The American Can Company(18BC56)/1952 Shipping Warehouse(18BC159)
An intensive archaeological investigation was undertaken by the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology at
one portion of the American Can Company (18BC56). This work was done to assess cultural resources in the
vicinity of the Harford Run Storm drain, where it crossed the can company property.
The American Can Company located in the Canton area of Baltimore occupied 9.3 acres of land. The earliest
structures associated with the manufactory were built around 1895 by the Norton Tin Can and Plate
Company (Ward et al. 2103:105). By the turn of the century, the company was the largest manufacturer of
tin cans in the country. In 1901, it became the American Can Company. The company closed in the 1980s
after a merger with the National Can Company.
Harris Creek ran through this area and was infilled largely between 1850 and 1890 by the Canton
Company (DeLeonardis 1994:4). The remaining creek flow was funneled by the Harford Run storm
drain. Built circa 1888. It is believed that the Sterrett Shipyard (shown on the Folie Map of 1792) was
located at the mouth of Harris Creek. This 18t- century shipyard was where the USS Constellation was
built in 1797 (Ward et al. 2013:104).
The American Can Company site was discovered by the BCUA during monitoring of utilities excavation in
1987 (Ward 2015). It appears that notes or records or description of this work was found and it is unknown
whether any intact features or strata were present.
Five trenches were excavated by backhoe during the 1994 excavation. Three circa 1952 features associated
with the American Can Company Shipping Warehouse (18BC159) were discovered, as was a portion of the
circa 1888 Dillon Street lateral storm drain. Other findings included disturbed landfill soils indicative
of the former shoreline of Harris Creek. These soils were interpreted as having been brought to the
area in the late 19th century for the purpose of creating dry land along Harris Creek (and
eradicating Harris Creek in the process). This filling process began with a layer of oyster shell around
1880, prior to the construction of the Harford Run drain. Other fill layers followed the construction of
the drain. Layer F was a mixture of domestic and industrial debris—including slag that possibly derived
from Abbott's Iron Works. The intact bottles and vessels of domestic debris may have come from household
privies, although there was no evidence of the organic soils typical of night soil (DeLeonardis 1994:31).
The City Engineer in 1888 referenced the use of fill from cellar excavation of nearby residences and
refuse from Abbott's Iron Rolling Mill.
All of the fill layers appeared to have been disturbed by construction related activities in the
mid-20th century. Almost 31,000 artifacts were recovered during this excavation and represented both
industrial (65.7%) and domestic debris (15.5%) from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Metal
and glass slag, associated with smelting activities, made up 75% of the industrial artifacts.
No traces of the Sterrett Shipyard were discovered in this archaeological investigation.
1994The Lakewood Drain Project: An Archaeological Investigation of Cultural Resources Associated with the
Harford Run Drain at the American Can Company (18BC56), Canton, Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore Center
for Urban Archaeology Research Series Report Number 46. On file at MHT.
2015 Baltimore Rd Line Light Rail Project. Stage 1- Phase 1B Archeology Interim Report, City of Baltimore and
Baltimore County, Maryland. Department of Transportation.
Ward, H. Henry, Scott A. Emory, Esther D. Read and Robert Wanner
2013 Stage 1 Phase 1B Archeology Technical Report, Red Line Light Rail Transit Project, City of Baltimore
and Baltimore County, Maryland. Report submitted by Baltimore Red Line GEC. On file at MHT, Crownsville.
(Written by Patricia Samford)