In the 1720s, Le Page du Pratz visited a Natchez village near New Orleans and observed men playing games with a disc-shaped stone. In one game, a man rolled a stone across the ground. When the stone came to rest, other men wagered on who could cast a spear closest to the stone. Du Pratz published his account of the game and other aspects of Natchez life in a book titled The History of Louisiana.
Like the detailed Staffordshire transfer print plates used for dining, residents on the Illinois frontier also imported other goods from Europe, including toys. This porcelain doll head, along with other pieces, was recovered from a cistern at the Huggins Farmstead Site in Perry County.
This plate fragment came from the home site of Alexander Clark, an African American blacksmith living in New Philadelphia, Illinois, in the mid-1800s. It shows a portion of a bridge and person bridling a horse, an image that can also be found near the center of a transfer print plate with the image “Rural Scenery.”
Well before Illinois became a state, Native American tribes (the Sac and Fox) living in the area mined galena ore (lead sulfide), the source of lead. Pioneer settlers also exploited the area’s lead resources, eventually displacing the Native Americans who first mined here. In the 1820s, galena ore became the focus of the first major “mineral rush” in the United States. By the end of the 1820s, the city of Galena rivaled Chicago in size.
These fragments were discovered during an investigation of a well that had been filled in at the Williams Fort site in southeastern Illinois. The site was the location of a farmstead occupied by the family of Aaron and Tabitha Williams from about 1811-1838. To defend against the possibility of attack by Native Americans during the War of 1812, a stockade was constructed. A tavern was operated at the site in the years following the war.
Immigrating to a new land brought with it plenty of uncertainty. That may be why a German immigrant family brought items with them that reminded them of home. This transfer print plate, made in the style of Staffordshire, England potters, was actually made by Villeroy & Boch, a German pottery firm.
To understand the significance of the invention of pottery, consider the modern Sunday barbecue where one might hear the sizzle of grease from the hamburger as it drips through the grill and into the fire. But for Native people, the fat going up in smoke represented the loss of crucial calories. Hunters spent hours of physical exertion stalking, killing, butchering, and transporting their game home. Meats and other foods were then cooked by placing the pot in a fire with no loss of those hard-won calories.
This carbonized, woven fabric was recovered in 1974 during archaeological excavations at the Newbridge site in Greene County, Illinois, by Northwestern University. Perhaps part of a fringed skirt, the fabric is approximately 1150 to 1450 years old, dating from the early portion of the Late Woodland period.
As European and Native American cultures mingled, new technologies blended with tradition to create new uses for everyday objects. The brass tomahawk pipe became a popular accessory, as it was useful in the field as a tool or as a weapon of war. During ceremonies, it was used as a pipe to smoke with friends or to cement agreements. Tobacco would be added to the metal bowl (opposite the blade) and smoked through the hardwood handle. Many similar tomahawks were manufactured by Europeans, cast of metals like brass or hammered out of old rifle barrels.