|Location:||Monticello, Charlottesville, VA, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||Last decade of the 18th century/first decade of the 19th century. Phasing and mean ceramic dates can be found on the Chronology page.|
|Excavator(s):||Oriel Pi-Sunyer (1957); William Kelso (1979, 1982-83, 1986); and Susan Kern (1994).|
|Dates excavated:||1957, 1979, 1982-83, 1986, 1994.|
Buildings D and j functioned as the blacksmith shop and adjacent nailery on Mulberry Row. Building D, the blacksmith shop, was a substantial frame structure with a stone floor that may have been covered with clay. On the other hand, Building j, used as the nailery, was a post-in-ground “shed” with a dirt floor. Building j was attached to the eastern end of Building D, which was already standing. These two structures were first uncovered in 1957 by Oriol Pi-Sunyer and identified using Jefferson’s 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration. William Kelso first encountered the stone floor of Building D during his 1979 excavation of the garden fence line. Full excavations of Buildings D and j were conducted by Kelso in the 1980s. Artifacts indicate blacksmithing and nail-making activities occurred in both buildings. Domestic artifacts from Building j suggest some domestic activity took place there as well.
Limited documentary evidence exists for both Buildings D and j. It is unclear exactly when Building D was constructed, but documents referring to nail manufacture began in 1794 suggest the structure was built around that time (Evans 1987). The first mention of nail manufacture was a notation in Jefferson’s 1791-1803 account book (Jefferson 1791-1803):
“recd. 40. bundles of nail rod from Caleb Lownes. 1 ton.”
In an October 30, 1794 letter to Henry Remsen, Jefferson (Betts1987:429) stated,
“I am so much immersed in farming and nail-making (for I have set up a Nailery) that politicks are entirely banished from my mind.”
Both Building D and Building j were described in Jefferson’s 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration, even though Building j had not yet been constructed:
“D is a smith and nailer’s shop 37. by 18.f. the walls and roof of wood.”
“j. is a shed to be added to D. 50. feet by 18.f. for the nailers, to be built immediately, and making one building with D it is included in the valuation of D. as if it were already built, and is part of the ensured property”
Jefferson’s statements on the Declaration suggest that Building D housed both the blacksmithing and nail-making operations until Building j could be constructed. No documents record the actual construction or use of Building j, so exact dates of occupation are unknown. Current researchers believe that Building j was constructed soon after the 1796 Declaration was written and was in use until the early 1800s. Numerous documents discuss nail-making activities and the enslaved individuals who were involved, although they do not directly state which building was used at the time (McVey 2011).
At some point in the 1790s, Jefferson produced a detailed, scaled plan of a nailery. The plan (Jefferson: N191) shows the locations of two pairs of forges, with four anvil locations on each side of the paired forges, occupying one end of the building. At the other end is a fireplace and a single larger forge and anvil location. The planned building is 37-by-18 feet, dimensions that match those of Building D. However, it is not clear that the plan shows building D, as it was actually constructed and used.
Enslaved Blacksmiths and Nailers
In 1794 Jefferson began a nail manufacturing enterprise staffed by enslaved boys aged 10 to 16, although some worked as nailers until the age of 21. These “nail boys” crafted nails by hand for twelve hours a day, six days a week, in dirty, unpleasant conditions. Jefferson was enthusiastic about his nail-making business, bragging about it in letters to friends and personally supervising the operation during the first three years. Early on, he measured out the boys’ allotment of nailrod in the morning and returned in the evening to determine how much rod was wasted by each boy. The boys’ nailrod waste was recorded so that Jefferson could ascertain the efficiency of each individual. Incidents of disobedience are documented in letters between Jefferson and his overseers (Stanton 1996, 2000).
In addition to wrought nails, one nail boy was assigned to make cut nails with a nail cutting machine that arrived in February 1796. This machine used hoop iron to create small four-penny brads. A concentration of hoop iron and cut nails was found along the southern wall of Buildingj during Kelso’s excavation, particularly Quadrats 162 and 163, hinting at the machine’s location within the structure and attesting to its use during the building’s lifetime (Sanford 1984).
