hoelle as follows.15
Turko-Slavic thimbles are distinguished by their large, bulbous dome—
indeed, they are shaped rather like turbans—suggesting Persian or Turkish influence; many have rudimentary lines as decoration. They are found throughout
the eastern Mediterranean as well as in Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, in sites
dating from the thirteenth through the eighteenth centuries. They were cast in
bronze via the cire perdú method, and the indentations were hammered in after
the thimble was cast. Although Von Hoelle mentions that some have ventilation holes, another thimble expert, Estelle Zalkin, states emphatically that ‘‘no
thimble was ever manufactured with ‘vent holes’ in the cap or side.’’ Perhaps,
then, the holes found in Turko-Slavic style thimbles resulted from the method
of manufacture (lost wax) or through use.16
Hispano-Moresque thimbles have pointed tops, date from the tenth to the fifteenth century, and are found primarily in western North Africa and Spain, but
also in France and in Viking settlements as far north as Denmark. The indentations were carved right into the wax model used for casting the bronze thimbles,
which tended to be rather heavy but were often decorated on the band with geometric, floral, and other patterns. John von Hoelle illustrates several examples of
this style of thimble from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution.17
Abbasid-Levantine-style thimbles often have a distinctive ‘‘ledge-type’’ rim jut-

The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble


ting out from the base of a dome-shaped silhouette; they differ from the other two
styles because they are neither bulbous nor pointed at top. They tend to be decorated with plain bands or a series of chevron motifs separating triangular areas
of hand-punched indentations; they look like miniature helmets. Such thimbles are found in sites throughout Asia Minor, particularly Israel, Syria, TransJordan, Iraq, and Iran, and date from around the ninth through twelfth centuries, somewhat earlier than other cast-bronze Islamic thimbles. They also tend
to be relatively rare and are considered to have been used primarily by men who
stitched heavy canvas, leather, or carpets. John von Hoelle believes that it was
the ‘‘Abbasid-Levantine style thimble’’ that returning Crusaders introduced into
pre-Renaissance Europe, which is why this style was adopted by the earliest western European thimble-makers.18
Even though examples of the domed Abbasid-Levantine-style thimble may
have reached Europe among the booty of returning Crusaders, this type of thimble was not immediately and universally adopted. Ring-type thimbles of bronze
and leather were commonly used for sewing lightweight fabrics until sometime
in the thirteenth century. The earliest reference to a thimble in Germany is
found in a passage written by Saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1190) in ad 1150;
Bingen used the word zieriskranz (ornamental wreath), referring to a metal sewing ring, rather than the word fingerhut (thimble), which seems to have been
later in derivation. This leads to the inference that Bingen employed a ring-type
rather than a domed thimble.19
Germany, particularly Lower Saxony, was one of the main sources for brass in
medieval times because the raw materials for brass founding—copper and calamine—were readily accessible to local miners. By 1373 an artisan named Praun
was established in Nuremberg as a thimble-maker, and soon the city of Nuremberg became a center of thimble-making, among other brass objects, and was
especially well known for the quality of the thimbles produced there. Examples of
early brass thimbles of European manufacture have been recovered from excavations at such sites as Castle Raubritterburg Tannenger, in Darmstadt, Germany,
which was destroyed in 1399, and others are found in museum collections.20
What the Nuremberg thimble-makers perfected was the production of a
smaller, lighter thimble made of latten, an alloy of copper and calamine. The result is a porous and easily worked metal that can be polished like brass and that,
like copper and its alloys, produces a bright to dull green corrosion. Early latten
thimbles were cast in sand molds, though some were hammered into a shallow
die; the cast examples tended to be somewhat thick and squat from around the
twelfth century until the fifteenth century, but in the late 1400s their form became taller and thinner as casting techniques improved. After the twelfth cen-


The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble

tury, latten thimbles gradually replaced their leather counterparts, although in
some cultures people still used leather thimbles until well into the nineteenth
Interestingly, in thirteenth-century France, the method by which thimbles
were made dictated who could make them. Two metalworking guilds governed
thimble-making: the buckle-makers made latten thimbles using the sand-casting
method; button-makers made thimbles in copper and iron. Whereas the iron
thimbles were cast, copper thimbles were made using an iron dapping block,
dapping die, and hammer.22
This variation in production techniques, materials, and producers meant that
a variety of thimble shapes were produced. Overall, most early Western thimbles
are of the short dome type with indentations that were either drilled or hammered. Many have a small hole in the top to facilitate sand-casting; others have
a small notch or two in the rim that helped secure the thimble to a lathe, which
was used to hold sand-cast thimbles while they were spun and smoothed with
a finishing tool to remove roughness and irregularities left by the casting process. Sand-casting was the predominant technique for producing thimbles before
about 1530, when the metalsmiths of Nuremberg discovered the secret of refining
zinc from calamine. The alloy of copper and zinc could be rolled into a sheet
metal that produced better thimbles than earlier alloys of copper and raw calamine because it was very malleable and could easily be hammered into thimble
form, indented, and polished to shine like gold. This development spurred the
formation in 1534 of a separate guild of thimble-makers, who made thimbles of
‘‘beaten metal,’’ and dapping, also called deep drawing, became the chief means
of producing thimbles.23
The trade in Nuremberg thimbles was extensive, ‘‘widespread and international.’’ Indeed, forty Nuremberg thimbles were included among the cargo of
the wreck of a Venetian merchantman, possibly the Gagiana, which sank near
Gnalic off the coast of Yugoslavia in 1583. The thimbles, along with a prodigious
quantity of Venetian glass, were intended for buyers in Asia Minor.24
From the middle of the sixteenth century until the eighteenth century Nuremberg thimbles were made in a distinctive style. The indentations usually began at
the top of the band and spiraled around the body of thimble until they reached
its top, and the side of the thimble met the top at nearly a ninety-degree angle—
the domed look was gone. The new style of longer thimbles gave a space for ornamentation on the band, and by the late sixteenth century, a profusion of mottoes,
dates, and motifs were used. Some thimbles now had maker’s marks stamped on
the band just before the start of the indentations; marks included clover leaves,
goblets, keys, stars, and so forth. Of twenty-seven thimbles and five thimble rings

The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble


found at sites along the Thames in Southwark, London, in contexts dating from
1450 to 1700, eight have maker’s stamps. No two are alike, but all have been attributed to Nuremburg thimble-makers.25
Meanwhile, thimble-makers in Holland, England, and Sweden continued to
employ the sand-casting method, with some refinements, until the early eighteenth century, when the secret of refining zinc became more widespread
throughout Europe. The deep-drawn method, now with motive power for the
presses, was adopted by all major mass-production thimble manufacturers of the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.26
The decline of Nuremberg in the mid-seventeenth century led to the rise of
thimble-making in the Netherlands. The major Dutch thimble-making cities
were Schoonhoven, Urtecht, Vianen, and Amsterdam; here the trade was passed
down in families known as Vingerhoeds (thimble-makers). In 1687 the four leading Vingerhoeds formed a cartel that produced in excess of three and a half million thimbles per year. The thimble monopolists set prices, quotas, and styles
and discontinued the use of makers’ marks among themselves. The Vingerhoeds’
control over thimble production lasted until the 1730s, when English and German production methods again predominated; by 1770 the Dutch manufacture
was limited almost solely to silver thimbles.27
The earliest metal thimbles used in England were imported from Europe
in the fourteenth century, and they looked very much like the pre-Renaissance
thimbles of Germany. Customs documents for 1550 reveal that thimbles were a
major item of trade; Holmes found listings in the Book of Rates at the London
Customs House Library for imports of large numbers of thimbles at steadily increasing rates: five shillings per thousand in 1550; thirteen shillings, four pence
in 1582; twenty shillings per thousand in 1610, and three pounds per thousand in
1642. It seems likely that before such imports appeared the English were using
leather finger caps instead of thimbles, and excavations in the City of London indicate that it was not until after about 1350 that metal thimbles began to appear
in any quantity. By the sixteenth century a distinct English style of thimble came
into being. The new English thimble was tall and made in two pieces, one a strip
rolled into a cylinder and the other a round cap brazed to the elongated, cylindrical body of the thimble. Decoration on such thimbles was limited to handchased chevron motifs, although often those produced before the Restoration
bore pious mottoes such as ‘‘feare god’’ or ‘‘labour is profitable’’ engraved
around the rim. Overall, these early English thimbles were fairly crude.28
Several copper-alloy thimbles were recovered from the wreck of the Mary
Rose, which sank in the Solent off Portsmouth, England, in 1545. Holmes writes
about eleven of these, noting that eight are ring-type thimbles with an open top—


The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble

exactly the sort of heavy-duty thimble one would expect on shipboard for mending sails and so forth. The ring-type thimbles are in fact ‘‘generally rougher than
might be expected and correspond to a thimble previously thought to date from
about 1450–1500.’’ Since they were found along with far more sophisticated thimbles, it is clear that rather crudely made thimbles continued to be produced and
were perfectly adequate for heavy work, especially in the maritime world, well
into the sixteenth century and possibly beyond.29
Despite the emergence of a homegrown style of thimble, English metal thimble production remained modest, and as noted, until the late seventeenth century most of the brass thimbles used in England were imported. Hence thimbles
supplied to the English colonies in America originated on the Continent and
were transshipped through English ports or acquired by the colonists through
trade with Dutch or other European traders operating in the Americas.
The English thimble industry truly got started when in 1693 a Dutchman
named John Lofting, having secured a patent from William and Mary for a
thimble-knurling machine, established the first English thimble mill at Islington,
later relocating to Great Marlow. Lofting’s manufacture of sand-cast brass thimbles constituted the beginning of large-scale thimble production in the British
Isles. The Dutch-style Lofting thimble dominated the exports to the American
colonies until the middle of the eighteenth century, and many thimbles found
in North American excavation contexts dating from the mid-1690s to about 1750
likely are products of Lofting’s factory.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, English thimble production was centered in Birmingham, with more than a dozen manufacturers making gold, silver, pinchbeck, steel, brass, and steel-topped thimbles. By the 1770s
brass thimbles, elegantly enameled, with cartouches painted with landscapes and
so forth and called Bilston-Batterseas, were made in South Staffordshire. These
are relatively rare and tend to survive in collections, seldom appearing archaeologically.30
Porcelain thimbles were first developed by Meissen as an objet de galanterie,
but were gradually adopted by English porcelain manufacturers, notably Royal
Worcester; the late eighteenth century saw the introduction of porcelain thimbles by potteries in Worcester, Derby, and Chelsea, and since the eighteenth
century large numbers of ceramic thimbles have been produced, in some cases
for practical use but chiefly as decorative collector’s items or souvenirs.31
Until the late seventeenth century, most brass and silver thimbles used in the
American colonies were imported from Holland and Germany. Holmes states,
however, that even on the Continent thimbles of silver were ‘‘too valuable to

The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble


serve for domestic purposes until the latter half of the sixteenth century and
even then few have survived.’’ So although there are early American-made silver thimbles, both European- and American-made silver thimbles predating the
eighteenth century are relatively rare in collections and hence noteworthy when
found in archaeological sites. Examples do exist in both contexts, however. The
Rhode Island Historical Society has a silver thimble ring made 1662–1672 with
the name esther willit inscribed around the band; although this example is
often cited as the earliest known American-made silver thimble, Gay Ann Rogers,
in her book American Silver Thimbles, expresses doubt that it was made by an
American silversmith. Found on the site of the Willett homestead on Aquidneck
Island in Rhode Island, the Willett thimble ring is topless, has a rather crudely
chased heart enclosing a circle (the inscription is also rather crude), and has
hand-punched squared indentations in concentric circles around the body. Two
other silver thimbles in the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society
were recovered from the grave of Princess Ninigret (a daughter of Weunquesh,
chief sachem of the Narragansett, 1676–1690), so the thimbles buried with her
predate her death in 1660, but their place of manufacture remains unclear.32
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has in its collections a seventeenthcentury silver thimble bearing a chased tulip design, which suggests a Dutch
origin. This thimble is fairly short, domed, and made in two parts, with handpunched circular indentations in concentric circles around the body and arcing
across the crown; it has a plain band with no rim, but there is a thin chased line
just above the finger opening.33
Although most excavations at the many sites that once made up the town
lands of St. Mary’s City, Maryland, have resulted in the recovery of one or more
copper-alloy thimbles, two silver thimbles have been found. Both bear markings that have thus far eluded identification. One was unearthed at the site of
St. John’s, the other at the Van Sweringen site. Both are probably imported and
may have been brought to the colony by the women who were their owners. The
thimble recovered from the Van Sweringen site came from a filled-in cellar hole
beneath what archaeologist Henry Miller has identified as a coffeehouse associated with the main dwelling (fig. 4.2).34
Most copper-alloy thimbles excavated from seventeenth-century sites in North
America reveal Dutch influence. Dutch thimbles of this time period tend to be
undecorated; indeed, Dutch brass thimbles tend to remain fairly simple in design in contrast to the elaborate decoration found on silver thimbles of the same
period (for example, on the Colonial Williamsburg thimble). Erika Hill illustrates a good example of a Dutch-style thimble from the site of En Bas Saline,

base diameter: 0. refer to the print version of this title.655 inches). however. especially in such major port cities as New York and Boston. The Richardsons’ business records reveal that the colonists’ taste was somewhat behind that of England. and as noted above. jewelers. Mary’s City. but craftworkers could not compete with the English producers of copper-alloy thimbles until the end of the eighteenth century. base diameter: 0. the right is from the van Sweringen site (ST1-19-442J/DQ.] Fig.669 inches. (Courtesy Historic St. Mary’s City. Many smiths. 4.35 American silversmiths did make silver. and for much of the eighteenth century colonial needleworkers demanded the shorter thimbles of the sort their seventeenth-century predecessors had used. John’s (ST1-23-2R/DQ.62 inches). for the Richardsons often complained that the thimble bodies sent to them were too tall. and the center of the crown lacks indentations. giving it the ‘‘tonsured’’ appearance characteristic of European thimbles predating 1650. Evidently the European fashion for thimbles with elongated bodies was not readily adopted in the colonies. the city . as is the case for all but one of the thimbles. height: 0. and silversmiths like the Richardson family of Philadelphia did a good business in retopping silver thimbles. This example bears large. from St. circular indentations hand-punched in a highly regular pattern of concentric circles as well as a noticeable ledge-type rim. Some women preferred thimbles made wholly of silver.98 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble [To view this image. Later Dutch thimbles have wheel-applied knurlings that cover the dome of the crown as well as the thimble’s sides.736 inches.2 Two silver thimbles found at St. both silver and copper alloy. and occasionally gold. This is a cast-brass thimble with domed crown. and merchants advertised in the colonial newspapers the availability of shipments of thimbles and other goods from England. height: 0. thimbles to order for wealthy American colonists.36 By the eighteenth century most silver and almost all brass thimbles found in the English colonies were imported from England. These imports often included steel-topped silver thimbles because silver tended to wear excessively. on such thimbles the brazed joint between the silver body and steel top is readily apparent. The left is from St. Mary’s City) Haiti—a Spanish colonial site constructed atop an earlier Taino Indian village.

for example. Unless there is evidence to the contrary. never intended for use. then soldering the ring to a top piece of a thimble made in the regular manner (deep drawing). and Palfrey. glass. Ceramic thimbles are normally cast in a mold. New Jersey. however. and many thimbles made specifically for collectors or for the souvenir trade may be impractical for sewing and. A new method of manufacture was developed that involved die-stamping a flat piece of silver. and certainly ones of ceramic or glass. Longmeadow. Bone. An American-based thimble industry was not established until after the Revolution. By the second quarter of the nineteenth century. while glass thimbles may be hand blown or cast in a mold. silver. it is unclear whether this change in shape was a result of demand (resulting. a New York silversmith of Dutch descent. Newark. then decorated either by being etched or hand cut.38 Holmes notes that some silver thimbles without hallmarks were made in imitation of English designs in dominions of the British Empire. Huntington. or fragments of them. Nifty. but they can be made on a wheel. I have not come across reports of any such finds. there were thimble factories in New York. and Philadelphia producing millions of thimbles in gold. often in an attempt to protect and encourage new industries. sought to emulate the established thimble manufacturers in Britain by making branded thimbles of their own. indeed. thimbles were made even longer and their walls even thinner than they had been in the eighteenth century. they were not highly competitive despite the tariff placed on imported goods. founded the first American thimble factory.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 99 of Birmingham was the center of English thimble production and hence the likely source for thimbles excavated from English colonial sites in North America and elsewhere. and Springfield. ivory. metalsmiths in India produced highly ornate thimbles of gold and silver. and stone thimbles tend either to be hand carved or formed on a lathe.39 Thimbles can be made of a dizzying array of materials. It is not impossible that thimbles of ceramic. wood. I suggest that thimbles of this sort. brass. In the second half of the nineteenth century. Rhode Island. are . would survive quite well in the ground. The most prominent of the Australian brand names were Elgin. rolling it up and soldering the seam. or other nonmetallic composition could be recovered from archaeological sites of fairly recent date. then decorated by hand painting or transfer printing. for example.37 In the first half of the nineteenth century. and steel. Providence. if found archaeologically. from a fashion for long fingernails). Massachusetts. when in 1794 Benjamin Halstead. Because these thimbles were of slightly poorer quality than the imported articles. Other British colonies and dominions developed their own thimble industries. Several silversmiths in Australia.

while not common.and twentieth-century thimbles of base metal and other materials carry either maker’s marks or pattern and trademark names. all sorts of subtle variations in thimble production and decoration that can be of help to collectors if not to archaeologists (who are less likely to work with thimbles distinguished by their valuable components such as precious metals or gemstones or by elaborate ornamentation). a thimble could become a highly personalized object both because it was worn on the body and hence personal in a direct sense and because it was used for an activity considered quintessentially feminine. at least in part. But Holmes points out what for archaeologists is nothing new: ‘‘The best way to date an early thimble with accuracy is to relate it to other objects with which it may have been found.1).100 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble best interpreted as items that may have been curated as part of a collection.40 DAT I NG THI M BLES In A History of Thimbles. or as souvenirs—especially if they bear commemorative slogans or depictions of scenic locales—rather than as elements of sewing kits. So even close control of archaeological context does not assure close dating of the object. this is understandable. the earliest brass thimbles were made in one of two ways: casting or dapping (hammering sheet metal into a die with a die stamp). the nature of the indentations. Given what we know about the techniques for mass production of thimbles that were developed as early as the sixteenth century and long continued in use. but thimbles.42 As noted above. as keepsakes. like so many other objects. Silver thimbles. As the example of Grace Stout illustrates. Edwin Holmes notes that evolutionary pointers one can use as guides for dating early thimbles are few.’’ Context is all. The only early thimbles that tended to be marked by their makers were those of silver and gold. was hammered into the holes with punches . usually a copper alloy. which I have adapted and expanded here (table 4. however. For these reasons. through which women could choose to define themselves. and the type of decoration. were often highly valued even if not valuable in a monetary sense. Hill provides a chronology of thimbles based on morphological characteristics. Thimble dapping began with a heavy iron block that had holes of different sizes let into it. women often went to great lengths to keep track of and to curate their thimbles (more on thimble cases below). sheet metal. but I am unaware of any excavated examples of made of gold. There are. are occasionally found on medieval and later sites. although many nineteenth.41 The attributes of thimbles that carry chronological implications include their manner of construction. certain variations in the treatment of the crown and rim.

The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble


of graduated sizes; the metal was heated at intervals—annealed—in a furnace to
soften it and render it malleable. Later thimbles were either cast or made in two
pieces from a strip of metal brazed at the joint, with the cap or crown added separately. By the end of the eighteenth century the process known as deep drawing
was improved. The new process, sometimes called thimble spinning, involves
stamping a thin disk of sheet metal over a mandril to form a shallow cup, which
is then subjected to several stampings until the desired shape is formed; then the
rim is curled over and rolled back while the thimble blank is spun on a lathe.
The blank continues to spin on the lathe while a band is pressed into its lower
part and while a knurling wheel is applied to the upper sides of the thimble to
create the indentations.43
The earliest thimbles have no rim and no decoration, except perhaps a single
incised or lightly hand-punched line; by the 1500s they sometimes bore engraved
or hand-punched decorations around the sides. By the eighteenth century thimbles were sometimes made with a solid projecting rim around the edge, and from
the nineteenth century onward the rim was turned over mechanically.44
The indentations or knurlings on a thimble were added to make it easier to
push needles. All working thimbles (as opposed to those made, for example,
as souvenirs) have indentations of some sort, in the earliest examples punched
by hand. The term knurling refers to machine-applied indentations; thimbleknurling machines and tools were introduced sometime in the late seventeenth
century, and the mechanically applied knurlings are easily distinguished from
hand-punched indentations. The size of the cavities or indentations normally
corresponds with size, or thickness, of the needle the thimble was likely to be
used with. In other words, the size of the indentations reflects the nature of the
work for which the thimble was intended; larger, heavier thimbles have large indentations, and smaller, lighter thimbles have smaller indentations. The latter
variety of thimble was far more prone to wear and decay so it is the heavier variety
of thimble that often survives best in archaeological contexts.45
In the late seventeenth century there was a change in the overall shape of silver thimbles; they were made in a shorter, more rounded form than before and
tended to have indentations covering the crown as well as the sides. Holmes
speculates that this is related to a change in the way people were sewing; the
earlier thimbles, with their bare, ‘‘tonsure-like’’ crowns, were likely used ‘‘sideways’’—that is, the sides were used for needle-pushing, whereas the shorter
thimbles, indented on the crown, allowed the thimble wearer to push a needle
through fabric using the top of the thimble. During this time the nature of the indentations changed as well; whereas sixteenth-century and earlier thimbles had
hand-punched indentations running around the body of the thimble in a spi-

leather finger shields; stone needle-pushers
bronze acutrudia; flat, elongated, grooved,
bronze, brass, silver needle rings; elaborate
camel bone thimble rings
bronze thimble rings
Turko-Slavic style; bronze, large, bulbous
dome decorated with crude lines
Hispano-Moresque style; bronze, pointed
tops, molded indentations decorated on
Abbasid-Levantine style; bronze, ledgetype rim, domed crown, hand-punched
bronze thimble rings
leather thimble rings
latten thimbles; domed crown, squat shape,
hand-punched indentations
elongated body with band, flat top indentations spiraling up body of thimble,
‘‘tonsured’’ crown
elongated body with band, flat top indentations spiraling up body of thimble,
‘‘tonsured’’ crown

c. 1200–1000 bc
c. 3000 bc–18th c.

before c. 1700

c. 1550–1650

c. 1375–1500

before c. ad 1375

c. ad 900–1100

c. ad 900–1400

c. ad 600
c. ad 800–1400
c. ad 1200–1700

c. ad 200

Diagnostic attributes

Date range

Nuremberg, Germany

Netherlands, Sweden, England

sand casting

Nuremberg, Germany

Europe; Germany

Asia Minor (brought to Europe by returning Crusaders)

Egypt, Anatolia, Palestine
Middle East, Roman, Byzantine, and
Ottoman Empires
China (imported to Middle East via Silk
Middle East
eastern Mediterranean, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary
western North Africa, Spain, France,

Place of production

sand casting, dapping, or deep

beaten sheet metal
hand sewn
sand casting, die-hammering

lost-wax casting

lost-wax casting

casting; beaten sheet metal; strip
not joined
hand carving
beaten sheet metal
lost-wax casting


Manufacturing technique

Table 4.1 Thimble and thimble ring chronology

elongated body with band, flat top indentations spiraling up body of thimble,
‘‘tonsured’’ crown, Vingerhoed monopoly
elongated, two-piece; hand-chased decoration of chevrons or mottoes on band
Lofting patents knurling machine, establishes
factory; Dutch-style thimble
Birmingham becomes center of British
thimble-making: gold, silver, steel, pinchbeck, brass
enameled brass thimbles; ‘‘Bilston-Batterseas’’
porcelain thimbles
Halstead establishes thimble factory; spread
of American thimble-making: gold, silver,
brass, steel
‘‘branded’’ thimbles, e.g., ‘‘Elgin,’’ ‘‘Nifty,’’
‘‘Palfrey’’; poor quality
ornate silver and gold
Iles patent thimbles; nonmetallic lining;
Horner patent thimble: Dorcas; some
have design registration no.; all ‘‘Pat.’’ or
U.S. patent for Dorcas

Sources: Hill 1995:85; Holmes 1985; Von Hoelle 1986



1850–c. 1900


c. 1770–late 1700s
late 1700s

c. 1750

mid-1690s–c. 1750


c. 1650–1730s


deep-drawing; steel core, heavy
construction; attracted to magnet


England (southern Staffordshire)
England (Worcester, Derby, Chelsea)
New York and other American cities

England; exported to North American


Netherlands; exported widely

deep-drawing; layering of materials

deep drawing

deep drawing, enameling
deep drawing

deep drawing

sand casting

beaten sheet metal

deep drawing


The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble

ral, during the seventeenth century the indentation tended to be either in the
form of small circles forming concentric rings around the body of the thimble
or small diamond-shaped indentations that created a honeycomb or waffle pattern. In the latter instances it is likely that the indentations, now properly called
knurlings, were applied mechanically. Indeed, by about 1650, almost all thimbles were indented using a knurling wheel. Of the two silver thimbles shown in
fig. 4.2, the one on the left, with its hand-punched indentations, was likely made
earlier than the example on the right, which has regularly spaced knurlings on
both its crown and body.46
The fashion for fancy thimbles for women of the nobility began during the
reign of Elizabeth I of England (1558–1603), and the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries gave rise to ornate ‘‘parlor thimbles’’ made of gold, silver, porcelain,
enamel, mother-of-pearl, ivory, tortoiseshell, wood, bone, horn, glass, and jewels;
these thimbles were designed more for show than for sewing. At the same time,
mass-manufacturing techniques made it possible for thimbles both of precious
and base metals to be made in vast quantities, and it seems likely that archaeologists working on nineteenth-century sites will encounter examples of these
mass-produced but often handsome and well-made thimbles. Because nineteenth-century thimble-makers often took out patents on their designs or manufacturing techniques and produced illustrated catalogs of their products, a great
deal is known about these items. One such English thimble-manufacturing
family was that of Charles Iles, Sr., who patented a thimble with a nonmetallic
lining in 1857 and whose son Charles Iles, Jr., took out a series of patents in the
late 1800s and early 1900s for ‘‘ventilated’’ thimbles that were intended to improve the wearer’s comfort by permitting perspiration to escape. These sorts of
thimbles are readily distinguishable by their composite layering of differing materials intended to provide the promised ‘‘ventilation.’’ 47
I have already mentioned the efforts thimble-makers undertook to improve
the strength and durability of silver thimbles by capping them with steel; this
practice began in the eighteenth century. The nineteenth century gave rise to
even more inventive ways of producing thimbles that combined the advantages
of silver with the durability of iron, and in 1884 an Englishman by the name of
Charles Horner patented a silver thimble with a steel core that proved to be ideal
for everyday, practical sewing. Horner was a master of marketing, and his efforts
to advertise and sell his new thimble were highly effective in making it widely
popular. He called his invention the Dorcas thimble, after a needlewoman mentioned in the Bible as someone who made coats and garments for the poor. This
name had already been adopted by many parish sewing circles in Victorian England and hence conveyed a strong sense of sewing linked to charity and good

The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble


works. Horner enhanced his cleverly named product with handsome packaging
and sold it through vigorous advertising campaigns in a variety of media. The
Dorcas thimble was made in a wide range of patterns with both registered and
unregistered designs, and in 1889 Horner received a U.S. patent in order to protect the American market for his thimbles. Recognizing Dorcas thimbles is not
altogether a straightforward process if they have lost their packaging, however, because few were actually marked. The originals did not carry a trademark, and because their steel lining disqualified them from being sold as silver thimbles, they
were not hallmarked. Some models carry the design registration number (for example, ‘‘Reg. No. 210799’’ for ‘‘The Shell’’ design), and all have the abbreviation
Pat. (for patent, which occasionally is spelled out) and a size number stamped
on the rim. The main means of distinguishing Dorcas thimbles is their heavy
construction, their greater than normal weight (about fifty-five pennyweights per
dozen), and the fact that they are attracted to a magnet.48

It is important for archaeologists to note the size of the thimbles recovered
from their sites, since the size is related both to the intended user as well as to the
thimble’s intended use. Brass thimbles were supplied in three basic sizes: girls’,
maids,’ and women’s (also available was a fourth size, large, chiefly for tailors and
men and women who engaged in heavy sewing). Silver thimbles, in contrast,
were initially custom-made as special orders for individual purchasers, but as the
demand for silver thimbles increased after the second quarter of the eighteenth
century, jewelers and silversmiths would either build up a stock in varying sizes
or make large numbers of thimbles and resell them to other retailers. Large consignments of such thimbles were exported to the American colonies from London indenting houses.49
Until sometime in the twentieth century almost all young women were taught
to sew by their mothers, so throughout the centuries there was a large demand
for thimbles to fit the fingers of very young girls. The demand, however, was
filled largely by child’s and young women’s thimbles made of inexpensive copper alloy because youthful needleworkers tended to outgrow their small training
thimbles; as a result, the small-sized thimbles were likely to receive less wear than
adult thimbles. Exceptions might occur in institutional settings such as sewing
schools—at nineteenth-century charity schools, for example, girls were expected
to be able to sew and to knit their own stockings by age five—where institutionally supplied thimbles may have been used by a succession of students and hence
subjected to excessive wear.50

6. who remains unknown because no one we know of who lived at the site had these initials. whereas the reverse was true in the United States as well as in Germany. 10 4 12. the Netherlands. machine-impressed knurlings. 3 9. 5. 4.’’ ‘‘the queen forever. 6. 10. recovered several thimbles of a sort ‘‘commonly found on Australian sites’’ that were embossed with such messages as ‘‘esteem. 11 5.2).3). 7. 7 6. like the ones to the right of the silver thimble. 7 1 6. 14 8. and on its band it bears the motto ‘‘forget me not. 5 1. 3. 2. 7 8 2. as is the thimble in the far left of the image.’’ ‘‘remem- .2 Thimble sizes Country Child’s Small Medium Large United States Germany and Holland England France Norway 1.’’ was found in a late-nineteenth-century privy deposit in New York’s Five Points neighborhood. France. 8 3.106 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble Table 4. unintentionally leaving behind this diminutive calling card. the smaller the thimble (sizes ranged from 00 to 9). One can imagine a young woman somehow losing her thimble when she came calling with her ‘‘work’’ at the ready to take up while visiting with the female members of the household. it has regular. 5 9. This thimble. 3.’’ This personalized thimble must have held special significance for its owner. 2. 9. an identical thimble. 11. we see that the second from the left is a steellined silver thimble bearing the size mark ‘‘4’’ as well as the monogram ‘‘LBW. 12 Source: Zalkin 1988:19 Size marks did not become common on English thimbles before about 1880.’’ Such motto thimbles were common in the nineteenth century. notes that in the United States sizes 1 through 5 were children’s sizes and were often sold in graduated sets to accommodate a child’s growth (table 4. in her Handbook of Thimbles and Sewing Implements. Australia. for thimbles manufactured in the United Kingdom. The monogrammed thimble is of nineteenth-century date. 1 11. excavation of the Cumberland/Gloucester Streets site in the Rocks neighborhood of Sydney. is copper alloy. Estelle Zalkin. but the numbers given to the sizes differed not just between the two countries but in the United States among various thimble manufacturers as well. 4 9. In general.51 If we look at four thimbles excavated from the Spencer-Peirce-Little site in Newbury. along with a second proclaiming that it was ‘‘from a friend. 13. 12 4. 2 10. 8. perhaps slightly earlier on American thimbles. the higher the number. and Norway. 10 4. Massachusetts (fig. 4.

its trademark. nineteenth century. Left to right: copper-alloy motto thimble (‘‘forget me not’’). K&McD.’’ These emphasized ‘‘the Victorian paradigm of the ‘genteel and accomplished lady. it is a child’s thimble. (Photograph by Michael Hamilton) ber me.’’ and ‘‘contentment. it was a family business until 1969 and pioneered trademarked designs such as ‘‘Liberty Bell. 4.’’ 53 Another well-known American thimble-making firm was Ketcham and McDougall of Brooklyn. New York. both late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 107 [To view this image. so it seems highly likely that their products might appear in nineteenth. but it is probably intended for an adult finger. which produced nearly two-thirds of all the marked American thimbles at present in the hands of collectors. 4.or early-nineteenth-century date.’’’ 52 The thimble on the far right in fig.] Fig. The copper-alloy thimble to the left of the child’s thimble is also somewhat small. It. copper-alloy woman’s thimble and copper-alloy child’s thimble. refer to the print version of this title. which consists of the letter ‘‘S’’ set in a shield. The company used several variations of this mark. The regular knurlings and rolled rim indicate that it dates from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. Massachusetts. was used from .3 Four thimbles from the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.3 is very small.’’ nineteenth century. The company began in 1832 and in various guises continued to make thimbles until 1932. is of late-eighteenth. steel-lined silver thimble marked ‘‘4’’ and monogrammed ‘‘LBW. which was in use from 1880 onward and sometimes appears with the trade names ‘‘Priscilla’’ or ‘‘Quaker.’’ Simons Brothers was begun in 1839 with thimble manufacturing as its principal activity.and twentiethcentury archaeological sites. Holmes notes that the maker’s mark most frequently encountered on American thimbles is that of Simons Brothers Company of Philadelphia. too.

