Website: Swedish Cabin Archaeology

Stacked in a closet of an attic of an 18th century farmhouse in Upper Darby, PA, are 14 cardboard ‘bankers boxes’ of cleaned and cataloged artifacts from an archaeological dig of the floor of the 17th century, Swedish Cabin, that are known to a small group of local history aficionados. Two of these boxes held the only known paper record of the cataloging of 4,000 + items from this collection. The dig was conducted to find information about the earliest occupants of the cabin, to prove its 17th century origin. The artifacts that were unearthed never definitively answered this question, and one recommendation of the report was that further digs were not a high priority. The report was filed, the individual items were packaged, labeled, and stored, and largely forgotten. A question comes to mind:
The dig is done and analyzed, so why bother with this stuff?

The answer is straightforward:

Because the material is rich and the first conclusions drawn from it back in the early 1990’s are incomplete.

Further, scholarship about New Sweden and the site of the Swedish Cabin has developed since the artifacts were collected (social history ‘from below,’ and material culture studies), has opened new directions for interpreting these objects. The best way to encourage fresh study of this material is to make it more widely available to history students and the history curious through the use of digital tools.

The Swedish Cabin archaeological dig once had a digital component that, 30 years later, is inaccessible. Interestingly, one of the artifacts of this collection turned out to be the paper print outs of the digital component that was stored with the labeled bags of buttons, pot shards, and bones. Using digital tools, this digital component has being resurrected.

Although anyone could have manually re-created the data on paper as an Excel sheet, this was unlikely given the fact that there were 340+ pages of data pages, with 24 lines of dot matrix printed data on each page, and each line had 10 columns of information. The ability to scan printed pages of text and convert them into digital pages that can be read by a computer has been around for many years. However, it has only been within the past ten years (ABBYY Fine Reader, for example, released in 2009) that affordable software is now available that can read these printed pages of dot matrix text, and turn them into excel tables of data.

After finding a motivated individual willing to 1) discover the dot matrix/paper to digital process who had 2) also found time to convert the dot matrix printed paper data into clean digital data in Excel sheets, the data was ready to be re-imagined using digital tools. One example of this re-imagining is my website, titled “Swedish Cabin Archaeology,” at:

https://ljf7777.wixsite.com/swedishcabinarchaeo

Static Image of Swedish Cabin Archaeology Website, from April, 2017

The first thing the website does is visually reconnect the artifacts with the cabin. This helps viewers imagine the locations of the artifacts, and further imagine how the objects became embedded where they were found. Every artifact removed from the cabin floor was brought in there by a person, for a reason, over the past 350 years. The items were also discarded or lost by these people because of additional reasons. Being able to see the artifacts (right now as objects still in their original collection bags – as this needs to be correctly managed to preserve the collection) literally embedded as images within a larger image of a cabin interior or exterior, provides opportunities for comparison (colors, textures, materials) that can lead to inferences about the people who once handled these objects.

Images of artifacts embedded in an image of the site.

The second thing the website does is publicize the existence of the data, in an analyzable form. A series of bar and bubble charts, linked to the site map of the cabin dig, demonstrates some possibilities for the analysis and presentation of the data.

Bubble Charts of data about artifacts

Bar Charts of data about artifacts.

This data could be made available to the public – either online or available when visiting their physical archives — but only with the permission of the board of the Friends of the Swedish Cabin (https://swedishcabin.info/), who help maintain the Swedish Cabin in concert with the Upper Darby Historical Society (who store the artifacts at Collen Brook Farm: http://udhistory.com/), and Upper Darby Township.

In the near future, the digital data will be converted into a comprehensive set of bar and bubble charts that will completely show where items are found around the cabin floor, and at depth. Further analysis would entail looking at individual artifacts from specific depths. As individual items are re-packaged, they can be imaged and added to the website to publicize their existence, and significance to history students and the history curious. Further analysis combined with archival research can be combined to reveal the history of people who brought individual items into the space, through interpreting the past use of these things and how they came to be there.

