History 378 


Material Culture

Professor Emerson Baker

Course Syllabus

Some Interesting Web Addresses Related to this Course

General Sites
Crossroads: American Studies Association
National Endowment for the Humanities EDSITEment page
Library of Congress American Memory Project
Discovery Channel: Toys Were Us

National Museums
Smithsonian Institution
British Museum
Canadian Museum of Civilization

On-Line Journals
The Web of Time: Pages from the American Past

Introduction to American Material Culture 

HIS 378-01


Department of History - Spring 2001

WF 11:00  -   Sullivan Building 106

Professor Emerson W. Baker

Office Hours:   M 4:00-6:30
WF 10:30-11:00
Office: Sullivan 106a
Or by appointment- please feel  free to contact me at any time
Email:   emerson.baker@salemstate.edu


This course covers the identification, classification, and interpretation of the artifacts of early America. Handcrafted and mass produced materials of both domestic and foreign manufacture will be considered. The class will focus on the material culture of New England prior to 1860, and its interpretation by archaeologists, historians and museum professionals.

Course Objectives

Content Objectives - After completing this course, you should understand and be able to comment accurately on the following themes:

1. The use of material culture to understand the past.

2. The interdisciplinary relations ship of material culture history.

3. Recent trends in material culture research, in such areas as ethnicty, gender, and consumerism.

Skills Objectives -   In this course you will have the opportunity to  develop the following:

1.   A wide-ranging knowledge of artifacts of early America

2.   Writing in grammatically correct English.

Course Grade

Midterm examination                      25%

Final examination                            30%

Written assignments                        35%

Attendance & Participation             10%


Required Reading

James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten

David R. Brauner, comp., Approaches to Material Culture Research for Historical Archaeologists, 2nd edition

Ivor Noel-Hume, A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America   (copy on reserve at the library)

plus, other articles on reserve

Course Requirements

Midterm exam. This exam will cover all lectures and readings from the beginning of the course through March 2.  The exam will take place on March 7.

Final Exam. The final exam covers material from the entire semester, though it will be weighted toward material presented after the midterm exam.

Class Participation:  I expect you be be here for class, and to always be ready to speak to the issues of the day.

Written Assignments

Big Mac Attack – An approximately four page material culture analysis of a Big Mac box and the fast food phenomenon (10% of grade) Due: February 9

Web Review – Brief (one page) reviews on two different web sites related to material culture. (5% of grade) Due: February 23

Probate Analysis – A 7-8 page study of the probate record of the Balch family of Beverly (20% of grade)

Due: April 20

Instructions for all written assignments: All written work is to be typed (or word processed) and double spaced, with one inch margins. Although this is not an English class, your spelling and grammar do matter a great deal, for the better you communicate your historical thoughts, the better I can evaluate them. If you use citations in your work, it is to be noted in historical  citation style, with footnotes or end notes, as indicated in the Chicago Manual of Style of Turabian. Remember, using the quotes or even the ideas of others without proper citation is plagarism. If you have questions about citation style, please ask. Papers not handed in during class on the due date are considered late, and will be marked down. The later they are, the more they will be marked down.

Salem State College is committed to nondiscrimination of Handicapped persons as specified in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students who qualify as handicapped persons under the definition of this act should notify the instructor at the beginning of course so that reasonable modifications may be made when necessary.

Syllabus - HIS 790  Material Culture of Early America *-denotes reserve reading

Jan 17 & 19                Introduction to the Course: What is Material Culture, Why Study it?

Deetz, introduction & chapter 1

George Miller et al, "Approaches to Material Culture Research," in Brauner pp. 1-10

Jan 24 & 26                Material Culture in Modern America: Big Macs, Barbie Dolls, and Budweiser

Deetz, chapter 2

Noel-Hume, 3-48

James T. Rock, “Cans in the Countryside,” in Brauner, pp. 275-289

D.B.S. Maxwell, Beer Cans, A guide for the Archaeologist in Brauner, pp. 290-308.

Jan 31 and Feb 2        Material Life in Early America

James Horn, "The Bare Necessitites," in Brauner, pp. 381-398

Deetz, ch 7.

Feb 7 & Feb 9            Ceramics - Tablewares and Utilitarian wares

Earthenwares, coarse and fine

            British earthenwares - Noel Hume pp. 102-137

            Iberian and other European products - Noel Hume pp. 138-145

            American products - Noel Hume pp. 98-101

Deetz, chapter 3

Mary Beaudry et al, "A Vessel Typology for Early Chesapeake Ceramics," in Brauner pp. 11-36.

Lynne Sussman, Changes in Pearlware Dinnerware, 1780-1830 in Brauner pp. 37-43.