Jefferson’s extensive records and letters to his hired workman provide some information on the enslaved individuals who may have worked in Buildings D and j. George, also known as Little George, was an enslaved African American trained in blacksmithing by Francis Bishop and William Orr, both white hired workmen. He ran Monticello’s blacksmith shop from 1783 to his death in 1799. Jefferson’s blacksmithing records show George engaged in many activities, including shoeing horses, repairing agricultural tools, making parts for vehicles and guns, and making spoons, bridle bits, axes, and scythes (Stanton 2000). George was selected to be the first manager of Jefferson’s nail-making business in 1794 and even received a small portion of its profits.
Isaac Jefferson, another enslaved man, learned the blacksmithing trade from his older brother George. In the early 1790s he studied tinsmithing during an apprenticeship in Philadelphia. Upon his return to Monticello he established a tinsmithing shop. When Monticello’s tinsmithing operation failed, Isaac returned to nailmaking and blacksmithing. He became one of the most productive nail-makers in Jefferson’s nail-manufacturing business. In adulthood he focused on blacksmithing work. Isaac gained his freedom in an unknown manner in the 1820s and left Monticello for Richmond. He was still working as a blacksmith in Petersburg, Virginia in 1847 at the age of seventy-one (Stanton 2000).
Joe Fossett started his training in metalworking as an enslaved nail boy in Jefferson’s nail-manufacturing operation. He became one of the most efficient nailers and soon was selected to be the foreman, in charge of the work of the other boys. He was trained in blacksmithing primarily by William Stewart, a white hired workman (see Stewart-Watkins site background page). As a blacksmith, Joe was allowed to keep one-sixth of the blacksmith shop’s profits as well as profits from the sale of other iron objects he made in his spare time. Joe was one of five slaves officially freed in Jefferson’s will (Stanton 2000).
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
In 1957, Oriol Pi-Sunyer (1957) directed the first excavations along Mulberry Row. He dug two parallel trenches along the length of Mulberry Row in order to locate and identify the original buildings used during Jefferson’s lifetime. He located both Building D and Building j. Building D was identified primarily by the cobble pavement that underlay the floor. After uncovering a section of closely-packed stone in both trenches, Pi-Sunyer excavated the area between the trenches and revealed the pavement covered an area 37-feet long and 18-feet wide. He recognized the pavement was associated with Building D and postulated that a packed clay layer may have covered the stones and served as the working floor. Pi-Sunyer also excavated a T-shaped test pit into the pavement, removing a large section of cobbles.
Pi-Sunyer’s work provided the first confirmation that Building j had actually been built and used. The extent of his investigation of Building j is unclear. The records of his excavation do not specifically state that he excavated beyond the two trenches where they crossed Building j. Still, his excavation report suggests that he cleared a large area. In the report, he recounted finding an occupation area that matches the description of a nailer’s addition, measuring 50-feet long by 18-feet wide, Jefferson provided in the Declaration. Further, records of Kelso’s later excavation of Building j note fill from the 1957 excavation covering a wide area. Although Pi-Sunyer found the occupation layer, he did not excavate it. He did report finding ceramics, glass, tools, and many metal objects during his investigation (Pi-Sunyer 1957).
