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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 10

Glassware Excavated at Fort Gaspereau, New Brunswick

by Jane E. Harris

Artifacts from the French Occupation

The French period (1751-55) is quite well represented by olive green wine bottles, square-sectioned blue-green bottles, wide-mouthed blue-green bottles, and small non-lead glass tumblers.

Wine Bottles

A minimum of six wine bottles is represented by 37 fragments of glass from the areas of the northeast, northwest and southwest bastions, the commandant's quarters, the magasin des vivres and the proposed barracks. The largest concentration of artifacts was found in the southwest bastion.

The most complete wine bottle is olive green (7.5Y), seed bubbled, and has a heavy brownish patina that has flaked off in several places exposing a grainy surface (Fig. 3). The finish is plain, consisting of a cracked-off slightly fire-smoothed lip 32 mm. in diameter and 6 mm. to 8 mm. above an untooled, rounded string rim which is 39 mm. in diameter and 5 mm. to 11 mm. high. The body, present only to a height of 75 mm., is circular in cross-section and has the characteristically French "flower-pot" shape mentioned by NoŽl Hume (1961:110). The heel is smooth and rounded, forming a base diameter of approximately 110 mm. The push-up, a symmetrical, rounded cone approximately 40 mm. high, has a ragged pontil mark 33 mm. in diameter, which may have been formed by using the glass left on the blowpipe (moil) as a pontil or a glass-tipped pontil rod.

3 Neck and base fragment of a French wine bottle (1E1T3-8).

All that remains of a second bottle is the push-up (Fig. 4). The glass is similar to that of the previous bottle, having the same type of patina and colour. The push-up has a rounded cone shape, is 38 mm. high and has a base diameter of almost 100 mm. Empontiling was most likely done with a glass-tipped pontil rod which left a scar 30 mm. in diameter.

4 French wine bottle base fragment (1E3S1-8).

A third and fourth bottle are represented by two neck-finish fragments. One fragment (Fig. 5) is olive green (10Y) with a grainy textured surface; the other, also olive green (7.5Y) has a flakey brown patina. Each has a cracked-off and fire-smoothed lip 30 mm. in diameter with an approximate height of 4 mm. to 6 mm.

5 French wine bottle neck fragment (1E4D1-2).

A fifth and sixth bottle are represented by two neck fragments, each of which is olive green (7.5Y) with a flakey brown patina. The necks taper toward the finish and join the shoulder in a wide curve. One fragment has long vertical striations which twist to the right as they rise.

Bottles of this type are common to French colonial sites such as the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia (Marwitt 1966) and the Roma site in Prince Edward Island. Their distinctive body shape places them in the middle of the 18th century (Barrelet 1953: 102; NoŽl Hume 1970: 71); however they were probably being manufactured earlier in the century as J. B. Chardin, in his painting La Pourvoyeuse (1738) (National Gallery of Canada) depicts two dark glass bottles of similar form. They are documented by Diderot and d'Alembert (1772: 8-9) as being the type of bottle produced from a coal-fired furnace. Burning coal in place of wood in the melting furnace was an English innovation of the early 1600s when the scarcity of wood in England prompted a royal decree prohibiting its use (Thorpe 1969: 66). The French, however, did not begin to use coal until the early 1700s when wine merchants found that the heavier, stronger and darker glass produced in a coal-fired furnace was more suitable for transporting wine (Scoville 1968: 41).

Square Blue-Green Bottles

At least four tall square-sectioned bottles are represented by 24 fragments of heavily seed-bubbled blue-green glass found in the excavated areas of the northeast and southwest bastions, the commandant's quarters, the proposed British officers' quarters, the south palisade and ditch trench and the proposed barracks. The heaviest concentration of these artifacts occurred in the southwest bastion in many of the same excavation units in which French wine bottle fragments were found.

Only two base fragments were recovered. The most complete one (Fig. 6, b) measures 70 mm. by 70 mm. at its base and presents a concave basal profile 10 mm. high. The pontil mark is a roughened circular depression at the centre of the basal surface 30 mm. in diameter. The glass (2.5BG) is heavily pitted, possibly from being burned. The second base fragment is the same in form and size as the first, varying slightly in colour (7.5BG). Roughness at the centre of the basal area could indicate a sand or glass-tipped pontil mark (Jones 1971: 69).

6 Square blue-green bottle fragments, a an almost complete neck, b base fragment (1E1W2-9, 1E3C6-4).

Only one of the body fragments presents a complete bottle width: 72 mm. None of the other fragments exceed this width.

The only neck fragment found is cylindrical with a cracked-off and fire-polished lip 20 mm. in diameter (Fig. 6, a). The neck is present to a height of 25 mm. and seems to narrow slightly toward the shoulder. The glass (10G) has a whitish bloom.

A French context of the mid-18th century seems quite likely when dating this bottle shape as these bottles have turned up in abundance at other French colonial sites such as the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia (Dunton: pers. comm.) and in specifically French areas of Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan (Brown 1971: 108). Little seems to be known about their use; however, Margaret Brown feels they may be liquor bottles due to their size and numbers. Their horizontal shoulder and narrow neck would certainly suggest they held a liquid of low viscosity such as liquor.