Laurie Fitzpatrick, April 2017

The Swedish Cabin on Wikipedia — babysteps

I chose to update one sentence on the Wikipedia page for the Lower Swedish Cabin. In the coming months, I plan to make many more changes to this resource:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Swedish_Cabin

I have known of this Lower Swedish Cabin Wikipedia page for a few years, and always thought it was lacking. It had occurred to me to do something about it, but I didn’t take my impulse seriously enough to act upon it. I’ve been distracted by other digital projects about New Sweden and the Lower Swedish Cabin, but now that I have firsthand experience altering a Wikipedia page, I see its easy, valuable, and fun.

To edit to a Wikipedia entry, I began by creating a user account. The editing interface is straightforward and simple, and I navigated through the process easily. The entire experience, from registration to saving my changes, was fast and I feel like I can easily do it again, but when the time is right.

I changed this sentence, which has always bothered me:

“In the early 1900s film pioneer Siegmund Lubin filmed several movies at the site.”
To this, with a citation:

“Although claims have been made that in the early 1900s, film pioneer Siegmund Lubin filmed several movies at the site, recent scholarship does not support this assertion.[4]”

Snapshot of editing the Wikipedia page for the Lower Swedish Cabin

Lower Swedish Cabin Wikipedia page, updated

I have to wait to add more to this Lower Swedish Cabin Wikipedia page, I want to finish more research and perhaps get some things published, as part of my scholarship for New Sweden. Because Wikipedia is widely viewed (has strong brand recognition) it can become a good, centralized source for emergent Swedish Cabin information and theories, and for publicizing my work about this place. The site is also reasonably durable, however some of the references connect to outdated links. Instead of updating these links (the information is rather pedestrian anyway) I can create connections to new, more durable digital material such as Hathi Trust and Google books source material.

It appears as if The Swedish Cabin Wikipedia page was created as part of a larger “National Register of Historic Places listings in Delaware County,” Pennsylvania” project, as an open call to accumulate information about this cabin and other historic sites in the state. This is a as cost saving way to have a centralized internet site where state or local history organizations (Friends of the Swedish Cabin, Delaware or Chester County Historical societies) don’t have to pay an historian to research and write high quality content, or maintain the material.

Beyond crowdsourcing, local historical societies can get a high profile, functional, maintenance free web platform for information about their topics. This looks like a ‘win/win’: Wikipedia gets free content and local historical societies get a free web host that many people turn to for information.

Many people are interested in the Swedish Cabin, as evidenced by the large number of images of the cabin available online. In recent years, Darby Township has been building trails along the creek that connect to the cabin. This, plus the social media and other promotional efforts of the township and the Friends of the Swedish Cabin, have resulted in more people visiting the cabin. Also, since its 1990-ish restoration, it’s a pretty little building people like to photograph. Some repetitive  information available about the cabin online, of varying degrees of quality. An updated, more detailed Wikipedia site can open the Swedish Cabin up for more information while keeping a level of quality control in place.

It is important to have a Lower Swedish Cabin site on Wikipedia to counteract historic fantasy and nostalgia (pioneer settlers and the cabin in the woods fantasies) with an accurate history of the place, which is far more interesting and unexpected than the mundane fantasies of people looking at pictures of ‘quaint’ cabins online.

Hopefully, through a Lower Swedish Cabin site on Wikipedia, readers will research the valuable and sometimes obscure references I can provide. Wikipedia is a good way to collect seemingly unrelated sources into one place where they can relate to each other, and draw a wide audience to these sources using a popular online topic like the Lower Swedish Cabin. Wikipedia is a great venue for doing public history work while helping the history curious know 1) the cabin exists and 2) it is important to preserve and 3) it is connected to an amazing history outside the scant and cautious information that currently exists digitally at this time.

