For those of you who guessed “wine bottle seal,” you are correct. This is an example of a wine bottle seal dating to 1772.
What is a wine bottle seal?
Wine bottle seals were used at least since c. 1650. When a bottle was still warm, a pad of glass was added to the front and stamped with a metal die. The die had information such as year, the owner’s name, the owner’s initials, and/or the owner’s locality.
Wine bottle seals were used to indicate ownership, the establishment to which the bottles belonged to/came from, or the contents of the bottles. Because of this, seals were used by private individuals, vintners, glass makers, and merchants of beer and wine.
Seals increased the cost of a bottle, and not everyone was able to afford this extra expense. Because of this, fragments of wine bottles with seals are less common archeologically than their unadorned counterparts.
Who was T. _ean?
Wine bottle seals are useful tools for dating an archeological context, but they can also add a human element to a site’s interpretation. And this seal is no exception. But who was T. _ean?
This seal was found at the Narbonne House Site in Salem, MA. In 1772, Joseph Hodges was living in the Narbonne House. Hodges was a wealthy merchant. Following Hodges, the Andrews’ occupied the house from 1780-1820. Andrews’ was also a merchant. It is possible the seal could have been deposited at the site during either man’s occupation, especially as they were both merchants.
A case for Capt. Thomas Dean, Jr.
In looking through the records of persons living in Salem during this period, we came across Captain Thomas Dean Jr. In a preliminary search, Captain Thomas Dean was a merchant from Salem. We cannot know for certain that he was the owner of the seal, but it is certainly possible. Being a merchant, he would have been more likely to be able to afford wine bottle seals. He also probably would have known Joseph Hodges and/or Jonathan Andrews. With further research, it may be possible to argue a stronger case.
Questions for additional research:
- Are there archival records showing that Dean had a relationship with Andrews or Hodges?
- Do we have known examples of his full seal?