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Sullivan Street

old keys

The Sullivan Street collection includes approximately 200,000 artifacts recovered from Manhattan. One important domestic assemblage illustrates the upper middle-class lifestyle of wealthy Dr. Benjamin Robson whose house faced Washington Square.  Robson is thought to be the prototype of Dr. Roper, one of the protagonists in the novel “Washington Square” by Henry James.  Domestic artifacts include perfume bottles, tortoise shell combs, a hair brush and hair ornaments, baking dishes, and a pressing iron.  Also found in this spectacular assemblage is a child’s presentation mug, (“A Present from Carolina”), slate pencils and writing slates, champagne bottles, coffee beans, shell and bone buttons, and  bone button blanks (for making buttons). Two other important upper middle-class assemblages in this collection are from the privy associated with Francis Sage, a wealthy commission flour merchant and another linked to Edward Tailer, a New York City broker. In contrast, a stone-lined privy dating from 1850-century 1880 was attributed to members of the working class, and was probably used by a glassmaker and his family and by an English artist.  By the 1880s, the building associated with the privy housed unskilled workers.

  • Robson family house/privy: 1841 – 1860s.
  • Francis Sage house/privy: 19th century.
  • Edward Tailer house/privy: 1828 – 1903.
  • Working-class privy: 1850 – ca. 1880