Lynne Sussman, British Military Tableware, 1760-1830 in Brauner, pp. 44-55.

Feb 14 & 16                Ceramics, Continued


            Rhenish products - Noel Hume pp. 276-285

            "Bellarmines" or bartmanns - Noel Hume pp. 55-57

Porcelains - Chinese - Noel Hume pp. 257-265

Patricia Samford, “Response to Market,” in Brauner pp. 56-85

George Miller, "A Revised Set of CC Index Values,” in Brauner, pp. 86-110.

Deetz, chapter 4

Feb 21 & 23                Glasswares: Bottles and Tableware

Liquor bottles - Noel Hume pp. 60-71

Drinking glasses & decanters - Noel Hume pp. 184-202

John White, “Bottle Nomenclature,” in Brauner, pp. 139-148

Olive Jones, "Glass Bottle Push-Ups and Pontil Marks," in Brauner,  pp. 149-160.

George Miller & Catherine Sullivan, "Machine Made Glass Containers," in Brauner, pp. 161-174

Feb 28 & Mar 2         Personal Artifacts

Clay tobacco pipes & pipestem dating Noel Hume pp. 296-313

Clothing and jewelry

            Rings, finger -  Noel Hume pp. 265-266

            Buckles - Noel Hume pp. 84-88

            Bells - Noel Hume pp. 58-59

            Wig Curlers - pp. 321-23

Health and Hygiene

            Drug pots and jars - Noel Hume pp. 203-210

            Chamberpots - Noel Hume pp. 145-150

            pharmaceutical bottles -  Noel Hume pp. 72-76

Deetz, ch. 6

Jeffrey Butterworth, “Forming the Past,” in Brauner, pp. 373-380.

March 7                      Midterm Exam

March 9                      Hardware and Weaponry

Hinges - Noel Hume pp. 235-236

Spades and hoes - Noel Hume pp. 274-275

Horseshoes and horse furniture - Noel Hume pp. 237-242

Nancy Kenmotsu, "Gunflints: A Study," in  Brauner, pp. 340-372

March 14 & 16     Spring Recess – No Class


Mar 21 & Mar 23  Domestic Economy

Pots, pans and tableware
            Cooking vessels - Noel Hume pp. 175-176

            Cutlery and spoons - Noel Hume pp. 177-183

Sewing artifacts

            Pins, needles, and thimbles - Noel Hume pp. 254-256

            Scissors - Noel Hume pp. 267-268

Toys - Noel Hume 313-21

Erica Hill,” Thimbles and Thimble Rings” in Brauner, pp. 309-317

Ann Smart, "The Role of Pewter as Missing Artifact," in Brauner, pp. 248-274.

March 28 & 30           Furnishings and Decorative Arts


            Furniture hardware - Noel Hume pp. 227-232

            Locks and padlocks - Noel Hume pp. 243-251

            Candlesticks and lighting accessories - Noel Hume pp. 93-97

*Gloria Main, "The Distribution of Consumer Goods in Colonial New England"

*Kevin Sweeney, "Furniture and Domestic Environment in Wethersfield, Connecticut"

April 4 & 6                  Trade and Commerce

Cloth seals Noel Hume pp. 269-270

Coins, tokens and jetons) (Noel Hume pp. 154-173)

Glass Beads - Roderick Sprague, "Glass Trade Beads: A Progress Report,"in Brauner, 202-220.

Stine, Cabak, and Groover, “Blue Beads as African-American Cultural Symbols,” in Brauner, 221-247.

David Burley, “Function, Meaning and Context,” in Brauner, pp. 399-408.

*James Axtell, "The First Consumer Revolution"

April 11 & 13              Structural Artifacts

Decorative tiles - Noel Hume pp. 285-294

Roofing tiles - Noel Hume pp. 294-295

Bricks - Noel Hume pp. 80-84

Window glass - Noel Hume pp. 233-35

Nails - Noel Hume pp. 352-353

Deetz, chapter 5

Tom Wells, “Nail Chronology,” in Brauner, pp. 318-339

April 18 & 20 Ethnicity in Material Culture

Deetz, chapters 8 & 9

Adams and Boling, "Status and Ceramics for Planters and Slaves," in Brauner, pp. 111-138.

Parker Potter, “What is the Use of Plantation Archaeology?” in Brauner, pp. 409-422.

Aaron Russell, “Material Culture and Afro-American Spirituality at the Hermitage, in Brauner pp. 423-440.

*Kathleen J. Bragdon, "The Material Culture of the Christian Indians of New England"

April 25                       TBA


April 27                       No Class



May 2                         Review Day (schedule permitting)

May 7                         Final Exam 2:30-4:30

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