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I-2nd Hand Economy

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

I - Second-hand Economy

Location:  Slate Alley at 12-13th and E-F Streets, NW (see MAP)
Metro: Metro Center Station (Red- Orange-Blue lines)

(see additional informational links below)

Cash-poor? Unable to get enough paid work? You may have tried your hand at picking, or dealing in the junk trade. You could collect paper from law offices and printers to sell to butchers and other merchants. Or clothes to sell to brokers who in turn sold them to paper or cloth mills, where the rags were shredded and woven into "shoddy cloth." Bones could be ground into meal for fertilizer or be made into buttons. Glass bottles could be sold to retailers or brokers.

Sometime between 1825-1855, residents in Slate Alley dug a pit in their yard and filled it with 544 bottles of all types as well as hardware, window glass, bricks, nails, and bone. The archaeologists who made this discovery believe that it is evidence of "junking," which could be a full time occupation. In a census for 1880, some men living in alleys listed their trades as "rag picker," "junk dealer," "peddler," "jobber," "huckster," or "horse trader."

FUN FACT: All artifacts found during an excavation are washed, labeled with identifying numbers, and inventoried. Then they are packed away for long-term storage so future archaeologists can learn from them as well.

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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

Artifact Processing (from the Alexandria Archaeology Museum)

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