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Lediard's Morning Call Bitters Bottle

Close in quantity to the glass medicine bottles recovered from the SS Republic are inkstands and master ink bottles totaling nearly 2,500 containers (29.0% of the total). The preponderance of bottles, numbering over 1,300, are plain and sturdy British-made stoneware pots mass-produced for the American market. These small ink pots, attributed to any number of Staffordshire, England potteries, were at one time filled with writing fluid and sealed with a cork stopper. While most of these stoneware examples were recovered in pristine condition, others bear evidence of their extended life on the ocean floor. Adhered to the pots featured here is a concreted mass of seabed sediments, minerals and organic matter, including perhaps the remains of the wooden crate in which the inkpots were packed for shipment to New Orleans.

The abundance of ink containers shipped aboard the Republic in the months following the close of the Civil War evokes both curiosity and speculation as to their purpose and use. Developments in New Orleans point to some plausible explanations. It has been suggested that the ink shipped to New Orleans, in tandem with the arrival of Yankee investors seeking economic opportunities, would have been essential for drawing up legal contracts conveying the purchase and transfer of cheap land and other commodities. More broadly, ink was the lifeblood of government, business, education and daily life. A very large military establishment that consumed paper and ink like a furnace was based in New Orleans. Conceivably, the writing containers were intended for use in New Orleans’ schools: public, private and parochial alike. In 1863, General Nathanial Banks also authorized the establishment of black schools, which were partly supported by organizations such as the National Freedman’s Relief Association that invested thousands of dollars on books, clothing and supplies from1865-66. Finally, the city of New Orleans of course was also a port from which commodities were trans-shipped to further destinations.

Ink Pot Concretion

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