New York (1890–1912). but they did not manufacture them. precise. Rhode Island.’’ He also speculates that the early introduction of mass-production methods may have influenced the design of American thimbles. In the nineteenth century. Thomas F. and Waite Thresher and Company. Massachusetts. but there are some general guidelines for determining where a thimble originated.54 It is highly uncommon for thimbles to be marked according to their country of manufacture. when the word sterling was introduced to indicate that an object had at least 92. allowing greater thickness. and the flat-top thimble is an American development of the twentieth century. New York. the item cannot be older than date of patent (though it could date considerably later). and easy to differentiate from those found elsewhere. French thimbles of the nineteenth century had either waffle. Providence. this mark purports to establish that the silver content of the object so marked is equivalent to that of silver coinage. This perhaps could also lead to better preservation in archaeological sites. noting that their finish is invariably quite good and that ornamental scrollwork. English and American thimbles both had domed caps. size numbering. Thimble shape is the key. and hence the ‘‘sterling’’ mark merely provides an indication of the country of origin and suggests that the article is no more than one hundred years old. there were no hallmarks registered in the United States. the squatness of American thimbles may have been an advantage in the manufacturing process. New York. American styles are also less ornate and more conservative than their counterparts in Europe. but American thimbles tended to be shorter than English and German ones. Another type of marking is the patent date. whereas Norwegian thimbles were generally smooth-sided with indentations only in the cap. and in some cases marks can be helpful. an experienced collector should be able to recognize an American thimble at a glance: ‘‘They are normally shorter and squarer than thimbles from other countries and the size markings are small. however.and twentieth-century sites include Stern Brothers and Company. North Attleboro.108 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 1892 to 1932. Muhr’s Sons. Untemeyer Robbins Company. Goldsmith Stern and Company. though decoration. beading. that some firms distributed thimbles specially produced for them to sell under their own brand name or logo.55 American gold and silver thimbles did not normally carry a mark until the 1860s.or rectangular-patterned indentations.57 .56 According to Holmes. Thimbles marked ‘‘coin’’ are also American. Webster Company. New York. What is more. and channelings are almost invariably of a high standard. H. In this context one might consider thimbles distributed through mail-order catalogs such as those of Montgomery Ward and Sears and Roebuck. It is worth mentioning.5 percent fine metal content. Brogan. Philadelphia. Other marks one might find on thimbles excavated from latenineteenth.

Holmes considers it likely that Spain would have developed its own Moorish-influenced thimble-making industry by at least the fifteenth century. As noted above. copper alloy. Holmes’s examination of colonial records of Mexico for the year 1566 turned up such entries as ‘‘500 dedales de muger . especially early Spanish colonial sites.’’ Hill’s study of thimbles from circum-Caribbean sites. Both are deep drawn. thimbles produced in America often displayed picturesque views. they have regularly spaced hand-punched indentations running up the body in a spiral from the band to the crown. but these would have been men’s thimbles made of heavy brass or iron and with large indentations to match the heads of large needles. especially waterfronts and agrarian scenes. but such marks are far more . Thus the basic sequence of types of inexpensive copper-alloy thimbles and their changing sources of supply is the same at both Spanish and English colonial sites. When Portuguese and Spanish colonists were established in the Americas. whereas Spanish colonial sites of the eighteenth century ‘‘display a uniformity of shape and design which is unmistakable’’ and which identifies them as of English origin. Hill is convinced that these thimbles were produced in Nuremberg and exported to Spain. and the second at the Convento de San Francisco in the Dominican Republic (first half of sixteenth century). . size marks. This trade developed as early as 1428 and involved many other goods besides thimbles because Spain relied heavily on imports from Genoa and northern Europe to supply its colonies. the source of supply was likely the Netherlands. then transshipped to the colonies. By the mid-seventeenth century. Manufactured goods were collected from all over Europe in warehouses in Seville. Venezuela (1515–1541). On the contrary: Hill identifies two thimbles from closely dated contexts as likely products of the Nuremberg thimble-makers. . or registry marks. terminating in the center of the crown (hence no ‘‘tonsure-like’’ blank spot on the crown). and rather squat. Hill’s research makes it clear that thimbles found on Spanish colonial sites from the time of their founding until around the middle of the seventeenth century are likely to be products of Nuremberg. She supports this interpretation by citing documentary evidence of the trade in thimbles between Germany and Spain. does not provide evidence of an Iberian origin for metal thimbles supplied to the outposts of the Spanish Empire. however. marks on thimbles can be either maker’s marks. while English thimble-makers tended to employ floral decorations. 800 maravedís’’ and ‘‘Dedales para sastres a rreal y medio la dozena. The first example was found at the site of Nueva Cadíz.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 109 Somewhat problematic is the issue of thimbles found on Spanish colonial sites.58 As for decoration. he states that the introduction of metal thimbles to the New World would have occurred with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. regular supplies of thimbles were sent from home.

therefore. but it is also true that many thimble cases were made of materials that are unlikely to survive in archaeological contexts—at least not in a sufficiently intact state to be identified. I cannot help but be a bit bemused by the fact that so many thimble cases exist in private collections and museums and that seemingly none have survived archaeologically.’’ It seems likely that the idea of creating a case to contain a thimble first came from goldsmiths or silver- . In my research into archaeological collections. Zalkin’s Handbook provides a helpful key to many pattern. Needles and pins are obviously easy to lose and require some means of ‘‘keeping’’ and storing. served the purpose of ‘‘keeping’’ thimbles. keeping them from being lost as well as keeping them to hand. are not tiny enough to be lost so easily.110 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble likely to appear on thimbles of silver and gold rather than those of base metals. Holmes defines a thimble case as ‘‘a small decorated container which is designed especially to hold a thimble and nothing more. whereas English and French examples tend to be marked on the band.59 THIMBLE CASES It is worth noting that thimble cases were extremely common and important items for seamstresses and needleworkers of all sorts. even if the manufacturer is not known. trademark. and here I offer only the briefest of summaries of the sorts of thimble cases that are known to have existed. German marks. thimbles. Thimble cases. however. but none of the collections I examined included anything remotely resembling a thimble case. and maker’s marks. I came across several needle or pin cases from excavated collections. The location of marks can be a clue as to country of origin. tend to be placed on the second row of indentations. or something they wanted me to identify that happened to be a thimble case. they did get lost with what for needleworkers must have been annoying frequency. so it is not uncommon for thimble cases to be part of combination units for storing other sewing implements as well as similarly small items that needed to be to hand. But if the number of thimbles found in archaeological contexts is any guide to go by (and we set aside for the moment the matter of discarding worn thimbles). I suspect that perhaps some have come out of the ground that I have not learned about and that others may not have been recognized for what they are. Nor did anyone respond to my published queries to say that they had excavated a thimble case or a part thereof. one would think. When someone needed to sew. they needed a thimble as much as they needed thread and needle. American and Norwegian thimbles tend to be marked inside the cap or sometimes on the band.

animals of all sorts. sailing ships. Many thimble cases were made as souvenirs and novelties in all sorts of shapes (for example. the place for a thimble was the sewing box or workbasket rather than in a separate thimble case. and religious proselytizers used carefully selected items of material culture as a medium for inculcating values associated with such objects. shoes or slippers. and stone being noteworthy exceptions). railway cars. and almost any other material one can think of. bottles. few are likely to survive archaeologically (glass. precious metals.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 111 smiths who crafted fine thimbles. cases were made of various base metals. beehives. were not toys. mushrooms. tortoiseshell. but wood was the most commonly used.and twentiethcentury sites. eggs. acorns. buckets. beadwork. orphanages. often quite fancy. poorhouses). baskets. and by the eighteenth century costly thimbles tended to be presented in a case. vegetable ivory. Maid’s or child’s thimbles. pinecones. The . electric lightbulbs. Of all the materials mentioned above. have the potential to tell us about many things if we subject them to interpretive scrutiny. it seems likely that for the majority of needleworkers in colonial and later times. but as a general rule thimble cases were less expensive than the thimbles they contained. Although it is certainly possible that thimble cases might be recovered. plush. The size and quality of a thimble can provide clues as to the sort of sewing activity for which it was intended and whether it was likely to be worn by an adult man or woman or by a child in accomplishing this purpose. hats and hatboxes. porcelain. stones such as agates. Ivory was also popular. This alone helps account for the fact that archaeologists do not report regular finds of thimble cases. lacquered paper. We know that although most were utilitarian. and so on and on). bowling pins. coquilla. colonizers. mother-of-pearl. mussel shell. but the favored material for truly classy thimble cases in the eighteenth century was shagreen.60 I N T ER PRET I NG THI M BL ES Thimbles. especially from nineteenth. some thimbles were actively deployed in demonstrations of femininity and social rank as well as in the construction of personal and social identities. bone. but a child might have outgrown such a thimble along with her childish clothing and playthings. but lack of wear is not necessarily an indication that a thimble was never used. They can also inform us about how institutions (for example. leather. barrels. In addition to wood. So thimbles can be interpreted in ways that inform us about gender and class and work. shark or fish skin or an untanned leather. for example. schools. Wear on a thimble can speak to long and hard use. Some thimble cases were made of silver or gold or high-quality porcelain. humble little objects though they may be. glass. walnuts.

Although archaeologists often write about thimbles that have been altered by Native Americans for use as personal adornment or as tinklers affixed to fringed clothing. it constituted a number of settler colonies established by different groups for varied reasons. Magunkaquog. all were small. Excavations by the Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research under the direction of Stephen A.112 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble case study that follows offers a way of re-envisioning and reinterpreting thimbles found at sites occupied by Native Americans during the colonial period in North America as something other than merely ‘‘trade’’ goods. produced evidence both of cultural transformation and resistance based on the analysis of Indian use of European materials in this lateseventeenth. was established about 1674 by missionary John Eliot for Christianized Nipmuc Indians. political. New England was not a distinctive region of the Americas controlled by a single European power. or Magunkook. he also spearheaded the effort to resettle Indian converts in their own towns. maid’s or child’s size. archaeologists recovered a number of identical copper-alloy thimbles. The presentday Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the seventeenth century was divided into the colonies of Plymouth and of Massachusetts Bay. It is altogether possible that the Magunco thimbles represent another front in the battle waged by John Eliot to Christianize the . the Bible. Eliot was a Puritan minister who sought to Christianize the Indians of the Massachusetts Bay Colony through his preaching as well as through translation of a catechism. Indeed. Mrozwoski at Magunco Hill. propagating the gospel and civilizing the natives: thimbles for magunco In the seventeenth century. and other religious tracts into Algonkian. and economic issues and in disagreement about how to interact with the indigenous Algonkian-speakers who continued to reside in what had become ‘‘English’’ territory and who had cultural differences of their own. in what is now Ashland.and early-eighteenth-century ‘‘Praying Indian Town. rather. where they could continue to speak (and to read and write) their own language and follow their own laws while nevertheless subscribing to the values of Christianity and Puritan culture by living in English-style houses and adopting European dress and material culture. also known in the native language as Makunkokoag. their leaders often at odds with one another over religious.’’ Magunco.61 At Magunco. likely of English manufacture. none of the Magunco thimbles had holes driven through their crowns. Interpreting these thimbles merely as sewing tools seems insufficient. they displayed no apparent use-wear. Massachusetts.

62 To the colonizer and missionary. as prestation—a gift or offering in fulfillment of a duty or service—in this case in service of the ideology of colonialism and Christianity as much as in benevolent generosity. and it may embody a complicated set of values that are not inherent to the object but are seen as arising out of qualities that its ‘‘appropriate’’ use are thought to impart or inculcate. as well as the production of proper. Hence missionaries through the ages have stressed instruction in sewing and needlework along with biblical instruction—indeed. and godliness. thimbles (and. they can be interpreted as gifts with a hidden agenda. it seems likely that if the thimbles were to serve their purpose. for the very act of sewing incorporated many values espoused in Christian teachings: it required clean hands.The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble 113 indigenous people of Massachusetts. As such. European-style dress. thread. Because the Magunco thimbles are all too small for adult use. Christian ideals to converted Indians.63 The Magunco thimbles would have been diminutive yet powerful tools of the missionaries in their efforts to instill Christian values. self-sacrifice. sewing schools and missions have often made Bible verses or biblical scenes the required subjects of samplers and embroidered pictures produced by their pupils. Skill in sewing was an imperative for European women and girls of all ages and social stations—a woman’s always having ‘‘work’’ to hand prevented idleness that might lead to inappropriate behavior. Englishwomen would have been sent to instruct young Indian women and girls in sewing and needlework. needles. As noted above. A mass-produced and globally distributed object such as a thimble represents more than an attempt to draw Native Americans into the world system of capitalist exchange. little if any wear can be detected on the thimbles (this is often the case for thimbles intended for youngsters—young fingers tend to outgrow the thim- . such a good becomes an ‘‘alienated thing’’ when put into circulation and is far more than a commodity. cleanliness. it would appear that the missionaries targeted the younger female converts as potentially more receptive than adult women to instruction in European techniques of sewing. Although it is not known whether women numbered among Eliot’s missionaries. and self-discipline. it is impossible to assess how strongly Indian women embraced this new skill and the values associated with it. presumably. It may become imbued with new meaning and new significance. Although we can provide a context for understanding why missionaries might have thought thimbles as effective as Bibles for their purpose of conveying Western. modest. and textiles—all less likely than thimbles to be found archaeologically) were a perfect medium for conveying a suite of values that linked ideals of femininity and womanhood. In the words of Nicholas Thomas.

114 The Ubiquitous and Occasionally Ordinary Thimble bles before they are subjected to much wear). As one of the more ‘‘subtle ploys’’ of colonialism.’’ 64 . in numbers large or small. we cannot assume that the presence at Magunco of English thimbles. Perhaps they were simply discarded? Whatever the explanation may be. the thimbles alert us to the intentions of the colonizers and missionaries and leave us to speculate as to the actions and responses of their ‘‘congregation. and we have no indication that the thimbles were reappropriated by the Christianized Indians for purposes other than those for which they were intended. is by any stretch of the imagination an index to ‘‘acculturation’’ or the wholesale adoption by Christianized Nipmucs of the value system such items represented to Europeans.

so joined that they cannot be separated. But scissors. yarn. and too often they tend to assume that virtually all scissors were used for sewing. but the cutting operation of scissors depends on 115 . Hence shears and scissors. and the tip of the blade as well as the top of the blade may vary in form. indeed. for creating buttonholes. Lady Holland’s Memoir. . when apart .5 Shears and Scissors Marriage resembles a pair of shears. like many another common tools. served many functions and in fact were important ‘‘tools for work or in the home. —charles dickens. but together we are something.’’ Historical archaeologists have devoted little time or attention to the scissors they find. 1855 We are but two halves of a pair of scissors. and since their first appearance in the Bronze Age. yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. fringes. particularly those made of steel. 1843–1844 Cutting implements are critical to sewing and needlework of all types. for cutting fabric. —sydney smith. Martin Chuzzlewit. and so on and on. The junction of the blade and the handle may have single or multiple semicircular recesses. often moving in opposite directions. especially on medieval or later sites.’’ 1 The basic components of a pair of shears are two blades joined by two arms to a central sprung bow. Both scissors and shears have two opposite cutting edges working one against the other. are often well preserved in the ground and are common archaeological finds. a Museum of London archaeologist has remarked that ‘‘blades from knives or shears are among the most common and varied metalwork finds on medieval sites. or thread. . Scissors and shears had to be strong and sturdy to accomplish their purpose. these implements have tended to be made of hardy metals that are capable of being sharpened and resharpened.

With shears. The earliest shears consisted of two knives joined by a single U-shaped spring. or bodkin. Early textile producers plucked sheep at the time of molting. France.116 Shears and Scissors [To view this image.’’ This permitted a person to obtain an entire fleece of wool rather than just pull away tufts with a comb.’’ 2 THE HIST ORY A ND A RC H A E OL O GY O F S CI SS O RS Shears probably predate scissors. examples have been found at La Tène. around 1000 bc. One source illustrates what it calls ‘‘the earliest known shears’’ excavated from La Tène (third century bc). calling for more delicate adjustment during manufacture.3 Shears of a simple. wild sheep tended to have hairy coats. at the end of each arm is a loop (also known as a bow and sometimes as a finger ring) for manipulating the scissors. and woven fabrics. 5. leaving the second hand free to hold or steady the item being cut. the springing action made possible because of iron’s malleability.1). Scissors consist of a pair of opposed blades with arms. wool. The scissors at the top have a round. B. there may be a stop to prevent the arms overlapping (fig. a person could work the blades together with a ‘‘single-handed simultaneous cutting action. the lower a vigo point. Scissors represent a great departure from the knife because they are adapted to cut materials such as hair. but with domestication herders continuously selected woolly sheep over hairy ones. There is firm evidence of shears in the Iron Age. and in Parthian Iran. Though . In antiquity. refer to the print version of this title. J. pivoted together in the center. 5. pointed blade. and above the pivot.] Fig.1 The parts of a pair of scissors. in Roman Egypt. at the junction of the blade and arm. and the introduction of scissors into Europe sometime in the sixth or seventh century did not affect use of shears for this operation. Himsworth states that shears appeared in the Bronze Age but offers no examples to support this early date. though in medieval times ‘‘razors and shears seem to have been interchangeable for the task of beard cutting and hair trimming. (After Himsworth 1953:154) a riveted center. unchanging pattern have been used since at least the Iron Age for sheepshearing.

size. that over time the term shears has come to mean . with medieval shears looking as much like modern examples as they do the more ancient specimens. the Cutler’s Company of Sheffield. it thus became desirable to find a way to remove the sheep’s coat in its entirety. when textiles were first woven in lengths. It seems likely that sheepshearing was the main use for shears at first. but in recent times the terms scissors and shears seem to be used interchangeably without denoting any clear distinction in the shape.’’ 6 This makes it clear that twentieth-century scissor-makers refer to overall size and unequal size of the bows or finger loops rather than to construction to distinguish scissors from shears. for the insertion of two or more fingers. but by the end of the Roman period. some archaeologists have interpreted all of these items as toilet implements. used for cutting hair. and folding knives from medieval sites in London allowed archaeologists to develop in-depth understanding of the methods of construction and quality of materials used in producing cutting implements and the sheaths used to cover them. Until the later Iron Age textile producers commonly obtained wool by combing sheep. J. Shears are frequent finds in British contexts of the Middle and Late Iron Age and are often found in conjunction with such other cutting tools as razors and scissors. included both scissorsmiths and shearsmiths—shear-making and scissor-making were classified as completely separate trades. spinning the wool. however. The closest I have come to a definition of why some cutting implements with two blades that operate on a pivot are called shears I found in the official company history of the American cutlery company. shears were also employed to cut cloth. Because such finds at times predate the shift to weaving in lengths. shears. while the scissors appeared in fourteenthcentury contexts.4 A study of knives. Wiss and Sons: ‘‘Technically. the dividing line between a pair of scissors and a pair of shears is an arbitrary measurement. then weaving the cloth to shape.5 The form of shears has remained remarkably consistent over time. At the time of its founding in 1624. have one small handle for the thumb and the other larger. The distinction between scissors and shears may never have been abandoned by cutlers. Because wool fibers tend to molt earlier than the hair and kemp. the shears were recovered from contexts dating from the late twelfth through the early to mid-fifteenth centuries. The varieties smaller than six inches are usually catalogued as scissors and are made with two small matching handles. scissors. over time sheep then developed a coat that was more woolly than hairy. Shears generally measure six inches or more in length. Included among the five hundred specimens studied were fifty-four pairs of shears and three pairs of scissors. England.Shears and Scissors 117 this gave an extremely fine product. or construction of one item versus the other. rather than for textile production.

have been found in men’s graves. finished cloth. and the motif has been taken by some to stand as a symbol for a person who pursued the trade of wool dealer or stapler. She suggests that by the late medieval period. In such cases. were used for shearing cloth. an illustration exists of an abbess cutting off the hair of a queen with square-ended shears. however. along with swords. for cutting and cropping the surface to give it a close finish. and both sharp and blunt shears. except when it seems ridiculous to reject terms that have been in constant use— pinking shears or pruning shears.9 Scissors were introduced into Europe around the sixth or seventh century— examples made of iron are found in Roman occupation layers at British sites.8 Others say that shears symbolized womanhood and hence marked the grave of a female. Such shears. the advantages afforded by scissors—finger loops that make one-handed operation simple and long. This does not negate the fact.7 Shears at times appear as motifs on medieval English gravestones as well as on secular sculptures. for instance—and that are clearly understood by everyone to refer to a specific two-bladed cutting implement. Eleanora Carus-Wilson notes.118 Shears and Scissors ‘‘large scissors’’ and scissors with differently sized bows. the shears that appear in sculpture represent not staplers or dealers in raw wool but men who dealt in manufactured woolens. as with most implements. rather. But. that the types of shears that appear in such sculptures are often not ones that would have been used to shear sheep to obtain raw wool. that certain items took on symbolic import that arose from how they were most commonly used and the type of person who most commonly used them. I have attempted here to maintain the distinction between scissors and shears based on manner of construction versus that based on size (that is. Margrethe de Neergaard posits that the continued preference for shears well after scissors were introduced arises out of conservatism as well as the fact that shears can be made fairly easily compared to scissors. For example. slender . and iron scissors dating from 250 bc to 150 bc are also found in France and Germany—but scissors do not seem to have come into general use until the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. it is difficult to make a case that a certain type of object was used exclusively by men or by women or that an implement was always used for the purpose for which it was intended. however. scissors have blades that pivot on a pin whereas shears operate via a springy bow) to avoid adding to the confusion I am aware some archaeologists experience in attempting to classify these objects. whereas square-ended ones were used by clothiers for cutting nap and thus were men’s tools. then. that is. someone who dealt in raw wool. often referred to as fuller’s shears. some have posited that sharp-pointed shears were intended for use by women. most shears depicted have flat blades that are wider at the end than at the base.

shears and scabbards on archaeological sites in the city of London and elsewhere in the country and in Europe is a further final reflection of their importance in medieval life.Shears and Scissors 119 blades that make cutting in a straight line easy—were recognized by specialist tradesmen such as hatters.12 Not until the beginning of the nineteenth century was cutlery-making seriously undertaken in the United States. taking on a variety of forms. and France led the industry in production of high-quality and often elaborate scissors embellished with precious metals until late in the seventeenth century. with Sheffield at its center. readily discarded and replaced. which was used in making grindstones. Eskilstuna in Sweden. the production of high-quality cutlery was based in England’s Hallamshire district. tailors. and a cutlers’ guild formed by the thirteenth century. with the aim . and Ramscheid in Germany.11 In Britain.’’ 10 During the medieval period scissors began to be fashioned according to the purposes for which they were intended. and Châtellerault in France. with elaborate decoration on both shanks and blades. while in most households shears continued to be favored for a variety of domestic uses. Available locally as well was an abundant supply of good-quality sandstone. the first firm to incorporate was the Meriden Cutlery Company. Nuremberg. Toledo and Seville in Spain. In medieval and later times. Connecticut. there were large deposits of iron ore and coal nearby and two fast-flowing rivers. Beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They were much-used. whose craftsmen specialized in damascened scissors. fine scissors were also made in Spain. cutlery-making existed as a separate trade in London by the twelfth century. In the eighteenth century. Among the best known were Paris. in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Solingen. founded in 1835 in Meriden. Neergaard points out that ‘‘the ubiquity of knives. there were many European centers producing fine-quality cutlery. as well as in Italy and Germany. gilded and painted. By the sixteenth century Moulins in France was known for its fine scissors. easily available items. Hence the vast majority of scissors found in archaeological work at colonial and postcolonial sites in the Americas (and elsewhere) are likely to have been imported from Sheffield. glovers. and barbers. in especially large numbers to the British colonies in the Americas. that provided power seats for hundreds of waterwheels. England. and throughout the nineteenth century Sheffield dominated the American market for high-quality knives and scissors. London cutlers dominated the trade within Britain for more than two hundred years. and Namur in Belgium. Thiers. Knives and scissors made in Sheffield were of the highest quality and were exported all over the world. the Sheaf and the Don. Evidence exists of ironworking and knife-making in Sheffield from at least the twelfth century onward.

all the processes in manufacturing scissors—forging. hardening. his son Frederick took over the business and initiated an aggressive international marketing campaign that gave Wiss cutlery a firm place in the market both in America and abroad. during the Civil War.15 M A K I NG SHEA RS A ND S CI SS O RS The principal operations in producing shears and scissors are forging. New Jersey.14 Jacob Wiss. putting together with rivet . American manufacturers tended to copy Sheffield styles. a Swiss émigré trained as a cutler and gunsmith. unlike their more conservative counterparts in Sheffield. in 1847 and went to work for Rochus Heinisch. and finishing. and the Miller Brothers in Southington began making pocketknives in 1850.120 Shears and Scissors of manufacturing pocketknives. while the reverse side was usually somewhat rounded with a chamfer at the cutting edge. and the William Rogers Manufacturing Company of Hartford was one of several Connecticut cutlery firms established in the nineteenth century. readily adopted the latest technological advances. polishing. shaping. arrived in Newark. By 1848 Wiss was in business for himself. the firm produced high-quality shears and. both surgical scissors for the medical staff of the Union Army and shears for the tailors who cut cloth to be made into Union uniforms. an Austrian cutler who had set up a shear manufactory in Newark in 1825. heat treating. and most of these steps are hand operations requiring expert craftsmanship. and the cutting surface was flat. in 1877. None were known for scissor-making. most of which were forged from a single piece of iron that had a steel cutting edge scarfwelded to a wrought iron back. Throughout the medieval period the left blade of the shears always overlapped the right. yet these processes can require more than 170 steps to transform the raw bar of steel to its final.16 Scissor-making did not become automated until rather late in the nineteenth century. Metallurgical analysis of the collection of scissors and shears from medieval London sites revealed a high degree of standardization in the production of shears. Indeed. however.13 The Clauss Shear Company was founded in Toledo. at first manufacturing bread knives but eventually becoming well known for its scissors. Ohio. the Empire Knife Company formed in West Winstead in 1845 to produce knives and razors. many of the Connecticut firms employed craftsmen from Sheffield. filing shanks and bows. Before that. grinding. After Jacob Wiss’s death in 1880. boring. Also in Connecticut. grinding. who brought with them their skill and expertise—but the American firms. being new to the cutlery trades. ready-for-sale state. Soon the Southington Cutlery Company began making knives and razors.

’’ 18 As these inventory entries reveal. the next step in forging was to match the halves (this was called ‘‘putting together’’) and to set the blades so that they could cut effectively. but ornamental details were filed by hand and drilled. Another method of producing the bow was by widening a hole punched through the end of the shank. 1692/3. 1696. A range of small tools could be fitted into the scissor-maker’s anvil for the rough forging and shaping of scissors. Several of the inventories failed to list any items relevant to the trade the men pursued. cooltrough. many ‘‘fancy patterns’’ for scissors came into being only because the cutlers crafted each pair by hand. and Continental scissorsmiths right up to the twentieth century often left the bow detached from the shank. the end could then be welded to the shank. however. Joan Unwin found only seven pre-eighteenth-century probate inventories for scissorsmiths. steel was costly. an anvil. stock. two of them at a ‘Wheel. Shanks and bows were finished off by hand burnishing. d. Sheffield smiths initially used blister steel to forge cutting edges. but about 1742 Benjamin Huntsman developed high-quality crucible steel. . first heating a rod of iron in the hearth. and often both skills and shops were passed down through families over the generations. . Much of the finishing work was done by women— the Sheffield cutlery trade was composed of many small-scale shops operated at the household level of production. then shaping the blade. William Burley (d.20 After the two halves of a pair of scissors were completed.17 In her research into the cutlery trades in Sheffield. This contributed to a lack of standardization. and connecting shank using dies set into his anvil. Nevertheless. hammers.’ Only one inventory mentions files and only two had very small amounts of iron and steel. anvil. 1698. d. The smith forged each half of a pair of scissors separately. this method was often used on later small scissors. while Francis Bronell. had a smithy with two hearths and a complement of tools for each—bellows. Scissor assembly was skilled work.’’ The weld was not absolutely necessary. and tongs. 1696/97) left behind ten gross of scissors valued at five pounds. although one man. Four of the seven scissorsmiths had equipment and tools for grinding and glazing. so throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As for the others.Shears and Scissors 121 or screw. ‘‘Joshua Russell. polishing and burnishing—were done by hand. scissorsmiths forge-welded a narrow strip of steel along the cutting edge of the iron blades during the initial forging. involving . as did Thomas Hunt d. hammers and tongs.19 Bows could be formed by bending the end of the iron rod around to form a circle. bow. had two stocks and anvils in his smith . producing what was known as a ‘‘shot bow. the scissorsmith required equipment much the same as that used by others in the cutlery trades: a forging hearth.

This twist makes it possible for the blade edges to keep ‘‘on cut’’ all along the length of the blades.24 It is also worth noting that it is sometimes difficult to identify with confidence a whole object from merely one of its parts. all surfaces were filed to remove traces of work and rough edges. so their blades readily become dull. ‘‘If the two blades were simply pivoted together they would not work properly because the material they are trying to cut will force them apart. scissor blades should touch only at their tips. and engineering practice limited manufacturing ranges to a few basic styles and patterns. so that in use they only touch at the cutting point where the pressure is concentrated. And given that until the late nineteenth century scissors were produced one pair at a time by skilled artisans. opportunistic.22 When mass-mechanical methods of production became popular at the end of the nineteenth century. hot drop-forged of a single piece of forging steel. much of the variety in the design and even types of scissors was lost. Once the two halves were riveted together at the shank end of the blade. are manifold.23 T Y P ES OF SHE A RS A ND S CI SS O RS There are many types of scissors designed to serve specific functions within the realm of sewing and tailoring. The blades must therefore be made to curve or twist inwards from pivot to point. and cast iron. The first process results in the best-quality scissors. Stamping machines eliminated much of the need for handwork along with stylistic variation among scissors. which are nearly unbreakable. cold-pressed from steel strips. and cast-iron scissors and shears are brittle and will snap under pressure. but this is something archaeologists are all too frequently forced to do. The same finishing processes were used in the final stage of manufacturing shears. it cannot offer insight into alternative. As with so many other types of implement. items sold as sewing scissors or barber’s scissors could be used to cut all manner of things. then they were polished to create smooth and decorative finishes. in terms of decoration and minor differences in the shaping of different elements. idiosyncratic. the variations among sewing scissors alone. Mechanically produced scissors fall into one of four broad categories: hot drop-forged of forging steel with welded high-carbon crucible steel blades.122 Shears and Scissors careful grinding of the blade and ‘‘setting’’ it by giving it a slight twist. so although what follows can help guide the archaeologist toward the interpretation of which scissors were intended for what purpose. Implements that are not scissors might have . Cold-pressed scissors lack temper. but this is only the beginning.’’ 21 When closed and not in use. and—perhaps—even criminal uses to which such implements might be put.

and sugar tongs are examples of such objects. combined with a wide span across the bow. Extra length. all the bows were oval or circular and averaged about one-third of the total arm length. The earliest medieval shears consisted merely of two wide blades. and a plain handle. —john milton. for instance. Lycidas.Shears and Scissors 123 bows or finger holes for ease of operation. long-bladed shears were also useful for cutting . that ‘‘copper alloy scissors are very uncommon and may have had inserted iron blades for added strength. possibly decorative. might be identified as a fragment of a scissors blade (and of course the same is true of the bows and upper shanks of such an object). made for a very strong cutting action. the upper blade straight or sloping. and more pressure could be exerted. 1637 Examination of the fifty-four examples recovered from London archaeological contexts dating from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries revealed only minor changes in the appearance and construction of shears over the centuries. a combination of long handle and long blades was best for a continuous cutting action. possibly as a means of strengthening the loop. archaeologists recovered a fragment of a copper-alloy object that they tentatively identified as part of a pair of scissors.27 The shears from London sites varied in length. while ‘‘accurate and continuous cutting required long and relatively slender blades. Because it is nearly intact.25 In late-seventeenth-century deposits at Tilbury Fort in Essex.26 shears Comes the blind fury with Th’ abhorred shears And slits the thin-spun life.’’ Sheep shears require slender. Handles long in proportion to the blades allowed greater leverage.’’ The latter interpretation seems the most likely of the two. They acknowledge. boiled-egg cutters. A pair of candlesnuffers from the Estèbe House (1755–1810) at Place-Royale in Québec City offers a good example. ranging from just under three inches long to about twelve and a half inches long. England. if found elsewhere than in association with the snuffers. however. Shears dated to the fourteenth century have rectangularsection handles. with central ridges. each blade tapering to the tip. pointed blades with an overall length of between twelve and eighteenth inches. Alternatively this piece could be part of another two handled pivoted object such as a candle snuffer. candlesnuffers. although all that survived was a portion of the shank and the very beginnings of a loop or bow. this artifact is easily identified as a pair of candlesnuffers (mouchettes en fer)—but the blade tip that has broken off. The bow held the tension.

