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Bird bottle

ca. 1735
Origin: America, Virginia, Yorktown
Height: 8 12/16” Diameter of base: 3 13/16” Diameter of mouth: 3 3/16” Diameter at belly: 4” Perch length: 1 ¼” Perch width: 1 3/16”
Earthenware, lead-glazed
Archaeological Collection, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Acc. No. T067-2013,9
Bird bottle excavated at the James Geddy House site, Williamsburg, Virginia, 3539.E.R.987D, 1329-A–19.B
Label:“Martin-pots” were mounted on buildings to encourage nesting by purple martins, valued for their voracious consumption of mosquitos. This example was made at the William Rogers Pottery, established in Yorktown, Virginia, about 1720. At Rogers’s death in 1739 a list of his wares included “4 doz bird bottles.”

The entrepreneurial Rogers was a brewer by trade. He owned the Rogers Pottery, but employed others to make its earthenware and stoneware vessels. The business was unusually large for its time and place, and records suggest that it exported wares to other colonies and perhaps even the West Indies. Contemporary British law discouraged large scale colonial manufacturing, but Virginia officials downplayed the size of Rogers’s operation in official reports.