This coarse earthenware milk pan, a shallow, straight-sided dish, sometimes with a spout and a rolled, everted, or reinforced rim, was used for cooling milk and separating cream. The black lead glaze and mixed yellow and red clay body are characteristic of Buckley, produced in western England. After the cow was milked into a bucket, the milk was brought back to the dairy and poured into a milk pan like this and left for a day or two to cool, allowing the milk to settle and the cream to rise. The cream was then skimmed off the top and served on the table or worked into butter or cheese. Milk pans were made of stoneware, lead-glazed earthenware, and tin, and sold in different sizes. The capacity of this milk pan was in the smaller range.

Though not visible on the landscape today, Mount Vernon once had a dairy located just west of the Mansion and close to the midden. This building was demolished in 1775 to make room for the new kitchen and expanded Mansion, possibly explaining why this milk pan was thrown away in Phase 2 of the midden (ca. 1759-1775). We know very little about this outbuilding. Clues come from archaeological digs done in the 1930s by Morley Williams, a landscape architect who studied Mount Vernon’s layout and evolution and exposed portions of the foundations of the pre-1775 outbuildings that stood on the Mansion’s west front. Lawrence Washington’s 1753 probate inventory mentioned those buildings by name. In the colonial period, dairies served as structures that housed, cooled, and protected the milk collected from cows. Primarily women, both enslaved and free, operated dairies, contributing towards a successful plantation.

On exhibit. Interior rim diameter approximately 350 used for capacity. Capacity: 9.92 imperial pints.

Object Type

Where Was It Found?

Project Site: South Grove    [more details]


Coarse Earthenware



Manufacturing Technology

Wheel Thrown


Milk Pan


Base, Body, Rim

Decorative Technology




Country of Origin



115mm x 95mm x 235mm (W x H x L)

  • Rim Dimeter: 380mm
  • Base Dimeter: 180mm
  • Height Rim to Base: 95mm

  • Illustration shows object in comparison to the size of a quarter


    532.1 gram(s)


    9.92 ml

    Object Number

    2644 BUCK v.39

    DAACS Number


    Project: South Grove

    "Beginning in the summer of 1990, a multi-year investigation of the area known as the South Grove, situated just south of the Mansion and the associated kitchen, was initiated. The site was selected as the result of numerous 18th-century artifacts being found there over the years, combined with its high potential for yielding surface-deposited domestic refuse associated with the Washington household. In addition to providing information relating to the daily lives of the Washington Family, analysis of refuse associated with the plantation household would allow direct comparison with the material culture associated with African-American slaves excavated at the “House for Families” quarter.

    An extensive sheet midden was partially revealed and tested in 1990, with two much larger portions exposed in 1991 and 1992. The midden was at least 30 feet in diameter and in excess of 1.5 feet in depth at its center. Excavations yielded enormous quantities of faunal remains, ceramics, wine bottle glass—including three different bottle seals—table glass, tobacco pipes, and a wide range of personal and household objects. Based on the materials recovered to date, the midden appears to have been deposited just prior to the American Revolution.

    In addition to the midden, several subterranean brick drains also were revealed. Two of the drains apparently connect with the Mansion basement and with the kitchen larder, and date to a period of Construction and major renovation carried out in the 1770s. A third drain may be associated with the earlier kitchen, built before 1752 and demolished in 1775.

    See All Objects From this Dig


    Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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