Custis Wine Bottle Seal

Archaeologists excavating in the Mansion cellar discovered a complete wine bottle seal (pictured above, at top) stamped “IOHN CUSTIS 1713.” John Custis was the father of Daniel Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s first husband.

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Mount Vernon archaeologists have now excavated three 1713 seals, in addition to four seals stamped “I Custis.” The two different John Custis seals represent two separate purchases of wine bottles with seals.

These seals likely came from bottles brought to Mount Vernon by Martha after she married George Washington.

What is a Wine Bottle Seal?

A reproduction wine bottle with Augustine Washington’s seal alongside the wine bottle seals excavated on Mount Vernon property to date. (MVLA)

A reproduction wine bottle with Augustine Washington’s seal alongside the wine bottle seals excavated on Mount Vernon property to date. (MVLA)

A wine bottle seal is one of the very few artifact types that archaeologists can connect with specific people. They were created by adding a blob of glass to the shoulder or side of a wine bottle, then impressing it with a personalized stamp. These could be initials or coats of arms from individuals, tavernkeepers, or merchants and were used during the 17th and 18th centuries. Because of the extra glass needed for the seal and the custom-made stamp, bottles with seals were more expensive and served as a symbol of wealth.

This photo shows a reproduction wine bottle with Augustine Washington’s seal alongside the wine bottle seals excavated on Mount Vernon property to date. Our 19 seals come from George Washington’s neighbor John Posey; Martha Washington’s first husband, Daniel Parke Custis and his father, John Custis; George Washington’s father, Augustine Washington; the Fairfax family, and unidentified seals, including “HEE.”

Some are currently on display in the museum.

Mansion Revitalization Blog

Follow along as we post updates and discoveries from the landmark Mansion Revitalization Project.

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