Wide-Mouthed Blue-Green Bottles

A minimum of 15 wide-mouthed bottles is represented by 126 fragments of blue-green glass making these the most common bottles found at Fort Gaspereau. The fragments vary in colour from 7.5BG to 2.5G, are densely bubbled and lightly patinated. They were found in almost all excavated areas within the fort but mainly in the southwest bastion and the commandant's quarters. Fewer fragments were found in the northeast and northwest bastions, the proposed barracks, the magasin des vivres, the proposed British officers' quarters and the south palisade and ditch trenches.

This bottle form is characterized by a particularly wide, tapering neck with a thick, fire-smoothed lip that may have been cracked off or sheared. A very short, rounded shoulder joins the neck to a cylindrical, possibly tapered body. The absence of mould lines indicates the bottle has been mouthblown in a dip mould.

When measuring the neck fragments it was found that the lip diameters fell into two distinct sizes: 42 mm. to 52 mm. and 70 mm. to 80 mm., indicating two possible bottle sizes. Neck heights could not be associated with the diameters, for only one neck with a complete height was found. The most complete neck (Fig. 7) falls into the first category, having a diameter of 48 mm. at the lip and tapering down to approximately 38 mm. at the shoulder. Its height is 63 mm. Horizontal grooves mark the lower portion of the neck while seed bubbles in the upper portion have a horizontal orientation, a result of tooling the reheated neck after it was cracked off or sheared. Where the glass was hottest (at the lip) no marks were left, but where it was slightly cooler (at the base), grooves remain.

7 Neck of a wide-mouthed blue-green bottle (1E3M3-5).

Neck fragments outnumbered possible base fragments by approximately nine to one. Only three base fragments were found. One base (Fig. 8), is of thin blue-green (5BG) bubbled glass. It is 55 mm. in diameter and presents a dome-shaped push-up profile 11 mm. high with a glass-tipped pontil mark 23 mm. in diameter at the tip. The body, present only to a height of 12 mm., appears to be cylindrical.

8 Blue-green base fragment (1E2P2-5).

The second base is represented by a small curved fragment of blue-green (2.5BG) glass. The push-up has a dome-shaped profile, more rounded than the previous one, and an extant height of 11 mm. Only the edge of a pontil mark is present. The basal diameter is approximately 45 mm.

The third base (Fig 9), appears to belong to the larger sized bottles. The glass (7.5BG) is in very good condition, thick and densely bubbled. Its base diameter is approximately 72 mm. The push-up, formed prior to empontiling, is conical and 43 mm. high, bearing a glass-tipped pontil mark 25 mm. in diameter.

9 Blue-green base. Note that push-up was formed prior to empontiling as pontil mark occurs two-thirds of the way up the push-up (1E1A4-1).

Once again, the function of these bottles is uncertain but their wide mouth would suggest that they were used for packing solid or semi-solid items. In a French memorandum of 1773, olives, capers and anchovies are mentioned as being packed in bottles for shipment from Marseilles to the colonies in America (Scoville 1968: 111).

The presence of similar bottles on other sites such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, the Roma site and Fort Michilimackinac (Brown: pers. comm.) where five different sizes were recorded, should be noted as all of these sites were occupied by the French before 1760.

The colour and quality of the blue-green glass are also important features which are an aid in determining the origin of these bottles. In 18th-century France there were two bottle-making traditions as outlined by Scoville (1968: 11, 43). One, already described, concerned the manufacture of wine and liquor bottles exclusively, made from a heavy, dark glass produced in coal-fired furnaces.

As open pots were used, fumes from the coal darkened the glass. The higher temperature produced by coal allowed for less flux and more sand to be added to a batch, resulting in stronger glass (Scoville 1968: 41).

The second and older tradition involved a wood-fired furnace from which articles of "common green" glass were made. Fumes from the wood smoke did not effect the colour of the glass so drastically. A number of different bottle types and containers were made in this glass (Scoville 1968: 111-12), possible examples being the two types mentioned from Fort Gaspereau. All of the blue-green glass examples found at Fort Gaspereau seem to be consistent in colour and quality (heavily seed-bubbled) with those from the other sites mentioned. This leads to the supposition that this glass is the "common green" glass referred to by Scoville as being the type produced in wood-fired furnaces in 18th-century France.


A minimum of 12 and possibly as many as 20 small pattern-moulded tumblers is represented by 28 fragments of clear non-lead glass from the excavated areas of the commandant's quarters, the southwest bastion and an area of the proposed barracks adjacent to the commandant's quarters. All, with the exception of four or five tumblers which will be discussed separately, have a simple pattern-moulded design of narrow vertical ribs.

Pattern moulding was a technique widely used throughout Europe in the first half of the 18th century (Haynes 1959: 130). A pattern mould was a part-sized dip mould with an incised design, most commonly ribs, panels or diamonds. The gather of glass was forced down into the mould, removed and expanded without the restriction of the mould. This technique resulted in a characteristically diffuse pattern that was present on the exterior of the vessel and, to a lesser degree, on the interior also.

