Friday, March 28, 2014

Washington’s Britannia: Authenticating the Resignation Speech

As the clock continues to tick closer to the opening of the restored Old Senate Chamber in December 2014, we have already begun planning for the unveiling of Washington’s copy of the resignation speech. New followers of the project may be asking themselves why this speech is so important in the first place. In an age where documents can readily be viewed online and the frequent danger of forgeries, how, exactly, do we know that this is actually Washington’s copy of the speech?

Britannia watermark on Washington's resignation speech.
Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 5664-1.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Dove and the Crown: Using Watermarks to Discover the OSC

Undoubtedly, some of the most important resources for learning what sort of furniture and architecture was in the Old Senate Chamber in the eighteenth-century comes from early receipts and state payment records. However, more frequently than you may imagine, these records can be left unsigned or undated - at which point historians have to look at other ways to understand the documents.

This partial watermark of a crown was found on an undated Intendant's memo that has since been narrowed to date between 1783-1786. You may also notice vertical (called chain lines) and horizontal (called laid lines) on the paper, which appear as part of the pre-industrial papermaking process. Maryland State Archives, MSA S1005-14154.

Papermakers in the eighteenth-century would often include subtle images called watermarks in their work. Though their original purpose is unknown, it is commonly thought that they were used as a sort of maker’s mark. To see a watermark, a viewer may sometimes have to look closely, holding the paper up to a light. While paper watermarks have largely disappeared from modern use, you can still see them on paper currency as a means of proving that it is not counterfeit.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Different Kind of Laborer: Jane Lewis and Betty Simmons

Much like the unsung African American laborers who worked on the early State House, women’s contributions to the running of the State House went largely unrecorded. While we may know more about women of the upper-classes, like Molly Ridout, many working-class women have been long been lost to time. However, research into the Old Senate Chamber frequently comes up with rather unexpected results - and records of two women’s contributions to the running of the State House are among them. There is a lot we don’t know about these women, but what is known is interesting enough to hint at a possibility of many different stories.

Reproduction of the John Shaw flag by CRW Flags, 2009. Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1545-3348.

Followers of the blog may have seen the name Jane Lewis before, perhaps connected with Annapolis cabinetmaker, John Shaw. On May 13, 1778, the Orphans’ Court proceedings recorded, “The Court binds Jane Lewis, the Daughter of Ann George, an Infant of 9 years of age, as an apprentice to John Shaw of the City of Annapolis, as a Seamstress, the Said John Shaw obliging himself to cause her to be taught to read and write, and to pay her the sum of six pounds currency at the expiration of 16yrs her time of Servitude, in lieu of freedom dues.” Where Jane Lewis came from, who her mother Ann George was, and what happened to Jane after this record remains a mystery for now. However, what we do know from this rather peculiar record provides a considerable amount of information.