Items in the Charleston Museum’s vault sheds light on South Carolina Lowcountry living in centuries past

  • Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 12:01 a.m., Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 4:32 p.m.
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Ever wondered about the ways Lowcountry folk controlled insects, stored food, kept warm and met other household needs during the 18th and 19th centuries? Well, a walk through the storage area of the Charleston Museum would provide the answers.

To donate or visit

Donations: To offer the museum items for preservation, contact Grahame Long, curator of history, at 722-2996.

Location: 360 Meeting St.

Tickets: $10, adults and $5 children, 3 to 12 (under 3, free); $16, museum and Joseph Manigault House or Heyward-Washington House; $22, adults to visit all three properties.

For more information on exhibits and tickets: visit www.charlestonmuseum.org.

In the cavernous spaces of “America’s First Museum,” out of sight to visitors, are items used for such purposes. Unless they are chosen by a curator for an exhibit, these functional pieces, some older than the 1773 museum itself, rarely see the light of day.

“Every time I think I’ve seen everything, something else comes through the door,” says Grahame Long, the museum’s history curator. “It can be amazing. Many of the furniture pieces are as solid as they day they were built.”

While most of these fascinating objects are in storage, a few are being exhibited in the main museum, and its Joseph Manigault and Heyward-Washington houses.

Pictured on this page and on Page D4 are some Charleston Museum treasures that help the museum staff to carry out its mission — preserving and interpreting the cultural and natural history of Charleston and the Lowcountry.

Other museum pieces:



Carriage warmer: Made about 1840, has an American origin and was used by James H. Blackhurst of Charleston.

Earthenware foot warmer: 1870’s foot warmer was filled with boiling water and corked to provide warmth in bedrooms. The object, decorated with the imprint of two feet, was found in the attic of a Montague Street house during a 1918 renovation.

Triple chest: Typically was used when traveling between plantations and townhouses. The three sections can be split into individual travel trunks. Most got a lot of wear and only four are known to exist today. This one has undergone extensive restoration.

Sugar chest: Walnut and yellow pine chest, used to store sugar, was made in the South Carolina backcountry around 1800.

pottery jars: Pottery jars, such as those made by slaves in Edgefield, were used for pickling, salting meat and storing lard. Among the most famous to make them was a slave named Dave who wrote “This noble jar has four handles. Pack it full of fresh meat. Then light the candles” on one of his jars.

Stoneware table coasters: Such double dishes were placed under dining table legs and filled with water. Crawling insects trying to make their way up to the food would drown. These were made in Edgefield County about 1850.





Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.

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