- Meet George Washington
- Visit His Estate
- Support His Vision
- Educational Resources
The archaeological excavations at the Blacksmith Shop site uncovered a wide variety of artifacts. Many of these are domestic items, such as ceramics, glass, and colonoware, thought to be associated with the use of the Shop as quarters for the various smiths, including perhaps Nat and George, two enslaved blacksmith’s whom George Washington frequently discussed in his writings. The greatest volume of artifacts relates directly to the smithing operations, however, and they provide additional insight into the activities of the workmen.
The most abundant artifact types were waste products such as slag and cinders, along with a variety of discarded iron objects. Included among the iron are fragments of blacksmithing and other tools, trim and scrap by-products from iron working, agricultural implements, domestic objects such as kettle and padlock fragments, hardware, horse shoes, horse shoe nails, and gun parts. The smithing tools include several files, two steel hammer face fragments, and chisels.
Several objects that either are unfinished or exhibit traces of reuse or salvage provide tangible evidence for some of the smiths’ more specialized activities. For example, three unfinished gun parts – a trigger and two breech plugs – complement the documentary evidence indicating that the smiths repaired firearms, while several fragments of plows testify to their repair and reuse. Two fragments of “colter feet” that would have been fitted to bar share plows, one of the most popular types of plows in use during the 18th century, suggest that the pieces in question were cannibalized with some of the metal reused for other applications. The horse shoes and other horse equipage illustrate the farriering aspects of the smith's work.
While relatively little copper alloy material was recovered, a brass door lock with several pieces clearly having been snipped off points to its providing material for use in making repairs, such as mending holes in copper pots. A brass leather ornament in the shape of a griffin’s head, part of the Washington family crest, was found at the site in the 1930s. This is the model for the harness ornaments hanging today in the stable. Items such as the pot leg help further identify the Shop’s functions, knowing that it supplied domestic materials for the Mansion.