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Washington Underground: Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC,
a walking and metro guide to the past...

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DC Archaeology Tour Contents

Locator Map
Archaeology in DC
Urban Archaeology
A-Rare Achievement
B-Self Medication
D-Crowded Housing
E-Pardon Our Dust
F-Safe Water
H-Path of History
I-2nd Hand Economy
J-Oldest Profession
Making Do
Other Sites
For More Information

C - Gauging the Marketplace

Location:  Butt-Burnett Pottery at 8th and "Eye" Streets,, NW (see MAP)
Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown Station (Red-Green-Yellow lines)

(see additional informational links below)

Standing in this neighborhood in 1850, you hear the thudding of horses along the unpaved and rutted streets, passing grocery stores and homes. Perhaps it is the wagon you’ve been waiting for to deliver a cord of wood so that you can fire this kiln loaded with your new merchandise. As a potter in the middle of the 1800s you would be faced with a number of challenges. Competition from English potters was increasing and you would have to decide how to respond. What could you produce to compete with the fine English wares?

Enoch Burnett took over Richard Butt’s successful pottery here in 1843 and made American salt-glazed stoneware crocks, jugs, and beer bottles until 1862. Such items were used and reused for preserving and storing food and their broken remains are found on sites throughout the city.

Archaeologists were thrilled to excavate this craft site, recovering thousands of pieces of Burnett’s wares from a "waster pit," where the potter had discarded unusable items. Just as interesting were the thousands of pieces of kiln furniture used to stack pots during firing. Such finds offer rare clues to craft and industry in the middle of the century.

FUN FACT: Potters threw salt into the kiln as ceramic vessels were being fired to create the glaze, easily recognizable by its "orange-peel" surface.

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Washington Underground:
Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC,
a walking and metro guide to the past...
was produced cooperatively by the National Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, Archeology and Ethnography Program; the District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic Preservation Office; the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of Maryland, College Park; and the Society for American Archaeology.

Additional Links


History of Pottery (scroll down for "English Wares")
Use of Salt Glaze and the Elers Brothers, United Kingdom
Salt Glaze Stoneware of Alexandria, Virginia

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