William Kelso led later excavations of both structures. In 1982-1983, his team excavated Building j along with Douglas Sanford (Sanford 1984). First, a grid system of eight-foot squares separated by two-foot-wide baulk walls was used to remove the modern strata, backfill from Pi-Sunyer’s excavation, and backfill from Kelso’s previous 1979 excavation of the adjacent fence line. Once he reached the occupation layer, Kelso switched to a grid of four-foot squares and two-foot-wide baulk walls. This smaller grid system allowed for better spatial control of the artifacts. Three strata were recognized within the occupation layer. The upper occupation level was named AA and the lower level was named AB. A third zone, named AC, was a dense charcoal deposit associated with several pits interpreted to be holes for anvil posts. Features included anvil pits, forge depressions, and postholes. Two forges were probably located in the western half of the structure, evidenced by brick and stone remains surrounded by nails, nailrod, charcoal, and clinker. The excavators noted two roughtly circular arrangements of anvil pots in the eastern half of the building and suggested that two more forges stood near their centers. Artifacts recovered included not only metal working debris, but also domesitc artifacts, including ceramics, bottle glass, and faunal remains (Sanford 1984).
Although it is adjacent to Building j, Building D was not fully excavated by Kelso until 1986 (Evans 1987). He first encountered the southern edge of the stone platform during his excavation of the garden fence line in 1979. During the 1986 excavation of Building D, a grid system of eight-foot squares and eight-foot long by two-foot wide balk walls was used. A smaller grid system was not needed because very little of the undisturbed occupation layer remained from Pi-Sunyer’s 1957 work. Some parts of the original occupation layer appeared intermittently across the site and were recorded and mapped as individual features. Postholes, possible forge depressions, and anvil pits were found at the site. In addition, a trench was uncovered at the northern edge of Building D. It may have been created during the process of leveling the land before the construction of Building D. After the structure was completed, the builder’s trench was lined with small, flat stones and repurposed as a drainage ditch (Evans 1987). As before, Kelso did not screen for artifacts during excavation.
Summary of research and analysis
Sanford (1984) wrote the site report for Kelso’s 1982-1983 Building j excavation. Sanford argued that Buildingj was constructed in 1809 or after because postholes from the 1809 fence line corresponded to the southern wall of the structure. Based on this interpretation, he called Building j “a post constructed addition to an existing fence” (Sanford 1984:35). Sanford analyzed distribution maps of some artifact types to better locate specific work areas. Although Jefferson’s records showed that the nailers usually made one size of nail each, the distributions of different sized nails varied in only minor ways. Anvil and hardy wasters were found in both the eastern and western ends of Building j. Combining these two findings, Sanford concluded that nail production occurred on both ends of the building, with one of the western forges (named Forge 3) used for both nail-making and blacksmithing. This differs from the strict nail-making/blacksmithing dichotomy drawn in Jefferson’s “Plan for a Nailery.” Sanford argued that longer or more intense nail production occurred at one of the eastern forges (called Forge 2) because of the uniform placement of anvils around the forge and the consistency in nail-related artifact distributions from earlier to later occupation layers. An open area in the center of the structure may have been used as a work and storage space. Concentrations of window glass in the southeastern and eastern parts of the building point to possible window locations. Sanford inferred that the lack of support posts for bellows meant that the bellows were suspended from the upper framing of Building j. He also concluded that the nail boys ate meals in one area because most of the domestic debris was located in the eastern half of the building.
Evans (1987) detailed Kelso’s excavation of Building D in her report. She agreed with Pi-Sunyer that a clay floor likely covered the stone floor found archaeologically, although this clay floor was not found during excavation by either Kelso or Pi-Sunyer.
In 2002, Martha Hill (2002a, 2002b) summarized the archaeological and documentary evidence for both Buildings D and j. She noted that there is no documentary or archaeological evidence for blacksmithing or nail-making on the mountaintop until Jefferson’s first retirement in the 1790s. Hill pointed out that the complexity of the Building j site can be problematic for those trying to understand the function and patterns of features, particularly postholes. She disagreed with Sanford’s interpretation that the structure was not erected until after the 1809 fence was installed. Instead, she proposed that the structure was built earlier, probably in the mid-1790s, and may have been made by attaching a roof and additional walls to an existing fence. She therefore reasoned that any relationship between the Building j posts and the 1809 fence line posts would be due to reuse of the building’s posts for the new fence line. She stated that it is likely that both Buildings D and j were gone by 1803.
