Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution
A Tale of Two Taverns and the Growth of Philadelphia
Publication: Dec 18
5 x 8
55 color photos, 2 figs., 8 halftones, 6 maps
Using archaeological finds to tell the story of the growth of Philadelphia in microcosmRead an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).
When the Museum of the American Revolution acquired the land at Third and Chestnut streets in Olde City, Philadelphia, it came with the condition that an archaeological investigation be conducted. The excavation that began in the summer of 2014 yielded treasures in the trash: unearthed privy pits provided remarkable finds from a mid-eighteenth-century tavern to relics from a button factory dating to the early twentieth century. These artifacts are described and analyzed by urban archaeologist Rebecca Yamin in Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution.
Yamin, lead archaeologist on the dig, catalogues items—including earthenware plates and jugs, wig curlers, clay pipes, and liquor bottles—to tell the stories of their owners and their roles in Philadelphia history. As she uncovers the history of the people as well as their houses, taverns, and buildings that were once on the site, she explains that by looking at these remains, we see the story of the growth of Philadelphia from its colonial beginnings to the Second World War.
Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution is a perfect keepsake for armchair archaeologists, introductory students, and history buffs.
"Rebecca Yamin’s account of this excavation and its material findings is an accessible and richly illustrated guide to what urban archaeology can tell readers about the history of one of America’s great cities.... By blending meticulous archaeological analysis with dogged archival research, Yamin offers a micro-historical study of this one city block that adds to our understanding of Philadelphia’s social and economic history at the time of the American Revolution. But this book also extends far beyond that one time period."
“Rebecca Yamin weaves a fascinating story of an evolving American urban community from the forgotten fragments of a quarter city block that survived under a 20th-century building. The engaging narrative of Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution serves as a call to action to include archeological investigation and reporting within the planning process of all American cities. ”
—Dr. Pamela J. Cressey, City Archaeologist, Alexandria VA, 1977-2012
“With Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution, Rebecca Yamin has created for us an eloquent narrative illuminating the hidden past of a largely forgotten Philadelphia. Skillfully meshing the historic sources with the shattered remnants of pottery, bone, and metal, she has recovered a previously unknown history to tell a story of largely ordinary people. It is, in fact, a microcosm of a larger story, the epic of America! Since all history is local, Yamin makes it larger by her brilliant inferences of what occurred on this site over time. The discarded trash and soil presents a tale of urban survival and persistence—and all of us are better for it.”
—David Gerald Orr, Fellow, American Academy in Rome
"The author describes how the (archaeological) dig proceeded, and the book shows much of the artifacts that have been gathered.... This book is a worthwhile reference work for libraries." — Pennsylvania Magazine
"Philadelphia's rich archaeological heritage has benefited from urban archaeologist Rebecca Yamin's passion for telling the stories of the colonists in one of America's earliest cities.... This beautifully illustrated publication is an example of how archaeology can enrich the interpretation of the past and heighten interest in community." — Pennsylvania Heritage
"This small book is full of fascinating history as told through the artifacts discovered in the archaeological dig on the site of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia in 2014.... With color photos, clear storytelling, and a bit of imagination (there are a couple of vignettes written from the imaginary perspective of the person represented by the artifacts), (Yamin) unfolds the stories of early residents of the area."
— Maine Antiques Digest
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Foreword by R. Scott Stephenson
1. Urban Archaeology and the Museum of the American Revolution Site
2. Early Residents and What They Left Behind
3. Arguing the Revolution—A Chestnut Street Tavern in the 1760s
4. Mrs. Humphreys’s Unlicensed Tavern on Carter’s Alley, 1776–1783
5. Dr. Jayne’s Skyscraper and the Transformation of the Neighborhood
6. Evidence of Industry—Printing and Manufacturing Buttons
7. People from Philadelphia’s Past and the Making of a Museum