Small. The larger versions tended to be used primarily in the first shearing of the cloth. as they were called. heavy. but they have broad. ‘‘domestic’’ shears for cutting thread or hair were still in use in postmedieval times. but smaller shears might be used in subsequent re-shearings by the shearman or even a final time just before the cloth was made up by the tailor: ‘‘occasionally ‘small’ instead of ‘great’ shears had to be used. small shears serve best for a single exact cut—cutting thread. An incomplete large shears blade was found in the destruction layers (about 1650) at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire. with a stout outer framework into which two flat blades. giving the fabric a soft.’’ 28 Cloth shears are similar to sheep shears in that they are quite large. a blade from such a pair was found in a seventeenth-century context by archaeologists monitoring drainage work at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery on George Street in Perth.’’ 30 Shears seem to have been acquired and discarded as readily in the early English colonies as they were in medieval and postmedieval Britain. allowing the blades to be opened and closed with the same hand. curved upper blades. they were used in cloth finishing to cut off the ends of fibers raised by teazels (teazling is akin to giving the cloth ‘‘a severe brushing.and fifteenth-century shears from London all have a single recess.31 . A pair of iron shears was found at the seventeenth-century site known as the Maine at Governor’s Land. many examples are reported in the archaeological literature. were skilled craftsmen whose tools were specialized. and tapering or angled blade tips. As noted earlier. broader at the end than at the base. making it seem likely that this type of shears was intended for use in sewing and needlework and that such examples are the precursors to ‘‘the elaborate needlepoint scissors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. pointed blades to ensure a straight cut. Fuller’s shears had long. The small fourteenth. Virginia. Scotland.124 Shears and Scissors cloth. for instance. Fuller’s shears are distinctive in shape and size. where the surface of the stripes varied. from medieval times up until the early nineteenth century when cloth-shearing was mechanized. near Jamestown. Two examples from the London collection have slender blades with silver inlay. and broad-ended. even surface. The smallest shears fit into the palm of the hand and are worked by the finger and thumb. expensive. they were huge. were set. which took place at the fulling mill. The shears were laid flat on the cloth with the shearer’s left hand inserted through the stirrup grip on the lower blade. which raises fibre ends to the surface’’). wide blades with a straight upper edge at right angles to the squared tip of the blade. Shearers. The ends were then closely cropped. and highly valued— and they could weigh as much as thirty-five pounds.29 Not all fuller’s shears were immense. these could have served a variety of domestic purposes. as for certain striped cloths.

that is. and for the most part lack ornamentation. he or she had a definite purpose in mind. bodkin (or round). common tup.’’ Before this specialized implement was devised.2). which in the nineteenth century was considerable. however. flat. 5. or bevel-curl in section (fig. a needleworker would cut a buttonhole with a cutter or seam-knife. wire. or rapier. 5. In what follows I attempt to provide as much detail about how to differentiate one type of scissors from another. that if someone in a household went to the trouble and expense to purchase a pair of specialty seventeenth-century feature and another from a mid-seventeenth-century feature). fluted beaded with curl swamp joint. London (c.32 Sewing scissors. This could be adjusted to the size of the buttonhole to be cut. fiddle joint. sewing being just one activity for which scissors were necessary. one bow (usually the thumb grip) is larger than the other. square sarum.4).3). Buttonhole scissors. Sheffield scissorsmiths had a colorful vocabulary to refer to the style of shanks: bead-neck. These are generally fairly small (about four to six inches long). Bows could be fluted. one manual advised that ‘‘a button-hole should be long enough to reach across the button. I do suspect. reverse glass. Illustrated here are three pairs of eighteenth-century English (probably Sheffield) sewing scissors from the collections of the Winterthur Museum. at a site south of Aldgate High Street. Examples have been found at Bolingbroke Castle (1650–1675). a small tool about three to four inches long. but again I must add the caveat that people could use a pair of scissors any way they wished. and some scissors had offset bows. it cannot be cut so well with common scissars [sic] as with those made for the purpose. and rapier (or pointed). Buttonhole scissors. from right to left. have special slotted jaws and a small screw at the shank end of the blades (fig. with a handle of bone or other material and a blade that was sharp and somewhat . Scissor blades were classified according to their profile: flat. 1670–1750/70). wire. First it is useful to comprehend the possible formal and stylistic variation among the various parts of scissors. bevel. leaf sarum. Portsmouth (one pair from a late-sixteenth. winged Spanish. All three have unusually elaborate shanks (fig. a Victorian invention. My search through the literature supports this inference in a circumstantial way. 5. Shapes of bows ranged from variations on ovals to nearly circular. and flat. bodkin. From left to right. thread-neck. the blade types are flat. for it seems that by far the most commonly found type of scissors on the majority of sites are best interpreted as general-purpose or all-purpose ‘‘domestic utility’’ scissors. and combinations of and variations on these. bevel. the bow types are.Shears and Scissors 125 scissors There is a great variety of types of scissors for diverse purposes. with thin blades. in Aldgate. at Oyster Street.

in which the design is formed by cutting away the top layer of material from the . and distinctive serrated-edge blades for cutting fabric. as noted above. ‘‘as though a lump of metal had dropped on to it and not been filed off.34 Pinking shears likewise have a ‘‘side bite. refer to the print version of this title.] Fig. and large-bladed ‘‘scissors’’ up to sixteen inches long.’’ This type of scissors was particularly used for Carrickmacross lace.33 Tailors’ trimmers with side-bent shank. and by the nineteenth century small folding or pocketknives were preferred for these purposes. which cut six to eight inches and several layers of cloth at once. medium-sized scissors known as trimmers.126 Shears and Scissors [To view this image. This differing size of the bows gives them an offset from the shanks and blades. (After Himsworth 1953:59–156) spade-shaped. 5. These small scissors have a protuberance at the end of one of the blade points. hence the descriptive phrase ‘‘side-bent shank’’ (fig. 5. These large specimens.5).’’ different-sized bows.2 Some bow and shank styles as defined by Sheffield scissorsmiths. The seam-knife was more commonly used for cutting stitches to unpick seams. are commonly called shears both because of their size and because one of the bows or finger loops is larger than the other. Lace scissors. Tailors make use of small scissors or cuts. tailors’ or dressmakers’ shears.

[To view this image. refer to the print version of this title. 5.] Fig. 5.3 Three pairs of eighteenth-century English sewing scissors displaying a range of bow and shank shapes as well as differing blade sections.] Fig. .4 A contemporary example of buttonholing scissors with adjustable screw. refer to the print version of this title. (Courtesy The Winterthur Museum) [To view this image.

5. Scissors (or shears) can be put to good use in the kitchen.’’ 37 Culinary scissors.6). for trimming the nails of M.128 Shears and Scissors [To view this image. distinguished by offset bow.] Fig. Probably the most common sort . The pattern is achieved by cutting with great delicacy and precision. Shears and scissors designed for use by cooks take many forms and sometimes closely resemble their counterparts intended for other purposes. Mary Andere cites an order dated from 1560 ‘‘for a pair of scissors. There is also a range of scissor types that the well-appointed dining room might have boasted. of Moulin manufacture. this is a finger grip or brace (fig. Such scissors are known from at least the sixteenth century. The blades tend to be flat and the shanks straight (Sheffield scissorsmiths referred to this plain. the King. The small ‘‘bump’’ at the tip of the scissor blade helped keep the two layers of material carefully separated. refer to the print version of this title. underlying layer of net. straight style as a ‘‘quaker shank’’).36 Scissors for personal hygiene: Manicure scissors. requiring specialized scissors. lessening the risk of a false cut. these are highly specialized and likely to have been used only in the wealthiest households. Scissors designed for professional haircutting often have a small. 5.5 Tailors’ or dressmakers shears. garnished with coppergilt. Manicure scissors are made in a variety of patterns and in quarter-inch size variations between three and four inches in length. and certainly all good cooks would tend to keep a pair of such scissors on hand. The blades are curved to accommodate the curve of the nails over the fingertips and to reach the cuticles for trimming.35 Scissors for personal hygiene: Barbers’ scissors. though such special-purpose implements would not likely be found in contexts predating the nineteenth century or in ordinary households. curved protuberance off of one of the bows (sometimes called a cockade).

no. Only occasionally do they assume a form resembling scissors. refer to the print version of this title.38 An egg cutter (coupe-oeuf or pince coupe-oeuf ) normally has only a single blade that cleanly beheads the top of a boiled egg. 5. the wide. Scissor-makers have long catered to special needs by . and 5. given the seemingly lethal sharpness of the blades. as depicted here.6 Barber’s scissors (often called barber’s shears) with finger rest. Such items would have been used only in the most elegant of households.9). sharp blades of which could easily cut through bones as well as skin and flesh (figs. Each has a spring as well as a locking device. Grape scissors (ciseaux à raisin) are very elaborate scissors that were usually gilded or of gold and were fanciful in shape. Another type of culinary scissors was sugar scissors or.8).7). which. makes eminently good sense. 5. 5. Barber’s scissors range in overall length from about 5 to 7 inches long and were made with or without finger rests. A portion of a page from the Friedrick Dick catalog from about 1912 shows several evil-looking implements intended to give a cook or chef advantage over various potentially recalcitrant animal parts (fig. of kitchen shears are heavyweight fish or chicken shears with offset bows. used to cut lumps from a hard cone of sugar (fig.39 Other specialty scissors.Shears and Scissors 129 [To view this image. so these tools are probably better categorized as a type of pincer. 5. sugar pliers (Zuckerzange). 8 Fischschwanzsheere.7. they were intended to permit a dinner guest to gracefully separate grapes from their stems at table. instead coming in a variety of ingenious shapes.] Fig.

and fish shears from the Friedrick Dick Company catalog. The graterlike implement (No. c. 1912. 5.[To view this image. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) [To view this image. c. available in three sizes from the Friedrick Dick catalog. 8) just below the large poultry shears in the center (No. refer to the print version of this title. poultry. 1912. 5.8 Shears for fish or poultry.] Fig.] Fig. refer to the print version of this title. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) . 1) is a fish scaler.7 A selection of meat.

as well as angular. the construction of identity or with gender? They are. Anglers’ scissors are special-purpose scissors designed to hold open the mouth of a fish while the angler extracts the hook. available plated in either nickel or silver from the Friedrick Dick catalog. Folding pocket scissors and lamp-trimmers’ scissors (also known as candlesnuffers) also fall into the category of special-purpose scissors. they have serrations along the outer edges of both blades to prevent slipping. roweling. for instance. Surgical scissors. This does not . are made for the medical profession and include dissecting scissors. 5. as noted earlier. I N T ER PRET I NG S CI SS O RS At first glance. and with care we can determine the intended uses for a pair of scissors.Shears and Scissors 131 [To view this image. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) producing a variety of scissors for special-purpose use.] Fig. and apothecaries’ scissors. 1912. after all. made either with or without probe points. c. and asylums is likely to encounter such implements. along with a spacer bar to keep the blades open at the desired width. infirmaries. scissors appear to be lacking in potential for social and cultural interpretations of the sort I have been able to wrest from other types of needlework implements. The other (inside) edges of the blades tend to be sharpened in the normal fashion.9 Steel sugar pliers used to remove lumps from a solid cone of sugar. they may be easily confused with small sewing scissors. scissors are made in varied shapes and sizes and to different specifications for various purposes. quintessentially utilitarian. although. As we have seen. for example. Could scissors have much of anything to do with. But there are clues that lead me to think that as archaeologists we may wish to subject scissors and scissorlike objects to the same sorts of interrogation I recommend for other small finds. refer to the print version of this title. The archaeologist excavating deposits at hospitals.

reveals how great pride in a pair of high-quality (and hence expensive) scissors could be (fig. but it does lead us further than assuming that all scissors were sewing scissors. refer to the print version of this title.2). 5.132 Shears and Scissors [To view this image. painted in Vermont c. and pointed or rapier blade—very effective for buttonholing as well as for snipping . 1835 and attributed to itinerant folk portraitist Asahel Powers. England (they have a round tup shank (see fig. painted about 1835 by Asahel Lynde Powers. The subject has a pair of sewing scissors on a chain attached to her waistband with a chatelaine hook. Farrar’s scissors were likely made in Sheffield. The portrait of Vermont resident Allethenia Fisk Farrar. Even sewing scissors came in a variety of styles designed to assist the needlewoman or tailor to perform specialized sewing tasks with ease and efficiency. 5. flat bows.10). 5. (Courtesy Historic New England/SPNEA) mean they were always used in ‘‘appropriate’’ ways. and it is clear that seemingly ordinary all-purpose utility scissors could vary widely in quality.10 Portrait of Allethenia Fisk Farrar.] Fig.

in some instances. depending from an elaborate chain affixed to a chatelaine hook slipped over her wide belt.] Fig. We can take an object lesson from the scissors found at the site of Charles’ Gift (18ST704) at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. the small gold brooch at her décolletage. 5. and the large buckle so prominently clasping her belt round her cinched-in waist.11). scissors could become intimately associated with personhood and gender identity and could serve as a medium to convey messages about the self and the careful construction of an image of domesticity and femininity. a dutiful wife. An . instead they find the occasional rusted or broken example that is costly to conserve and difficult to interpret. She has elected to be portrayed at her sewing with her scissors displayed prominently. (Courtesy Historic New England/SPNEA) fine embroidery threads and tiny hemstitching. At this late-seventeenth-century site. the unkind cut for archaeologists Most archaeologists who do recover scissors from their sites fail to find many pairs. but even a site that offers up several examples may not provide the archaeologist with much fodder for the interpretive mill. fig. 5.11 Detail of Farrar portrait showing sewing scissors. and a woman of good character. as do the lush fabric and lace of her costume. It is rare that a site produces multiple pairs of scissors. That a pair of scissors could be considered so precious as to become part of a woman’s costume and a part of her presentation of self is evidence that. fragments of three pairs of iron scissors were found. All were badly corroded. the portrait conveys that she is an accomplished needlewoman. Maryland. refer to the print version of this title. All of this bespeaks wealth. Mary’s County. My study of many archaeological collections leads me to conclude that on the majority of sites a single pair of all-purpose utility scissors is the most common find.12).Shears and Scissors 133 [To view this image. one small pair of utility or sewing scissors looks for all the world like a collection of corrosion lumps (fig. What is more. 5. her scissors are literally attached to her person.

] Fig. 5. Maryland.] Fig. (Courtesy Naval Air Station Patuxent River.[To view this image. (Courtesy Naval Air Station Patuxent River. MD) . Mary’s County. Maryland. Mary’s County.12 The corroded remains of a pair of small utility scissors found in a lateseventeenth-century deposit at the site of Charles’ Gift in St. refer to the print version of this title. showing how little actual metal remains after the scissors spent more than three hundred years in the soil.13 X-ray photograph of the scissors from Charles’ Gift in St. MD) [To view this image. refer to the print version of this title. 5.

so it is not too surprising that the assemblage should be rich and varied. This was a site occupied over a long period by a succession of well-to-do households. John’s assemblage is that three of the scissors are marked. steel treatment on the blades. 5.’’ and a third with a mark resembling a spade of the sort that appears on playing cards. Mary’s City. and these were all assigned to the 1685–1715 or terminal phase of occupation at the site. 5. Curator Silas Hurry noted that only three specimens came from dated contexts. one with the lowercase initials ‘‘pc. Hurry further concluded that the assemblage of scissors lacked any temporally diagnostic attributes. as we have seen.’’ another with a ‘‘7. What is remarkable about the St. The St.13). by hand. which is not unexpected. refer to the print version of this title. or simply from stylistic variation. though the blades . and so on) on such badly corroded specimens. But this is a high number of scissors nonetheless. It is impossible to study details (such as marks. archaeologists recovered a surprising minimum of nine pairs of scissors.40 At the St. John’s scissors do not exhibit much variation in size.41 Distinctive features of scissors are likely to arise from different intended purposes.14 Half of a small pair of nineteenth-century embroidery scissors found at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm.] Fig. Maryland. One specimen has incised lines known as decorative ‘‘stringing’’ in scissorsmith parlance. Massachusetts. in small workshops. given that until the later nineteenth century scissors were not mass-produced but manufactured by scissorsmiths separately. John’s site in St. (Photograph by Michael Hamilton) X-ray photograph of the same pair of scissors reveals that very little iron remained after the scissors had spent three hundred years in the ground (fig.Shears and Scissors 135 [To view this image. Newbury.

rapier or pointed. So it would appear that even when blessed by an abundance of scissors from a single site.136 Shears and Scissors differ in shape and include bodkin or round. which suggests that this was a pair of barber’s scissors intended for cutting hair. 75S/AEU). Massachusetts (fig. as is the case with half of a small pair of embroidery scissors found at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury. Close inspection of scissors is nevertheless likely to provide insight into many household activities. even less in the way of interpretation of their relative quality and likely social significance. . Nevertheless. and vigo or bluntpointed types. One nearly intact pair. Under most circumstances it would be unwise to attempt to assign scissors to any gender-specific task category or to state with certainty that they are sewing implements unless they exhibit characteristics specific to scissors designed to cut fabric or to assist with such tasks as buttonholing or embroidery. has protrusions that appear to be finger guards. because the recovered scissors are often fragmentary or poorly preserved. most seem to fall into the category of multipurpose utility scissors.14). however (No. 5. the archaeologist can offer only limited speculation about their intended purposes and.

only under unusually propitious conditions do textiles of any age survive archaeologically. and lace-making as well as with the production of finished garments—sewing accessories and the ‘‘findings’’ or small details that give a garment or curtain or other piece of work a finished look and help make it fit and hang correctly. and the Artifacts of Textile Production Thus far I have attempted to show how seemingly simple and commonplace artifacts that everybody readily recognizes and ‘‘knows’’—pins. They include all sorts of notions. An early-twentieth-century manual on home sewing. In this chapter I consider items related to sewing and textile working that are far more likely to go unrecognized and hence unremarked and unstudied. thimbles. Pennsylvania. Accessories. opens with the observation that ‘‘in dressmaking and home sewing. These items are known as findings. or workbasket.’’ Like the home sewer. ‘‘cloth seldom survives the millennia’’—indeed. The chief evidence for textile production in 137 . and scissors—have complex histories and even more complex and varied social meanings than we might at first think they do. and so on. published by the Woman’s Institute of Scranton. For this reason I have compiled something of a grab-bag.6 Findings Notions. such as snap fasteners. some of which are essential to the completion of a garment or article and others of which are merely conveniences. the archaeologist needs to ‘‘be thoroughly familiar with what is available along this line. elastic. there is always need for finishing helps. of artifacts associated with such activities as spinning. tape.’’ 1 T E X T I L E PRODUC TI ON As Elizabeth Barber points out in Prehistoric Textiles. without which a garment usually cannot be satisfactorily finished. weaving. needles. if you will. and I have offered ways to enrich our interpretations of these humble finds.

I focus on items likely to be found at farmsteads or household compounds where smallscale domestic production took place. or spindle. The Chinese seem to have a solid claim to the invention of a type of treadle-powered spinning wheel by the fourteenth century.138 Findings prehistoric times comes in the form of tools. sometimes with a hook or notch at the upper end. There is considerable debate about when and where this simple machine was invented. and so on—and could be placed anywhere on the stick but in most instances would be fitted at one end or the other. although this differed quite a bit from the treadle wheels used later in Europe. or parts of tools. onto which yarn was wound. Rather. hand-turned wheel upon which the yarn was turned and given a twist as it was fed to the spindle.3 Spindle wheels placed the spindle between uprights at one end of a benchlike platform that had a large. Considerable attention has been given to these sorts of evidence in the published literature. known as a whorl. some textile historians believe it was invented in China between ad 500 and 1000. The weight of the whorl affected both the thickness of the thread and the amount of twist imparted to it. was added. This allowed the stick to act as a flywheel. as well as in artistic depictions of these activities or of individuals wearing garments fashioned from string or woven fibers. The spinning wheels listed in early probate inventories recorded in . whorls were made of varied materials—wood. used in spinning and weaving. stone whorls from similarly dated deposits were conically shaped of a local calcite mudstone weighing between fifteen to twenty-three grams. these were made from the hemispherical fused femur heads of cattle ranging in weight from twelve to twenty-seven grams. Nor do I discuss the types of industrial machinery. An archaeological case study of homebased weaving helps us to understand how the processes and equipment used in home-based textile production changed in the medieval and early modern eras as demand for new types of textiles encouraged the adoption of new technologies to produce them. used in factories. Barber provides the best survey of the evidence for the use of spindle whorls in prehistoric times. stone. I do not attempt a comprehensive coverage of early spinning and weaving here. Nine bone spindle whorls were among those found in late Saxon (late-ninth to early-twelfth-century) deposits in the City of London.2 spinning equipment The first type of tool used for spinning was a simple stick. fired clay. Spindles were usually straight sticks made of wood or bone. and because Barber’s book is such a marvelous synthesis and culmination of archaeological research on ancient textiles. to which at some point in prehistory a weight. such as power looms and spinning mules. whereas others consider India the likely place of origin.

the retting process. they had . as its name implies. one attached to the spindle and a second of smaller diameter forming part of the bobbin. by contrast. which removed short fibers. Combing was an earlier method than carding. occasionally. resulted in fibers that were only roughly aligned.1). often distinguishing ‘‘lint’’ or linen wheels from wheels for spinning woolen or cotton yarn (table 6. in which wool passed through the teeth of a comb.5 Households that produced their own yarn often began with the raw product. hard yarn known as worsted yarn. and it is quite common for inventories with linen wheels to list as well various tools for processing flax (hackles or brakes. aligning the rest. in places where colonial settlers established textile industries and that have not since been subjected to intensive development. Probate inventories list spinning wheels among the furnishings of almost every seventeenth-century household. Carding. then walk back toward the wheel while turning it in the opposite direction so that the yarn was taken up on the spindle. It was relatively small and could be worked continuously because it had a flyer of wood or metal attached to the spindle. wool combs were large and heavy (weighing about seven pounds). It is possible that similar landscape features survive elsewhere. wool combs. producing a smooth. along with two whorls. leaving in short fibers. Scandinavian wool combs or togcombs came into use in the eighteenth century. for instance) and for those listing wool wheels to include cards or. carded fibers were ‘‘mixed and criss-crossed’’ and when spun retained air pockets that made for a warm and soft yarn known as woolen yarn. and sluices. for instance. which allowed the hard outer portion of the flax plant to decay so that the fibers inside could be separated and prepared for spinning. pools.Findings 139 North America are of two types. Spun combed fibers lie close and flat. used to spin woolen yarn. often involved complex feature systems of watercourses.4 The archaeology of textile production often extends beyond artifacts and households to the broader landscape. In parts of England the remains of flaxretting pools sometimes survive as features of the medieval landscape. attaching some fiber to the spindle while turning the wheel by hand or with a little wooden peg while she walked backward to effect a twist on the fiber. The other type of wheel was called a great wheel or wool wheel and was. The spinner could be seated while doing this sort of work. Combing was considered a specialized task and was often done by men. Local place-names or field names often provide clues to the location of places where this activity took place. The former type of wheel was also known as the Saxony or flax wheel and was used for spinning both worsted and linen yarns. It required the spinner to hold the carded roll of fiber in one hand. with three to nine rows of teeth made of varying lengths of tempered steel set into horn at an angle of about 80 degrees. both of them invented in Europe sometime around 1600.

5d.. in yaron.3d. 2 linnen wheeles 2 churnes & other lumber pinns.. ? £54. Sr. hatchell. pair of tow cards. 4s. one Cotton wheele. not totaled Estate value Table 6. linen wheel 3s. flax. Margery Knowlton. widow Thomas Firman John Balch Mrs. 2 wheles & a reele. Emme Mason. one wheele to spin with. widow Mrs. 2s. £77.1 Seventeenth-century Essex County. 4s.. PR 1:40 PR 1:36 PR 1:39 PR 1:41 PR 1: 7 Source £19.1-4 of yarne at 2s..11d.15s. not given not given £158.19s. probate inventory evidence for carding and spinning . 2s. 6s. 5s. Margaret Pease Joanna Cummings John Talbey Isabel West Mrs.3d. a pare of woll cards.15s. white thred & a remnant of new cloth. thre spininge whealls. 16s.. whell. yearne. 5s. £26. a parsell of tow.4d. William Knight Mrs.2d. flakes & hempe.16s.. 4s. towe.. Mary Hersome.6d. & winding blads.12s. Relevant entries £154.8d.4s. spinning wheels a pcell of linnen.2s. one hake 3s. not given PR 1:214 PR 1:201 PR 1:211 PR 1:180 PR 1:95 PR 1:97 PR 1:163 PR 1:57 £25. 4s.6d. 1li. a whele. one lining wheele. 6d. 6d. 8s. widow Mrs. 6s. 7s. lots of cloth.. —. £33. 8s. one Bundell of lyning yarne. needles 1li..4s.8d. Elinor Treslere George Burrill. a whelle & 5 ould Chairs... 2s. 2s. lennen yarne 1s. In Kitchen. Abigail Averill Date 1644 1644 1644 1644 1646 1646 1648 1648 1653 1653/1654 1654 1654/1655 1655 Lynn Ipswich Salem Lynn Ipswich Salem Ipswich Salem Salem Salem Salem Salem Wenham Residence one whele. yearne. an ould tunill with a spindle and a peece of ould linin. 2li.Decedent Mrs. Massachusetts. 1s.

12lb. a linen wheele & 2 chaires. 20 pound woolle.. £12. 10s. one linnen wheele. hors takell. 6 pare of stockins & a spinning wheele.5s. yearn and hemp. whele & cars.10s.2s. whelle and cards. 3 yds of Cotton.10d.3s. two ould wheeles lennen wheele. Margaret Kimball Miell Lambard Samuel Putnam 1655 1655 1658 1659 1660 1662 1663 1663 1664 1670 1671 1672/1673 1673 1675/1676 1676 1676 Salem? Salem? Rowley Rowley Ipswich Marblehead Salem? Ipswich Ipswich Lynn Lynn Ipswich Newbury Salem Ipswich Rowley a wheel and Iron spindle. widow Mrs. 15s. tooe old whels and tooe old chayers.6d.13s. basket.6d.6d. 7s.6d. textiles 2 wheeles. £539. a whelle and Lumber 1li. too cheirs & other lumber.16s. at Hampton one ould spinin whell. Elizabeth Stacey Mrs. 1li. £113. 4s. 20 pound of woll..5d £47..6d.6d. Cotton wool.7s.13s. weaver Rebecca Bacon Susan French. £49. misc. Grace Sallows Mrs. 1li. £63.. 26 pound of yarne.18s. widow Humphrey Reyner Mrs. 2li. Anne Lume Martha Harrield Mrs. of wool & 5 lb. £29. 7s. £195. £184.3d..9d.6d.5s. Combe parsell bellows.. Abigail Wells Ann Burt Mrs.4d. two pare of Cards. 2li. RF 6:230 PR 3:46 RF 6:230 £2. of yarne. one wheell & Chair. one pear candlestick.10s.6d. PR 1:322 PR 1:371 PR 2:115–120 PR 1:410 PR 1:444 PR 2:172 PR 2:241 PR 2:361–362 PR 2:382–383 PR 3:46 PR 1:216 PR 1:227 PR 1:272 PR 1:300 not given £49. thred tape & sycers.3d. 1li. 5s. 1li. widow Mrs. 2 wheles.2s. 4s. 7s.Henry Fay.6d.2s..8s. 1 tabel and 2 whells and cards. 12s. 4s. Cotton wooll. £144.16s. £98.. Elizabeth Mansfield Mrs. 1li. not given £191. .9d. £18. 5s. Jane Lambert. whelles and Cards. Mary Smith.7s. 3s.3s.18s. 1 kneding trof. 1s. 5s. Trunckes.11s.

16s. PR 2: Essex County. Probate Court 1916.5s. 2s. 1li.6s. five pound of cotton yarne a payer of cards and a coten wheele.. Margaret Bishop.16s.6d. £20. Rebecca Howlet. 4s. one chest & 2 wheeles..6d £161. £0.6d. 6s. wheele for spining. Estate value PR 3:416–417 PR 3:406 PR 3:411 PR 3:201 PR 3:281 PR 3:306 PR 3:316 PR 3:371 RF 6:231 Source Sources: PR 1: Essex County.6d. 10s.4s. 2 spinning wheeles. 2 li.1 Continued .0s. 1li. PR 3: Essex County. weaver Nathaniel Parker. £273. trenchers. Jane Williams Mrs.19s. widow 1676 1677 1678 1679 1679 1680 1681 1681 1681 Newbury Ipswich? Ipswich Gloucester Marblehead Lynn Newbury Newbury Salem Residence one wheell. See text bedstead. 1li. sledd and reele.John Huchinson John Haomons Mrs.10s Relevant entries £64..6d. £710. carpenter William Sutton Mrs..19s. 1li. tow pare pillowberes. Massachusetts.8s. Probate Court 1920. £30. meal tub & meal trough.8s. Massachusetts. Ann Condy Samuel Mansfield. RF 6: Essex County. Massachusetts. woollen yarne & woolle.6d. Quarterly Courts 1917 Decedent Date Table 6. twelve pounds of cotton yarne. widow Mrs. sives.5d. 1 old spinning wheel. 2 silver spons thimble & clasps. £33. scales & qurens.18s. Massachusetts.5s.1d. £154.6d. 8s. Probate Court 1917. 1li.

the other hand turning the wheel. These are simply short. square or oblong wooden paddles bristling on one side with teeth formed of dozens of small wire hooks set in leather. turned by a driving wheel’’ (fig. In the City of London evidence of weaving ‘‘is restricted to the occurrence of loom weights and pin-beaters. and examples continue in use today in some parts of the world.Findings 143 only one row of teeth and in fact resemble a pitchfork with extra tines and a very short handle. It is possible that the teeth of such cards might be found archaeologically. so they do not survive archaeologically. In Europe such looms were in use during the Neolithic era. and it is possible that some portion of the winder might be of metal: ‘‘the bobbin is pushed on to a slightly tapered spindle.6 Spinning wheels were made almost entirely of wood. pottery.1 Henry Fay’s ‘‘spooleing wheele’’). but it seems likely that if the teeth were badly corroded the archaeologist would most likely assume they were the tips of corroded nails or tacks. Cards were large.’’ 9 Pin beaters or thread-pickers were used to beat in the weft on a loom. 6. such as Henry Fay’s ‘‘wheele and Iron spindle’’ listed among his weaving equipment (table 6. straight lengths of turned bone or antler tapering to a point at . both of which were used with warp-weighted looms (although pin beaters were also used on other sorts of looms). or metal. but normally the winder would be used in conjunction with a swift. they were used for combing the woolen (or cotton) fibers until they ran roughly parallel to one another. a more or less ‘‘cone-shaped form that rotates as the yarn is wound off and guided on to the bobbin by one hand held close to it.’’ 8 weaving equipment Early looms were often of a type referred to as warp-weighted because the warp threads were held parallel and in tension by tying them in small bunches to weights of stone.1).1) might be recovered. and the weaver(s) would stand before them and work from the top downward. whereas later they were bent or hooked towards the handles. and leather for the bearings. usually made of metal or wood. The warp-weighted loom continued in common use in England on both urban and rural sites throughout the Saxon period.7 The spun yarn would be rewound onto the spools or shuttles used by the weaver to project the weft threads across the warp (note in table 6. flat. although a spindle for collecting the spun yarn made of metal. Bobbin winders often closely resemble spinning wheels. with metal for the spindle and wheel axle only. perhaps set into the ground on posts or leaned against a wall. Such looms were upright. depending on the preservation conditions at a site. references to other sorts of looms being used in London do not appear until the twelfth century. In early cards the wires were quite straight.

long-handled bone weaving combs were used instead of pin beaters.] Fig. and single-pointed with a flat chisel-like butt at the opposite end (Late Saxon). In Northern Britain from the Iron Age onward. In areas where the two-beamed vertical loom (versus warp-weighted loom) was used—pre-Roman Denmark. Pin beaters (sometimes called dagger beaters) were shorter than sword beaters and vary in shape from ‘‘cigar-shaped’’ (circular or ovate in section and tapering to a point at either end from an intermediate swelling.10 The City of London Saxon loom weights tended to be found in groups of two . Sword beaters were about ten inches to twenty inches in length and are found on sites as early as the Bronze Age.1 A nineteenth-century handloom weaving and spinning workshop. and they took on a high polish from use. they are rarely found in posttenth-century contexts. and weaving combs. refer to the print version of this title. curved-section beaters made from limb bones (Anglo-Saxon and Viking period). sword beaters. they were sometimes made of wood or of iron as well as of bone (including sea mammal bone).144 Findings [To view this image. found in large numbers on Roman sites both on the Continent and in Britain). (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) either end. 6. single-pointed. for example—the weaving tools found include pin beaters.

which was in use at least by the seventeenth century. England. and bleachgrounds ‘‘factory residences’’ of the sort that soon became typical of the industry. and this development eventually put an end to the family system of production that for so long had characterized the handloom weaving industry. A good example is Barnsley.Findings 145 to four and most were charred. a region that might boast a textile ‘‘industry’’ was not characterized by factory production but by small-scale domestic production that was carried on in people’s homes or workshops in towns and villages and on farmsteads in rural areas. Weights used on the same loom tend to look alike.11 Loom weights. because they would have to have been carefully balanced to provide even tension for the warp. Rents were cheap enough to lure families away from farms. did linen entrepreneurs like Foljambe Wood add to their flaxprocessing works. England. The power loom was introduced in the mid-1830s. while the overall assemblage of weights from Saxon deposits fall into three weight categories. but some elements of looms and their accessories can and do survive to be unearthed and interpreted. Despite the predominance of home-based handloom weaving over several centuries. are close in size. Barnsley became a major center of British linen production.13 At Houndhill. The groupings of loom weights from the London deposits. the Elmhirst family practiced ‘‘cottage weaving’’ from the mid-sixteenth century until the early seven- .12 Before the nineteenth century. and it seems likely that the heavier weights affected the type of cloth being woven and the spacing of the warp ends. therefore. This evidence is congruent with findings from deposits of similar date in Winchester and Chichester. and the concentration of weavers into the residential developments proved advantageous for the capitalists because it meant that almost all members of the family could participate in various aspects of the weaving process while under the owner’s watchful eye. shape. however. provide for the archaeologist solid and long-lasting evidence of the weaver’s craft. near Barnsley in Yorkshire. Not until the end of the eighteenth century. then. and by the early eighteenth century certain entrepreneurially minded residents initiated attempts to organize the industry. in the West Riding of Yorkshire. and weight. So it would seem that archaeologists working at later medieval and early modern sites would recover little in the way of evidence for weaving (except for the rare scrap of fabric). heavy. the horizontal treadle loom that seems to have come into use in Europe by about ad 1000 and the later drawloom. ‘‘Factory residences’’ were tenement rows where weavers both lived and wove. were constructed almost entirely of wood and hence leave less of an archaeological signature than do earlier types of looms. surprisingly little is known about the lives of cottage weavers. warehouses. leading the archaeologists to speculate that they represent the remains of burned looms. and light. medium.



teenth century, and at the same residence, new owners took up weaving again in
the late eighteenth century. The family seat had consisted of a two-winged house
with associated farm buildings, one of which was referred to locally as a ‘‘weaving house,’’ none of which survived above ground. Excavation of the building
gave every indication that it had been a weaver’s workshop, for the finds included
not only pits that may have served for operations such as dyeing and preparation
of wool and possibly flax but also several items clearly associated with looms.
Denis Ashurst notes that apart from the workshop structure and the documentary
record, the early phase of weaving was not represented archaeologically; rather,
the finds all seem to date to the second half of the eighteenth century, when the
weaving of white linen and twill and fine-quality damasks was the major source
of prosperity in the area. The finds are in keeping with this sort of production.14
Among these finds were two sizes of lead weights, known as lingoes, a large
one weighing seven and a half ounces and a smaller one weighing five and a half
ounces.15 These would have functioned in a drawloom. In medieval looms the
depression of a foot pedal caused a series of string healds to lift up alternate warp
threads, thus producing a gap or shed through which the shuttle might pass; for
weaving complicated designs such as damasks, certain of the warp threads had to
be raised out of sequence. The drawloom made this possible: its use in Europe
began with the Italian silk industry, although it was known earlier in China and
the East. Although most Western scholars had assumed that the drawloom was
introduced to China in medieval times, Dieter Kuhn, noted scholar of Chinese textile technology—especially silk weaving—has demonstrated through his
analysis of Han dynasty (206 bc–ad 220) textiles and texts that an early form of
drawloom was among the types of looms used to produce figured fabrics in the
later Han dynasty. From Italy the drawloom found its way into France and England, where it was used until around 1800. The drawloom possessed a healdharness by which the weaver controlled the majority of the warp threads that
bound the cloth together, as well as a figure-harness with which the draw-boy,
the weaver’s assistant, drew up selected threads to make the design. Each warp
thread used in the design was encircled by a small loop, or mail, from which a
cord coupling passed upward over a series of pulleys to the draw-boy. He drew
up the threads as required, following a squared and colored chart as a guide. In
order to bring the threads back into position after being raised, each mail had a
lingoe hung below it.16
The form of lingoes did not change over time; they were elongated, solid lead
cylinders, about five to six inches long, widened and flattened at the top, where
a hole was punched through which the thread could pass.
At Houndhill the archaeologists also found an iron weight (one pound, three



ounces), about six inches long, that worked in conjunction with a counterbalance consisting of an iron can with a lead-weighted bottom, which would have
been filled with enough sand to match the opposing iron weight. The weight
served as a friction brake to maintain tension in the warp threads.17
Another artifact pertaining to weaving found at Houndhill was a reed, which
consists of a number of metal strips a few inches long, each one gripped at the
top and bottom by a binding of pitched linen or hempen thread determining
the distance between each strip. The reed, which replaced the pin beater, was
used to beat the trailing weft thread back into the warp threads after the shuttle
had passed across the loom. The example from Houndhill probably dates to between 1750 and 1800; it had either seventeen or twenty-three strips to the inch,
the metal strips being held in pine battens.18
A plate from a nineteenth-century German book illustrating various types of
hand work and the tools used in each process depicts a cottage handloom weaving and spinning shop in which a man and two women are employed (fig. 6.1).
In the right foreground, a woman is spinning yarn for use by the weavers, and
another spinner sits behind her, facing the large window lighting the room; a
woman is operating the loom in the background while a man weaves in the foreground. Two weights holding tension in the warp are clearly visible. There is no
evidence of mechanization of any sort, even though the workshop is a ‘‘factory’’
of sorts because it incorporates multiple stages in the process of cloth production. The loom weights are the most likely evidence to be recovered from the
archaeological record; little else here would survive.
A similar scene of a handloom weaving operation shows spinning wheels operated by women and a handloom operated by a male in the foreground (fig. 6.2).
In the background, however, we see into a second room that has been equipped
with power looms connected to a leather-belt main drive, overseen by a female
operative. This larger, partially mechanized shop with its cast-iron machine parts
would have a more robust archaeological signature than the shop depicted in fig.
6.1, though its most distinctive signature would arise in the form of evidence for
power generation and power transmission (that is, a dam and mill pond or a fastrunning stream with sluiceway leading to a pit for a waterwheel, or a mounting
for a steam engine and the coal ash and clinkers left over from stoking the engine’s boiler).
There is ample evidence for handloom weaving in the seventeenth-century
probate records of Essex County, Massachusetts. I have summarized the entries
pertaining to weaving from the published volumes of Essex County inventories
as well as entries listing what the inventory takers tended to refer to as ‘‘homemade’’ cloth (table 6.2). Although most inventories of weavers’ shops lack detail,



[To view this image, refer to
the print version of this title.]