Laurie Fitzpatrick, April, 2017

Omeka Site: Images of the Swedish Cabin, in Upper Darby, PA

Here is the link to this Omeka.net site:

http://swedishcabinimages.omeka.net

This audience for this site are researchers and the ‘history curious’ who are seeking rare images of the Swedish Cabin. The images are accompanied by light, yet informative interpretation of the images to place them in the context of both the history of the cabin, but also within the historiography of the cabin (which is not yet extensive), and the historiography of New Sweden.

In the Omeka exhibit on this site, titled “Swedish Cabin and its Environment,” I provide sources and active links to deeper research that is relevant to the history of the Swedish Cabin.

Laurie Fitzpatrick, 2017

Repacking a floor to unpack a cabin

Proposal: I will use digital tools to analyze a collection of objects related to the history of the Swedish Cabin on Darby Creek. I will use digital tools to understand, then visualize the importance of this collection of objects. Specifically, I will create digital charts and a heat map that analyze the artifacts and their locations (layered over a map of the floor of the Swedish Cabin dig) to show what items were found and where, to show how the space was used over its 350+ year period.

Background: This professionally directed archaeological dig was conducted at the Swedish Cabin in the mid 1980’s before a new cement floor was poured in the cabin. The intent of the dig was to prove the early origin of this cabin, and although some early artifacts were discovered (glass trade bead, gun flint, Swedish coin), the age of the cabin was not definitively proven. Unfortunately, the remaining 300+ years of artifacts were ignored, although they were fortunately documented and stored. I feel this unexplored collection offers an unparalleled opportunity to peer into the history of a longstanding, quasi industrial+residential site in an historic Pennsylvania industrial landscape.

The Swedish Cabin was likely built after 1650, but before 1682 by a Forest Finn from Sweden. It was first used as farmstead. The property was sold by William Penn to Michael Blunston in 1682, and he leased the cabin (listed as an ‘appurtence’ on the deed) and property to an English tennant. After Blunston’s death, the property was deeded to the Levis family (marriage connection with the Blunston’s) who as early as 1704, began constructing a series of mills across the creek from the cabin. The cabin was documented as an ‘appurtance’ of the mill, and is believed to have been rented to mill workers.

I think the cabin may have housed a cottage industry related to the mill across the creek. I know the cabin was occupied by Irish immigrants in the 1890’s (oral history, yet to be collected from an ancestor of this family), and by a washerwoman around 1908 (imaged in postcards).

By analyzing the artifacts that were collected, more of this 350+ year history can emerge.

Materials: Documentation of these artifacts is in the form of 200+ pages of dot matrix printed pages from 1992 that catalogue items unearthed during an archaeological dig of the floor of The Swedish Cabin in 1987.

Here is the schematic map of pit locations for this dig:

 

 

 

 

 

Process: I have scanned all these pages using a Xerox copier as 10 to 20 page OCR quality PDF files.

I am running these PDF’s through ABBYY finereader, available through the Digital Scholarship Center, and am saving this information as digital data in Excel spreadsheets. Although the dot matrix type is a huge challenge, I am able to ‘teach’ ABBYY finereader to recognize specific characters to obtain a reasonable digitization of this data. To date, I have digitized information for 13 of the 40 pits for which I have records. Here is a sample of the information I am digitizing:

 

 

 

I am using both Excel and OpenRefine to clean up these spreadsheets as I scan them as digital data. To date, I have cleaned the data for all 40 archaeological pits, a total of 341 pages of dot matrix data that represents over 8,000 lines of data. I hope to have all the digitized information cleaned by March 30.

I will explore Tableau Public for tools that will create a straightforward ‘heat map’ of the artifacts and their locations relative to the dig pits in the cabin floor. “Changing Diseases” by Josh Tapley and Jake Riley is an example of what I envision: https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/gallery/changing-diseases

I will also look at Poly Maps to see if there is another compelling way to show the location of these artifacts. Eventually, it would be interesting to present the visualization using a good story telling platform like Atavist.

