Thursday, 23 March 2017

Archaeology. Tin Cups & A Wire Bail.

Some time ago I wrote an article about some tin cup fragments that had been found without handles, and that also a wire bail was found with these same fragments (http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/early-to-mid-18th-century-tin-cups.html). Based on this information I made myself a tin cup with a wire handle, but I was never sure whether the wire bail was like a bail on a kettle, or whether it meant a wire handle. Anyway I have since then used my cup in the field, and as I was trying to lighten my pack, I decided to try and use the tin cup with the leather wrapped wire handle for cooking as well as drinking. This did not work. Firstly it was difficult to heat water in the cup without burning the leather on the handle, secondly I found it inconvenient to only have the one vessel. I could not drink and eat at the same time.

Having given this problem further thought I decided to make a second cup with a wire bail, but this time I would make a wire bail such as found on kettles, so I could hang my tin cup over the fire. Given the primary evidence of the two cups found and the presence of the wire bail, this seems to me to be a reasonable thing to do. I used an old spare ball mould as a pair of pliers and constructed the bail without punching holes in the tin.

Original tin cups shown as found. Taken from the PDF.

1 ¼ pounds of iron and brass wire, both thick and thin.
Ft Pontchartrain 1747.

Examples of gold and silver jewellery dating back to early Egyptian times exist which incorporated hand woven wire meshes, but the earliest evidence of the development of wire weaving on looms for industrial purposes appears to be in the early part of the 18th Century. Wire drawing had existed prior to this for many hundreds of years on a simple scale. Iron ingots were beaten to a flat sheet which was then cut into strips, hammered round, and pulled through a stone die and many products were made from hand wrought wire.
Twisted wire forks have been unearthed at several 18th-century military camp sites.1 These may have been available through the army sutlers, but more than likely were fashioned out of scraps of wire by the soldiers themselves. 
The east well at Bloomsbury yielded two moderately well preserved tin cups and some flattened tin. A wire bail handle (Figure 94, page 239) appeared to belong with the tinware. As the pieces of tin were sorted, it became apparent that the flattened tin included a damaged bottom and part of a side of a tapered vessel. The cups and fragments were taken to Richard Haddick, a historical tinsmith in Wyoming, Delaware, for interpretation and replication. Haddick concluded that there were three fully reproduceable vessels: two cups and a basin. As nearly as possible, the construction methods of the eighteenth-century originals were duplicated, using hot-dipped tinplate of the type that was available to the original maker.

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