Fig. 6.2 A partially mechanized nineteenth-century handloom weaving and spinning
workshop. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection)

there are exceptions, such as the inventory of Samuel Mansfield of Lynn, who
died in 1679 of smallpox, leaving a widow and three small children. He was identified as a weaver by the inventory takers, and the items listed in his estate inventory reveal that he had a weaving shop equipped for producing both fine linen
and coarser woolen cloth (kersey, spelled phonetically in the inventory).19
A loome & weavors tackling belonging to it, 31i. 19s 6d., 41i.15s. 6d.;
raisir Hone, siser, 6s. 6d., 16s. 6d.;
wool, 10s.;
Lyning yarne, 11i. 10s.;
a reele & wheele, 10s., 3 li.;
A Loome, Lathe & blocks, tridles, stretchers & irons belonging to it, 21i. 5s;
2 pare of temples, 2s.;
a pare of Blocks & wheels, 1s. 6d.;
2 pare of shafts, 2s., 5s. 6d;
woolen yarne, 9s.;
10 dozen buttons, 5s.;



2 Lamps, 2s., halfe a coverlid, slea & Harnis, 19s.6d;
A sheep rack, 5s., a rave, 3s., a shitle, 2s. an ould slea, 3s., 13s.;
a forke & rake, 2s. 6d, 2 ell sleas & harniss belonging to them, 11i. 10s., 11i.
12s. 6d.;
1 yard slea for carsye & harnis belonging to it, 8s.,
2 sleas & harnis for them for Lyning, 10s., 18s.;
total 1541i. 8s. 6d.

Mansfield seems to have had a small workshop where yarn was spun as well as
woven into fabric much like the shop depicted in fig. 6.1; the listings also hint
at basic processing of flax to produce linen thread. He had at least two looms
fully assembled and operational at the time of his death, and those plus the
other items associated with his craft comprised a sizeable portion of his estate’s
value. The second loom mentioned in Mansfield’s inventory was equipped with
‘‘irons,’’ which may have been weights similar to those found at the Houndhill
site mentioned above (although those were of lead); if so, we can infer that he
was producing a linen damask or other fancy weave on a drawloom.
If we were to consider Mansfield’s house and workshop (though there is no
indication that the two were not one and the same) as furnished in his probate
inventory as a potential archaeological site, we would quickly conclude that little
of the equipment for spinning and weaving would survive. Looms, like spinning
wheels, were made of wood, with few if any parts made of metal or other material that might survive well archaeologically. The lead and iron weights used
in specialized drawlooms survive, as we have seen, and one might find heddles
of wire, although many were made of string.20
The only persons named as weavers in seventeenth-century Essex County,
Massachusetts, were men, and most of the male weavers seem to have worked
solo rather than run a workshop. Weavers’ accounts indicate that they acquired
spun yarn from local women who spun at home; payment for the yarn often involved a complex system of barter rather than cash. Although historic house museums and Colonial Revival notions of early industry tend to envision women at
looms as well as at their spinning wheels, it seems that in seventeenth-century
New England weaving was considered a skilled occupation that was done mainly
by men.
This changed, however, as over the course of the eighteenth century weaving as well as spinning came to be identified with the ‘‘womanly arts’’ to such an
extent that household cloth production became ‘‘powerfully emblematic of all
women’s work.’’ Archaeologist Joyce Clements investigated a loom house, possibly originally constructed in the eighteenth century, that was an outbuilding at

Mrs. Sarah Dillingham
Thomas Payne

Luke Heard, linen weaver
Michael Hopkinson

Henry Fay, weaver

Robert Long, weaver
Hugh Smith, weaver
Frances Lawes
Mrs. Elizabeth Stacey
John Witt, Sr.
John Littlehal ‘‘slain in war’’
Richard Kenball, weaver
Amos Stickney

Samuel Mansfield, weaver











6 yds. of Loomworke, 5s.
‘‘Item I give Thomas my son Loomes & Sluices with there my
appurtenances concerning his trade as weaver.’’ (will) shopp
Tooles, 6li., linen 2li.9s.
one payre of loomes, 1li.; one shutel 3sh, one tenipel, 1 warping woof, one rings and one payre of heels, 7s., one ridel,
1li.12s.; three slayes, 9s.; three wheels, 2s.8d; Cotton woll and
yarne, 5li.10s.; five slayds, 12s.6d.; red Corsay three yards, 15s
a loame and warping beame, a spooleing wheele, sleyes and harnesses and other appurtenances, 2li.10s; a wheele and Iron
spindle, 3s.
appointed attorney of Hay’s estate
payre of looms & tacklings
weaving tackle
7 yards of home made cloth & two ould wheeles [no loom]
A Loome for to weave in, sleas & Harness &c., 5li.
a loome and gares to it, 5li.10s.
a weavers loom and taclend, 2li.5s.
wooll in the house, 3li.; a Loame with all tackling for weaving,
10li., parcel of new homemade cloth, 3li.10s.
See text

Relevant entries


PR 3:306

RF 1:407
PR 1:236
PR 2:51
PR 2:172
PR 3:56
PR 3:22
PR 3:73
PR 3:243

RF 1:406–407


not given
not given
not given

PR 1:81
PR 1:253–254

PR 1:3
PR 1:37


not given

not valued

Estate value

Sources: PR 1: Essex County, Massachusetts, Probate Court 1916; PR 2: Essex County, Massachusetts, Probate Court 1917; PR 3: Essex County, Massachusetts, Probate
Court 1920; RF 1: Essex County, Massachusetts, Quarterly Courts 1911



Table 6.2 Seventeenth-century Essex County, Massachusetts, evidence for weaving in probate records

The loom house or room was an important element of the working farm. In recent times. Indeed. Documentary evidence linked the property to the Abbott family and indicated clearly that the loom house was part of the domain of Allice Abbott. as handmade lace has again become a rare and expensive luxury good.21 L AC E M A K I NG Nineteen little round holes gaping for a wire. gradually supplanting the cottage industry of handmade lace. Most lace was produced under circumstances far different from the image most people hold in mind: that of well-dressed. gets me one the nigher. there is a special assemblage that characterizes bobbin lace–making. and wearing lace was once a privilege of the wealthiest members of society. however. who was bequeathed the ‘‘whole of the loom or chaise house’’ on the husband’s death in 1802. Massachusetts. stored in baskets. nostalgic. and only when the elements of the lace-maker’s toolkit are found together can the archaeologist confidently interpret excavated material as evidence of on-site lace-making.Findings 151 a farmstead in Bedford. and it seems likely that it housed the two spinning wheels and a clock wheel for measuring spun wool into skeins. In the early modern era. As one . as the fashion for wearing lace became more widespread and the demand for lace increased. the abundance of window glass in the fill of the building’s cellar indicates that it was well lighted with many windows. By the nineteenth century in both England and the United States machine-made lace had become common. and some men at work for long hours in less than ideal conditions. or in some cases ‘‘bone’’ lace required special implements or accessories beyond pins. genteel ladies exhibiting their femininity through their prowess at the delicate art of lace-making. —Children’s lace-making rhyme (Spenceley 1976:167) There are many kinds and several ways of making lace. and unrealistic.22 Lace was long a luxury item. Unlike the slightly earlier cottage workshop excavated at Houndhill. the loom house at the Abbott Farm site produced no artifacts related to the cloth production that took place there. regionally based lace-making industries developed that kept large numbers of women. Handmade lace of the sort known as bobbin lace. pillow lace. Every pin that I stick in. Archaeological investigations proved that the building was L-shaped. our notions of lace have grown increasingly romantic. although its dimensions could not be determined with certainty. and the loom and tackling mentioned in Allice’s husband’s household inventory. Cloth manufacture became critical to Allice’s ability to continue to support herself and her children in her widowhood. The eastern portion of the building contained the loom room. children.

‘‘The production of hand-made lace was a far cry from the rustic bliss which many contemporaries and lovers of lace imagined. Here the lace industry was for the most part initiated and controlled by the entrepreneurial Tribout family.’’ 23 Lace-making was an important cottage industry in certain areas of the Continent and in the British Isles from very early times until well into the nineteenth century. Buckinghamshire. ‘‘the development of the Midland pillow-lace industry is usually attributed to the influence of Flemings who fled from the Netherlands .25 . but the lace-makers did occupy a distinct social category above that of the poorest folk. Of these.’’ Another center of lace-making emerged in Devonshire. the French town of Valenciennes was for a time a commercial center of lace production. in and around the town of Honiton. What is important for the archaeologist to know is that the different techniques required different styles of bobbins: this is the key to interpreting from archaeological finds what sort of lace was being made. and it should come as no surprise that lace-making was also done by people who emigrated to Europe’s colonies. and Northamptonshire. The earliest pillow lace was made in Italy in the early sixteenth century. Buckinghamshire was the most important. many from poor families.24 The names given to different types of lace are based on the notion that ‘‘the name denotes the technique and not the actual place where any given lace was made’’—in other words. In the eighteenth century. where several centers of production arose. Contemporary commentators compared Honiton lace favorably with that produced in Antwerp and Flanders.’’ Four counties in the English Midlands became centers of lace production: Oxfordshire. . .152 Findings scholar unequivocally states. . Bedfordshire. . and much of the lace made in the English Midlands was known as ‘‘Buckinghamshire lace. bringing their lacemaking skills with them. In England. but the technique quickly spread to Belgium. Few of these women managed to rise out of poverty. [T]he conditions and effects of the employment of children in this industry must be equated with some of the most notorious of industrial occupations in nineteenth-century England. what the names do imply is that the laces were produced with somewhat different techniques and patterns. the Valenciennes lace-workers were mainly women. ‘‘Buckinghamshire lace’’ and ‘‘Honiton lace’’ were in fact produced over a wider geographic area than the names indicate. the commonest means of naming a type of lace is by giving it the name of the place where it was first known to have been made. England. . sometime in the sixteenth century and was well established by the early seventeenth century. and in the seventeenth century Honiton lace sold for four times as much as Buckinghamshire lace. so it was recognizably different from lace made in the Midlands. and they received their training in local workhouses.

widow of Lynn. declared. there were 28. England.and nineteenth-century census takers tended to neglect to record occupations pursued by women and children. in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. and personal portable possessions. On average a woman received the equivalent of a shilling to one shilling. it was a valuable supplement to family income. we see that these were people at the upper end of the social scale. especially in rural agricultural communities.’’ 26 Even in areas in which lace-making was never a major cottage industry. although of course the price paid varied according to the quality and intricacy of the work. ‘‘In the town of Ipswich. 1790. could result in a significant supplement to a household’s income. a lively cottage industry caught the attention of the new United States government. lace-making centers also developed in North America. linens. 1640–1860. The Puerto Rican case serves as a cautionary tale for those who assume that the rise in the nineteenth century of the machine-made lace industry sup- . Massachusetts. to August. A month’s worth of lace-making. It is extremely difficult to construct an accurate demographic profile of cottage industries such as lace-making. In Ipswich. The only entry for someone who may have been a lace-maker. though women’s estates were generally valued much below that of men’s because they usually consisted of only their clothes.562.496 yards of lace and 13. however.Findings 153 By the eighteenth century. for instance. In Oxfordshire. From the estate values listed for owners of lace. six pence. not just because the work was carried out at the household level but chiefly because eighteenth. that of Jane Gaines.483 yards of edging manufactured in the family way. in Puerto Rico during the early twentieth century there was a revival of bobbin lace–making when women who could not follow their husbands who found work in the United States attempted to support themselves and their children by producing lace for sale to American buyers. in his Household Manufactures in the United States. The population of the town at this time was 4. 1789.3). women from the villages brought their completed work for sale to buyers from London or High Wycombe who set themselves up to receive goods once a month at the Nag’s Head Inn in the town of Thame. Massachusetts. Household production involved women and children (and the occasional male). A report submitted to the secretary of the Treasury in the 1790s noted that in Ipswich bobbin lace was made for cash as part of an extensive putting-out industry in which more than six hundred women participated. Indeed. shows us that she was not wealthy. for a day’s work. from August. Massachusetts. And Rolla Milton Tryon. shows how both the ownership of lace and the production of lace functioned in the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (table 6. The evidence for lace and possible lace-making from seventeenth-century Essex County.

not given will. £39. Massachusetts. Probate Court 1917.7s. [in parlor] 6 boxes & 8 thred lases & some small things.4d.5d.3 Seventeenth-century Essex County. £43. 8s. a pcell of lace. Probate Court 1920 Decedent Date Table 6. not valued Estate value PR 3:121 PR 3:173 PR 3:252 PR 1:44 PR 1:95 PR 1:157 PR 1:179 PR 1:198 PR 1:382 PR 2:291 PR 1:39 PR 1:46 PR 1:35 Source Sources: PR 1: Essex County. 5s. 7d. 5s. PR 2: Essex County. 1 Child blanket. George Burrill. widow Thomas Firman John Cogswell.6d bone lace 13s. not given not given £141.4d. Lace & Filletten. in lace 5li. bonelass & thread & a pinn coshen. 10li.13s. Margaret Lake John Cole(died Marblehead) Nathaniel Mighell.Frances Hawes Joanna Cummings Margery Wathin Mrs. 5s.8d.. 1li. PR 3: Essex County. & 2 at 6d. 9d. £452. lace. Jr. Massachusetts. 3 laced neckclothes at 18d. silke & bone Lase. 5s. 2s.10s. lases and broidred works. Probate Court 1916.5d. Relevant entries not given £224. Massachusetts. merchant? Deacon Thomas Howlett 1641 1644 1644 1645 1648 1653 1654 1654 1661 1672 1676 1677 1678 Pemaquid Salem Ipswich Lynn Ipswich Ipswich Lynn Salem Salem Ipswich Salem Salem Salem Residence half an ell of lase [bequest] ‘‘I give goody ffeld one of my lase han carchefes wich is at good bornes’’ 4 necke handkerchiefes laced. 10s. £848. a small box with seavarrall 1 parcell statute Lace. 2s.3 1/2d. George Willims Thomas Wiles Mrs. not given £247. Massachusetts. 1s.11s. Jane Gaines. pr. probate inventory entries regarding lace and possible lace-making . silv.7s. Sr. 2s.5s.

or gimp. the lace is also uneven in texture because the bobbins used in Ipswich were too light to produce adequate tension on the threads. position as she worked at her pillow. It is a mistake to assume without supporting contextual evidence that lace bobbins found in nineteenth-century archaeological deposits reflect a leisure pastime pursued solely by wealthy women.29 Lace pins had to be good-quality pins of brass so they would not rust. many women attempted to avoid the neck and back pain such stooping caused by wearing stiff busks in their corsets. and many children were taught to make lace at special lace schools. A bobbin is usually about the size of a pencil. round cushion stuffed with straw). This practice constricted the ribs and sternum and eventually caused disfigurement and made the women . The professional lace-makers of Ipswich used as few pins as possible both to save money and to make the work go faster. to add weight and thus maintain tension on the threads while the work was in progress. Children of five or six worked from between four and six to eight hours a day. then placed a pin through each hole. almost crouching. was formed by interweaving a thread thicker than the ground threads according to the pattern pinned out through the parchment.28 In the lace schools each lace-maker had to provide her own pillow (a hard. The pillow was supported on the worker’s knees or on a three-legged pillow-horse. which before the nineteenth century were often made of bone (later examples are made of wood or other materials—the Ipswich lace-makers used bobbins made of what they called bamboo though they are. Of the surviving samples of Ipswich lace. these could prove quite expensive for lace-makers in North America. known as spangles. while older children worked from six in the morning to eight or ten at night. many have rather large openings that seem to reflect this economy with pins. Such schools were normally run by a woman in a single. these were usually made by specialist pillowmakers. on the end opposite the part of the bobbin holding the thread the lace-maker often placed a wire strung with several beads. The lace-maker affixed a strip of parchment pricked out in holes with the lace pattern. in fact. The thread from which the lace was made was wound onto bobbins. made of a variety of materials). The lace-maker was forced into a stooping.30 The lace was made by twisting and crossing the threads to form a ground and the pattern. who had to import both pins and thread for their work. into which twenty or thirty children were packed. and they tend to be slightly longer than ordinary pins. handmade lace has never lost its cachet as embellishment for elegant attire.Findings 155 planted lace-making by hand as an income-producing opportunity for women. unventilated room of her own cottage. lace-makers began to learn their craft at a young age.27 In the lace-making districts.

see below). even children. were said to suffer from dyspepsia. because both were cheap (wood being the cheaper of the two. All lace-makers.34 Often lace-makers attached to the nonworking end of a bobbin a weight in order to hold the tension on the treads so that the resulting lace would be tight and even. These weights. which is why paintings and photographs so often depict lace-makers working out of doors. strung on a wire. They are. yew. ordinary bobbins average about three and a half to four inches in length (not including the spangle. some bobbins constitute small masterpieces of folk art in and of themselves. tapered tubes produced cheaply and in great numbers for industrial use. light. Marta Cotterell Raffel has conducted a study of two thousand surviving Ipswich lace bobbins. who turned the wood or bone on a small lathe powered by a foot-treadle. consisted of a series of beads. than the plain. cherry. bobbins were produced by full-time bobbin-makers. and lace-makers employed a number of ingenious devices for . spindlewood. Lace-makers needed good light. The wood chosen for bobbin-making was normally a close-grained hardwood or a fruitwood. Horn was not an appropriate material for making turned bobbins. The thread was wound around the neck and looped with a half-hitch around the head. Types of wood included damson. Most of the work was done indoors. bone could be obtained from a butcher or a slaughterhouse. blackthorn. maple.’’ 32 The materials from which bobbins were most often made were wood or bone. and as a result. though. although one author makes it clear that ‘‘the very elaborate bobbins . which were very plain. consumption. like needlecases and other objects. although it was more subject to wear than bone) and readily available. Bone bobbins I have seen. ordinary and commonplace ones.31 The most diagnostic element of the lace-maker’s equipment is the bobbin upon which a supply of thread was wound.33 In lace-making districts. essentially.156 Findings more susceptible to the disease that plagued and killed most lace-makers. may. One source indicated that bone bobbins were made of chicken bones. known as spangles. . some ‘‘betterclass’’ bobbins were made of ebony. Bobbin shanks were sometimes elaborately carved. plum. being hollow and quite brittle when dry. the shank could be inscribed or decorated. none bear weights or spangles. . bog-oak. It is fortunate that so many of these bobbins survive in museums because they surely would not last long in archaeological contexts. were no better. and hollow and made from five different materials indigenous to late-eighteenth-century New England. walnut. oak. from a practical point of view. however. usually of glass. chicken bones seem highly unsuitable for this purpose. were made from cow metapodials or other dense mammal bone. boxwood. and apple.

Dicky pots were shaped rather like chamber pots.’’ Even so. so that it could be raised or lowered at will. burning. where its use is well documented. which threw the light down upon the work like a burning glass. value one penny. Roberts of Spratton in Northamptonshire described candlestools and how they were used to provide light for a large number of lace-makers in the school she attended in the early nineteenth century: In the evenings eighteen girls worked by one tallow candle. in part because they were often caught in a cycle of selling their lace either to dealers who forced them to buy all the raw materials from them . beneath the hem of her dress. at least in nineteenth-century English contexts. These bottles acted as strong condensers or lenses. In the middle of this was what was known as the ‘‘pole-board. is what was called a ‘‘dicky pot.’’ with six holes in a circle and one in the centre.35 A Mrs.36 Another artifact that may serve part of a lace-making assemblage. the sphere would be filled with water to condense the light. One solution for keeping warm was to fill a small. their stools being upon different levels.37 Parents felt compelled to ‘‘put their children to lace’’ by sending them to lace schools by age four or five out of economic necessity. In the centre hole was a long stick with a socket for the candle at one end and peg-holes through the sides. Farm laborers earned very little. or heat-spalling.’’ Normally lace-makers avoided having a fire in the grate or fireplace in the lace schools both because the students were packed in so closely that a fire would be unsafe and because soot from a fire might soil the lace. the ‘‘candle-stool’’ stood about as high as an ordinary table with four legs. Among these were lace-makers’ lamps (these were made from about 1780 to the mid-nineteenth century) and lace-makers’ candlestools. three to each bottle. and far from enough to support a large family. with a hollow glass sphere with a hole at the top. A lace-maker’s lamp resembled an ordinary candlestick but was made of glass. In the other six holes were placed pieces of wood hollowed out like a cup. so the additional income from the lace-making efforts of a mother and her children could help a family secure a ‘‘modicum of comfort. which undoubtedly would show evidence of interior sooting. The lace-maker would keep this dicky pot close to her feet. and the eighteen girls sat round the table. unglazed earthenware pot with hot ashes or charcoal. the highest near the bottle. from those of a glazed chamber pot. but it would be a simple matter to distinguish fragments of unglazed earthenware dicky pots used to hold ashes or coals.Findings 157 maximizing available light. most families in lace-making districts remained poor. and into each of these was placed a bottle made of very thin glass and filled with water.

a quilt. and some of these could have been used in lace-making. Paul’s workhouse lists two chairs. This is especially true of the lathe-turned bone lace bobbin found at the Triplex Middle cabin at the Hermitage in Tennessee found along with many other sewing and needlework tools at this dwelling. household-level production by one person. they often faced a stark choice: they could enter the poorhouse or supplement their lace-making income by turning to prostitution. black. The bobbin tips had holes to receive wires with spangles on them. but spangle beads that would have been attached to lace bobbins do not seem to have been found. in a cesspit behind a shop on Gloucester Street in Sydney. many parts of a bobbin winder used for loading thread onto the bobbins. though in each instance the evidence points to small-scale. Workhouses had specialized lace-making rooms (these doubled as sleeping rooms as well as workrooms). two blankets. lace-making was often seen as a form of poor relief. In the 1840s. with meat perhaps once a week. When lace-makers received less for their work during times when demand was slack. and the bobbin tips were found in association with seventeen multicolored beads (blue. Many pins were found at the Triplex Middle. and the parish pall. probably a woman. An inventory from 1774 of the lacemaking room at Bedford St. a pillow.38 In addition to serving as a supplement to family income in rural agricultural communities. Artifacts associated with lace-making have been found at many sites. a large coffer. was broken off and the edge filed flat. ranging from rural to urban. It may be that this lone bobbin was not used for its intended purpose. where the thread would have been wound. the furnishings of which included pillow-horses. baluster-type bobbins commonly used in making Buckinghamshire-style (also known as Midlands) or torchon lace. pins. a lace horse.39 The vicissitudes of the lace market affected a lace-maker’s income as much or more than her skill at the trade. a flask stool. In the eighteenth century the overseers of the poor in various Bedfordshire parishes attempted to organize lace-making enterprises. clear. At Five Points bobbin fragments were from the tips of long. Rebecca Yamin notes that ‘‘every type of bead’’ .40 At both the Five Points in New York and the Cumberland/Gloucester Street sites in Sydney’s Rocks neighborhood there were deposits that produced all of the elements of a lace-making assemblage: bobbins or fragments of bobbins. and. and green). In the adjacent room were two bobbin wheels. spangle beads. occupied by an enslaved seamstress. a bed. Oxfordshire lace-making families subsisted on a meager diet of bread and butter or potatoes. for the neck portion.158 Findings and deducted the cost from the purchase price or to local grocers or shopkeepers who forced them into a credit arrangement in which little cash ever changed hands. a bedstead.

which has been interpreted as a bobbin used to produce Honiton-style lace.Findings 159 [To view this image.42 . But another site in the Rocks produced a short. refer to the print version of this title. I have been fortunate that many colleagues have sent me copies of their reports and articles and thus have made the task of locating materials that have very limited circulation less daunting. indeed. nevertheless. several intact bobbins and a tip or ‘‘spangle head’’ were found. others are not.3). it resembles a bone bobbin found at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury. 6. bulbous shank resembles those of bobbins used in making Honiton-style lace.] Fig.3 Fragment of a bone lace bobbin found at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm. bulbous bobbin of the sort referred to as ‘‘South Bucks. albeit not commonly reported. baluster type that.’’ or ‘‘thumpers’’. Massachusetts.’’ ‘‘Huguenots. The portion that would have held the thread is missing.41 SEW I NG AC C ESS OR I ES Aids to assist the needleworker are varied and numerous. Massachusetts. like the Five Points bobbins. although Honiton bobbins tend to be quite slender (fig. 6. would have held spangles. and large bottom beads. as well as ones that are reported fairly regularly in the literature. There are. square cuts. with far more examples surviving in collections and museums than in archaeological sites. Here I discuss selected sewing accessories that are likely to be found by archaeologists. many sewing aids that are likely to survive in archaeological contexts. The sites in the Rocks produced a variety of bobbin types. mostly of the elongated. Newbury. some are relatively easy to recognize. (Photograph by Michael Hamilton) used in a spangle was recovered: top bead. Much of the information on archaeologically recovered sewing items is published in hard-to-find find sources or remains ‘‘buried’’ in artifact catalogs or in obscure site reports. but the short.

popular in the Victorian era. when machine-twisted and finished thread was first manufactured. wood. star-shaped. spools. therefore. consisted of multiple needlework tools (for example. They range in diameter from less than an inch (for fine silks) to about two inches for heavier weights of thread. I suspect that some star. I have not come across mention of thread winders in the archaeological literature apart from a modified lice comb from Five Points. emery. straw-work. mother-of-pearl. the clamp served as an extra . Combination stands. are not in the least surprising. thread was kept on winders. slight rounded.and animal-shaped thread winders are thought by archaeologists to be gaming pieces rather than items related to sewing. glass.160 Findings thread winders. and similar objects Thread winders are small. emery-tape measure-pincushion or emery and spool holder) connected to one another and to decorative bases via screw threads. as noted above. California. during excavations before the Cypress Freeway Relocation Project. Before that time. and horn. Excavations in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco produced a wide array of hand-carved bone objects that were probably once part of matching needlework sets made up of a spool or reel. but the screw threads are a clue to their service as elements of a multipart assembly of sewing accessories. or perhaps even elements of combination stands. They also varied considerably in material and were made of ivory.44 needlework clamps Clamps of various sorts were used by needlewomen to hold fabric fast while being stitched or thread taut when being wound. Winders were a necessity at a time when thread was spun at home or purchased from a merchant or peddler in skeins or hanks. bone. They were made in a wide variety of shapes: square. flat objects. even larger for very thick wools and silks. tape measure. a most unusual find. Portions of such stands were often made of vegetable ivory and other substances besides bone. needlecase.43 Spools for thread are not common finds on archaeological sites dating before the nineteenth century because spools as we know them were not made before the nineteenth century. A lateseventeenth-century wooden spool or spindle from the Katherine Nanny Naylor privy in Boston is. or pincushion. and so on. it had to be wound onto something before sewing commenced so that it would not become tangled or soiled. waxer. or on spindles or reels (sometimes called bobbins) or in cotton barrels. Archaeologists are likely to find only the independent elements of combination stands. with a series of points between which thread or silk could be wound. whereas the large numbers of wooden spools for commercial thread found at late-nineteenth-century sites in West Oakland. rectangular. interpreted as a silk winder.

