Some preservation work on 18th century knives, spoons, and thimbles from Byrnside’s Fort

This was an old knife found in the yard. Fortunately it still had a little bit of the bone handle with the herring bone carved design on it. Those get really crumbly and want to fall off. Moreover, it’s difficult to restore/preserve the iron portion of the knife without destroying the bone.

I did my best though, and glued the bone to the tang, and also put a sealant on it to stop any further crumbling. I did this other knife section at the same time, also found in the yard. This is a different type, of which we’ve found several. They came out pretty well.

18th century knife handles of this type with the herringbone carving on bone handles have been found in pre 1793 archaeology at Mount Vernon.

2-piece bone utensil handle with carved herringbone decoration; Both scales have three pins and mirroring decoration. One of the scales has iron adhered to the inside. Country of origin: England

I haven’t done much preservation work on the loads of pewter we’ve found. Unlike the iron, they don’t seem to degrade further once they hit the oxygen of being out of the ground. But some of them are in worse shape than others – possibly due to varying grades of pewter? Or possibly just due to variances in the soil.

Shown next to an original non-dug spoon of similar design.

The bowl:

The bottom:

Large pewter spoon bowl with a “rat tail” dug at the fort. One of several.

One like this was also found at the same Mount Vernon site, though in much worse condition.

1-piece pewter spoon with puritan-shaped bowl and visible rat tail

These thimbles were found at the site of Byrnside’s Fort. The majority of them appear to be 18th century English imports consistent with thimbles found at other 18th century frontier forts. The exception is the largest one at far right, which appears to be a 19th century thimble with some sort of phrase or inscription on it.

Three of the same type, each a different size.

These are identical to thimbles found at other forts, and appear to be English imports. I know many people, such as John Homan, have found identical ones at Great Lakes Native American fur trade sites, many times with a hole punched in the top to be worn as a sort of jewelry, or decoration.

18th Century Lofting thimbles found at Fort Loudon

As can be seen in the image, the Fort Hunter thimble is a one piece cast thimble with knurled indentations and the waffle-patterned crown. Based on historical research this form and design is often called a “Lofting” type of thimble, named for John Lofting a Dutch thimble maker, who produced large quantities of thimbles for export from England (UK Detector Finds Database 2005). It is believed that the Fort Hunter thimble represents the final development in the “lofting” form, which was quickly copied and exported by other European manufacturers throughout the 18th century.
18th Century thimble found at Fort Hunter (36Da159) during 2016 State Museum of Pennsylvania field season.

For example, there have been thimbles found at other French and Indian War period forts in Pennsylvania, such as the five 18th century Lofting thimbles, one 17th century two-piece thimble and one 19th century thimble with a concentric crown design found at Fort Loudon.  Other examples of thimbles from Pennsylvania forts include two 18th century Lofting type thimbles from Fort Augusta and Fort Morris each.
18th century Lofting thimbles from Fort Augusta

An excerpt from a great thimble resource I found, showing these “lofting thimbles” and their creator:

More found in colonial era American archaeology:

A variety of sizes accommodated a child’s growth to adulthood. These examples were uncovered by archaeologists at Ferry Farm.
Two examples of one-piece machine-made thimbles of the type made in England by John Lofting. Left: PUBLIC-059C26. Right: LANCUM-038C8D. Both should probably be dated to c. 1650-1750 AD.

Now look at the last one of these, found at Washington’s Ferry Farm.

A sample of the 30 historical thimbles found to date by archaeologists at George Washington’s Ferry Farm.

That looks a whole lot like this one:

I just can’t quite make out the words….

Some of these say “Forget Me Not,” but that doesn’t look like the wording of ours. But it’s pretty close. And some other excavated examples:

It’s easier to see the letters “FORGE…” of the phrase “FORGET ME NOT” upon this conserved Ferry Farm thimble. It was found in 2004 in direct association with one of the Bray era dwellings.
Look closely and you can read the word “NOT” upon this unconserved “Forget Me Not” thimble found in 2014. It was found in the yard east of the Bray era structures in a layer dating from sometime between 1800-1860.
Found at The Hermitage in the Mansion Backyard Triplex (1800-1860) This brass thimble has regular impressed knurling (machine-applied indentations) and a rolled rim, common in factory-made nineteenth century thimbles. It is stamped with the phrase “Tho Absent Ever Dear” around the base circumference.  Similar stamped thimbles from this time period included mottoes such as “Forget Me Not” and “From A Friend” (Beaudry 2006). Despite the mass production of these thimbles, the personalized message selected here suggests the user’s choice to convey its message to those who viewed it, perhaps in commemoration of a loved one.
Found at St. Mary’s Plantation

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