Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Second Advisor

David B. Landon

Third Advisor

Judith F. Zeitlin


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Boston’s North End became home to thousands of European immigrants, mostly from Ireland and Italy. The majority of these immigrant families lived in crowded tenement apartments and earned their wages from low-paying jobs such as manual laborers or store clerks. The Ebenezer Clough House at 21 Unity Street was originally built as a single-family colonial home in the early eighteenth century but was later repurposed as a tenement in the nineteenth century. In 2013, the City of Boston Archaeology Program excavated the rear lot of the Clough House, recovering 36,465 artifacts, including 4,298 ceramic sherds, across 14 site-wide contexts. One context, the main midden, has been interpreted as a multi-use household trash deposit dating from the 1870s to the 1910s, during which the tenement was home to a rotation of over 100 working-class families, most of them immigrants. This project couples ceramic analysis with in-depth archival research to illuminate the consumption strategies of Boston’s immigrant working class. I conclude that tenants primarily used decorated but mismatched and older ceramic ware types, valuing thrift and prioritizing family needs while consuming differently than their middle-class counterparts.