American sewing birds were first made in Meriden. or a reel or cage onto which thread could be wound. while later ones tended to be made of metal. wood. .’’ Thousands of these. whether solid or pierced. To permit the clamp to be firmly attached to a table. Although a clamp can be basic and utilitarian.Findings 161 hand. often taking the form of a heart. it possesses a thumbscrew-operated slipvise. therefore. or bone. Other manufacturers quickly entered production by changing details of the sewing bird and clamp. most of them gripping the fabric in their mouths. highly decorated examples. including ones with die-cast clamps bearing floral or other motifs. winding clamp. were made of varied materials. Connecticut. The thumbscrews. most popular in Europe during the nineteenth century was the pincushion clamp.’’ The only other decorative touch on the early Waterman clamp might be a pierced thumbscrew. like most other sewing tools and accessories.46 The netting clamp has a netting hook at the top. though it may be capped as well with a pincushion and reel to render it a multipurpose clamp. molds could be changed readily. fish. [and] there is an emery ball cup on the back of the bird. A winding clamp has only a reel or a cage atop the vise. including fabric. brass. Waterman’s patent included specific features: ‘‘the bird grasps the fabric in its bill which opens when the tail is pressed downward . shell. bronze. were often ornate. Affixed to the top of the vise might be a sewing bird or hemming clamp. the mouth being opened by squeezing the animal’s tail. iron. and so forth. and seemingly endless decorative variations and embellishments appeared. those made for home sewing were often quite fanciful and hence are prized by collectors. Many early examples were carved in ivory. Needlework clamps. and plated metal. and mythical creatures). dolphins. clamps topped by animal figures were popular in the nineteenth century. or hemming clamp. tin. butterflies. Animals of all sorts were depicted (for example. The pincushion alone would not grip the fabric. where Charles Waterman took out a patent to manufacture the device in 1853. A hemming clamp can take various forms. a pincushion to which fabric could be secured by pinning. netting clamp. . base metal. too. were sold in the United States. though pierced four-lobed openings or even . has a feather pattern only on top of the bird . In America. though often combining a variety of materials. clamped down again tightly by means of a spring mechanism. silver. and parts produced in the molds could be assembled in many combinations. it is best to refer to the different sorts of clamps according to their intended function. . were in wide distribution. but instead the material would be gripped against a surface by the clamp itself. This was a simple matter because the components of sewing birds were produced by die-casting and molding. As a result. pewter. for example. the stand and clamp itself are undecorated. made of steel. when released. which. By far the most popular were ‘‘sewing birds. .45 For the sake of clarity.

and itinerant peddlers. mail-order catalogs. these were introduced in the nineteenth century after the discovery of an ink that would last and not rot fabric. Idaho. the process of sewing together three separate layers of fabric (top. stars. sometimes use special tools that permitted them to quilt regular stitched patterns. These pewter castings could be found in archaeological contexts. Among these were marking stamps (pewter castings that could be fixed into a wooden handle). They have the charm of folk art but were in fact mass-produced. examples have been found at archaeological sites in far-flung parts of the United States.’’ the sewing bird from the Chinese Mining Camp cannot be interpreted as part of an idyllic domestic sewing scene because the occupants of the camp were male. 1.4). but other castings in the form of lovebirds. filling. The shapes are variable and imaginative. who spent ‘‘hours in the sewing room.47 Because sewing birds had nationwide distribution via stores. and the thumbscrew bears a similar pattern of trailing vines around a four-lobed pierced opening. depicting the human form (usually women). birds. and so on (fig. and hearts are likely to be recognized as quilters’ stamps. Quilters did. used to mark quilt squares and household textiles. that it was once part of a sewing bird or other needlework clamp. but its lower portion is decorated in a feather pattern (indicating that it is not a Waterman clamp).49 Quilters also made use of patterns or templates of paper or tin for cutting out fabric that would be used as appliqués on the quilt top (an appliquéd quilt is one in which the top layer. however. Those cast in the form of letters and numbers might be mistaken for pieces of printer’s type unless one examined them closely. has fabric cutouts sewn onto it). especially if the item is quite decorative. farmyard animals. 6. Archaeologists who find a thumbscrew separated from its clamp might consider the possibility. usually of one piece. A splendid.1).162 Findings star-shaped thumbplates are known. Examples . leaves. Unlike the little animated sewing bird that served as mentor to the young lady depicted in in chapter 1 (see fig. made use of few implements that would survive archaeologically or which could be linked directly to quilting as opposed to other forms of sewing. The Winterthur Museum has in its textile and needlework collection a large number of tin quilt patterns. The upper portion of the bird is missing (though part of the spring mechanism survives). occupied from about 1880 to 1910. The clamp is cast with trailing vines and flowers. and backing). The investigators infer that the sewing bird was used to hold canvas being repaired for use in lining miners’ trenches. nearly complete example of a cast copper-alloy sewing bird was found at the Chinese Mining Camp site north of Warren.48 quilt stamps and quilt patterns Quilting.

or leather or to prepare a hole in a fabric for a needle to pass through. 6. stilettos Stilettos are pointed implements used to make holes in stiff fabrics such as canvas. some with handles of wood or other inexpensive material such as celluloid or plastic. refer to the print version of this title. came with matching cases both to ward against loss and to protect the user from injury. when sold separately. these are mass-produced cutouts of sheet tin. They differ from bodkins and other sorts of needles by lacking an eye through which thread.] Fig. yarn. despite their charming folksiness. felt.4 An assortment of quilt patterns. tape. of plain steel. Stilettos’ sharp points also served well to pull out tacking threads or unpick stitches.50 An object handcrafted of bone that could have served as a stiletto or an awl was . often made of precious metal. or ribbon could be threaded. in essence. Stilettos became common elements of ‘‘sewing kits’’ by the early eighteenth century. upscale versions of awls for home sewing. look for all the world like awls. In this capacity they are. ivory.Findings 163 [To view this image. or bone in fancy shapes and designs—although at the lower end of the price scale many stilettos. (Courtesy The Winterthur Museum) of these patterns of sheet tin could survive in some nineteenth-century or other archaeological contexts. They were often included in workboxes along with other matching tools or.

these were not matching needlework tools from a fancy sewing box but objects assembled to suit the owner’s tastes. Although large numbers of knitting sheaths survive in museums and in private collections. They were possibly given as ‘‘love tokens’’ or bought as souvenirs—they are not suited to their purpose so probably were never used. the primary implements required for the knitter. but in earlier times it was quite usual for knitters to attach to their belt or apron strings a sheath into which one needle. as representing the ‘‘contents of a sewing box’’ filled with tools for mending petticoats and stockings and for embroidering handkerchiefs while its owner waited for ‘‘gentlemen’’—clients of the brothel located at this address—to call. they usually show signs of wear indicating long use. Small heart-shaped devices in metal come from West Cumberland. and a fragment of a folding ruler. but as with so many other activities. a bone handle for an embroidery or crochet hook. Wooden sheaths have a history of about 250 years. parts of lace bobbins. many date to 1785–1820. Rebecca Yamin suggests that the needlework tools and other artifacts recovered from the brothel privy reflect a ‘‘middle-class signature. archaeologist Jillian Galle notes that its ‘‘small. were. it could have been used as a drizzler. stone-lined privy in the back lot of a tenement in New York’s Five Points neighborhood came an impressive array of fancy needlework tools. and crafts. England. of course.164 Findings recovered from the Triplex Middle cabin at the Hermitage in Tennessee. could be supported.’’ an attempt in the midst of squalor to project to clientele a sense of luxury and respectability. alternatively. a specialized tool for unpicking silver and gold threads from worn fabric. pastimes. Heather Griggs interprets these finds. either a pair or in some cases three or four needles. Ceramic knitting sheaths are rare. needs. among them a lathe-turned bone stiletto. thin point could have been used in the creation of cutwork or for pushing thread through white work’’ or that. which included such items as a bone comb altered to serve as a silk winder. Although the assemblage is impressive because it contains such unusual.51 K N I T T I NG AC C ESS O R I ES Knitting needles. and evocative items. or one end of a two-ended curved needle. all sorts of devices were developed to help the knitter improve her efficiency and to protect her needles from breakage and loss. knitting sheaths Knitting sheaths are not in common use anymore. and income. varied. From a shallow. I have not . they in fact may have served as an alternative income strategy.

at least. Although I am unaware of knitting needle gauges from archaeological contexts. is used for measuring the diameters of netting and knitting needles. given the relative durability of steel. refers to a filière or gauge.Findings 165 come across any mention of knitting sheaths recovered from archaeological contexts. which did not bear size marks. Knitting needle gauges made it possible to measure the diameter of needles. though this type of guard is relatively rare.’’ are made in pairs and were connected by a ribbon. But knitting needle guards also took a variety of imaginative . and in the center there are additional holes for measuring large needles. horn. Gauges were made in many shapes. as an item developed ‘‘by wire-drawers for ascertaining the sizes of their wires. were made in a variety of materials. bone. should have found their way into the archaeological record in conditions favorable for their preservation. a steel instrument. ranging from about one-half inch to two inches in length. Examples exist in collections of guards joined by a coiled copper-alloy spring. most are steel.’’ noting that a similar device with graduated notches around its edge. chain. Gay Ann Rogers illustrates a late-nineteenth-century bell-shaped steel gauge bearing the legend ‘‘h walker london’’ along with a trademark depicting an archer with drawn bow. with the trademark symbol of a unicorn ‘‘rampant’’ bearing an arrow. bells and circles being most common. A nearly identical gauge in my own collection bears the name of the famous needle manufacturer Abel Morrall. brass. especially in late-nineteenth. But their very abundance as surviving artifacts leads me to think that some. mother-of-pearl.and early-twentieth-century sites. sometimes called ‘‘needle ends. silver.52 knitting gauges Miss Lambert. gilded metal. but examples in ivory and other materials are known. in The Hand-book of Needlework. to match pairs for sale or use and to make certain that the right needles were used for a knitting project. although over two dozen varieties have been recorded. and the wide distribution of these items as handy advertising for manufacturers of needles and sewing notions. or elastic so that they could be tightly affixed over the opposite ends of a pair of knitting needles. Along the outer edges of each is a series of graduated circular cuts. wood. and gold. cord. caplike tubes with a hole or attached loop near the top through which the connecting band could be tied. which might rust yet nevertheless retain its unmistakable shape. The guards. In form they are often small. each numbered. Both gauges are about two and three-quarter inches long.53 knitting needle guards These small items. it seems highly likely that they could be found. including ivory.

but cases had to be specially designed to hold needles that held stitches of a work in progress. The Sears Roebuck catalog of 1897 advertised highly ornamental darners with white enameled balls and silver handles that.54 knitting needle cases Cases for storing needles were considered more sophisticated than needle guards. might be mistaken for just about any sort of needlecase closure. Obviously.166 Findings forms such as boots. albeit relatively plain. or ivory. commonly shaped like eggs or mushrooms on stems. preventing the darning threads from drawing too tight so that they would remain open enough so that every other thread could be picked up when the weaving process began. but the removable ends. I am unaware of any archaeological examples of knitting needle cases. bone.’’ 56 The most important mending technique was darning. were placed under the hole while a repair was made. if found archaeologically. but a very fine. to patch a worn garment. ‘‘by which is meant the repairing of a tear or a hole by weaving a thread back and forth. others having a single ball. industry. They also have a removable end to allow the needle with knitting on it to slide into the case. fish. more expensive materials were also used. at a dollar and seventy-five . and so forth. Hence they tend to look like elongated needlecases but have a slit down the middle through which to hang the knitting in progress.57 Although the vast majority of darners were made of wood and are unlikely to survive in archaeological contexts. keys. Archaeologists seldom report finding knitting needle guards at their sites. shoes. animal feet. pair of mother-of-pearl knitting needle guards was found at the Triplex Middle slave cabin at the Hermitage in Tennessee and two nonmatching guards were found in a privy behind an 1840s brothel at 12 Orange Street in New York’s Five Points. Glove darners came in somewhat different shapes.’’ Patching was considered a last resort when holes were too big to be darned. one that demonstrated the qualities of thrift. these finger-sized darners are smaller than ones used for mending stockings and the like. and economy: ‘‘every woman and every girl should take pride in knowing how to darn a pair of stockings. some having round balls at each end of a handle of wood. acorns. The cases are thus quite distinctive. other.55 A I DS FOR M ENDI NG A ND DA R N I NG Sewing manuals and training schools for girls and boys stressed the importance of forming the habit of careful mending of garments and linens as a regular task. and to mend a tear. Darners or darning balls. Knitting needle guards were effective at keeping stitches from slipping off a needle. metal.

near Aignish. These ‘‘regulation weights’’ or ‘‘coat weights’’ were used ‘‘to give weight to the lower edges of suit coats. and with five households in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco. egg-shaped.’’ 58 HEM WEIGH T S In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. the same items in other contexts served as setting or nesting eggs to encourage hens to lay. unless context makes their purpose starkly apparent. they came in four sizes. by the nineteenth century hem weights were fashioned so that they could easily be sewn onto the fabric and stay in place (fig. All of the West Oakland and San Francisco darners are handleless.59 In 1989 the burials of eleven young adult males were accidentally encountered during road construction between the Eye Peninsula and Stornaway at Braigh. the largest about the size of a half dollar. 6. on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. and made of handblown white glass with a pontil mark on the narrow end of the ‘‘egg’’. (After Women’s Institute 1936:Findings 9) cents. were at the expensive end of the price range for darners.5). were probably not from Lewis but likely were shipwreck victims. Early hem weights are difficult to distinguish from pieces of lead sprue or flattened lead shot.5 Cast lead hem weight of the sort that was mass-produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The men buried here. an example recovered at George Washington’s Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg. to hold a cowl neckline drapery in place. and in panels. 6. Broken darning eggs were found in 1880s and 1890s deposits associated with no fewer than thirteen households in West Oakland. outside the nearby town cemetery. The bar through the center of the weight allows it to be sewn securely into a hem.Findings 167 [To view this image. Virginia. has been identified as a ‘‘nest egg. small lead weights were sometimes placed within the hems of men’s coats to keep their coattails from flapping. and so on’’.] Fig. Indeed. refer to the print version of this title. it seems that their bodies washed up and were buried . giving some idea of how ubiquitous such items would have been in the days when home sewing was common and when ‘‘relatively little stigma was attached to buying secondhand and repaired garments’’ or to repairing one’s clothing.

60 The variety of needlework accessories is nearly endless. Archaeologists also found two small lead artifacts. this had probably been sheathed. In the next chapter I put these and other implements of needlework and sewing into a broader context of the cultural and social ‘‘worlds’’ of weavers. and other artifacts suggest that the men were buried in their clothing and with whatever personal effects they had been wearing or had in their pockets when they drowned. and this item was likely a hem weight. lace-makers.168 Findings by local folk sometime around the year 1700. and seamstresses. one of which was probably a button. . and here I have discussed only some of the items most likely to be recovered by archaeologists. buttons. One of the skeletons had a semicircular lead sphere between his thighs. cloth. Finds of coins. One man had worn an iron whittle tang knife suspended from his waist belt. although the sheathing material did not survive. tailors.

it is nevertheless a narrow perspective that overlooks other settings for sewing as well as the range of attitudes that needlewomen held toward their work. so Maria Wentworth’s workbasket accompanies her into the afterlife. have created a lasting impression of sewing as the ultimate feminine domestic art. This powerful depiction tells us just how closely associated the workbasket was with the desirable qualities of womanhood. Carved as part of the basket are scissors and other implements. Just as women from early times carried their work with them so that they could take it up at any opportune moment. Although this carefully crafted nostalgic vision has more than a grain of truth. which sank in 1865 after hitting a snag in the Missouri River. sewing or ‘‘work’’ baskets often appear in paintings or other depictions of women as symbols of industry and perhaps even of charity and womanly virtue. Annalies Corbin 169 . occupied contentedly and industriously at their sewing or needlework. Until recent times.7 Stitching Together the Evidence Artistic and popular images of women. along with histories of needlework and sewing tools. after her death in 1632. As a result. Indeed. sewing and needlework and the artifacts associated with such work often came to stand as icons for femininity and feminine industry. and many were expected to learn the arts of refined needlework. in her study of the material culture of steamboat passengers who sailed on the last voyage of the sternwheeler Bertrand. Bedfordshire. a stone workbasket at her feet. The tomb of Englishwoman Maria Wentworth. alone or in groups. It helps explain why. almost all women were expected to master the skills of sewing and mending. erected at Toddington. consists of a sculpture of Maria seated on a cushion beneath a canopy supported by pillars.1 This would have been as true for nineteenth-century women traveling by steamboat to the American West as it was for a highborn woman in seventeenthcentury England.

so that they could sew or knit or mend to occupy their hands and minds while traveling. then. patterns. moving to newly opened frontiers. in a portable workbox or workbasket. thimbles. fragments of beadwork. 148 buttons. most of whom were adept at fine needlework but had little or no training in dressmaking. or following their husbands to military postings or new places of employment. Atchison family. . Women travelers would have carried their sewing tools with them. which belonged to the John S. seventeen copper-alloy hooks. needles.’’ Army women shared much the same experiences as their sisters elsewhere when they could not turn to professional seamstresses or purchase ready-made clothing for themselves and their families. including plaid silk dress pieces. The box belonging to Annie and Fannie Campbell. and so forth) were found in the containers in the hold of the steamship is far from surprising. contained 118 buttons. who at ages nineteen and sixteen. silk and velvet ribbon fragments. Atchison and Fannie and Annie Campbell carried their workbaskets with them as they stepped from the doomed Bertrand to safety. 818 beads. never-ending work. and seventeen eyes.170 Stitching Together the Evidence found fewer sewing tools in the below-decks stored baggage linked to women than she expected. . women were expected to bring with them the useful skills of sewing and home dressmaking. It is easy to imagine that Mrs. Box 72. seventyfive copper-alloy and steel straight pins. 131 beads.’’ Women who could afford not to sew preferred to turn . sewing was hard. The stored baggage. Two of the baggage ‘‘assemblages’’ she studied were linked to women who escaped the sinking but lost all their baggage. respectively. but even though ‘‘sewing bees and special occasions occasionally lightened the burden. ‘‘even some poor dressmakers could not afford all the equipment they needed. for until late in the nineteenth century home dressmaking tended to be confined to fairly simple garments. contained many items that Mrs. two Chinese boxes that may have been intended as sewing boxes. Atchison may have intended to use in making clothing and other items. Women of humble means could not afford the fabrics required to produce fashionable garments nor the tools—scissors or shears—required for cutting out the material. twenty-one hooks. nineteen eyes. and cutting and sewing techniques. Wives of army officers in the nineteenthcentury American West. the fact that no sewing implements (that is. Often the work was rewarding. held sewing supplies for projects that the women intended to undertake after they reached their destination. . scissors. relied on their ingenuity and the company of other women for support and information about fashions. and sixty-seven copperalloy straight pins. were intending to join their family in Montana. from their stored boxes Corbin cataloged sewing supplies.2 Whether as participants in establishing colonial settler colonies.

Australia. all within a range of domestic tasks deemed part of the household economy. which is precisely what some archaeologists have been at pains to do. other clothing fasteners. An eighteenth-century engraving of a tailor’s shop shows the shop as an exclusively male domain. and for their husbands to have their clothes produced by tailors.3 It is important to consider what Barbara Burman calls both the ‘‘hardware’’ and the ‘‘software’’ of home sewing and dressmaking to understand the nature and scale of home and professional sewing in differing contexts.1).Stitching Together the Evidence 171 to professional seamstresses. sometimes servants or enslaved Africans. to assume automatically that this indicates that an exceptional amount of sewing took place at a site. Burman makes the important point that unwaged needlework in the home was not necessarily differentiated . women with enough will and hours in the day to do so have often used their needle skills purely for pleasure in the making of utilitarian and non-utilitarian items or in making a range of goods for sale for charity or as gifts. Archaeologists tend to classify buttons and hooks and eyes as part of a household’s sewing equipment and. In her study of Delaware free black tenant farmers’ homes. by her daughters—took in clothes to mend and launder as a strategy to supplement income from the farm. interprets the large number of buttons found in certain areas of the Ross Female Factory. in terms of value or status. knitted jumpers. 7. . embroidered household linen. straight pins. Many of the same women have reapplied the same variety of skills to sew for a network of neighbours or workmates for money. for example. produced more than a dozen thimbles. This ‘‘flexibility and freedom of working at home allowed them to accommodate . and sewing tools (one site. and two bodkins) as evidence that women such as Rachel Stump—assisted. Women have sewed curtains. especially in a closed community such as a women’s prison. perhaps. turned collars. .4 Taking in sewing as piecework could only supplement a family’s income and would seldom have permitted a single woman to support herself. fully professionalized and clearly separate from domestic life (fig. a convict settlement in Tasmania. made dresses. or taken in sewing as waged piece-work on a regular basis. as trade tokens used to secure such illicit goods as alcohol and tobacco. for instance. Lu Ann De Cunzo interprets large numbers of buttons. if they recover large numbers of buttons. Equally. Eleanor Conlin Casella. darned and redarned. mended and remodelled all manner of things for themselves and for their families. Other interpretations consider that buttons might be lost during laundering activities or that buttons functioned somehow as trade tokens. a needle.

7. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) .] Fig. refer to the print version of this title. A.[To view this image. busily sewing.1 Scene from an eighteenth-century tailor’s shop from F. Note the large table used for cutting out and the other large table upon which tailors sit cross-legged. de Garsault’s Art du tailleur (1769).

as in New York’s Five Points neighborhood.’’ that society came to connect dressmaking with prostitution. So many women in nineteenth-century London and elsewhere were forced to supplement their earnings by turning to prostitution. Hence at Five Points the evidence for dressmaking and tailoring is abundant and comes from a range of sites. presumably this was the case for other contemporary cities. not just from brothels. only ninety-eight were seamstresses. who was a wellto-do and well-born woman.Stitching Together the Evidence 173 their housework.7 The link between the needle trades and the sex trade reflects women’s income strategies that juxtaposed seemingly domestic tasks of sewing and needlework with sex work. Both men and women labored in these systems.’’ were prevalent in nineteenth-century New York.6 As a result. was parceled out by the piece to men and women. however. for whom ‘‘the spectre of the sweated trades [was] never very far away. in which work. and the factory system. The problem was deemed so severe in London that in 1849 Sidney Herbert established a Fund for Female Emigration. Kelly Britt speculates that Naylor may have sewn to support herself after she divorced her abusive husband.’’ often found it difficult to make ends meet. aimed to clear the streets of prostitutes by sending ‘‘needlewomen’’ to Australia. of the 7. in the form of cut pieces for garments. even professional seamstresses. though perhaps not on the same scale. and their own work practices and rhythms’’ while avoiding to some extent the racial and social stigma of domestic service with roots in slavery. and men dominated the ready-made and secondhand markets. their economic circumstances. Seldom. in 1856. indeed. although skill in needlework was often the only qualification for earning a living that many Victorian girls possessed. This explains why urban historical archaeologists find seemingly contradictory evidence of needlework at sites that documents identify as former brothels. Both the sweating system. their family’s needs. could women earn enough money by doing needlework in the home to support themselves and their children.268 single women transported to Australia. especially in urban contexts where competition for jobs in the needle trades was intense and pay for such work was very low. The Five Points was for a time at the center of New York’s clothing industry. in which people labored under one roof in an ‘‘inside shop. it was nearly impossible to ensure a steady income from such work. But it . which was a ‘‘necessity as it was virtually impossible for a woman to support herself solely with her needle.5 In her study of sewing tools and textile remains from the late-seventeenthcentury Boston privy associated with Katherine Nanny Naylor. The only other alternatives women had when dressmaking paid too little to live on were petty crime or the workhouse. Despite the stated intentions of Herbert’s scheme. but women were paid far less than men.

174 Stitching Together the Evidence [To view this image. (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) is likely that needlewomen who lived in brothels pursued the needlework and lace-making. led one male tailor to reproach gentlemen through a notice in the local newspaper for hiring women to cut their clothes. . . for which there is ample evidence. Schreiber’s 30 Werkstatten von Handwerken (late 1800s). . Connecticut. Marla Miller found that the success of women employed in the tailoring trade in eighteenth-century Hartford. refer to the print version of this title. 7. not merely to idle away the time between clients or for personal gratification. cutting out.2).8 Burman points out that up until recent times.] Fig. note capless thimble and large tailor’s shears. femininity with home sewing. Women . . a part of achieving adult masculinity has normally involved relinquishing direct contact with the female maker of clothing’’ (fig. 7. old divide between male tailoring and female dressmaking. to supplement their incomes. . These differential protocols underscored the ‘‘deep. and sewing. there has been little tradition for female tailors in shops . Tools of the trade are illustrated in the margins. for boys and men there was a different clothing code or protocol: manhood was equated with consumption of ready-made and tailor-made clothing.2 A nineteenth-century tailor’s shop illustrated in Johann F. showing tailors engaged in measuring a gentleman for a pair of trousers.

illustrating an eighteenth-century workshop in which both tailors and seamstresses are engaged in producing women’s bodices. as did tailors. Home sewing was a universal phenomenon.2).’’ 9 The world of sewing has long extended well beyond the domestic sphere. 7. Nowhere was this more the case than among sailors. sailors were . but tailors were men. Normally the only other workshops in which women might work in a professional capacity were those of mantuamakers (dressmakers).3 A plate from Garsault’s Art du tailleur. Seamstresses were women who produced clothing professionally. 7. Massachusetts.1. the ‘‘shop’’ in most instances was clearly demarcated from the home. underscoring the distinction between home sewing and professional tailoring and dressmaking. although it was perfectly acceptable for women to engage in producing women’s clothing. and their cultural milieu was very different from the ‘‘feminized’’ domestic sphere (see figs. as Miller points out. away from their loved ones. A depiction of an eighteenth-century bodice shop shows both men and women engaged in the production of women’s bodices (fig. 7.Stitching Together the Evidence 175 [To view this image.3). (Courtesy The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection) tailors thrived in eighteenth-century Northampton. who spent long months or years at sea. 7.10 Men of course sewed in contexts other than tailors’ shops. refer to the print version of this title. and Miller’s study of female tailors of men’s clothing is aimed at unsettling and rethinking the categories that have shaped scholarship on women’s work and our understanding of the ‘‘shifting gender divisions of labor in the early modern Atlantic world.] Fig. But. both by necessity and for pleasure. men guarded closely the province of tailoring. a source of pride as well as at times a tedious chore. On a voyage. which they saw as exclusively their own.

Sometimes archaeologists identify the diminutive objects as ‘‘toy’’ thimbles. were also contexts in which men were forced to take on both heavy sewing tasks. and religion. among them cooking. Other sorts of all-male enclaves. and so forth. and many embroidered their clothing with elaborate decorations or produced needlework pictures or ‘‘woolies’’ as presents for family members. The best known of the schoolgirl needle arts are samplers and embroidered pictures. cultural values. the other in the northern portion of the city on Market Street. the creation of which ‘‘taught more than reading. every child must be taught to wash her hands before she begins. for instance. For many. Chinese mineworkers’ camps in the American West. They might more properly be thought of as training thimbles. California. but they also produced and mended their own clothing. they also reinforced gender roles and prevalent ideas about morality. darning. sewing. and sewing. such as mending canvas. used as young girls and. Sailors had to be adept at sewing and mending the heavy canvas sails of ships before the days of steam. at times. to make her stitches exactly the same size. but this is not accurate. as well as everyday tasks with the needle. boys were taught proficiency in the basic skills of hemming. There was also instruction in religion. the Central School was established ‘‘in order to provide suitable work for the lower classes’’: ‘‘As the beauty of needle-work consists in its regularity and cleanliness.’’ indicates that both church-sponsored kindergartens offered instruction in sewing to boys and girls: ‘‘the little ones are learning the need of cleanliness and carefulness of dress. In nineteenth-century London. and art.176 Stitching Together the Evidence forced to perform all of the domestic tasks normally done by women. doing laundry. praising the provision of kindergartens ‘‘for the neglected little ones of such localities. and to set them at a regular distance from each other. the instruction manual for the school stipulated that ‘‘no child can work neatly without a thimble. Many of them now wear garments sewed by themselves. cleaning.’’ This was true as well for girls and boys who were trained in charity schools and free kindergartens.11 Archaeologists find small thimbles intended for use by children often enough to be aware that not just men and women were expected to sew. imparting useful skills while inculcating in them middle-class values.’’ Sewing was seen as an activity that would help mold the characters of these youngsters. but young girls of well-to-do families were sometimes sent to ‘‘female’’ academies where they were taught sewing and needlework as part of a formal education.’’ What is more. ‘‘one down near the wharves on the lower part of Broadway.’’ 12 A publication of 1884 descried the conditions under which children were forced to live in the poorer districts of San Francisco and Oakland.’’ The description of two Oakland free kindergartens. for students were per- . training took place at home. for example.

served in some instances to reinforce gender roles. took on many meanings depending on when and where it was done. by whom it was done. then. nor were they necessarily used in quite the same way. and why it was done.13 Sewing and needlework. Even though archaeologists might find nearly identical sewing implements in a variety of site types—domestic. in others as an extension of missionary zeal aimed at Americanizing immigrant children. institutional. giving them a marketable skill that could supplement the family’s income. It is critical. therefore. where sewing ‘‘was an integral part of the industrial curriculum for girls. . I have sought to provide a way for archaeologists to identify the material culture of needlework and sewing accurately and fully and to provide examples of contextual analysis that permit the archaeologist to interpret how women and men and children used such objects in both practical and meaningful ways. industrial—that date to different times.Stitching Together the Evidence 177 mitted to ‘‘purchase’’ garments after performing well at several weeks of sewing instruction and memorizing Bible verses.’’ Sewing instruction. The kindergartens contrast with West Oakland’s mid-nineteenth-century New Century Club’s sewing classes for neighborhood girls. linking patriotism with Christianity and middle-class values. for archaeologists to delineate the specific historical and cultural context of individual sites in which sewing tools are found and to develop their case studies with care before offering interpretations aimed at elucidating wider cultural contexts. then. religious. they do not ‘‘mean’’ the same thing in each instance.


. 3. Douglas and Isherwood 1979. 12. Deagan 1987. Benes 1986:67. Douglas 1982. For a concise and cogent presentation of interpretive archaeology. Wylie 1999. 6. 179 . For archaeological studies linking women and sewing equipment. 11–14. and White 2002. see also White 2005. see Isaac 1980. fig. Karklins 2000. Parker 1984:2. I analyze material culture as it is employed in negotiation and discourses of identity (see. Parker 1984:11. Loren 2001. Luedtke 1996:1. Loren and Beaudry 2005. bobbin lace was made for cash as part of an extensive putting-out industry based in Ipswich. 17. Nylander 1992. 2002. 3. Barber 1994. MacDonald 1988. Cook. 2005). Barber 1994. Yamin 2001. see Gamble 2001:34–39. Metonymy is a process of substitute naming whereby. through close association or contingency. 8. In the 1790s. Brauner 2000. 7. see Galle 2004. 5. 9. see also Beaudry 1998:30. who was strongly influenced by Douglas’s work.Notes 1. Swan 1977. See White 2005 for a guide to buttons and other artifacts of personal adornment. Beaudry 1995:4. The ‘‘active voice’’ ethnographic approach has been applied by historian Rhys Isaac. The context for interpreting the Spencer-Peirce-Little lace bobbin fragment is presented in Nelson 1995. one thing (or the name for it) is made to stand for another. 2004. The Left Coast Press has announced the inauguration of a series of guides to material culture found at historical sites. Swan 1977. McEwan 1991. Massachusetts.g. Noël Hume 1970. Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2001. 4. 10. Jackson 1994. 2. see Beaudry 1988:47. i n t r o d u c t i o n 1. and Mrozowski 1991. 9. 13. 5. Vincent 1988:3. Like many of my colleagues who practice interpretive archaeology. Beaudry. 11. for example. e. Beaudry 1996.

298. Wyatt 1822). ‘‘Brooches and pins are common finds on civil sites’’ because ‘‘the civilian costume [for men] of the later Roman period seems to have consisted of a dress or tunic caught in at the waist by a narrow girdle. Whiting 1928:134–135. Longman and Loch 1911:pls. one women recounted that she used a pin to scratch and draw blood from the woman she suspected to be the witch (Davies 1996–1997:46–47). for example. Archaeological finds of pins in buried bottles. fig. Dahl 1970:65. 8. and ‘‘bone was widely used for making such small objects as knifehandles. for instance. have been interpreted as ‘‘witch bottles’’: in the City of London. 6. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries huge numbers of pins were imported into England from the Netherlands. 109). Egan and Pritchard note that it is highly likely that pins . 7. 4. ivory. and bone were for the hair (Andere 1971:42–43). Earwood 1993:29. pins and hair-combs’’ at Irish raths—small. Ireland. see Fanning 1994. Pins made of yew. broader pins of jet. Andere 1971:42. 63. were recovered. 120. there is no special feature to distinguish early hairpins from pins of other sorts. King 1996). 9. her observation is borne out by the fact that guides to tailoring never mention pins (see esp. it has been suggested that bronze pins were used for dress and sewing and that larger. 2001. The Thebes find dates to the twelfth to fourteenth dynasty. and cloak or mantle fastened at the shoulder by a pin or brooch’’ (Hawkes 1961:32–33). see Wilson 1964. t h e l o w l y p i n 1. 198. bone pins have been found in Viking-age sites such as a house excavated at Drimore. or c. below). 2000–1560 bc. from late-fifteenth-century contexts at Narrow Quay in Bristol. usually circular earthworks enclosing farmsteads—of the twelfth century (Proudfoot 1961:116). along with wooden combs. Scotland (Wilson and Hurst 1957:156). Longman and Loch 1911:pl. South Uist. 5. both in bulk consignments as well as in smaller quantities for individual customers (Egan and Forsyth 1997:222). Winterthur Museum. 2. I limit my discussion to practical uses of pins and refer the reader to other sources for details about folklore and superstitions pertaining to pins (see note 2. Egan and Pritchard 1991:291–303. this type of pin appears only in Scotland and the Viking lands in the West and dates to the tenth century. For details on ring-headed pins recovered from medieval layers in Dublin. see also Becker 1980. at Dukes Place. 2. 4. England (Good 1987:108. spindle-whorls. For discussion of elaborate dress pins from Anglo-Saxon sites in Britain. Garsault 1769. Barber 1991:61. curator of textiles. Garden. Addyman 1964:64). Longman and Loch 1911:pls. 3. Barber 1991:121. Longman and Loch 1911 devote several chapters to pin lore and beliefs about special properties of pins. 3. Wallace 2000. A pin was mentioned in one instance as the instrument employed as a cure for being ‘‘hag-ridden’’ (the victim of a witch’s nocturnal assaults). apparently tied. comm.180 Notes to Pages 10–13 2. see also Queen and Lapsley 1809. 6. seventeenth-century ‘‘made-ground yielded a ‘Bellarmine’ containing corroded metal pins probably used by someone who believed themselves to be bewitched to counter the spell’’ (Cherry 1978:112. 297. 5. Linda Eaton. Andere 1971:43–44. Egan and Pritchard 1991:222. pers. and Library. they were exceedingly common at Anglo-Saxon sites throughout Britain (cf.

Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:116–118. 13. They suggest there was a certain type of . fig. Rowlands. The Pin and the Needle (1728). Proctor 1966:53. Longman and Loch 1911:pl. 101. who quote from Ben Jonson’s Tale of a Tub (1633): ‘‘He had on a pair of pinn’d up breeches like pudding bags’’ (54). 18. 300. Egan and Pritchard found. 199. fig. Puerilia. Ponsford and Jackson 1996:267. no. Amusements for the Young (1751). each of which has a hole drilled through its wide end. S. A doctor writing in the Lady’s Magazine in 1785. fig. 11.g. 131) reports that pinner’s bones are relatively common finds from sixteenth-century deposits in London. Margeson illustrates and discusses a number of bone pins. but no evidence has been found to confirm this. 12. 181 were used similarly in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. such pin-suites. 326. figs. 200–202. Egan (2005:138. Egan and Pritchard 1991:301. See. used ‘‘with a thong or cord through the pierced head.’’ from John Marchant. 4. 17. Egan 1990:206. as quoted by Cunnington and Lucas 1972:24. quoted in Longman and Loch 1911:136. 13. all of them save one rather simple and crude. 203). with some being flattened on the top and decorated with quadrants and dots (Egan and Pritchard 1991:299. Doctor Merry-Man (1616). Andere 1971:45. MacGregor 1985:171. John Gay. more pain’’ (Cunnington and Lucas 1972:40). and bronze are often found in seventh-century Anglo-Saxon women’s graves in parts of England such as the Peaks District (Ozanne 1962–3:27–29). Cunnington and Cunnington 1966:52. e. Tylecote 1972:183. are homemade dress pins. This even though nineteenth-century folk custom on the Isle of Wight warned expectant mothers to remove all pins from the layette pincushion. 15.Notes to Pages 13–17 8. The medieval pins found in London had both solid and wound-wire heads. Groves 1966:49. Cunnington and Lucas 1972:24. 10. Groves 1966:49–50. fig. Margeson 1993:177. figs. of gold. quoted in Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:118. and tied to the point once it had passed through the fabric’’ (1993:9. quoted in Cunnington and Cunnington 1966:17. 179–11. fig.. 177. nos. Egan and Pritchard 1991:299. 89. Groves 1966:51. that the decorated pins recovered from medieval sites in London tended to be of English manufacture. 14. as they are called. 24. 10. Loughridge and Campbell 1985:12. Quoted in Longman and Loch 1911:131. 16. It is also possible that they were used as needles in coarse work such as netting. 4. Margeson 1993:10–11. She posits that the cruder versions. ‘‘Songs for Little Misses. Cunnington and Cunnington 1966:82. 9. 25–30. 19. until Victorian times requiring far less in the way of layering and fasteners. or. silver. By the eighteenth century some gowns had rows of hooks and eyes to effect an edgeto-edge front closure over the bodice (Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:122). It is worth noting that women’s fashions changed dramatically beginning in the 1790s. particularly at religious sites postdating the Dissolution. 297. Cherry 1972:104. Proctor 1966:53. however. the solid heads were hammered into spherical or hemispherical shapes. MacGregor 1985:171. 6). 14. in keeping with the local proverb ‘‘More pins.

noting that even a Parisian pinner in 1400 took an order for five hundred pins de la façon d’Angleterre (Egan and Pritchard 1991:299. fig. 1873:1286. Whittemore 1966:14. 2002. 1827). 302–303). 186. shows a young woman heading pins by operating a drill press. Tylecote 1972:185–186. Phillips 1818. J. New York (Hanson and Hsu 1975). Rogers 1983:141. 22. Leander Bishop notes that a Nathaniel Robbins. Proctor 1966:55. Sprague 1937:1. 21. quoting Greeley et al. illustration of annealing furnace at Gloucester Folk Museum. pls. The authors of the study of eighteenth-century Fort Stanwix in Rome. Andere 1971:45. see also Deagan 2002:194. Sprague 1937:1–2. Longman and Loch 1911 illustrate a round-headed pin found fastening a manuscript dated 1570 (pl. fig. Illustrations of stages in pin-making often show not just men but also women and children engaged in various tasks. 16. 46.182 20. illustration of a drop-stamp bench in the collections of the Gloucester Folk Museum. Tylecote 1972:90. 1. 185. For the Diderot engravings. So the date ascribed to them represents a terminus ante quem for their manufacture’’ (Tylecote 1972:187). 23. Proctor 1966:54. Tylecote (1972:185– 186) notes that giving pins a conical head shape was accomplished simply by using a differently-shaped cavity in the heading ram die. Tylecote 1972:190. 25. Notes to Pages 17–22 pin associated with England and question the frequent assertion that all pins were imported into England during this time. see Gillispie 1959:vol. Bishop 1866:504. Sprague 1937:1. 26. 184–186. Quoted in Proctor 1966:53. Sprague 1937:2. 1400 bc) in Iran. Rivington’s Book of Trades (London. Tylecote 1972:184. 1551. conclude correctly that the long pins they recovered from . 10). ‘‘There is no reason to believe that these documents have been re-pinned since they were put away but of course the pins may have come from an earlier period and been re-used. 82. Tylecote’s metallurgical study of dated pins proved that pins dated as early as 1551 had spiral wound globular heads (1972:187). cited in Tylecote 1972:184. 24. 29. 27. 83. for instance.’’ had petitioned for aid to carry on his trade at Lynn (Saugus Ironworks) in 1666 but. Rogers 1983:140. 1576. 141. but there is ample evidence that iron or steel pins were in use between 1404 and 1455. Tylecote analyzed pins that had been fastened to English documents and letters dated 1548. Smith [1776] 1910:5. who billed himself as a ‘‘wyer draer. 32. Egan 2005:130–131. 28. For a recently published archaeometallurgical study of copper alloy pins and needles from the site of Tepe Yahya (c. Sprague 1937:1. 31. 5500–c. had been turned down (Bishop 1966:478). Smith 1776 [1910]:4–5. Rogers 1983:140. 33. 616. He stated. Tylecote 1972:184. and it seems highly unlikely that Henry VIII would have issued regulations to control British pin-making in 1543 if brass pins had appeared for the first time in that year (see below). see Thornton et al. 30. Atkin 1987:3. unlike Jenks. Proctor 1966:54. This early date is at odds with Phillips’s statement that the brass pin was not introduced into England until 1543 (Phillips 1818). Proctor 1966:53. and 1669. Deagan 2002:194. See also Tomlinson 1858.

2001.4. fig. nos. 35a–j). Cox 1966:120.’’ Cox 1966:256. Woodfield and Goodall posit that some sewing or instruction in sewing took place at the school because both a thimble and a thimble ring were found along with the pins. Yamin 2000:132. 47. of course. Egan and Forsyth 1997:223–224.52 inches long. and more than fifty common straight pins with wound-wire heads. one of the many elements of prominent social display characteristic of men’s clothing before the nineteenth century.1. pers. see White 2005: 111–119. 48. 38. nos. 113. decorative hat pins. Civil War–era black steel mourning pins in conjunction with a veil for deep mourning. comm. Campbell 1969:120. according to wire thickness or gauge: ‘‘very fine ‘dressmaker’ pins. 41. pers.v. were expected to conform to a greater or lesser degree to conventions governing mourning attire. 17. Neots were two sixteenth-century copper-alloy pins with decorative heads. Loughridge and Campbell 1985:14 illustrate a box of U. 42. One of the ‘‘coated’’ pins was 2. Woodfield and Goodall 1981:91. the other 1.v. Garsault 1769:22. Longman and Loch 1911:pl. 197. 183 late-eighteenth-century strata at the fort had something to do with women. 43. Addyman and Marjoram 1972:92. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. or perhaps lace pins. Cox 1966:250–251. 66. The latter were all from mideighteenth-century contexts.Notes to Pages 24–27 34. Sprague 1937:3. 5. 2001. fig.26 inches in length. 41. ‘‘minnekin’’ (hereafter cited as Compact OED). Andere 1971:49. 11.’’ general-purpose pins with a gauge of just under a millimeter. many spelling variations are listed. s. not straight pins (Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:343–368). 11. comm. For discussion of wig styles and hair ornaments. Woodfield and Goodall distinguish among the 1. ‘‘middling. not just the immediately bereaved. Flanagan 1982:46–47. 40. 44. 248–262. Whiting 1928:140. Joan Unwin. ‘‘corkin’’. the second (no. Women’s headgear at this time could be quite elaborate. 46. but fashionable hats. 45. Joan Unwin. pl. Proctor 1966: 55. Ruffs were not typically worn by any besides the ‘‘better sorts’’ and were. Andere 1971:48. in earlier times all attendants at a funeral and all members of a household (including servants). and thick pins of 1. 49. Longman and Loch 1911:pl. 92. 18) is of fine wire gauge and most likely was used in pinning veils or ruffs. but they incorrectly identify the pins as hat pins when they were probably either corkins or blanket pins. Proctor 1966:51. Sprague 1937:3. an early-sixteenth-century copper-alloy pin with a slant head. 91. Loughridge and Campbell 1985:2. wig pins. although commonly worn. Compact OED. Cox 1965:16. s.575 pins recovered from sixteenth-century contexts at the Free Grammar School at Whitefriars. 37. 39. Also found at St. Coventry. For the Free Grammar School finds. 4 from The Wigmaker’s Art .S. fig. one gilded and one silvered. see Woodfield and Goodall 1981:91. 36. s.5-mm gauge (Woodfield and Goodall 1981:91. 35. Taylor 1983:97. Deagan 2002:194. Compact OED. would be secured either with ribbons or ties or with elaborate. fig.v. 18.

1778. McConnel 1997.’’ for which there seems to be any number of potential explanations. Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:374. 67. 58. the description of this find does not specify that paper was found but states that the pins were found together in a manner that suggested a paper of pins. Proctor 1966:58. Huggins 1969:91. fig. Proctor 1966:60.184 50. such as pincushions. fig. needlebooks. 49. Proctor.d. And. I thank Carolyn White for bringing this reference to my attention. the phrase ‘‘pin money’’ came to refer to a paltry. The main issue of concern is that at one time ‘‘pin money’’ represented a not inconsiderable sum of money. Shaffer 1973:234–235. and so on. Swan 1977:128. Tattershall. but once mass production made high-quality pins widely available at exceedingly low cost. Proctor 1966:56. 12. Garsault 1769:28. This may be what the archaeologists ‘‘saw’’ because it was what was expected. anyone who had pins they wished to keep together could as easily stick them into a piece of paper as they could place them in a pin poppet or needlecase. 57. 377. is the source of the phrase ‘‘pin money. McConnel. Groves 1966:51. of varying use to the archaeologist. include: Colby 1975. and Whittemore 1966. The practice of pinning torn currency notes back together. Royal Pennsylvania Gazette. e. and Groves are lavishly illustrated and can prove highly useful to anyone searching for an item comparable to a specific archaeological find. there is no illustration of these pins either in situ or out of the ground in their ‘‘paper. Groves 1966:51). Luckenbach’s friend believes. for further illustrations of fancy-worked pin balls. 55. called ‘wig points’’’ (1959:22). insignificant sum (see. 59. Maryland.:5. Proctor 1966:56. the ribbon runs under the ‘‘chin’’ of the block and is affixed on the other side of the wig. Rogers 1983. refers to ‘‘small nails.’’ so it is difficult to say that here is evidence of ‘‘sticking’’ of pins before the practice was documented as being common. Virginia. Groves 1966. Taunton 1999. shows a rectangular pincushion with a flower design and words formed by tiny pins placed so that the heads spell out ‘‘Welcome / Little / Stranger / Here. I have been told of a wholly different folk explanation for the derivation of the phrase by Al Luckenbach. 60. 13. Groves 1966:55. 56. Proctor 1966:56. he recounted that a friend of his showed him examples of colonial currency that had been torn and repaired with colonial straight pins. Mar. holding the wig securely in place while the wigmaker made his finishing touches. archaeologist for Anne Arundel County. 377. Gillingham 1924. 52. Andere 1971:50. Notes to Pages 28–32 illustrates both needles for sewing the wig and tacks for holding the thread or ribbon in place. Proctor 1966:56. Sprague 1937:3. sadly. Berbecker and Son n. Almost every author on needlework tools offers some speculation on the origin of the phrase ‘‘pin money. 53. Rogers. Longman and Loch 1911:pl. 51. Cunnington and Cunnington 1957:374. of course. . Swan 1977:129 explains that needlework gifts consisted mainly of accessory pieces. discussing wigmaking in eighteenth-century Williamsburg. 54.g. Longman and Loch 1911. Taunton. He advocates instead securing an extra ribbon to the mounting ribbon by driving in a small nail. Proctor 1966:58. hand towels.. see Swan 1977:191.’’ Sources on pincushions.’’ The piece is dated 1795. Proctor 1966.

illustrates two silver chatelaines (no date given) each with small bucket-shaped containers on one of their chains. within the walls. the archaeologist suggested that ‘‘although medieval pottery was recovered from graveyard soil. Cherry 1977:94. I was intrigued to note some disagreement in the archaeological literature over the dating of shroud pins. excavations of the vaults at Christ Church. which was in existence from the twelfth through the sixteenth century. 2004). pers.4 illustrate a small pin-basket of carved bone. Scotland. Cox 1996:115. Heck and Balicki 1998. Cunnington and Lucas 1972:157. Irthlingborough. We know from Tylecote’s study of wound-head wire pins that such pins could have been used for fastening shrouds from at least the sixteenth century. Simons 2005:182–183. revealed that. See also Cook 1998. Deagan 2002:195. Cunnington and Lucas 1972:156. Longman and Loch 1911:pl. 177.’’ most abided by the law (Cox 1996:112). Riordan notes that the confinement of the legs and feet resulting from this sort of treat- . if not earlier. fig. 121 (two silver baskets. the Woollen Act of 1660 prohibited use of any material other than wool for shrouds. White is not convinced that these objects are pin sheaths (Carolyn White.Notes to Pages 32–35 185 61. a bone pincushion mount was recovered at Appleton Roebuck. and I have seen similar objects identified as knitting needle covers or as tips for the spokes of parasols. pl. 60. it stayed in force until 1815. Essex County. Riordan 2000:2-2–2-3. fig. England. although the Spitalfields study revealed that a ‘‘wide range of burial attire was acceptable’’ (Cox 1996:115). Nicholas Parish Church in Lanark. 62. no. Massachusetts. burials inside the church had shroud pins possibly dating to the thirteenth century. 63.or eighteenthcentury date for some of these burials’’ (Ponsford 1994:123). Proctor 1966:58. at least among the ‘‘middling sorts. 1700–1850). however. Lewis 2001:39.4. The law does not seem to have extended to England’s colonies. 101. these are also illustrated in Taunton 1999:51). Examples similar to the Boston find are illustrated in Rogers 1983:155. 10. Many of the burials recovered from along the outside walls. c. had shroud pins (Wilson and Hurst 1966:188). Clydesdale. For example. these could be either pincushions or thimble holders. 66. 98 (two silver filigree basket English pincushions. 41. dating to 1816–18. 28). Scotland. in the floor. Probate Court 1916:178–180. shroud pins associated with the graves suggest a seventeenth. England (MacGregor 1985:186. comm. 1820) and in Taunton 1997:93. Leslie. but at St. late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. 64. at Christ’s Kirk on the Green. Northamptonshire. and even in the masonry of All Saints’ Church. as a measure to prop up the sagging British woolen industry (Cunnington and Lucas 1972:157). pl. 65. it was also increasingly common by the eighteenth century for even ordinary people to be buried in their own clothes. Riordan 1997:35. Hurry 2001:38–39. McConnel 1999:170. Spitalfields (where interments dated c. Although rich people could pay a fine of five pounds if they wished to bury their dead in funerary garments of linen or other material. and that it would be nearly impossible to tell earlier pins of this sort from later ones without supporting contextual evidence. or at least predating the seventeenth century: ‘‘the shroud pins are earlier than the seventeenth century as the practice of church burial had ceased by then’’ (Ponsford and Jackson 1995:119).

At the seventeenth-century cemetery at St. Yet another use of brass pins in a mortuary context was discovered during recording of a burial vault in North Dalton Church. North Humberside. and a perforated disk of lead or pewter (Riordan 2000:5-15–5-17. Maryland. see also 5-12). Riordan 2000:2-15. 70. from those of the Spanish missions during the same period. a holdfast. rather. King 1996:38–43. fig. a small wooden barrel [a cotton barrel?] containing two adult molars (not those of the deceased). are preserved in anatomical position’’ (2000:2-15. Riordan remarks on the high degree of difference between the burial customs evidenced at seventeenthcentury St. suggesting that the burial customs in the Spanish colonies differed from those of the English. any given burial might have a range of pin sizes.2). Litten 1992:76. 5. 71. King and Ubelaker 1996. these included a small loop of copper alloy wire (possibly an earring). which could not readily be hammered into a resistant surface. in general. Gittings 1984:112. Florida. King 1996:38–40. Notes to Pages 35–38 ment ‘‘should be recognizable archaeologically when a skeleton has its lower legs close together and the feet. the majority of pins found in colonial Chesapeake graves concentrate around the head area (Riordan 2000:5-13). One suspects that these pins were like very small tacks rather than common straight pins. fig. Augustine. Riordan notes that there is a wealth of archaeological evidence for the pinning of shrouds and burial clothing and that no special pin sizes were set aside for such purposes. however. 68. in which pins spelled out the inscription ‘‘R:B/Aeta 59/1748’’ (Mytum 1988:185). noting that ‘‘these differences reflect ethnic rather than religious characteristics and while the Marylanders may have been Catholic. pennies. Coffins did not survive but their use was indicated by the presence on and around the burial of iron nails and soil stained dark from rotted wood. Mary’s City only three graves had artifacts other than pins in them. Here one coffin lid was decorated with a double band of staggered brass pins around the edges and in the center of the lid pins had been laid out to form the outline of a shield. The Spitalfields study serves as something of a cautionary tale. 69. against the uniform assumption that grave goods signify non-Christian or ethnically exotic burials: ‘‘That is a fallacy and is clearly demonstrated at Christ Church where grave goods included jewellery. 16. fifteen black glass beads from a palm rosary. and a medicine bottle (Cox 1996:116–117. 42–43. Riordan’s survey of the available data reveals that.3). rather than collapsing. fig. although here the archaeologists also found evidence that ‘‘some African customs were maintained in the culture that enslaved people of African descent constructed for themselves’’ (Cantwell and Wall 2001:289. Mary’s City.186 67. Riordan 2000:2-16. Deagan attributes the variability in pin sizes found in a single late-sixteenth-century or early-seventeenth-century burial in St.6). pins are often the only or at least most common artifacts found in historicalperiod graves. as evidence that the deceased was buried in clothing fastened with an array of differently sized pins (Deagan 2002:195. Indeed. quotation on 116). indeed other seventeenth-century Chesapeake burials have pro- . and. and combs’’ as well as a copper coin (to pay for the final passage?). this was the case at the eighteenth-century African Burying Ground in Manhattan. they were also English’’ (2000:6-2). Indeed. 10.

4 does not reveal about the sample of pins from Jordan’s Journey is that a high proportion of them are very thin—that is.4) results from these practices. and Turowski 1996a:60). The man also had an anomaly on his seventh cervical vertebra (Ubelaker. Mary’s City. high-style clothing embellished with pleats. Virginia (Neiman 1980: 132). What table 2. 76. the burying ground at the Clifts Plantation in Westmoreland County. etc. a practice seemingly superseded in later burials by the use of caps and chin straps (Riordan 2000:5–14. Jones. tucks. Many Chesapeake archaeologists have been handed down a legacy of stripping off plow zone deposits and eschewing the use of screens altogether. accords with these findings. Jones. 73. Jillian Galle interprets the large number of pins (n=347) found at a cabin associated with an enslaved African-American seamstress at the Hermitage in Tennessee as an indication that ‘‘the residents of the Triplex Middle were engaged in the production of the elaborate dress required by the Jacksons’’—i. Ubelaker. John’s site. 74. Thus it is worth considering whether large concentrations of common straight pins at a single locus might reflect their use in complex specialty work. and I suspect that the low rate of straight pin recovery at many sites (see table 2. (Galle 2004:51).. See Stone 1982 for a detailed study of the St. of garments. Jones. Differential recovery rates are highly problematic for an archaeologist attempting to conduct any sort of detailed interpretation of the subassemblage of pins from a site.5 pins per grave. in that instance the archaeologists suggested that the reason the clothes were left in place (along with a purse full of coins carried by one of the men) was that the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition at the time they were discovered (McCullagh and McCormick 1991:87).8 (2000:5-13). but that does not seem to have happened here. 77.e. 78. and Turowski 1996a:90.Notes to Pages 38–41 72. 1667 Brick Chapel at St. A group of burials thought to be shipwreck victims were buried in their clothes. made from exceedingly fine-gauge wire. 5. fig. Maryland. Egan and Forsyth 1997:224. 187 duced good evidence for the use of face cloths and chin straps. This observation (based on my own inspection of the pins) leads me to conclude . Hurry 1980:1–3.. where the placement of the pins during the early period suggested use of face cloths. especially around the head area. neither condition seems to have been caused by a life of tailoring: tailors tended to sit cross-legged on a table and make use of their knees as blocking surfaces for shaping the shoulders. etc. while the nodes indicate abnormal body use. Mary’s City cemetery revealed that pins were more common in infant burials than in those of adults. and some of the interments around the perimeter of the c. and Turowski 1996b:151) as well as Schmorl’s nodes (Ubelaker. It is possible that this habitual posture would have produced some sort of skeletal anomaly. The anomaly seems to be a congenital defect. Riordan’s careful analysis of the frequency of pins in burials from the St. My discussion earlier of the high numbers of pins used to swaddle infants.1). probably heavy lifting. for instance. infants 8. Deagan 2002:193 recommends screen mesh of less than an inch or smaller to ensure recovery of small items like pins. adults averaging 3. Perhaps this is a feasible explanation in the Patuxent Point case as well. 75.

and Fox and Barton illustrate an iron needle from a fourteenth-century context at Oyster Street in Portsmouth. 9. 6. 1800 bc). Moore 2000. fig. Moore and Reed 2000:68. 10.d. 58. both broken at the base of the eye. Deagan 2002:195. t h e n e e d l e 1. 150. 2. England. Wilson and Hurst 1962–3:308. Jones 1973:355. Groves 1966:19–21. Massachusetts.17. but it is of paramount importance since it is in this quality that the strength of the needle really lies. one of iron in an undated context and one of copper alloy from Phase I (1638–1665). 4. lists pack needles among the goods of Edward Wharton. A3. a fur trader (Essex County. Murray and Murray recovered five copper-alloy needles from thirteenthto fifteenth-century Rattray in Aberdeenshire. Proctor 1966:12. Massachusetts. no. Crowfoot 1954:413. Forbes 1956:75. C. Carus-Wilson 1962–1963:199–200. Probate Court 1920:206–207). 2002:1453. 15. Andere 1971:57. 202). nos.’’ 13. 8. Thornton et al. 14. 6. fig. Jones 1973:355–356. Barber 1991:39. Outlaw illustrates a broken needle of iron found at seventeenth-century Governor’s Land near Jamestown. Proctor 1966:12–13. 214– 218). Scotland (1993:192.d. . Harper’s Bazar 1874:137. Noël Hume 1969:255. Maryland. Elizabeth Barber (1991:176–177) notes that ‘‘skillful and elegant’’ embroidery with some sort of needle appears in northern Europe on both incongruously coarse and faulty cloth and netting by the beginning of the Scandinavian Bronze Age (c. 79. 5. 16. as well as two of copper alloy from earlyand mid-eighteenth-century levels (1986:234. Forbes 1964:175. Jones 1973:355.:i–ii. perhaps because copper alloy preserves better than iron (or steel). referring to Lola Montez’s dedication in her Book of Beauty. I note that few archaeologists report finds of needles made of steel. and 10). not all of them post-1500. Only two identifiable needles were recovered from the St. Most seem to be made of copper alloy. Mary’s City. Groves 1966:17. For example. Jones 1973:354. a seventeenth-century probate inventory from Essex County. Jones 1973:355. 3. Groves 1966:18.:10) informed their customers that ‘‘we cannot illustrate the temper of a needle.188 Notes to Pages 42–49 that the majority of pins from site PG307 at Jordan’s Journey were used as ‘‘dress pins’’ for fastening fine fabrics like those used for women’s veils or men’s ruffs. John’s site at St. nos. 8. 42. 3. 11. Virginia (1990:148. Wilson and Hurst 1968:181. 7. as was the example from Governor’s Land (Hurry 1980:2). 12. Henry Milward and Sons (n. Milward n. Groves 1966:21–23. 71. Proctor 1966:12. Jones 1973:359–360. Hurry 1980:2. Groves 1966:21–23. Barber 1991:51. fig.

25. Rogers 1983:59. also known as the Great Carrying Place. Since the quantity of sewing needles is not given in Wharton’s inventory. MacDonald 1988. 21. Milward and Sons n. Rollins 1981. The discussion of needle types is drawn largely from Milward and Sons n. Crowfoot. 23. 30. Jones 1973:360–361. Massachusetts. seven ‘‘mushquash’’ [muskrat?]. shorter than short sharps but longer than betweens. and Staniland 2001:72–75. Egan 1988:195 presents information on excavations at Merchants Road. Gaffney and Robertson 1986. 28. Rogers 1983:59. Østergård 2004.:2–6. where ‘‘a bronze needle’’ was found. thirty-eight fox skins. . I infer that Wharton was involved in the fur trade because goods listed as among his possessions in New England are ‘‘Furrs. Gilman 1982:32. Chenille is a yarn with protruding fibers like a caterpillar’s tufts. 365. Whitechapel is a London district where high-quality needles were manufactured beginning in the mid-eighteenth century (Morrall 1865:13).d. lies at the eastern end of Lake Superior. and about fifty pounds of beaver pelts (207). Rogers 1983:59. Jones 1973:358. Jenkins 1965: 151.Notes to Pages 50–60 189 17. a cub bearskin. recovering thousands of artifacts related both to domestic life at the depot and the trade conducted from there (Woolworth 1982:115). and ground downs. used for embroideries and fringes and woven into luxurious carpets as well as for knitted or crocheted accessories (Wilcox 1969:70). 29. 24. it is a bit tricky to calculate their unit cost.d. Pritchard. Groves 1966:25. 27. ‘‘for coarser work . Groves 1966:25–26. Ireland. Galway. but it would make sense that the larger pack needles were more expensive than the sewing needles. Proctor 1966:23. Bishop 1866:616. 19. Essex County. In 1970 and 1971 Alan Woolworth conducted extensive excavations of the Great Hall and the kitchen behind it. 20. . Morrall produced two types of needles that fell between sharps and betweens: short sharps. See Gilman 1982:102 for an illustration of a mid-nineteenth-century matting needle from a historic-period Native American site in the Great Lakes region. For example. Rogers 1983:58.’’ including forty-nine raccoon skins. 22. four woodchuck skins. Probate Court 1920:206. Proctor 1966:12. the values assigned are more likely to be wholesale rather than retail prices. also for tailors. Good 1987:106–107 reports on both iron and copper-alloy needles from Narrow Quay. 26. Gimp is a term typically applied to a heavy thread or cord used for outlining or trim (Gove 1965:958).:1. It also seems logical to assume that because the items listed in Wharton’s inventory are goods intended for sale. . thirtyone otter skins. Staniland 1997: 245–248. two wolf skins. but is often used for household work’’. Morrall 1865:44. twenty-one martins and sables. for Tailors. 18. it was a central node in trade networks long before the British traders set up an establishment here in around 1768 (Woolworth 1982:111). The site of Grand Portage. Bristol.

190 Notes to Pages 60–66 31. 1957:394). ‘‘bodkin. Andere 1971:121. 51. 41. Pritchard. Groves 1966:25. I note that collectors express little interest in knitting needles. which on their own are not considered collectibles. 78a. 418 (caption). 22). 40.5. 12. Sydney: Iacono 1999:62.g. ivory.). no. Andere 1971:118–119. 40.v. 517. . 44.31.’’ Next to definition 1b is an illustration of an instrument identical to an awl.5. Addyman 1964:61. 32. and composing sticks for assembling lines of type (Singer et al. the sock is illustrated in the online exhibit ‘‘Secrets beneath Your Feet’’ on the Web site of the York Archaeological Trust (York Archaeological Trust 2005). nos. and tortoiseshell. 43. fig. The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge West Approach Project was conducted in 2001 and 2003 by the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University for the California Department of Transportation. knitting accessories figure prominently in the collectors’ literature. n. 21. Rather. b. Østergård 2004:111. Proctor 1966:23.. 34. 2. Walton 1989:341– 345. I examined the sewing-related finds in January 2005. Galle 2004:50. 24. Andere 1971:117. Dryden describes a woman wearing a large hat over a close-fitting white cap (quoted in Cunnington and Cunnington 1966:180). 78b. 36. figs. Barber 1991:121. They were also made in horn. Andere 1971:114. Lambert 1849:9. fig. although I have seen illustrated—and identified as netting needles —many eyed bone needles as well as double-pointed bone ‘‘pins’’ that I would be tempted to identify as netting meshes or gauges were it not for the absence of netting needles in the same contexts (see. fig. included a bodkin. 38. fig. Oswald 1962–3:130. The compositor’s bodkin was used to position type on the composing stick. Mills 2000:97. c.sonoma. table 5. fig. 29 (ill. before mechanization. Further information at http://www. Barber 191:122. and Staniland 2001:75. stiletto.5. tweezers. 35. West Oakland: Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2004:158–162. 10d. Yamin 2000:132–134. analysis is in progress. Ryan 1979:385–386. Whiting 1971:93–94. In my search through the archaeological literature I have not seen any mention of bone or wood netting implements from waterlogged or cessy sites where organic preservation is good. 2 a blunt needle with a large eye for drawing tape or ribbon through a casing. a small slender instrument with a sharp point for making holes in cloth and leather and for picking out bastings. e. 39. s. or hem. see Living History: Preserving the Past. fig. A further use of the term bodkin comes from the printer’s art: the compositor’s equipment in printing. an ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto. 87. which lists diameters for some of the knitting needles. 16.’’ lists the following primary definitions: ‘‘1 a. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1965. Galle 2004:48–52. I took the measurements for English standard gauge from an English knitting needle gauge in my collection. . For a detailed online discussion of this issue. Mary Praetzellis kindly provided me with a copy of the database of sewing items from the West Oakland sites. Crowfoot. Barber 1991:17. Long 1975:30. Ryan 1979:31–32. Niellon and Moussette 1985:fig. 42. 37. dagger. beading. 66. poiniard. 33. 131.shtml.