Following Kelso’s (1997) hypothesis that the nail boys lived in Building j at least some of the time, McVey (2011) analyzed the domestic artifacts from Building j in her master’s thesis. The analysis focused on the remains of food production and consumption activities, specifically ceramics, glass, and utensils. The artifacts from Building j were compared to artifacts from domestic and industrial sites on Monticello plantation, including Building D. She found that Building j had abundances of food consumption-type artifacts, such as ceramic plates, that were as high as the abundances of those same types of items from domestic sites on Monticello plantation. In contrast, Building j had very low abundances of food production/storage artifacts compared to those same domestic sites. The abundances of food production/storage artifacts were more similar to the low abundances found at industrial sites like Building D. These results suggest the nail boys were frequently eating meals in Building j but perhaps did not prepare their food there.
Monticello Department of Archaeology
Things you need to know about Buildings D and j before you use the data:
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- Pi-Sunyer did not use screens for artifact recovery. During Kelso’s excavations, both sites were carefully hand-troweled and screens were not used for artifact recovery.
- Pi-Sunyer used a parallel and cross-trench method, digging two long 2-foot wide trenches running parallel to Mulberry Row with short, perpendicular cross-trenches that intersected the long trenches at varying intervals. When structures were evident, he exposed the floor area for study. His excavations were backfilled and in many cases later identified and reexcavated by Kelso. The artifacts Pi-Sunyer recovered are not cataloged with the project at this time.
- Kelso excavated both buildings using the “Wheeler Box” method. Building Dwas excavated using 8-by-8 foot quadrats with 2-foot baulks. Building jwas excavated using two different sizes of units. Modern strata and fill were removed using 8-by-8 foot quadrats with 2-foot baulks. The occupation layer was removed using 4-by-4 foot quadrats with 2-foot baulks.
- In the DAACS database, the Smith and Nailers Shop project, which includes Buildings D and j, is designated as Project “113”. Artifact ID numbers for artifacts associated with the project therefore begin with the 113 prefix.
The original excavators of Buildings D and j did not assign numbers to individual features. DAACS staff has assigned feature numbers using the original excavation records. Feature Numbers assigned by DAACS have a F-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. F01 equals Feature 1).
Excavated contexts that belong to the same depositional basin (e.g. a posthole and postmold or the layers in a single pit) have been assigned a single feature number. In addition, single contexts have been given feature numbers when the original field records indicate that the excavators recognized a context’s spatial distinctiveness from surrounding contexts.
Feature groups are sets of features whose spatial arrangements indicate they were part of a single structure (e.g. structural postholes, subfloor pits, and hearth) or landscape element (e.g. postholes that comprise a fenceline). Feature Groups assigned by DAACS have a FG-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. FG01 equals Feature Group 1).
|F16||Posthole||156A, 156B, 1155B, 1155C|
|F22||Posthole||158C, 158D, 1176A|
|F114||Basin formed by post-depositional settling||614F|
|F115||Basin formed by post-depositional settling||614E|
|F134||Pit, unidentified||719AD, 719AE|
|F147||Pit, unidentified||684AB, 683AB, 683AC|
|F150||Pit, unidentified||683AF, 683AG|
|F158||Tree hole||1825K, 1825J|
|F25||Floor, stone cobble||1186B, 1160B, 1156E, 1161B, 1155E, 1162B, 1154D, 1163B, 1176D, 1148D, 1164C, 1158C, 1171A, 1165D, 1168A, 1172B, 1173A, 1159B, 1102B, 1153A, 1103B, 1152B, 1100C, 1151A, 1101A, 1169A, 1170A, 1166E, 1167C, 1147K, 1174A, 1175D, 1146F, 1145G, 1157B, 1145F|
|F29||Trench, unidentified||1148C, 1164A, 1147A, 1165C, 1172C, 1166B, 1167A, 1149C, 1146J, 1145A, 620H, 1145H, 1157D|
|F33||Posthole||1164G, 1147F, 1147G|
|F34||Posthole||1165E, 1165F, 1147B, 1147C|
|F41||Not a Basin/Cut||1147D|
|F42||Not a Basin/Cut||1146M|
|F45||Posthole||1159C, 1175A, 1175B|
|F48||Unidentified||1170B, 1170C, 1145J, 1145K|
|F56||Planting Hole||1834E, 1834C|
|F76||Posthole||166F, 166G, 166P|
We perform a standard set of analyses to infer intra-site chronologies for the sites included in the Archive. Using them, we have assigned most excavated contexts at each site to a set of site-specific phases. The use of common analytical methods is designed to increase comparability among phases at different sites. The methods and the phase assignments they produced are summarized below. For some sites, the original excavators developed intra-site chronologies and, where these exist, they are included on the Background page for the site. DAACS encourages users of Archive data to help explore improvements.
