Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Second Advisor

Jonathan Chu

Third Advisor

Malcolm Smuts


Flowerpots are a class of artifact commonly found but seldom studied. The flowerpot may be considered a mundane and ordinary artifact, yet through an evaluation of the use of this cultural item, it is possible to study people and their changing relationship to the natural world. The sight of a potted plant as part of room decor at the start of the nineteenth century was rare, yet by the end of the century parlors were overrun with greenery. This paper examines this phenomenon from two perspectives. The first is cultural changes in flower use and presentation and the resultant increase in demand for flowerpots as reflected by information published in books, magazines, and newspapers. The second is the response of the potters in meeting this increasing demand as being primarily due to the invention of William Linton's patented pottery molding machine in 1861. The H. A. Hews Company of Weston and North Cambridge, Massachusetts made extensive use of this machine and increased production from 5000 flowerpots in 1861 to more than 700,000 in 1869. Results of archaeological investigations at one pottery and three domestic sites in eastern Massachusetts are included. Stephen Bradford (1771-1837), known for his production of flowerpots, was producing during the period of increasing demand but prior to the invention of the pottery molding machine. Guidelines on the identification of flowerpots and comparative vessel forms is included. Domestic sites include the Adams National Historic Site in Quincy where both John Adams (1735-1836) and John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) were born, the Boott Mills located in Lowell which was built as a planned industrial community between 1825 and 1839, and a houselot located in downtown Plymouth. Of particular interest to the question at hand is a single green glazed flowerpot with coggle wheel design recovered from the Bradford Pottery. Flowerpots of similar size and glaze were recovered from all three domestic sites presented. Associated dating indicate that they may have been produced by Bradford. This paper clearly demonstrates that the increasing demand and increasing production of flowerpots during the nineteenth century evidenced in the literature is supported by archaeological investigations. The culture of flowerpots extends beyond their use as a container to hold plants and their identification in the archaeological record to the information revealed about those who used them and their concerns on what constituted beauty and the appropriate use of this cultural item.