233. Jordan’s Journey: Mouer and McLearen 1991.html).heritage. Janowitz 2001. and a highly decorated example recovered by Joe Diamond at the Persen House Site in Kingston. who as a widow maintained control of the profitable fishing plantation at Ferryland (Pope 2004:273–274. Rogers 1983:62. I have not examined the ‘‘SS’’ bodkin myself. ribbons.html. 11. pers. and it has a teardrop-shaped eye. in at least six different forms. Silas Hurry. pls. it seems. 10). 2004). 47. toothpick. Ballard 1965. Holme 1688. Judith Leyster (1609–1660) was probably a pupil of Frans Hals. 197. 8 Sept. Mary’s City. 51. items 21–23. 2001:49–51. or small dagger. 2005. only two and a half inches long. ST1-23-456C/GM. New York (Paul Huey to Meta Janowitz. Hornum et al. 49. Jenkins 1965:51. Paris (see Web Gallery of Art: http://www. 65. also known as Carousing Couple. fig. John’s site at St. Joyful Company. 12. and so forth (see also Ruempol and von Dongen 1991:144 for an illustration of a sixteenth-century copper-alloy example with tongue scraper [tongsschrapper] and pp. Norwich: Margeson 1993:8–9. Archaeologists from Christopher Goodwin Associates mistakenly identified the bodkin as a sewing needle made of copper alloy. 2005). comm. Dulley 1967:228. one of these has an ear scoop at one end and is inscribed with the initials ‘‘SK.’’ No doubt this belonged to Lady Sara Kirke. fig. More than one silver bodkin was found in a midden deposit at the site of a well-to-do household at the seventeenth-century Colony of Avalon (http://www. several examples of combined ear scoops and toothpicks of metal. pl. A number of medieval implements with earscoops at one end (oorlepeltjes) from the Van Beuningen–de Vriese Collection in Rotterdam have either very distinctive. 281. fig. 4.wga. 1992. looking very much like netting needles. 567.apva. Proctor 1966:23. 218. is owned by the Louvre. see also Cantwell and Wall 2001:173–175. Sullivan (2004:72) reproduces a painting by a follower of Ludoph de Jonge of a woman sewing by candlelight (1650–1655) with a bodkin tucked under her cap serving temporarily as a hair needle. Some ear scoops. 278–279. plain but with a hooked end. 1996. Groves 1966:25. Other excavated seventeenth-century Dutch bodkins include one found by Paul Huey at Dutch Fort Orange. New York. or are included in small ‘‘toilet kits’’ that include a tongue scraper. were recovered from medieval sites in London (Egan and Pritchard 1991:379). 556. A small silver bodkin. The bodkin is distinctively to Pages 66–70 191 45. and a passe-lacet. Sullivan 2004:74. 2004. small eyes for threading. comm. stiletto. a bodkin for fastening clothing with drawstrings. cords. 3. Jamestown bodkins: Beverly Straube. but when I saw color photographs .html). 219 for seventeenth-century bone ear scoops with toothpicks [oorlepel en tandenstoker]). was recovered in 2005 from a plow-zone context at the St. 46. Horn 1972:109. she worked in Haarlem and Amsterdam. Maryland (Specimen no. The French distinguish between two types of bodkin: poinçon. its tip bears decoration resembling overlapping fish scales. fig. mansion. 50. a punch. or laces (Andere 1971:61–62). 52. 300–303). no.html?/html/l/ leyster/index. a bodkin from Jamestown is illustrated at http://www. or none at all (Ter Molen 2000:22. Sullivan 2004:74–75. served as toilet items or elements of ‘‘cosmetic sets’’ and not in any way as sewing aids. The Roelofs bodkin was found in 1964 at the Quarry Site in Munsville.

conservator for the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab). Cases intended for suspension from a chatelaine or waist girdle always had some sort of loop for attaching a chain or cord (Proctor 1966:54). Per Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1965. so a silver bodkin might be covered with a corrosion product that makes it look like a copper-alloy one until it has been properly treated by a conservator (Sara Rivers Cofield. 58. 59. Klippel and Schroedl 1999. In Britain more attention has been given to the working of cattle horn cores (for a summary. 2003:75. 79. A lathe-turned bone needlecase and a rough-out were found in thirteenth-century context at Hitzacker. Essex County. see also Chadwick 1958:31. and he agreed with me that there may be some sort of registry mark on the object but that wear. (The object has been treated and coated. which had been conserved by Goodwin Associates. The similarity of the London example to earlier ones from the Continent led to the speculation that perhaps it was older than the filling date for the pit. 56. Ó Rîordáin 1971:73. Howard Wellman. comm. a chatelaine is ‘‘an ornamental chain. rendering metallographic analysis infeasible.) Wellman decided that it is probably made of copper alloy with silver or tin plating. a purse. Compare Cumbaa 1986. For further discussion of chatelaines. such as toilet sets. examples in the collections of the Museum of London that retain their caps make it clear that both the case and the caps had side slots so that the cord could be strung through both in order to hold the cap and container together.’’ The custom of suspending needlecases from the waist is traceable in England to sixth-century Kent. keys. He explained to Sara Rivers Cofield. Quarterly Courts 1917:300–301. A fourteenth-century needlecase found on the Thames waterfront at Billingsgate had fragments of linen cord preserved in its side slots. on my behalf. curator of Federal Collections at the MAC Lab. see White 2005:129–130. Bodkin: Lewis 2001:33. 35– 36). White 2002. Mill Pond Site: Balicki 1998. and previous conservation has made this mark illegible.’’ Essex County. Egan and Pritchard 1991:384. permitting the cap to slide up and down without being separated from its container (Egan and Pritchard 1991: 386). 2004).192 53. I am conducting further research on the ‘‘inscribed’’ bodkins from Maryland and Boston as part of a project I’ve titled ‘‘Bodkin Biographies. Massachusetts. worn at a woman’s waist to which trinkets. fig. Germany (MacGregor 1985:59). that even ‘‘sterling’’ is a silver alloy containing between 10 and 12 percent copper. this can be taken as evidence that women were at times buried wearing their chatelaines with needlecases and other items. time. 60. where the grave of an Anglo-Saxon woman contained a cylindrical copper-alloy needlecase in which two bronze needles and a small piece of linen cloth were preserved. Egan and Pritchard 1991:384. or other articles are attached. Notes to Pages 70–74 of it I thought it might be made of silver. Massachusetts. pers. Brown 1974:152. 55. Elbe. Andere 1971:19. 57. Hinks 1995. copper would deteriorate more quickly in the ground than silver. or clasp usu. Seasholes 1998. Probate Court 1916:70. see Robertson 1989) than to manufacture of objects from long bone (but see Armi- . 54. suspended from them (Brown 1974:152–153. 21b. pin. kindly undertook a minute inspection of the object.

and a bone pincushion mount from Appleton Roebuck.g. Quantities of button backs and blanks as well as debris at the site of New York City’s first almshouse (c. e. leaving the distal ends above grade to serve as the surface of the floor. At the 8 Tyers Gate property. 193 tage 1982. MacGregor 1985:193. MacGregor 1985:44–54. 25. 74–80. were found in every state of manufacture and there was much waste material’’ (Wilson and Hurst 1970:157). nos. England (MacGregor 1985:193. Holdsworth 1976:45. The eighth-century site of Saxon Hamwih. Goldstein 2002:18. 1730) suggest that ‘‘button making may have been one of the tasks required of Almshouse residents’’ (Cantwell and Wall 2001:276. nos.or nineteenth-century date from excavations in Plymouth. MacGregor 1985). mention use of these bones for fashioning tubular needlecases. 61. 23. but I do not question the accuracy of this identification. produced abundant evidence of bone working as a cottage industry: ‘‘bone objects. a timber floor had been replaced in the eighteenth century by a ‘‘knuckle bone floor’’ made by shoving broken shafts of sheep metapodials into the ground. 28). Kelso 1982. . England. West 1995:33. Some of the later lathes incorporated steel leaf springs instead of simple poles. 186. MacMahon and Deagan 1996:19. 81–88. 110a). See MacGregor 1985:203–205 for discussion and illustration of bone hinges. 62. which he illustrates along with a bone needlecase from Birka. 64. See. 55–56. these are mostly from Roman sites. Ó Rîordáin 1971:75. 65. pins and knife-handles. England. 86. Another site of the Anglo-Saxon period in Southampton produced similar evidence of a limited bone industry producing awls and combs (Webster and Cherry 1975:222). Armitage does not. fig. Sweden. fig. including combs. Neillion and Moussette 1985:fig. Moorhouse 1971:59. fig. and Armitage 2002:71–73). 67. Armitage 1982:98. but I am unaware of any knuckle bone floors at early colonial sites in North America. no. the middle Saxon occupation levels in the Six Dials area of Southampton produced a large amount of bone. Radley 1971:51–52. A remarkable use of animal bone turned up at a postmedieval site in Bermondsey. Gadd and Dyson 1981:75. Lauwerier and van Heeringen 1995:71. Klippel and Schroedl 1999:228–229.and antler-working debris across the whole site (Youngs and Clark 1982:184). Robertson 1989. 68. 15. 59. the caption (418) reads ‘‘etuis à aiguilles (?) en os (151QU-IIIH2-793 et 151QU-6S2-795). One example from Verulanium that he illustrates has screw threads at either end. 66.9). he further mentions a fragmentary cotton barrel (‘‘thread box’’) of late-eighteenth.. Holdsworth 1976:45. fig. Klippel and Schroedl 1999. England. 182–184. Armitage 1982: 104. West 1995:31. Killock. however. but the tube also has holes drilled in it to receive wooden pegs or inserts (MacGregor 1985:204. 63.Notes to Pages 74–77 61. 35). 101.’’ indicating perhaps some doubt that these pieces are from a needlecase. 47. MacGregor illustrates a fifteenth-century rosary bead maker using a bow-driven lathe or drill (1985:fig. in Southampton. in this regard closely resembling some of the needlecases from the Chesapeake. 5. 516. It appears that the practice of constructing ‘‘knuckle bone floors’’ was not uncommon in southern and southeast England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (see Divers. 102–104. 27.

Thompson. 127. As noted above. 71.g. Ulrich 1982:64. 66. 30–39. Grew. Von Hoelle 1986:23–24. 4. 8. Janet Spector’s What This Awl Means (1993). 76. See. Essex County. Noël Hume 1969:255–257. 2. Hill 1995.’ and.’’ and for knitting stockings. Essex County. Edwin Holmes. who has also published extensively on thimbles. 42. his line of reasoning as to the origins of thimbles seems reasonable from this archaeologist’s vantage point. ‘I have power’ ’’ (Pope 2004:272–273). 113. See. 68. George 1998. 235. Swan 1995:213. 23. St. referring to Cuming 1879 (Von Hoelle reproduces Cuming’s paper on pp. Greif 1984:9. nos. fig. Landon. pers. 73. Shipwreck sites are the main exception—thimbles from wrecks are usually identified as being from a specific vessel such as the Margarita or the Bertrand though details on the context of the find within the wrecks are not given (cf. Essex County. 7. 70. Massachusetts. Holmes 1976. fig. Quarterly Courts 1913:280. case of Grace Stout. or. 24. Andere 1971:65. 230. Von Hoelle 1986:25. 3. See. Nevertheless. 214–218. Zalkin 1988:39. 63. Murray and Murray 1993:109. therefore. proclaimed ‘‘‘I am literate. 4. ‘‘small affirmations of literacy’’ asserting ownership at a time when literacy was rare. 75. She received money ‘‘for work’’ or ‘‘for work . Von Hoelle 1986:17. . 80. and for a pair of gloves. Andere 1971:117–118. David B. Although Von Hoelle fails to cite sources. . 8. Massachusetts. ‘‘not conclusive’’ (Holmes 1976:1). Ulrich 2001:418. See Von Hoelle 1986:305. Essex County. Ulrich 1982:62–63. 279–283. 6. Fox and Barton 1986:31.194 Notes to Pages 77–90 69. fig. and I have sought out original sources insofar as possible. e.g. 77. as Peter Pope notes. Shaffer 1973:236. Massachusetts. esp.. finds much of the archaeological evidence adduced by Von Hoelle dubious. Pogue 1981:71. in the context of the time and place. 78. 234. Quarterly Courts 1914:239–242. 82). 114. 6. 81. Rogers 1983:80.. at the very least.. monograms. 305–309). 5. 79. . I do not assume from the fact that the bodkin was inscribed with Hunt’s name or initials that Hunt was fully literate. 2001. I nevertheless realize that interpretations are open to revision as new evidence accumulates. fig. t h e u b i q u i t o u s a n d o c c a s i o n a l l y ordinary thimble 1. Holmes 1985:17–18. Lapointe 1998:41.g. Massachusetts. comm. 72. e. and Schofield 1984:120. 71. 1985. 74. e. Groves 1966:23. she may merely have been able to sign or recognize her own name. Quarterly Courts 1913: 280 (emphasis added). 193. 10. nos. nos. Quarterly Courts 1917:70. 150. 192. Proctor 1966:64. Lutestring refers to a plain glossy silk also known as lustring.

. 16. in this book I use the nonspecific term copper alloy to characterize the composition of copper-based metal thimbles found in archaeological contexts. The Naqada thimbles are in the Petrie Collection at University College Museum at the University of Manchester. themel. 30. 2000b. Von Hoelle 1986:29. 10. Von Hoelle 1986:25. Von Hoelle 1986:87. the El Lisht find is published in Hayes 1953: 411–412.Notes to Pages 90–96 195 9. Holmes 1986:2. 29. Von Hoelle 1986:29. invented by Christopher Pinchbeck (1670–1732). Pinchbeck is an alloy of five parts copper and one part zinc. Von Hoelle 1986:87. Soffer. dap: to produce cup-shaped forms (in sheet metal) by use of special dies and punches (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1965). and Hyland 2000a. etc. Holmes 1985:37. Von Hoelle 1986:33. 108–109 of her book. 28. Von Hoelle 1986:82. see Greif 1984:42–47. No term denoting a thimble is known from ancient times despite survival of variants of terms denoting needles (Von Hoelle 1986:21. Kehoe 1990. Von Hoelle 1986:35–36. 20. 22. Von Hoelle 1986:19. 27. Von Hoelle 1986:19. Von Hoelle 1986:41. 135. Holmes notes that the earliest variant of the English word for thimble. 23. Holmes 1986:3. 17. Holmes 1985:19. 24. 19. Bahn 2001. for a more detailed perspective please consult Barber 1991. 21. Von Hoelle 1986:19. 25. Barber 1991:15. 25. 15. Von Hoelle 1986:33. for a detailed account of the Vingerhoeds. Von Hoelle 1986:33. 12. Von Hoelle 1986:23. Von Hoelle 1986:35. Barber 1991:39. during these eras. Note that most contemporary collectors have called the latten examples ‘‘brass thimbles’’. 283–382. Davidson 1952:178. embroidery. . Barber 1991:xxi. 14. Von Hoelle 1986:27. Barber 1991:263n). 18. Holmes 1985:39. 13. especially pp.’’ Holmes 1987:4. It should be noted that Zalkin’s rather arbitrary pronouncement is contradicted by the fact that she illustrates examples of the Iles patented ventilated thimble on pp. Zalkin 1988:34. 26. Holmes 1985:25. appears in a source dating to the year 1412 and refers specifically to a ‘‘[th]emel of lea[th]er. 1991. the gold-colored metal was often substituted for gold (Von Hoelle 1986:147). Since here I am interested in the development of thimbles I have deliberately omitted discussion of the complexity of the crafts of weaving. Adovasio. 11. Holmes 1985:24. Von Hoelle 1986:37. Von Hoelle 1986:21. But her point is that most holes that one sees on old thimbles were caused by needles and hard use.

41. 48. Proctor 1966:71. Holmes 1985:50. Holmes 1985:59. Lydon 1993:132–133). 22. Holmes 1985:22. Hurry 1980. fifty-five pennyweights are roughly equivalent to 85. 190–191. 43. 53. 35. Holmes 1985:39. 50. 55. . when I visited there in 1995. Holmes 1985:55. Von Hoelle 1986:47. 46. Hill 1995:87– 88. King and Miller 1987. Von Hoelle 1986:47–48. Iacono 1999:61–62. silver is also ‘‘kinder to the finger’’ (Holmes 1985:106). Holmes discusses the advertisements found in colonial newspapers at some length (1985:56–57). especially embroidery. Hill 1995:85. Grief 1984:47 illustrates a seventeenth-century Dutch thimble of unspecified metal (probably silver) bearing the motif of running dogs on its narrow band.525 grams. Von Hoelle 1986:120. Groves 1966. quotation on 22. Zalkin 1988:19. see Fales 1974. Sources to consult on silver thimbles and marks on silver thimbles include Holmes 1976:44–47. 40. for a complete treatment of the Richardsons of Philadelphia. and gender can be seen to work not just for women but also to be the source of the creation of a stereotype of effeminacy for tailors. Holmes 1976: 122–134. 51. Holmes 1985:62. femininity. 4. or iron. 5. which rusts. Holmes 1985:55. 2000:8. 10. which readily gets dirty. fig. Hill 1995:87–88. or 0. 39. 44. Anon. 49. Proctor 1966:15. Holmes 1985:51. Yamin 2000:132. Zalkin 1988:20. 37. Holmes 1985:61. men who sewed for a living. Andere 1971:101–102. Silver keeps cleaner than copper alloy. Holmes 1987:4. A pennyweight is equal to twentyfour grains. Holmes 1985:21. Holmes 1985:61. Holmes 1985:40. 8. Notes to Pages 96–108 Holmes 1985:53. 66. further evidence of the pervasive nature of mass-produced consumer goods intended to promote contemporary social constructs (Iacono 1999:62. fig. Rogers 1989. 45. 33. 57. Rogers 1983:85. 93. 32. Zalkin 1988:248–251 illustrates marks for base metal and other thimbles. fig. A number of advertising thimbles were found at the Cumberland/ Gloucester Streets site at the Rocks in Sydney.300711 avoirdupois ounces. 36. 42. Proctor 1966. 38. England. 0. 47. 52. This was the phrase a craftsman used to describe his work when he demonstrated thimble spinning at the Abbeydale Museum in Sheffield. 54. Proctor 1966:71. Von Hoelle 1986:255. Holmes 1987:9. 56. Holmes 1985:21.12. Holmes 1985:106–110. 34. Holmes 1985:41. Beaudry 1998:30. see also Deagan 2002:205–206. The link between sewing.196 31. Von Hoelle 1986:87. 57–79.274095 troy ounces. fig.

from the verb scindere. as curators of archaeological collections cheerfully brought out all manner of scissors when I requested access to sewing implements. 114. see also Deagan 2002:201–205. Herbster 2005. Bow is the term I have chosen to use for the finger holes of scissors. 64. 62. Himsworth 1953:154. New Jersey. Hill 1995:86–87. which changed from skeresa and then to skaerizo before entering Old English as the word scear.Notes to Pages 109–116 197 58. Shears originated from the Teutonic root sker. 63. and the spelling results from a confusion between this term and the Latin word scissor. Thomas 1991:84. 60. commemorative history (published in 1948 for the company’s one-hundredth anniversary) includes a ‘‘Prefatory Note’’ explaining that the derivations of the terms shears and scissors are quite different. it is very hard and dark in color (Holmes 1985:129). s h e a r s a n d s c i s s o r s 1. to cut. Holmes 1985:45–46 provides an illustration and a chart of hallmarked silver thimbles. Coquilla is the hardened albumen of a Brazilian palm tree known as the Piassaba (Attalea finifera). 59. Thomas 1991:18. meaning a cutting instrument. Holmes 1985:207. The J. pluck- . Himsworth 1953:151. indicating that both methods of fleece collection. vegetable ivory. Bragdon 1988. e. Garman and Herbster 1996. shagreen was a material tanned from fish skin and usually dyed green (Holmes 1985:207). Neergaard. Holmes 1985:54. 1840–1880 (Holmes 1985:129). Thus it occurred to me that in the present chapter it would be useful for me to discuss scissors of all types rather than limit coverage to sewing scissors. Zalkin 1988:248–251. Derived from the hardened albumen of the seed of a South American tree (Phytelephas macrocarpa). Cogley 1999. 5. See also Andere 1971:101–102. 3. 61. Massachusetts. Also called galuchat. 2. Wiss and Sons Company of Newark. See. Noël Hume 1970:267. which is called the corozo or ivory nut. Holmes 1985:207–215. Sulzman 2003.. Most archaeologists’ tendency not to differentiate among types of scissors became apparent to me when I was conducting research on excavated material. Rogers 1989 provides discussion throughout of marks on American silver thimbles.g. because it is light cream to brown in color. The term took on variant forms in Old and Modern French as well as in late Middle English. The word scissors derives from the Latin word cisoria. or real ivory but is rather oily to the touch and has a vegetable appearance when left unpolished. though there are several interesting specimens with Essex County family provenances in the collections of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. 89. Clearly shagreen is unlikely to survive in archaeological sites. Small items made of vegetable ivory were very much in vogue between c. Elizabeth Barber notes that the Akkadian language has terms for both plucking and shearing. quotation from Neergaard 1987:56. I have not gone into detail on these here because archaeologists find relatively few marked thimbles. resembles bone. Grew 1987:viii. horn. and Griffiths 1987:106. Parker 1984. Fiske Center 2003. Cowgill.

14. 48). Finds of shears at Irish rath sites from around the twelfth century ‘‘provide satisfactory archaeological evidence for the rearing of sheep for their wool’’ in Ireland by this time (Proudfoot 1961:110). Himsworth 1953:151. 8. see also Symonds 2002. 13. e. 1989. 13–14. A pair of iron shears and a glass bowl had been carefully placed at the feet of a Saxon woman interred in a cemetery at Thurrock. Grew 1987:ix. fig. Hey 1972:8. A pair of shears and a bone weaving-tool were found in a seventh-century woman’s grave at Finglesham. jewelry. ‘‘The increasing number of settlers in the New World were already providing a profitable market by the late seventeenth century. she had gone to her grave wearing several brooches. that was abandoned in the late seventeenth century. 28–29. quotation on 61. Himsworth 1953: 47–49.p. Neergaard 1987:58. in Mucking. 55. See. Iron weaving swords are exceedingly rare and probably were not fully functional weaving beaters (beaters or battens were usually made of wood) but instead served as symbols of the rank and social status of the owners (Chadwick 1958:35). Neergaard 1987:60. The Clauss Primer: Mother Goose Up-to-Date. Smithhurst 1987:3.g. Wiss and Sons 1948:n. 59. along with an iron weaving sword. and the ‘Attercliffe group’ had Thomas Fell [a sales agent] resident in Jamaica from 1699 onwards’’ (Hey 1972:51). A rather bizarre. in the Rare Book Collection of the Henry Francis Dupont Winterthur Museum. 6. Himsworth 1953:152. were already known in the Bronze Age (Barber 1991:29). Thanet. 11. and a silver finger-ring (Wilson and Hurst 1968:157). and amulets (Chadwick 1958:31). when they became available. Himsworth 1953:189. the vast majority of it to the United States (Hey 1972:52). 57. no.3 inches long and were found in a courtyard farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire.9–6. 7. where crofters continue to shear their sheep manually because they believe that electronic shears can harm the animals. were quickly put into use to enlist neighbors in the identification of sheep that had strayed too far away for their markings to be recognized through binoculars—sparing the crofter the occasional unnecessary walk of many miles in pursuit of the wrong sheep. 12. Neergaard 1987:58. Andere 1971:105. and unpaginated trade publication. England. Forbes 1956:100. England. a string of ninety-one beads. seems geared to children—however . These scissors are about 5. Himsworth 1953:152. undated.p. Kent. Barber 1991:21. without offering an explanation for this possibly vernacular term (Hayfield 1988:54. for example. 10.198 4. Smithurst 1987:3. Carus-Wilson 1957:104 ff. Himsworth 1953:189. One archaeological source uses the phrase ‘‘cranked handles’’ to describe a pair of iron scissors with one bow larger than the other. see also Crossley et al. I have seen shears of ‘‘traditional’’ appearance in use in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. 17. It is not a matter of being backwards about technology. Kent (Wilson 1960:135). table 1. mobile phones. Wiss and Sons 1948:n. Similar iron shears were found in a hut (grubenhauser) in the nearby Saxon village (Wilson and Hurst 1967:264). 9. By 1810 up to half of the cutlery being produced in Sheffield was exported. 190. another pair of iron shears was included in the grave goods interred with an Anglo-Saxon woman at Sarre cemetery. 5. Notes to Pages 117–120 ing and cutting. 5..

Wiss and Sons 1948:n. 18. 65. Neergaard 1987:58–59. 25. 65. 199 inappropriately—because it presents the glories of Clauss knives. fig. A handsome pair of iron shears with silver inlay. 46.p. Himsworth 1953:92. They also recovered several fragments from ‘‘two types of scissors of a similar size’’ dating roughly between 1550 and 1750 (Reed and Moore 2000:66. If not criminal. fig. fig.p. Neergaard 1987:58. Unwin 2002. the list of London marks does not survive. 26. 28. Cowgill 1987:11. some paraphrasing Mother Goose rhymes (no prices or model numbers are provided). but those of the Sheffield scissorsmiths have been archived on a computer database at the Hawley Collection. 16. Archaeological Research School. 23. 61. Unwin 2002. Cowgill 1987:11. J. / When a man marries / his trouble begins / Needles and pins / and a pair of / Clauss shears / All of his trouble/at once disappears. 30. 183. 24. and razors in a cartoon format complete with short jingles. 131. 8–10) found in strata associated with the abandonment of the eighteenth-century fulling mill at . see Cowgill 1987:10. Unwin 2002. Carus-Wilson 1957:106. many smiths rented space in large tenement workshops or factories that began to appear in Sheffield (Smithhurst 1987:13). however (Carus-Wilson 1957:106). 27. about eight inches long. as in ‘‘Needles and pins. 153 [ill. 5. 46. Carus-Wilson 1957:107. Most scissorsmiths marked their products. University of Sheffield.4). 9a. 59. shears. which appeared in the Ladies Home Journal in 1906. 20. Wiss and Sons 1948:n. The larger shears took two hands to operate. The rhyming (and the reasoning!) are at times a bit jarring.p. / Needles and pins. Indeed. Smithurst 1987:5–6. see note 32. nos. 22. was found in layers dating c. 29. Reed and Moore 2000:66. Archaeologist Owen Bedwin speculates that fragments of three nearly identical pairs of scissors (Bedwin 1976:60. nos. 92. Wiss and Sons claims to have taken out the first national advertisement for scissors and shears. 8–10. Unwin 2002:106–112. Norway (Long 1975:28. however. while another interesting pair of iron shears with an inlaid bronze strip was recovered from a well filled during the sixteenth century in Trondheim. by the late eighteenth century. Lapointe 1998:33. for an illustration of methods of combining iron and steel in edged tools. Moore 2000. fig. fig. 154. Neergaard 1987:58. Ponsford and Jackson 1995:149. 51.Notes to Pages 120–124 15. quotation from Bedwin 1976:46. no. then violent: some scissors made in Sheffield in the nineteenth century for what was then known as the Persian market were designed quite deliberately to do double duty as daggers (Himsworth 1953:152. 21.. nos. 1200– 1230 at the site of Weoley Castle. Cowgill 1987:11.]). below). 10v 29). Himsworth 1953:92.’’ Wiss and Sons 1948:n. fig. 17. 179–181). these closely resembled the ‘‘domestic’’ scissors found at Ardingly fulling mill (Bedwin 1976:61. Birmingham (Oswald 1962–3:129. 19. fig.

59. Himsworth 1953:157. and as we have seen. 1205–1207. figs. as well as to male tailors. Bedwin notes that the people who ran the forge that preceded the fulling mill on the same site may have collected all sorts of iron scrap to melt down for re-use and that some of the scrap iron may have gotten mixed into the later strata. along with other sewing materials. Andere 1971:110–112. 40. This book restarts pagination with each chapter so I have included chapter titles to avoid confusion. 39. 2. 13. For further information on textiles and textile production. Hornum et al. 7 has a plain shank. Aldgate: Thompson. 27. 13. The scissors are not illustrated so it is impossible to know the criteria upon which the identification was made. whereas no. 2001. figs. and patching. 1829:13. Andere 1971: 104. 12. no. might have been used for trimming nap after cloth was felted and teazled. This seems to imply that by the eighteenth century scissors. 41. 32. Anon. top right. led the investigators to infer ‘‘the presence of a tailor and/or seamstress’’ (Iacono 2001:62). Number 12 has a small baluster knop at the junction of the shank and the blade. 33. 99. fig. 7. One blade fragment from the site is so large that it may well be from a pair of shears. 29. A well at the Rocks in Sydney produced ‘‘a complete pair of tailor’s scissors’’ that. 34. no. 232. f i n d i n g s 1. Barber 1991:3. fig. Porstmouth: Fox and Barton 1986:231. Andere 1971:110. no. Notes to Pages 124–138 Ardingly in The Weald of southern England may have been used in fulling: ‘‘if teazling was carried out on this site. see such general works as Wilson 1979. 545. Bogdonoff 1975. no. 243. Drewett 1976:26. A good starting place for . A3.200 31. 1204. fig. but ‘‘great shears’’ were still in use at mills such as Haggart’s Mill in Aberfeldy in the 1930s. 38. The relatively small scissors from Ardingly seem more likely to have been designed either for general domestic use or for cutting cloth than for trimming wool that had been fulled and teazled. 36. and many others. rather than shears. 2001:543. the folding knives were also used to trim writing quills and hence have become known as penknives. 187. 37.p. and Schofield 1984:98. Wiss and Sons 1948:n. Woman’s Institute 1936:Findings 1. fig. Andere 1971:103. Arminjon and Blondel 1984:242. fig. 35. it is precisely at the fulling mills that we should expect to find large shears (Carus-Wilson 1957:106). Benes 1999.. Publications on New England textiles include Parslow 1949. in the Rocks (Karskens 2001:110). which were decorated with a small baluster. 1203. 8. 145 nos. Arminjon and Blondel 1984:242. Grew. but there are historical references to both men and women doing sewing. 6. it could perhaps explain the number of scissor fragments found’’ (Bedwin 1976:50). 80. Outlaw 1990:127. the bows of the scissors found at Aldgate had been made separately from a thin strip and forged onto the shanks. 243. Bolingbroke: Drewett 1976:26. 50. darning. but all that remains is the tip of the blade so it is difficult to extrapolate from the tip to the entire object. fig. 9.7. fig. Hurry 1980:3–4. 27.

g. so his kersey was probably of the coarse woolen sort. The exact dates for the introduction of these new loom types is a matter of considerable debate and conjecture. Kuhn 1995:77. e. England. Brears and Magson 1979:236. 10. Kersey. For a history of lace (the product). Ashurst 1979:234. Larkin 1988:26. 14. Higham 1989. 235. figs. 69. Barber 1991:51–68. where it was first woven in medieval times. 3. Mansfield’s inventory does not list cotton yarn or thread. ‘‘temple’’). Ryder 1968. Baines 1977:40. 6. Baines 1977:15. 130. 4.. Pritchard 1984:66.v. Baines 1977:31–33. ‘‘kersey’’). 46–47. See. 82. Brears and Magson 1979:236–237. 20. 22.g. Ashurst 1979:234. see also Morris 1926. 18. Pritchard 1984:64–66. Broudy 1979:102. Palmer and Neaverson (2003). 260–261. See MacGregor 1985:185–187 for a discussion of spindles and whorls made of bone and antler. Goodchild 1982:251–252. although beyond this there is a vast literature on the topic with sources too numerous to list here. 19. 201 understanding industrialization of the American textile industry is Wilson 1979:251– 285 (see also Sheridan 1987). Broudy 1979:23–25. The section epigraph contains lines from a lace ‘‘tell’’ chanted by children in an English lace school to help relieve monotony and to establish a rhythm and count the stitches as they made the lace.. s. 17. MacGregor 188–189. Baines 1977:16. 117– 120. Lemon 1968. quoted in Spenceley 1976:167. See also Palmer and Neaverson 2005. 5. Ashurst 1979:230–231. Goodchild illustrates handloom weavers’ cottages built for Thomas Taylor and Sons in Barnsley in the early nineteenth century (figs. Hoffman 1964:258–261. 4). e. 7. 21. Lemon 1963. 13. Probate Court 1920:306. A. fig. Massachusetts. Pritchard 1984:66. Lemon 1968:89. 234. Wilson 1979:241. Wilson 1979:241. discuss nineteenth-century purpose-built weavers’ housing in Wiltshire and Gloucester. refers to a coarse ribbed woolen cloth for hose and work clothes or to a heavy wool or wool and cotton fabric made in plain or twill weave with a smooth surface and used in uniforms and coats (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1965.. see also Ulrich 2001. 299–310. Gudjónsson 1979:207–208. 8. 235. The ‘‘pare of temples’’ refers to devices used in looms for keeping the web stretched transversely (ibid. 101. see Levey 1983. Baines 1977:69. 16. 11. 3. no. no. A document from 1811 made it clear that the chaise house adjoined the ‘‘loom room’’ (Clements 1999:117). 2. Abbott Farm: Clements 1999:64. 5. and app. named after the village in Suffolk. see also Holdsworth 1976:47. England. 5. 102. 9. 12. fig. Baines 1977:42–58. Brears and Magson 1979:237.v. s.Notes to Pages 138–151 3. 15. Pritchard 1984:63. 257. Richard Candee has traced the transfer in the early nineteenth century of both the machine knitting industry and . Essex County.

36. Vanderpoel 1924:3. 2000). Huetson 1973:93. Quoted in Horn 1972:106. quoting a Northamptonshire surgeon. 31. Tryon 1917:133. 35. to New England (Candee 1998. Horn 1972:105. is not supported with any direct evidence (Yallop 1983:199). 39. 41. 98. DC. fig. table 2. . Horn’s fig. 87 (ill. see also Ballard 1992–1993:43. 95. Washington. 28. Even in the home context.5. for a detailed study of the Nottingham Lace Market and the operations of the lace warehouses in Nottingham. 34. 40. Puerto Rico: Santiago de Curet and Kingsley 1994:94–95. Dicky pots: Horn 1972:106. Manuscripts Department. 27. Huetson 1973:93. fig. refined Dutchwoman wearing jeweled earrings. Kennett 1974:111.202 23. neighboring lace-makers tended to gather to socialize while working (Horn 1972:107). 25. Guignet 1979:96.. 4 presents a well-to-do. 108. 38. 37. 48–49. Galle reports that fourteen beads were found at Triplex Middle but classifies all of these as items of personal adornment (Galle 2004:56. Raffel 2003:43–47. Horn 1972:100. New York: Griggs 2000. Horn cites comments offered in testimony to the Parliamentappointed Children’s Employment Commission about why parents forced their children to begin work at such an early age with lace-buyers like Thomas Gilbert of High Wycombe. Horn 1972:104. Yallop 1983:209. 33. Horn 1972:100. a jacket trimmed in fur. Yamin 2005:11. Bobbins: Hopewell 1984. who in 1862 bought lace from three thousand makers in South Buckinghamshire and the Thame area of Oxfordshire. 101–102. bottom). Cotterell 1999:85. and what appears to be a silver bodkin in her hair while she daintily works at her lace-making—a world apart from the situation of the lace-makers she discusses in her article! Buck 1966. Kennett 1974:111. Kennett 1974:112. 24 Jan. fig. 88–89. in England. see Oldfield 1984. 1999. 111. Horn 1972:101. Lamps: Huetson 1973:86. 1791. 86. This document is discussed in detail by Marta Cotterell Raffel in her work on the lace-makers of Ipswich (Cotterell 1999. Galle 2004:49. 52. Horn 1972:107. 2001:296. Joseph Dana to George Cabot. 1. 24. Raffel 2003). Horn 1972:104. 29. 32. Spenceley 1976:155. although the founding of the industry by Flemish émigrés. Papers of Alexander Hamilton. see also Cotterell 1997. Huetson 1973:84. 2. Yallop posits that Honiton lace was of the sort usually designated Point d’Angleterre. Notes to Pages 152–159 the machine-made lace industry from Nottinghamshire. going on to say that the origins of Honiton lace are fiercely debated and that the issue probably can never be resolved without ‘‘fibre identification techniques developed for forensic science’’ (Yallop 1983:201). especially in Devon. see also Spenceley 1976:161.3). 26. engravers and watchmakers also sometimes employed such lamps. Library of Congress. 30. Cotterell 1999:88-89. Guignet 1979:96. Pillow lace–making was established in Bedfordshire by the late sixteenth century (Kennett 1974:111). merday/items/260761/item260761. 2006. Rogers 1983:223–225. pl. [and] needle case with threaded crowned lid’’ (Fiona Kenny Antiques. 203 Sydney: Iacono 1999:62–63.6. Simon 1984. though found far from the sea in the Warren mining district of Idaho. pls.shtml. 55. Rogers 1983:182–188. 46. http://www.13. 44.4.12. 2001. 57. Archaeology of a San Francisco Neighborhood. quotation on 158. thimble holder . 5. 2002. Rogers 1983:218–219. Anthropological Studies Center. 43. A surviving set of nineteenth-century hand-carved bone sewing implements corresponding to the fragmentary examples from San Francisco contains a ‘‘sewing clamp with screw threaded domed finial screw . fig. A Lady [1838] 1986:4. 90–92. Yamin 2000:135.trocadero.5.’’ juxtaposing ads for vibrators with those for sewing accessories and home appliances (Maines 1998). but I have not come across information linking such pins specifically to lace-making. 2. Sullivan 2004:76. quotation on 183. 58. Blakey 1994. Taunton 1997:87–88. thread holder with a lid with a hold in the centre . 2. used in sewing heavy canvas. it bears the distinctly nautical motif of an anchor (Striker and Sprague 1993:6. Sullivan 2004:178. . 296. Galle 2004:50–51. 186. Galle 2004:49. I was unable to inspect the sewing tools from Five Points before they were destroyed in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on 11 Sept. 2c). Rogers 1983:175–188. . Yamin 2005:11. figs.Notes to Pages 159–167 42. Swan 1995:225.5. Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2004:159–160. Karskens mentions that at one home site the archaeologists found many ‘‘older style ‘lacemaking’ pins’’ with ‘‘heads’’ located in the center of the pins’ shafts (1999:110–111. Nelson 1995:16. Despite plans to do so. Griggs 2000:296. pers. fig. Woman’s Institute 1936:Findings 13. fig. . Lambert 1851:93. Rogers 1983:201. table 5. Striker and Sprague 1993:6.4 illustrates one of these pins). 2. fig. Roderick Sprague. Griggs 2000:295. 51. Rogers 1983:174.and earlytwentieth-century women’s needlework magazines for ‘‘aids that every woman appreciates’’ regularly offered women access to ‘‘socially camouflaged technology. An unusual find at this site was the copper-alloy portion of a sailor’s palm. Sullivan 2004:184. Rogers 1983:127–129. 54. . 48. fig. Spencer-Peirce-Little: Beaudry sfarchaeology/default. 86. 45. Yamin 2005:11. Rogers 1983:186. My description of ‘‘low-end’’ stilettos is based on inspection of items I have acquired for my personal collection from second-hand stores. 52.4. 52. Karskens 1999:111. fig. 51. comm. Andere 1991:127. 56.sonoma. Brears 1981–1982. 2b. Woman’s Institute 1936:Mending 2–3. 159. table 5. South of Market: Sonoma State University. Rogers 1983:225. 8. . 2. fig. . http://www. fig. Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2004:159–160. Independent scholar Rachel Maines found that advertising in nineteenth. . Rogers 1983:207.html). 49. Britt 1998:37–38. 50. 93.5. 47. 53.