DAACS Seriation Method
This page summarizes the frequency-seriation based chronology we developed for Building j (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). Only one SG from Building D, SG12 (Backfills and Topsoils), contained enough ceramics to be included in the analysis. However, SG12 was ceramically unique enough to contribute too high an amount of inertia to remain in the analysis after the first iteration.
As with other sites in the Archive, the seriation chronology for Building j was derived from ceramic assemblages aggregated at the level of contexts and stratigraphic groups, and not at the level of features. This is because most contexts and stratigraphic groups on the site were not parts of features. For the relatively few cases where seriated contexts and stratigraphic groups were parts of features, the relevant feature numbers and descriptions are included in the seriation chronology table below. A seriation using MCD-types did not produce a successful chronology for the site. Thus, the seriation chronology presented here is the result of a correspondence analysis of ware-type frequencies in each stratigraphic group and each individual context that had no stratigraphic group assignment (Figures 1 and 2). Not all contexts have stratigraphic group assignments.
To reduce the noise introduced by sampling error, only ceramic assemblages with more than 5 sherds and more than one ceramic type from individual excavated contexts and from stratigraphic groups were included. As with SG12, SG03 (Modern Road Fill) was removed from the seriation of Building j due to an unusually high contribution of this SG to inertia. The subsequent results produced a strong correlation between Dimension 1 scores and MCDs (Figure 3). Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1, we divided the Building j site into three phases (Figure 4).
Buildings j Phases
Phases are groups of assemblages that have similar correspondence-analysis scores, similar MCDs, or both, and are therefore inferred to be broadly contemporary. Phases have a P-prefix that precedes the phase number (e.g. P01 equals Phase 1).
Mean ceramic dates for the site-specific phases are given in the table below. The table also includes two estimates of the ceramic TPQ for each phase. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the Ware types in the assemblage. The second estimate — TPQp90 — is the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates among all the sherds in the assemblage, based on their Ware types. This TPQ estimate is more robust against excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might have introduces a few anomalously late sherds in an assemblage.
Phase one is a set of contexts encountered below topsoil during the 1979 excavations along the Garden pailing fenceline. These contexts are not related to others from later excavations at this time. Although phases have been assigned to them, the 1979 contexts do not appear on the Harris Matrix. Phase two is a set of contexts derived from the excavation of deposits most closely associated with Building j activities. These assemblages come from deposits directly on the surface of the Nailery clay floor as well as from several fill layers exterior to the Nailery. Phase three is reprented by deposits that are almost all disturbed, including archaeology backfill SGs, and are all stratigraphically above P02 deposits of Building j. The closeness in dates of the two phases suggests little post-Jefferson ceramic discard or redeposition occurred in the immediate area subsequent to the use of the structures as described in 1796.
A Seriation Chronology for Building j
The following table presents a seriation chronology for Building j. We use the indefinite article to signify that it is not the only chronology possible, nor the best. We encourage users of Archive data to help explore improvements.
