Sets and Sensibility: Tea Service and the Excavation of Ideology and Desire

Author(s): Kyle Somerville; Christopher Barton

Year: 2014


In the nineteenth century, the growth of consumer culture altered the ways in which people saw themselves and the intersection of identities constructed through material culture. This paper examines a matching tea cup and saucer recovered from the Spring House, a former commercial farmstead and hotel located in southeastern Monroe County, New York. The tea set is decorated with transferprint depictions of ‘Faith, Hope, and Charity,’ the Three Virtues forming the basis of Christianity, and a popular motif in Victorian America. The cup and saucer show no signs of utensil ware, suggesting that the set was curated and displayed by its owners. The set represents the confluence of overarching social networks and movements and their influence on individual practice. This paper considers how the tea set, recovered from a rural context, was a dynamic social agent that was both a reflection of societal structures and also a discursive, disciplining medium of genteel desire.

Cite this Record

Sets and Sensibility: Tea Service and the Excavation of Ideology and Desire. Kyle Somerville, Christopher Barton. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436706)

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Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-14,04