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.

History

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).

Archaeological Investigations

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.

References

DeLeonardis, Lisa

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.

Ward, Henry

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)

References

  • Ward, Henry
  • 2015. Baltimore Rd Line Light Rail Project. Stage 1 - Phase IB Archeology Interim Report, City of Baltimore and Baltimore County, Maryland Department of Transportation
  • DeLeonardis, Lisa
  • 1994. The Lakewood drain project: an archeological 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 Number 46
  • 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

About the MAC Lab

The MAC Lab
Visiting the MAC Lab

Contact Us