In spite of the basic similarity, minor variations in the design do occur with in the group. Rib spacing varies from tumbler to tumbler, and on two of six tumbler bases the design continues onto the basal surface. In each case the base has been empontiled with a small glass-tipped pontil leaving a scar no larger than 20 mm. in diameter. One tumbler has had the pontil mark ground off. Base diameters are consistent at approximately 48 mm. with the exception of one base, which is only 42 mm. in diameter. The bodies tend to widen as they rise. The most complete tumbler has an extant height of 57 mm., and at this point the ribs have become fainter and further apart.

The glass in all of the tumblers has decomposed to some extent, the most common form of decomposition being crizzling accompanied by a colour change from clear to a pinkish orange (2.5YR). Present to a lesser degree are fragments with a pale purple tint.

The manufacturing method, as described above, and the characteristics of the quality of the glass strongly suggest that these tumblers are all of mid-18th-century French manufacture. No lead glass was produced in France until the 1780s (Scoville 1968: 44) and the clear glass that was produced before this time was often characterized by a pinkish tint and crizzling indicating lack of "quality control" (Charleston 1952: 18-19). The presence of manganese, sometimes used as a decolourizer by the French, would account for the pale purple tint observed in some of the fragments (Scoville 1968: 38). The presence of manganese in clear glass can be readily observed because prolonged exposure to sunlight causes the glass to take on a purple tint (Toulouse 1969a: 434).

The one ground pontil mark appears at first glance to be an intrusive feature since it is generally thought that pontil marks were not ground until at least the late 1700s (Thorpe 1969: 39). However, there are several tumblers from the Roma site that have ground and polished pontil marks and that relate to a French archaeological context from 1732-45.

One tumbler represented by a pale gray, slightly crizzled base shown in Figure 10 varies significantly from the above. Its difference lies in its method of manufacture. After being removed from the pattern mould the gather was placed in a plain dip mould and expanded. This caused the pattern to be transferred to the interior of the vessel. This process, called the "optical effect," is described and illustrated by Larsen, Riismoller and Schulter (1963: 398) and is a technique that has been in use since Roman times. The pattern in this case consists of very faint panels on the interior surface which have an approximate width of 10 mm. It appears as though the second mould did not have a base, for the pattern is still present on the exterior basal surface of the tumbler (Fig. 10,b). Here it takes the form of radiating impressions which divide the base into 16 segments. There should also be 16 panels on the interior of the body but the panels are too faint to be counted. The base of this tumbler is 49 mm. in diameter and bears a glass-tipped pontil mark 22 mm. in diameter with a push up height of 8 mm.

10 Pattern-moulded tumbler, a face view and profile, b basal view illustrating pontil mark and moulded patterns (1E2C2-3).

Two tumblers from Fort Beausejour, New Brunswick exhibiting the same manufacturing process, are crizzled and have the same base diameter as the above tumbler; however, these do have a pinkish orange tint. Both are from a French archaeological context with the same dating as Fort Gaspereau (McNally 1971: 31). It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the tumbler mentioned above is also of French origin and of a time period consistent with the French occupation of Fort Gaspereau. The colour differences are probably indicative of impure raw materials or content inconsistencies from batch to batch.

Another tumbler (Fig. 11) which differs from the first group is represented by four clear and unpatinated fragments. The lip, 74 mm. in diameter, has been fire-polished. Approximately 27 mm. below it is the top of a pattern-moulded design of alternating ribs and panels. Between the lip and the ribbing is a band of rather sketchy copper wheel engraving in a pattern identified by Hunter (1950: Figs. 114-17) as "Stiegel Type I." (H. W. Stiegel, an American of German descent, operated a glasshouse at Manheim, Pennsylvania from 1770 to 1774. He employed English and continental craftsmen and made glass in imitation of the prevailing English and continental styles [McKearin & McKearin 1948: 82-85].)

11 Part of a Stiegel-type tumbler, a face view and profile showing pattern-moulded rib and panel design, b face view of one fragment showing copper wheel engraved design between pattern-moulding and lip (1E2N1-8).

At least two more tumblers similar to the above are represented by three small fragments, each bearing part of an engraved design similar or identical to Stiegel Type I. This type of tumbler was popular well before Stiegel's time and is broadly labeled by McKearin & McKearin (1948: 49) as "cheaper Continental." An example of the popularity of the design is shown in fragments of this type that have been found at Fort Beausejour, New Brunswick (McNally 1971: 114) and Yuquot, British Columbia (Jones 1970: 6). It is representative of the strong German-Bohemian influence on continental glass, particularly French glass, in the first half of the 18th century (Scoville 1968: 113; Elville 1961: 100). Consequently, these tumblers may either have been manufactured in Germany or Bohemia as part of their export trade to France, or manufactured in France in imitation of the German and Bohemian styles.

The strongest argument against these tumblers being English exists in the fact that the tumblers have been made of non-lead glass. The English found lead glass to be a much preferred medium for engraving (Elville 1951: 153). Of the 24 excavation units containing tumbler fragments, 18 also contained French bottle fragments while only 5 had English bottle fragments, thus offering further proof that the tumblers do not relate to the English occupation of the fort.

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