Friday, October 25, 2013

The Keeper of the State House

It is difficult to look through the Maryland State Papers of the late eighteenth-century without coming across Jubb Fowler's name. A skilled carpenter, messenger to the Governor and Council, and caretaker of the Maryland State House, Fowler, like many Annapolitans of the Revolutionary period, had multiple jobs. However, according to Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Jubb Fowler is the only laborer of late eighteenth-century Annapolis to have gained significant upward economic mobility in his lifetime.[1]

Jubb Fowler was born on November 14, 1735 to Benjamin and Helen Fowler of Anne Arundel County. The Fowlers were a farming family, who had settled in Anne Arundel County a short time before Benjamin Fowler's birth in 1717. While there is no record of Jubb Fowler ever having married, he did have one daughter, Frances.

The James Brice House, 42 East Street, Annapolis, MD, where Jubb Fowler worked as a carpenter during its construction. Photograph by Marion E. Warren. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.
Jubb Fowler first appeared in Annapolis in 1767 as a carpenter for employer James Brice's house, now a National Historic Residence. After Fowler's initial work, Fowler and Brice appear to have maintained a professional relationship. In 1769, the pair advertised together in The Maryland Gazette for two runaway indentured servants. Fowler also borrowed money from Sarah Brice on several occasions, as recorded in the Brice account books.[2] 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Artisans of the State House: The Ironmaster

On October 19, 1785, exactly two-hundred twenty-eight years ago tomorrow, the auditor general recorded a payment of ₤21.7.9 to "Simon Ratalick" for iron work to a public pump.[1] This seemingly unremarkable entry was actually one of several state payments to Annapolis "ironmaster" (or blacksmith), Simon Retallick. Throughout the 1780s and 1790s, Retallick completed various projects for the Maryland State House, including the dome's famous lightning rod.

In the first of several upcoming features on the lives of the artisans who worked on the Old Senate Chamber, today's entry will look at a local blacksmith whose work at the State House can still be spotted by any passersby today.

Simon Retallick was born circa 1752 in the town of St. Issey in Cornwall, England to Richard and Elizabeth Retallick. The Retallicks of Cornwall appeared to have been from a long line of skilled craftsmen. Little is known about Simon's youth until, at the age of 22, he registered himself as a blacksmith traveling to Annapolis as an indentured servant on board the Peggy Stewart.

The Peggy Stewart made history upon its arrival in the port of Annapolis in 1774 with a cargo of tea. By that time, Annapolis had adopted a policy of refusing any ship that carried tea to unload any of its cargo. However, a significant part the Peggy Stewart's cargo included approximately fifty indentured servants on board, who would likely not survive a return voyage to England. While the people of Annapolis debated what to do with the vessel, the indentured servants, Retallick among them, were forced to await their fate aboard the ship. After several days, the indentured servants were released, and the ship was famously burned on October 19, 1774 in what is remembered as the "Annapolis Tea Party." This early rebellion was captured in Francis Blackwell Mayer's The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, on display in the Old House of Delegates Chamber.

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart by Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1896, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-1111.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Union Card Found in OSC Chimney Breast

On October 4, 2013, the construction workers made an exciting discovery in the chimney of the Old Senate Chamber. Lodged between the bricks was an old piece of paper that turned out to be a union card from the Bricklayer's Union of Maryland #5 dated April 1904. On the back of the card was a handwritten note that said, "Built by C. H. Obery Jr., Jos. Holland, July 29, 1906."

This card is almost certainly a remnant of the 1905 renovations of the State House under architects Baldwin and Pennington, which notably included the addition of the New Annex. The State House Building Commission also worked on the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. Among the extensive renovations to take place in the chamber in 1905, the fireplace, which had been torn out in 1858, was rebuilt.

Workers uncovered a piece of paper in the chimney breast of the Old Senate Chamber, 4 October 2013.
Vicki Lee, Senior Conservator of the Maryland State Archives, inspects the union card in the chimney breast, 4 October 2013.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Molly Ridout's Letter

Out of the few written descriptions of George Washington's resignation, one of the most significant is Molly Ridout's letter to her mother. As we mentioned in last week's post, Molly's letter is the only known account written by a woman in attendance.

Molly Ridout's letter to her mother, Anne Tasker Ogle, 16 January 1784. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 358-1-2.
On January 16th, 1784, thirty-eight year old Molly Ridout wrote to her mother, Anne Tasker Ogle. Molly had the letter delivered "by a frigate that went from this
place [Annapolis] to Brest [France] this you will certainly receive as it goes by a Gentleman that carrys a Copy of the definitive Treaty [of Paris] ratified by Congress."