The stratigraphic relationships among stratigraphic groups and unassigned contexts are summarized in the Harris Matrix for the site. Phase assignments from the seriation are shown on the Harris Matrix in color, facilitating comparison of the seriation chronology and the stratigraphic chronology of the site.
Buildings D and j Harris Matrix
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff have identified as part of the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups and contexts are represented as boxes, while lines connecting them represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
Stratigraphic groups, which represent multiple contexts, are identified on the diagram by their numeric designations (e.g. SG08), followed by descriptions of them (e.g. “Lower Fill above Floor of Bldg j”). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 704AD).
Boxes with color fill represent contexts and stratigraphic groups with ceramic assemblages large enough to be included in the DAACS seriation of the site (see Chronology). Their seriation-based phase assignments are denoted by different colors, to facilitate evaluation of the agreement between the stratigraphic and seriation chronologies. Grey boxes represent contexts that were not included in the seriation because of small ceramic samples.
This Harris Matrix is based on data on stratigraphic relationships recorded among contexts in the DAACS database. It was drawn with the ArchEd application. See http://www.ads.tuwien.ac.at/arched/index.html.
Buildings D and j may be the most stratigraphically complex sites on Mulberry Row, as more than 30 SGs and 159 features attest. Adding to the complexity is the fact that Building D was stripped to its stone subfloor in 1957 and reexcavated in 1986; whereas, Building j was excavated primarily in the early 1980s.
Relating deposits across the two structures is not possible. Thus, their stratigraphic matrices are presented separately below. Not included in either is the Garden pailing fenceposts that may have served as supports for the back walls of both structures. Dug in 1979, the excavated deposits in these quadrats are also difficult to relate to deposits excavated in subsequent years.
See the Chronology page for additional phase information. Please note that some of the contexts present in the chronology analysis are not visualized on the Harris Matrix. The contexts that are not included do not have any stratigraphic relationships with other contexts. The lack of relationships can occur for a few reasons but two common examples are 1) the artifacts are from a surface collection, which is entered into DAACS as a context but does not have recorded relationships to other contexts that are below it; 2) in cases where topsoil and plowzone are stripped and discarded, there may be features below the plowzone that are comprised of a single context. Since the plowzone does not exist as a documented context with artifacts, it cannot seal the single-context feature. DAACS also does not record subsoil as a context, so there is nothing for that single context feature to intrude or seal.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [637.69 KB PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by Monticello staff from original field drawings, with only features labeled.
PDF of quadrats from individual excavation campaigns labeled.
PDF of Building j (Nailery) site profile, east end, from 1982-1983 excavation.
PDF of Building j (Nailery) site profile, west end, from 1982-1983 excavation.
1987 Building D Site Report: The Blacksmith and Nailers’ Shop at Jefferson’s Monticello. Manuscript on file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Harris, Edward C.
1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London, England.
2002a Summary of Archaeological Excavations by Site. Mulberry Row Project. Unpublished report on file at the Jefferson Library, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville Virginia.
2002b Summary of Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for Excavated and Standing Buildings on Mulberry Row., Mulberry Row Project. Unpublished report on file at the Jefferson Library, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville Virginia.
1791-1803 Account Book. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, New York, NY.
n.d. Plan for a nailery. N191. CSmH9380. The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
Kelso, William M.
1997 Archaeology at Monticello: Artifacts of Everyday Life in the Plantation Community. Monticello Monograph Series. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
McVey, Shannon L.
2011 A House But Not A Home? Measuring “Householdness” in the Daily Lives of Monticello’s “Nail Boys.” Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Neiman, Fraser D., Jillian E. Galle , and Derek Wheeler
2003 Chronological Inference and DAACS. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sanford, Douglas W.
1984 The Nailery Addition “j.” Manuscript on file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia. In "A Report on the Archaeological Excavations at Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1982-1983" by William M. Kelso, Douglas W. Sanford, Dinah Crader Johnson, Sondy Sanford, and Anna Gruber.