“Home...! Refuge from Sadness”

  • Lydia H. Sigourney
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


Early Harpers Ferry was based on a precapitalist and noncommercial economic order, which may be characterized as a household mode of production. With growing industrialization, however, there were increased pressures to conform to the new economic system. Industrialization encouraged punctuality and moral behavior. Family members who were not directly involved in arms production or the domestic activities of the household were encouraged to join the manufacturing process. A newspaper editorial in the Virginia Free Press noted that “great portions of the idleness and consequent laxity of morals which now exist, among children [and those] unemployed, might be obviated” [if they worked in newly developed factories at Harpers Ferry] (VFP 9 October 1834:3). The transition from a household mode of production to a market economy created great social tensions in society (Kulikoff 1989:125–132; 1992). While the home became perceived as a “sanctuary” during the industrial era, many tensions developed as a result of changing domestic and work relations. For instance, education and religion were traditionally perceived as a family responsibility. The formal introduction of the institutions of public schools and churches into Harpers Ferry as distinct entities outside the family marks some of the most obvious tensions between the new superstructure of capitalism and the town’s traditional lifeways.


Ceramic Assemblage Domestic Site Ritualization Process Armory Worker Household Mode 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

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  • Lydia H. Sigourney

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