A House But Not A Home? Measuring "Householdness" in the Daily Lives of Monticello's "Nail Boys"
Degree Granting Department
Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Ph.D.
Brent Weisman, Ph.D.
Lori Collins, Ph.D.
Archaeology of Slavery, Chesapeake, Thomas Jefferson, Children, Consumption
Monticello, the plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, was also home to more than 100 African American slaves between 1771 and 1826. As many as 40 members of this community lived and worked on Mulberry Row, once a bustling avenue of residential and industrial activity adjacent to the Palladian mansion. Archaeological excavations in 1957 and 1982–-1983 uncovered the remains of Mulberry Row's nailery, where preteen and teenaged enslaved "“nail boys”" manufactured nails for internal use and sale. These excavations revealed surprisingly high amounts of domestic artifacts, particularly ceramics and glass, indicating the young nailers also may have lived inside the nailery. This study investigates whether the nail boys maintained some semblance of childhood through ongoing participation in their parents'’ households or fully took on the mantle of adulthood by forming a household of their own, independent of their parents, as expressed in the local production and consumption of household goods.
This question is explored within the contexts of the archaeology of slavery, household archaeology, and the archaeology of children. The intersection of these three themes provides a richer and more realistic understanding of the boys'’ complex lives. In this study, artifact abundance indices and Pearson residuals are used to compare artifacts from the nailery to artifacts from industrial and dwelling sites across Monticello plantation. I hypothesized that if the nail boys were participating in food production and consumption, the abundance of refined and utilitarian ceramics and glass would be similar to or higher than the abundance of those artifacts in dwelling sites. If the abundance of the nailery artifacts was lower than those for dwelling sites and was therefore more similar to those for industrial sites, the nail boys probably did not participate in domestic activities. The indices and residuals reveal a high abundance of refined ceramics and glass in the nailery and a low abundance of utilitarian ceramics, which would have been needed to cook and store food. The data suggest the nail boys engaged in the consumption of food and associated artifacts but participated in little or no food production. It is likely that their age and gender prevented them from fully engaging in food production within the nailery. This project adds to the fledgling research into slave children, who have traditionally been ignored by childhood, slave, and household archaeologists.
Scholar Commons Citation
McVey, Shannon Lee, "A House But Not A Home? Measuring "Householdness" in the Daily Lives of Monticello's "Nail Boys"" (2011). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.
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