I also want to use a graphical tool to separate out the items in material categories such as “pins,” “buttons,” and so on, to get a sense of a cottage industry that may have taken place in this cabin. A straightforward graphical interface might work best, something perhaps from Google Chart’s chart gallery. I have begun exploring these options, as well as looking into simpler ways other archaeological projects have been presented digitally.

I am thinking of the cabin as a container of objects. Everything embedded in the clay of this 300 year old floor was brought into the space by a person, for a specific reason, and then misplaced or lost. Most intriguing are the multitude of bones and bone shards found on the floor. One would think food scraps would be thrown outside, away from the cabin. Had bits of bone been brought in by critters, or had children dropped food on the floor?

 

Laurie Fitzpatrick, March 2017

Digital New Sweden — 1638 – 1655

Creating this digital map made sense to me because, as an artist and writer, I think visually first then verbally second. At times, I use the verbal to arrange, then explain and justify the visual. In all my creative work (and yes, writing history is a creative act for me), the visual leads the way – it is my path of discovery.
Creating this digital map of places in New Sweden was a natural process of choosing images that represent the unfilled cracks, and thus the unexpected places, in this timeworn history. New Sweden has been chronicled since the 1690’s, by former engineer adventurers who wanted to sell their story, to clergymen, to amateur and professional historians. In the past 20 years, the history of this colony has be re-examined through current historiographical trends, including something of a subaltern examination, and today a transnational treatment. New Sweden likewise has a good sized digital presence that presents all the standard histories found in current texts. I feel, however, there is a need to start pulling this history together as a uniquely digital create that transcends texts with pictures, to combine elements that can only exist in digital world in unexpected ways.
One humble start is my digital map, that spans the special and temporal as it brings in unexpected, albeit haunting images. Here is the link to the map:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=19p9q24ovGNe-Y5Cs44-uJxMKLPk&ll=39.842286055859034%2C-75.29411314999999&z=8

I have juxtaposed markers for places (significant New Sweden sites that people can visit and imagine the past) with a boundary (Lenapehoking, the territory of the Unami Lenape who shared their land with the Swedes) and one trail (The Great Minquas Path that intruded into Lenapehoking). All of these places and boundaries and trails were contested sites until William Penn arrived in the 1680’s and immediately consolidated the European powers in the area, and in time drove out the Lenape.

This visualization focuses on the years of New Sweden, from its founding with Fort Christina in present day Wilmington in 1638, to its 1655 conquest and erasure by Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam.

Spatially, one can see why the Lenape were not threatened by the Swedes who occupied a small part of their territory, and who’s benefits outweighed their inconveniences. One can also see how the Lenape secured control of the shores of the Delaware, to maintain their monopoly on European trade in this area, an economic control that ensured their survival among competing Native nations such as the Minquas (or Susquahannock).

Temporally, one can see ancient sites mapped onto modern landscapes. Also apparent is how the traces of New Sweden have survived through the auspices of continued human use – sometimes as a nice park declaring state power, or sometimes as a humble dwelling (Point 6: the Swedish Cabin on Darby Creek, occupied until the late 1970’s). Erasure, loss, and recreation is the prominent feature of this colony, from the removal of an entire creek: Kingessing kill at the end of the Minquas trail, next to the ruins of the Jonas Nilsson trading post (Point 13: these ruins stood until the 1920’s), to the removal of a 300 year old farm in Passyunk: the Lasse Cock House (point 12), and most tragically, to the loss of the Upper Swedish cabin (point 14) that burned down in 1979. These images are not found in any other digital New Sweden sites, and I deliberately included them to heighten the sense of being haunted by loss. In our case, the loss of important historical sites that stood for centuries in a once beautiful, bountiful natural landscape.

Laurie Fitzpatrick

Visualizing Historiographic Trends in the History of New Sweden

Historians, clergy, and adventurers have been writing histories of New Sweden since its founding in the mid 17th century, and the focus of these books has shifted over time in ways the reveals the bias of their authors as well as contemporary trends in their historical research.

