Presentation Title

Analysis of Ceramics at the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, A Hub of Albany’s Abolitionist Activities in the Mid-1800’s

Presenter Information

Daniel MadiganFollow

Panel Name

Archaeology: Past Lifeways in the Capital District, Pre-Columbian Mexico, and Prehistoric Newfoundland

Location

Lecture Center Concourse

Start Date

3-5-2019 3:00 PM

End Date

3-5-2019 5:00 PM

Presentation Type

Poster Session

Academic Major

Anthropology

Abstract

The Stephen and Harriet Myers residence is a National Register of Historic Places site in downtown Albany, and home to the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region; it was a nucleus of abolitionist activities in the 1850’s. Ceramics from a buried and infilled cistern, unearthed by UAlbany’s archaeological investigations in 2017, reflect consumer tastes of African American residents of this property in the mid-nineteenth century. I compare ceramic diversity from the lower (earliest) to upper (latest) levels of the cistern feature. This study builds on prior research into African American social identity in Albany (by Corey McQuinn) that revealed a concern with status signaling as a tool in political resistance to racial inequality. My analysis reveals three important patterns. First, the cistern was infilled in a relatively short time period, reflected by the presence of a similar range of ceramics in the earliest through latest levels. Second, residents continued to use heirloom pieces from the early 1800’s, including creamware and pearlware plates. Third, the residents were relatively affluent by middle class standards of the day, as reflected by the presence of diverse serving china types as well as imported porcelain. I consider these findings in the context of previous analyses of material expressions of status of the residents, including the John Johnson family (present by 1847) and the Myers family (1855-1858).

Select Where This Work Originated From

Independent Study

First Faculty Advisor

Marilyn Masson

First Advisor Email

mmasson@albany.edu

First Advisor Department

Department of Anthropology

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May 3rd, 3:00 PM May 3rd, 5:00 PM

Analysis of Ceramics at the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, A Hub of Albany’s Abolitionist Activities in the Mid-1800’s

Lecture Center Concourse

The Stephen and Harriet Myers residence is a National Register of Historic Places site in downtown Albany, and home to the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region; it was a nucleus of abolitionist activities in the 1850’s. Ceramics from a buried and infilled cistern, unearthed by UAlbany’s archaeological investigations in 2017, reflect consumer tastes of African American residents of this property in the mid-nineteenth century. I compare ceramic diversity from the lower (earliest) to upper (latest) levels of the cistern feature. This study builds on prior research into African American social identity in Albany (by Corey McQuinn) that revealed a concern with status signaling as a tool in political resistance to racial inequality. My analysis reveals three important patterns. First, the cistern was infilled in a relatively short time period, reflected by the presence of a similar range of ceramics in the earliest through latest levels. Second, residents continued to use heirloom pieces from the early 1800’s, including creamware and pearlware plates. Third, the residents were relatively affluent by middle class standards of the day, as reflected by the presence of diverse serving china types as well as imported porcelain. I consider these findings in the context of previous analyses of material expressions of status of the residents, including the John Johnson family (present by 1847) and the Myers family (1855-1858).