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] 

On February 6, 1781, Jubb Fowler was appointed as messenger to the Governor and his Council to replace the recently deceased Robert Reith. For nearly forty years, Fowler performed a variety of miscellaneous tasks around the State House as Messenger and Doorkeeper to the Governor and Council and Caretaker of the State House. Apart from daily duties, Fowler was also trusted to take care of public arms. In 1790, he was given the keys to the gallery of the dome and charged "to suffer no person to mount them without being attended by himself or some person on whom he can depend to prevent damage to the Stairs or Gallery."[3]

During this time, Fowler rose in social prominence. He was worth a respectable ₤110 in the 1783 Tax List and was listed as a scrivener/clerk, though he continued to refer to himself as a mechanic.[4] He also appeared to have great influence in the town, using his house on at least one occasion for a meeting of Anne Arundel County's Levy Court.

Jubb Fowler died in September of 1817 at the age of 81. Until the time of his death, Fowler maintained the title of Messenger to the Governor and Council. His death notice in the Maryland Gazette, while short, affectionately called Fowler "an old and respectable inhabitant of this City."

Death notice for Jubb Fowler. Maryland State Archives, The Maryland Gazette and Political Intelligencer, 11 September 1817. 
Jubb Fowler is highlighted as one of many laborers of great interest to the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. While his work may seem inconsequential, Fowler's responsibilities as caretaker actually reveal key components of the eighteenth-century State House. His experience in carpentry, as well, at the Brice House alters our perspective on Fowler's future career in the State House because of his experience in skilled labor.

His job included a multitude of tasks such as scouring the floors of the Old Senate Chamber and other offices before the beginning of legislative sessions, providing candles and wood, delivering messages, and tending to the needs of offices and officials, tasks not dissimilar to the seasonal preparations required in the State House today. From these eighteenth-century receipts, researchers can determine the type of daily work and maintenance required for the State House, and gain another series of clues to aid in the reconstruction of the Old Senate Chamber.

For more information on Jubb Fowler, please see his bio page.

[1] Papenfuse, Edward C., In Pursuit of Profit: The Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution, 1763-1805. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975, p.152.
[2] Ridout, Orlando IV, Building the James Brice House 1767-1774. Annapolis, MD: Friends of the Maryland State Archives, 2013, p.64.
[3] GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL (Proceedings) 1788-1791. MSA S 1071-27. Archives of Maryland, Volume 72, page 118.
[4] Papenfuse, Edward C., p.251.

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