‘A trifling matter’? State branding on stone bottles, 1812-1834 - British Library Research Repository
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Book chapter

‘A trifling matter’? State branding on stone bottles, 1812-1834



Nineteenth-century stone bottles used for liquid blacking and alcohol are among the most frequently recovered nineteenth-century objects. Such items often display proprietary marks that provide tantalizing hints about the former owners or use of the bottle and have received considerable attention from collectors, archaeologists and curators. This chapter, based upon the systematic analysis of branded stone bottles recovered from the pioneering excavations at Hungate, York, UK (2006-2011), examines in detail a stamp placed upon these at the behest of the state: an excise mark. Aside from their value in terms of dating an archaeological find, these marks have been little studied in comparison to proprietary marks. The chapter shows that these marking practices can be interpreted as a state control mechanism that regulated production and shaped the conduct of citizens. In carrying out these stamping processes, people accorded a degree of authority to these marks and those responsible for their monitoring. As well as highlighting the diversity of ‘branding’ displayed upon commodities, the mundane stone bottle provides us with an opportunity to synthesize historiographies of statehood and power in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries.


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