The post–Civil War decades of the 19th and early 20th centuries are the period most commonly associated with the origins of industrialization in the southeastern United States. Recently, however, researchers working in Edgefield, South Carolina, have presented compelling archaeological evidence for the industrial production of stoneware, much of it made by enslaved laborers, as early as 1810. These findings require reconsideration of the widely shared historical narrative that portrays 19th-century stoneware potteries in Edgefield and across the region as small-scale family-owned craft enterprises, where industrialization did not occur until a decade or more after the Civil War as a response to competition from cheap Northern stoneware and metal and glass containers. Inspired by the new insights, this study traces stoneware production in the Edgefield area forward into the 20th century by examining the case of the Wood Pottery site in North Augusta, South Carolina. Based on archaeological and historical evidence, three significant changes to stoneware production methods are traced: (1) changes in firing technology; (2) a switch from alkaline glaze to Albany slip; and (3) morphological changes in the vessel assemblages marking the use of jigger arms and molds. Instead of a “vertical” historical trajectory that moves from a craft to an industrialized enterprise, we envision these changes as part of a “horizontal” shift in an already-industrialized enterprise, reflecting a reorganization of labor and technology aimed at coping with competition from alternative storage-vessel forms and the loss of an enslaved workforce.
Historical Archaeology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 12, 2017
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