This is a copper gauge that is rectangle-shaped, at 18.04mm wide, 12mm high, and 45.5mm long. It weighs 15 grams (about .5 ounces). The gauge has a hinge, which connects a copper frame. The frame's square opening that is about 6.22mm long. There is a small round magnifying glass in the center, which has been cracked and dirtied.
Consider these questions when examining the denier.
- What do you think this was used for? How big was the object?
- Who might have used it? Why was it used?
- Why was this tool important?
- Does the denier look like anything you use today?
- This is technically an archeological artifact. What might that mean, and where do you think it was located before it was found?
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The denier gauge is a material remnant of both Martha Washington and the plantations’ free and enslaved weavers. One of Martha’s daily activities was to oversee the weavers and inspect the products of the looms. The plantation as a self-sufficient operation would not have been possible without a large workforce, composed mainly of enslaved workers.
At the beginning of George Washington’s ownership of Mount Vernon, he oversaw approximately 30 African Americans, a community whose numbers would increase to over 300 at the time of his death in 1799. These enslaved individuals worked for the profit of their owners, plowing the fields, forging iron, cooking meals, and sewing or weaving the cloth – the quality of which was measured and checked by Martha Washington using the denier gauge.