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Porcelain Door Knob

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Artifact Description

The assorted shipment of hardware aboard the SS Republic offers a rare glimpse of the flood of housing materials and other essentials packed into the steamer's cargo holds for dispatch to New Orleans. Counted among the hardware recovered from the wreck site was a large shipment of white and brown porcelain door knobs, totaling nearly 300 pieces, many with their remaining metal shank in various stages of deterioration.

While the earliest hardware items were made abroad, by the mid-19th century numerous domestic manufacturers had introduced their products to the U.S. consumer. From various factories came a staggering range of goods in a mulitude of patterns, shapes and sizes. Items were made in large quantities to be catalogued identically and to sell quickly. Hardware merchants across the country now had busting depots stocked with all the necessities for constructing and maintaining the home and farm.

Similar porcelain doorknobs as those from the Republic have been excavated from other contemporary mid-19th century sites including the 1856 wreck of the Steamboat Arabia. The consignment aboard the Republic was presumably intended for a New Orleans hardware merchant hoping to rebuild a former trade or launch a new business. It is also possible these goods were bound for further trans-shipment up the Mississippi River to the towns and trading posts of the Western Frontier.


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