Bone Handled Nail Brush

(early 1840s)

This artifact is a mid-nineteenth century nail brush found in the archaeological excavation of the Stadt Huys block in 1980. It measures 5.5 inches long and has a width of .75 inches. As is the case today, nail brushes were common objects meant to aid both men and women in the scrubbing of the hands, particularly the fingernails. In the nineteenth century, however, having clean and well-tended hands was an important social indicator that one was not a member of the working classes. This particular brush was probably sold at a druggist’s store called Jacques and Marsh, which occupied the lot from 1845-51. It is made from bone, which alongside ivory and wood, was a common material for these types of objects. The bristles, long decomposed, would likely have been made from boar’s hair, valued for its thickness. The end of the handle is broken, probably due to the fact that the material thinned in this area to form a decorative ‘crescent-moon’ design.

Stadt Huys Block


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