’’ but does not cite a source for this information. Corbin 2000:29–30. Archaeology of a San Francisco Neighborhood. and I am inclined to agree with this interpretation. unlike young white women. however. One is given to wonder if. Falconer 1991:86. 2. More than one commented on how much more pleasant it was to be able to do work at home.sonoma. 109. ill. 7. Yamin 2000. Walkley 1981:2.3. they were not accepted into the households for which they worked.204 Notes to Pages 167–174 A handle from a glass darning egg was found in a privy deposit at New York’s Five Points that also contained an abundance of material scraps from garment production and repair as well as many other sewing tools (Griggs 2000:294). 51. Church monuments: Maule 1999:69. Casella 2001:112–115. Ferry Farm: see George Washington’s Fredericksburg Foundation. Ohio. Rogers 1983:19–43). 4. 3. Burman 1999:2. Campbell 1999:129–130. . 5. Griggs Wilson 2003:69. Workbaskets shown in artistic depictions of women and of the Virgin Mary: Schipper-Van Lottum 1979. Quotation from Burman 1999:10.kenmore. the text alongside the illustration of the ‘‘nest egg’’ states that ‘‘glass eggs were first manufactured in 1883 by the Canton Glass Company of Canton. In my research at the Philips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. http://www. McCullagh and McCormick 1991:73. quotation on 137. amongst an ill assorted jumble which included their children’s toys and broken crockery’’ (McLellan 1981:35 quoted in Burman 1999:11). Woman’s Institute 1936:Findings 9. Karl Marx associated home sewing in the domestic context with ‘‘the poverty and insecurity of his own home life: ‘the rags and tatters of his wife’s sewing basket’ lying alongside his manuscripts and books. quotation on 224. 85. It should be noted. on 71. De Cunzo 2004:251–254. Britt 1998:62. 7. 125. 59. 8. Britt also notes that the quality of the finds from the Naylor privy are in keeping with what we would expect of a member of polite society in seventeenthcentury Boston (1998:61). Most books written by and for collectors focus on fitted needlework boxes (e. s t i t c h i n g t o g e t h e r t h e e v i d e n c e diary/dig diary 08 15. I read a number of journals written by young women who worked as seamstresses in New England in the nineteenth century. The age estimate is based on the dates on the seventeen coins that were found with one of the skeletons (Holmes 1991:81–83).shtml. Arnold 1999:223–224. Dig Diary. 2001. 81. Anthropological Studies Center. in the years following Emancipation.g. South of Market: see Sonoma State University. table 4. they were expected to take up residence in the home of a client while working on clothing for the family.html. 44. 6. 60. http://www . Massachusetts.. residency was also expected of African-American women or if they had no choice but to work at home because. that to some the workbasket held negative connotations.

Notes to Pages 175–177 205 9. 80–81. including a minuscule knitted stocking. Richter 2000:xii. Burman 1999:13. 13. 57–58. 1884:55. Central School: Anon. Miller 2003. 12. see also Swan 1977:44–91. Anon. Tolini 2001. Striker and Sprague 1993. 5. Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2004:158. 1821. 11.or readymade clothing as a masculine rite of passage. 10. . 84–85. Female Model School 1833. See also British and Foreign Society 1816. Richter 2000:xiv–xv. Miller 2003:743–744. The school’s instruction manual includes as examples of the expected outcome of each lesson pages onto which are affixed tiny specimens of sample work produced by students. 1829:4. Burman (1999:13) sees the re-costuming of boys from the baby clothes produced by mothers or female relatives to tailor.


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England. 50. 97 Ardingly Fulling Mill. 193n61 Art de l’épinglier. Sonoma State University. 75. 112 All Saints Church. 152. 145 Basing House. 152 Aphrodite. Mary. 11 Appleton Roebuck. 199n26.. 197n3 Barnsley. Paul workhouse. 185n63. 99 American Silver Thimbles. England. 137. Thomas à. 158. Philip. 193n60 American Revolution. England. 68 acculturation. 128 Anne Arundel County. 97 American West. 88 Ashurst. 138. 190n40. Elizabeth. 19. 62. 169. Weald. 193n68 Aquidneck Island. Temple of. 74. Mass. 18. 204n58 Antioch. 146 Avalon. 74. 90. 114 ‘‘active voice’’ ethnographic approach. 188n8.. Isle of Lewis. 187n75 African burial ground. Hampshire. 200n30 Armitage. England. 30 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean. Colony of. R. Denis.I. 203n44. 170. 184n55 Anthropological Studies Center. England. 17. England. Outer Hebrides. 167–168 Alaca Höyük. 45. Bedford. Scotland: burials at. 158 227 . 23.. England. 90 Andere. 150–151 Academy of Armory. 12 Barber. 190n44 Balinderry. 202n23 Bedford St. 46. 158. New York City. 90 Anatolia. 179n10 acutrudia.Index Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations Abbeydale Museum. finds of African-American archaeology. See needle-pushers. 76 Becket. 176 amphibolite. Md. 186n68 Aignish. Turkey. 185n65 almshouses. 163. See Ferryland awls. Ireland. 92 Antwerp. 38. Irthlingborough. 196n43 Abbott Farm. 13 Bedfordshire. 11 Algonkian.

73–79. 176–177 Children’s Employment Commission. 99 Bishop. 15 Calvert family of Maryland. 176 Charles’ Gift.228 Index Bedwin. 198n14 Clauss Shear Company. Eleanor Conlin. Tuscany. England. 91. London. England. 191nn49–52. 163. 182n20 Boston.. See prostitution Buckinghamshire. 194n4 Bible. 11 Carus-Wilson. Kitts. Saint Hildegard von. 34. 95 Book of Trades. 171. Mass. 152. 89 British North West Company. Joyce. 174 busks. wreck of. England. London. 158 Burman.. 20. 93 Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project. Leslie. 177 Christopher Goodwin Associates. 113. 47. England. 134 chatelaines. 33. 125 bone working. 145 children. 194n80. Bilston-Batterseas (thimbles). 17. London. Mass. 46 Boston. 113 ‘‘Big Dig. Leander. 146 Chinese Mining Camp Site.’’ See Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project. Boston. Mass. West Indies. 182n23 bodkins 46. 190n44. 155 Byron. 33 Central School. Boston. 189n22 Chester. sewing by. Canton. Kelly. Norway. J. 96. Lord (George Herbert). 171 Castle Raubritterburg Tannenger. Sweden. Leonard. 169–170. 92 knuckle bone floors. 19 Chichester. 51 Britt. 59 British Standard Wire Gauge. Idaho. 69. St. Argyll. sewing. Lord. 120 Clements. 202n38 China. 71. 81–85. 160. 93 Birka. 133–135.. 74 Bristol. 17 Narrow Quay. 46. 191– 192n52 Christ’s Kirk. 204n6 brothels. 180n6. 173. 133. 185n66. Darmstadt. 162. 112 ideology of. 191n45. Katherine Nanny Breachacha Castle. 70 See also Naylor. 118 Casella. 96 Bingen.. Coll. Germany. Md. 185n65. Warren. 35 Charles. Ohio. St. 49. 120. England. 89. 185n65 cire perdú. 112. Scotland.S. 11 Christ Church. Ohio. Lincolnshire. France. 66–70. 183n44 clamps. Toledo. Barbara. 46 Bertrand. England. 203n48 Chiusi. 192n60 camel bone. 185n63 Mill Pond site. Customs House Library. Richard. Mary’s County. England. 124. 69 Candee. 149 . 92 Civil War. 119 Chelsea. 193n67 Book of Rates. 98. Eleanora. 69. 90. England. 46 Bridgnorth. Owen. Spitalfields. 138 Han dynasty silk weaving. 70. 186n68 Christianity. 96 chenille. 189n20 British Archaeological Association. 76 Birmingham. 199n30 Bergen. 202n38 Buckinghamshire-style lace. 173. 49 Brimstone Hill Fortress slave quarters. 202n38 Bolingbroke Castle. Scotland. 64. 204n58 Carnarvon. 70. 201n22 Canton Glass Company. 192n56 Châtellerault. 160–162 Clauss Primer: Mother Goose Up to Date. U. 79.

160. 109 Corbin. 181n17 and Frances Pritchard. 44. England. 151. 69 Emancipation. 22. 156 East Riding of Yorkshire. Va. 89. 16. H. 17 . 192n52 Colchester. 166–167.4 consumption (tuberculosis). 47 Corinth. 11. 187n76 De Cunzo. 49 dressmaking. 7. 17. 53–54 scissors for. 21 thimbles. 93 Ctesiphon. 19 Derby. 195n14 Eliot.. Yorkshire. 92. 133 Don Juan (poem). 82 table 3. 136 Empire Knife Company. 39–43 ethnographic. 96 Diamond.Index Clifts Plantation. 66. Christopher. Conn. West Winstead. Sara Rivers. 17 Edward III of England. 139. 34. 13 Egan. 15 Dorcas (trademark) needles. 204n5 embroidery and femininity. 156 context. Ireland. 149 Colonial Williamsburg. Joe. 113. Denis. 140–142 table 6. 180n6 drizzler. Thebes.. 173 domesticity. 22. 104. 186n66. Va. Calif. 190n44 Dublin. 198n7 Edge. Syer. 91 Naqada. ideology of. 5. 4 historical. 92 crannogs. Iraq. Lu Ann. 68 Dutch West India Company. John. 187n71 Cofield. 61–62. 97 Columbus. Spain. Dominican Republic. 71 needles for. 181n19 Egypt. 12. Thomas. 170 Córdoba. Geoff. England. 85 domestic. 2. 180n5 High Street excavations. 12 Dura-Europus. 9 military. 97–98 Encyclopedia (Diderot’s).’’ 157 Diderot. 169. Kathleen. England. 92 Cumberland.1. 11. 61 Dutch Reformed Church. Md. 164 Dryden. 120 En Bas Saline. 100 cultural.. 117 Cypress Freeway Replacement Project. 88. 112 Eltonhead.. 42 Convento de San Francisco. Conn. See seamstresses Drimore. 76 Duggleby Howe. R. England. John. 109 Compton site.. 167. 182n19 See also Encyclopedia documents. 90 el-Assasif. 12 Crusaders.. 49 colonialism. 114 Colonial Revival. South Uist. Annalies. 4. 171 Derby. 135.4. 89 Cutler’s Company of Sheffield. 105 Dorchester. Syria.I. 20. 204n58 Deagan. 71. 27. use of in archaeology. 41 table 2. Haiti. Westmoreland County. Syria. 73. 19 Cuming.. 180n1 el-Lisht. Greece. Calvert County. 68 dyspepsia. Scotland. West Oakland. 46 darners. William. 5 interpretive. 191n51 229 ‘‘dicky pots. 7 archaeological. England. England. 190n35 Damascus.

131 gender roles. 167–168. 21. 174 Hawley Collection. 96 Griggs. 50–51 Fort Mose. 132. Aberfeldy. 6 History of Thimbles. 84 Governor’s Land. 173 Herculaneum. 192n58 H. See gender Genoa. 118. 99 Hand-book of Needlework. 109 Himsworth. 200n30 Hallamshire district. 88. 110 Harris. See linen production forensic analysis. 182n20 Henry Milward and Sons. 164. 188n12 Herbert. 133 femininity. 22. 112 Flanders. Conn. 189n27 Gloucester. 80. Fla. 92. Jillian. 93. Frans.Y. Allethenia Fisk. 202n38 Hill. 191n49 Fingelsham. 111.. 113. 100 Hitzacher.. Russell. 94 Goldsmith Stern and Company of New York. 108 Goodchild. Barton. 116 Hinsley. 106. ideology of.. 188n5. 4–5. Va. Rochus.. 28 gender. Germany. 169. 51. 165 Handbook of Thimbles and Sewing Implements. Muhr Sons. 133. 201n13 Good Wives. 153. See Grand Portage Great Marlow. 183n33. 109 George Washington’s Ferry Farm. 119 Gilbert. 188n1 France. 100. 96. Thomas. Philadelphia. 59. 164 Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. 108 . and K. Mass. 167 Germany. 116. England. St. 149. Minn. possible wreck of. 19 Historical Archaeology (journal). Apollos (Dr. 2 Historical Society of New Hampshire. Sweden. G. 89. 17. Sidney. 153. 132–133.. University of Sheffield. Yugoslavia.. Erika. Monsieur de.Y. Neots. Newfoundland. 97. 119 Hall Place. John. 187n75. 202n40 Garsault. 20. 182n26 Gnalic. 167 Henry VIII of England. 174–175 Ferryland. 64. 90. 183n41 Friedrick Dick catalog. Usk. 173 Gagiana. 33 Haggart’s Mill. 94. 109. Archaeological Research School. 198n9 Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research. 130. West Riding of Yorkshire. Rome. 146 Free Grammar School. 188n1 Grand Portage. Heather. England. Fredericksburg. England. 2. Tenn. 201n13 Folk Museum. 106. 47. 131 Fund for Female Emigration.. 197n60 Farrar. Huntingdonshire. Kent. 147. Italy. N. 20 Hartford.).. 129. 17. 191n51 Fort Stanwix. Whitefriars. 189n28 Great Carrying Place. See Triplex Middle Slave Cabin High Wycombe. 106. 191n50 Halstead. 74 Fort Orange. 26. Wales Old Market Street and Maryport Street site. England. J. England. B. Timothy. Elbe. Benjamin. Coventry. England. 26. 120 hem weights. 152 flax. 92 Eskilstuna. N.. 124. 199n19 Heinisch. 46 Hals. Redditch. 202n23 Forge Mill. 182n33 Fox. 119 Essex County. 119. 88 Gwent. 94 Galle. 89 Hermitage Plantation. 16.230 Index Ephesus. Va. 17. 202n38 gimp. England.

194n6 Honiton. 20 Huntington.. 121 Hurry. 108. 35 Jenkins. wedding of. Walker London (trademark). 145–147. 117. Geraint. 182n23 Joan of England. 107. 176–177 King. 153. 41. Beard. 27. 152 in Netherlands. 156. 41 table 2. 101. 152. Hopewell. 81. Julia A. 190n35 Viking. 27 Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 6. 9. England. 201n19 Ketcham and McDougall of Brooklyn. 7. England Joyful Company (painting). 152 pins. Norfolk. 151 Household Manufactures in the United States. 104. Scotland. Charles.. Newark. 13 John Hicks site. 67. 41. 77 Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. 61 Kuhn. 40. 105 Houndhill. 165 Iceland. 17. 96 Italy. See York. 164–166 needles. 202n26 Isaac. 2–5. 111 interpretive archaeology. 57. Spanish colonial sites in. 187n78 Jorvik. 199n15 kersey. 61 Victorian... 191n50 Jordan’s Journey. 68 Holmes. 202n23 Horner. 151–159 in Belgium. Dieter. 58 table 3. 126 La Florida. Randle. 66 Jenks. England. 85. Benjamin. 146 lace-making. 99 Huntsman. 46 identity discourses about. 149. Joseph. 191n51 Hunt. 179n10 personal. Md. 111. 99. Silas. 88. 85. 85. 68 231 Jarlshof. 179n10 feminine. 197n2. Paul. 109. Va.. 135 H. 155 scissors. Meta.Y. 5–7. 87.J. See Netherlands Holme. 152 in Italy. 82. 179n10 Isle of Wight. 119. 67 Julius Berbecker and Son of New York. 179n8. 61. N. Wiss and Sons.. finds of Roman.4 Kirby. 85. 152 in English Midlands. England. 19 institutional sites. Ludoph de. Shetland. Md. 56. 131 gender. 133 social. 111 Iles. 20 knitting. 27. 95. 155. 16 King’s Reach site. Charles. 68 kindergartens. 152 Honiton-style lace. Mass. N. 146 Jacobite Rising. Yorkshire. 100. 27 Jamestown. 59–62 accessories. Princess. 152 in France. construction of. 104. 195n16 Illustrated Dictionary of Hair Dressing and Wig Making. 86. 133 negotiation of. 9. 19 Huey. 41 Jonge.. 110. Seth. 88. Mass. 62. 181n10 Islington. 179n10 Ipswich. Rhys. and Company.. 159.Index Holland. 152 in Devonshire. 96. 35 King’s Lynn site. Va. 74.. 126 types of.2 J. 153 Howe Manufacturing Company. 84. 107 Kierstede. England. Edwin. 22 . England. 19. 67 Janowitz. Hans.

67. 180n1. 12 nålebinding. 121 La Tène. 117. Essex. 50 Left Coast Press. 188n1 Museum of London. 12. Mass. 161 Meriden Cutlery Company. and Graham Reed. 85. 205n9 Margarita. Marla. 42 Morrall. 78.. 77 Magunco Hill. 176. 179n10 Michigan. K. Conn. 4 lutestring. Loch. 73. 165 Moulins. Al. William. 153. 16 Royal Navy Victualling Yard. 16 Billingsgate. 20. 73. 75. 40. 193n61.. John. 93 Lea. 179n2 Lewis. 192n59 Bridewell Palace. England. 174. 192n58 Aldgate. Upper Peninsula of. slave quarters at. Stephen A. 31. Belgium.. 49. 78. 74 Moore. 194n2 Lynn. 90. 95 Whitechapel. 71. 146. Ashland. 160. H. Judith. 12.. 63 Nalchik. 7 National Needle Museum. 204n1 Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. 149 literacy. Meriden. 60 Namur. Calvert County. Murray. 177 Missouri River. 144. 124. 194n80 Lofting. France. 189n26 Long Crendon. 29 Leyster. Redditch. 119. 125. 50. 76 Southwark. 139. France. 181n8 Marx. 181n17. 76–79. 27.. 47 Luchenbach. 138. England. 192n52 Index Mary Rose. Chelmsford. C.232 La Isabela. Md. 169 Montgomery Ward catalog. 112 Much Wenlock.. 46 MacGregor. 49 Murray. 99 Louvre Museum. 204n6 needlecases. D. 153 Mattapony site. and J. 34.. England. 200n32 Battle Bridge Lane site. 112–114. Barbara. England. 189n29 See also individual tribes Naylor. Conn. Ireland. 95. 119–120 metonymy. 173. 112.. 135 manhood. 78. 112. 194n4 Margeson. 44. 74. 181n18.4 Meissen porcelain. Galway.. 120. 123. link with tailor-made clothing. 193n66. Commonwealth of. 49 Longman. 143. Abel. 71. 191n50 linen production. England. northeast Caucasus. 95 Massachusetts. Karl. 76 Orange Street site. 145. Sue. 94. wreck of. 173. 16 Mrozowski. 76. 174. 192n59 My Crochet Sampler. 96 London. Peter. Wright and Bayliss. wreck of. 96 Merchants Road site. 31 Longmeadow. 77 Miller. E. 16. 78. 41 table 2. 97 Miller. 119 Narragansett Indians. 112 Maines. 120 missionaries. England. 203n42 makers’ marks. Rachel. 112 Massachusetts Bay Colony. 22 L’Anse aux Meadows.. Newfoundland. 193n68 . Hispaniola. 119. 105. 145. 34. 128 Moulsham Street site. and S. 108 Monticello. 191n50 Low Countries. 115. Mass. 184n55 Luedtke. 156. Va. Katherine Nanny. Conn. 97 narrative. 51 Native Americans. 191n47. 116 latten. Henry. Arthur. 189n20 Meriden. 175 Miller Brothers of Southington.

46.. 188n1 Overseas Chinese. 159. 49 needle packaging. 45 New Century Club. 95. 91 in Russia. 203n51. 2.. 176 Oxfordshire. 106. Rozsika. 5 Patuxent Point. 90 Neolithic. 13. 35 . 160. Venezuela. Cyprus. Germany. 50 North Dalton Church. 176 Oneida Indians. 173. Calvert County. 90 needle-rings. 158. 25. 119 Oakland. Zeeland. 68 Notley Hall. 68 Five Points neighborhood. England. Alain. 91 Roman. 46 Saxon.J. 35. 78 needle-pushers. 45. 68 Outer Hebrides. 203n51 Ninigret (Princess). 62. West Oakland. 35–39. 201n13 Paphos. 152. 95. 162. 73. 76. 109. N. 98. 46.I. 198n4 Outlaw. 21 New Netherlands. 91 Neolithic. 65. Marilyn. 191n50 Hindelopen. 80–81 Roman. archaeology of. 91 Byzantine.. 4. Calif. 45 New York. 90 Bronze Age. 192n56 Viking. 95 Vianen. 76.. and Peter Neaverson. 71. 152... Mass. 153. 112–114 Noël Hume. 89 Norfolk.’’ 167 Netherlands. See thimble rings needles. 152 North Carolina. 91 in China. England. Md. 106 Norwich. 202n22 Nueva Cadíz. 106. 119 ‘‘nest eggs. Temple of Paris. 96. St. 62. 19. 60. 25. 192n59 postmedieval. 72. 177 Newey Company. Ivor. 158 Palestine. Provincial Congress of. 47. 90 Palmer. Md. 77 needle-makers. finds of in Africa. Mary’s County. 94. wills of.. Friesland. 67. 166. finds of medieval.Index medieval. 99. 91 Iron Age. 202n27 Nottinghamshire. 90 Classical. 21 233 Newey Goodman Limited. 93. 109 Nuremberg. England. 164. 175 Northamptonshire. 191n50 Haarlem. England. 118. 75 Schoonhoven. France 17. England. 52–53 Neergaard. 120 Newburyport. 180n7 Amsterdam. 75. See Aphrodite. 67 Northampton. Margrethe de. 95 Utrecht. 90 postmedieval.. 77 Nottingham Lace Market. 193n60 Broad Financial Center site. Calif. 95. 80 Mesolithic. 68 Newark. 192n58. 95 New Amsterdam. 186n66 Norway. Scotland. 80. 97 Nipmuc Indians. 109. 187n72 Patuxent River. 45 needle-threaders. 119 Parker. 70–79. 88. 68 Newport. England. R. 204n58 World Trade Center Towers. 67 Oost-Souburg. Mass. 16. 36 burying ground. 99. 77–79 Saxon. North Humberside. 90 Ottoman. 46 Upper Paleolithic. 71.

12 Norse. 32. 204n5 Peirce.. 35. 204n5 Raffel.. N. 137 prestation. 13. 80 quilt patterns. 33. Aberdeenshire. 158. 15 bone. 162–163. 99 Puerto Rico. R. 180n6 for babies’ clothing. 29–34. 16 pin packaging. 119 raths. St. 76 Powers. 12 Kurgan. 113 probate inventories. 25. 76 pneumoconiosis. 25. 190n35 ‘‘Praying Indians. 161. 12. 11 Roman. 98. 185n63. 153. John. 64. 184n55 pinner (garment). 154 table 6. 184n58. Mary’s County. England. Jackson House. Salem. 184n56. Irish. 76 Estèbe House. 160. Germany. Mass.I. 14. Mass.. N.3. 180n6 wooden. 121. 66 Philadelphia. Jane. 163 racism. 193n68 Plymouth. N. 36. René-Antoine Ferchault de. 13. 14. Asahel Lynde. 180n6. 188n5 prostitution archaeology of. Scotland. 188n1 Réamur. 6 embroidered picture by.H. 181n17 Plymouth.’’ 112 Prehistoric Textiles. 40. 125. 197n60. 173. 12 shroud. 29 pin poppet. 156. 194n80 Portsmouth. 80. 80. Md. Scotland. 202n26 Rameses III. Sussex. 12–13. 184n60. 181n8 Bronze Age. 187n76 . See needlecases pins archaeometallurgical study of. 124 Petrie. 11 medieval. 12 Ramscheid. Sir Flinders. 25–26 Neolithic. 164. 191n51 Perth Museum and Art Gallery. 188n1 Portsmouth. 139. 180n6 Index Pins and Pincushions. 185n65 Viking. 123 Place-Royale. 11. 12 Elizabethan. in burials.234 Patuxent River Naval Air Station. 153 Quarry Site. 166. archaeological. 11 Celtic. 6 Persen House site. 191n51 Québec City Champlain’s Habitation.. 180n6. girdle of. 173. 14 pinners’ bones. England. 133 Payter. University of Manchester.Y. Perth. Munsville. Marta Cotterell. 12 Paleolithic. 181n10. Mary. Kingston. 15. 195n14 Pevensey. 112 Josiah Winslow home site. 11.. 69. 26 pin-suites. 17 recovery techniques.. 173–174 link with needlework. 195n30 pincushions. 48 Pointer’s disease. See pneumoconiosis Pointer’s rot. 17 Peabody Essex Museum. Peter.Y. 95 Oyster Street. See pneumoconiosis poor relief. 37. 99 pinchbeck. 181n18 mourning. 180n5. 11. 34. 43. 198n4 Rattray. England. 174 Providence. 92 Petrie Collection at University College Museum. 132 Praetzellis. 147. 158 Pope. 11. 193n68 pin money. 182n31 finds of Anglo-Saxon.

175. 116. 96 sailors. 146 Simons Brothers Company of Philadelphia. 120. 200n41. 171. 188n1. Mass. John’s site. 68 Rogers. 46 Stockstadt. 69 sewing. probate inventories of. 196n41 sewing birds.C. 97 Richardson family of Philadelphia (silversmiths). 199n24 Silchester. 160. 117 medieval. 119 Sewall. 171 Royal Worcester porcelain. England. 29 . cemetery. 123. 108 St. 116 in Iran. England. 198n9 Saugus. 166 Seville. 164 Spain. 168. 190n44. 135–136. 80. England. 147 spools (thread). 11 Salem. 186n71. 50 Renews. 167. 169–170 Stern Brothers and Company of New York. 176 South of Market neighborhood. 125. John. 44 Sarre cemetery. Calif. Tasmania. Va. S.. 128. 108. Jane. 186n68. 203n44 Santa Elena. 111. 121. Mass. 111. 75. Nicholas Parish Church. 169. 197n60 shears. Thanet. 88. England. 169. Scotland. Augustine. finds of in France. 44. Mass. 136. 97 St. 116 sheepshearing. 20 Smithsonian Institution. 204n5 Sears and Roebuck catalog. 173. Nicholas (Major). 39. 3. 116 235 Iron Age. 198n12. 138–143. 135. 186n66. 106. 107 Smith. Germany. 119 Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm. 91.. England. Lanark. 117 in Roman Egypt. 159. 190n40. 43 San Francisco. 198n4 Sheffield. 19. George.. 116–117. 132. Spain.. 163–164. Kent. 64. 26 Riordan.. 69 Sewall. 61 silk trade. 17 Schmorl’s nodes. 98. 91. 161–162. Adam.. 187n73 Roelofs. gendered nature of. Md. Newbury. 7. England. 203n50 St. 65 Rhode Island Historical Society. 4. 120 souvenirs. 187n77. 170. Mary’s City. 187n74 scissorsmiths. See thread winders Springfield. 196n36 Richard III of England. Gay Ann. 76 Stow. Limes fort at. Germany. 10. sewing shagreen. 13. 165 Ross Female Factory. 1. 158. 121 seamstresses. sewing by. 109. 199n17. 119. Cyprus. England. 2 Solingen. Robert Blair. 92 Society for Historical Archaeology. Sara. 96 St. 124. 69 Sewall. 175–176 sailor’s palm. Fla. 174– 176. 185n65 stockfish. 193n61 Hamwih Saxon settlement. 187n75. 47 Strough. 186n71. Susannah. 99 Staffordshire. Newfoundland. 45 sampling bias. 186n66 steamboat passengers. 119 Southampton. 63. Timothy. 185–186n66.Index Redditch. 159 spinning. 97. 193n61 Six Dials area. 109.. 85 stilettos. 89–90. 199n19. 203n48 Salamis. 97. 193n63 Southington Cutlery Company. 40–41. See also clamps. 187n73 St. Mass.. 17 Richmond. 191n49 Van Sweringen site. 6.

F. Rolla Milton. 89. F. 110–111 Thimble Collectors’ Encyclopedia. 160 thumbscrews. 162 waterpower. 99 Islamic. Rotterdam. 189n23. 159.. R. 102– 103 table 4. Oxfordshire. 89 thimble rings. 199n28 Tryon. 50 Stump family farm. 93. John.. 61 Cumberland/Gloucester Street sites. 173. 132 verulanium. 91–92.236 Index Studley. 166. 168. 89 tailors. 193n63 vingerhoeds. 92. 92–93 Hispano-Moresque. 61. 143. 161. 12 Sydney. 96. Peter. 65.I. 187n74. Hermitage Plantation.1. France. England. 99 chronology of. 46 Thame. 158. 202n38 Thiers. 113 thread winders. 164. England. 85 Union Army (U. 187n75. 171. 66 Treasury of the United States. 196n54 Rocks neighborhood. 196n41. 49. 95. Norway. Civil War). 143–151 Bronze Age.. England. 92 Thomas. 175. Nicholas. 143 . 84. 36. 152 Van Beuningen–de Vriese Collection. 120 Untermeyer Robbins Company of New York.1 and femininity.. 21. 20. 97. Del. 64 Tilbury Fort. 119. England. 193n67 Ubelaker. 106. 194n6 Waite Thresher and Company. Army. 153 Triplex Middle Slave Cabin.). 183n49 Tayler. 21 Tepe Yahya. 195n30 Von Hoelle. 108 Waltham Abbey. 200n41 Taino Indians. Providence. 64. 182n32. England. 172. Glasgow. 10. 144 Iron Age. Edward. 47 Sweet Track. 102–103 table 4. 121 U. 108 Unwin. 29 Waterman. Tenn. 95. 170 Useful Arts (booklet). 111–114 styles of Abbasid-Levantine. 92 Viking. 153 Tylecote. 171–172 Stuyvesant. France. 12 Toledo. Faroe Islands. 62–63. Daniel Foote (D. Charles. 93. R. 20 Valenciennes. 42. 61. 191n47 Vermont.S. 158. 183n33 thimbles Australian. 182n31. 145 Neolithic. 161–162 Thurrock. Somerset. 119 thimble cases. 39. 200n41 Syria. Laurel Thatcher. 202n40 Trondheim. 73. 185n65 Tyres Gate property (#8). Iran. patented sewing bird. 174. Australia Armsden House. 68 Survey of London and Westminster. Joan. 147 weaving. 92 Turko-Slavic. 180n1. 123 Tjørnuvík. 49. 92 interpretive potential of. 144 medieval. England. Tilbury. 119 Traditional Country Craftsmen. 198n9 Tibet. 89. 120. Bermondsey. 100 finds of Indian. Douglas.S. Spain. 39 Ulrich. 153. Mucking. England. 98 Tattershall. 126. 174. Essex.

189n28 Worcester. 90 Viking. England. Rebecca. 111. Carolyn. 49. 113 Worshipful Guild of Needlemakers. 164 West Midlands of England. Hartford. 180n1 Woman’s Institute of Scranton. Va. Mass. 61 Zalkin. 137. 2 Woodfield. Jeremiah. 185n65 Woolworth. See Colonial Williamsburg Wiltshire. Lemuel W.Index postmedieval. Maria. 106. North Attleboro. 183n49 Wilkinson. 120 Wiss. Calif. 137 women’s activities. Alison. 184n51. 192n52 Wentworth. 143. rulers of England. 19 White. 169. England. Frederick. 75 Viking (Jorvik). 1. 195n16 zen huan. 199n28 West Cumberland.. 20. Charmian. 10. Conn. 180n1 witches (and pins). 71. 92. England. 19 William and Mary.. 7 Yamin. Pa. 65. 12 Upper Paleolithic. England. and Ian Goodall. 185n64 Wigmaker’s Art. Toddington. 49 Wright. Calif. West Oakland. 164 York Archaeological Trust. England Anglo-Danish. Wethersfield. 108 Wellman. 173 world system. 162 Wiss. See thimble-rings . 144 Saxon. Birmingham. 96 William Rogers Manufacturing Company. archaeology of. 49 workbaskets.. 201n13 Winchester. See Cypress Freeway Replacement Project. 60. England. 145 tablet. Estelle.. 120 witch bottles. 110. 158. 96 Worcestershire-Warwickshire border area. 169 Weoley Castle. Jacob. 120 Williamsburg. Howard. Alan. tomb of. 21 Wylie. 190n31 York. Conn.. 145 Roman. England. 145 237 Winterthur Museum. 183n33 Woollen Act of 1660. 204n1 workhouses. England. Bedfordshire. 125. 158. 144 See also linen production Webster Company. 144. 50 West Oakland.