We recently completed cataloging a large collection of artifacts excavated at the site of the Taylor House in Petersburg National Battlefield. The Taylor House was an 18th century dwelling that was destroyed by fire during the siege of Petersburg in 1864. The collection contains 18th, 19th, and 20th-century artifacts, including ceramic tablewares, window glass, nails, and bullets. One artifact that stood out as exceptional during cataloging was an anthropomorphic effigy pipe. A what? Anthropomorphic: ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, or, resembling or made to resemble a human form. Effigy pipe: a pipe bearing an image. Basically, an anthropomorphic effigy pipe is a pipe bearing a human image. Whose image? And why?
Anthropomorphic representations in material culture
Anthropomorphic representations have been common in material culture throughout history. A well-known example are Bellarmines, also called Bartmann bottles. These are German stoneware bottles decorated with sprig-molded faces. These bottles were fairly common in the 16th and 17th centuries. Especially early on, they depicted kind-looking old men with flowing beards.
Whereas Bellmarines depicted a fictional character, some effigy pipes were created to commemorate specific people or events, like campaign pipes bearing effigies of presidential candidates.
The pipe in the collection at Petersburg National Battlefield differed from the above examples. It portrays the face of a Native American. This pipe is reminiscent of those produced by the Moravian potters of North Carolina.
Moravian potters began manufacturing earthenwares in 1755. Gottfried Aust began this tradition in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and relocated to Bethabara, NC. The pottery operated in Salem, NC from 1771 to 1788, and other potters continued the Moravian tradition well into the 19th century.
The Moravians were well-known for their skilled technical and artistic craftsmanship. They produced mostly utilitarian wares like storage jars, but also created beautiful slip-decorated tablewares with elaborate floral designs.
The tobacco pipes like the one in the Taylor House collection were formed in molds. Most commonly – like the Taylor House pipe – they appear in the form of a Native American wearing a fluted headdress decorated with a feathery leaf motif in front. This motif was most likely inspired by the Moravians’ frequent interaction with the local native communities, including the Catawba and Cherokee groups. The relationship was friendly and the Moravians even helped the native groups improve their own pottery-making technique. On the other hand, the Native American motif may have been a marketing ploy, as some of the pipes were sold to the native groups.
Studies in Material Culture Research, Karlis Karkline, Ed., SHA, 2000.
A Moravian Clay Pipe from Grave Vine Town, Belmont County, Ohio. James L. Murphy. Ohio State University Libraries, Columbus, OH 43210
“Eighteenth –Century Earthenware from NC: the Moravian Tradition Reconsidered.” Luke Beckerdite and Johanna Brown.
“Tradition and Adaptation in Moravian Press-Molded Earthenware” Johanna Brown
“Salem Pottery after 1834: Heinrich Schaffner and Daniel Krause” Michael O. Hartley
“The Mount Shepherd Pottery Site, Randolph County, NC” Alain C. Outlaw
All from Ceramics in America, ed Robert Hunter and Luke Beckerdite. London, Chipstone Foundation, 2009.
Hume, Noel Ivor. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Philadelphia, PA: University of PA Press, 1969.