I selected a few histories of that covered the geographic area of New Sweden that extended north from the mouth of the Delaware bay, up the river up to the falls at Trenton, and extending a few miles on either side into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These are the books that 1), were available to me in a digital format, and 2), were focused on my region of interest, and finally 3), considered the history of New Sweden:

Early Period 1690 to 1750’s: includes Description of the Province of New Sweden, Now Called Pennsylvania, by Thomas Campanius Holme (his grandfather was a colonist and Holme, who had never visited America, worked from his papers) and A History of New Sweden by Lutheran pastor Israel Acrelieus (who served in the parish of Christina which is Wilmington today). I also included Narratives of Early Pennsylvania and West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630 – 1702, edited by Albert Cook Meyers, to balance official accounts of the period with the heavily curated accounts of Holmes and Acrelieus.

Middle Period, 1870’s: American nationalism was on the rise following the Civil War, and historians worked to redefine our national character by writing histories of important men and the communities they founded. Two sources from this period are History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania by Henry Graham Ashmead and History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches, by J. Smith Futhey, and Gilbert Cope.

Third Period, 1911: Immigrant identities were being promoted to counter strong Nationalist historical narratives, and Amandus Johnson’s two volume tome, The Swedes on the Delaware reset the course New Sweden historiography well into the 1980’s, with the rise of social histories that looked at the subaltern others. In 1911, Johnson’s solid, impeccably researched work focused on the achievements of great men.

The Visualizations

Using Voyant Tools, I generated word clouds and word “links” or relationship charts from the digital sources representing these three periods. For the second and third period, I removed specific terms to see if the emphasis on topics changed with writers of different periods.

Early Period 1690 to 1750’s: Holme, Acrelieus, Cook-Meyers

Voyant Tools word cloud from Holme, Acrelius, and Cook-Meyers

Voyant Tools word “links” or relationships from Holme, Acrelius, and Cook-Meyers

 

A sense of founding places is revealed as “new,” in relation to New Sweden, New Castle, New York, and New Jersey. No individual names stand out.

Middle Period, 1870’s, from Ashmead, Futhey, and Cope:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, the English names of men such as “John,” “William,” and “James,” dominate these graphical analyses, demonstrating the authors’ focus on the lives and deeds of great, local men that arose from a history of New Sweden into their present time (late 1800’s). One could argue that some Swedish names (Johan) were anglicized (as John), but there isn’t a clear Swedish equivalent for William (which in these histories is likely a reference to William Penn).

In this next Middle Period analysis, terms were removed (English male names, mostly) to reveal how these middle period historians focused on elements of everyday life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sense of founding places are revealed as “new,” in relation to New Castle, New York, New Netherland, New London, and New Amstel, but oddly, New Sweden is entirely absent.

Third Period, 1911, Amandus Johnson’s The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main thrust of Dr. Johnson’s work is revealed as placing New Sweden firmly at the center of this historiography.

When prominent terms pointing to this purpose are removed, Johnson’s focus on elements of everyday life, and his bias are revealed:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnson’s history focuses on the actions of one great man, Governor Johan Printz, and his influence on the lives of the New Sweden colonists. Beyond Johnson’s focus on this man and the colony he literally ‘ruled,’ we can see hints of the larger, trans-Atlantic world with “Holland,” “Dutch,” “India,” and “English.”

Conclusions:

These visualizations reveal how the history of New Sweden reflects the bias of their authors as much as it gives readers information about historical events. Viewers can see the large trends in contemporary historiography during these three periods of the recounting of the history of New Sweden. Further analysis might reveal the motives of these authors as they promoted their histories of New Sweden in these particular ways, for their readers in these eras.

Laurie Fitzpatrick, March 2017

References:

Acrelius, Israel, A History of New Sweden, or The Settlements on the River Delaware. (Historical Societies of Pennsylvania and Delaware, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1874)

Holm, Thomas Campanius, Description of the province of New Sweden. (Philadelphia, McCarty & Davis, 1834)

Myers, Albert Cook, ed., Narratives of early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630-1707. (New York, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1912)

Ashmead, Henry Graham, History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. (Philadelphia, L. H. Everts & co., 1884)
Fulthey, J. Smith and Cope, Gilbert Cope, eds., History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. (Philadelphia, L. H. Everts, 1881)

Johnson, Amandus, The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware., Volumes 1 and 2. (Philadelphia : Swedish Colonial Society, 1911)

 

Old Maps Online Website Review

http://www.oldmapsonline.org/

I’m interested in old maps of the Delaware Bay, up to the falls at Trenton, so I thought I’d check out Old Maps Online. The site is a Swiss and British collaboration, and is maintained by volunteers. I found an easily searchable website that was really a search tool operating as a gateway/clearinghouse site for accessing global maps from around the mid 17th Century to today. The site boasts around 400,000 maps available online, and over 280,000 available through their mobile app. The maps are drawn from 36 sources, including USGS Historical Topographic Maps, New York Public Library, Map Division, Harvard Library, Harvard Map Collection, Dutch National Archives. (http://www.oldmapsonline.org/about/ accessed 2/3/17)

A 2013 blog post on their website states the site “has been included on a list of 100 websites considered important enough to preserve for future generations. Experts from a consortium of UK national libraries chose 100 Websites which they consider will be essential reading for those looking back at 2013.” (Monday, April 22, 2013, http://www.oldmapsonline.org/blog/ accessed 2/3/17) This map index exists largely thanks to library archives that were willing to share access to their online content. The site encourages the public to share their maps as well. (http://www.oldmapsonline.org/about/ accessed 2/3/17)

I found the content to be fascinating, as I love old maps. The site features a broad range of old Mercater maps, as well as odd views of the north and south poles that date back to the mid 18th Century. I was especially excited to find historic topographical maps of Delaware, Chester, and Philadelphia counties. I can use these images to plot the change over time (streets, creek names, occasional structures) around locations that are meaningful for my scholarship. I was pleased to find a version of the Nicholas Scull map, possibly from, 1686 and published by Benjamin R. Boggs that had been extracted from the Harvard University Library, but I didn’t see material much beyond this. There is a far more comprehensive, and in my estimation (less pretty and user friendly) yet unparalleled collection of these early maps that is available online through our own Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Resource Browser: https://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/index2.cfm.

Old Maps Online has a simple design with an attractive, ‘7-Seas’ type face used, and done in muted tones. Navigating the site is straight forward, with few buttons and intuitive drag, select, zoom in and out features that keeps the viewer’s focus on the maps. When you locate and choose an area and time period you want to explore, a list of maps and their thumbnail images appears on the far right of the screen. When you click on one of the images, you are taken to the map’s home repository. The simplicity of this interface is appealing to an international audience who might have different levels of technology at their disposal, to school children and the history curious, and perhaps scholars casting a wide net. The simplicity of the entire site keeps its focus on the maps, which lets these exotic, lovely digital objects take center stage.

Laurie Fitzpatrick, February 2, 2017

 

Here is the 1882 Smith Atlas (paper maps are in the public domain but these digital maps are from Ancestor Tracks, please see the statement below).

I have stitched the digital maps together to create this whole map of the area where the Swedes began colonizing New Sweden, starting with Governor Johan Printz in the 1640’s, when he re-located the capitol of the colony from Fort Christina (present day Wilmington) to Tinicum Island.

Disclaimer: “While the physical maps are in the public domain, the images we have taken of the maps belong to us and are not to be used commercially. For those researchers wishing to use them for personal use (including illustrating a family history you are working on), we give permission to use them as long as they are attributed to Ancestor Tracks.”
http://ancestortracks.com/index.html